Nancy Fletcher Cassell was a finalist for the 2009 Water-Stone Review, Jane Kenyon Poetry Award and her work was published in the fall issue. She received a Legacies Award for Creative Writing from the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. Her work was published in Poems and Drawings on Peace and Justice by Greater Cincinnati Artists, and she received an Honorable Mention in Poetry from the Kentucky Women Writer’s Conference. Cassell’s visual work has been supported by the Kentucky Arts Council, the Kentucky Foundation for Women, The Southern Arts Federation/NEA and Art Matters.
Father is wallpapering a photo shrine to Mother.
Her purse still hangs behind the kitchen door.
We hold breath against what is shattered.
Magic kisses the air
between each object preserved.
A gold artillery shell stands atop
the enamel white refrigerator.
I open the door, it imitates the barn cat’s growl.
A paper on an inner compartment reads 1968.
Outside, ferns hang from the Chinese elm where
a wooden swing gave me to the world in childhood.
One-fish, only child, I swung over highway lines.
Pressed faces in flashing cars
saw the question in my eyes.
Today, the porch is cool and rockered, tucked
away from the mad air mating tangle of bees.
I sit to rest a weary head between
aluminum siding and concrete steps
where Hummingbird water splatters red,
no tiny buzzing hearts today.
The hydrangea spreads
into purple-blue delirium with nine blooms,
as it awaits the embrace of an old tire.
Woodsmoke clings room to room,
former laughter stains the ceiling,
this house wants to catch breath.
Polished in time’s borrowed prism,
we have begun a collection of ourselves
perennial in its ticking.
Naming the Self
When I wore youth,
I sat astride a network of quilts in leaf shadow.
Brushing the gold of Barbie’s braid,
I fed my plastic children M & M’s.
The stretch bands of my
science-fiction high heels were blue
to match my empty eyeglasses.
Days clicked to the pace of diamond cards in spokes.
The naked air borrowed my feet.
I slid down mud packed earth under grapevine.
Healed by the chasing breath of companions,
I ran beyond adults murmuring in lawn chairs.
My Mother’s hair was black as an omen.
My Father’s blue eyes burned in the fair skin of summer.
Each night as ending enveloped me,
I initiated the innocent
massacre of lightening bugs
under jar lids with holes.
In games of the child mind,
I always looked up for King Kong,
but I knew the screens of home
filtered out crickets and the
fierce hum of the unknown.
I break like a pea pod
held over the dishpan of a farmwoman’s lap.
My insides fall into the mix of her pan.
Old voices coo around the doorstep.
Their fingers brush the blue of hydrangeas from my eyes,
while shirttails of memory flag the hills.
Rain last night left the trunks damp and the grass bent.
Today, I put beans in one pot and potatoes in the other,
and left them to stew in the expectations of my family.
For days, I’ve awakened on the rim of a dream,
and looked up into the face of a gray wolf.
Her breath is cool to the touch.
The silver hairs of her coat are defined moonlight.
Her eyes say: Ask, what if?
What if I become the sycamore and
pull the layers of winter from my skin?
What if I gather, then break the bottles of memory
to live on the cusp of the world?