Jane Sasser 

Cleaning House

In the wake of her death, 
each night for weeks
we counted her skirts
and blouses and shoes,
weighed the worth
of the things she wore,
logged them in and
bagged them up.

we opened the doors,
held her glasses to light,
touched silver and brass,
tarnished shine of a life
well-loved but not
the kind we would choose.
All summer long,
we carried things out,
until only echoes

you remembered the birds,
curve and point of wing
and beak in polished
jade. I wish, you said.
I loved those birds.
Both of us thought
how we’d rushed 
to move on, confused
empty with clean
Maybe, I said,
they aren’t really gone,
taken flight from
our lives,

how I’d haunt thrift shops,
scour littered shelves,
fondle flotsam and dross
to resurrect 
our green loss.


To the People Who Buy My Home

Here, I want to tell them, winters
you will sit at your breakfast, look
at Haw Ridge, the rise of hills
and bare trees. You’ll watch sky
bloom pink along that ridge, then
turn to see shimmers of light
on lake. You’ll think how lucky
you are to be here and now,
sanctuary atop hill, how bright
sunshine warms this room, blesses
your mornings here. Or summers,
when you can’t see the ridge
at all, for the green of poplars, oaks,
maples, the way you’ll feel
you rest in a living nest, woven
of leaves and light and white-hot
sky. Don’t miss one morning,
I want to say, knowing
the mornings I missed, 
remembering the first home I left, 
trailer in woods, where mildew grew 
on walls, and we drank without heed 
from the well the sweetest water
I’ve ever known.



Ruined by year on year of listening
at night for my children’s voices,
I wake too easily, alert at wee hours,
straining to decipher the dark.
On this night I rouse and turn,
then hear him again, what must
have caused the break in my rest:
the hoo-hoo in the woods, and now
I wait to hear these notes, for as long
as his call rings the deep. An omen,
the Cherokee say, a harbinger 
of death. Yet how long I have longed
to hear the haunting hoots, wished
them into my nights. Lying awake,
I think of endings, not now death
but our numbered days in this nest
that our long-fledged children 
have flown.



Jane Sasser’s poems have appeared in the The Sun, North American Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, Lullwater Review, The Atlanta Review, The National Forum, Sow’s Ear, RE:AL, ByLine, Medicinal Purposes, Appalachian Heritage, The North Carolina Literary Review, and others. Her poetry chapbooks are Recollecting the Snow (March Street Press, 2008) and Itinerant (Finishing Line Press, 2009). Jane is a teacher of English literature and creative writing at Oak Ridge High School in Tennessee.  


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