An octopus lingers over two square containers, each marked
with the flag of a country vying for the World Cup championship.
Tentacles oscillate in psychic confusion until the signal is clear,
the choice made. The octopus descends over one container,
snags a mussel, devours it. The prediction, broadcast across the globe,
portends victory for the chosen, disaster for the rejected.
Hoards of hate letters pour into the aquarium—death threats, calamari
recipes, warnings of revenge. Love letters, too, overfill the mail slot,
requesting oracle services for election outcomes, the likelihood
of marriage proposals, winning the lottery. The octopus, eight legs
undulating in sea-water domain, floats undaunted by fame,
while we stretch for something to believe in, something to fill
the hollow in our lives with a strategy more solid than chance.
We open our fists to the palm reader; scan the seams in our hands
for hidden significance. We subscribe to the horoscopes, revel
when the solar eclipse erects Libra’s love life, when the alignment
of Mars and Saturn leads Sagittarius to new employment. We watch
for signs and omens, premonitions and prophecy, and just when
we despair that nothing is worthy of faith, another miracle
juts through the clouds, and the odds tell us this one is real—
like the octopus, one hundred percent correct in his predictions,
and if you can’t believe the mollusk, there’s a parakeet in Singapore
eager to reveal your fate.
Published in Slant, A Journal of Poetry – Summer 2011
We walk the country road
along the boundary of your neighborhood,
where a barbed wire fence
curtains the field. Cows graze the land;
and collect at the small cedar clump
beside Robbins Creek.
We hear the bellow
before we see the cow on the ground,
her sides heaving
as she pushes a wet calf out of her body,
front feet and head first,
the birth broad and raw, and your face,
wide as the moon.
For a moment
you don’t speak, then questions gush
in the rush of water
and stand like the calf on shaky legs.
This is how ideas are born,
and poems, within the veiled chambers
of the heart.
This is how thoughts
travel paths under thin shade of cedars,
under birch and sycamore,
under moss that mounts starry eyes
along the creek bed.
This is how wishes wing their way
to hope, to belief.
The calf turns brown eyes
to halcyon sky. His mother licks and cuddles,
prods his first tentative steps.
We stand awed, witnesses to the breezes
browsing the tussock, drying
the calf’s fur, as the sun spreads glitter
across the potent land.
Published in Yemassee, Spring 2010
First Place Winner of the Tennessee Mountain Writer’s Poetry Contest, Spring 2010
Included in the chapbook, Continuum, by Sandy Coomer – published July 2012
The Sex Life of Swans
In May, five to ten eggs. But first,
in February, a protective male, vicious
as if some wild demon boils his blood,
the lake splitting as he charges through it,
neck back and eyes wide in red-raged ire.
We watch from our perch on the bench,
where moments before you felt the foot
of your son push out from the inside. You ask me
if it hurts to have my skin rearranged in such lopsided
ways, knowing you made this strange satisfaction
in both of us, love and fierceness, and I said
sometimes it hurts
and sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes it feels like I’ve waited forever for this
tumble-turn being with shudder-shifting feet.
The swans intertwine necks, breast to breast,
bill to bill, the only time he calms enough to know
the pink streak of dawn against a blue-black water.
The rage is just below the surface, a mirror image
of a frantic love, swirling among rushes at the water’s edge.
In June, the hatching. But first, a savage passion
that matches what lies beneath your refined humanity –
the way you guard me and your seeded child
swimming in the dark lake, pressing
his tiny footprints against your desperate heart.
Published in Rose Red Review, 2014