With this selection of five poems by Muriel Nelson we continue our series of original fiction or poetry by writers who either published their first book at 40 or after, or who have yet to publish a book. Writers interested in submitting work should see our guidelines.
Daybreak Where traffic hisses, black and spotted, plum buds burst — pink, still, petal, pistil, stamen offering held breath. There snow shrinks back. Like painted spray from Aphrodite’s tide, may chilled air that stings like salt and numbs stay — then sink more slowly than the stars above that edge of cold exposed near those blossoms.
Memorial Let’s have a tune for the odd and the ordinary to sing together. Let’s have a cook with two apron pockets one for a lemon the other an onion or is it one for memory and the other mystery? And in this hall with too much reverb where words get jumbled on empty chairs where only the custodian uses the mike testing it shyly with a poem where they, the great They, aren’t there busy as Anonymous with something solemn or with nothing, nothing, let’s bring on that terrible twosome the one who sings lost love songs and that other one who burns them.
What’s the Shelf Life of a Soul? It’s a beautiful day to fail. Nothing to do but pull a weed like me. A fresh day. Wind plays new leaves in a new key. Water sprouts highhand their way to the heavens. Fruitless. And at dusk now, frogs chorus, full of their need. A doe wanders out to graze. We gaze at each other. I’m neither water nor danger. She ambles on. No rush. No call. A beautiful night. Rustlings shush. Each tree’s up against sky light, each 10-times-10-foot pole out of touch or reach. How long? Every fool has feelers. How long must they grow to hope for the softest heart of all?
Now There’s something satisfying in growing nothing — bare dirt dark with dew that weed life’s sure to burgeon soon now that the garden’s ‘put to bed’ beneath a backlit cloud’s sharp edge and maples arguing while scribbling sky pit black. It’s late. The news is grim. Inside, I try to ease my merely twinging back between a purring cat and you. Understand, light’s nearly gone. The cat’s black, the bed’s dim, your eyes are shut, and now, flung trusting in the space I need to lay me down lies your dear hand.
Requiem for Useless Things Useless as my child-self’s call to tell the doctor not to come my red toy phone and arguments with sugar ants or ancient weeds or wagging chins masks slipped and caught on them wagging rage rage against raging rage against ‘all flesh is grass’ against votes cast laws too it seems, this calling keeps us busy saying words like flesh behold thy lawn when all the so-called ‘glory of man’ bright as ice on roofs and land seems useless too so lay it to rest and melt it down as window flames now double dawn and draw fire along the street and here comes sun with Brahms and music back alive while all the Bible’s grass in pastures green finds edges of a shadow soul where negatives start edging out to roil in dawn’s developer as night’s bodies fade into day’s uttering light.
Muriel Nelson’s publications include Part Song (Bear Star Press, Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize), Most Wanted (ByLine Press, ByLine Chapbook Award), and Please Hold (Encircle Publications, Poetry Chapbook Award) published in April. Nominated five times for the Pushcart Prize, Nelson’s poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Guesthouse, Four Way Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Hunger Mountain, New American Writing, Ploughshares, Smartish Pace, Superstition Review, and several anthologies. Two of her poems have been set to music. She holds master’s degrees from the University of Illinois School of Music and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and lives in Federal Way, Washington.