Janet Smith Post

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This poem was recently published in Avocet Online Magazine:

Memory Harvest

Janet Smith Post

It wasn’t the work of picking the blackberries,
harvesting a thousand knobby, oval beads,
or washing them one by one to lay
in freezer’s winter grave, to be harvested anew,
and some to gather but a day or days
beneath a baking crust of Autumn brown.
Nor was it their burst of biting wonder,
which clung in my girl-mouth,
and stored within my memory’s taste.
Nor was it the Ozark sun of morning,
reaping dew from the maidenhair ferns,
nor even the sacredness of my grandmother’s table,
the blackberry pie, warm with yellow butter,
set like a trophy between us.

No, this indelible remembering,
like the print of purple wine upon my girl-palms,
was the field that my grandmother had crossed,
squarely beneath the sign—
as wide and clear as the kitchen window: “ Beware of the Bull.”
It was that she buckled on her coveralls,
thrust a dried stick of a leg over the line of fence wire,
had angled her faded hair and length of old back,
between the steel-horned barbs,
silver and unyielding, like her bucket.
She crossed over the warning,
tangled through the thorny canes,
reached out her hand
and claimed the waiting fruit.
And it is this harvest—this blackberry grit
I now seek to garner within my woman’s mouth.


Ozark Woman's Requiem

Janet Smith Post

Not enough light here for old eyes.
Course them stars are a leanin’ in, trying to help.
Hangin’ nearly in my window, trying
to have a look see at my sewin’ on this dress.
A rejigger job—the dress—a do-over.
Not much confidence in it—the goods may be too worn,
too tired from too many wears.

Nothing comes along to knock them stars off kilter.
That little dipper’s been holdin’ a cup full of night sky since Adam.
Down here, a blow can knock you right out of your own life.
This dress ain’t happy about changing, neither.
Means rippin’ out seams that were doin’ just fine.
Insulting, really. Threads holdin’ on tight as old habits.
Start-overs need time. Nearer to my end
than my beginning. No rejiggering that.
Them stars has all the time in the world—in the universe.
Got young energy to burn. Mighty jumbled up though, like
God just flung out a dresser drawer.
No clear map up there—none down here, neither.
But reckon if God had lined them stars all in rows,
we’d only have to look up once.
So, it’s the mystery, like they say—
the wondering—if I can re-do things one more time for
another wearin' to places I can't yet see myself goin'

Night Sky

This poem was recently published in Avocet Online Magazine:

First Visit to the Sea

Janet Smith Post

Cindy lived in Rhode Island
in a salt box house, near the sea.
She packed us a picnic lunch—lovely—as she does,
little sandwiches on buttered rolls and 
a thermos of Jasmine tea.
We climbed the berm and there—
the ground I had known, first and only—ceased.
Everything turned water, vast, undulating water.
No hills, or forests, or curves in the road,
nothing stood between me and the furthest horizons of blue,
stretching far beyond conclusion, like eternity.
The amniotic fluid of all births,
this living, surging, mighty muscle of the sea,
a thousand, thousand drops.
Wave on wave, rushing in, to retreat just as urgently,
driven by ancient knowing,
“Thus far you may come and no further.”*

Cindy waited while I sought to know
my meeting with the sea.
In time, we sat on the low, stone wall.
She spread out a cloth and lunch.
I tried to say a simple grace—
thank God for the food and for the sea,
But when a great thing swells the heart
and in turn, the throat,
the press permits no words,
only tears know the way, 
tiny drops, like salty remnants of the sea,
fell in recognition.

*Job 38:11

Rocky Beach

In honor of Iraqi and Syrian Refugees

By Janet Smith Post

A few days ago, a friend sent me an email, urging me to listen to Iraqi and Syrian refugees sing Psalm 51:1-6 (Psalm 53) to Pope Francis at the Svietyskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta, Georgia. (This riveting music can be heard on You tube by listing call words: Psalm 53, Pope Francis and Georgia.) Its haunting beauty inspired me to write the following poem:

Inside of A Church

The heavy drone begins,
a haunting to startle the sleeping ear,
wrung-wrenched from deepest wound.
Now begins a wail-harmonic above the drone,
a cry, a mournful longing, pitched
above the weary way, stretched ageless.

It strikes our sympathetic scars, which shudder—resonate.
It pierces through till we confess,
“Yes, we know this primal song,”
the one we silence with our busy illusions.

We, too, are tethered here,
round and round this ring of earth,
turning on its dirge through seamless time.
These ancient Aramaic strains remind
that all the world is sorrow—not a stage

And yet, and yet,
these—who journeyed, fresh from war,
with nothing left to carry but each other,
lift up, lift up, to keen the shapes and sounds of God!