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Diane Jarvenpa

Vagabond Girl



Vagabond Girl Has Yet to Marry


The right question got lost,

thin coin down a gutter grate.

I’m not much for logic

and nagging slows the dance.


I’m all for bridges

that tempt my forest-drunk soul.

I twirl red skirts

right over the vagrant river.


Some days I believe one chooses, or else 

I just impersonate a woman who cares.

Melt my heart down to its core

and I might say yes.



Vagabond Girl Sings a Song


Lyrics scrubbed in a cold heaven,

rhymes carved in a rose-moss field,

melody round as plums.


It’s an old story

and it whirs in longing,

and it makes mama cry.


It has a bird,

the long rolling of waves,

and quite a bit of sorrow.


I sing it big and kind of ugly,

I sing it small as a hummingbird egg,

I sing it black current dark with pricks of stars.


Each time I sing it,

wintergreen blooms in my belly.



Vagabond Girl Moves On


Fact is, I see heaven on the perpendicular

from my boots and indirect roads.

All that appeals to girls who stay

in fluffs of dust powder and curtains

is desire in a shuttered box.


The untroubled arms of trees 

are a better host to a fever caught alone.

I’m a firekeeper and winds cross over,

riffle flame.


Go ahead, try to tame a hawk,

there’s more than wing and talon,

and always a bit of blood.


Diane Jarvenpa is the author of Divining the Landscape  (New Rivers Press), Ancient Wonders, the Modern World (Red Dragonfly Press) and The Tender Wild Things (New Rivers Press) which received the Midwest Independent Publishers Association book award in poetry. She is a singer-songwriter who records under the name Diane Jarvi

Bench by the Hardware Store


Each week I sit on this bench,

scarf tied under my chin, bag of sweet things

from the bakery in my lap and I tell my stories.

Sometimes I fear I say listen to me 

in that way old women do

when no one wants to hear.

If you sit by a river you can hear

how the swiftness of things can be hard to understand.

My life has told me this over and over

and now I am the Rip Van Winkle of the dragonfly,

the hundred sparrows singing songs 

in the trees of the gas station.

Some day you too will find light absent 

as it fades faster than you thought possible

and the impatience you carry in your pocket at the ready

will be layered over with unimaginable years, 

some holy bruised, some lost and some quite radiant.

But who wants to hear about the thinning of days,

it makes the breath stop to look up and think past stars 

to the black universe that spreads out and out.

I am old and still I look up,

you are young and looking down,

pushing buttons on a lit screen.

What an enormous distance

a small square piece of glass creates

on one town bench.

I wonder which is closer, you or the nebulae

brewing in the sky?

I once knew a beekeeper 

who said he didn’t mind the smoke and stings

and nobody to talk to, 

because there was always the honey.

I guess we can’t solve everything,

but it is easy to make our days lonely.

And where does that leave us?

I am too old to understand your work,

you are too young to hear me talk about

how today I asked yet another young man, 

eyes glossed with screen light, his name.

But he never answered.



Before She Knew What It Was


She decided to look for herself 

now that she had some time.

And she would actually show up 

at a small town park or there she was 

listening to a song that purged old fears.

Suddenly she seemed to connect to a whole

of something long lost,

an elaborate knot of former trials and errors

now made into a new pattern.

And when she felt her former self meet up

with her present, it wasn’t necessarily unpleasant,

more like a swig of something bitter

with the slight relief of honey.

It’s wasn’t about aging, though it was past desire.

It was about doubt honed down by miles. 

Did she forget what it was she believed 

when she was young? Or maybe she hadn’t,

but it had became more of a sour question.

When she was in a car and an egret flew over

she wanted to pull over now and watch

like it was some sort of message the sky has unspooled.

Or she would cry when she looked at a lake 

all mackerel from fog and sun. 

A lake written by Tu Fu,

painted by Berthe Morisot.

This was not how she was raised,

but now she needed to look at that bird, that lake water 

for if she didn’t she had now found a new way to suffer,

because this was a different precinct she was roaming.

For she had found that person that she had somehow forgotten,

staring with child eyes.

And she whispered—

Oh yeah… you. No, don’t go too far, 

there’s more here. More.

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