To The Last Voter
When the liberators entered the city
we didn't debate their credentials --
it had been so long since we could breathe.
And for a time we could sleep in as well,
confident in waking from any nightmares.
You can't know the history as we lived it:
bloody winters, autumns we thought were springs --
children grew old and stunted in shelters;
couples found the bridges that joined them
collapsing under accumulated fears.
Dogs fought for every corner as cats
starved behind smug observations.
Now we see dusty smiles over gun sights.
Whoever we trust can eat us alive.
Things Seen While Inhaling
Anything done on vacation
is an appropriate use of time,
except this, which leaves so much undone.
It's as if an army had approached the city
where the walls had fallen to rubble
and the garrison sold its arms.
Walking through the park I turned to go
into the Raptor House, but found it locked,
quarantined against my admiration.
I peeked through the slatted wall and saw
a hawk glance back over its russet shoulder,
and owls nestled in corners like distant moons.
Children ran down the path unafraid.
A squad of white tails paused to watch them.
I come in peace, I wanted to tell all,
as we smiled from safe distances.
Then I realized I hadn't heard the squall
of a plane leaving National in hours.
Everywhere a sickly calm descends,
a silence in which one can hear spring trees
sing quietly as they green in the breeze
rising from the river. Traffic ebbs to dread.
Helicopters check our charts from overhead.
M. A. Schaffner lives in Arlington, Virginia. Recent publications include poems in the anthology Written in Arlington and ArLiJo, and an OpEd in the Washington Post about reenacting and CRT. Past acceptances included Poetry Wales, Poetry Ireland, The Tulane Review, Boston Poetry and other journals.
A Virus By Any Other Name
On the eve of the Ides I recalled
when everything's evil it's no one's fault.
I savored fall like a Sauterne,
now spring like a Sauvignon Blanc
arrives with a pollinated cough
erupting in an alarming context.
Each drink I take these days I think
of the dead I used to drink with
and wonder how quickly their numbers will rise.
Some wrote poems with wounds enough for all.
One boy was a hunter like Orion
though he found his scorpions in amber bottles.
Then came the studious secretary
who cared too much, and the mother we knew --
an artist drafted into matronhood.
It's funny how much normal is too much
and love like a lolling Tokay
in a smoky castle can only delay
but never deny that last dry day.
I tremble as I pour myself one more
for all of them, and lock the bedroom door.
The Siege of Cherrydale
We patrol our streets with innocent dogs
and sometimes the wary eyes of soldiers
in an unfriendly city. Or we smile,
seemingly relieved that we still can.
My porch is an observation post
from which I inspect the strange parade:
young couples at combat-interval,
wasp-darting children on bikes and scooters,
helmeted but otherwise unarmored, as if
their parents had given up on formations,
much less keeping them confined to barracks.
I have never before constructed
an operational plan for buying wine,
but some campaigns demand a taste for danger.
Meanwhile, lucky to have a garden, I'm grateful
for how spring brings flowers and foliage to weave
a growing defensive perimeter,
with the Sarcococca suggesting
this garrison might hold until relieved.
Sowing Seeds Within The Walls
Waiting for guests even as we set
the table with sunflowers and examine
the service berry for signs of budding.
After all of last year's flooding
the leaves withered, yet stay clinging
as tightly as the mahonia's thorns.
We're desperate for our company
but nature won't deliver on command.
We can amend the soil, mulch and plant,
coax the purple cone flower, and pretend
this has more of love than desperation,
though anything on endless Earth will end
It will take weeks before we know
whether anything will show, or bring
the rest of their party this pensive spring.
And it feels less like sorrow than vengeance
to add to our crop a novel fear
that when our work at last results
in a full blown outbreak of catbirds and jays
and a trove of goldfinches exults
to find everything to their satisfaction
their human hosts may have disappeared
due to unexpected competition.