Saturday, January 15, 2011

TWO POEMS BY NANCY SIMPSON from Living Above the Frost Line

Grief Loses Its Grip

First a crooked smile,  
a giggle, then there comes the urge
to utter words, I'm back
One laugh emits so strangely
it almost hurts, a horse laugh.
When was it I changed direction,
turned around?  Yesterday,
a serene smile and humming
as I drove to the store for bread,

The absence of sorrow feels best 
in winter on the first day of a new year.
Joy. The mundane dead.
A friend arrives with news. I learn
all I missed. We drive through the valley,
looking up, nearly ecstatic,
my laughter resounding in witness to
a violet splash, sunlight streaming
across purple mountains near home.

From the Top of the Mountain
   in memory of Barbara Simpson Askew

Against my will the Everglades burn.
Smoke blows through the portico
and heat filters in through the window screen.
That is the scene the day you started 
to die, Sister, and why I say no
to a road, a highway so humid 
and long, it took a lifetime to leave.

I tried comparing the sentimental 
and the real,  but I don't know
what happened. Proximity is my problem.
If we talked, sipping coffee, saying
what humidity is like, thick air, unmerciful heat,
maybe I could  remember more
Perspective comes from being high,

looking as far into blackness
as my eyes can see, so I rise,
years, miles, reduce the volume
of your wheezes,
erase the whole neighborhood
the day men spread shells on our sand road,
forget they covered every shell with tar.

I only want to remember the last time
you came to my house for a visit.
New Year's Eve. Our party lasted
until Monday, enough snow to cover the leaves.
You laughed at me, a flatlander come to live
on a mountain, how I moved up, teased me
in your girl voice asking, How high are we?

(These poems are reprinted from 
Selected and New Poems published 2010
 at Carolina Wren Press. This first book in the new
Laureate Series was chosen by Laureate
Kathryn Stripling Byer.

Order from publisher Carolina Wren Press


Joan Ellen Gage said...

Ah, so you are a flat lander. I would not have guessed. You grace the room as if you were born there!

Nancy Simpson said...

Hello Joan. I must have lived here in another life. I am at home here. I know nothing will make me a native, but I have lived in the mountains since the 60s.