She advanced from muskrat to
Persian lamb to mink.
Swaddled in those furs, a small woman
In hat and heels. Click of her quick
Stride nicked sidewalks where snow
Wore a wintry dinge. She always knew
Where she was headed. Her pocketbook,
Her kidskin gloves. Every spring, she visited
The furrier in the honeycomb of a district
Where women tried for size
The latest pelts. Her ranch mink went
Into cold storage for the season,
A reverse hibernation.
It seemed no more a creature than the lamb chops
Or Sunday roast. Not like the glittering eyes
Of the fox stole, its dangling masks,
Small indignant trophies. Impolitic now,
That final luxurious stroller
Trapped in a plastic bag in an upstairs closet,
Another useless thing she left me.
Messages From the Latitudes of Illness
You are far away in the city by the lake
That has been frozen all this sad winter,
Boats held hostage, the ghosts of frost
Invigorating the occasional jogger.
How can I reach you in the turmoil
Of artifice. What direction can be pursued.
A circle of peasant women clasp their hands
In their aprons. They have brought fruit
And cabbage soup to assuage you. This one,
Your grandmother, speaks in Ukrainian,
Tells us all will be well in the village of health.
Birds are returning, their voices inhabit
The clouds of morning. I leave you
To the ablutions of nuns without faces,
Their beads a metronome , you are cloistered
In their love.
At the racetrack, I sit in the stands
Clutching my tickets. Here comes the favorite,
Charging around the far turn,
Now bearing out, bolting, riderless, ascending
The tiers to fall upon me like a passion,
Broken legs thrashing, eyes white with terror.
Stunned, I reach for salvation. But no one can help me.
A stranger hands me a gun, says do what you must.
This lovely damaged animal that I must kill and I
Will, I will.
What else can happen. The keys I have lost are found
In the basket of daisies. The book is open
To the passage where Spinoza says
The wise man focuses on life. Darkness crawls
Into the forsythias. The moon recollects its progressions.
© Joan Colby
Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch, and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review‘s James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). One of her poems was a winner of the 2014 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. She is the editor of Illinois Racing News, and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 14 books including Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press), Properties of Matter (Aldrich Press, Kelsay Books), Bittersweet (Main Street Rag Press), and The Wingback Chair (FutureCycle Press). She has also two chapbooks due to be published, Ah Clio (Kattycompus Press) and Pro Forma (Foothills Press), and a full-length collection Ribcage (Glass Lyre Press). Colby is also an associate editor of Kentucky Review and of FutureCycle Press.