The truth about the universe (a tanka)
To begin, a bang,
then expand until unex-
pand, rather like an
exalted rubberband. This
the only apparent plan.
is one word. I prefer
:the female of the species surpasses the male
in size and ferocity: orb-weaver,
hunter, left-handed whelk, spined healer,
red dahlia, fortunate sister,
insect, eyelet, mother of splendor,
moth laughter. Thorn daughter.
Every town has them, though none will admit it or write a trend piece about it:
the ones who live in that grey Victorian, with hemlock and ivy overgrown.
Alike with narrow ribs and large hands, pale as cabbage moths, of indeterminate age
somewhere between twelve and twenty, depending upon relative stillness or motion.
One is named Petra, she’s the ringleader. Cora abides and fumes.
The littlest is called Alethia but that’s too long, so they call her Lethe.
They watch from the front yard before darting around to the back,
or lie on a chaise longue, tearing pages from the phonebook,
tell a tarot of driftwood, play cat’s cradle with a rosary,
read aloud from a taxonomy of moths. They stand in the shade
of a hurricane’s tattered edge,
watching water rush a storm drain.
Shed doors stand open after the tempest; coldframes are flooded;
up and down the neighborhood, household gods gone missing.
There’s a cardinal in the bramble, struck dumb at twilight
or it might be the rose itself, ragged but glowing still, slopping over the edge
of dusk, and Lethe is there, at my back stoop, gesturing at the year
the barn funnel weavers made a home in my doorjamb.
A discarded year, but they have the gift for such retrievals –
You are so cunningly made. But even the right words could bring you low.
Missing and broken
I hate people in general
but nowhere do I hate people more
than in line at the grocery store.
A bracelet is some tears strung on a silver line.
I know it’s annoying to keep writing poems about grief but since
that’s a major preoccupation,
Sometimes I sleep like I’m in training for the Sleep Olympics.
Furthermore I can’t imagine why the first amphibious creatures
decided to try breathing air.
It must have hurt.
By the time I noticed, each amethyst was broken but held
together by the bezels.
The blueberries taste like the indigo ponds of August;
After such absence, to remember my father.
Even on days when you think nothing happened,
You can tell the truth about your life
Am I not your most loyal companion,
more electric than compassion,
more constant than lust?
I interrogate the sun
until my tongue burns. I scan for asteroids.
I keep a watchful eye on all this for you:
serotonin sloughs, inoculations,
traffic, shellfish, lightning. The footfalls
of strangers. The heartbeats of those you love.
I am the bright fuse running through
your personal church,
the prime number that pins you to this exhibit.
Harbor me, though I have proven
I cannot pace myself.
Harbor me, though I am Niagara.
Jeanne Obbard lives in the Philadelphia suburbs and works in clinical trial management. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Cider Press Review, Construction, IthacaLit, and The Moth. She can be found on Twitter at @JeanneObbard.