Three Poems by Jenny Andres
Hope to Thaw
If I were frozen in the ground, I’d hope to thaw.
I’m left with muddy footprints and sticky fingers-
I’m a thief. I stole what I needed to survive:
a wet tongue, a Celtic cross against a broad chest, friction to start fire.
The moon gave me permission, all those nights I sang to her
of women’s pulpy insides,
of the howl in the mourning cry that became a sniffle at a stone.
I’ve read the Irish climbed fences when the crop failed,
scratched their weakened way into the abbeys.
I have known this scratching-
on the nights I could have gone to him.
Will you ask me to crawl to you, on hands and knees,
never allowing me to stand again,
trapped in the posture of eternal repentance?
There’s a sculpture in Parnell Square
of the Children of Lir,
that some say doesn’t quite belong.
It must be the freedom; bodies turned to swans in flight
that sets their bells clanging.
I’ve known that feeling.
In brief, sunny moments- all seemed new
and I felt strong and I had wings.
For Each, A Shovel
If the men who’d asked something of me
all dropped dead on the same day,
I would bury each of them with a different shovel.
I would choose the heaviest for you my love,
so I could feel every strike to the ground through my shoulder.
I’d crack the earth for all the nights I’d tiptoed past your slippered, sleeping feet.
For my father, I’d use green and strike more gently,
for years would have worn it all away
and by the grave he’d be only a man-
broken by secrets.
No need for heavily hammered dirt.
For the one I loved who loved me back,
the one who touched me after I’d become a mother,
I would set a blazing fire in the woods and lay him on it,
watch his waxy skin slide and melt, his bones resist then crumble.
I’d lean into the smoke and breathe him in.
I’d run a lilac over the faces of the early, gentle ones,
lay them lightly in deep places,
shovel moss over their chests.
The ones who need forgiving would be last.
I would cradle them in my fists and kiss their swollen purple lips,
then kick them gently into shallow holes lined with lotus and laid with nails,
and there they’d be staked, hanging from the earth as she spun;
fleshy and made to give their juices back.
When I’d put each one in their grave
I’d walk across the fire of the one I wanted most, howling,
letting my feet burn against the last of him,
and the moon, in her cradle, would watch without judgment or urge to drown.
I buried your picture in my house plant,
In the hope that you would grow.
I’d wake up one morning and you’d be there.
Having watered you, I’d know you inside out.
Having plucked each dead leaf for months,
I’d have you fresh and free,
I’d breathe you every morning.
I dug up the picture and your face had rotted.
You’d crumbled to wet ash in the soil-
the dirt had swallowed you whole.
I held you for a few minutes then let you fall through my fingers.
The plant has yellowed in places from too much sun.
My daughter likes to water it, but she’s always rough.
I inch it away from its space between the wall and the bed to give it room,
I hope that I can keep it forever,
throw it in the back of some moving van when I’m finally brave enough to leave,
put in my new living room, build an altar around it.
For now, I water it carefully on Sundays,
hold its leaves in my palms
Remember how you used to look at me.
I think I’ll leave it in the rain one night because it’s never been outside.
I’ll let it feel that freedom, lean it up against one of our ancient trees,
then hope I have the courage to carry it back to its corner between the wall and the bed
where my daughter can knock into it and it can listen to the shouts and whispers and tears.
Jenny Andres is a mother, an English instructor and a librarian. She lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia and her longest-surviving plants are all from Ikea.