Dependable Context | Cathryn Shea


Pill boxes rest on the counter, 
an abacus of prescriptions. 
I’ll remember this chapter passed down 
from one ancestor to another, 
weight of the family tree. 
Hiatus comes from Latin to yawn. 
I love to ignore the gaping one. 
Think vespertine, flourishing in the evening: 
crepuscular. I crave an innocent gloaming. 
Instead, I see flame-shaped markings. 
Flammulated. Tattoos. Not just on owls, 
the symbol of Athena. 
I’m seeing too many flames. 
I want to put bombed cinderblocks on mute, 
erase complicity off my skin. 
I want numbing for spirit pain. 
Will my heart become cold like a beetle 
pinned in a science project? 
Launched into another grief, 
my teeth hide behind the mask, the dire veil. 
Let’s not go back to old ways of drinking. 
I mean thinking. 
Give up our alibis. Give up our vodka. 
We must not abet. 
I will try dying. I fear I’m dyslexic?


Beside the stealth piano 
with its keys like black licorice 
so beautiful and tragic 
I hear another State of the Union from a great height. 
I can’t even look or I might get dizzy. 
I’d love to edit the world, 
the geography of the mind 
with its tar pit that preserves the burdens of my ancestors.
A brief history (of?): 
<insert war/s here> 
<insert denial>
<insert plague and pestilence> 
<insert denial>
<insert a great leap>
On schedule like a bus, 
here come the grenades with hand-dug graves 
in grease and sorrow. 
And into the firmament of its own surprise, 
the latest terror 
that doesn’t even need to be warfare to be 
The piano is padlocked to a stupor.

A [New] Context

I feel like I’m reading 
the same page over and over, 
checking the time 
and forgetting the hour, 
waving at someone 
who is waving at someone else. 
The drift of neurotransmitters 
float through straits, synaptic gauntlets, 
this everywhere listing. 
Another war blooming. 
There’s a moth that feeds on tears 
of horses—that could be my tears 
for the thought everything is broken.
And that we spend 
twenty-six years sleeping, 
seven trying to sleep. 
But that’s an average. 
Meaningless for this day 
since we (I) spend how much 
doing anything meaningful 
to save our planet. For peace. 
All this primordial stuff being 
ignored, natural and preternatural, 
macro- and microscopic, 
the will of the Great Architect, 
in regalia with tattered flags 
as the virtuous minutes go. 
Don’t we want to fix our world. 
That’s not a question.
Our sighing shrines splinter 
in war and weather. 
Move all the statues to a museum, they say. 
Move endangered mammals to a sanctuary. 
Move women and children to a strange country. 
Let them breathe trapped air. 
Give everything dead or alive a new old context.

©2022 Cathryn Shea
All rights reserved

Cathryn Shea…

… has a recent poetry collection, “Genealogy Lesson for the Laity” (Unsolicited Press, 2020); her chapbooks include “Backpack Full of Leaves” and “It’s Raining Lullabies.” A Best of the Net nominee, her poetry has appeared in anthologies and journals including Poet Lore, New Orleans Review, Tar River, Gargoyle, Tinderbox. Cathryn served as editor for Marin Poetry Center Anthology. She lives in Fairfax, CA.



Be inspired… Be creative… Be peace… Be

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