Falling Church Caution — Susanna Rich

The Trees are Falling

I see a branch of the watchful tree (Jer. 1:11-12).

Cyclones, starving polar bears, rising seas;
winter lightning, flooded deserts, bleaching corals—
nature sends a pandemic to clear the smoggy skies.
And the trees are falling, because they must.

New Haven green: The Lincoln Oak heaves up
a human skull, jaws agape among exposed roots.
Elms kamikaze onto the Bronco, the Matrix—
the Jag glutted with Exxon, Sunoco, Shell.

The trees are doing what they can: 
fan-leafed gingkoes faint onto garages; 
poplars yee-hah onto Sertas, 
axe Maytags, scrape Vizios off walls.

That kettle-drumming is the fall of spruce trees
scoring streets into musical staffs—
loosening wires to coil and recoil into clefs, 
to pizzicato like rattlers.

Colonnades of cypress explode gas lines
and bonzo into resulting fires.
Maples, like massive pick-up sticks, 
rubble trains, logjam rivers, karate bridges.
 
Of course, yews slam into their own shadows.
Of course, dogwoods release the August sky
to make massive snowballs of themselves,
while willows amputate their own limbs.

Let the beeches curl their trunks around benches, 
Harleys, hydrants, and wrought iron fences.
Appease the teaks reclaiming themselves from chairs;
the pines from paneling; the cedars from pencils.

Oh, Berkeley, the laurels are hearing each other 
in forests—the telephone poles are in caucus.
And the sycamore in charge has angled itself, 
like a cannon, atop a Dodge Avenger

whose front left Firestone is stalled 
on a felled Seventh Day billboard,
on words I thought that I shall never see:
...pare for the Unexpected.


Silver Birches
Painting
Gaynor Kane ©2020

Singing in an Empty Church

Single electric candle lights
on clear lancet window sills.
No wash of headlights from departing

4X4s and sedans. No pastor. No pianist. 
No faithful since pandemic.
I park my Prius by the blocked trailhead, 

poke in the code to unlock the side door,
press the baby grand’s B-flat key
for my Phantom of the Opera song.

I, who accompanied my divorced mother
to Sunday mass, her lace-and-beribboned 
ornament; I, praised for how still I kept

while she solo-ed; I, Glee Club nuns’
choice alto, because I stayed on pitch
backing sopranos in their soaring;

I, who made harmony of family harm, 
hurtled hurts, promenade down the nave,
spread my arms wide to the pews;

breathe full my belly and chest and face 
to sing Christine D.’s longing, pierce
through my new high G on the word strength;

the struts and beams of this old vaulted ceiling,
my back-up altos, tenors, baritones, echoing 
Wishing I could hear your voice, again.

“Singing in an Empty Church” first appeared in Verse-Virtual, February, 2021


Abundance of Caution

Gallon cans of mixed greens from Georgia;
crates of Vidalia onions from Texas;
Gouda and Beemster-Van Gogh from Amsterdam;
N-95s, face screens, and latex gloves from China—
it’s Christmas every day. 

Boxes of gluten free pizza dough,
cases of sardines and Bush’s baked beans, 
36 individual servings of Skinny popcorn
appear in the open garage.

Elizabeth, our postwoman, noticed
we date our mail and packages—
and now does that for us, 
and brings our garbage cans up the driveway.
UPS George honks the horn, 
so we know to get into the house.

We do not breathe where others have breathed.
We wait the three hours aerosols linger,
we wait five hours, to be honest, 
then tap the garage remote.

Deliveries season for seven days, 
before we slice open the box seams, 
dig through Styrofoam peanuts,
un-bubblewrap, unziplock—bleach-wipe contents
to wait on the dryer for another day—
or two, or three. 

I don’t walk the lane anymore—
a car with open windows might have passed by.
I walk the periphery of our three acres.
Then ten feet in—neighbors putter in driveways,
walk dogs, call out greetings.
I mentally measure how many six-feet away—
twelve, fifteen, eighteen—even twenty-four, too close.

Now I only walk near the house,
tapping on the walls for balance, 
the circle tightening.  
When I hear Elizabeth’s rickety truck,
I run inside and wash my hands.
I wash my hands.

Poems ©2021 Susanna Rich
All rights reserved


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