Months now, of leaving and returning,
one birth soothing the long passage
of many griefs at an unexpected death,
your little red suitcase packed and unpacked
so often, it stands ready for the next trip
in a corner of the bedroom.
Months of fashioning a sturdy door
behind which is the home you remember,
opened and closed from a great distance,
a shell you can put your ear to
and be lifted back into a familiar sea.
But the home you remember is not
the home you return to: that mother left,
and was put like a book finally finished
to gather dust on a crowded shelf,
her absence easing a son into his own story.
You stand in the house of your making,
bereft. Once upon a time, you think.
And a dream that has slept for years
in the wide spaces beyond your words,
wakes up like a lion, the darkness roaring
This poem concluded my first chapbook, “Stealing Eternity”, still available for purchase (directly from me). You can probably tell from the picture that my little red suitcase is looking a little the worse for wear 15 years later. A lot of stories (poems?) packed in there!
An anniversary gift, her first time doing it
Lenami Godinez-Avila, 27, hugged the pilot
from behind as instructed, ran with him
awkwardly to the edge and stepped
into the wind-tug beyond anyone’s reach—
her harness not clipped on. She fell
like Icarus a thousand feet, melting
from sight with the pilot’s shoes
into a sea of limbs webbed with leaves
down, down to the forest floor.
Her boyfriend, filming it,
stopped. Love screamed
through the air as he ran down
Mt. Woodside to find her.
Until he did, there was hope.
The pilot glided back to an open
mouthed crowd, to his twelve
year old daughter watching,
and swallowed the memory
card onboard. His fiftieth birthday.
Who hasn’t known each of them
in dreams?—where we fall without
falling, see what can’t be happening,
get to creatively escape a bad scene.
And wake relieved, our lives still
hanging by a thread of assumptions.
This poem won the 2016 Lauren K. Alleyne Difficult Fruit Poetry Prize. It reads like fiction but is completely factual – sadly so. I received the news New Year’s Eve and it appeared in IthacaLit early January, 2017. An auspicious start to the year! This poem is also included in my chapbook “Irresistible”, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press this spring. Copies are available for preorder here: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/irresistible-by-lynne-burnett/
Below this whale song of waves: the fin-happy,
sounding through all the dumb canyons
of the sea, coloured crayon-bright in the dark
flooded basement of the earth, shadow-drifted
across aqueous meadows prismed with light,
blending with gray rock and white sand,
knobby coral and long swishy green,
ferned and prickled, smoothed and elongated,
troubled hard, dense, small
but here, and free—
the mute-mouthed, mandibled hungry
and the hunted—to a grotto-chased,
honorable death. Or those given eyes
to see the dangling hook, the silver
door swinging shut before it’s too late.
Those at least, weapons in the hand.
Not a cavernous ground zero.
But this water knows, in its reach, how
my bikini got its name. Makes me think
of dreams I barely had, so quickly did they
sink from sight, but whose notes floated
long after, as if there was something
I could yet retrieve. In a tidal lullabye
of voices I cannot hear, the many mouths
of the sea open and close, open and close
lips I cannot read.
Another poem from my chapbook “Irresistible”, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in March. Like to read more? Pre-orders (upon which the print run is based) end soon – January 12th! May this new year be as exciting for you as it is for me!
Once, numbed and split apart
with all the casualness of a letter-opener
firm against the fat contents of a long-awaited envelope,
my body revealed a face,
the face of my son about to be born.
The doctor was startled to see his eyes,
already open, intent upon him,
eyes that spoke of other worlds,
of a reason for being, being here, being now,
his seven pounds a screaming missive from most high.
For ten years past, night after night,
he keeps his eyes open as long as he can,
thoughtful dots in the dark, for the day
could never extend itself enough to please him
nor to hold his magical masterly plans
and too, there are worries: of earthquakes,
a friendship gone wrong, a love that might
disappear unintentionally, like a mom
mowed down by a car or a dad who worked
too hard, a stammer that won’t, and more.
Eventually, my own body weary from the effort
of imposing a sleep he does not want,
I come to turn out his light and find
his eyes closed at last, limbs limp, seeming
grateful for the slow and slower breath, the
weight of them against the hockey stick
sheets like four pucks landed in their nets.
Sometimes the curtain lifts a little, letting in
the gasp and sigh of the world he’ll inherit,
and out skate his dreams.
This poem was first published in an earlier version under the title “My Son, Unable To Sleep” in CV2 in 2001.
How beautiful…….she sleeps,
gathering the early light
like a sail filling with wind,
her face composing
its first smile
of the day:
little boat loaded
with last night’s dreams.
Like Mona Lisa,
whose fathomless eyes are a wake
from the little boat sailing
back and forth
from secret to secret
right in front of us, turning us
into a crowd of craning necks,
so much wanting
Looking at a loved one sleeping was the impetus for this poem. It won second place in a contest by Pandora’s Collective and was published in 2012.
A couple of hundred miles up the coast
two weeks into a summer of cruising
we end our day of fishing with a movie.
But the shouting and shooting carve sharp
initials into the tree-deep silence here,
so I step outside, right onto the glittering
dance floor of an olive-black sky
on a clear, good night. My mind whirls,
words falling far away, then my fears,
then even the best of the best in me, all
dwarfed by this lavish sprinkling of stars:
confetti of the gods, tossed long ago upon
a lifted veil—marrying me now to the
faintest glimmer of worlds beyond ours.
I gaze, it seems forever, a moth burning
to remember a dream wings can’t forget.
I am thrilled to have this poem nominated for the Best of the Net 2017 Anthology by editor Cristina Norcross of the Blue Heron Review, where it appeared July 2016!