The Tower Journal

Sandra Kohler


The new day is a gift, a threat: open,
open. The lemony Magritte sky I don't
wake for, then a flotilla of Carpaccio
cherub clouds, peach and cream and sea
blue green. The immediate is arena, stage:
hours to work like the fields of a Tuscan
landscape. The foreground's indeterminate,
the frost-paled world of morning's cold
demand. Today the coffee tastes right:
my mouth's forgetting Umbria, Venezia.
In my dream what hangs over me is grief,
a weight that makes its lovemaking cruelly
inappropriate, celebration when one should
be mourning Ð but what loss, what blow?
Home again, my sick husband heals, but
my dream's not convinced. My happiness
is entwined with that of those I love, for
all I can't create it. I have come back to
disorder's garden, weed, dead stalks, spent
flowers: rose chrysanthemum sprawls like
the virgin martyrs in Saint Ursula's story,
slain by a storm of archers. In the Tuscan
fresco day resembles, fields are background
for revelation: Annunciation, Ascension.
In my room, on the cactus which began
to flower while we were gone, a single
white blossom open among tight red buds,
little phalli. A crescent moon rocks high
in the east, horizontal bow, curved base
of a cradle. For what birth?


Roget's list - from acro, fear of sharpness, and its twin, acro, fear
of heights, to animals, zoophobia - would seem to cover all
possibilities: from common: snakes (herpetophobia) or birds
(ornithophobia) or death (thanatophobia), to the bizarre: odontophobia
(teeth), blennophobia (slime), aulophobia (flutes). Yet I find no name
for fear of having lost one's chance at love or luck, or for aging,
only fear of the old, gerontophobia. Buttons, my childhood bugaboo,
aren't on the list, nor balloons (surely common). Are they encompassed
by microphobia, fear of small things? I doubt it. What about small
feelings - doubt for one - or feeling small? There's terror of the
large: three names for fear of thunder; fear of infinity
(apeirophobia); theophobia, fear of God. You can be afraid to cross
the street (agyrophobia), to blush (erythrophobia), but not to inflict
cruelty on those you love. And where is the pervasive parental fear
that harm will come to one's child, dire images that persist from the
days of mischievous toddlers who'll taste anything to the adult child
who is mountain-climbing, driving a car, living an ordinary life? A
morning's walk can induce ailurophobia (cats), choinophobia (snow),
nephelophobia (clouds). Depending on where you live, potamophobia
(rivers); on the time of day, sciophobia (shadows.) If you could
choose, would you opt for hippophobia or hierophobia, hagiophobia:
horses or priests, saints? You can fear ideas (ideophobia) or thinking
itself (phronemophobia), but what about the body? Does gymnophobia
(nudity) count? Hemophobia (blood), yes, but no word for fear of
bones, even skeletons. Still the list gets close to the bone: what
would be worse than oecophobia, fear of home? Fear of oneself: and
there's no word for that. Nor does Roget imagine a fear of lists.



At the river this morning the heron
is hunched, a small gray boulder,
exactly the same place as yesterday,
midway between Fisher's house and
the boat launch. Why does seeing him
in the same spot for two days please
me so inordinately? As if at his
being harboured there
my life settles.


Clear dawn, melting. Between
Water Street and the creek, the field
is pale green, patched with white, dun,
scruffs of old grass. Yesterday I go
to my bedroom in the hard afternoon
light, put glasses on, look at the face
in my mirror - the skin is loose, coarse,
a sagging mask. This winter won't turn
spring. A starling lands on the deck
outside, flashing silver, black,
a long cruel beak.


Small birds alight in the top
Of the mulberry, flit off again.
In the bed nearest the house,
I see pale green beginnings
of hyacinth, know we still have
six weeks of winter ahead. Will
the heron be in his place today?
I'll walk, I'll hope for the heron.
Like the blackbird that just landed
in the mulberry, I'm settled
for a moment. It's what I have.

Copyright © 2014 Sandra Kohler

Sandra KohlerSandra Kohler's third collection of poems, Improbable Music, appeared in May, 2011 from Word Press. Her second collection, The Ceremonies of Longing, winner of the 2002 AWP Award Series in Poetry, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in November, 2003. An earlier volume, The Country of Women, was published in 1995 by Calyx Books. Her poems have appeared over the past thirty-five years in journals including Prairie Schooner, The New Republic, Beloit Poetry Journal, APR, Natural Bridge, The Missouri Review, The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, and The Colorado Review.

The Tower Journal
Spring/Summer 2014