The following poem from Anna Laura Reeve’s debut book of poetry, Reaching the Shore of the Sea of Fertility (Belle Point Press), was a finalist for the Ron Rash Award and was first published in Broad River Review.
One way to light myself after darkness
is to fill my house with flowers—
branches of redbud and forsythia, violets and sugar
maple inflorescence stuffed
under locked door.
But I hesitate to look
at the green tongue of the violet.
Maybe it will lick my lips,
open my mouth with a dizzying frictive
pull, tease me,
make the sky teem again
with living joys.
From the highway where I’ve stopped the car,
I see a developed ridgetop.
It stands exposed and witless in the shadow
of the Smoky Mountains, its few trees
a white flag.
The road itself occupies a developed ridge,
and from the mountains it too must appear sightless,
is my tired and beautiful skin,
my body full of knowledge,
on a ridge overlooking the spine of an ancient range.
Yonder are my mountains—unshorn, wise, free.
I am weightless, pale and freckled above the pines
as buds burst and leaflets
sharpen and cleave.
Maple buds red as nipples. Poplars raising the green
mist of spring on the hillsides.
I who became a mother and left this world hold its invitation
in my body.
Let me remember myself
when I come into my daughter’s kingdom.
The chickadees high up
in the pines,
how the gold star slowly rolled down,
burning my bare skin,
how I listened to the earth’s silent
and then stepped into the car,
shifted into third, and descended.
Few bother with the silence of the gods.
The silence that is the gestation
between two cataclysms.
While the sun sets among the mountains,
evening cool raises gooseflesh and bare nipples
beneath my linen shirt,
and makes me want to climb these pines
like a ladder.
Too old, now, to chase sunset,
I welcome the night wind.
Yes I say to the sun
who is going.
Anna Laura Reeve is a poet living and gardening near the Tennessee Overhill region, traditional land of the Eastern Cherokee. Previous work of hers has appeared or is forthcoming in Beloit Poetry Journal, ROOM Magazine, Terrain.org, and others. Her poem, “Tennessee Red Cob,” won second prize in Appalachia Bare‘s 2021 George Scarbrough Poetry Contest. She is the winner of the 2022 Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry, a finalist for the Ron Rash Award and the Heartwood Poetry Prize, and a two-time Pushcart nominee. Her debut poetry collection, Reaching the Shore of the Sea of Fertility, is available from Belle Point Press.
Click each image below for places to purchase Reeve’s collection.
**Anna Laura Reeve image used with permission. Photographer: Jessica Tezak Photography.
***Featured image by Alex Meta, Unsplash