I live in Middleton, Wisconsin, which is just to the left of Madison on a map. I work as an R.N. in Home Health care. Among my loves are: October, November, the color yellow, chocolate chip cookies, seagulls and cats. Recent publications include Right Hand Pointing, Concis and Postcard Poems and Prose. My website, wind and solar-powered by my husband, Steve, is jeanietomasko.com.
20 Questions about the Heart
Is it smaller than a breadbox?
It’s just that sometimes my heart feels bigger than a breadbox even, and light and airy as the bread that used to be inside of one back when they had breadboxes. I mean it happened again yesterday. I was turning right with a green arrow and suddenly, like a car coming fast from the other way, my heart felt wide and puffed out and like a whole loaf of wonder and full of that same amazing air and slathered with spoonsful of raspberry jam. I finished turning, heading for some destination that a minute ago had mattered and now didn’t seem to. I’m not sure how big a breadbox is, but I believe in the heart’s buttered size.
Do you take it along? Is it the size of a duck?
I seem to take it along because by the by the next intersection I had this breadbox-heart-shaped duck inside my chest and I forgot where I was going and who or what.
Animal, vegetable, mineral?
Have you ever tried to hold one in your hand?
Does love taste like a pretzel? Does the heart bleed by itself?
Is it permanent? Is it breakable? Can it give you away?
The We of Two Horses
Even one and one’s loneliness,
the we of our cats or the we of
two horses in the autumn field,
side to side, head to rump,
their muscular together. It’s better
with a we, my mother said to me
when I first met you, and I said
again to you last Saturday morning
as we watched the two geldings
eating apples at the farm.
And later, out of all the warblers
east of the Mississippi, two had
decided to take a bath together
under the abandoned fire hydrant.
They couldn’t stop talking, it seemed,
they had much to say. Today,
I like we in my friend’s poem. We
walked the prairie, she and I, we
banded butterflies. Sometimes
things happen to the we of our us
and it’s a good word to say again,
a word that wants to hold hands,
September, prairie just past yellow,
ready to flame into that color
for which we have no name.
God Spills across the Grass
I read God but it was really gold, gold
spills, it does, across the grass
or an afternoon
or that afternoon a week ago
you and me up at the lake
how I said I don’t want to believe
as we sat on driftwood, talking,
our pockets full of beach glass
but there is no way to know
if God comes after this.
I couldn’t find words for
how it would be, walking
without you, there, if,
someday, and if so,
I’d want to know you were there
somehow and that prayer
is not just another word for sadness.
There are no answers
except maybe in the way light
spills across the water,
or the way
deer we never saw
left tracks while we were talking.
Maybe it’s all a gift, spilled--
the way I went on thinking
about how trust works
and then the potter in his shop
pulled a bug from my hair
and set it free and said send
me a check when we didn’t have
enough and if we can’t trust
each other what have we?
It’s how I live and I trust you,
he said, and gold or God
or something just like that,
spilled into our hands.
Walking, we name the voices of tonight’s pond careful to capitalize the names as we say them:
Great Blue Heron
Great Horned Owl, if
you are praying the species, you need that sort of respect for the names. But if you are out walking, say tonight, and you walk past two snapping turtles in a twisted sort-of-dance near Stricker’s Pond boardwalk, you don’t need caps. Holding your breath is enough.
Northern Shoveler, it’s
been a cold spring and just today we planted peas and tomorrow potatoes. These are prayers too, you said. Along with fixing the planters. And the nuthatches who flew into the hole in the tree. And the busy muskrats, swimming away, leaving behind their crooked-V shaped wakes.
will come soon. The juncos have flown north. The goldfinches are bright yellow again. We watched the turtles for a long time and then you said we won’t have enough light to make it around the pond before dark. We will, I said and you said you knew I was going to say that. It’s strange, who loves who.
Song Sparrow, and
it’s not that I want the whole world to be here, but sometimes on Nights Like This
I don’t know why the whole world isn’t.
Last Saturday in April
Already the fields are half-swamps, and it’s supposed
to rain again, today. Last night we drove north
to the marsh. I heard a far-off owl, who-who-ing.
I cupped my hands, who-ed back.
There were choirs of spring peepers, green frogs,
leopard frogs. Once, when your ears were bad,
you said you’d cry if spring came and you
couldn’t hear the frogs. I know you couldn’t hear
the low tones of the owl. Neither of us, nor the frogs,
could hear the heron fishing, thin reed of neck and breath.
Who is this God who thought of the meadowlark, who
thought of leafless trees, who thought of yellow?
If only I could be the branch.
We stood a long time, listening. Darkness came.
One in four dreams is about the heart. In my last one
I’m running with yours. When I get home I pin it
to the wall. Let me say I know someone who is waiting
for a heart. I know someone who is waiting for
love. Every day is another day.
My son studies the kidney; memorizes glomerular,
Loop of Henle, osmosis. He’s come to the language
of the body late. More than a physiology final;
these are holy words, fire on the tongue.
Geese fly over every day; the wrens are back
and there is everything to do but listen.
Morning light comes in the window. You
sleep beside me. No rain yet
and if it doesn’t rain today or Sunday,
I’ll clean out the rock garden; you can plant
your potatoes. There are small buds
on the crabapple; there are strawberries
to plant. There are tulips, daffodils
that need nothing from us.
Maybe we will whisper their names.
If anyone asks, we can say we were praying.
©2016 Jeanie Tomasko