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Poetry by Paulette Guerin
The Far Side of the Mountain
Beneath the murk lay my fishing hat, somewhere
in the marina his boat. I imagine the lake
as it once was: two low-lying towns, their graveyards,
the dead’s peace disturbed for higher ground.
Mother never let us swim to the buoys,
so I drove backroads to the cliffs,
dove into a deeper green. Sugarloaf Mountain loomed,
the lone god of the lake. Now I see it
from the other side, a distant, pitiful shade.
I wonder if Eurydice, once back in Hades,
still hummed some song she’d heard Orpheus play.
I carry a basket of wet clothes,
the weight like a grudge I refuse to toss out.
The shirts hang limply, sleeves splayed.
A forest-green dress
has been bleached a shade of grass;
blood-red shirts fade to rust.
Once dry, light pierces them.
I slip into the stiffened skins.
Cyclist with Two Bikes
A woman pedals while holding
the handlebars of another bike.
It’s as if a ghost rides carefully beside her.
They are too close to make balance easy,
and I remember after her death
wanting to feel that closeness, however precarious,
while bagging embroidered handkerchiefs
against moth, dust. Years later, I was surprised
by how they had kept
her smell. I had already learned to let go,
not expecting the grip of bergamot, of cloves.
Once a year the dead come back, not in dreams
or circled light, but as if they’d never left,
dwelling among their old things.
They pretend to remember who we are
while somehow knowing each of our names.
Grandma taps at the back window,
asks for coffee, weak. Mother serves it
on china I was sure she’d sold long ago.
Grandma says she can’t believe Grandpa’s still alive.
We agree. She never stays long. The cup
hardly makes a sound as she sets it in its saucer.
She’s strong in a way she wasn’t in life—
resolute, but not as stern.
We ask her what it’s like.
She smiles a little sadly, and turns.
Paulette Guerin is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Florida. She lives in Arkansas and teaches English and writing at Harding University. Her poetry has appeared in Best New Poets 2018, ep;phany, Concho River Review, The Tishman Review, Contemporary Verse 2, and others. She also has a chapbook, Polishing Silver.
Be sure to check out this exclusive interview with Paulette on the Orson’s Publishing blog.