Jeannine Hall Gailey

The Woman Who Disappears

I died that night on the operating table.
It was not even childbirth —
just the scope, scalpel, balloon that did it,
my tissue so fragile the scrape, scrape
bled me to death.

I did not wake up with cramping,
infections and fevers.
My husband never drove me home,
stroking my hair, speaking softly.
I did not recover. And all my children were lost.

Here I am writing this poem as a ghost.
You can not come looking for me;
if you put out a bucket for my spirit,
it will not fill with water.
If you pray to a tree, I will not arrive
with the feathers of a white bird.

Now I cannot save you. We put our lives
in the hands of others, and sometimes
they drop us like eggs. Our castles disappear,
and you will wander, looking for us
in the islands of cranes.

See these wings? They are only for the dead
who try to rise again.

When the Bush-Warbler Returns

What happens to the bird
who keeps returning, cooing
to invisible
hatchlings in her ruined nest?
She doesn’t blame you, really,
but the way she keeps
singing breaks your heart. Isn’t
she the harbinger
of spring, now empty of eggs,
of the hope of changing seasons?
Too many times she brings
string home with nowhere to put it.
Too many feathers
pulled from her own coat
to line the home of no children.
Little bush-warbler,
no longer named nightingale,
sing us a new song —
not of spring, of water,
of how we can make it alone
all those weary nights
and the moon so pregnant with light.

About the author

12.4 (Summer 2008)   The 2River View