The Music of What Happens


Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music (Word Press) was published in 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals over the past 35 years. Born in New York City in 1940, Kohler attended public schools there, Mount Holyoke College (A.B., 1961) and Bryn Mawr College, 1966 and Ph.D., 1971). She’s taught literature and writing in venues ranging from elementary school to university. She lives in Massachusetts.

The long spell of freezing’s turned
the blanket of snow to smothering ice.
Earth’s bandaged, damaged. Cows huddle
on the mucky hillock, hunched, black
and dun, winter-stained, geese overhead,
their bellies soot-blackened like the ruins
of dry snowbanks all along the berms.

What will become of me in this season
if I go naked? One swallow doesn’t make
a summer, one robin a spring. The line
of hills on the horizon is so clear I see
the delicate fringe of trees along its crest,
see through their branches. Three birds
land in the mulberry top, small black
flourishes on a black and white sketch.

Properly understood the weather’s music.
In the night I wake thinking of our lives
unspooling, running out, being used up.
My son, my daughter-in-law, are silent
somewhere in the distance of their lives.
My sister’s a stranger, my friends are my
sisters, I am trying to make friends with
my husband’s sisters. This too is music.

I am lifted, saddened, elated, pulled
earthward. The worlds we invent to
realize ourselves are prisons formed by
our limits. The sun’s refracted, a fan of
pale gold flooding the gray east, silvering
the snow on the deck. If it touches me
will I turn younger or older? A shift in
the music’s key is sudden as weather.

Copyright Sandra Kohler 2012

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