Poems by Sandra Kohler, 61′

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May, 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 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 (A.M., 1966 and Ph.D., 1971). She’s taught literature and writing in venues ranging from elementary school to university. A resident of Pennsylvania for most of her adult life, she moved to Boston in 2007.


There’s a parrot named Felicity in
the novel I’m reading, so in a dream I give
my sister Midnight and Felicity: the black cat
she owned years ago, when her husband
was still alive, the scarlet parrot
she’d never dream of owning.
I don’t know if she dreams
about happiness now. Perhaps I’m
the sister who cannot imagine
owning Felicity. The bird of
happiness not blue but scarlet.
Real happiness is like that,
startling as a parrot’s
sudden cry.

Life Interrupts Life

The porch at seven, still, the air barely astir.
There’s a new rose blooming: April Moon?
Hawkeye Belle? The belle, pale pink, ablush.
When this garden’s made, I will have a walled
garden, hortus conclusus. To wall is to end:
conclude. The pale sky billows, foamy cloud.
A cry that could be cat or bird. Life interrupts
life. A fat fly lands on the chair opposite mine.
Out here he’s in his element, legitimate; indoors
I’d kill him. I need to start imagining this yard
as walled garden. What time will we need to
leave for the airport? Life interrupts life ….
Decisions, hesitations, progress and regression,
arrivals and departure. Language carries me,
whether I will or no. I will. Yesterday at the
Neponset River reservation we watch swallows
bring food to a nest in the concrete overpass,
taking it in turns. Here, now, it’s my turn:
dribbling, bouncing a ball of thought, making
small moves, practice for the game. The game’s
afoot. How shall I play it? The possibilities
are not endless. Body, soul, day: tell me what
to do. No answer: the body’s ambivalent,
the soul ambiguous. The day is indifferent:
sunlight blooms a moment on my neighbor’s
garage wall, fades. The birds keep chanting.