Two Poems by Jennifer Atkinson

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Local History

Outpost of fish hawk and crow, one drowned oak, one white-blooming pear—
Lodged in the craw of the hay marsh, Hag Island.

The dock pilings and john-boat long rotten, house timbers sunk in the earth,
What remains is rust, foundation stone, and a garden plot of haggard herbs.

Yarrow for bleeding, horehound for cough, catnip and boneset for fever,
Pokeberry, foxglove, convolulus to drive off hag-ridden dreams.

Mullein scepters, several, waist-high, faint green, each cool as a jar
Of fireflies, glow—they must have been hers—hag tapers.

Soaked in tallow, the spikes burn down to an acrid smolder
Over a feast of winnowed thistle, one black seed for each hag spirit.

Shifting winds, liens and unclear titles. Hardly an island, flotsam
Among the reeds and sedges, witch-hazel, the usual haggling gulls.


Originally appeared in Kaimana: Literary Arts Hawai’i



Still, Again: 30 Years after the Assault

Gone soft in its gray socket, the late sun rots.
Snowflakes rise on a wind and refall harder,

whiter, when the gust stalls, on the witchhazel’s
chafed red wands. Numbness

hits so slowly when you lie waiting, cold
and colder, the air from your mouth, material

lifting away from what you once called your
self, blithely assuming

as true the idea of self suffused in
flesh, every cell you, not just this hovering

watchfulness, through which the snow
so easily moves unimpeded.

You are vanishing while she takes definite
shape on the brook edge, her edges

defined by what is, did, seems to be, happening, happened
in her on the freezing ground.




Jennifer Atkinson is the author of three collections of poems, the most recent of which, Drift Ice, was an honorable mention for Best Book of Environmental Creative Writing at the ASLE conference in 2009. Her new book, Canticle of the Night Path, the winner of the New Measure Prize from Free Verse and Parlor Press, published in September. 2012. Jennifer teaches in the MFA program at George Mason University.

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