Two Poems

by Jeannine Hall Gailey Issue: Spring 2019

Self-Portrait as Migration

Awkward on land, the loud honking and long necks,
snow geese gather en masse to meander in a muddy field,

belie the beautiful swirl of white as they move through
the November sky—as their bodies become a ghostly cloud

without beak or feet, nothing but white feathers suspended
in the air, like a magic trick. Trumpeter swans in a field

sparser, with black beaks and a different song altogether.
What happens in their flight over the snowy mountains?

Thousands may drop dead in a Montana copper-contaminated
lake. Thousands more, confused, grow tired, stray off course.

In my body, cancer cells migrate from one terrain
to another, healthy cells taking flight, hemispheres

filling. I imagine my lymphocytes snow geese wings
inside me, a cacophony of sound and the rush and wonder—

which way will they fly? What will be left of me
after the white flash of their path has disappeared?

 

 

One Summer

I woke to the smell of smoke.
Sunset was red haze.
Our conversations were short,
we tried not to breathe too deeply.
The rain was on a holding pattern, just off the horizon.
We gathered herbs that purified.
We dreamed of ice.
Under the mountains,
the earth tried to shake us off.
The oldest oak trees fell,
people sheltered and burned in swimming pools,
the screams of horses in the air.
My brain couldn’t connect—my legs
trembled, my speech slurred. You took me to the hospital,
they tried to tether me with IVs.
I was tied to a troubled body.
We were tied to a troubled earth.
You said it was too late to leave anyway.


Jeannine Hall Gailey

Jeannine Hall Gailey served as the second Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. She is the author of five books of poetry: Becoming the Villainess, She Returns to the Floating World, Unexplained Fevers, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter, and Field Guide to the End of the World, winner of the Moon City Press Book Prize and the SFPA’s Elgin Award. She is also the author of PR for Poets: A Guidebook to Publicity and Marketing. Her work has been featured on The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and The Best Horror of the Year. Her work has appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, Notre Dame Review and Prairie Schooner. Her website is www.webbish6.com. Twitter: @webbish6.