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Sample Poems by Judith H. Montgomery


The day before she turns five, Amy hears
the doctors speak of her galloping heart.

The stethoscope has pressed its hard, cold coin
into her chest. Air empties from the room.

When she is alone, she listens for the horse
that gallops in her ribs, for hoofbeats in her blood.

What she understands is this: tomorrow
they will sleep her, and peel apart the fence

against which the red stallion beats tattoo
and let him out. Then her heart will canter,

walk an ordinary, one-two gait.
But she wonders—will he run into the sky

without her? His wild mane tangle in clouds,
and his hooves spark a starfall beyond the moon?

She sees an empty saddle on his back.
When they open the gate to let him out

(this must be the secret), she will hold on—
she will gallop too.


The boy’s eyes glitter from the roof above.
His long shadow spills down the brick drop

and pools on concrete where his father—shaking
in thin sun that strikes the schoolyard clock—

takes two groaning steps, and stops. And pleads,
calling his fled child back from the brink

where love and gravity contend for thrall.
The gutter shudders underneath that weight

but, for this moment, holds the unfledged boy
at tip-point of flight—as though he could poise,

a high-wire artist lifted in bright lights
before riding the trapeze, arced above

the crowded dark, the unforgiving ring,
the safehold of the net. There is no net.

A swift darts through the vacant space that draws
this wingless boy to press intent against

the gravest verge: he steps beyond recall.
His father runs to try to break his fall.


Shuttered in, behind the chill
glass of winter, I
am heart-shot

by April’s pulled pin,
her verdant explosions,
glory-burst that shatters

rime to green,
sleet cuff to leaf, ice
to lace transparency.

Beyond my window,
three copper beeches breech
buds in raku shine,

foil to robin cocking sunup,
breast and beak waked
by trillium’s cream trump.

Snow sheers to blossomdrift
as Daphne’s slow pink perfume
seeps beneath my ice-stubbed door,

soaking parched mouth,
March skin. The sky unseals
for April—sunrise tinting

apricot, vermilion, plum—
gift of Spring’s milk-generous hand
that next exacts the price

 for pleasure: inches from my dazzled
eye, she slams into the sill
her sharp-shinned hawk—

glass-stopped, talons fixed
in one careless robin’s redder breast.
Hawk glares at me, and lifts the pierced

body. Wings to the dogwood
where his stash wrings offerings
into blossoms notched for sacrifice.

 Hawk, Rising

At Kitty Hawk, do you—Orville,
Wilbur (having tracked
the rise and glide

of osprey, hawk)—do you pause
in the leap from bicycle
to bird to flight

and let your salt gazes glaze,
let them drift beyond

beyond warp and span, camber,
steady wind and zephyr,
to the future?

Does one arc spark you to consider
how such a work first rising
at a place

whose name contains the hawk—
how your invention
might be used?

You answer from the dream: how
you’ll best Daedalus’
brash boy,

rise past the Montgolfiers’ balloon,
avoid Lilienthal’s spine-
breaking fall—

how your work will free us all
from the confining bounds
of gravity,

to view our globe’s polymorphic
flow, to know how we are one
green world! Or,

suspended in your patent beds,
do you stare through the five-
blanket night,

barely catching this dim echo: ghost
of some radio transmission

back, say, fifty or one hundred years
to yours: 1903?
Do you cup an ear,

trying through cracked static to decode
the gist of payload—
of Dresden,

Hiroshima, twin towers of New York,
Kirkuk, Baghdad—

the mosquito-droning air?
Do you flinch before
that faint din—

bombardment from winged ships
that heel these distant

Hornet, Skyhawk, Spirit,
Stealth, F/A-18,
B-1, B-2—

astonishments of air that,
like everything human,
may be used

to save or sever, loosing blooms
of rescue parachutes, or
manna, or

destroying fire? But the merciful
gods intervene: block
the ghost radio,

let you turn back in your bunks
to the possible:
that factor

of displacement, ratio of depth
and chord—so you may lie
awake, intent

on what must be the answer:
a new vertical rudder—
a matter,

in that crackling November dawn,
of mere practical