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Sample Poems by Marjorie Wonner

The Day of the Brown Thrasher

I was back living with Dad, doing chores
Mother had done; cooking, not as she did,
but enough to keep us fed. Cleaning,                           
washing clothes. I kept Dad's life running
as it had for eighty years, plus the five
before he was big enough to milk a cow.

I was churning; butter almost ready.
The latch on the back door lifted.
Come, Dad said. Come and see this
beautiful sight. I followed him out past
the pump, beyond the barn, down the lane
to the half-finished nest in the brush
by the pasture gate. She swung down,
wings rusty red, a slender bird, strands
of witch-black horsetail streaming 
from her beak. First brown thrasher 
I had ever seen.
I stand beside Dad's open casket; statuary
head and foot, soft lights, Amazing Grace
in the background. Five years, I mothered
my dad who went to the barn at midnight
to milk cows we had already auctioned off. 

That brown thrasher still swoops low, black,
horsetail in her beak. And Dad still bids me,
Come, come and see this beautiful sight.

Playing House

One sweet spring when I was five
my friend, Dolores, came to play.
We drank water tea on the lawn,
flowers in blossom all around.
Now fast forward fifty years--
You come home from work today
and find me waiting on your porch.
You greet me with a kiss
and call me, prematurely wife.
I brought a pot of homemade soup,
warmed it on your kitchen stove,
scrounged through cupboards
until I found your last two flowered bowls.
And now we eat outside
mid blossoms of another spring,
and giggle over noodle soup
like children drinking water tea.

Eve, the Widow Snake

who lives these languid summer days 

beneath the steps of my front porch
grieving (I think like a widow) --
grieving her serpent spouse, the long 
brown snake I met eight springs ago
stretched across my cellar floor
in that lethargic molting rite.
ďKill him,Ē I had screamed,
even though from child I knew
every snake is a farmerís friend.
My husband carried him out.
These years later, I sense the old
brown snake is dead; I see Eve
by herself in my yard. More lonely
for her mate, I guess, than afraid of me.
She crawls routinely through the crack
in my cellar wall, sheds her skin
where they had always shed
the way, when my husband died,
I moved back to the neighborhood
where we had reared our young.
She returns to my sheltering steps 
and I give her permission to lie and mourn
the rest of her days beneath my  porch.
Itís my feeble atonement for ever wishing 
her lover dead. And when my dog
catches her sunning in my front yard
and he would snap her neck
in one quick jerk.  I call him off.

The Watch

The restless sheep huddle in their shed
ready to run at the slightest smell of dog.
We crouch behind the tool room door,
eight feet and a shotgun barrel away,
where we wait for that beast that comes
at night and kills new lambs and slaughters
heavy ewes as they run in the dark, seeking
shelter in a thicket of vines. An old sheep
nickers quietly. She knows heís out there
 stealing from tree to tree closer through
the moonless night, watching to catch
an ear as she flees, tear her throat,
rip her belly until her bleeding bowels
spill on the ground.
Weíll get him this time. I promise myself
and her. The striped cat springs for a mouse
in the boards behind us. Dad shifts the gun
and leaning forward, peers through shadows
 just beyond the catch-pen rails.
I move the unlit flashlight to my other hand.
Weíre some combination; Iím a woman, fifty,
and Dad, though kindred with his flock
and primed with apprehension, has some
thirty years on me.  He stretches full to see,
strains hard to hear. Heís gone without sleep
too many nights this week. His head drops
forward, and his hand slips from the gun.
He snores.

The sheep bolt! Heís here! Heís smelling his way
around the shed. The sheep canít get out this night
to those ensnaring vines, but they scramble
for the door and thrash against the screen weíve
drawn across its open frame. I train the flashlight
on the doorway, still unlit but ready.
Anxiously, I poke Dad, prodding him awake.
Is he here?  Still half asleep, he speaks out loud.
I nod but he canít see. Is he here? he asks again.
Yes, I whisper hoarsely. The dog flashes around
the corner and off across the pasture, a streak
of dirty grey. The husky tail, curved high,
rides on the wind.
Why, you despicable half-breed wolf, I mutter.
We wait a little longer. Rain starts pounding
on the roof. We gather up our things, blankets,
flashlight, gun. I take Dadís arm and lead him
through the darkness to the house. The dog
will be back tomorrow night and every night
until we shoot him dead.
But tonight weíve missed our chance and one
more nightís warm sleep. I could have shot him
if I had the gun, I say, as we reach the kitchen door.
He would have tried that screen, I would have got
him sure. Maybe, Dad says, but thatís my job.
He stumbles around his collie, sleeping by the stove.
Poor Trix, he sighs, Too old to be of much use.
He bends and pats her deaf, old head and drags
 bone-tired to his bed. I go as weary to mine.

Itís an hour yet Ďtil dawn.