Jennifer Davis Michael

St. Mary’s Road

I’m even more nearsighted in the fog:
the road disappears twenty yards ahead,
and when I get there, it’s no longer there.
Up close, tree branches are decisive, sharp;
they lighten into fog, softening, blurring.

The same holds true with pathways in my mind:
the judgments and compartments I devise,
steeped in this fog, begin to lose their shape.
My self becomes more porous as I walk
—and who is it that walks? Who needs to know?

Beside the road I find a shattered mirror,
a Cadillac hubcap: the sole bright things
on this gray morning. They seem garish, false.

Look for an abandoned Cadillac
missing a hubcap, its side mirror smashed.
But don’t look for the driver, breathing free.


Winter Writing

A gentle burden
flake by flake
bends the hemlock
and nandina,
paints on one side the limbs of oak,
leaving the other blank and black.

Squirrel tracks around the bird feeder,
street signs half erased.
A figure moves past on the road,
a silent cloud,
writing his walk
in white on white.

The book neglected on my lap,
I try to read
white letters scrolling
past the window.
What they spell is silence:
empty, soft, impossible to hold.


Annie and Lucy

Sisters sprung too soon
into a wincing brightness,
a breathless atmosphere:
Before, you swam entwined.
Now in your separate nests,
enclosed in plexiglass,
you grasp the feeding tubes
with absolute possession.
Machines hum lullabies.
Green numbers, blinking lights
tell your bedtime story:

not as your parents wished it,
as they sit, shocked and drained,
thinking of home
and the pink nursery waiting.
No, but it is your story,
one you will tell each other
late nights under the covers,
years from now:
how the two of you leapt
from heaven, and the startled world
held out its arms, and caught you.


Jennifer Davis Michael

My contemplative practice for the past twenty years has been Centering Prayer as taught by Fr. Thomas Keating. Through this practice we use a sacred word, or the breath, as a symbol of our consent to the divine presence and action within us. I believe that poetry at its best emerges from and leads into that profound interior silence.

Jennifer Davis Michael is Professor and Chair of English at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband and their six-year-old son. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Mezzo Cammin, Southern Poetry Review, and Cumberland River Review. She has also published a book of criticism, Blake and the City (Bucknell, 2006), and is working on another entitled Poetry at the Edge of Silence.

More on Jennifer Davis Michael’s work can be found on our Links page.

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