Stirring : A Literary Collection

Jeannine Shackleton


Do you remember the winter of 1994,
a flurry of snowfall
fell over the evening hush
of ice cracked wheat fields,
and escaped yelling
that stopped as quickly
as it came?  You tried to burn oak.
I played Debussy until my fingers bled,
until icicles stabbed my sanity
and they chained shackles
to my cold, bare feet.
Red eyelashes, black pupils --
buried into woodsmoke-dulled air;
my mouth became a wrench
bending backwards.
Clair de Lune, it's gentle call
left with the day, followed by a thrash
of blood-letting bed straps, a rape
of nurse's needles.

You opened your eyes and saw
broken limbs over hospital windows
in moonlight, and me
screaming from the corridor
that led to the back,
locked door.
Do you remember how mad I was?
And my slow piano notes began
again.  I arched
to the inner sound:
a flock of white birds
hovering the alder branches,
their wings beating softly.
Their eyes whispered sadness.
I cried, 'Father, Father, Father.'

Outside pines bent.
Inside your heart turned
to a hundred pieces of marble
I chiseled for one particle, one milligram
of warm gravity, clawing
for a single blade of grass beneath it all
like the distance between you, God and me.
And more snow, you slumped over
the steering wheel and the black hole we
all fell into,

through gaps in spokes of the axle
going round,
as empty as the road to the hospital,
as empty as my eyes,
as empty as the doctor, shiny as cooper
as he stepped from his polished shoes
tightly tied below the pant pleat.
'It's in the blood,' he said,
'swallow big pills to dilute it.'
But my ears were birds ascending
hearing the song, 'I will fly,
I will fly to the rain forest,
I will fly bare-breasted, I will fly.'

Pearl-face, scatter-head, squeeze of the mop:
Where did I go?
Like a wish and gone, I was skystruck
at the hospital door-
a flutter far away, a feather, a snap,
my hair a loose braid --
where the cold gusts bent the bed,
whispers like reeds moaned secrets.
Low on the windowsill, thrown thistle
froze in purgatory.

Publications: The Avatar Review, Conspire, The Melic Review, Samsara, Comrades, Savoy Magazine, Rattle Magazine, Suite 101, The Fauquier Poetry Journal, Wellspring, Pudding Magazine
Awards: Pushcart nominee
Other: Staff member of Avatar Review

Stirring : A Literary Collection

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