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Sample Poems by Jennifer Horne

Chinese Women Gathering Pecans in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Which of these is kinder to the eye?

The figures of the three women
padded and bundled against a chill day,
leaning their heads together to confer.

The symmetry:
three old trees, three old women,
providing for each other.

Their fat sacks, bulging with nuts
to be cracked later and savored
for the dry and chewy sweetness.


Make three wishes:
one on a shooting star,
one on a white horse,
one on a cock-eyed car.

Under the dirt
in the big clay pot,

a toad lies sleeping.
He rests among rocks.

The bearded-iris bulb
sends out its first,

flat, green shoots.
Shamrocks for luck,

cactus for protection,
elephant garlic

for something
sweet and pungent

among the hard knobs
of exposed oak roots.

The dogs bark at nothing,
the lights inside flicker,

a long branch falls from a tree
near the house.

The spirit of the place
reminds us whose it is,

how temporary our plantings,
how rapid the seasons.

Cicada Song

For years I lay in the dark.
What went on above me didn’t touch me.
A day came
when something said “move.”
In darkness I struggled,
drawn by a deep memory.

Finally, a new world:
light, an openness that scared me.
Also the discovery there were others like me.
My hardened shell came off
without much trouble.
Now I am so new my skin gleams.

Last Swim

Longed-for, during the first, busy days of fall,
dreamt-of, through a dull hour,
my mind floating like the blue raft
adrift on the green lake—
I meant to have that last swim,
feel the springs shooting up
from the cool heart of the world,
smell the fecund lakebed once again
before it closed into mystery,
keeping its secrets in the mouths of fish.

Suddenly I realize I’ve missed it.
The last bright day is gone.
September 20th:
the surprise lilies are up,
and all the wild magnolias
are dropping their canoe-shaped leaves
in unison. This afternoon,
rain will settle in like a mild cold.
Gone are the cloudbursts, sudden thunder,
the blazing steam that follows.

I stow the rafts, put away my suit,
sow some lettuce seeds.
The kind eye of the sun
is turned toward me now,
not that other, unrelenting, blesséd fire.