Poetry

Jane Underwood, Four Poems from When my Heart Goes Dark, I Turn the Porch Light On: “I Was Wrong,” “Song of Absence,” “Wild Fire,” and “Porch Light”

I Was Wrong

Sunlight bakes my thinning hair.
Through the open window
wafts a wig of balmy air.
Sixty years gone by, plus two.

You’d think I’d never felt the sun,
you’d think no other kiss or whisper
ever skimmed this skin.
A mockingbird takes on the dawn.

Repeat, repeat, he sings his stolen songs.
Repeat, repeat, from early morning on.
Tireless and alone at five a.m.,
he sings to us, the world, the universe.

He does this from atop a barren pole.
Burst of sun, trill and chirp, another
day gone by. Things I thought
would never be enough, are.

 

Song of Absence

First the scar
after the breast

then the presence
of the absence.

No words inscribed
upon a stone, no

place to lay down
flowers.

Poor, howling
chest.

How will she
reveal this

to the man
who has never been

without a merry tune
and cannot imagine

such a lonesome song.

 

Wildfire

Drought and winds could give
a shit. Those who fight the flames
are spread thin as worn out veins
and tired down to the marrow.
Evacuation is the only option.
Leave everything behind. Seconds
are too tiny, decades too heavy.
Don’t wait for the dog. You’re
breathing in the ashes of other
people’s houses, the hair of spooked
horses too freaked to get in vans.
It has eaten your left breast already,
flattened a town in your thigh. Now
it’s headed for the woods—hips, ribs,
spine, blood. Did you hear me?
Are you deaf? I said forget the dog.

 

Porch Light

Winter light fading, husband and dog gone
for a walk, they’ll be back in an hour.
If the sky goes dark, I turn the porch light on.

Exhausted after working all day long,
he’s devoted to home, hearth, his other.
Winter light fading, husband and dog gone

up the hill, where our terrier girl loves to run.
Her ecstasy filled me when I was able to take her.
If the sky goes dark, I turn the porch light on.

Simple daily things, those are our song
of love despite the trials of growing older.
Winter light fading, husband and dog gone

off together, leaving me here alone,
wishing I too could have skipped out the door.
If the sky goes dark, I turn the porch light on.

They fill in what I lack, trek along
the streets, stop for snacks at the corner store.
Winter light fading, husband and dog gone.
When my heart goes dark, I turn the porch light on.

 

First published in When my Heart Goes Dark, I Turn the Porch Light On (Blue Light Press 2017) and reprinted here with permission of the press.

As the founder of The Writing Salon, a unique creative writing school in San Francisco and Berkeley she directed for 16 years, Jane Underwood was a beloved mentor. Her poetry, essays, and erotica appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, The Sun Magazine, and Best Women’s Erotica, and she was also a gifted photographer. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2005, she kept an online blog at “My Great Breast Cancer Adventure” and returned to her early love of poetry with renewed purpose. The manuscript of this book, When my Heart Goes Dark, I Turn the Porch Light On, was on her nightstand when she died in February 2016. Front cover photo: Jane Underwood. Order When my Heart Goes Dark, I Turn the Porch Light On here.

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