Poetry

Poetry Sunday: “Solstice,” by Kathryn Stripling Byer

Solstice

for PCP

Riding home on the subway, you tried not to look at the old woman mumbling in Spanish, “Mi corazón, Mi corazón de soledad.” Longest dark. Hours after sunset and no coffee left in the pot, you are saying your rosary, each word a wing beat against Blackened window glass. (Mother of Letting Go, Mother of Dust, Holy Mother or Mothers’ Hearts). Outside, the lights of New York gleam like candles, burning till dawn for the souls of the lost. “It is easy to pray to her, she is so human,” you told me last night, though your voice on the long-distance line stammered, trying to clarify something you feared I’d dismiss as no more than nostalgia, old charm against darkness. I stared at the crèche where a virgin in wooden robes knelt while you spoke of her blood seeping into the straw, how her hand, holding close to the child’s face a guttering candle-stub, trembled. Then silence. I thought the line dead till I heard a match strike for your cigarette. “Who knows,” you sighed, watching smoke find its way to the ceiling. “Perhaps there is such a thing as grace, the smallest twig kindling, the empty hearth filling with light.”   From The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest (Press 53 2013), published with permission of the press.   Kathryn Stripling Byer grew up in southwest Georgia and graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. She received an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she studied with Allen Tate, Fred Chappell, and Robert Watson. Her books of poetry include Catching Light (Louisiana State University Press, 2002); Black Shawl (1998); Wildwood Flower (1992), the 1992 Lamont Poetry Selection of The Academy of American Poets; and The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest (1986), published in the Associated Writing Programs award series and reissued by Press 53. Byer’s poems have appeared in Arts JournalCarolina QuarterlyGeorgia ReviewHudson ReviewIowa ReviewNimrod, Poetry, and Southern Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her essays have appeared in Bloodroot: Reflections on Place by Appalachian Women Writers (edited by Joyce Dyer; University Press of Kentucky, 1998), Dream Garden: The Poetic Vision of Fred Chappell (edited by Patrick Bizzaro; Louisiana State University Press, 1997), The Boston Globe, and Shenandoah. She received writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council. She was poet-in-residence at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. She died June 5, 2017. [from Academy of American Poets website, here] Her obituary appears here.

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  • Kelly Cherry January 3, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Gone too soon.

    Reply
  • Kelly Cherry January 3, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Gone too soon.

    Reply
  • Meryl Natchez December 18, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Lovely ending–perfect poem for this time of year.

    Reply
  • Meryl Natchez December 18, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Lovely ending–perfect poem for this time of year.

    Reply
  • Kristyn Appleby December 17, 2017 at 11:48 am

    As always Rebecca, you chose pieces of writing that go directly to the heart of the reader. “Mother of Letting Go. Mother of Dust. Holy Mother of Mothers’ Hearts.” A new mantra to quell, perhaps, the unease I feel in my own heart these days. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Kristyn Appleby December 17, 2017 at 11:48 am

    As always Rebecca, you chose pieces of writing that go directly to the heart of the reader. “Mother of Letting Go. Mother of Dust. Holy Mother of Mothers’ Hearts.” A new mantra to quell, perhaps, the unease I feel in my own heart these days. Thank you.

    Reply