WILLOW AND BARK

by Sally Sandler 

Somedays I Am That Cypress                                                                                

The past has all blown east.
The Monterey cypress felt it leave
in the teeth of a Pacific sea squall.
Ever since, the cypress has leaned east
toward the past with
outstretched arms.

Somedays I am that cypress. 
Wind buffeted, whale boned,
sway backed and salt bleached.
I was thrust off-center in my
cambium, and over time my
heartwood scorched.

And like the cypress I cantilever
east, in search of lost days.
I reach with every limb for 
something blown away. 

Because the past is familiar 
landscape, softened by the 
fog of memory.
Somewhere in the past is the sum
of what I’ve already weathered. 
Somewhere east is a time
when I already survived 
the gale.

If I could find it, I’d exhume the past 
and lie beside it in the rain.

Willow and Bark                                                                              

Her name is June, though she’s willow
as spring. I am coast live oak in the fall.

She is a dimple in milk-glass skin. I am
skin corrugated like bark.

We sail a butterfly kite at the beach; when
she cartwheels, her hair anoints the sand.
I pace myself and search for its offerings—
bi-valve shells with both halves attached.

She discovered the supple arch in her
back and admires it with her hands on her
hips. I’ve made peace with the veins on my
hands—maps of the cyan hills I’ve climbed.

We both double over at silly jokes, until
she stops, “Grandma—seriously?!”
and I try to hide that I question my mind
often, and maybe too seriously.

At the zoo she gambols, a capuchin
monkey, swinging on every railing she finds.
I see myself in the melancholy eyes of 
an elder orangutan.

Her heart is a lily ready to bloom. Mine is
a garden of children and dogs, family and
friends, some in the ground.

Innocence and White Windowsills                                                                         

It’s sold now, the house on a distant hill,
and the gulls are but echoes in my ears,
the cistern of the harbor tipped and spilled,
the limestone cliffs sundered by the years.

I think about its white windowsills, the
horizon edged in clean enamel paint—
each a testament to Yankee will,
invoking the white of patron saints,

and wholesome as a cool glass of milk.
The world outside bound by perfect framing—
so pristine, you could eat upon those sills—
and calm as a Grandma Moses painting.

That part of my past is excavated,
those years a window that was shattered.
Yet I wonder, will the owners paint it?
They couldn’t understand how much it mattered,

the perfect white windowsills that framed
a life we hoped immune to the fates.
Sills keep out the tempests, the untamed—
I guess they somehow entered through the gate.

I’ll no more breakfast in that simple home
or hear my father’s slippers on the floor.
I’ll worry that I’ve no sills of my own
when hurricanes are beating at my door.

To a Tiny Miracle, Found                                                                                       

The garden was leviathan no doubt
when seen through your baby lizard eyes, 
with leaves the length of galleons afloat 
in the jacuzzi, a sea by its size.

You chose to take sudden soundless flight
into the humid draw of depths too deep,
all one-plus inches of you took to night
and silent as a mote, slipped into sleep.

With giant hands I lift your minute self—
a wisp of life no bigger than a pin—
and place your question mark upon the shelf,
twenty padded toes—and I imagine

the rhythm of the ancient earth that beat
within, feet designed with bones fine as lace,
the barest threads of being so complete.
Your limpid eyes and small believing face

are yogi calm, content with where you fit.
You were perfect beyond imagination—
now heart and lungs and tiny closed-up lips
are sealed to guard the secrets of creation.

Disappearing Paths                                                                                                  

Some people might describe this yard as plain:
the locust trees and rosemary, all green

mother ferns and privet shrubs that grow
around the stump where children played; some gnomes

my son gave to me, he thought a joke—
like volunteer plants that want to poke

through disappearing paths— (though most I wanted.)
There used to be flower beds I flaunted

like brightly colored scarves I sometimes wear
with heels and earrings to the theater.

But now that’s gone, and in the shade I sit
and sometimes just let idle thoughts drift

like dust motes that dwindle in the air
and aimlessly pollinate my hair.

About the Author:

At once transcendent and accessible, Sally Sandler’s writing gives voice to her generation of Baby Boomers. She illuminates their shared concerns over the passage of time and fading idealism, the loss of parents and loved ones, and the loss of the environment, while maintaining hope for wisdom yet to come. In addition to Adelaide, she has been published in  “Acumen: A Literary Journal, “Fine Lines,” “The Moon Magazine,” “Mused: the BellaOnline Literary Review,” “The Literary Nest,” “The Society of Classical Poets Journal,” and “Westward Quarterly.” She is also the author of five books. Sandler is a graduate of the University of Michigan and lives with her husband and dog, close to children and grandchildren in San Diego, California.

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