by Cathryn Essinger


The Harvest Moon rising from
behind the strip mall appears tethered
to the horizon, but soon it will clear
the radio tower on the far side of town

and lift effortlessly past Walmart, Sunoco
and Payless Shoes. Pennants flapping
in the used car lot applaud the effort,
while tail lights flicker red in the exhaust. 

He taps his wife on the shoulder and says,
Look at the moon, and she stands there
in the parking lot, hands pushed into
her coat pockets, shoulders hunkered

against the evening chill, while he loads
groceries and two-by-fours from Home Depot.
She is wearing her old coat with the frayed
collar over summer shorts and sandals.

There is a tenderness about her that makes
him want to pull her close, feel the cold lump
of her hand inside his own, but he just whistles
under his breath, Shine on, shine on….

She holds the grocery ticket in one hand,
meat and milk, and wonders how they came
to this moment, a middle aged couple,
children grown and on their own

only the dog waiting for them in the house
that is almost paid for, and after all these years,
this moon still advertising, still out shining
anything that the world has to offer.

On the Stairway


He was coming up the stairs
as she was coming down,

and for just a moment his eyes
were level with her sandaled foot,

the painted nails, the pale arch.
He saw her toes lap gently over

the edge of the step, and then
her arch rose, and she continued

to move away from him.  He never
saw her face; he didn’t glance over

his shoulder to see where she was
going, and yet he never climbed

these stairs without remembering
the sparkle of a gold buckle,

a bracelet eclipsing the hollow
of her heel, and then she was gone.


Odd how you can take such moments
with you–they ride along like shadows,

almost unseen.  It wasn’t anything–
it wasn’t a kiss or even a smile
Still he never mentioned it to his wife,
or to anyone for that matter.  He kept

the moment to himself, a selfish pleasure
perhaps, but it was such a small thing.

And yet, he never climbed the stairway,
never let his eyes fall on that particular

place, without remembering, without
thinking to himself,  How lovely.


                        During last night’s storm,
                        a young sycamore fell into
                        the arms of another.

                        Now it lies in that embrace,
                        tethered lightly to the bank
                        by a few tenacious roots.

                        I know what will happen here:
                        the fallen tree will put up new
                        shoots and the upper limbs

                        will twist and torque and turn,
                        reaching for the sun, while
                        the stronger leans almost

                        imperceptibly to balance
                        the unexpected load. It will
                        grow to accept the new weight

                        as if it were its own, until years
                        from now—a wet spring, a heavy
                        wind–both will come down

                        in a flurry of limbs and litter,
                        neither blaming the other
                        for such an expected outcome.

                          Three Poems:  Sunday Afternoon


                                    I always knock
                                    on the fox’s
                                    back door,
                                    before letting
                                    the dog
                                    put his head
                                    in the front.

                              Why I did not look for you…

                                    The needle in the haystack
                                    no longer resembles a needle.

                                    Now it looks like a piece of hay
                                    that might prick my finger.

                                    After watching the children roll down the levee

                                    We go up the hill to find adventure,
                                    we come down to tell the story.

                                In the Garden

                        The neighbor woman is calling her cat. 
                        His name is P. T., and it is not an easy
                        name to call.  Easier to think of it as Petey.

                        She has been calling Peteypeteypeteypetey,
                        for over an hour now.  The cat is asleep
                        under the azaleas, dozing after a trip to the creek,

                        where he spent the morning stalking the fish
                        and the crickets that have yet to be named. 
                        Ten o’clock, and already it is hot.

                        He does not remember his name, and her voice
                        is lost in birdsong. Still, she keeps throwing out
                        her lasso of words, as if he could be called home,

                        as if  words were more than a melodious babble. 
                        What words have to do with the cool place beneath
                        the bureau and the food in his bowl is uncertain,

                        but for now there is no need for them what-so-ever. 
                        It is lovely here under the azaleas, as lovely as Eden–
                        petals falling all around, and the long slow day ahead. 

About the Author:

Cathryn Essinger’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The Southern Review, Antioch Review, The New England Review, as well as PANK, Spillway, and Midwest Gothic among others.  Her poems also have been nominated for Pushcarts and “Best of the Net,” featured on The Writer’s Almanac, and reprinted in American Life in Poetry.