Waking Up

The sun peeks over the mountain’s ridge
as it does every morning
unless there are clouds to hide behind.
The bright orange, yellow familiar glow
fills the house through drawn curtains.

Our winding road is glistening, fresh with last night’s rain.
I am blinded by the shiny spots where the sunlight hits it
as I look out the kitchen window
at the sad trees who have lost their leaves
and the stray clouds, gray white shadows in the blue sky.

I make my coffee and listen for the sweet voices to fill the house,
the cats’ morning song as they cry for food,
footsteps upstairs and the rumbling of the heater
kicking out breaths of warm air.
It is hard to imagine that every morning will be like this,
smooth and comfortable like an old pair of shoes.

One morning I will wake up
and things will be different,
maybe the same, but probably different.
I will be different.

This moment like a little speck of dust
suspended in mid-air, yet falling,
falling faster than I can see,
disappears into the universe,
impossible to locate or replicate,
replaced by other miniscule specimens
that float through time,
already created and waiting
for their cue to arrive.

Twelve Years Old

Snow sticks to the trees,
falls from the sky like diamonds,
little crystalline specks hit her hair and shoulders,
her golden butterfly barrettes clipped in her curls.
She yanks up her fuzzy, fur-lined hood from her puffy, black jacket
with the zig zag pattern that reaches down past her knees,
too big for the kid’s section, too small for the women’s,
too innocent for the juniors. She’s somewhere in between,
like an awkward puppy with gangly limbs that betray her.
She looks to the right and then to the left
for cars and trucks that barrel down the quiet country road.
The inches-deep snow comes steady,
stark white against the blackness of her one size too large boots,
a hand me down with scuffs and scrapes from wearer’s past.
When she reaches the tall metal gates of the school,
she looks over her shoulder at the footprints in the road
quickly disappearing under a blanket of snow.
She grabs a handful, throws it in the air,
lets the cold wetness envelop her
as if what falls from the sky
was not enough.

The Phoenix

The outside world is still.
A truck lumbers down the lonely,
snow covered road,
the engine roaring and laboring
as it climbs the hill around the bend.

The trees are immobile
having been tousled from last night’s storm,
their branches bare of leaves and snow,
recovering from the Nor’easter.

He is still asleep.
She hums down the hall,
gets dressed for school,
bookbag thumping down the stairs,
little footfalls faster than mine.

I turn on the shower,
let the water run a little too long,
hoping the hot steam will cleanse me
as if going to worship some distant God,
making promises of redemption
that I know I will not keep.

I come out a different being,
the steam morphing on my skin,
a Phoenix rising from nothing,
born again out of misty heat.
I am that body of water,
my limbs a fluid element
exposed to the morning air
that nips at my surface with cool bird beaks
ripping and tearing at my flesh
until I am no longer recognizable,
a faint reminder of the previous self,
neither man nor woman
but whatever lies under the flesh.


Waiting for the snow
is like waiting for a dream
before I even fall asleep.
I know it is coming,
but maybe not.
Maybe the weather station
got it wrong
and we stayed home for nothing,
hoping and wishing on a promise
that won’t be fulfilled.

The air grows cold.
We migrate inside like
bears hibernating in their caves
with big furry paws honey sticky,
our stomachs full from
a successful hunting season.

Or maybe we are the deer
left out in the cold,
unpoached by hunters,
unhit by cars,
our herd members missing.
They weren’t so lucky.

When the snow falls on us,
we consider it a blessing.
The cold doesn’t bother us
under our thick winter coat.
We huddle together,
wait for the storm to end.
Or maybe we kick up our heels,
run as if no one else exists,
our little white tails disappear
against the white canvas of the storm.

Roses in Winter

One spindly, winding branch
reaches higher than the others,
its soft green leaves accented
with deceptively sharp thorns.
The thin branch reaches skyward
seeking the sun like a desperate stranger,
bending with the weight
of the eminent being at its apex
like tight lips preparing to open and sing a song.
The deep red mouth will yield wider and wider
exposing its delicate yellow pollen tongue.
The intricately layered petals,
firm at first, will soften as the days go by.
A starlet’s fleeting life on stage,
her petals will wither and fall to the windowsill,
faded of their vibrant glory,
wafting sweetness from their blackening edges.

A native of Los Angeles, California, Jennifer Novotney earned a B.A. in Journalism from California State University and an M.A. in English from Northern Arizona University. Her poetry is featured in several literary magazines, and most recently appears in Poetry Quarterly, Unbroken Journal, and The Vignette Review.