THREE POEMS

By Georgia Tiffany

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The Montréal Review, March 2024

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Grief by Carlie Williams

A CAUTIONARY TALE

"The police believe there is no ongoing community risk."
CNN  November 14, Moscow, Idaho 

You know the color: cold steel.
You recognize the taste: metallic. 
It's that kind of fog, low ceiling, predatorial,

so close and personal your fingers
disappear, your hand.
Inside the car (how the fog got in

you want to know) only sound
verifies you are here, a leather glove
readjusting your grip on the wheel,

tires, barely at a crawl, spitting
sand against the undercarriage,
and a shape like a racked animal draped

over the hood which you cannot see. 
If there's a hawk perched on the fence post,
you see neither the hawk nor the post.

No tail lights ahead of you,
no head lights behind. Yet you know.
And in the oncoming lane, a phantom

swollen, another, another,
their varied halos of gray hardly enough
to confirm they're there.

Everything floats in a sea of phantoms.
In such a sea, you can feel no death
except as the sea itself.

You make of your nerves adrift
a point of certainty.
This must be a fog all over the world.

Had there been a farmhouse, or
a barn with a pole light,
you could not have seen.

And that little town where it happened,
where someone must have called out
Christ, must have paralyzed the air with

Where was God?  The mouth asking.
The world asking.  What to be,
the bread or the blood?

Give your eyes to the moon,
your voice to the coyote.
There's nothing you can't imagine now.

From that little town
sealed in, doors bolted, windows barred,
you are driving away,

away from the empty swing sets, empty lawns
tipped with pre-dawn fog,
graystone church where a gray man

is raking gray leaves.  No bells.  No birds.
Just the pumping of dry breath
and his rake scraping across the walk.

You think to turn back, but even the shoulder
presents a terror of the invisible,
and to pull over, you fear

what might come (how fast?)
from behind. There are hills and curves,
but you only feel the sway,

the incline steep and long,
ears unable to equalize the change,
heartbeat too fast, pace too slow.

I'm telling you this because
I was on the same road you are on now,
drove all day through fog

swallowing the river, freezing to the road,
then up out of the gorge,
opening the car door just as you've been doing

every two or three minutes
to check for a center line.
I've turned back to tell you so.

Eavesdropping by Carlie Williams

SKITTISH AMONG THE GIANTS

All night we hear them moan,
writhe and press against each other,
scrape and claw, indifferent to
those hundred fears
our dreams are made of.

All night we cower as limbs
thicker than our waists
surrender to wild forces surely
even they must realize 
could rip them from their roots.

In deference to the kind of prayer
such power requires,
do any of us dare
revere them then, walk out among 
their random, crashing crowns?

Just Step Into the Beauty by Carlie Williams

RITUALS

My mother unwraps from tissue,
cradles one at a time,
two shepherds, two sheep, an angel,

arranges them on the mantel,
then the baby in a bed of straw
and Mary draped in blue.

I am two, almost three,
lying under the tree, believing
nothing so beautiful

as the string of colored lights
blinking softly over my mother's body,
in her hair, and floating between us

an emptiness so full of wings
it could be confused with flight.
I did not know the words to think then,

or how they nested inside.
Is that why her sighs
drifting through the house

were so easily lost, why I missed
those first signs of sadness
that would later own her eyes?

I thought it magical, that elfin bulb
perched on the lowest branch,
believed its bright blue paint chipped

and scratched not by defect, but by design
made it an enchanted light                              
just the right size for my hand.

What if she had not been there
to peel the light from my palm,
to stroke with salve the blistered flesh

like a wound she could love,
and me, all the while retreating
in my own pool of pain?

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Georgia Tiffany's new book, Body Be Sound, was released by Encircle Publications in November, 2023. Her poems have appeared in various publications including Calyx, Antigonish Review, South Carolina Review, Threepenny Review, and the anthology, Poets of the American West. Her limited-edition chapbook, Cut from the Score, was published by Night Owl Press. A native of Spokane, Washington, she now lives in Moscow, Idaho.

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