Sunday, May 9, 2010

Three Poems by Therese Halscheid

Trash Day

This is how it really looked long ago….

This is myself back in time, a girl
with sallow skin, dragging metal cans to the curb
notice how I stand for awhile that far from our house
watch how my lips, bright as scars, are parting
open with words, so the great air can take them
out of their mystery ─
see how my thoughts form the storms, how the morning sky
fills with dark sentences,

always something about aphasia, his dementia,
something always about my father caught
so quiet inside me

that would rise in the wind to become
something readable.

I am only fourteen. But you can tell I look old
as if life is ending. Notice how the limbs droop so
willow-like over the trash, see how the cans
are all packed with food, know I am starving myself, I am
that full of my father….

These are our neighbors, each turning in their sleep as they wake,
each waking as they turn from their room to the window
watching the weather above them.

And this is an image of the whole town in shock.
See how they dread my gray hovering grief, just watch
as they walk, how they carry on with the endless clouds
I made weekly, correctly, so very awful and coming
into their eyes.

The Walk Home

Each day the curtains part from each home we pass

and without clearly seeing them,
I can sense the widening eyes of mothers, I can feel
their thoughts through the windows
and it is all about the way
my father and I look
to them.

It is about it being late Spring and the fact that
he and I wear woolen coats and gloves
as we are always cold, as our lives are so dark
not even the sun can
save us.

It is about my looking
less than human, brittle-boned, slumped over,
I am that thin ─

and certainly, it is the sight of my father beside me
who is near blind and brain damaged,
someone behaving in ways that one might find
in mental wards.

Sometimes, their curtains are torn far apart
so fast as if fate landed an illusion, something
that never should be, and nothing appears real
except for their manicured lawns
and the distance the sidewalks allow
each afternoon, at 3:00, as we shuffle past this
place of groomed grass and the scent of
immediate flowers.

Above us are always the
overhanging trees whose blossoming
leaves spread glorious and are just like
a wedding arbor.

So perfect, I think, for this really is
what we are married to ─

this aisle, this arm-in-arm walk
after school from my aunt’s house to ours
this street like an obvious map of us,
pointing things out that
we cannot escape.


The idea of a river suffering
from its reflection

intrigues me
and is, I think,

what might happen should you
ever see well enough

to notice yourself, or be given
new eyes ─

or the mindflow
to use any breeze

that would force
your mirrored image into action

up out of its murkiness

the damaged
brain, and then

watch how your limbs might take on
a certain kind of fluidity

begin waving me
near you again

calling me daughter

while I cry like high tide
as you continue speaking

in the slow manner
of ancient waters ─

that I would want
to wade

to the voice,
father, into your rippling arms.

Therese Halscheid's latest book of poetry, Uncommon Geography (Carpenter Gothic), received a Finalist Award for the Paterson Poetry Book Prize. She also received a Greatest Hits award by Pudding House Publications. Other titles are Without Home (Kells) and Powertalk. Her poetry and prose have appeared in such magazines as Bellevue Literary Review, Connecticut Review, The Dos Passos Review, Philadelphia Stories and Rhino. Aside from publication, she received fellowships from NJ State Council on the Arts. She teaches writing workshops locally and in unusual locales such as an Eskimo village, the Ural Mountains of Russia, as well as leading a group of American women writers to join South African writers in an exchange. Since 1993, she has been a transient writer, living nomadically by way of house-sitting. Simplicity has connected her to the natural world and has been the focus of many poems. She is currently working on a manuscript of her father. Website:

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