Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many others over the past 45 years. In 2018, a poem of hers was chosen to be part of Jenny Holzer’s permanent installation at the new Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia.
Travellers in Autumn
What are we taking to Istanbul? To Switzerland
I took depression, the conviction that we had
moved to Boston to die. To Paris I took the last
days of our life as lovers: the knowledge that
my husband was finally an old man. I’m lying,
telling the truth. What will I find in Istanbul?
A friend writes an autumn message: how cold
and dark it’s become; she longs for spring but
doesn’t want to wish her life away. That familiar
feeling: wishing and not for the future to come,
the present to pass, when all one wants at heart
is for the present to stay, not pass into the past.
Only in the city of illness, suffering does one
wish away the present. The past? I open Time
Machine on my computer, see images of my
desktop going back weeks, a receding series.
We could wish our lives, not our files, existed
in this way in the mind of the universe, of god;
call up the unretrieved past, find it retrievable:
a continuity rather than disjunction between
yesterday and tomorrow. Imagining Istanbul,
I wonder if I can learn a few words of Turkish
before we go. I want to bring new eyes with
me, a new language, to find a new self there.
I want honey and bay leaves, thyme and time.