Spring Poetry Contest – Honorable Mention: Joanne Monte
Joanne Monte’s poems have been published in literary journals, which include Poet Lore, The Raintown Review, Ancient Paths Literary Review, Bayou and others. She is the recipient of several awards, most notably, the New Millennium Writing Award for Poetry and the John David Johnson Memorial Poetry Award. In 2012, her manuscript The Blue Light of Dawn won the Bordighera Poetry Book Award and was subsequently published by Bordighera Press. She has also previously published a novel, The Day to Eternity.
I didn’t need to wait by the window
that day to see the yellow cab
pull up to the curb, my mother clutching
the baby blanket to her breast,
my aunt at her elbow leading the way.
Her sobs would have summoned me,
each tear a whiplash in the hot air.
My sister was too sick to bring home,
IVs were hooked into her veins,
tests were made of the intestines,
the esophagus, the stomach—the birth
of the unforeseen. But that afternoon
while my mother wept alone in her room,
my aunt sat beside me, her eyes
a trap for tears, her face softened
by the shadow of survival. What she
taught me was a pattern she learned,
having already begun from a ball of yarn
unraveling like an umbilical cord
into a paradise of tropical green.
She showed me how to hold the hook
like a butter knife, how to insert it
into a stitch, yarn over and pull through
the moment, chain stitching
even that sudden snarl into a tiny sleeve.
Sometimes it takes a change in color,
a floss of virgin white, although
at times too frail like baby’s breath to form
a design. I wanted to ask, do you
think my sister will live? But my aunt
kept her head bowed, her lips murmuring
without interruption, not unlike
reciting the rosary as her fingers beaded
each loop into a flash of light
that only she could gauge; herself—a believer.
The Day After
she was admitted, we waited
for the call: she’s a tiny angel now
All I could do at the age of nine
was to imagine a sunburst of that jeweled realm,
lost in the sense of being,
as she clung to the tiniest branch of life,
a feeding tube hooked into her vein
like the stem of a leaf
holding desperately onto a twig,
the air warming with sadness
as my father trudged off to work,
unable to look back and utter a single word;
my mother, at the kitchen table,
holding the phone by her ear
as she scribbled the words:
caskets: handcrafted wood—red oak or pine,
sunset bronze or silver sun—
jotting down numbers and dollar signs.