An Education

Shadowy, the tree branch rubbing against the fence,
I remember again. Love, or what it meant, to my body,
Housing a dormant flower, a sleeping sickness
Cast over it by a selfish pleasure,
The pain resting again on my leisure. There is also anger.
Privilege made me solitary, poetry—yearning.
I lean back into the memory of men,
Men who desired beauty like burning, men
Who forced it like a forsythia in winter.
I watch myself, a water lily shifting with the waves. Asleep.
And hiding–childish, childless.
The shadowy tree branch raking the sunlight raw,
The water growing green in the unmoving swamp.

What was each and every morning for the muse?
The flowers curling brown-tipped toward the sun, the breakfast to cook.
A sleeper to rouse. Hair to push back from a furrowed brow. Help the needy
And show them the way. Books gathering dust
On the shelves, poems storming beneath the skin,
Water at a simmer.
The tea kettle always whistles when it’s done.

But here’s the truth: there was no tree branch, no memory of water.
That was a photograph in a book
Left open, hurried by as I ran to still the kettle’s shrieking
Like my own voice telling me to quit.


Meghan Sterling’s work has been featured in the Chronogram, Stone Highway Review, and Freshwater. She is a marketing writer and writing teacher, and she lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her husband and cat.

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