I wake feeling I need to change my life. How?
You know, the walls know, the yellow pages
know. They won’t tell. It’s cold it’s dim it’s
quiet. The withheld light is grey-white, muted.
I want to explore Bach’s music. Why? Because
it’s there. Is Bach the Switzerland of music?
Vast cold Alpine slopes I find hard to wonder at?
I don’t know. Here and now, in the lowlands,
life is calling, my dogs, my hounds, my hunt.
Tribal. That’s the name I couldn’t remember
last night: manufacturer of my favorite black
slacks: what came instead was Tropic, Taboo,
Safari. No, Tribal. I drink my coffee too quickly
and it’s gone. I want to start the day over from
last night. The midnight hour, when I drank
that extra glass of wine after my friend told me
about her mother’s drinking, her pain. Sleeping,
I dream a garden where all the flowers have been
replaced by thorny, woody bushes bearing berries—
raspberry, blackberry, one other kind I don’t
know but want to keep my grandchild from eating.
Strange fruit. Everything I learn seems a little
late. Raising a child, that was always true—
a grandchild? When I think of what wisdom
I can give her, I shut down, muted. All I can
offer is what she’ll ask for, and that may be
nothing. The clock striking the hour belonged
to my mother-in-law, who gave me much by
saying little. It reminds me that I need another
cup of coffee, along with a new answer to
the oldest question: how to change my life.
Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, appeared in May 2011 from Word Press. Her second collection, The Ceremonies of Longing, winner of the 2002 AWP Award Series in Poetry, was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in November 2003. An earlier volume, The Country of Women, was published in 1995 by Calyx Books. Her poems have appeared over the past thirty-five years in journals including Prairie Schooner, The New Republic, and Beloit Poetry Journal.