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Editor's Note


SNR's Writers


This Is the Year the Dead Come Marching

This is the year the dead come marching,
Not soldiers, accident victims,
strangers we cluck our tongues about
and then go back to eating, shopping,
making much of small things; no
now it's a parade of people we know;
young, old, our age – the nerve -
old friends, old loves, the man who did
our hair, a new acquaintance full of promise,
a colleague, and a cousin's husband -
waving flags of their uniqueness in our faces,
leaving images of themselves - kirlian photographs
implanted on our eyelids, their voices
engraved inside our ears.  This year,
we're surprised by too many ghosts,
they deliver packages tumbled
with ribbons of memories; confettied
with regrets.  We're not ready for this. 
There is unfinished business; forgiveness
we had yet to find, get well cards
we never got around to sending, soup
we never brought, words we thought
we still had time to say, caresses, hugs,
some needed thank yous.  The dead
celebrate their endings despite us.
The band is playing just for them.
They turn the corner without us.
They are at peace.  They leave
their auras behind for us to carry.
The littered street is ours to clean.

Sometimes It All Dies
those creative juices – like the red grapes
in the glass dish on the top shelf
of the refrigerator, now wrinkled
as raisins.  No longer fit to be consumed,
yet no one wants to throw them out,
as though some miracle of resurrection
might still be possible.
Or maybe someone will still come along
starved enough to want to eat them.
How does this happen – weeks of harvest -
poems and stories sweet on every vine and bush
then gone one day, a waste land?
As though words have lost their strength
to grow; the passion in the writer's soil
turned barren.
What is needed here?  Plow through, sow seeds
so poor and piteous that only weeds would likely flower;
hope anyway for rain and blooming, or heed the wisdom
of the farmer who knows when time has come
for land to rest, lie fallow? 
And oh, to know the difference.

I remember it vividly -
how I was taking my nightly bath;
lying naked and a little chilly in the tub,
not thinking about anything special,
or pondering a different problem
as Auden knew the Old Masters
understood.  Only this time
it was the relief of suffering - a jolt
in every cell so great my body
leaped.  It's a wonder
I wasn't electrocuted –
found floating face down;
bath oil sliding in greasy scales
down my lifeless back, just now
when knowing could make my life
begin.  The usual irony.  But no;
there's also magic in these tales.
The mirror I'd looked in all those years,
the Mirror, Mirror on the wall;
that kept me snared and found me wanting;
whose tarnished silver
backed a bleak and murky surface
rejecting light, was nothing but an object;
mirrors don't really talk, or have opinions.
Amazing that I never noticed.
Turns out it's voice was in my head; 
the power was mine to name the seeing.
not a jealous Queen's who'd kill for my reflection.
The Old Masters must have also known
this human position;
how something momentous can happen
while someone else is eating or opening a window
or Icarus has not fallen after all
into the sea.

Copyright 2009, Linda Albert. © This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws. It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.

Linda Albert’s essays, creative fiction and non-fiction short stories and poems have appeared in many publications, including McCalls Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. Linda’s awards include the Olivet and Dyer-Ives Foundation Poetry Prizes and Atlanta Review's International Merit Award for poetry.  Linda lives and writes in Longboat Key, Florida.