“Before the Last Days”, “Under the Sign of Ash” by Marianne Szlyk
Before the Last Days
She saw the mackerel sky
as shards clinging to blue.
Clouds gouged out her eyes.
The snow that could fall
burned like acid. She took
the path of least resistance
past the Viennese pastry shops
and travel agents with posters
in Hebrew, miles away from
the Rolling Stones’ Manhattan. This
was Queens. “Shattered,” the song
of old men, cycled through
her mind as she tore
into a bitter chocolate croissant.
The boss thought she waddled.
She marched down the subway
stairs into the smell of
excrement and money. Everyone else
was riding into Manhattan. She
was retreating further into Queens’
twilight on the tenth floor
where she waddled, short skirt
riding up her thighs. Longing
for the last days’ burning,
she waited for the F-train.
Only three miles away,
the Hasidic ambulance pulled in.
She did not know that
the last days were already
Under the Sign of Ash
Just past solstice, we walk out
on Rock Creek Trail. Thin, brittle
ash trees crowd low mounds away
from both the path and water.
I recognize this tree. Its leaves
littered the pool even in summer.
Its branches shattered in spring breezes.
Fall purples and yellows muddied still,
On Rock Creek Trail, green dots
mark each trunk infested with ash
borers. These trees will be cut
I imagine this trail without shade
in high summer. Together we watch
the thin creek flow. White bubbles,
the ghosts of leaves, float past.
I recall my Celtic astrology. Ash
lives long, rises high, is grounded
by extensive roots. It shelters children.
Its wood becomes cradles. This is
not that world.
Marianne Szlyk is the editor of The Song Is… , an associate poetry editor at Potomac Review, and a professor of English at Montgomery College. Her second chapbook, I Dream of Empathy, was published by Flutter Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of online and print venues, including Contemporary American Voices, Truck, Cactifur, Of/with, bird’s thumb, Solidago, South Florida Poetry Review, and the San Pedro River Review. Her first chapbook is available through Kind of a Hurricane Press. She hopes that you will consider sending work to her magazine. For more information about it, see this link: http://thesongis.blogspot.com/