Sandra Kohler: "Woken"



Woken in the night by violent thunderstorms. Pale
sun now on the facades of houses on Tonawanda
Street flickers, fades. Stir and storm, morass. I stand

on the porch, stretch to deadhead spent blossoms
in the hanging baskets, brown scabs of petunia’s white
sprays, a Sisyphean job. It’s gray, still, with an onshore

breeze. Three of my orchids are in bloom, the first
almost spent, flowers already falling, a second at its
peak, a third in the tight clenched beginnings of bud,

hard, pubescent. A young man I’ve never seen before
comes out to the porch next door, sits down, uncases
a guitar and starts to strum it. In his music, plants

don’t need deadheading, shrubs trimming, every
garden’s free of weeds. Would this be Eden or death:
a life that doesn’t need pruning, life without regrets?

I wouldn’t know. I live in imperfection’s air, with
its cold ocean currents, pockets of jungle, baskets
of tender white flowering which sway and dance
to this unlooked for joy, this vanishing music.


Sandra Kohler's third collection of poems, Improbable Music, appeared in 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 2003. An earlier volume, The Country of Women, was published in 1995 by Calyx Books. Kohler's poems also have appeared in many journals, including Prairie Schooner, The New Republic, Beloit Poetry Journal, APR, Natural Bridge, Missouri Review, Gettysburg Review, Southern Review, and Colorado Review.