Sandra Kohler: “Burning”


When my physician asks me whether I’m

burning the candle at both ends I say no,

an omission like my leaving sex and death,

unruly spectres, out of the consulting room,

not talking to him and his cohort of  young

medical students about losses, fears, limits.

Mislead him as I do, I’m a good patient,

I go home and follow remedies he hasn’t

given me for the ailments I’ve hidden.

The candle is burning at both ends: endings

and beginnings. In her Pennsylvania home,

my husband’s dying sister is weaker each day.

Here in Boston my two grandchildren are

budding, growing, changing by the hour.

My sister-in-law is great grandmother of

children my grandchildren’s age, whose

children I don’t expect to live to see.

This morning is the kind of raw gray day

in which the fragile blossomings of spring,

their pure notes, seem irony not celebration.

Snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, New England

spring’s scattered troops invade the brown

fields of decay, detritus. Blossoms and mud

are the two ends of spring’s burning candle.

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, was published by 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. The Country of  Women was published by Calyx Books. Kohler’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including American Poetry Review, Gettysburg Review, Slant, Prairie Schooner, New Republic, Tar River Poetry, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.

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