TWO POEMS by Jeanne Murray Walker


–for Elaine Terranova

After church I drive in the rain to Lake Adley.
Here I learn how everything is hooked to
everything else. The waves for instance,
each flashing in like another row of teeth.
From their angle I try to guess the way
the sand bars jut beneath the water.
There is more to this than what it looks like
on the surface. Think of everything the Lake
has caught on its sandy bottom and held there
like a memory: coins, old glasses, seaweed.
Any time we could get back the most important
clues. Today the Lake has tossed up
clam shells, whole clams like dark ears
holding their secrets in, and one big stone, white
and polished as the heart of God.

                                                                    I look up
through the drizzle and see Mrs. Sorensen
in her long skirts riding her bicycle toward me.
She stops right here and pulls me up.
We take off our shoes together, unhook our garters,
unroll our stockings till they hang like doughnuts
around our ankles. We shout and shake our hair out
like bright knives. Then we take our black shoes off
and wade in. We bob beside each other,
letting ourselves be carried anywhere, like gifts.

–from Gaining Time (Copper Beech Press)



Only half way round; already I am fretting
because each living thing feeds on others.
Mosquitoes swarm around my head. On the Lake
O’s rise where perch snap mosquitoes
from the air. And on the dock, the Carlson boy
casts out to catch a silvery flash
he’ll cook and eat. I try to clear the ledger–
how much I’ve taken out versus how much
I’ve put back in. Boxcars of living things
have gone through me. Daily I ask forgiveness.
Or permission. Anyone can feel
how we go around and around, locking tighter
into our debts till they become our faces.
If I kept walking, I would come the whole
circumference of this Lake to where I started
and worry would drive me like its slave around again.
But I choose to stop in Briske’s yard.
I sit on crabgrass where Anna’s grandson
is flinging crumbs to feed the birds.
The motion is so similar–casting out
to kill and casting out to feed.
In one final shaft of sunlight the boy
shimmers like gold. “Here’s bread,” he yells
to flickers and nuthatches. “That’s what
we call it. You can call it anything
you want to.”

–from Gaining Time (Copper Beech Press)


Jeanne Murray Walker’s most recent book of poetry is New Tracks, Night Falling (Wm. B. Eerdmans). Her poems and essays have appeared in many periodicals, including Poetry, The Georgia Review, Image, The Atlantic Monthly, and Best American Poetry. Among her awards are an NEA Fellowship, eight Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships, and a Pew Fellowship in The Arts. A selection from her “Aunt Joe Poems” was featured on busses and trains with the Poetry in Motion Project, and her plays have been performed across the United States and in London. A Professor of English at The University of Delaware and mentor in the SPU MFA Program, Jeanne is a frequent speaker at poetry festivals, conventions, churches, and universities. To hear her read, go to

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