Catherine Chandler is an American poet, teacher and translator. She is the author of Lines of Flight (Able Muse Press, 2011), shortlisted for the 2013 Poets’ Prize, This Sweet Order (White Violet Press/Kelsay Books, 2012) and Glad and Sorry Seasons (Biblioasis, 2014), as well as two chapbooks from The Olive Press, For No Good Reason (2008) and All or Nothing (2010). Winner of the 2010 Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, Catherine’s poems, translations, essays, podcasts and interviews have been widely published in journals and anthologies in North America, Europe and Australia. She currently lives in Saint-Lazare, Quebec and Punta del Este, Uruguay. Her poetry blog, The Wonderful Boat, is online at www.cathychandler.blogspot.ca.
Swinging is self-limiting: you can’t go past the horizontal in front or in back.
— Dr. Stephen A. Lawrence, Insights into Physics
The summer when my father nearly died
of polio, and I was six years old;
when, though she tried to hide it, Mother cried
at night because she couldn’t be consoled,
I found some comfort on our chestnut’s swing.
I’d pump and chant into the arc’s peaked crest
where angular momentum let me fling
toward light-spangled leaves.
……………………………….. It was the best
of amplitudes—this go-for-broke reprieve
from gravity—because I knew she’d fret
me down from momentary bliss. Naïve
to think I’d charmed my father home, I let
go, flying from the damping pendulum,
which soon regained its equilibrium.
Long ago you married an English settler
who had come to live in Lenapehoking.
Was your clan the Turtle, the Wolf, the Turkey?
He called you Sarah.
When he saw you down by the river, was your
long black braid entwined with a length of snakeskin?
Did you wear a necklace of shell and feather,
earrings of bear claw?
Did you speak Unami or Munsee? Did you
forage in the fields and the woods for berries?
Did you play Pahsahëman with your sisters?
Did you have brothers?
Did you sing and dance to the bird-bone whistle,
cheeks and ears bright red with the sap of bloodroot?
Nuhëmati, all I can do is gather,
Love is like the lion’s tooth. (from “Crazy Jane
Grown Old Looks at the Dancers” —Willian Butler Yeats)
Jane, you weren’t crazy with your link—
the wild weed
when mixed with burdock proves a heady mead.
So let us drink:
Sláinte! to chicory sticks, to bitter
and to the wind-borne silver clocks
where wishes flitter!