by Sandra Kohler

Snow coats morning, beneath it, the treachery
of ice.  The sky’s glinting blue and cloud, not
solid overcast.  In two days, our anniversary.
Yesterday, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow:
markers around which we range past and
future.  In the middle of winter I am inching
into the present, beginning to word my state.
The wind chime on the porch swings and
shudders.  I almost had my dream: a glimpse,
image.  Through the mind, darkly.  The mind
is dark and light as anything we are.  Now I
remember: my husband’s bringing home bags
and bags of food: a year’s supply of broccoli,
carrots, cases of soup.  We’ll have been married
for thirty-one years.  Last night at yoga I wonder
if I’m the oldest in the class.  I seem younger
to myself than I am or than I suspect I do to
others: a disconnect between inner and outer,
mirrored self in the self’s mirror.  I plan to
be happy on our anniversary, take the day
as celebration.  Can I choose this?  The daily’s
happier than holiday—and who wouldn’t
have it that way?  Unanticipated, it’s there,
happiness: a fragile bubble, luminous,
tangible, transforming, momentary.

by Sandra Kohler

Tremors and snowfall, a sound which could be
rain, could be sleet, could be ice.  What will winter
teach us, what will winter learn of us?  Mystery
and risks, mistakes and tenderness.  I think I’m in
the doghouse till a gesture pleases me, places me
as cherished.  Everyone is trekking down the center
of Tonawanda Street.  Everyone is a little girl in a
pink parka and red hat, a tall woman wrapped in
black wool.  The snow is calling, the ice.  The days
of fear of falling arrive, the risky world underfoot,
unavoidable.  Are the dogs of morning loose?
What will I make of these musings in times to
come?  Will I remember the piney light, the clock
striking once that says the half hour, the strange
currents of days, a pattern that is and isn’t made?
Learning to live in a new home, new family, new
city, new climate: complex changing unchanging
task of relation, of shaping a life.  Will I look back
to these days as beginning or ending?  How shall
I make poems with so little sky?  I can’t imagine.
Negotiating this new world, I imagine too much,
inflicting on the rich unfathomable real a scrim,
a straitjacket of phantom possibility.  Constrain
me, let the real be heard: not a summoned herd
of shepherded grim scenarios, this new venture
turned disaster.  The eye of winter is upon us,
the withholding light: rosy dusk, tenuous blue
deepening, liminal afternoon becoming
—soon swift steady certain—evening.

by Sandra Kohler

A crow’s his own black shadow bisecting
a drift of rosy stratus in the pale blue dawn.
The morning news is bleak: clowns, fools,
knaves are written in its headlines.  What have
we come to?  Yesterday I discover Roget’s list
of phobias, browse them, forget some.  There’s
a word for fear of birds, is there one for fear
of clouds?  Surely of clowns, fools, knaves.

Yesterday I went out to scout my garden:
the maple is full of buds, the pollarded willow
looks scalped.  But anemone are pushing up
around its base.  Rhubarb’s alive and growing,
tiny dark red curled leaves emerging.  This
spring reluctant, this garden that doesn’t get
enough sun.  Fear of snow, shadows, fear of
failing to create a garden, failing to grow.

by Sandra Kohler

It’s Easter Monday.  Can I stop being depressed
now?  Easter is mourning, spring chill and drenching,
a passage from life to death to what new birth?
In last night’s dream I have to navigate a bridge,
suspended over an abyss of a chaotic urban scape:
construction debris, chunks of concrete, broken
pipes, shards, rubbish.  The walkway’s slanted,
wooden, wet, slippery, easy to fall from.  On
hands and knees I manage it, surprised but safe.

Waking, what comforts me are the white flannel
sheets I put on our bed last night, their snowy
expanse this morning proof my husband didn’t
bleed on them from any part of his body, as he
did a few days ago, staining his pillow, from where,
what abrasion we don’t know.  Small scare, blip
in the radar of fear that seems pervasive these days.
Watching him pick up Katie, our granddaughter,
yesterday at the playground, he looked old, frail.

When Katie started to see scary things in her
night bedroom, her mother gave her a spray bottle
filled with small round stones that would, she said,
let Katie spray “strong air” at those dinosaurs,
those wolves, frighten them away.  When I wake
from my after Easter dream, the only weapon I
have with which to balance myself is my air,
my breath.  For this morning, it’s enough.


Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music,
was published in 2011 by Word Press.  Her second collection,
The Ceremonies of Longing, won the 2002 AWP Award Series
in Poetry and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press
in 2003.  Kohler’s poetry has appeared in journals including
Prairie Schooner, The New Republic, Beloit Poetry Journal,
Slant, Clementine, Mantis, and Tar River Poetry.   

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 12, Number 1
(Spring 2017)

Copyright © 2017
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.