July 15, 2014

Two Poems by Mary Jo Balistreri

During the Storm, She Makes Her Way to Ocean’s Edge

The sea raises its voice.
The wind puts its mouth to her ear.
While gulls huddle, waves chew
into stone. 

She mucks through a graveyard for vultures: fish,
jellies, one immense loggerhead, her head bowed
against turbulence. She stomps through smell
of rot, crusted wrack, fragments of shells, seaweed
crushed in the storm’s vortex.

The wind rips away words stuck in her mind,
slick and honeyed slide off the tongue words her boss
used to freeze her pay, slash her job.

The ocean’s clear voice untangles the muddled web
in her mind, unleashes the head-rush of words, 
blows them out to sea.

blows them out to sea.

One Morning in July

A day thick with heat, palmetto palms fan
humidity sweet with coconut and jasmine, the mold

of forest and mudflat. A woman sits on a 20th-story lanai. 
From a hawk’s viewpoint, she surveys a miniature

kingdom of unhurried, deep breaths.  Thoughts morph
as slow as the clouds when a plane

displaces her peace, and a speedboat slices across an
unruffled gulf. Reverie, spliced in mixed emotions, 

recalls yesterday—the osprey and the boy, 
the fish he held up, the bird snatching it.

The woman muses how life and death coil around each other, 
need each other for completion like the surf and its countless

small creatures that thrive and die in its waters, roll
onto shore each day, some shells empty, some full. 

In the apartment next door, a man lies dying. She sips coffee,
watches clouds meringue into fat rabbits, a red-tailed hawk

swoop down from the mangroves and seize a mouse,
and she’s filled with morning’s beauty, filled as well

with its absence. She listens to the sea, its unending cadence,
broken, unbroken.

Mary Jo has two books of poetry, Joy in the Morning and gathering the harvest, both published by Bellowing Ark Press. A chapbook, Best Brothers, published by Tiger’s Eye Press has just been released. She has three Pushcart nominations and two Best of the Net nominations. Mary Jo is also one of three founders of Grace River Poetry, an outreach for schools, women’s shelters and churches. For more information, please visit maryjobalistreripoet.com

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