May 4, 2015

Two Poems by Mary Jo Balistreri

Postcard from South Dakota to My Grandfather

Under October’s canopy, sun sits hot on my shoulders, sifts
through the wind screen of poplars, turns amber, then violet
as shadows crawl out from trees, and wheat fields stretch to the horizon.
Golden stalks rattle and shatter light into a surf of sound.
I listen to swishing waves and close my eyes, try to imagine
the sea’s loll as you did when first confronted by tall-as-man grasses
and unblunted heat. I remember your longing for the cold
of Nordland, roar and rumble of sea, salty smell of cod on your tongue.
You had no choice but to stay, and the sweet swell of your labor thrives.
I’ve come home at last, and thought you’d want to know you did not
work in vain. I am here to stay, to glean whatever awns of insight
might rise, seeking what you found in the deep water of yourself. 


Outside the window, sun-fed daffodils
nod yellow heads in a morning breeze,
robins scooting between them pecking for worms.
Orioles dart to the feeder nearby, jelly warm and waiting
as I wait, swallowing the last drop of sugared coffee
before my daughter’s surgical procedure.
She sleeps away her life
with a heart that gently calls her home. 

How we thirst for more—
more blooms, more, birds, more life,
that unquenchable lust like Dylan’s green growing,
how it propels us forward, wanting, always wanting.

They wheel her out and I walk alongside the stretcher
holding her hand until I can’t. When they’re gone from view,
my eyes brim with tears held back. Give her more time,
I plead to a God who gives no answers. Give me more time.

Mary Jo Balistreri has two full books of poetry, Joy in the Morning and gathering the harvest by Bellowing Ark Press, and a chapbook, Best Brothers,  by Tiger's Eye Press. She has recent work in Parabola, The Hurricane Press, Plainsongs, The AvocetJournal of Nature PoetryCrab Creek Review, Quill and Parchment, Ruminate, The Homestead ReviewThe Heron's Nest, Acorn, and A Hundred Gourds. She has six Pushcart nominations and two Best of the Net. Mary Jo is one of the founders of Grace River Poets, an outreach for women's shelters, churches, and schools. Please visit her at

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