The Tower Journal

Carolyn Gregory


The late chorus of crickets led me
past the square and rotaries,
past Formaggio's shining purple glass.

Not losing my way
among the trains and traffic lights,
I followed candles lighting windows
under dark night sky.

In his home, new African masks
hung on the walls, hair shocked
and wizened on apple-colored wood

while his living room became a parlor
full of country trios
and Ben Webster's steady rhythm.

The crickets hummed loudly in the dark.
We sat down and watched a film
of young women planting a harvest,
step by step with their feet

between the rows,
an ocean of song rising like heat
flowing through them.


We enter the opera house
under cut glass chandeliers,
following a long rouge hallway
to the ballet.

Sitting down, a dome of
filigree surrounds us
as the seats fill quickly.

A perfect doll sits in an attic
full of toys
locked up by her animator.
Everyone wants to own her!

At the second curtain,
a bevy of young girls in pink
overtake the stage,
skirts flurrying like cherry blossoms.

Wrapping my arm around you,
I forget my body
joyfully when a male dancer leaps,
lifted by muscle into air,

dancing from off-stage
into the crowd
as the ballerina flutters
into his arms.

Joy washes over us.
Under the dome of filigree,
two white egrets soar
with our roaring applause.



Deep down among the bones in the basement,
I hid behind the furnace
that would burn all remaining signs
of the dead,
right down to the fillings and fingerprints.

In November, we had been stripped of all
our silk and photos, luggage rifled and ripped
apart for fuel.
The field cattle were sturdier than any of us,
in a season scattering golden leaves
like a handful of coins.

Father was shot down when the gunfire started,
taken out of a second story
going up in flames.
When mother stood in the place
where our door had been axed,
two soldiers grabbed her
by the shoulders.
We never saw her again.

Now we wait in the cellars
among the bones and flying ash
that sometimes goes blue
like the dead eye of winter.


The thickest woods saved us.
We roamed from one abandoned farm
to the next, hiding the root vegetables
and potatoes we could find,
sleeping in wet leaves.

Over time, we fought off a black bear and birds.
My father's compass helped guide us
from storms uphill to clear space
once the killing ended.

My brothers and I scavenged
for fallen branches, daubed mud
on our skeleton home.
We sealed the windows from rain
with old newspapers
and strips of rubber
left from ancient tires.

Thank you, dear God, we survived,
gathering apples and roots,
drawing water from a scum-covered pond.
After our home and family were lost,
the gods of the woods made sure
we would not fall down deeper or broken.


Things are simple here in the middle
of green and feathers.
An ostrich stalks on spindle legs,
turning her brown eyes to us.
She's suddenly pretty with long lashes!

A zebra flashes his round bottom.
Black and white punctuate the view
though we wish we could watch his flight
across the savannah.

Toothy and tired, a warthog yawns
as capuchins with Mohawk cuts
hang by their tails, chasing each other

What a menagerie!
Country of cages, city of whiskers
and tails, we fit right in
with our chatter about trivia,
our hunger for attention.

My friend compares her weight
to a gorilla
while the other gets a chill, watching
a stately giraffe take one step forward,
then swing its neck toward some leaves.

I remember that in a city garden
a homeless man sleeps
beside black-necked geese,
more comfortable with squawks
than with human cruelty.

Suddenly, a Swallowtail brushes my face
as a Monarch rises under the influence
of Debussy.
Pale lunas sail over phlox and verbena.
Each animal has a place in the kingdom.


Jesus, your radiance shows through
every tree and bloom --

the Norway spruce I touch,
its soft branch familiar as a hand,

cherries near the pond
waving on long branches
with sudden snow

Jesus, I am no longer alone
with my burden of debt
and unknown future

Your love comes to me
through the hemlock's eyelashes
weeping morning tears

Rising with the wind,
I accept the lesson
from your sacrifice,

how the world chose a thief
over you on that last day,

ignoring all you had taught
about loving each brother and sister
as yourself

Bent over, I climb the tallest hill
where cherry trees drift pink, starry blossoms

At the burial ground,
red-winged blackbirds croon and soar

Copyright © 2014 Carolyn Gregory

Carolyn GregoryCarolyn Gregory’s poems and music essays have been published in American Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, Off the Coast, Cutthroat, Bellowing Ark, Seattle Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Stylus. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and is a past recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Award. Her first book, OPEN LETTERS, was published in 2009 and a second book, FACING THE MUSIC, will be published in Florida this year.

The Tower Journal
Fall/Winter 2014