The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Catherine Abbey Hodges

Umtanum Ridge


That icy night on Umtanum Ridge
between Yakima and Ellensburg
we slowed and pulled off the highway
along with the few others on the road
after eleven o’clock to watch
the Northern Lights. Most

of the women were in heels
and long black dresses, the men
in tuxedos, members of the Yakima
Symphony on our way home
after a big night of Beethoven, all of us
shivering, teeth chattering, stunned

silent by the pulsing blue-green waves
of light. I thought of Stanley Kunitz
on the graveled roof of the red brick
apartment at the foot of Green Street,
waiting for Halley’s Comet and the end
of the world, how the surface

would have felt under his small back
as he looked up into the sky and told
his dead father where to look for him.
I thought of our landlord’s mother,
out for a visit from Queens, getting out
of the car one afternoon on the same ridge

where we stood under the Aurora,
the too much of it, all that openness,
her panicked dive back into the car
and refusal to come out despite her son’s
assurance that it was fine, really, that she
was perfectly safe. And wasn’t she

right? It’s all too much, by night
or day—too big, too true. Flat on our backs
on the rooftops of our own lives, shivering,
talking to whoever we talk to when the hour’s
late, it’s hard to locate even ourselves, let
alone tell someone else where to look.



Catherine Abbey Hodges



Her memories of the children
run something like a crazy time-lapse
film, arbitrary at best. Nothing,

for instance, from their daughter’s first
day of kindergarten. But from around
that time a zoom on a clay rabbit,

wet, half-fashioned, and the small
fingers giving it form. Their son’s twelfth
birthday, if this film’s to be believed,

went unremarked. But the curve of his
cheek a time she rose at four
to find him asleep on the couch,

video game badgering him to choose
his weapon? Immortalized, along
with the graves of two sparrows,

a tablespoon of sand on the sill
above the sink. The film’s director
a famous recluse, unavailable for comment.




CATHERINE ABBEY HODGES is the author of the poetry collection Instead of Sadness, winner of the Barry Spacks Poetry Prize (Gunpowder Press, 2015) and the chapbook All the While, a finalist in the New Women’s Voices competition (Finishing Line Press, 2006). Her poems have appeared in many journals and been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. Co-coordinator of California Poets in the Schools for Tulare County, Catherine teaches English at Porterville College.



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