The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

Laura Budofsky Wisniewski

Mark on a Tree. Sanctuary, Vermont. 1836

 

My mother’s white sleeves flapped
like doves wings in wind.
my father lifted me
and I flew.
In Summer, wild raspberries,
thick cream,
crayfish in the dappled stream.
But a wild hail felled the field.

As we could not pay our debt,
they bid my father out
to William Whitcomb’s farm.
My mother warned away to Jericho,
I to the Poor Farm.
Hard girls stole my bread there.
All night a woman screamed
Jesus help me, help me.

The yellow apples cling
though the leaves have dropped.
The naked branches gnarl
and bow down.
On this tree
I scratch my mark
before I’m gone.

My name is Ellen White.
My mother brushed my hair
and let me stroke the hen
and hold the smooth eggs.
The Overseer says
I am nothing.
But once my mother danced
and I with her.

 

Laura Budofsky Wisniewski

The Belt

 

And how the leather
was smooth and brown
with one hole
bigger than the others.

And how his hand
would go to it.
Always the question:
-Do you want me to take off this belt?-

And how, afraid to see
his bared teeth and the twist of his mouth,
I would stare at the simple, square buckle,
shaking my head, no.

Shame rose
in a wave through my body,
spread across my back
like wings

while the belt,
a favored child,
pressed snug against my father.
Just do it, I thought.

But my father knew
if the belt came off
I would fly away
forever.

 

 

Laura Budofsky Wisniewski

A Guide to Herbs and Spices

from the Tears & Fears Café Cookbook

 

Cilantro:
The hired man leans against the fence, shirt off, muscled, dusty, ready.
You don’t own him.

Cinnamon:
Don’t trust her, with her green eyes.
She’s not that helpless.

Ginger:
Oh my god, angels live in dirt, not sky.
She’s telling you this, but you just want to kiss her.

Sage:
A hermit lives on Mist Mountain. At 4 am he washes in the icy stream.
If you can’t imagine his pleasures, don’t climb the twenty seven steps to his hut.

Parsley:
Middle child. How many times have they left without noticing
he was still under the Yellow Birch, making those odd little drawings?

Rosemary:
Stop telling her your dreams. You’re not in hers.
She owns this room. She’s earned it.

Lemon Thyme:
The town librarian, barely five feet tall, peers through glasses thick as Black Plum Lake in winter.
She’s always laughing to herself. Why not? Life’s hilarious.

Oregano:
Someone’s got to tell the truth. Agreed.
But would it kill him to say something nice sometimes?

Turmeric:
The war’s changed him. So many secrets now.
But kinder.

Black Pepper:
Just be glad she’s your friend. She can flay a man from hair gel to Italian leather
in thirteen words, or less.

Garlic:
Ugly as a gargoyle. In bed – a god.

Clove:
So what if she has money? A black silk hat? A white gold ring?
They’re still tears, even when they fall on an orchid.

Salt:
His ship’s in harbor.
He has nothing to prove.

 

 

 

LAURA BUDOFSKY WISNIEWSKI writes poems and teaches Yoga in a small town in northern Vermont. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Calyx, Hunger Mountain, Pilgrimage, Confrontation and others.

 

 

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