Landscape of Poppies in Late Summer / Nicholas Abanavas

Bethany Bowman

Nine-Cornered Lake
you’ve come back to us:
Hope in the form of midge larva,
minute as an eyelash on my cheek
and yet even the blueberries,
which grow wild this season,
seem to know a wish has come true.

For decades you were dead;
I shed bell-shaped tears
waiting for pale green to turn red,
purple to indigo, dreamed
of that fruit with the flared crown
(but never really hoped for more than
a borrowed tomb sealed with lilies.)

Slowly, that stone’s been rolled away:
Scrubbers, Clean Air,
and it’s the miracle
of berries and brook trout.
Here come the pH, the bears.
This resurrection’s electric;
dry bones dance in Fulton County.

But we’re not out of the woods yet;
unsinkable premonition
change won’t tarry long before
hightailing it back to Albany,
city without black flies.

Coal still burns at 1000 degrees;
alternating currents produce acid rain.
Sometimes, even armies of pine
are no match for the Heartland.

Black bears survived the last Ice Age
with sharp senses, long memories—
somehow followed their mothers
to Nine-Cornered Lake,
base of the Adirondacks.
They came back.

They returned with sweet tooth
like my son, our first communications
in the sign language of blueberries:
Do you like them?
Grins. Shaking of legs.

I too have eaten yellow jackets,
endured the Upstate winter,
shoveled with blistered hands,

but always hoped this was not the end—
that July would come, and with it
a restocking so filled with sun
anything could rise again.

Here come the loons;
the fish have stayed.
Here come the kids,
wet towels and cigarettes.
I want to believe this will last.

We wake up,
reach for a warm beer,
site a mess of empties,
forget who drummed naked
in the circle, remember
the cadence for all of time.
We buffer, pollute.
Evolve in water.

The omnivore approaches;
his eyesight is keen.
We’ll see who gets there first.


Winter’s so simple; without leaves
you can see through oak groves
where red-tailed hawks hunt in tandem,
even off the New York State Thruway.

Now the blue squills are out,
raised beds wet from freshet;
wrens scramble for nest
and I’m not sure of anything.

I browse for used cars with low mileage
as though my life depends on a deal,
schedule real estate showings—
view farmhouses with gambrel barns,
grain silos when we don’t know
how to grow anything but gray hair
and mold in our closets, cultivate
children who read too much,
dream not of soaring but falling.

Where is the exhilaration of spring?
The flush that drives our deepest
needs to the surface?
Why does everything hurt?
I can think of nothing
but those hawks, even when I know
damn well they’re not lovers,
perched side by side, gazing hard
with red eyes at opposite fields.

Early Summer Prayer

The gray bobbed woman
calls common loons
with her hands at the bonfire,
lips pressed to thumbs.
Fingers open, close,
up and down like a kestrel’s tail
or blue fan in the relief
at the lower northern portico
of Hatshepsut’s temple.
In a boat the queen fishes,
fowls in kilt and crown
for as long as the colors
hold true or until the usurper
erases her inscriptions.
Like the first female pharaoh,
the gray woman would like
to remove the feminine “t”
from the end of her name
or float into some tundra pond,
evicting territorial owners.
Instead she’ll moan
as smoke and early summer
ascend like red granite obelisks,
each rich yodel a prayer
the pair will mate for life.

Originally from New York’s Mohawk Valley, Bethany Bowman lives in Indiana with her husband and two children and teaches at Blackford High School. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Nimrod, the Comstock Review, Art House America, Rock & Sling, Ascent, and Cresset, Apple Valley Review, Tishman Review, Midwestern Gothic, and The Other Journal.

Nicholas Abanavas received his M.Ed. in Teaching At-Risk Students in 2008. He recently retired from a career in public education. He has written two books: Scissors, Cardboard & Paint: The Art of At-Risk Teaching and Lemnos: An Artist and His Island. Mr. Abanavas is an avid fan of jazz music.