February 26, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

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Helen Montague Foster







Notice how tide runs so fast

the dock swims upstream,

its wake streaking glasslike

I woke from sleep slipping

downstream past Parkland

with seventeen dead.

Despite my son, a pro-gun

man I’d stop a bullet for, I

share on Facebook facts so

anti-gun, I know he’ll frown

and look away. I thought I’d

raise him gun-free. But. Lincoln

Logs hide triggers, Legos shoot

tyrannosaurs. Sticks blast animal

crackers. Barbie’s disarticulated

leg became a rifle. Even I,

goat-cheese lover in my seventies’

prairie dress, was tempted by

the cork-gun firearm. I fear

statistics won’t sway forces

that prepare him to shoot

or stop a bullet to defend his son

and daughters. I’d give him or them

my kidney. He’d give his wife

or them his kidney. Do polemics,

do poems, reach those who oppose

limits for guns? I suspect poems

don’t reach the NRA. Must I

insert persuasive statistics?

Once I witnessed a crimson

fountain erupt from the mouth of a man

who stole his guard’s pistol and had it

wrestled back and shot. I drew his blood

for type and crossmatch. This morning

I awake to sunrise and sandpipers

on the beach and NPR with eloquent young

survivors, who will speak and mourn

and soon vote. And so must we.








A trailer carrying half-barked

carcasses passed us on the Interstate,

each felled sky-seeker diminished

to desiccated xylem, parched phloem

hardwood bones. Bless their kin,

standing in patient copses, waving greenery

as the deceased dirge past.

Bless their photo-synthesizing,

transpiring souls.  We pass the factory, where

corpses will be rendered into pulp.

I commend your patience, gentle trees.

Your flash-dappling forest lament

reminds me your kin could outlive mine.

Bless persisting vines, twining sunward to sop

excess breath, exhaled by us denying carbonaters, who

uproot wild sweet potatoes, honeysuckle,

clematis, and ivy, preferring knockout roses

and golf-course grass.

Bless the persistence of plants.






Helen Montague Foster

Helen Montague Foster is a retired psychiatrist and writer, formerly a clinical professor in the department of Psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University, where she attended medical school and completed a psychiatric residency. For many years she edited a legislative email bulletin for psychiatrists in Virginia. Her poems have appeared in JAMA, The Pharos, Rattle, Hektoen International, and Big River Poetry Review.

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