May 2002

Jeanne Murray Walker


Jeanne Murray Walker's work has appeared in a hundred periodicals, including Poetry, The Nation, APR, and Shenandoah. Her most recent book is Gaining Time (Copper Beech Press, 1997). Her work has been honored by many awards, including a Pew Fellowship in the Arts and a NEA Fellowship. She teaches at The University of Delaware and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two children.
The 7:42 Amtrak For New York 

They're at it again, project managers,
wizards, CEO's, consulting
computers in their wrist watches,
phones in their wingtip heels.

I know that far away oil rigs are pulling the teeth
of the ocean. Trucks and chains begin
disassembling the white Alps.
In Africa men hook up giraffes,
harnessing their shy joy
to generate electricity.

We are growing up.
The sky is getting shorter.
Can you feel the walls of the world
coming together?

Maybe nothing is impossible.
Some day we may be able to lean over
and turn out the light in the coral reefs.
Someone may slip the green and blue world
into his pocket like a marble.

But at night deep in the forest
I can feel the animals tremble.
A squirrel flicks the fat question mark of his tail.
In the valley the last horse whinnies
and hearing no reply,
answers himself.



What A Person Does When She's 13  
And Her Father Dies 

I am already halfway down the list
of what the moon might be, a yolk
to be beaten by the whisk of trees,
for instance. I have omitted
easy warm-up items: a thumbtack
and the sliver of heart that stays
after your father takes the best part away.
I see this as practice so later tonight
when the moon disappears behind clouds
and the sky turns into one dark chute of black,
I won't have to slide down it
into nothing. I can pick up this list
and glue a moon back.

I sit still, waiting for the real moon
so I can ride it out of here
to some star, where I can turn and watch myself,
a little dot of hope, inventing other moons
to ride on. The moon is like my mother,
I scribble, who stands over a pot
soaking lutefisk in lye.

In her mind she sees the man she loves,
who has dragged a stool to Lake Minnetonka
to sit all day on the ice
listening for one fish that darts and glides
beneath the surface.

Watch it. There swims my moon.





Jeanne Murray Walker: Poetry
Copyright 2002 The Cortland Review Issue 20The Cortland Review