KB Ballentine – Four Poems
River slices the gorge, rock stacked
like beehives on both sides of the bank.
Icy water spills from mountain top,
and we pause to seek the sun, pale and high,
between branches scraping winter blue.
Day lengthens but we don’t speak,
hike instead through crisp leaves
and withered apples, snow capping
everything woolly white.
You empty your pack by pine–bristled outcrop,
boots steady on the edge of stone.
Never glancing at me, you unseal and tilt
the jar. Sharp wind tears at our backs,
steals ash and bone, flings it into the void.
Cheshire cat moon grins, peeks
from smoky clouds — stars crisping
a blanket of black. Silence shrouds
this snowy night, breathes
frosty fog across the pines.
What happened to lavender,
to meadowsweet? To grass sheathed
with dew? The sea of apple blossoms
seducing bees to their sacred center?
Hummingbirds tonguing honeysuckle
as it spills over the fence line?
No — it’s ice tonight. White swelling
the tree–line, acres of promise breathing below.
Taste of Salt
Seaweed snarls the crowded sky,
dark clouds looping like city smog.
Traffic rumbles, seething embers
urging a pause in breath. No sun,
no dazzle of blue to hinder, dissuade me.
Seams of sand and water blink away,
my eyes unravel, waves stretch.
Shells appear, disappear. Your absence
makes me the waiting one.
Curling surf imitates alpine wood smoke,
and empty cottages stun the gray, this house
but you withdraw. Raw February.
Dogs bark across the neighborhood,
street lights trace an acorn —
aimless, drifting the shoreline.
I knew you out of season.
Now I’m the stars — smoke in the night.
—after Wallace Stevens
One must have a mind of trees
to frisk in summer breezes, dip limbs
in time to the rhythm of the wind,
and have been warmed by August sun
to shift and burn, to smolder in October’s gold,
copper, crimson flames.
To cradle nesting squirrels curled around a heap
of nutty sweetness and the scratch of owl’s talon–grip
when frosts lace scarred and withered bark.
Cardinal–fire balanced on needle branches
snagged with snow, white weight bending
till it strokes the blinded earth.
When green peeks, sneaks through gray–brown husks
and harmonies, melodies flutter between our leaves,
we breathe the Lenten rose and bloodroot far below,
believe in everything again.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
When I think of beauty, I first imagine natural images: bluebirds bathing in the feeder, cirrus clouds scribbling a blue sky, maples bursting into autumn flame. On further thinking, what could be more beautiful than the sweet, smooth cheek of a baby, the gnarled hands of my grandmother, or the laugh lines growing deeper every year on my best friend’s face? Beauty is everywhere. Look.
KB Ballentine has an M.A. in Writing and M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Poetry. Her latest collection, The Perfume of Leaving, has just been awarded the 2016 Blue Light Press Book Award. Her work also appears in River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the Twenty-first Century (2015), Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee (2013) and Southern Light: Twelve Contemporary Southern Poets (2011). More at: www.kbballentine.com.