Beth Copeland – Five Poems


Ode to Darkness

Of smoke, of a million
black stars collapsing;

of oil on grackles’
wings; of the tangled

thread dancing in my left eye with each
blink; of the wet

bark of pines, cuttlefish
ink and Precambrian coal;

of what doesn’t
shine but fixes

flames in its frame, the black
wick that forfeits

time to fire, the snake-eye
of the sky’s inscrutable

depths where stars float
on a sea of hardening

tar. Let others praise the sun’s laser
white heat, spokes

and whirling hurricane
lamps. Of shadows

and the black
notes between notes

I sing.


In what Steinbeck calls the hour
of the pearl—the interval between day

and night—we wait for this
world to turn while the sun sinks behind

black pines. I raise a glass of pinot, a bouquet
of pears, mangoes,

and tangerines swirled
in pale gold. I wish they’d

die. You don’t
answer, but I know you

hear me. Daddy, trapped
in Alzheimer’s limbo,

Mother, in the land of memory
loss. I love them but want

the blade to drop, for the bleeding
to stop. The sky’s

the color of a Tahitian
pearl, a blend of pewter

and slate. I sip my wine. One scarlet
oak leaf spirals

from the tree, landing
like a gift from above in your lap. Gradually,

they’re leaving, and I dread the long
goodbye, the anticipatory

grief before they go, wondering if
there’s another room beyond

the one I visit every
other week.

Requiem with White Roses

Five for her kids, six
for her grandchildren, one

for Charlotte, her great
granddaughter. I place her Mother’s

Day bouquet in water, conjuring a ghost
rose in florist ferns

pinned to her dress with a pearl
tipped hat pin. White

meant an orphan, her mother,
Grace, dead before my

delivery. My sisters and I wore rosebud
corsages like lipstick or wounds

on our collars to honor our living
mother, whose table won’t

always be set with
silver and a blue Arita vase.

I place the palm
of my hand on her sloped

shoulder and silently swear that
someday I’ll pin an ivory

rose to my lapel or slide
its stem into water

and aspirin to prolong
its life as petals drop

slowly onto my lace

Dime-Store Mirror

Tilted in lamplight,
it reflects stars and the pale
moon of her face caught

in the seam between sky
and sea. In its oval frame,
fog rises on mountains, blue

at the root of flames. Her breath
clouds its surface as she lipsticks
Rapture Red and powders

her nose. Hinged, her compact closes,

opens. I powder and slick
on Raspberry Ice. My breath
clouds its surface, blue

at the root of flames in its oval
frame. Fog rises on mountains
seen between sky and sea. Pale,

the moon of my mother’s face
reflects stars tilted
in twilight.


Fog gauzes fragments
of a dream. Is this

how you felt when words
like schools of fish blurred

on the page, you,
who read Japanese and penned

crosswords in ballpoint? Your fate
settled on your shoulders so

silently no one
noticed. Let go,

a friend says. Don’t
fight. I hold

fast against forgetting
the road where you stopped

for coffee
ice cream that tasted of the perked

Luzianne you spooned into my milk
if I begged. I licked the melting toffee

colored cone until I dozed,
hypnotized by the radio, believing

I was safe as you rounded
curves, then carried me upstairs.

A pearl behind white clouds,
the morning sun

could be the moon. Is this
the late afternoon road I travel

every day? Did I veer
into white poppies or dream

I was driving instead of driving


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Beauty is found in the paradox of the ephemeral and the eternal: of flesh and spirit, of breath and bone, of the broken and the whole, of the flower and the stone.


Beth Copeland’s second book Transcendental Telemarketer received the runner up award in the North Carolina Poetry Council’s 2013 Oscar Arnold Young Award for best poetry book by a North Carolina writer. Her first book Traveling through Glass received the 1999 Bright Hill Press Poetry Book Award. Her poems have been published in literary magazines and anthologies, including The Atlanta Review, The North American Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Rattle, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, She lives in a log cabin in rural North Carolina.