Carolyn Gregory – Three Poems


At Sunset

(after the painting, Evening, Rocky Neck, 1916, by John Sloan)

The mother brings her children
home across tall grass.
A house leans on the edge
of a hill sloping down to the ocean.

Twilight falls around the day travelers
in their Sunday clothes.
Mother in a long white gown,
son in clean overalls
and the daughter in a yellow pinafore
pointing toward the open harbor.

Out there, the tall sloops lie at anchor
as a small fishing boat returns.
The sky rises with gold and peach,
evening folding in ink.

The mother and her children have
had a splendid day —
watching frogs at the pond
and skipping stones
the way dad showed them.

Mother is pleased with her two
smart children,
happy she can answer the questions
as they come.

The house face shines bright white
above the hill, buttressed by a sea wall.
Lavender sweeps in across the family
after this day of fullness.


Dinner In The House Of Demons

(after Hokusai)

When the dignified men assembled in a mansion
with a red ceiling and sliding walls,
they shared saké, setting aside business and families.

Little did they know
their stories would summon demons, bright and tall
from the white-faced witch inside her willow
to the huge rat with his tail
that licked a bald man’s pate
and the one with its claw of pincers,
poking through a grate!

A will o’ the wisp turned to fire
near the garden path,
ignored as the men pulled their cloaks close
and bent down to pray.

The demons were out tonight!
Dancing on cloven feet, licking the walls
around them,
scattering needles on the floor
as they laughed and stalked.


Fire Starter

(for Ravi Shankar)

His hands move over the frets
as quickly as fire,
drawing down a shawl of stars
to wrap my scars
when all seems lost.

His bright notes repeat
never give up and
yes, there is still time

though the world pops with headlines
of children piled on litters
in Gaza and Syria.

His notes strike the flint
where indigo and gold begin
and I can move forward
though scars and sorrow stay.


Carolyn Gregory’s poems and music essays have been published in American Poetry Review, Main Street Rag, Off the Coast, Cutthroat, Bellowing Ark, Seattle Review, Big River Review, Tower Journal and Stylus. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize and previously won a Massachusetts Cultural Council Award. Her first book, Open Letters, was published in 2009 and a second book, Facing the Music was published in Florida in 2015. She is currently working on her third book of poetry.