Libby Maxey – Five Poems



Forgotten fruit, a winter crown of these
Unfallen apples on the leafless trees:
They did not shy from ripening, from sheen
And russet bloom, from living fairest though
They shriveled where they sweetened; now serene,
As all the dormant things, embalmed in snow.
Spent ornaments, no wisdom would defend
The fruitless weight these frozen twigs suspend.
My reason is as meaningless as dark,
As sinking chill or rising day or small
Rough promises of pink beneath the bark.
To bear and to be borne, still borne, is all:
No lustrous purpose in the lingering red,
The silent staying of the stubborn dead.

Pas de Deux

I haven’t written you for much too long—
Who are you if not one who holds my words?
When you are written, you are reassured
That you are somehow still more real than wrong.
Do you not find your name is more your own
When in my hand? I let it loop and weave
With your determined wanderings relieved
In gracious space. And surely you alone
Are less so for the other name that shares
The envelope. But what were I if not
These characters in consort dancing for
Our pleasure, pretty figures, suited pairs,
A complement of lines embracing—what
If not a stately progress to your door?


I do not dream the wedding cakes of those
Who have not learned to tie their shoes, no more
Than I anticipate the ebbs and flows
Of feeling on my heart’s dark-patterned shore.
Arrival is a word I wait on, not
A vision of my expectation. Come
And be with me; the way it is is just
How it should be. I know you will have brought
The story with you. We will be the sum
Of all that longing might imagine: trust,
The value of each variable term.
Come run yourself aground where we have made
Our shifting bar beneath the currents; trade
Your ship for sea and we will find it firm.

On a cellar in the woods

            My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness
—Psalm 63:5

Elizabeth died and Anna came to live
on Cricket Hill. A farm needs hands. This hole
along the trail, a sunken room, supplied
as much as she could keep from spoiling. Cask
of moss for winter apples; carrots here,
in crates of sand; the cabbages in earth;
a shelf for squash. Sometimes potatoes saved
them when the grain and meat were gone and shad
not running. In September’s shadow, all
day long they harvested and stored to be
assured of March. At dusk they walked to town
to visit—two miles down the rocky track
each carrying a child, and in the other hand
a brand to warn away the wolves.

Thanksgiving Day, 2016, Etna, NY

green truck, white snow, rain
the practiced round
beneath the rusted wheel well’s bronze proscenium

accelerating from the stop sign
in a soft applause of spray
tire and pavement clapping

it was masterfully done


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Poetry has no single task, no single thing that it owes the reader, no single way to serve a single purpose. Like other forms of art, this one has many gifts. Beauty is, of course, one of them, but not a simple one. A poem can capture the manifest beauty of a scene, an experience, a relationship, a sentiment, a life story, a rich moment. I am best pleased with my work, however, when it brings beauty to unlovely places, and gives dignity to small, world-worn tokens of life lived: apples left to freeze on the trees, a pit in the woods where a house used to be, a rusty truck on a wet November day. I want language to create richness where none obviously resides. I want to make music for things that have no anthems. I want to conjure warm stories from cold ashes. Gathering wreckage into a balanced, harmonious form is not a betrayal of the truth, but rather a resurrection as true as any fall. To allow loss and uncertainty to be beautiful is an act of faith; to give the world grace is an act of beauty.  


Libby Maxey is a senior editor with the online journal Literary Mama. She reviews poetry for The Mom Egg Review and Solstice, and her own poems have appeared in Mezzo Cammin, Crannóg, Think, and elsewhere. She works as an editor, and her nonliterary activities include singing classical repertoire and mothering two sons. More at: