Phyllis Wax – Five Poems


He Haunts Me

I lift a conch to my ear                           
and his quiet voice
rolls in on the sea.

Why he haunts me 
after all these years
I do not know.  He stays with me                               
through the dunes 
                            and into the marshes.                       

The repeated drumming of a pileated woodpecker,
its startling, almost mocking, call                                     
does not drive him away.

Always he’s there,
his salty breath
enclouding me.                                                          

Back at the water’s edge
I sift through smoothed stones
and broken shells,
try to keep my equilibrium                 
as the sand recedes
from beneath my feet.           

Posed in the Park

Wedding party, white rose
in each lapel. 

Black cape
over pure white—red-hooded
woodpecker scaling a tree.

Cherry blossom, crabapple
scraps in the aisles.

Turkeys roaming, late for the rite,                      
pink feet, scrawny pink legs.

Raspberry lilac nubs
not quite popped. 

By Request          

She opened the door                      
and stepped outside.   
Sun! she shouted                    
into the gloom,
placing a request
for the next day.

Later, we walked
into a dark so black                          
it erased woods,                        
house, everything.

Far above, beyond the black,     
a crystal-strewn sky—                                                                                  
a multitude of suns.

If only

you had come to me like that grand male       
strutting and circling my personal space
all puffed up, chest thrust out, coppery shoulders
and back air-ruffed, your patterned brown and white wings
expanded and sweeping the ground on either side,
magnificent tail fanned wide, raised high              

the blue and white of your face
the lavender of your neck paling
next to the bright bloody red at your throat                 

no longer a long, lean bird
but now a resplendent hunk amplified             
to more than twice your usual size

could I have turned away, blasé, like she did?

Lunar Shadows

Her face, a pale moon, moved
through our daylight lives, fading,
diminishing.  But teens are moody –
we didn’t want to invade

her privacy.  She took long walks,
grew a nest in her hair, wept like rain
while we looked away.  As she grew fragile
we buried our pain.

No lightning streaks, no gusts of rage
yet dark clouds hung beneath her eyes.
Shoulder blades, collarbones, hips
lost flesh, angles intensified.

Bright stars dimmed as the dying
moon honed itself to a thinner scythe,
a delicate heart-stopping crescent
which elicited from her one deep sigh

as she reached up that night,
snatched the blade out of the sky
and slashed the cords that bound her.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Beauty—it defies description.  But I know it in music by the way it makes me feel:  the back of my throat tightens, I find myself holding my breath.  (In an earlier time I might have said it makes me feel like swooning.)

In nature, art and writing, I become almost breathless.  I want to keep looking at the scene or art that evokes that response.  I need to re-read the phrase, the line, the stanza that elicits it.  It’s a physical and an emotional reaction, not a thought-out rational response.  How is it created?  I have no idea.

As I said, beauty defies description.  It just takes my breath away.


Phyllis Wax writes on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, WI. Her work has appeared in many anthologies and literary journals, both online and print, among them Birdsong (Foothills Publishing), Poems From the Garden (The Poetry Box), Obama-Mentum (Kraft Books Limited), The Widows’ Handbook:Poetic Reflections on Grief and Survival (The Kent State University Press) and Naugatuck River Review . Her work has been exhibited with art quilts and weavings in a variety of venues around the state of Wisconsin as part of four poet/fiber artist collaborations. She has read in coffee houses, bars, libraries and on the radio.