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Sample Poems by Yvonne Higgins Leach


Finding God in Water

In a backward somersault,
arched like a quarter moon
she counts how many circles
she can do in water in one breath,

the light the same when
it streams through the church
windows, pouring down onto statues
she studies from the front pew-

Jesus hung up by nails, Mother Mary
covered from head to toe in pale blue.
From the altar, the priest raises his hands
holding a book to the sun.

His words bounce off marble walls,
begging for hearts to open. She tries,
but fails in the hollow house,
the translucent light.

But in water, the light is touchable,
permanent, like this memory of her
bursting out, lungs, like gills,
gasping for last-minute air

and her mouth gulps
as she arches back
returning to where earth is
as it is in heaven.


Belladonna

Feet dangling off the tailgate,
I hang on by leaning into my sister
on one side and my brother on the other.
The white station wagon kicks up dust
in the blinding, 4 o'clock, August heat.
I can barely breathe. How I got
to ride on the tailgate I don't know.

Dad driving when normally he'd be in the city
working, Mom's cigarette trailing smoke
out the passenger window, my two other
siblings in the back seat.
Soon we are to meet Belladonna,
my older sister's horse I hear is white
as good-day clouds and has telling eyes.

What's the grander of the two:
that my sister has a horse at all,
or that expectations rise in each of us
galloping, as we tackle this loud,
gravel road?


Rear View Mirror

I must have been about ten years old
in the back seat of your red 1970 Volvo.

Little brother Dan asleep on my lap,
Mom gazing out the window behind her sunglasses.

I can't remember the occasion, if there was one,
but it felt like a special day,

though I wasn't dressed in any special way.
The sun was as transparent as this moment.

The warm breeze caught your window frame
and rushed past me, and then you began to whistle.

I looked into your rear view mirror,
your eyes framed in it like a photograph,

slanting slightly so I knew you were smiling.
And you winked at me, just me.



The Cake Walk

The Roosevelt Elementary School gym echoed
from the ring toss, boomed from the balloon buster,
rang from the bell ringer, and sang from the cake walk,
where I stepped quickly onto each lily-pad-shaped
number on the floor. When the music stopped again,

I froze both feet on number 8. Never
in my life did I want to win so badly.
When Bill Morin's mom yelled out "number 8!"
I ran to the table and picked the vanilla double- decker
with white frosting and coconut chips. I carried

that white beauty home as if it were a trophy
and watched my family devour it, mouths full,
lips smacking, scraping every last bit of frosting
off their plates, complimenting me on such

a great prize, one that changed my place
in the family, if even just for one day.