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Sample Poems by Molly O'Dell


Walking to the Barn


Pithy smells of burdock blooms
mingle with cow pies caked in moldy hay

and dust from a century's barn work.
Thunder rolls the distance present

as a swallowtail on queen Anne's lace.
Lightening transects gun smoke grey sky

and for a second, there's congruity
with past, future, now. Tomcat whines.

Lightning strikes closer,
wide and bright. Cool air slips

under my shirt. Trees shimmy and sway.
Winds praise. Leaves ticker the ground.


First Light in Hospital Parking

For a few hours the snow stops.
Walking outside's a trek through
sepia-toned scenes cast on tin.

Not much of night's left when
patients finally rest. Snow
covered ground with matching sky

magnifies light that precedes sunrise.
Tree limbs branch like Venetian fans
and the reason birds take cover in shrubs

becomes clear this winter morning; tiny
sticks gnarl and cross a crooked trunk
that forks every which way. Snow waits

to fall again, two hydrogens clamor,
midair, for oxygen. In the healing
garden, Jesus' lap is full of snow.

More's wet than just his knees and toes.
Drops stream down from his upturned eyes.
Bronze wrinkles wick first light.


Sky Walker

He needs a prescription to help him sleep
and needs that dose of coke and booze
to let him do his job- twenty stories up
on rusted beams in another city.
He feels crazy coming down
from hours on a ledge of near falls.
His shift crew thinks the downers cut
the edge they need to balance. He knows uppers
spike his pressure, reminds me I treated
his wife's busted eardrum last week. But he needs
the work, needs the guts to go to work-
one month on, then two months off to plough
the ground, patch Daddy's fence, and track
the T-ball game his boy is catching.
He needs a fix of normal for the day.


Pentecost

Ruach , pneumo, spiritus,
birthday for the church. Emblazoned
in me is a drive down a crooked road over
steep divides through valleys.
There,
off an unpaved one lane side road edged
by rhododendron and laurel and a creek running
off the mountain, sets a Pentecostal church
where pit vipers sort chafe from wheat.

Preacher hollers so loud from the pulpit
I can't hear the stream. Fear rises
inside me as he winds up with words
that don't make sense. Then come the cages,
snakes inside.
People I know step forward
to test their faith. I've treated their kids
after a beating; others can't keep sober,
and the blonde told me yesterday she blew
ten men last Friday night, since I advised
her not to have sex till her infection cleared.


Petal Blight

Three inches of brown roots with blonde ends split
tell me the last time she had money to spare.
She's looking for work. Dents and pits

on the back of her teeth lead me to ask
if she's still using. I'm clean. She beams.
For a year. I say, congratulations, complete

the thyroid exam and ask which birth control
method she wants. None. I ask how a needy
baby will support her recovery and suggest

she talk with her sponsor. Her nod agrees.
The pill she says, then tells me about the job
she lost as an auditor, her success publishing

photographs of native flowers of the Appalachian
Trail, the surgeon who changed his tone
when she told him why her nose caved in

and he refused to see her again.
I ask how any of us could've helped
her to sobriety sooner. Her slump straightens.

You know those leaf spots on that yellow lady
slipper you asked me about? That's petal blight,
a disease that kills the plant if it's not treated.


After He Walks In To Make an Appointment

I hear at lunch he's a ladies' man,
banker tells me to watch my cash,
hardware clerk mumbles not to tend him.
Sheriff says he fights right bad
when he's been drinking. He gimps in
for his appointment. My nurse claims
he's killed a man or two when she hands
me a chart. I call home. Nannie says
he's all right . He wants to know
how I ended up on U.S. Route 11
in Buchanan, Virginia, taking care of bums
like him. His skin smells clean; he wears
polished boots under pressed jeans
covering a leg and one rubber stump.
He unwraps his left arm, gashed wide open,
says Daddy's saw got away from me. His red
face tells me he knew better than to look
away while the blade was turning.
His house sits by the river, where he grew
up running from floods. His dogs keep
him company, except the girl. She comes
every month or so. He says I'm pretty,
pays cash when he leaves,
says he's beholden. I'm not sure
if he means the stitches or the smile
I return to the twinkle in his one left eye.


Listening to Myself at Dawn

I've missed touching velvet
on the bottom of the collection plate,

turned out of walnut, every Sunday
all summer. I mailed in my check.

There's something definite about stepping off
the path, frees me to catch seven shades of peach

strip black from the sky this morning.
Last night I kayaked down the river

in the gleam of a blue moon.
Wake from the bow winked at my passing.

I start each day with a poem by Rumi
and after I peel this pile of eggplants

and water my upland cress, I'll hit
the river again today, join a flotilla

and love as God loves. I will be here,
be now, be generous. I'll be good

to myself and festive as cardinal flower
on the muddy bank. I'll be rested,

be early, be daybreak. I want to discover
whether the face of the mountain hides

in the morning fog or watches to see
if I move from my mind to my heart.