C.N.P Poetry 

  • Cathexis Northwest Press

BIRD SANCTUARY; BOOKS FOR THE LIBRARIAN; IN THE COMMONWEALTH

By: Connie Soper


BIRD SANCTUARY


The last time I saw you, it was still summer.

Great blue herons rose from the pond,

over cattails and grasses releasing

their summer sounds. Mud swallows

looped crazy circles over our heads,

aiming wings


like the sharp blades of knives

as we hiked to the restored barn.

In death, birds of prey struck noble poses:

screech owl with wings unfurled,

red-tailed hawk gripping a little stuffed mouse

in its talons. We were allowed to touch

the soft down at their throats, the pretty

yellow beads sewn into sockets.

That’s the way I remember it now.

Sometimes I wonder how you


remember me best. Together,

arms and legs splayed across the sheets,

four-winged creatures drowsy

in the moment just before sleep?

Maybe you prefer a lesser scene, as if

peering through the wrong end of binoculars:

tiny and far away, an imperceptible turning

before I knew what it was, before

the light was knocked from my eyes.


And like those exotic birds in glass cases

you might display me once in a while,

with taxidermic skill stroke

the perfect Audubon colors,

arranging my feathers the way you want.





BOOKS FOR THE LIBRARIAN


Before the barcodes and scanners,

she stamped cards tucked into the backs

of borrowed books; tended the counter

lined with baskets of yellow pencils.

Every day she prowled Dewey-Decimaled stacks

in search of the obscure and forgotten.


She could point out Caracas and Karachi

in an atlas, compute miles to the moon.

What’s the main export of Uganda?

A question worth asking, she would say.

What happens to memories the brain sloughs

onto the heap of forgetting, when the weight

of remembering is too much to carry? These days

the library comes to her, rolling in on a cart

to the care center. She slips paperback

mysteries under the fold-down seat

of her walker—sentences a jumble,

plot sliding off the page.

Still, books take her to new places.

She runs her fingers along the spines,

places them face down on her nightstand—

like little tents in a wilderness

she will return to, a story interrupted.






IN THE COMMONWEALTH

Montpelier, Virginia



Perfect green hillocks rise between hedgerows

and old stands of black walnut.

Cedars of Lebanon, seeded in France,

still thrive on the mansion grounds;

fence slats define a pastoral tableau.

Horses fatten in the field, consider tourists

with bucolic indifference—descendants,

perhaps, from DuPont’s stables.


The tour begins across the mowed path

at the portico strong with six white Roman columns.

In the dining room, cardboard cutouts

form an animated theater around the table:

Jefferson, Franklin, Jackson, Dolley with her teacup.

Madison’s manservant stands in the corner,

holding a tray—Paul Jennings, sold for $200 in 1846.

Imagine the conversations, the docent says,

a polite discourse of gentle persuasion.


We walk up the Venetian-carpeted stairs, along dusky

pink-flocked walls adorned with ornamental sconces,

to the library replete with books by learned men.

Their supple leather spines shine warm shades

of butter, bourbon, cherry. In this room,


Madison conjured a republic born of ideals,

plucked from the measured words

of poets and philosophers. He sat at this desk,

overlooking Blue Ridge vistas, the fertile soil

and great expanse of his plantation, of all he owned.




Connie Soper has come back to poetry after a long hiatus, and is trying to make up for lost time. Her poems have previously appeared in Calyx, North Coast Squid, Ekphrastic Review, Windfall, and forthcoming in VoiceCatchers, Rain Magazine, and Verseweavers. She is also the author of a non-fiction book, Exploring the Oregon Coast Trail. She divides her time between Portland and Manzanita, Oregon. She loves and is continually inspired by the time she spends at the Oregon Coast. She writes about other travels as well, when there is no pandemic.