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Poetry: Nancy Means Wright

Writing Contest home

Nancy Means Wright, Cornwall, VT
The Writing Contest for Young and Adult Writers
Winner in Category: Poetry Age 21+


Three o'clock in the morning
and under a full white moon
a doe twists off the woody
twigs of a yellow birch.

She is haunch-deep
in snow, her skin is ribbed
like a thin woven creel;
a fawn lifts on its slender

legs beside her to nibble
the raggedy slips
of rhododendron. A
man watches from a window:

the waist of his white
pajama is pinned to keep it
from falling, his hands
hang like twigs from the bony

wrists. The cancer has killed
his desire though not
his need for food. They stand
together in the globe of

that winter moon as though
the man, too, is splitting
the shoots of the yellow birch-
and I am the lone

watcher at the window.
The doe has her young
but I have only
the starved man who

raps now on the glass-
and deer and man,
as my husband has willed it,
vanish into shadows.


The Open Door

Autumn mornings in the Presbyterian
church someone would open up
the door to the far right of the pulpit;
suddenly trees would enter the room,
rocked by wind, a yellow light would
fall on the old mahogany piano
where the choir stood for their song
and highlight the gray my mother tried
so hard to henna out of her hair.
Then when the choir sat, the tops
of graves appeared, like ships rising out

of mist-and I'd think of Kate Ross
who shot herself one winter night
above the falls. I'd think of Billy Hunt,
who later left town, and Kate's mother
who never waves back when I pass
her windows. I wondered then
if you really cared, the way you let planes
go crazy in the sky and earth
swallow up houses and young girls go
out in the woods, like wounded cats,
to die. Today after church I put a wild

rose on Kate's grave, I told her you
loved her—waited for a sign—the stone
was cold, the air still as folk at prayer,
and when I looked back in through
the open door the place was dark,
the minister, done with shaking sweaty
hands, was pulling off his robe
like a man about to dive into a cool lake.
Surprised to see me out there
looking in, he frowned, and closed the door.


My daughter is reading Robert
Frost to her stepfather.
He lies in bed in a coma,
his mouth opened wide
as though he would swallow
the words into his laboring
lungs…long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could…

The patient gives no clue
to the looking, the eyes are shut
that once searched the green
of an Irish grove. He's making
his choice, she cries, and she
runs from the house with a knowing
glance, out into the road:
I doubt if I should ever

Come back! she shouts over a shoulder.
The sun catches her hair
like a child's hand at hide n'seek,
she is steaming along now,
she is searching for answers
she won't find in this room where
my husband pushes his shallow
wind in and out, in and

out. There are no answers.
There is only my daughter.
She is almost around the bend now,
her heels are kicking up
pebbles and bright wet leaves,
in my mind's ear I can hear
the quick, live breathing…

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