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New Poems by Beth Paulson


The House


In the attic bedroom

of a house built in 1905

two windows still face east

into the perch of the morning sun

where my three young granddaughters

lie asleep under their puffy duvets

the color of summer sherbets.


One, the oldest, stirs and turns,

first to step out onto

the old hardwood

to search for school clothes

in a closet under the eaves,

stoops to fit under its doorway.


The youngest follows next,

            looking for tights, her uniform,

chattering barefoot down

then back up the creaky stairs.


Sunlightís moved far as the pillow

of their sleepy sister who rouses

reluctant from an alcove nest,

head a blonde tousle.


Who shared this room before them?

Young boys or taller ones in twin beds

who went off to war or those luckier

to universities?  Other bright-eyed

girls grown older now or gone to graves,

their faces in a brass-framed mirror

they shared braiding each otherís hair?


One night I watched Blake at fourteen

kneel on her bed,

gently pull back one white curtain

to look at the new moon

through a big sycamore.

Same moon, same window.




Beside the house three magpies

dressed in last nightís tuxedos

jump-step in the piled snow

beaks down, heads bobbing


no delicacies cooked for them

by a Ming empress here

they poke-pick under the feeder

at seed pods breadcrumbs


a morning I woke with regrets

for things I have done

and with certain unease

about the state of the world

a morning I felt inside me a chilled spirit

            no hot tea or blanket could assuage



then my husband tells me in China magpies

are revered as bringers of joy

harbingers of hope and harmony

that once one built a bridge for two lovers

another saved a future emperor


and who am I not to accept this gift

blessed with long marriage, sons,

with friends beyond counting?


when at last the magpies lift their black wings

and tail-sail into the blue day

I show him where they left foot tracks

brushstrokes like xi and he

scribed in the whiteness.


lu-mi-nous/ adj./ 1. The quality
of light as the surface of a river
at dusk catches silver
from the sunís leaving;
daylight reflected
on water/in motion on canyon walls/
fractalled into rainbows/waterfalls;

2. full of light; bright as
a luminous sunset, or even as
certain fish and plants are luminous;
Syn: glowing, radiant; The face
of the full moon/was luminous
on the night river/its shadow
moving across the black cliffs;

3. shining by its own light as a soul
or as the stars and planets are
bodies in the night sky;

4.Figurative: easily understood,
clear, enlightening or enlightened;
We who traveled/ on the river/
were changed/spirits made
for a brief time/luminous.

First printed in In Plein Air (Poetic License Press, 2017)

Wolf Sighting, Yellowstone

Just before dust I spotted one
pacing the snow-dusted field,
fur the hue of the gray day,
beside a grove of pines
not far from Old Faithful Inn--
maybe a lone descendant from
the Druid pack, Lamar Valley-bred?

I stood silent inside tall windows
not yet lit, wondered at my nearness
to a wild creature never seen.

Then at woods' edge
a second smaller wolf appeared.
Shadow or mate? Head held high
it sniffed the colder air, loped
to meet the first. Then on
strong-muscled legs they
crossed the field together
to a small hill they crested,
silhouettes I lost sight of in
snow, breath, clouds.

First printed in I-70 Review, 2021


Near Stonehenge

I once stood in a circle of blue stones.
White sheep grazed in the grass between the stones.

Barns, houses, and a church built of stone.
What secrets lie beneath a field of stones.

Into the Avon the children cast smooth stones.
Water's music moved over the stones.

A path we took led us among white stones.
Who cleared the land and stacked those walls of stone?

Night in the sky's hand, the moon was a stone.
I wondered how men carried those great stones.

My love has been keystone and corner stone.
He bought me beads of garnet, my birthstone.

First printed in Off the Coast, 2020.

Green Hearts

New leaves are spiking outside my kitchen window,
pale, delicate, unfurling from a bare aspen like tiny scrolls.

Underneath it long fingers of iris have pushed up
from bulbs hiding in the moist mystery of earth.

Another sign, yesterday I saw yellow forsythia
sprung out from a tangle of branches in the garden.

At the sink I stand in awe, no words for these gifts,
I who have also felt the broken will of the body,

been lost in the dark, uncertain alleys of the mind.
Even in my unsteady hand, when I hold up

this clean glass to a beam of light, it reflects back
through the window an offering of green hearts.

Forthcoming in Leaping Clear, 2018.