Poetry by Lavonne Adams

Dismantling the Pearl Street Bridge (Johnson, Vermont)

At one spot, pavement has been gnawed away
    by stress and weather, framing the river

churning beneath. As you stand in the center,
     try not to think how time has ground away the railing,

exposing metal-work at the cement’s core. Rust eats
     like a cancer at each truss. Two huge backhoes,

the yellow of old dull school buses, have maneuvered
     into place, like giant chess pieces, one at each end

of the bridge. I have little knowledge of the pending
     demolition beyond what I’ve gained from disaster

movies and the TV news — implosions and explosions —
     action perplexing in its suddenness. But this is

an orchestrated transition — a temporary replacement
     waits like a younger hip cousin at the old bridge’s side.

Last month, I wandered through Colorado ghost towns,
     amazed at how much of what was long-ago abandoned

still remains — year after year, dry desert wind
     causing faint abrading of the adobe. As I peered through

what was once a window, it seemed as if the frame
     were receding from the fathomless sky. On top

of the crumbling roof, a cactus took root,
     like a brooch pinned to a grandmother’s sagging breast.


Three Days Without Rain (Gihon River, Johnson, VT)

Like a woman exposing a shoulder, the river flashes
tan banks below the water line, and stones once submerged

create fans of current on the water’s surface. Two ducks
that courted beneath the bridge have moved upstream

to deeper water. I hadn’t considered the bounty necessary
to keep this town green, how a few dry days could transform

any pastoral scene. As Time practices her Dance of Seven Veils,
even the sky seems to wither. Yet we must settle our scores

against temporality, must make amends toward restlessness.
For already, to the west, clouds are massing as a distant haze

obfuscates trees, darkens the mountain against the horizon
to a uniform slate, like a silhouette of itself. Later,

the wind will gust and hail may fall, self-contained
and resplendent, something to make us marvel.



At first, I thought hail was pummeling the roof,
but there was no sluice of rain. On the deck,
only the tan of damp.

    As February unclenches, we gain
       two luminous minutes a day.

Then, a scratching like squirrels runnelling
along the eaves. Outside my house, a flock
had descended — what must have been a hundred
robins, rose-bellied, crannying bushes and trees.

Nothing about the scene was sedate. The robins
bee-lined, swooped and banked branch-to-branch,
pine to dogwood to the railing on my porch.
While one bird chirping is melodious, this was
like a concert hall of discordant piccolos.

    We count time in predictable increments,
        but mark it by moments of change.

As if responding to some intuitive cue, they raised
en masse, a swirl of black like a magician’s cape
as he turns to leave the stage.



    At first, signs were small: a crust of bread
inside the silverware drawer, a chunk of cookie.
But my son was toddling, so I shrugged
    aside what little blame there was. Then,
a gnawed corner on a five-pound bag of flour
set on a chest-high shelf. Instinct knew
    what I refused to name until I was startled
awake in the core of night. What I heard
wasn’t the vague whisper of falling hope
    or the clatter of disappointment, but something
with weight and matter — like the decisive thump
of a cat jumping from a sill. My kitchen was filled
    with half-light — a skim-milk rinse from
a vapid Hunter’s moon. A shadow
as long as a man’s foot disappeared
    behind the washing machine’s pipes. In that instant,
my day-to-day terrain became something foreign,
as if I had awakened during the final scene
    of Act II, Someone Else’s Life. Steeped in
the lore of nursing babies’ rat-gnawed lips,
I scooped up my children and carried them
    to my bed. As if preparing for a siege,
I rolled up towels and wedged them
in a gap between floor and door.
    My throbbing heart was a counterpoint to
my children’s syncopated breathing, the murmurings
rising from their dreams, their hairlines glossed
    with a faint rim of sweat. The lamp burned
with its insistent light; the sun wouldn’t rise
for hours. I held a loaded shotgun
    I didn’t know how to shoot, yet knowing
    that I would.


Lavonne J. Adams is the author of Through the Glorieta Pass (Pearl Editions, 2009), and two award-winning chapbooks. She has published in more than fifty literary journals, including the Missouri Review, The Southern Poetry Review, BLIP and Poet Lore. She has completed residencies at the Harwood Museum of Art, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the Vermont Studio Center, and is the MFA Coordinator at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

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