Two Poems by Sarah Leavens

[Hallelujah fills]

Hallelujah fills
the room, candles waning
on the mantle. I’d always thought
it a lament. With her hand
inside me she says “This
song is about something joyous.”

Love, I think, is what
it is about. A woman.
A sound breaking unbidden
from the mouth.

It would be too easy to say
something holy moved within me.

It would be too much
to say we were that night’s Pieta,
my bent form cradled
in her slow-moving arms.

Her bed becomes the night
sky through which we fall,
ecstatic. Her mouth becomes
my trembling flesh
in small increments like slow
chords. Like a thing layered,
doomed to build and subside.

Mirror Sonnet for My Mother’s Mother

“The dogs coincide with each other,”
Grandma says. She says it twice,
five minutes apart. She thinks it’s nice
I’ve called at 5am to tell her
Happy Valentine’s Day. My grandmother
sits, drinks coffee in the black ice-
crusted-cornfield Indiana morning, white
nightgown at her kitchen table. I picture
her there while we talk about our plans
for the day. She has a casserole
from my parents, she tells me again—
her thoughts wrinkled, soft, her hands.
I cannot give her words like long fuchsia rolls
of Pittsburgh hills at sunset, mine, so foreign.

Her mind’s filled with hills, my throat foreign
when I call, and I wonder if she will know
it’s me. I wonder if I will play this role
for my own mother. Alone. Again
she says, “So what’s on your agenda
today, honey,” like we’re two friends holding
our weekly chat. “The dogs get along.” Rows
in fields repeat their cycle each season.
Her way of life is planting and harvest
of thoughts, pulling year
after year, bare-armed, from bare soil.
I’m uprooted. Flung far. The best
I can do is call in the dark, listen, tell her
over the phone, over and over.

Sarah Leavens is the 2012-13 “Out of the Forge” writer-in-residence in Braddock, PA. She received her MFA in Poetry and Nonfiction from Chatham University, where she served as the Margaret Whitford Fellow and organized the monthly reading series Word Circus in collaboration with Most Wanted Fine Art Gallery. Her recent work has appeared in Fourth River and Weave. She teaches writing and visual art in Pittsburgh.