Three poems by Cindy Hunter Morgan


The wind blew all night,
the ice on the lake
drove cracks into itself –
sudden, deep, alien
groans of expansion –
while the oaks moaned
an old hymn from
The Snow Maiden.
We woke in the morning to
branches scattered across
the yard, white pine needles
poking through snow
like a village of teepees
buried beneath drifts.
The dog plowed his nose
in the fluff, sniffing for the
smoke of smothered fires.
We dropped to our knees,
dug with bare hands,
calling Hello! Hello!,
looking for arms or legs,
broken pottery, pemmican
drying on a rack.
After heavy snow,
anything is possible:
the sudden appearance
or disappearance
of whole civilizations,
an entire village blown to you
from storms that began
in another century, from winds
that won’t stop singing
the ancient music of lost tribes.

The Calligrapher

In Greece she saw a train
fall into the Aegean sea.
It was tragic and fascinating,
though she never dared
speak of the allure:
the way the engine plunged first,
like the nib of an elegant
pen dipped into a pool
of ink, the cars still hitched,
trailing behind like the flourish
of a graceful signature.
After that she rode donkeys
everywhere and wrote
the names of those who died
over and over on parchment paper,
perfecting the curled script
of her profession, coupling each
letter with methodical precision,
joining one name to the next
without lifting her quill.
When she wasn’t copying
names, she felt skittish
and vulnerable, and
for the rest of her life,
she imagined falling trains
whenever she saw a loose
thread dangling from the
sleeve of an overcoat,
or fingered the black pearls
hanging around her own
slender neck.  She took
to dipping these things
in the mouth of her inkwell,
believing everything could
be saved with India ink and
a graceful, steady hand.

Hyena Love

She rode hyenas at night
while others in her village slept
on grass mats by smoldering fires,
mindful of hyenas.
Sometimes she traveled 120 miles
before returning in the morning
to serve casava root soaked in water
sweetened with sugar
to her children, who ate it
with spoons carved from the wood
of a walnut tree,
who ate it too quickly
and always pleaded for more sugar.
It was the same with her husband,
who constantly pressed himself
against her, demanding sugar.
He called her cold,
said her voice could chill
the Benue River.
But the hyenas knew better.
She always let them stop
at watering holes,
let them drink while she dangled
her feet off their sides
and whispered secrets,
her lips grazing the soft fur
near their temples.
Their ears, which radiated heat,
warmed the words which traveled
through them.
They thought everything she said
was sweet.

About the author

Cindy Hunter Morgan loves topo maps, compasses, old boots, and clean socks. She has traveled in Greece, Italy, Switzerland, and Scotland, and once spent…

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