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Two Poems by Maryella Sirmon

Shotgun House

20th century icon, three or four rooms in line
like the linear progression of time, a room to live,
one or two to sleep, the kitchen to cook and eat,
two doors aligned, beginning to end.

No maze with multiple in’s and out’s. No labyrinth
        where a solitary portal dares me on a journey
           to the center and back. Do I trust the path?

Night need not search for its first star,
they are everywhere. Outside the window an orb weaver
sways in silk strands falling from an oak limb,
keeping time to rhythm of the wind, catching moon glitter,

       pulling my eyes upward ─ and there you are.
What lens can magnify our thoughts as we dance
            out of shadow, into the mystery of flame?

I slip under heavy quilts in the unheated room,
feel hands that stitched them warm me,
hear their abiding voices reverberate within
this narrow house as I crawl into fragile memories,

like I crawl under your skin when I lie beneath you
                         entwined in the eternal dimension,
          forged in the exploding furnace of embrace.

You love me in quiet ways while the air
between us buzzes with familiar routine,
tiny tokens, remembrance in the making.

You gentle me when I am a wild dog raging,
help me off my soap box before I fall, teach me
the power of patience and laughter.

You touch me like a new communicant
handles bread because it’s holy,
bearing earth and rain, sun and sacrament.

I didn’t start out to write you, but the brush came alive ─
rapscallion running me hard, on a passage
through woods of yesterday to a shelter of sturdy stone,
its hearth bright with anticipation.

    Flowers dead, fruit borne away in harvest,
     you caress my winter roots and bring me
into a tomorrow with more than four rooms.

Some Songs

Well, that’s just the old mountain sound. It’s the sorrow chord.
                                                                             – Dolly Parton

Some songs say what needs hearing.
Their words rustle in shadow, soft
like gentle wind ─ then melody rises,
voices prophesy fire using tongues of ice.
In shape-note tones, truth speaks
about endless unrealities
in a preoccupied world,
while hope whispers like fireflies
announcing curfew, promising
a deeper vision when the light fades.
Verses baptize again and again
with the holy water of sweat and suffering.
Some songs become living confrontations
with the awful grace of God.

Maryella Sirmon, a physician and second-generation American, was born and still lives in the South. Much of her work has been scribbled at odd hours on scrap paper found in the pocket of a white coat. She has an abiding interest in the world we live in, the stories we tell each other and the art of medicine. Her poetry and essays have been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Oracle, October Hill Magazine, and two anthologies, Valentine’s Day Pieces and Halloween Pieces. Her work has been reprinted in This Side of Doctoring and The Arduous Touch. She has a poem forthcoming in Pulse─Voices from the Heart of Medicine.

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