Jean L. Kreiling
Jean L. Kreiling is the author of two collections of poetry, The Truth in
Dissonance (2014) and Arts & Letters & Love (2018). Her work has appeared widely in print and online journals,
including American Arts Quarterly, Angle, The Evansville Review, Measure,
and Mezzo Cammin, and in several anthologies. Kreiling is a past winner
of the Able Muse Write Prize, the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters Sonnet
Contest, two New England Poetry Club prizes, and the String Poet Prize; she is a
six-time finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award. Kreiling teaches music
history at Bridgewater State University; her interdisciplinary essays on music
and poetry have appeared in several academic journals.
Perennials endure, invisibly,
in winter beds as cold and hard as stone;
their slender shoots define tenacity
when April’s taunting takes a frosty tone.
At last, their colors flash, like ribbons won
for patience, and we’re moved to genuflect
and pull unholy weeds; meanwhile, the sun
anoints each blossom with white-hot respect.
Like mountain climbers who find summit rapture,
forever altering their lives below,
a garden scales the air, and gains no less:
the poppies, lilies, pinks, and daisies capture
attention, warmth, and light—and as they grow,
they store four seasons’ worth of hardiness.
On the Ferry Home
I’ve crossed this water many times before,
and often on this vessel; I adjust
my footing as it sways away from shore,
and wait to hear its hull creak in a gust.
Despite its aging bulk, the ferry glides,
and eases me across, this time to grace—
beyond the mysteries the sea confides,
beyond our island home, beyond where place
is mapped or years are counted—for I carry
the dust of home itself, the dust of one
who was our loving, breathing sanctuary,
one whose last odyssey is nearly done.
She sails home on this ferry, and she’ll sleep
in island soil, where grace and love will keep.
Published in Innisfree Poetry Journal
It starts that Wednesday when believers bear
their faith in forehead smudges, and my brow
is pagan-pale. And then they all compare
what they’ll give up for forty days, and how
they’ll binge on those things later. When they claim
to know that their redeemer lives, I sigh
with envy, even feel a twinge of shame,
because I just don’t get it. If I lie—
partake of Alleluias and baked ham
as if they mean what they’re supposed to mean—
then they don’t taste the way they should; the sham
leaves ashes on my tongue. I haven’t seen
the light, I don’t believe he did ascend
to heaven—but I wish I could pretend.
Published on Fresh Ink, the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters blog
A hundred idle hulls bob in this bay,
nudged by the breeze and by a residue
of salty wanderlust, and while they stay
at anchor, I walk by, and wish I knew
the first thing about jib or boom or spar,
or how to tack across this ruffled blue.
But although I can’t navigate by star
or wind or tide, with every step I float
a little, and until I cross the bar,
this daily stroll will take me to remote
new ports and home again. A restless mind
finds here both empathy and antidote:
these boats will sail again; they’re not defined
by this hour of repose. Their intimation
of journeys promised lets me leave behind
the darker seas of heartache and frustration,
and charts my path along this sparkling bay
that lights and harbors my imagination.
The Rotary Dial
Children Playing on the Beach
after the painting by Mary Cassatt
Allowed to play beside the sea,
two small girls focus earnestly
on pail and shovel and their chore
of rearranging bits of shore.
The ocean’s blue immensity
escapes their notice; they don’t see
white sails that distantly agree
with each girl’s tidy pinafore.
Allowed to play,
they shuffle the topography
with calm, sunburned intensity.
They don’t converse, they don’t explore,
they only sift the sand. The more
you watch, the more you long to be
allowed to play.
Published in Think
Ovillejo for the Librarian
“Four weeks,” she says, as she hands back
of books checked out to me—bound herds
I’ll milk all month. It’s life she lends,
to share it with. Though she pretends
they’re only pages, I can sense
she knows she gives me sustenance:
a stack of words and friends.
Published in Antiphon
At the Movies
“He is a moviegoer, though of course he does not go to movies.”
Percy, The Moviegoer
He watches moving pictures in his mind,
while granting real life minimal attention;
he much prefers the scenes that he’s designed.
He sleepwalks through his day—the office grind,
the past-due bills, the marital contention—
while watching moving pictures in his mind.
In his director’s cut, the deal is signed,
the girl is hot, the car is fast—no mention
of trouble. In the scenes that he’s designed,
he’s young, he’s rich, and he can always find
his keys. The screenplay sizzles with invention,
and so he watches pictures in his mind.
Engaged with an imagined cast, he’s blind
to costars in the flesh, who might bring tension
or tedium to scenes that he’s designed.
Nobody watches with him. Disinclined
to live in the quotidian dimension,
he moves alone through pictures in his mind,
and much prefers the scenes that he’s designed.
Published in Mezzo Cammin