Three Dark Poems by L. Meredith Chandler

Shatter at Sand Pond

That strange night, the last Sunday of September
Halloween in the cool air, the candle burning in the freshly carved pumpkin
the campfire wild with wood
while the night animals journeyed by on their paths behind the trees.

How dare you choose the peace of this place
move here, move in, move us--
only to shatter that peace and scatter our thoughts
hold them captive, wondering why, over and over
involuntarily while washing the dishes 
walking the dog, trying to work
unable to think of anything else but you.

What about the refrigerator full of food, the calendar full of things to do?
You must have had some hope somewhere.
The early morning walks to the pond, stopping in to chat about how lovely it is here
how happy you are here.
You’re a liar, or a coward
or both, or neither
and we’ll never know.

How dare you cast your shade across my peace, where I too
chose this place--moved here and moved in, arms open to the magic of the Maine woods--
and I am not forgetting the pain you must have been feeling, the deep despair
the complete absence of hope for you to neatly pack up and label the boxes of your life
what would go to who, write a detailed note of instruction, and obligatory vague apology
and then do that deed, no mistakes this time
inexplicably altering the lives of us all.

Shatter at Sand Pond on a Sunday night in September
the glass that fell and scattered its shards at the moment your light closed out up the hill
your shadow passing through and across us all, until we find our individual ways out from under
to take back our peace and this place from the darkness that won
Until I ask Who were you? Until I say How dare you??
Until I yell Fuck you! 
Until I cry I’m so sorry.

Until I let go of ever understanding anything
and just hope, with all my heart
that the friend I’ll never know 
is finally where you wanted to go.

The Root Cellar

Deep in the dirt are the veins of my family tree
winding their way through the cool of the earth--
reaching long for the occupied shore
traveling north to seed the rich New England soil.

My eventual grandfather, the first step of his buckled boot
onto the land his sons would steal--
the sick of the journey still piercing his nostrils
and the thirst for drink, deep in his dry throat.
 
So small on that big sea he came, carried forward 
upon the waves sloshing across the bow--
to infect this new world with rule and riches, and scabs 
of his own rejection to sire the birth of the new oppressors.
  
Tied tight in the tangle of these inherited roots
are the blessing and the curse--
as acrid as the fermented cider beneath the stair
and as serious as the potatoes sitting silent in their bin.
 
I breathe deep against the pull and pain
with the strain across my small back--
carrying the burden of the beast in my blood
and my heart too heavy on my pounding head.
 
The three oldest professions have helped my people survive:
the farmers, the carpenters and the courtesan--
working the rolling fields, measuring and building their barns
reciting verse to her suitors in the city.
 
Sweet Dory Doyen still took the helm from the arrogance
of the owners and the privilege of their wealth--
pleasuring them with words and wit and more
until The Murder of Helen Jewett took her tongue.
 
Her truth washes high upon my shore 
and into my seaside home--
underneath the door and down the worn wooden stairs
to the hard cool floor of the root cellar.
 
Her blood seeps dark into the dirt, carrying her young death 
into my veins while I lay quiet with her--
delivering these words
like babies.

Autopsy of a Mistake

The sound of sharpening still in my ear,
with this scalpel I will cut
as deeply, as precisely as necessary to find the cause--
the root of this weed,
this vine that grew quickly between us, without warning
to strangle us from within
squeezing the life suddenly from our future.
  
The point of my scalpel breaks the skin
as I cut carefully into my memory
of that Saturday night conversation,
those words that sped our pulse into slowing
into the retreat and full stop of the ache, the anger--
our airways now constricted
with this obstacle lodged tight to block our voice.
  
The blood gently seeps to either side of the slice
as I reveal the invasive vine that has spread alongside the veins
from its entry point of our mouths and down our throats
winding its way into Wednesday, having continued its squeeze and shaped itself
into the whip that would ultimately lash us with words--
both of us crying, Stop! Please no more
both oppressed, mistaking whose hand was holding the whip.
 
Carefully and with skill I extract the weed from the body
strangely extricated with ease, all in one piece, intact.
The blood fills the cavity it created, alleviating the pressure
caused by this foreign body, this destructive force that has invaded the wrong host.
Gently I sew the incision with neat black stitches to ensure closure,
protection against other contaminants, further damage--
while the whip, long since dusted for prints, returned results inconclusive.

My final determination: the source of truth is not contained in these remains
as I pull the sheet up over the still being, this innocent casualty
at rest perhaps but not at peace, with answers still outstanding
but at least, its integrity now restored.
The origin of the weed, the exact path of its seed like many invasive species, impossible to track--
prevention seems the only defense against its spread
while the more persistent seed of hope germinates on the horizon.

L. Meredith Chandler is a native New Englander who grew up in Maine and now splits her time between the Maine woods and the Massachusetts coast. She holds a BA in English from Adelphi University and an MA in English from the University of Rhode Island. L. Meredith has been writing poems since age 10, with themes ranging on the darker side of life around family roots to addiction to the complexities of freedom and human emotion. Her first chapbook, The Human Heart and Other Chambers, will be completed this autumn.


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