November 2003, #11                
Poetry____________________________________________                                                                                                                                                         Helen G. Reed                                                          

  Helen G. Reed spent her professional life in the field of mental health. She began writing poetry about a dozen years ago. Reading, bird-watching, antiquing and gardening are her favorite hobbies.

  Her poems have been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including The Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry. Her first manuscript, Pulling Up the Dawn, won the Goodman Award and appeared in Thorn Tree Press's Troika IV. Her second, Riding the Bubbles Down, won the Cooper Press American Chapbook Awards Competition. It was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Letters. She has won The Whetstone Prize, Atlanta Review International Merit Award, and others.


Forbidden Stitch
              For J.S.R.

Outside her window pear blossoms mound,
white as the snow I’ve left behind.
A courtyard fountain softly shatters
light into sound, like the ringing
of crystal temple bells.
In this Pacific coast dwelling
my friend’s childhood in China
is recalled everywhere. On her couch,
a pillow. Across its moony silk,
in ecstatic flow, The Forbidden Stitch
--finest clotted buds of thread--
one ribbed melon, an iris of water blue,
a russet chrysanthemum
with moth-wing leaves.

She and I drink tea,
speak of the seamstresses
whose smooth young hands
guided the needle as it dipped,
knotted and pulled tight.
Who could never forget
the hungry families
-- fed by their skill --
as each day their eyes
grew more rainbows, straining
after the needle’s silvery flight.

We cannot save them, can only
honor their lives, pay homage
to the severe beauty
of their creations.
As we honor Mozart,
racing to finish his Requiem,
or Keats, Shelly, Rimbaud --
all the lost young poets.

                                  Atlanta Review

The Mice

The hay, skewered
by curling prongs
of pitchfork,
revealed them there--
grey jelly beans,
their eyes still sealed,
their mouths just the size
for a mouse nipple--
tucked pod-tight
in fur-soft nest.          

            UP                                                       RETURN



My cousin and I
scooped them up before
the fork
flashed down again.
We tried to eyedrop
milk into the tiny mouths,
and yet the litter’s
inner brightness
embered down to ash,
as the babies dimmed,
one by one.

We took
a little matchbox,
lined it with cotton--
pulled out thin,
soft as marsh mist--
laid the tiny bodies in.
Their grave could not
have held a farmer’s thumb,
but was just big enough
for small
whispery passing.

                          Troika IV

Starry, Starry Day

I arrive early at the Van Gogh Museum
in Amsterdam--almost the first one there--
walk down the entry hall toward the tall
young ticket-taker, slender in his black uniform.
Then--in a startlingly pure and melodic voice,
eyes fixed on me--he begins to sing, “I love you.”

In the proper tone of a very mature matron
--whose husband will soon be here--
I say, “You have a beautiful voice,” smile
and walk on. He, softly, “You think so?”

But inside me a startlingly pure and melodic
young voice has started to sing, “I love you, too.”

Hurrying by the grim sootiness of potato eaters,
I drink my bright fill--irises and sunflowers.
Stand, humming, a very long time before a night
jarred and whirring with stars.

                       Spoon River Poetry Review


I wish to thank Jean Tolle for her generous help and assistance regarding this publication. G.Mesh