By Catherine A. Coundjeris
Scratching on the Walls
My Mom has since passed away, but she was with us when I wrote this poem. Cheyanne stayed up with me that night, watching as we heard scratching on the walls. I turned on the light, set the table, and poured the drinks and heard scratching. I tallied the hours and filled out excel sheets, wondering if I heard it. Dusting the bookshelves, I paused, listening to the wind howling—still heard scratching. Mom sat on the couch, words in a jumble, forgetting my name and I heard the same. I almost took a tumble on the ice, taking out the compost when I heard scratching on the walls. Cheyanne and I are watching, ground hogs play on the hill. Yet we still heard it. Birds land on the windowsill outside my bedroom and yes, we heard scratching on the walls.
Death is Strong
She had eyes like blueberries Death is strong But you must be stronger still To wrest the crown of your eternity Away from infirmity and frailty. And white, white hair. You must have steel and sinew To struggle against the vise like grip To cut the ties that bind you earthbound. A mind keen and bright. Attachments will only weigh you down You must be Christ-like and give them up… Until you have nothing left to offer. A heart full of giggles And only the loved one watching over you Can arrange your final provisions For the battle of a lifetime. A body so thin and spare. You must fight against the lure death sets for you To have muscle and nerve enough to snatch From death the Victory of your immortality. A soul as pure as glass, For she endured her purgatory here for us To show us the way Home.
They come back in October, chatting, calling urgently to one another. Their brown, black, and white design blending into the empty field. They take off at a moment’s notice when the sentinels signal. Two lines forming a point individual birds falling into formation. Wind above and below them wavy currents under their wings When I was young, there was a productive field across from my house. There were corn or beans in the summer and wide and empty space in the winter. We could watch the geese. They got used to us and we got used to them. They would call back and forth. At night it sounded like a party, to me they are actually talking to one another. A throw back to a primordial time when animals could speak. I think they talk of survival, flight plans, fields, creeks and rivers. Experience guides them to tall grasses that glow orange in September right around the border of the creek where the water freezes around their shapes. The water is dark brown and black and white around the edges. Just like the Canada geese. Sometimes I hear imitation calls; the hunters are out trying to roust them from the safety of the earth and water. Some fall from the sky and others survive another year, living on the brink their numbers shrinking their disappearance subtle.
Edgar Allen Poe’s Raven said only, Nevermore. Poe translated this to mean that his Lenore was gone—completely utterly gone… but was it about her at all? Ravens live a long time. They are often seen in pairs. What if the Raven was mourning the loss of his partner? Nevermore could be about his mate not Lenore. Indeed, Poe was just anthropomorphizing his response to be about himself. Raven had business of his own to conduct. His grief was as real as a man’s but Poe couldn’t see that. The man was so lost in his own matters. Here a talking Raven enters his life and there is no amazement and wonder. Only horror and dismay. Perhaps Raven, telling him something vital was after all talking about his environment. Nevermore would the earth be the way she was. Nevermore would the air be as pure. Nevermore would the water be as clear, or the sun as gentle and life giving. Nevermore… Nevermore would we see the polar bear. Nevermore would we see the blue whales. Nevermore the mighty Red Wood forest. Nevermore the peregrine falcon and red-tailed hawks. Nevermore the blue dolphin and great white sharks. Nevermore….
A former elementary school teacher, Catherine has also taught writing at Emerson College and ESL writing at Urban College in Boston. Her poetry is published in literary magazines, including 34th Parallel Magazine Ariel Chart Magazine, The Drabble, Nightingale and Sparrow, Rune Bear, Backchannels, Inkling Magazine of the Storyteller’s Cottage, Finding the Birds, Yellow Arrow Journal, The Dawntreader, Visions with Voices, and Nine Cloud Journal. Currently she is living with her family in Frederick and she is working on a YA novel. Catherine volunteers as an ESL Coordinator with the Literacy Council of Frederick County and she is very passionate about adult literacy.
One thought on “Scratching on the Walls and Other Poems”
Catherine A. Coundjeris’s poem “Nevermore” is the kind of poem that one would like to have a class read and discuss. There is just so much material in the poem that is begging for a discussion, such as the words “Poe was just anthropomorphizing his response to be about himself.” I can only imagine the kind of discussion/debate that would follow those words in a high school or college class into poetry. Frank Kowal