My Sister My sister enacts meal provider, family clustered around the table. Sustenance for body and heart, hollowed out by this year. Muffled emptiness behind my ribs muted by video calls. Strands across the Pacific from my island to her wooded home. My sibling draws me back to Canada, closed pine borders. Each call a step closer, but still stranded on a rock in the ocean. ** The Toad Heavy rains, another toad in the garden, poison to my dog. Buffo catching, my new pastime, followed by a marsh trip. Bye Mr. Toad. No whimsical talking character, Wind in the Willows cute. Instead a mammoth, warty body, with venom sacs behind his ears. Toad number seven in a lineage, a hopping invading force. Beady eyes, fire-plug body, strong jumping legs, garden bane in Hawaii. Islands replete with outsiders: frogs, rats, goats, even tourists. If the toads arrived with cash would they be more appreciated? ** absence of mind eyes fixed on the wall as I empty my mind release the words count breaths silently count one count two count three air in my nose, down the throat, into the belly exhalation toward the wall the white blank wall count one count two count three bird song bounces into the room waves in my head sound flow no story quiet still count one count two count three clouds cross the sun alter light pupils expand body changes avoid the prompt peace count one count two count three crossed ankles ache blood flow compressed stillness prevails rise above the physique. count one count two count three bell chime softly sounds ears register limbs unfurl lips curve deep lungful of air back to the world words return ** Thirty-three Years Our anniversary is here, at the onset of 2021, good start to a more auspicious year. Some wondered if we would stay together, concerned about my four months in Mexico. Archaeology seemed an abrupt change after slicing the wedding cake with a machete. But we do fine with absences, each of us with careers necessitating fieldwork. Both retired now, writing down the hall from each other, no distance. Clicking of keyboards, a background hum to love, laughter and good food. I chose a cook, excellent advance planning for a months-long pandemic. ** Swallowtail in Bougainvillea A glance out the window toward a butterfly pulsing its wings in front of purple bougainvillea vine. The Asian Swallowtail, like me, a recent migrant to Hawaii, but more beautiful with its dusty yellow persona. Another non-native, Bougainvillea grows uninhibited here, prolific vine tendrils tower twenty feet high. The climbing plant sends exploratory shoots to my neighbors, isolated like me, in a pandemic.
Susan J. Wurtzburg is a retired academic, and lives in Hawai‘i. She writes and runs her editing business (Sandy Dog Books LLC), in between water sports, family hiking, and socializing online, while she waits for the pandemic to diminish. Susan’s poetry has appeared in the Hawai‘i Pacific Review, The Literary Nest, Poetry and Covid, Quince Magazine, and the Rat’s Ass Review. She is a member of the Rat’s Ass Review Workshop.