Turning Point




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Sample Poems by Joanne Allred


When did you last eat an apple
under moonlight, the bitten globe
in the sky a twin to that in your hand?
The crickets and tree toads rocking
the night lull you into believing
you've found your one true home.
A bullfrog down in the draw
where a stream is drying to summer
fallow sounds its bassoon. The woodwind
of a great-horned owl hushes the hillside.
Bristling in the scrub behind you
may be a doe with fawn
or something serpentine.
Yes, you've heard it all before.
The present is an old, old story.
But for the few moments you munch
the apple, the world seems so fresh
it all remains to be written.

Early Light

Swaths of mist gauze the hillside where
two white-rumped forms the size of jackrabbits
bound in the tall, drying grass.
Laid back ears.

From behind the brush a doe appears.
She dips her head to nuzzle
the smaller fawn then allows
them both to suckle.

There's a story of a dying monk, at last
complete and poised to merge with the infinite,

who, with his final breath,
remembers a stag
in a field at sunrise
and instantly incarnates as a deer.

The doe is on the move now, fawns
tottering after, prancing every few steps
to keep up, exuberant. They browse
into the woods and vanish.

Was it the soul's yearning after beauty
that drew the dying man back into a body?

Or did his heart crack
open, as mine just did,
wanting somehow to keep
this fleet tenderness.


I hang sheets to dry in the light breeze,
the lavender scent of laundry soap mingling
with honeysuckle vining a post,
the day the world is scheduled to end.
Redwing blackbirds flit and chitter
in new-minted oaks, bringing to the nest
mayfly, caterpillar. I watch a pair
of honeybees in friendly consort
ruffling the corolla of a deep purple
thistle. It's an ordinary day
marked only by the rapture of the mundane,
which makes yearning for a more exalted realm
seem both ungrateful and blind.
A lone mallard, his mate off nesting
in undisclosed reeds, paddles the pond
quibbling, head emerald, white and ultra-
marine on his tucked wings. When he flies,
riffles unsettle the perfect surface,
lapping shore long after he vanishes
over cottonwoods quaking along the creek.

How the Story Ends

Maybe he woke up thinking, as we often did in 1984,
about Ronald Reagan's finger poised above the button,
hearing the thunder roll of a thousand nuts
and bolts poured slowly from a pail
to simulate a fraction of the nukes
waiting for launch. I remember
wanting to unknow what I knew, to go back
to sleep, not having to work anymore
for a world beyond war.
The night I heard myself say
we each have to decide if we are for life or death
and I choose life my daughter was conceived.
That was the year I read Out on a Limb
and tried on being an immortal soul, my body
ripe with the same emptiness
that plumps out the universe.
On hands and knees on the kitchen floor
searching for a dropped needle after
my brother-in-law shot himself that January,
it came to me that perhaps we all, in some way, choose
our deaths: driving off Lookout Point
rather than, say, eating one more marbled steak
or smoking another pack, the choice
is more transparent and the bluntness shocks.
So reading the news that after nineteen
years in a coma a man woke up,
I wonder if all this time he has been out deliberating,
a jury of one: live or die, go or stay, knowing
the brain's imperatives must be wholly reconfigured.
Even if he weren't quadriplegic now
he couldn't cradle his baby daughter again.
But neither can I hold mine.
And sometimes looking at her-nineteen!-
it seems so discontinuous: my arms
still tingle with her smallness.
The past is brindled with amnesia,
each memory a rogue particle of fevered
omniscience that knows how the story ends.