p o e m s s t e p h e n  c u s h m a n




So subjunctive, your name;

yet there’s nothing iffy

about the trees in basic green,


their colorful underwear gone

back in the drawer of early spring,

nothing the least bit contingent


in the way a woodthrush succeeds

white-throated sparrows at dawn

or iris follows dogwood.


Here in the northern temperate zone,

how could you possibly express

the hypothetical, the wish,


with all your satisfactions

so relentlessly indicative?

Oh, what I wouldn’t give


to cross your looks with just a whiff

of that autumnal musk

you emanate down under.




Hangdog suns skulk in the south,

shirking the late afternoon.

It doesn’t get darker than this.

Now what? What are we waiting for?

Doesn’t get more naked either.

Not as in nude, posing on pillows

with just the right look

for cameras and easels,

but as in stripped of every stitch,

last oak leaves gone,

no hospital gown of snow.

What’s next? Rasping impatience?

Or stiffening torpor, unstirred

by this face without makeup?

Or could it be catching the indigo eye

even the briefest sky bats,

reveler in expectation?




Why does the inability of the eye

to focus sharply on what’s nearby,

thanks to hardening of a crystalline lens,

come on now? Is it pure coincidence

that I finally see, in those closest to me,

the heart’s small print more clearly?




Some people so lonely

they can’t bear the birds again,

those catchy solos about duets

mouthing off outside the window.


Others been lonely so long

they’re used to making do

and don’t want you

reminding them of redbud blossoms


they’ve learned to live without.

So if you’re a victor, shut

your trap and do no harm

to people who hear in birds,


this wren,

only the terms of surrender.





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