Three Poems

Tree Shadows
(A reaction to Antler’s poem, “Winter River Sundown”)

Tree shadows reach across the frozen river
like a father reaches for his prodigal son, like a mother
reaches for her daughter after a quarrel,
like a Jewish widow reaches to comfort Palestinian
parents who hold their injured child, a Samaritan
helps a Jew by the side of the road, a person
comforts a person, race unknown.

Once I noticed a goose wait by the side of his injured mate
from sunrise when I first passed them until sunset
when I passed them again. Tree shadows reach across
like a bird reaches for his mate.

Birds cross over rivers and trees. They see no borders. Birds cross over
oceans and land suturing a scarred and hurting world. On a bird map,
there is no South, Central or North America,
no North or South Ireland,
no Congo, no Serbia, no Timor, no kingdoms, no states,
just rivers and trees and shadows reaching across
to where borders are unknown.


Nisour Square

When I walked by the river, my foot

met ice. I slipped and hit my head.

The ice did not apologize.

In Iraq, a father with his nine year old son
met Black Water mercenaries:
“All I could hear from my car,” he said, “were gunshots
and the sound of glass shattering. And the sound of tires
blown out with bullets. I started to scream, ‘They killed my son! 
They killed my son!’ 
Cold blood and stone hearts, they continued to shoot.”

Ice does not apologize.


Damn You, WTMJ! Stop Scaring My Friends up North!

These people, these good people, so I’ve been am told,
not afraid to face down a bull,
grab him by the ring in his nose,
not afraid to stuff their hands and arms
into the birth canal of a horse and pull out a colt,
unafraid to live miles from their nearest neighbor
while axe murders and lamp shade makers like Ed Gein
lurk out there, and men in orange suits
shoot rifles from tree stands out there.

These good people are afraid of me? of Milwaukee?
of driving in my home town? 
of taking the wrong exit in my home town?
of landing on the north side or south side of my home town?

Damn you, WTMJ! Stop scaring my friends up North!

—Carolyn Vargo, Milwaukee, WI