Sanding the Hull


When we were sanding the sailboat’s weathered hull,
layer upon layer of life and its subjects up for grab,
we talked of raising the sails on Silver Lake or Half Moon,
of strawberries lifting beneath shade plants in the yard,
and of slant-six engines, push-button controls, the Rambler.

Who knew that, in ten years’ time, he’d be dead, the brown spots
on his lungs inching wider, those years of smoking cigarillos
in bodegas, when the need to drink and dance prevailed.
I crocheted a gold blanket to stave off bony chills,
each stitch laced with twists of whispered prayers.

When he was gone, they cleared his office; his widow,
his secretary hunched over piles of letters he’d hidden, locked
in the bottom drawer, its key hung on the hook near the door—
letters filled with more conversation: the poems of Neruda,
an article or book review, a recipe, math, or jokes,

our wide-ranging minds never settled or calm. His words
stream through to me now, les bon mots, or sage advice,
a caution, hint or path to shun. Directions to the market,
how to build a pergola, praise for my latest poems, more praise.
There’s never a warning, just his voice in my ear, slight bell

on a wisp as I breeze along. In my laughter now, I hear him. I see
his wry grin, that nose, that graying beard. I hoist my glass to shadow
reminders, to green-gray waves that lap against the bow of memory.
Those eyes softly pierced as crows’ feet and fret lines creased the planes
of his cheeks. His face reminds me to throw back my head and howl.


From Car to Schwinn and Back Again


In that moment, you say yes, you will drive down
that unknown road, a back road, even though
you don’t know where it goes and time is short.

You are not instantly rewarded, as the strip
malls and parking lots are slow to give way,
slow to end their hold on consciousness.

Soon, the pine groves thicken, the hills roll.
The two-lane curves beneath an old-growth
canopy and you think yourself a child again,

bicycling home from the lake, or a ball game,
the sun slanting through to the forest floor ferns.
You keep pedaling, sure that you’re alone, sure

that this world exists for only you, each furled frond
lifting its head, its black dots of spore for you alone,
there in your t-shirt and shorts and barefoot, yes, barefoot,

your tanned legs lean and muscular, the red rubber lever
ready to ring its bell on the handlebars as your spokes,
shimmering, spin and spin, the red reflector

bringing up the rear. Before suburbia interjects,
you stand and balance, let go the frame, tilt
your head so your hair streams like a flag.

But it is only a car, after all, and you have a husband
and bills to pay, a dog to walk, and lines to stay
within, yellow lines, solid in your lane.


Pia Taavila-Borsheim grew up in Walled Lake, Michigan, and lives now in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with her husband, David Borsheim. She received her BA and MA in American Literature from Eastern Michigan University (1977, 1979) and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. (1985) from Michigan State University in English, Sociology, and Philosophy. She is a tenured, full professor and teaches literature and creative writing at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. In 2008, Gallaudet University Press published her collected poems, Moon on the Meadow: Collected Poems 1977-2007; Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Two Winters in 2011. Her poems have appeared in several journals including: The Bear River Review, The Broadkill Review, Appalachian Heritage, The Comstock Review, Barrow Street, Threepenny Review, Wisconsin Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, storySouth, The Asheville Poetry Review, 32 Poems, Measure, Ibbetson Street Review, and The Southern Review. She is a frequent participant at the Bear River, Sewanee and Key West writing conferences. Her poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart Prizes and she has just finished a new full-length manuscript titled Notes to David and two chapbooks: Mother Mail and Love Poems.