Two Poems

By Callista Markotich

The Chatelaine Endures  (a glosa)

An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
              from Spring by Edna St. Vincent Millay

January shoulders cold
light in skimpy rations
down the short chute of day,
brooking no tarry of sun
to warm the bones at all, at all,
and ordinary cares –
drafty parlour, cat confined indoors –
are nothing to the cold that furls her tight.
Ask the chatelaine how she fares:
an empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs,

a rad that’s either cold and comfortless, or scalds,
chilblains, chapped hands, a charley-horse at night.
February doles miserly moments at either end of day,
grey fragments damp with barometric chill,
evoking yearnings: cote in Provence, villa near Milan,
or else, at least the furnace well-stoked at home, but no,
see the constant hoar of frost along the windowsill.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill

in winters past the veins on haunches
of dray horses popped, their rear shoes shrilled
like iron scraped, their long tails trailed on ice
as milk and bread were proffered to her very door;
no more; now she slips and totter to the village store.
Then March does not relent, it howls and blasts at will,
damps smoke back down the chimneys, clatters the French doors,
freezes the pipes in the scullery, hardens the butter and lard,
stiffens the leathers in mittens and boots; privations continue until

April, when out in the frost-blasted border
hyacinths tips force through, and sun smatters walls
in the morning room that hitherto stood in gloom.
April.  The Chatelaine has endured. Should she shiver,
she will fetch the merest shawl. She will fling
tall casements open, conjuring airy bowers,
She will float aloft the bedsheets on the line;
for May,
tripping down through springtime’s greening towers, 
comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.    
Bad Egg

This is not the robin in a poem for my mother
My mother would say droppings, but I,
I must say shit, for it would abrogate the facts
to not allude to it, towering on the windowsill,
the glass a wingtip-stroke montage
of dust and chaff and ordure smears
as this one flails and flaps his wings in excrement
he’s dropping, frenzied, on the ledge.

My mother loved how robins hop, their twiggy legs,
their pert head-tilt towards the turf, the quick
extraction of a worm, their nesting husbandry.
But this one unsheathes talons now,
Cockfighter. And they are equals, this bird
and that, matching rage, matching peck
to vicious peck, so if this bird had raptor spurs,
so would that one, in the window, mirroring.

And what of the nest,
tufty with a thousand straws,
what of the pale blue eggs,
the tender red-breasted bird,
what of the naked hatchlings,
pouched, purple-filmed eyes,
the nestlings, begging mouths agape?
These chicks are carnivores it takes
The industry of two to tend.

Profligate, this mate forsakes his family for the robin
in the glass, a Narcissus, cannot break the spell, yet
huffed, affronted, neither does he sweetly kiss the image
that exposes him unworthy, bellicose bird of spring.

I want to write a poem for my mother
remembering, remembering her call, her voice,
every March, early March, March 4th or 6th or 9th,,
her lovely, optimistic voice: I have seen a robin, dear.


This is not that robin.