You first appeared to me as a nice smile...

Selected Poems



In January, an exacerbation changed their course.
He fought alone for awhile
keeping the secret like a broken charm.
When finally he shared the truth,
they changed a business plan to something smaller.

He was elected (and resigned) from a post of stature.
He walked barefoot the last time
through fallen rose canes
learning his own pain is something he can’t feel.
They almost went to see the Cubs play.

Seven months of one day weekends
took Saturday rituals away.
They made love on occasion, never slept in,
washed laundry on work days, and fell
exhausted into a two week paradisical vacation.

They swam, sunned, made love, and ate
without care for those weeks in St. Lucia
that feel so long gone as almost imagined.

They saw doctors more than family.
Blood tests became something to fear.
He switched from Avonex to Rebif,
from Rebif to nothing,
from nothing to Avonex to nothing
to Copaxone, and back to nothing at all.
She learned to give injections and felt,
at last, hopeful that she was helping.
Now she checks his feet for unknown dangers
and reminds him to take his pills.

They took one last agonizing business trip
to see a friend; the secret now like luggage.

And they bought their final home.
A place she knows well
in the wood of both future and past.
Its view will shape them both.
So much there to learn. Much too to hope for.
Here they breathe and begin again.



I’ll sleep next to you
for the days I am given
not knowing if
cold or ambition
will reach first for us.
No thing is absolute
and in such
I find a certainty in you.

Under winter, you will sleep
and I will wish you
fields of wisdom
guessing at what you would seek:
a day with certain footing
whispers of calm
shoulders unburdened by words
a place held open by my heart.

I’ll not sleep; tonight, I will reach
for cold and certainty
amid fields of empty footing,
the place you’ll hold open
in my heart.


Late Harvest

You first appeared to me as a nice smile,
a shuffling gait, keen humor, summer eyes, and
a boy’s voice drenched in southern chocolate.
I waited out the winds, the leaves, a midnight’s witness,
writhing ‘neath the swish and wonder of such impossibility
to think once more of you, your fading tan ringless hand
and insistence on sandals in winter.

This impulse, wanton harvest, wards off
white chills with lashes so lush I see
only halos of laughter ‘round my mouth,
and though I know I’ve no time for such
gathering, for falling like autumn into more
than a crush, my body warms against imagined hands,
liquid petals, and thoughts of replanting.

After the Fire

Trees greened just the same.
Shade cast off felt as cool as any other could.
And it didn’t really matter that fire stripped us
of olive-crayons for making hopscotch boxes;
the new wallboard hunks left behind at day’s end
drew better lines that would wash away
with dad’s nightly watering and save us the yelling.

What mattered was playing.
Something common to do with ourselves,
to make outside last a while longer.
Chalk-scotch wasn’t the first.

I drew a court on Julie’s slab.
She had a wall left and if the ball bounced out
it was into our yard. And the hours of hitting did more
than fill time. They filled sound.
With three houses left of seven, echoes didn’t happen.
Sound flattened and no one bemoaned summer children late and loud.
The sounds of a tennis ball’s slap, wooden racket’s clack,
even the sketch of a sticky shoe thick from sifting concrete clean,
bothered no one. Neighbors are only neighbors when
they are there to bother.

On Tami’s slab, I drew my first blueprint.
After all, I knew her house by heart.
Where the kitchen went, the den, how much hall
to pace, where windows should go.
I drew the dune buggy, the bunk beds,
even the chair where Randy sat in the garage
behind the avocado Chevy wagon and drank
R.C. and listened to the Dodgers play.
The only thing missing was the roof. And the walls.

Kelly’s was the worst. Her dad
was a fireman, a paramedic, and there was nothing
in the ash to show how he tried to be a good father.
Her’s was the first lot we cleared, but shovels
and buckets lifted only sticky remnants
of her growing up, broken edges of normal.

On Caroline’s we found a melted safety box,
a porcelain cup, and a kitchen towel. This once
we got lucky.
Her house exploded, then burned.

© Copyright Tracy Ann Teel          Design by Gray Space Design