Five Vermont Poems by Elisabeth Horan

Winter Commute

Winter always feels like
a bruise to me,
December heart
draining the red blue
purple and gray
shocking in

i close one eye
view a skyline, pocked
with abandoned
squirrel nests

in the other eye,
floaters swirl and
abound, from all the

on my commute – an
old person’s house. A
couple. once. He died,
she shortly after –
so many of these –
they begin to
crumble… no humans
for upkeep
so often also in

old Vermont shacks
farmhouses –
blood of propane and
paint thinner seeping –
with lies and stillness –

words after
miscarriage –

like a sty warmed to the
compress – like a blood
blister with the hot
needle to it – or
my own thighs – they
look like dead

my son says. What
are those
bruises, momma

in my head – I repeat
like a mantra –

there is no life
in there

driving with my
husband – (clam shell
holding clam shell) –

there is no life in there

I walk in cemeteries

to lay rest to my baby. Such a scene. I am.
Broken headstones

Here or there… in desolate
graveyard, such interest.

He died. In war. She followed. Soon
after. The little baby graves. Chiseled
with even more care, as if our actions

post-death might heal anything.
The flu of 1918.
Lupus and TB.

Why not — a free for all.
Take them
away, why do u Jesus?

I think about 2018.
Losing my baby.
I don’t have a grave for him/her;
and if I did, would be weird,
not yet a


body aborted. So I walk among
sliced off heads of
dearly departed.

Amelia M.
Loyal wife to
Ernest J.
Their son, James J.
4 days old

Elisabeth J.
Loving mom to
James J.
Sweet Fetus.
A bleed.
My pain of the 1800s
consumes me.

Taken too soon in the
Year of our Lord, our
Father, this 20th day of June,

Post Mills VT, 1820 or 2020

sorrow runs
blade of tears
you, grisly farmer
my caretaker

failing me is health, normalcy
I have no job offers on this planet – scraping at

my skin, my scabs, my abdomen

kitchen hand, bedroom cleaner
my wrists so strong from iron skillets

gifted to me from my mother.
I could kill you with one blow…

I gaze, instead, hole in my knee
bloody, knotted clotted bulb of flesh

easy to do
easy to maim

scar over scar
over births I never felt
snow over graves over babies unmet

jack of all trades, you — ne’er robert frost
to me. Building up my orgasms like good walls

locking me in the room
I see you with spade

out window
smallest pine box

you are outside

ways to keep me at arm’s length
ripping the apple tree out of ground

in madness
wedding days, funerals

births, early heavens

insanity of a couple gone wrong
in (godless) Vermont winter

Jeremiah…Joshua… husband I was bequeathed to

didn’t I cook the roast for you? stir
the pot right for you?

In the Bleak Midwinter

I snap the rubber band.

In my head, I am in church – the minister long gone… a massive myocardial infarction — waking up in sweat, I remember, I was out late on highway duty again — scraping up squirrels; boxing broke-neck bard owls. So many of them, only one of me… I snap the rubber band against my wrist to keep from panicking — not time yet for my STEMI, goddammit,

Jesus, I prod and poke the bones of something I thought was a turkey carcass, — a teeny tiny fawn — I thought: how did its mother survive this? Not the truck, but the witnessing of a million veins opened, I fall to my knees, confetti-salted-ice eats into my mom-jeans – fatter than ever before, it doesn’t matter — my children are alive. The semi is barreling down on me… squinting its horrific yellow eyes it uses the jake-brake, just down a few gears… unsure if it should swerve or just take me — this whole scene, out…

I do not have time to snap the rubber band, I will have to cope, trust, the panic is all in my head, not forcing my aorta to choke, to seize — not until I gather bones of this tiny babe… lay her in a manger; set up a scene in the nave, or at my own feet –

I can play Mary… Joseph already in attendance… flirting with me, kissing.

I snap the rubber band

I will not let the truck eat another for spite, I will not, I say to myself, I will not, I cannot—let his mouth touch my baby’s legs. In my head, I wake – the minister gone. It’s been five years now… I sit up. Reeking of body odor and blood, I sip water.

Snap the rubber band.  

Harvesting the Crop

Haunting the fields
at dusk, corn stalks
still erect, yet cropped –

When the combine has had
its way – the shaft, the hull, lie
ground into dust. The crows

Know these hours –
late fall through snowfall:
A murder’s bounty – feeds

Eversomany black birds; keeps
stemmed growth of a messy
earth, necessarily tidy.

Photo by Robert Frede Kenter

Elisabeth Horan is an imperfect creature from Vermont advocating for animals, children and those suffering alone and in pain – especially those ostracized by disability and mental illness. She is Editor in Chief at Animal Heart Press, and Co-Editor at Ice Floe Press. She has several chaps and collections out at Bone & Ink Press, Fly on the Wall Press, Twist It Press, Rhythm and Bones Press, Cephalo Press, and Animal Heart Press. Her newest collections: Just to the Right of the Stove, with Hedgehog Poetry Press, and Alcoholic Betty, with Fly on the Wall Poetry Press are forthcoming in 2020. She is a poetry mentor to many up and coming brilliant poets, and proud momma to Peter and Thomas. She recently earned her MA from SNHU, and her MFA from Lindenwood University. She is a 2018 Pushcart Nominee and a 2018 and 2019 Best of Net Nominee. Follow her on Twitter: @ehoranpoet  &

Banner & Image: “Housecoat of Trees” by Robert Frede Kenter. Twitter: @frede_kenter

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