Three Poems – Joan Michelson

The First Spring

When it was silent, sky and road
emptied of all traffic,
one by one, the sirens
rose and climbed the hill.

They rose, and rose again,
shrieking through a Spring
so boldly blue,
the windows overflowed with colour.

And yet they trembled and we,
breathing in the same quiet,
trembled, feeling
the accelerating crescendo.

Covid Picnic

The daughter measured two and a half metres
from the corner of the garden table

to the weathered bench. She stepped back
to let her mother pass with the loaded tray

and set one dish on the table, the other
on the weathered bench. When they were seated.

the daughter sang out, ‘My mummy, who must
do everything herself and won’t let

her daughter help, Happy Mother’s Day.’
The mother said, ‘Don’t let your food get cold.’

The day was cold, the wind so cold, it sent
the mother back into the house. She parked herself

beside the window on a chair, and speaking
through the glass, recalled her mother inviting

her own buried mother to be with them
on The Day. The daughter asked, ‘What about

grandma’s mother?’ ‘And great-grandma’s mother.’
the mother nodded, ‘All the generations joined together.’

The daughter outside, the mother inside, they looked
at each other and they laughed.

As their farewell, they hugged and rocked themselves,
kissed their hands and looking towards the sky

tossed the kisses towards the absent.

Care Home Zoom

On Sundays the staff sets their mother up to zoom.
She has dementia; she’s failing and could die
at any time. The four daughters remind each other

this is what their mother wants. But the nurse
repeatedly assures them, ‘Your mother’s doing
fine. Don’t you worry.’ So it goes. After years

of visiting in turns and rarely seeing one another,
the sisters are together on the screen. They remind
each other to speak clearly and loudly

so she can hear. Their mother seems to hear
but what she says comes from somewhere else.
Where she thinks she is, they’ve no idea.

Suppose they just stop talking. The nurse allows
she sleeps a lot. Weekly in the zoom,
the daughters watch their mother dozing off.

Author photo black and white close up of Joan Michelson smiling, wearing glasses and a lovely thin white scarf and black sweater.

Joan Michelson’s collections are: ‘The Family Kitchen’, 2018, The Finishing Line Press, USA, ‘Landing Stage’, 2017), SPM Publishers, UK, ‘Bloomvale Home’, 2016, Original Plus Books, UK and ‘Toward the Heliopause’, 2011, Poetic Matrix Press, USA. She’s received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Centre for the Arts, Valparaiso, Spain, Sangam House, India and other foundations. Her poems have won the Bristol Poetry Competition, the Torriano International Poetry Competition, the Hamish Canham Prize, and others. Originally from the States, she lives in London and teaches creative writing to medical students at Kings College, University of London. Website:

Banner Art: Stems of Light, an image by Robert Frede Kenter (c) 2022. Twitter: @frede_kenter, IG: r.f.k.vispocityshuffle or icefloe22. Ice Floe Press IG: icefloe.press2

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