Practicing Tai Chi, I brush dirt against the wind

by Fran Markover

Illustration by Zia
I stand like a tree, think in circles. My left foot
on the dark kitchen square of linoleum, the right
stepping onto a sunlit patch. And for fifteen minutes
on an ordinary day like this Sweeping Monday
I’m a Tai Chi warrior. I had expected to be
more lithe, ballerina, violinist, but here I am
housewife in sweats, fuzzy cat flip flops, cloud-
walking, collecting dust unsucked by the vacuum.
Feminist Women’s Writer stenciled on my shirt,
its faded ink jar and fountain pen reminder: once
a poet…. I grasp sparrow’s tail gently.


Wave hands like clouds


Highway traffic surges like ocean. Like April wind.
I’m not weighted by anything. My palms posed
the way my teacher demonstrated, open-nested−
song sparrows taking leave from each hand.  
I conjure my Hebrew name, name that found me
late in life, bequeathed from great grandmother.
Breathe syllables Fei ge le, Fagey’s stories reborn
with each ache and rivering sinew. Her son’s body−
grandpa’s− like mine, gifted with muscle memory,
bearing family lore: flight becoming acts of grace.


White stork lifts wings


Here’s my father rustling between east and west.
He plays Down in the Valley, harmonica vibrating
through celestial hills. Roses love sunshine, violets
love dew, angels in heaven know I love you. He asks
What are you doing standing like a broken bird?
I tell him: once I met a pigeon who wobbled on one leg
then soared beyond his pickings. I strengthen kicks,
stretch, rooted. When I reach for his billowing chair
my father bows among the seven stars.


Fair lady at shuttles


Grief brocaded onto my skin− mother’s passing,
lost brother to the streets, my biopsy mapping
its circuitous course. Among amorphous shapes
of fright, my legs establish themselves, arms curve,
almost closing. They embrace what the universe
bestows. Then release, a ballooning till I’m wings,
till sorrow fledges through the kitchen toward
the oak-cathedraled forest, soft eyes, knees bent
slightly. I imagine pebbles beneath my soles.
The way to remain upright in an uncertain brook
before punches and parries, the final turns.


Wind sweeps the plum blossoms

Fran Markover lives in Ithaca, NY where she works as psychotherapist. Her poems have been published in many journals including Rattle, Calyx, Earth’s Daughters, Karamu, Cider Press Review, Spillway, Able Muse. Her chapbook History’s Trail was published by Finishing Line Press. Her recent book, Grandfather’s Mandolin, was finalist for the Henry Morgenthau III First Book Poetry Prize. Other honors include a Pushcart Prize nomination and poetry residencies at the Saltonstall Foundation.

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