Maureen Tolman Flannery

Unspoken Sadness

These are heartfelt couplings,
the last few chances for our mingling flesh
to draw some uncalculated factor
into the already complex equation.
My dwindling power to call forth independent life
is balance to those early years
when I, a new wife, fecund as a rumor,
bore you more than we had bargained for.
Now one son, in the rutting season of first romance,
can smell love the way a coyote noses wool’s lanolin
born on a timber wind with a hundred other scents.
And our daughter, last born,
stands already at the rim of womanhood
like a hang glider waiting for the right gust
to carry her airborne upon the future.

And we know each other’s bodies as our own
their only surprise the periodic rise of new keratoses,
brown and scaly as though we would
slowly kiss each other back into toads.
Each time now I assure you I could not conceive.
Then again I flow through one more moon tide,
my body clinging to fertility like a weather-beaten farmer
reluctant to give over his fields.
A tender and blessed love thrives
in the darkness while our unconscious
collaboration with the gods
is waning like a harvest moon.

But as we thrust toward fearless years of reckless sex,
there courses in us both,
in lieu of lush fluids of fertility, a secret sadness.
No more amber-haired babies will hover like sea birds,
poised to descend and trouble the waters we enter.
The last of our lovely ones
has been remembered unto life.
No more formless unborns tread starlight
beyond the hard matter of our love,
hoping to catch us off guard.

Maureen Tolman Flannery’s latest books are Ancestors in the Landscape: Poems of a Rancher’s Daughter and A Fine Line. Although she grew up in a Wyoming sheep ranch family, Maureen and her actor husband Dan have raised their four children in Chicago. Her work has appeared in fifty anthologies and over a hundred literary reviews, recently including Birmingham Poetry Review, Xavier Review, Calyx, Pedestal, Atlanta Review, Out of Line, and North American Review.