Henry's poems have appeared in Three Candles, Poems Niederngasse, Southern Humanities Review, Pedestal, Poetrybay, Poetry International, The Hollins Critic, Spoon River Poetry Review, and over 200 other publications in the US, UK and AU. She received four Pushcart Prize nominations and an Atlanta Review International Merit Award. Nancy Henry is an attorney and is co-editor and publisher, with Alice Persons, of Moon Pie Press.
At the Mirror Trimming your beard you say "I can scarcely stand to look at myself". An aging man's bleak, surrendered truth. You stand before me naked, sorrowed, shamed. I ache for you to know your solid beauty, press my face to every frank crease of you, a winter doe, lipping the clean salt of your skin.
I have been behind the house
noticing the prints of small animals
who have visited our yard seeking
the extravagantly scattered seed.
In the majestic purity of the light
the shadows of their imprints
are a tender blue.
It is no longer Christmas;
my children have returned
to the thrilling velocity of their lives;
my lover has slipped into his blue car
to journey home,
grieving in his solitary way
an old friend dead too soon.
It is no longer Christmas,
and I am battling sorrow, balling up the wrapping paper
for the garbage, banishing the angels
from the mantle and the windowsills;
But I can’t put away the joyous music,
the music I forgot to play in its own season.
And I am gripped by a need to believe
it is not too late to say
Gloria in excelsis,
even in this house of jaded nonbelievers,
slip the silvery disk from the box, while I pack
the sparkling things away.
And how is it that the fragrance of the holy lingers here,
in this house of uncertainty,
where we celebrate our great, untidy loves;
how is this is somehow, year by year, enough?
O magnum mysterium; the swelling harmonies, the bells,
the sustained coyote notes of organ,
hard and clear as icicles
hanging from the eaves.
Last night we noted how
the silver twilight announced
the hopeful lingering of the light.
And my loves,
how their light lingers here,
and if grace is all it seems
at this graced moment,
then surely all the faithful hearts will come,
if drawn away, and come again.
Here is a poem I found while you were sleeping;
it reminds of the particular ways
you make me love you,
and I’ll just leave it here,
in case you get a chance to read it;
here is a cup of coffee, black the way you like it,
that I will set beside you on top of the clock radio
as you page through the discography
of Frank Zappa. Here is another pillow
for propping up against; yes, I am going
to make some toast for us but first,
I can’t help mentioning
how the pheromones
draw the cats to the bed,
how they loll in the tangle of our sheets,
too blissed-out to swipe at your bare toes.
I am having aftershocks,
to interrupt you, to bite your shoulder and press
my face against your back .
You just want to read—is that asking too much on a Saturday
morning in February? When last night you met me with
pea soup and smoky scotch and led me to our couch
to tell me everything with your hands?
I will leave you alone now,
but first I need to know if you’ll want marmalade
or butter only,
and I was just thinking of bringing you this,
and a small black cat,
and just, I promise, one more kiss.
Channel 6 has once again declared
the paralysis of our institutions
and the weather-casters go into their frantic ecstasies
as cancellations scroll across the screen.
Our bedroom is an oval canyon
ringed with purple hills of books,
and who would leave this sanctuary,
exchange this solace of hiatus
for the found poetry of snow,
settling on the back fence and the neighbors’ cars
mantling the amber back of the squirrel
that raids our feeder?
It is fine with to stay off roads
mix up biscuits and eat whatever’s
in the pantry, creamed tuna and peas,
play Scrabble in our worn-out flannels when guilt of sloth
drives us from our bed.
Let’s make a fort on the couch
stay in our pajamas
let the only grown up thing we do
be calling in to work, explaining
how dangerous conditions are outside,
how foolish we would be to try
to leave the house today.