Jean L. Kreiling


These weathered wooden legs must have supported
a pier—who knows how many storms ago—
but now they only testify to thwarted
intentions. Blue-green tides still flow
between them, but those plans to dock a boat
or stand above the bay to drop a line
for cod have all been cancelled. Ducks still float
beneath the space where someone’s grand design
and someone else’s sweat assembled planks
to make a platform that must have been deemed
sturdy enough. It couldn’t last, though, thanks
to some more powerful designs. What seemed
to make this spot our own is gone, except
for these rough limbs. Perhaps we overstepped.

At the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

It is, of course, a tourist trap. You pay
too much to walk a path that you could cover
in three unhurried minutes—but you stay
much longer, as if you were called to hover
and flutter with these wings, as if they timed
your pulse, as if their bright paint made your eyes
too wide to blink, almost as if you climbed
the air with them, then perched to scrutinize
a hot pink petal. But no, you’re not one
of them. You’re an intruder, moved to stand
unmoving as they flit by; you can’t run
as they inspect you, lighting on your hand
or hair. Your stillness, though, obeys no law,
and you’ve been trapped only by your own awe.


For Maureen

I stayed a week—more time than we had spent
together in a while—to help her out
with her new hip. Old friends, we were intent
on pills and exercises for about
the first two hours or so; then we regressed
to slumber-party mode. Our tempo slow,
we lounged in our pajamas, laughed, assessed
our hair, our friends, our chances. I don’t know
a lot about hip surgery; the drugs
and therapy were useful in her healing,
I’m sure—but chitchat, M&Ms, and hugs
were crucial, too. At week’s end, she was feeling
much better: life itself, she claimed, seemed new—
not just her hip—and I felt better, too.


Jean L. Kreiling  is the author of two poetry collections, Arts & Letters & Love  (2018) and The Truth in Dissonance (2014).  Her work has been honored with the Able Muse Write Prize, the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters Sonnet Award, the Kelsay Books Metrical Poetry Award, a Laureates’ Prize in the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest, three New England Poetry Club prizes, and the String Poet Prize.


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