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 The Deaf Island
In the dull room, weak light, pale walls. My mother feeds my father lunch. He is propped up in bed with his glasses on, chewing with his eyes closed.
“Wake up,” she says, “Come on, wake up. You can’t eat if you’re
not awake.” And he mumbles his response, yes, no, chew. I hear you.
The train goes by, threading a monotonous path through town. Rumbling, shaking, hauling, traveling; the ground beneath us quivers and stirs.
“Where are we, anyway? “Where are we going?” Spinning through space, the sun and the moon. Trying to stand on something, trying to find something we can understand.
“Time to wake up,” my mother says and touches him. He opens his eyes, looks at her, pulls himself up in bed. Heavy white clouds
move rapidly across the sky. Pockets of blue and puffs of smoke from the chimney next door. Streets slicked; cars still covered. The television on the sports channel drones on.
This morning, a near fog of precipitation, as the snowplow clears the roadway to the school. A lone gull calls up the sea.
Wash of waves: push, shove, drain; push, crash, explode, and drain. In the cry of that bird, circling the neighborhoods, examining
the prospects, inland.
Gardner is an associate professor of English at Florida State University and a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of York (England) and a PhD from The Johns Hopkins University. For fifteen years, she directed and taught for Runaway with Words, a poetry workshop for at-risk youth. Her poems have appeared in such journals as Crazyhorse, Barrow Street, Louisiana Literature, and Comstock Review. Her chapbook La Florida won the Weldon Kees Prize and was published by Backwaters Press. These poems originally appeared in Gardner’s chapbook The Deaf Island published by The Poetry Society of America as part of their prestigious PSA Chapbook Fellowship Program.
Joann Gardner

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