Strawberries in Winter

By Valerie L. Egar

As published in: The Christian Science Monitor

She served them on beds of snow

drizzled with honey, garnished

with twists of lime. Her silver

glistened in the sunlight, the tea

mint and summery green. But what

would she serve if it had rained last night?

Chocolate cake is what she said.

Ni Quan Tends Her Father’s Snakes

By Valerie L. Egar

Published in The Cape Rock as “The Snake Merchant’s Daughter”

In a house filled with sorrow,

a mother who mirrored the moon’s cycles,

a father whose homecoming

brought gifts or beatings or both,

the snakes had a steadiness I admired.

I fed them rats, mice, young birds,

and found their bite no worse

than the words I heard from my bed.

Every fall, cooled by winds that frosted

the plums, they grew docile,

their scales golden in a dying sun.

I tucked each into a winter nest

of dried dung, peat and leaves,

and grieved their sleeping in my dreams.

No Argument for Heaven

By Valerie L. Egar

As published in: River Styx

You find your parents there.

They’ve changed, their sins

burned out of them.

Instead of cast iron,

you meet with tempered steel.

Their eyes glint welcome.

They are civil now, discuss

opera, refrain from drinking

all but wine. Someone taught them

which fork to use for fish

and how to eat a pomegranate.

They call you Sweetie, Angel.

Your job is to honor them.

In this haunt, that’s the rule.

Slippers, Daddy? Mother,

more lemon for your tea?

Nothing to do but wait

for your children to arrive.

Grandma Describes Love Using Birds

By Valerie L. Egar

As published in: Lullwater Review

Love is a goose, says Grandma,

tossing Danny’s bread crusts

to geese at the lake’s edge.

We hover behind her,

afraid of beating wings.

They mate for life, unlike some people.

Danny and I knew the people she meant.

We woke to their yelling

about rent, the refrigerator’s lack:

one egg, sour milk, half-jar

of pickles. The front door slammed.

Mother drove us to school

every day after.

Grandma says, Love’ll make you crazy.

Drying dishes, Danny and I watched

the red bird fight its window reflection,

seeing Mother’s fury in its flaming feathers,

as she shadow-boxed, cursing Father’s name.

Stacking Wood on Midsummer’s Eve

By Valerie L. Egar

As published in: Yankee

We stack the remains

of the felled maple by the porch,

the split wood and mown grass

green-scenting  the evening.

The field blooms with sweet clover

and a thin peel of moon lights the sky.

Why linger on winter fires?

Look: fireflies are turning into stars.

Late Gifts

By Valerie L. Egar

As published in: The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review

Their extravagant size caught our eyes,

pine cones big as baby porcupines.

We’d seen them back east

in craft stores, florist shops,

several bucks each. Here,

the wealth lay in piles for free.

First, we said we’d take a few,

then, some for friends,

and more, until our hands

were sticky, the back seat

a prickly bed. The pine scent

turned an ordinary Tuesday

into Christmas, the car, a sleigh,

loaded with good will,

brimming with a harvest

we planned to give away.

Too dirty to carry in a suitcase,

too many to carry in a bag,

we scrounged a box

from a grocery and packed

them to mail, seeds dropping

on blue motel carpet:

thousands of seeds on blue pile,

Grandma and I laughing,

our hands tarred with evergreen seeds.