Jane Craven

Twyckenham Notes
Issue Fifteen
Spring 2022


            The cycle of life is a worrisome thing.
             —Liu Tsung-yuan
It is an old book, the earth. Give me a word 
& it will be the singular germ, the seed 

for all that follows. 

The language of hope 
                          is a laundered handkerchief 

laid delicately on a washing line. 

My cat tracks a sunbeam 
around the house, stopping to rest in its warmth, 

moving when it moves. 

She thinks she will find it forever. 
What’s in it for us to embrace continuance? 

On a sunny day in a Charleston park 
I make a video of a fountain. Water wells up 

from a brick courtyard and children squeal 
and stomp in the spray.  

A yellow dog enters from the left 
wagging its tail, circles the scene, 

and disappears. Here, time 
                                                    is a perfect swirl. 

In my hand I hold 
the clattering of water, low murmur of voices, 

sound of cars, of wind.  

Pre-War Paris Apartment Discovered Intact

The stiff lock turned by distant relatives. More than eighty years 
empty and moonlight’s nacre still hardens 

on the parquet floor. Damask wallpaper water-streaked, 

Love letters, newspapers, Louis XVI chairs 
with their Aubusson backs. A stuffed emu, Mickey Mouse doll—the early one 

with dead eyes. 

Dust, dust. 

In 1942 a child pounds on the door, pleads for help, 
is dragged back down the hallway. 

Gentle ticks, expansion, contraction of ancient beams, mostly 


Five more years and a rat knocks a Meissen figurine from the mantle.
Shards scatter like millefleur on the marble hearth.

Swastika banners flap-flap from balconies in the open city. 
Panzers prowl the streets, rattling bone china in a gothic cabinet. 

A paperlouse bores through Simenon’s Pietr-le-Letton:

Le tout dans un linceul bleu
tacheté de lampes à gaz s'allumant les unes après les autres. 
All in a blue shroud speckled by gas lamps lighting up one after the other.

The apartment breathing rhythmically.

Cries from the street fly up to the rooms when Morrison dies. 

On our honeymoon we argue beneath those very windows 
about where to have lunch. 

It is Armistice Day and in the plaza, frail veterans rise 
from folding chairs for their final commendations. 

We walk arm in arm, our breath incised in the air,

the streetlights lithographic, a string of pearls along the Seine. 

Of Orchids

Their plush theatricality, honeyed
throats. I had no love for 
those redolent tokens we wore
to prom, plucked 
from a plastic bubble, then the fumbling 
attachment to breast, wrist. 
Far from Billie’s gardenia, pearlescent 
moon, tucked 
behind her ear, vibrating 
in darkness to the drawn out 
vowels of “Summertime.” 

Florida changed my mind, the way 
you could forget them 
under trees once they’d bloomed. 
Abandoned to heat, dappled sun, 
afternoon downpours, 
a miraculous pod would again snake
from the fold of waxy leaves.  

Nun, ghost, moth. Symbol of rot, dead
men’s fingers, the fetid greenhouse
in Chandler’s The Big Sleep. 
From ancient Greek, órkhis, 
meaning “testicle,” the medieval 
bollockwort. Also, womanly, violet
petechia, heart wound. Centuries 

of violent plunder. Fanatical
collectors. And yet, such calm 
and beauty here: Its green arc 
and unashamed excess, the one true 
object in the room, my mother’s hospice 
bedside, the only thing unmarred 
by shadow seeping from 
the sunworld through the blinds. 

What We Bear Within

Shorter days, the morning half-light traces the bedroom’s
charcoal contours later and later, longer breaths 
as the sleeping mind kickswims up to consciousness. 
Why the dead leaves on the lawn so early? It’s only August 
after all. A garbage truck heaves and rumbles on the next block,
sending our two cats under the bed, into their lair, 
which is unreachable with the vacuum. Inescapable,
the trappings of old age. Ears ringing, closed 
captioning, readers on a string. Still, moving through the day      
is nothing like straining in one of those padded suits
devised by lab workers to simulate old age—like trying to walk
while wearing a mattress. I am learning infirmity 
comes on gradually, until one day you get up 
and the bed comes with you. When I was young, working 
at a women’s shelter far south of here, a 90-year-old 
was raped by her grandson in the bed she had shared 
with her husband for sixty years. He broke every bone 
in her body. I know the bones of every woman 
who ever lived are out there somewhere. Over time
I’ve tried to add their weight to mine, but they are light, 
or that is how I see them, particles 
fleeing earth at inconceivable speed.

JANE CRAVEN’s poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Plume, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Tar River Poetry, Salamander, and Atlanta Review among other journals. She earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing-Poetry from North Carolina State University. Her collection, My Bright Last Country, won the Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize and was published by Cloudbank Books in 2020. Her book, Early Love As Archaic Landscape, is forthcoming from Jacar Press.

Cover image by Nelson Lowhim.
© Twyckenham Notes 2022. All rights reserved.