Melissa J. Varnavas is a past member of the North Shore Poets’ Forum, the Massachusetts State creative writing program in poetry, graduating in January 2010. Her poetry has appeared in the Margie and Oberon., Tin Box Poets, and the Ipswich Poetry Group. She is currently a student at Solstice MFA at
She has earned a number of awards for her journalistic efforts from the New England Press Association, Massachusetts Press Association, as well as the Specialized Information Publishers Association. Previously the editor of her hometown newspaper the Beverly Citizen, her freelance work has appeared in the Lawrence Eagle Tribune, and Boston Now. She is currently the associate director of ACDIS, a professional organization for hospital administrators. She lives in Beverly, MA.
She has agreed to share a few of her terrific poems with us.
(Note: to show stanza breaks I am inserting a line with a few dots, because this program does not like to insert the spaces, for some reason. Also, it likes flush left. Sorry.)
A Blessing: Prayer for My Love
The wind in the trees carries
the cicadas hum, their mating call.
He says it’s about love. It’s always
about love with him.
He loves me so much it makes him
crazy. He smooths my hair
with one, big hand and kisses
my mouth hard. I think of this longing
as twilight fields soaked in a purple tinge. His eyes
fill with the dimming light that whispers so soft across the pond.
I imagine my passion as a steaming cup
of coffee drunk up in sunshine, memories of chocolate.
While his heart, beats in dissonance.
Fear. And loss. And loss. Death.
But not now, I say. Not just now.
I know this.
I know this.
I kiss him back and shudder
as he moves his lips over the blue
vein of my left wrist.
Song for the replacement fish my husband bought
Now the red spikey one disappears itself.
In the next vase, the one with its tail tipped
too bright for its white body
turns to peer through lamp-lit layers of water dust.
Its soft sway,
stirs the murk. But they
these shadows that swim
by glass, water. In their artificial ponds they go
so not so much as a cerulean fin shows.
His favorite color is blue. He thinks it’s my favorite color, too.
So, that’s why he bought me that one. It’s why he painted the hallway
that deep hue, so dark
I had to dabble over it with sky.
The first batch died. Turned over in their vases belly-up,
making the water yellow, their bodies
bleeding their brilliant color out.
I didn’t really want them, these replacement fish.
I look again and they are all gone, now
as they should have been
after the flushing and before the gift.
The rowing poem
It started to rain. Wind sent the empty
sandwich bags sailing.
I do not remember
if they fluttered off like seagulls
or if a sudden gust filled the plastic, fat
like some tuna-loving cat
that neglected to look before it danced over
the side of the rocking canoe, touched the waves.
Disappeared. It started to
rain. The wind picked up. The tide changed.
Remember tying up at some mooring to eat lunch?
It had been such a nice day. Remember the worn out life
jackets we used as seat cushions? I turned to face
you, dangled my feet over the sides, tipped my toes into the rocking
water. We swayed with waves from passing boats, the smell
of suntan lotion, the day, and the wind, and the clouds, baby
oil, diesel, and rain, and the islands. I have danced in the rain
with you like a wet cat so many times, I have forgotten.
That day we took our positions again, stern and aft, perched
on white fiberglass. You always steered. I did not know how.
We put the boat in at Sandy Point. Picked up our paddles,
stashed the cooler, used the life jackets as seat cushions.
Was it me, the weak one, struggling against
the current, pining for any opportunity to give up?
I’m sure it was me. I have no courage for such things.
It thundered and rained, after the tide changed
and after the wind picked up, and we were nearly home.
I so wanted to stop. Stash the canoe on the beach and walk
back to the truck. or find a phone and call
for help. I have no courage but you pushed.
Said, come on. It was raining and I heard the thunder,
distant. There was the canoe and you and me, some unexpected
weather. A cooler with Coronas, Zimas, some Pepsis, tuna sandwiches. The tide
was with us on the way out. Misery Islands out there,
on our right. The shore on our left—Quincy, Dane, Lynch, West—
a short swim away. The sun was good and the sea smelled like the sea,
smelled like the wind and the rain and the sun and the beer
and the sandwiches. I think we tied to someone’s mooring. I think I
turned to face you, dangled my feet over the sides, tipped
my toes into the water, until the wind picked up and the tide
changed. We rowed and rowed and got
a fit of the giggles at the thought
of getting nowhere. It started to rain. Nothing
happened. That’s not to be expected. We are good
and strong and fine so many years from then, weathered,
smelling like sun and sweat and salt and sea, rowing.
Mid-laugh the tide took us back
to where we were. And maybe that’s the crux of it. It grew
dark. I remember. The tide