Introducing … Melissa J. Varnavas

Melissa J. VarnavasMelissa J. Varnavas is a past member of the North Shore Poets’ Forum, the Massachusetts State Poetry Society, Tin Box Poets, and the Ipswich Poetry Group. She is currently a student at Solstice MFA at Pine Manor College creative writing program in poetry, graduating in January 2010. Her poetry has appeared in the literary journals Margie and Oberon.

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, Danvers Herald 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

make me

their captor,

these shadows that swim


by glass, water. In their artificial ponds they go


and vanish

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




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