Surprises, by Jennifer Angelina Petro



Jennifer Angelina Petro



They are everywhere.

Every moment, every

Single thing in your life–

And ever it shall be so–

Is a surprise.


The turkey buzzard gliding, like

A black cloak loose in the sky,

The letter from England amidst the circulars,

The cardinals tangling and untangling

In the winterberry bush,

The first cabbage butterfly of spring,

This breath, this step, this ability

Of your heart to beat without you

Even thinking about it,

The ship of sleep arriving

At the harbor of your consciousness,

The frog at the wheel, tipping his hat

As you climb aboard, the waking up

In your bed, in your room, in your body,

The channa masala, the mango lassi,

The crunch of the toast in the morning,

The surprise you are and the gifts you give—


You get the idea.


And yes, there are unpleasant surprises.

We know this and yet we continue walking–

Through the graveyard, flowers in hand,

Into the kitchen where the difficult conversation awaits,

Into the hospital room where a loved-one fades,

Through waking up with a fever,

Through the snow storm in April,

Through the changing of the tire

On your way to the concert—


This certainty of a lifetime of surprise

Can be disconcerting, along with

The uncertainty of the surprise

Of what happens when your last breath

Joins the spirits at your bedside;

And yet, we keep moving, and sometimes

We curl up and rest, and other times

We simply stand where we are—afraid to move–

Eventually, we will take another step,

And the road will bloom, and the fear

May turn into wonder, and the living awake,

And the frog turning the wheel and shouting:

“Hoist the anchor! Make sail!  The wind is at our backs,

The horizon is calling: “Try and catch me, if you can.”






Joseph Anthony Petro

In the night trees
You ask the question
While at the same time
Bragging that you know
The answer.
And you glide
Around our houses,
Drift through the moonlight
Over our backyards,
Confident in your silent wings,
With the night
Coursing through your bones
With sheer joy
Above us all.

I lie awake
When I am finally able
To sob the same question
Into the darkness
I am racked with dread,
And I frantically try to avoid
The turn of your head,
Desperately try to blend in
With the surrounding shadows,
Wildly try to pretend
I have not been left out in the open—
And so I run, or I freeze,
Hell-bent on avoiding the talons
You close around those
Who do not know
The answer.

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New Year’s Day, 2015

New Year’s Day, 2015
Joseph Anthony

the path

For some the future is a movie where they’re falling
In the monster’s mouth only so far and then suddenly finding
Some unforeseen and extraordinarily unlikely method of escape.
For some the future is a road rising to meet them, unfurling
From some distant destination called hope and healing.
For some the future is a series of doors that appear out of nowhere
In a field or on a city street and open
At the slightest touch or sigh of relief.
For some the future is a dark forest path winding through patient trees
Carrying lanterns lit with columns of light.
For some the future opens like an unexpected clearing
Of wild flowers and honeybees that bob up and down in a pine scented sun.
For some the future is an ocean tide curling around their feet
Enticing, inviting, filled with bits of information unclear, yet sun dappled and soft.
Listen, I am trying to find ways to keep going. Trying to imagine
Scenarios where the darkness isn’t all there is;
Where a sense of adventure and humility at not knowing
Somehow sustain me on my way;
Where I don’t need to crawl to make it, where I don’t need to trudge
Or drown or wish I was dead. I am trying to imagine life
Unencumbered by the depression that has kept me locked
In a box cramped with ghosts and bones.
I am trying to let the future be gratitude and serenity
For whatever comes my way. I am trying to imagine
Breathing freely into the unknown as I would stepping out
Into a bright, spring morning. I am trying to do the one thing
That if I do on the first day of the year, they say I will do all year long:
I am trying to dance with ghosts; I am trying to build a framework
And a bridge out of bones. I am trying to see into the darkness
Just far enough to believe there is a reason to believe.
So there, I’ve done it. I’ve written another poem.
I’ve tried honestly to tell you where I am, what it’s like.
And you’ve read it. Now we both get to go together
Into towns just waking at dawn where invisible trains
Sound somewhere beyond distant, cloud-misted hills,
Where diners that smell like coffee and toast
turn on ‘Come in We’re Open’ signs just as we arrive.
We both get to go towards a time that isn’t yet
And somehow not fall into despair.
Please, I am going to do one more thing
That I need to do for the rest of the year:
Hold your hand without shame because the fear
Can be so deafening, and the way ahead was never meant
To be realized alone.

roots together

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