In the Chambers of the Sea

Overlooked is a Compound Word


                                        A child’s croup-thick cough, barked alarum bell,


wakes me as I wash with night’s long tide.

I shiver, stand to dress, then hover


                                        at the chest, over the breath, of my sleeping child.


In the city’s soundscape, gunfire, perhaps, snaps.

I tell myself it was far away or, better yet,


                                        it was a car, a firecracker, steel slapping train tracks


ten streets away. Back in bed, I list thin walls, bullets,

faulty wiring, bronchioles small as sand


                                        under my daughter’s ribs. I dream of a girl


with moon-white hair and the long fingers

of a saint praying in an old painting.


                                        Invisible, she is adrift in a crowded cafeteria,


an inarticulate ache in her wake.

By light of day, I live again,


                                        drop my daughter off at school and, mist lifting,


find the scarf I lost last week looped around a fence end

by some thoughtful passerby, its pattern a talisman only to me.


                                        I think it had been there for days.


I did not see it and then I did:

rain-faded and familiar as my own hand.



Annie Woodford lives Roanoke, Virginia, where she is a teacher at Virginia Western Community College. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Appalachian Heritage, The Comstock Review, Cold Mountain Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Waccamaw, The Normal School, Tar River Poetry, Bluestem, Rogue Agent, and Town Creek Poetry, among others.