Poems by Ellen McNeal

All poems by Ellen McNeal below were previously featured in The Comstock Review
Forgive Me

Crimson flesh, a fleck of skin
and crumbs cling to the woody pick.
I plunge it deep inside the center.
The top springs back beneath my touch.
A cup of sugar, one stick of butter,
two beaten eggs, one levelled cup of flour,
a spoon of leavening conform and cling,
clutch the fruit, cold and pitted just an hour ago.

Lemon rind, remaining zest,
extravagance of spice mingle
on the kitchen table. Gloved,
I pull this pan from the fragrant oven
and set it on a rack to cool. I wait,
then run a blade around the collar
and release the clasp. The cake exhales and
gasps its fruity breath.

I shake some sugar on the surface,
the swollen fruit weeps, and I call you,
two forks, two plates prepared. I hear
you on the stairs and cut into the cake,
then serve our slices a la mode.
Forgive me, dear, but aren’t these plums,
withheld this morning, more delicious now,
warm and sweetened, offered
in the slant of afternoon?

All We Could Endure

Lifted in noisy swell,
in magnificence,
we saw them
as many moving snowflakes.
But then, things were different
this year.

Then, the snow geese stopped
in northern flight across these lakes,
fanning out from greening shore
almost to shore.

Wind blown birds, here
unexpected, unannounced,
gatherers of winter’s chill,
the cruel extension of our
sullen sky.

What urgings sent them
on our way,
understood the labored breath,
the limits of our bones?

Enough, they said
and stretched aflutter,
and lifted from this lake,
our discontent tucked fast
in blackest wing
and mandible.

Enough they left behind
to ease us into spring,
to startle reflection
in this bowl of sweetened milk,
to rustle summer’s whisper
on my throat, our hair,
and urge return of morning smile.


I’m passing windows,
filled with dresses for the dance,
hung on lifeless shoulders, begging in a row:

Please. Have me, take me. Oh,
touch me, strip me. Here’s your chance.
I’m just passing windows.

Such excess of tulle and skin, this jarring fashion show.
Could I walk away without the glance
I’d hang on lifeless shoulders, begging in a row?

Should I pause or stop or just walk slow,
remember lists, my errands plotted in advance?
I’m only passing windows.

But look! A blink, a lift, a shrug. She knows
the weight of dreams I’d hang askance,
hang on lifeless shoulders, begging in a row.

I tap the pane and ball my fist, deliver up the blow.
Here! Take them. Take my dreams, every shard of glass.
Now. I’m passing all my windows,
hung on lifeless shoulders. Begging. In a row.
CR vol. 17, #1

Some notes on the poet:
Ellen McNeal is a poet and a weaver. Her work has appeared in ART TIMES, UP COUNTRY, ARTIFACTS, PASSAGER, and THE PEN WOMAN. Her recent awards include honors from the Milton Dorfman Poetry Prize Competition. She is the author of A Frieze Drawn Over Peace, a collection of ghazals and woodscapes.