Vanessa Haley

Old Business,
by Vanessa Haley

Slow tumult, then tumbling with the river’s
currents, eels darkening remainders of daylight,
the snapping turtle sequestering its own
swamp of sorrows, damselflies–hyacinth
needles with nothing to sew–zigzagging
as the tide rose and fell, their prism-vision
registering: tiger lilies folding, the velvet
black and yellow of bumble bees holding
honeysuckle, minnows’ shimmering gold,
relinquishing themselves to depths
they hardly know. At the department staff
meeting, someone reads aloud the old
, and I am back on the damp fold
of sand, the white-whiskered catfish
staring me down with one filmy eye.
Water slaps softly the shore while
the recovery team tosses in long arks
the four-pronged hooks that snag at last the lost.
The rope’s tautness and the weight of the load
they are pulling toward them make them grimace—
grown men trained to drag river-bottoms and lakes,
working methodically, concentrically,
who have seen human remains as swollen
and pale as grubs or as hollow and jagged
as the cicada’s shell, its new body already winged.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 2.

Vanessa HaleyVanessa Haley Previously an associate professor of English at the University of Mary Washington, Vanessa Haley is a psychotherapist whose poems have appeared in Poetry, The Alaska Quarterly Review, Dogwood, The Grove Review, Southern Poetry Review, and other journals and anthologies. She is the author of The Logic of Wings (Cherry Grove Press). View her literary board games at

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