Poems by Barbara McGaw


Memorial Day



the spade in the backseat rattles

as Mom and I locate the cemetery plots

i crane my neck to see geraniums 

looking considerate in their red clay pots

and easing us into this yearly ritual

the grandmothers know who has come

to rake and water

daughters tend the graves

as we stand in this quiet place

we feel the continuum of time



i used to fear the graveyard

strangled by root-bound grasses

the recurring blackness

where husks of bodies are planted 

and a mockery is made of warm-blooded veins

here you are forced into the opaque

where fear divides body from mind

and panic constricts the throat



when I make an end 

i want to throw off my soul 

like concentrated light

embrace the interchange

while stars rip trails like once bright eyes

won’t you dig down with your hands

in the unturned earth 

to plant my memory deep

won’t you force the bloom back into my cheeks

with wild geranium kisses



The hibiscus

in its basket

sits in sun-

flowers yawning

yellow tonsils showing-

its closed buds

nose the glass

beneath a cloistered sun


If I were

Georgia O’Keefe


in her flowers

I’d paint these

resplendent swirls

from slender pistils twirling-

Spanish dancers in the rain


The hibiscus

in its basket

gives up

its blossoms lightly

Through day

and moonful night

they open 

fade then drop-

folded umbrellas by my door

A Charm of Finches


barely seen

    in late November camouflage

tawny finches graze


bell-weather of snow

    they settle to feed among the dead grasses

and squirrel scattered seed


how unlike their yellow plumage

    my honeybees of summer

they charm me for a while


until some whim of wind

    sends them streaking up and outward

like billiards on a break





About the Author

Barbara McGaw lives in Freeland, at the southern edge of Michigan's Northern forest. She has always enjoyed writing poetry, though she started reworking her collection of poems for publication upon her retirement from teaching. 
She is the recipient of the Abbie Copps Prize for Poetry, sponsored by Olivet College, for her poem "A Stone Heart".