about the author

Sarah Freligh is the author of Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the 2015 Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis; Sort of Gone; and A Brief Natural History of an American Girl, winner of the Editor’s Choice Award from Accents Publishing. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Constance Saltonstall Foundation, and the New York Council on the Arts.

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Three Poems 

Sarah Freligh

A Civil War

I’m deep into my third Chardonnay, salve
for my bunged-up, wrung-out, hung-
to-dry-heart, when the guy two stools down

throws in a fifty and calls it a night. He’s driving
to Ohio at first light, to stand up a third time
for his brother who’d met the love of his life

during a weekend retreat for Civil War re-enactors
(he: artillery/she: infantry) and the couple
requests the honor of everyone’s presence

in uniform, preferably Union blue though
they’ll tolerate the occasional Confederate
if he agrees to lay down his sword like

the gentlemen at Appomattox. The guy’s
got a crutch and a scarf he plans to stain
with ketchup and tie around his knee.

Wounded soldier, get it? He knows his brother
won’t be pleased, but love isn’t always spit
shine and parades with trumpets. Sometimes

it’s a shot to the heart, litter of bodies
in a farmer’s field, the scorched earth

over which we fought so fiercely
and can’t remember why.

“Hubby Still Hears Dead Wife Through Her Pet Parrot”
—Tabloid headline

She asks him if he’s eating okay, staying
away from salt the way the doctor
advised: fast-food fries, double orders

of onion rings he loves to smother
in cheese curds, corned beef stacked
high on marble rye. He’s the one

who should be dead. How’s that for a laugh,
he’ll say to the other widowers at the Big Boy
where they gather Fridays for poached eggs

and moral support. He’s never told them
about the bird, that it’s her he hears
if he’s quiet enough. Mostly she nags

at him about his sloppy posture or the ring
of dirt crusting the collars of his shirts,
but now and then she’ll sing along

with the radio tuned to the station
that still plays big band music from before
the war when dying was something

that other people did and a parrot
was just a bird from an exotic
spot neither of them would ever see.

At My Forty-Fifth High School Reunion, the Girls

Wherever there are wild trees
descended from ancient orchards,

you’ll find windfalls of glamorous
apples that taste like vanilla

ice cream, apples with plump bottoms
and starred cores bred to tempt

the eye. They mature quickly, become
just desserts while other apples—too

acrid or sharp—must be pulped
into liquid, aged in oak barrels until

their juice is fizzy to the tongue, the bitter
and the sweet pleasing, complex.

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