Joan Colby

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Globe of Earth

Even then that globe was outdated.Artwork by Gene McCormick
Bohemia, Persia, Rhodesia, Siam.
I loved their colored splotches.
The jagged sections as if crayoned by
A child like me, still unsteady,
Intent on staying within the lines.

Even then, Germany had begun to plant its
Crooked crosses over the Slavic plains.
The sky over the Pacific would grow thick
With Kamikazi aircraft.
Soon, Africa would resume its tribal names
As the colonial prefixes ran off
Like wildebeests when the lions came.

The globe on the axis
Of my childhood was wrong.
History can be distorted.
You couldn’t trust what you saw,
You could only admire a varnished world
Suspended in a maple stand
Before a row of venetian blinds
That scissored sunlight into patterns
On the carpet. A child tracing the glamour
Of adventure: Shanghai, Timbuktu, Bombay,
Could, with just a finger’s touch
Set it spinning.

Carnival: Shooting Gallery 

It’s your dad who’ll raise the rifle
To his shoulder in order to prove
His manhood to his daughters.
The rows of teddy bears and pandas
You have to have. He’s a dead-eye shot,
He tells you. Scored high in the marines,
But not a sniper. He’ll bust those bottles,
Wait and see. It might take all the cash
In his pockets, but he’s never leaving
Without putting a big pink bear
In your arms. It’s a lesson in perseverance
And love. Still, you have to think
What if he never does it. That could happen
And you know how he would sulk,
His underlip jutting as he drives home,
Not speaking to you, swearing at a
Car that cuts him off.

One Redwing Blackbird

Yesterday’s snow set a record for November.
One redwing at the feeder
Fluffed against the cold.
The flock left in September
For sunny resorts in Mexico
Or Costa Rica.

This bird huddles as the feeder swings
Its copper hood. How did he miss
The migration? Was he distracted
As, so often, I am thinking of something other
Than the task at hand?
Perhaps he overslept when the flock rose
As one decision and lofted off
On a south breeze. There’s always one
Who is preoccupied—a dreamer
Contemplating the poetry of a cornfield,
Gleaning the easy pickings of
The left behind. When the flock ascended
Like The Rapture, this one failed to sign
His wingtips against the cloud.


Joan Colby is editor of Illinois Racing News, a monthly publication for the Illinois Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Foundation, published by Midwest Outdoors LLC. She lives with her husband and assorted animals on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She is also associate editor of Kentucky Review and FutureCycle Press. Her latest books are Ribcage and Broke.