There’s no telling (and other poems)

There’s no telling

my aunt would say, 
meaning, of course, 
the outcome of the subject

was anyone’s guess:
a field of knee-high grass
on a sky-blue summer day

might conceal a hidden well;
a dip in the lovely pond,
cool and sweet on your young back,

might end in your lonely drowning;
any minute walking this earth
could be your last.

I loved the way no telling hinted 
how nothing existed
before spoken into life:

in the beginning was the word,
that silver-tongued sword,
as though birdsong

emerged from lyrics,
as though even this poem 
could push you—

stunned and blinking—
into the light.

Scar Tissue

There’s no predicting where it will go,
the physical therapist says. All those photos
of beautiful muscles in textbooks—
no one really looks like that.

We are pushing my knee, newly released
from tightening webs, trying to outpace
any new spread of healing gone wrong.
Outside the walls of this room

the world reels from pandemic and hate, 
all ills that won’t heal unscathed—
every Garden of Eden riven and divided 
by its snake, imperfection’s patchwork 

stitched snug, callus and keloid 
pocked over beauty’s terrain.

Ode to My First Mother-in-Law

who attacked a world full of pending hurt
with scrub brushes, down on her knees,
purging dirt and germs from every surface,
pushing back black worry that dogged

her days: the aquarium stand pinned
to the floor so the baby couldn’t topple
weight of water and glass. The cookie tin
she ruined, convinced the dark coating

was baked-on fat she punished 
with oven cleaner, stripped to bare shine. 
The endless calls we had to make 
so she could sleep, assuring her 

we continued intact. The way she claimed us 
as hers to protect, every dog and cat 
we ever owned knowing the sound
of her car coming up our street, bearing

their grandma, too, her arms weighed down 
with cans of tuna and meaty bones. 


  • Jane Sasser grew up in a family of storytellers and began writing her own stories at the age of six. Her poetry has appeared in JAMA, North American Review, The Sun, and other publications. She has published three poetry chapbooks: What’s Underneath (Iris Press, 2020), Itinerant (Finishing Line, 2009), and Recollecting the Snow (March Street Press, 2008). A retired high school English teacher, she lives in Fairview, North Carolina, with her husband and retired greyhounds.

  • Images of the Space Shuttle docking with Mir in 1995, the International Space Station in 2009, and Astronaut Bruce McCandless on an untethered space walk in 1984. Courtesy NASA.