“After Reading Keats’ ‘Ode on Melancholy’ in Late February” by Meghan Sterling

Reading by the author

No, no, don’t throw yourself under the hood of the tanning booth
or spend your nickels on cheap fashions just to alleviate ennui.
You will still slip on ice when you go out to your car,
your black coat crusted in salt from brushing against its once-blue exterior.
You can attempt refuge, get in that car and drive South, maybe reach
New Hampshire. The roads will keep coughing up soot. The dust will still
weave itself inside the white ribbons of the snow banks,
the silver walls of the guardrails moving like the ocean just beyond sight,
and you still can’t hug your parents. You must remind yourself
it’s only 5 weeks until April, a month whose name always delights,
despite what Mr. Eliot said, a month that promises change.
Hard little buds like teeth appearing on the tips of branches, the blossoms
on the cherry trees a pink smack in the mouth. And though you are still
under the weight of February, avoid the wine, gin, vodka, tequila,
chocolate, pasta, the loaves and fishes that call your name
as you pace the apartment like a rat in the night. No, this is a month
for asking questions when things get hard. Where do you go when all around you
is frozen sharp like the inside of an oyster shell? How many ways
can you describe gray? How about ice? Who are you when the light has gone?
When your neighbors’ roofs are buckling beneath heavy snow?
You must find out. Put down the ice cream. Fall on your face in the ice.
Taste deep of the ashes left in the can. The only way out is through.

Meghan Sterling’s work has been published in Rattle, Cider Press Review, Inflectionist Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Driftwood Press, Sky Island Journal, Literary Mama, and others. She is associate poetry editor of The Maine Review, a Dibner Fellow at the 2020 Black Fly Writer’s Retreat, and a Hewnoaks Artist Colony resident in 2019 and 2021. Her chapbook, How We Drift, was published by Blue Lyra Press, and her collection These Few Seeds (Terrapin Books 2021) can be purchased at Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Her work can be found at meghansterling.com. She lives in Portland, Maine with her family.

Image: “The Fire’s Place” by Andy Fogle

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