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Volume I, Number 2 (Summer 2007)
ISSN 1934-4324

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NEW-CUE, Inc. is a non-profit, environmental education organization founded primarily to assist writers and educators who are dedicated to  enhancing  the public's awareness of environmental issues.




Betsy Retallack

Betsy Retallack lives and works in Beverly, Mass teaching music in the public schools. She lives on Poets Hill with her two sons, Kyle and Garth , and her husband Mark. Her day job is teaching classroom music and by night she writes. Her poetry recently appeared in The Best American Poetry 2006 (Scribner) edited by Billy Collins and David Lehman.


I pause here

Gazing at your marker

A prayer rises up

From a deep place

“Let them go, release them.

Where you have lingered long,

May God linger longer.”

And a little March bee

Flies to find nectar

Among the dried and plastic greens

How strange

How warm your visit

And then fly away

Leaving me

With the sweet entrails

of your presence


Heritage July 7, 2003

One day I was dancing flamenco steps

make up, shawl, shoes,

in front of the mirror

and in one glance from a spin

I saw my mother in my eyes.

I had to stop and look just longer than a glance

because I realized she was looking into me

carrying on her dreams in my dance

in my lipstick, her favorite red

flaming flamenco red.

One day I was laughing a chuckle that I had

heard somewhere before in my mother's chuckle,

her high pitched emotion, excited by humor,

taken off guard in a laugh.

I was out of my body listening to my mother

in my voice, in the clearing of my throat

in my hesitations and my affections of hugging.

She didn't mean to breathe through me like that,

that kind of mothering wind of self.

I still am me, myself but unavoidably she

is breathing still as my sons breathe still

inhaling inheritance of touch and voice

eyes and smiles, gaits and postures

from their uncles that are really from my father

that never breathed beyond his own forty six years

but breathes on in what still lives.

One day I thought my brother was my son

when he touched my shoulders from behind in the same way.

Who visits me that I do not know?

What voice belongs really to Wealthy Griggs

or Carrie Allen or some other tree branch of my family?

Breathing still

from one eternity to another

God breathes His spirit

through human flesh

in familiar kindness

of being known.


Looking Up

The sun sets over Cadillac Mt.

Orange turns to pink, to gray

Over a ragged coastal bay in Maine

And then the sliver of a moon appears

In the darkening sky in the west

Not visible by day at its rising

Or at its peak at noon

But now here for its encore performance

With a goodnight wink from its neighbor Venus.

Only time can tell me if it’s setting or rising

And in a few slow moments

The slivered crescent sinks behind the black mountains

Gone in minutes

Leaving behind the deepening indigo night

Mars and Venus yielding its faint light to twilight

Finding their brighter places

Amidst the family

Of constellations

Now coming into a chorus of focus

Clearer and clearer

The multitudes of stars grow

Until full darkness brings

Full brightness

And the shooting stars start their dance

Of falling gracefully

Quickly disappearing

Into the hands of other stars.

The milky way, a lush demonstration

Of galaxies

sings in tandem

Echoing back and forth

Glowing in song a great unfathomable melody

A never understood mysterious harmony

That has kept my gaze

And millions of others

With crimped necks and wet backs

From a midnight dew upon a grassy look-out.


Lord Have Mercy

When I was 21 living in Delaware

There was this big black woman

Who worked in the senior center kitchen

Where I worked who told me,

“Lord have Mercy! No matter what

always be generous about buying food.

You should always have plenty of food in the house.

I don’t care how poor I am I’ve got to have lots of food.

It’s the most important thing, God and food!”

This made quite an impression on me.

I immediately took her word as Gospel.

My shelves became well stocked

I over bought in case of famine or disaster

I filled the freezer with meat

And ravioli, peas and vegetable medleys

I bought gallons of milk instead of quarts

I filled my Tupperware containers with flour and wheat germ

Nuts and dried fruit, cereals and bran

I owned every flavor of herbal tea

I had enough coffee grounds for ten years

I made fresh bread on a weekly basis

There was always ice cream on hand

I made my own granola

I bought Bon Appetite magazine and tried out all the recipes

Which caused an increase in unusual items that also increased

The Tupperware population.

Things were getting out of control when I realized at one point

That I was becoming as large as the cook in Delaware

And I said, “Lord have mercy!

I shall not live by bread alone.

This largeness of myself has overcome me

And my stockpile mentality has overrun me.”

I began to empty the shelves and the freezer

I released the sugars and the flours to the garbage bin

And I genuflected as I discarded each item,

A kind of farewell blessing to the black prophetess of Delaware

Who God only knows

Is crying out still, “Lord have mercy!”


Rabbits Coming Out of Hats


I made the mistake

Of seeing a narly wooded root in the forest

A pile of wood at dusk

And an odd shaped rock, larger than a breadbox

And mistook it for a wild creature.

Maybe this time… I said, “I thought I saw a rabbit.”

And it wasn’t initially

But when I walked around the fence

I did indeed see the rabbit

And the stone that had appeared as a rabbit as well.

You see , it was magic.

The stone came to life, became animated.

My words prophesied and it came into being!

Or so I imagined.

There have been many mistaken moments

Like these in the woods on a path to somewhere

When the shadows dressed the earth

In such a way

That I really believed I was seeing something

That wasn’t there.

I made a magical mistake, almost wishing in my wondering

That it would become my thought.

I’ve done that before with people.

I’ve looked at the shadows cast at the end of the day

looking into eyes, looking at positions

at postures, at the way one walks

and thought for sure I knew

but then upon closer inspection I saw what was really there.

Maybe I could revisit that place

When the light was brighter

And the shadows less intense.

Sometimes if I just move around the fence and get a different perspective,

I’ll see magic.

The inanimate misunderstanding comes to life

And miracles do happen.

Rabbits coming out of hats.









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