Sandra Kohler


The first of March, a Monday: new week, month. Bleak
rain, remnants of snow, ice. Time to get dressed and walk

the dogs. March is no lion, but February’s mean miserable
old dog hanging on, clinging to our heels, persistent, nasty-

tempered. It is the weather of last night’s dreams, in which
I’m trying to visit my dead: my mother, my brother. She’s

in a nursing home, demented; he lives in a city no transport
I can find will reach. When she was dying, he refused to

visit her deathbed; years later, she frequented his nights,
unappeased. I wake heavy, freighted, to a day turned grit

in my mouth. In the backyard, in mud, desultory snow,
crocus thrust up into freezing rain: protest, rebuttal?

I need to walk the dogs, clear the walks, make my list.
What I really want, what I really need won’t be on it.

Surprise, the old crone says, sticking out her tongue.



In a dream last night I am hit,
though lightly, gently, by a car.
It edges up to me, touches,
won’t stop, keeps moving.
I climb up on the hood,
rap on the windshield,
shout at the woman who’s
driving, you have to stop,
but she keeps going,
driving on,
though I cling
to the hood,
scream at her,


Does my husband’s reaction
to the article in the Times
about a man who nearing
the end of his life refuses
to go to dialysis mean
that he, my husband,
is tired of living?
I’m afraid to ask.
I need to talk
to him. About
sex, about
death. The old
subjects, new.


Winter’s bare branches
reveal the nests birds created
last spring, summer. The fat
clumps of their solid shapes 
stud the branches, their
volume a different order
of object than the trees,
something intentional,
made, their strength,
their form, empty
now. Winter
allows me
to see how
they were


How the roses bloom
in December—spectacularly
large blossoms on skinny
almost denuded branches,
eruptions of joyous color,
their tones darker, richer
than the sun-bleached
heat-drained flowers
of midsummer.
Could we be such
December roses
in this, our

Author Portrait

Sandra Kohler's third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, winner of the 2002 Associated Writing Programs Award Series in Poetry (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many others over the past 35 years. Born in New York City in 1940, Kohler attended public schools there, Mount Holyoke College (A.B., 1961) and Bryn Mawr College (A.M., 1966 and Ph.D., 1971). She’s taught literature and writing in venues ranging from elementary school to university. A resident of Pennsylvania for most of her adult life, she moved to Boston in 2007.