“Where We Once Belonged” and Three More Poems, by Stephanie Unger

Isaac Levitan, "At the Summer House in Twilight" (1895)

Isaac Levitan, At the Summer House in Twilight (1895)

Stephanie Unger is a writer who lives in Buffalo, NY. She has studied poetry at workshops led by Martha Heyneman and others at the Rochester Folk Art Guild in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State.

Where We Once Belonged

He must have been living right,
that fly clinging to the dark inside
of the screen door as I opened it,
because he knew what to do—
but it took letting go of being
comfortably stuck and a wish to
live what we all dream about,
this pushing off and gracefully
easing ourselves back out toward
what is real in the wide open,
where we once belonged,
allowing ourselves to be guided
by one who knows the way
and leads from behind.

Come and Live

Twenty years ago,
we moved out East,
from the West,
against the tide,
and far away from
towering mountains
and everything else
that stood for home.

The new land,
slow to compensate,
lay flat and humid
and unfamiliar lonely,
although everything
was there, except
sheer-granite cliffs.

In nearness and in time
the seasons came,
again and again,
to where we were
with beauty unrestrained—
and the trees
beneath which
we finally stopped
to find ourselves
grew wide and steep.

Held in this way
to settle in place,
I was slowly given to see,
so as not to miss,
how the mountains—
those strange, far-away beings
I thought I knew so well—
got up off their stony haunches
and came on their knees,
and bending low their starry peaks,
asked to come and live
inside of me.


The warm, furrowed leather of her massive trunk
rises slowly to my second-story window alongside
the flashing television screen and holds its form for me
to see should I wish to turn away from what scatters
and take hold of branches whose velvet crevices
cup crystals of fine, fine whiteness that settle into
my body and coolly remind me it’s okay to drift off
to the side sometimes, as does winter snow, and pay
attention to what is real coming silently from above.

All Silent

It’s 7 degrees outside this morning,
a solitary temperature.
Head tucked back into a floppy hood,
feet steadfastly slapping dirty snow
covering the steps up the hill.

Nearing the top, the sun blinds and the sky blues.
Light everywhere and the steeple atop the clock tower aspires—
silver at its apex, like a compass needle.
All silent as the sycamores
standing at attention.