Sandra Yannone – Tulips in Fall

Profile Sandra Yannone LE Mag Sept 2019

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Tulips in Fall, poems by Sandra Yannone

Sandra Yannone grew up near the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Her interest in the Titanic disaster of 1912 sparked a dialogue with international sites connected with the disaster and anchors the poems in her debut collection Boats for Women (Salmon Poetry 2019). Her poems and book reviews, have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous print and online journals including Ploughshares, Poetry Ireland Review, Prairie Schooner, Glass: A Poetry Journal, Women’s Review of Books, Lambda Literary Review, CALYX, and Seattle Review. She’s also written a series of articles about the intersections of poetry and social justice for Works in Progress. Her work has received the Academy of American Poets’ Poetry Prize and an AWP Intro Award. She earned her B.A. from Wheaton College (MA); an M.F.A. from Emerson College; and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Currently, she resides in Olympia, WA. Visit her at

Tulips in Fall

We stopped along the street market to marvel
at the yellow tulips, and of course, the orange,

overflowing from the tops of glass vessels.
You dipped your head to peer inside

the cup of one. Look, you said, and I folded over
to bring my eyes to drink the orange tulip’s inside

the way a horse bends to water. We knew
they were not native to this place and time,

yet we played along like lovers
who have nothing better to do

then stare into the eyes of flowers,
to find the real beauty the rest of the world

often unassumes — so often, in fact, it manufactures
plastic tulips to simulate their smell and touch,

and even we are sometimes touched
into believing that they are real,

as we sometimes mistake two women
stopping to see yellow tulips, and even the orange,

in fall, as real, as somehow
being opened together.

Glassware of the Finer Points

The first time it worked, she says about jumping
through the window to grasp his attention.

She is stirring the ice cubes
in her clear drink, trying to recast

the broken glass to its molten form,
to remember her body easing

through liquid rather than this hard,
jagged time of her life she’s never really wanted

to escape. She imagines drama
as a way to reach him. After the emergency

room, the stitches in her hands, her forehead,
they drive to the hardware store

so he can buy another sheet of glass.
He uses the entire afternoon to cover

the finer points of how to replace
a broken window, caulk the frame, set

everything before it dries. On a high stool
eyeing his tender hold of the new

pane’s edges, she feels
the business of his unflinching hands

at work, hands which did not
try to follow her

off the sill, and in her stitches,
the tight, thready pull of defeat.

The Next Open Space

We think it’s about
our footing, planting
the fleshy parts
solid to ground, taking it
one step at a time,
whatever it is.

I try to remember this
as I comfort my sisters
as they migrate
to spaces that feel
closed before reached.
I have been there, outside
in that dark that redefines
dark, without words,
lifting my feet or voice
or eyes, impossible.

And, yes, it is
this dance that offers
to turn us toward
the next open space,
teaching us there is
so much more
than what we perceive
breathing under our feet,
the ground rising,
rising all around us
like immaculate glass cities.
Look up, look up, always
look up. Find the bird
inside you
and remember this
about the next
open space:

There is always
more than one.

There is always
more than one.

The Final Crossing of Captain Edward J. Smith

His voice had never fallen hoarse
his whole career until on board tonight. He regrets

for a water-logged moment hosting the five-course
meal, glasses toasting names the headlines will never forget,

his first-class guests now merely occupants
of the same fate as all the others. A monsoon

of panic overtakes the calm. Chants
of “women and children first” swoon

through the Atlantic chill. How to captain when riven
with everything unsinkable sinking? Between

not enough time and too few lifeboats? He cuts the ribbon
between himself and April fourteenth.

Now two hours into the fifteenth, death
hovers an instant away. He resigns to a final breath.


I want to write
the most exquisite
poem forever
for you, the one
I always dare
Myself to write.
The poem
coalminers recite
as they hoard air
in the dark, approaching
death. The one
mountain climbers
as they shiver
their last breaths.
The one that floods
the drowning one’s throat
with drenched song.
The one that grants
every cut flower
eternal life. The one
that pushes fire
to stay alight.
The one that fuses
the Titanic
back together
and lifts her
from the Atlantic’s floor
to voyage again.
The one my lips dream of
pen and inking down
the crossword puzzle
of your back.
The one that never
lets the hour
glass run dry of sand.
The one that keeps time
in our silk pockets
when we are together
like that.

And the one that is
the one that is
the one I can’t write
because there is only
one exquisite blushing
bruised plum. And that
one beautiful one
resting in the green
ribbed bowl
is the one
that is exquisitely
only only you.

Flight Plans for the New Home

For years I’ve travelled two-lane highways to find proof
in the dividing lines at night. Where does family
begin and end in the headlights’ search for home?
Isn’t the turn into the driveway just another form of chair?
What power compels the glove box to open, reveal its heart
as summer begins to launch into spontaneous flight?

And tomorrow she will travel alone to the airport to catch a flight
in early morning. The chenille bedspread will try to hide the proof
that she turned her body toward me with her unruly heart,
just the length of a lyrical moment, an unspoken clutch for family
before the lights went out.  And in the far corner, the empty red chair
blushes while everything shudders in my body, my new home

for the night. For years, I have run away from that home.
I have chartered planes and then missed the flights.
All these women couldn’t win at my game of musical chairs,
couldn’t calculate fast enough the geometric proofs,
the Pythagorean theorem that would unlock my family’s
secrets, that would dismantle my ever-fragile heart.

Under that one night’s cloudy moon, our two hearts
cling to the wisdom of dead poets, build a model home
for a few unsuspecting minutes, for one illusion of family
hoping to dream the night to breakfast, the flight
still on time, the pilots performing their final checks, proof
of her imminent take off in every seat, every empty chair

in the airport now waving its goodbye. What woman can chair
an investigation into a night crash where the flight
disappears off the radar screen? What indisputable proof
could ever make up for her loss? What homework
could bring her back more whole than the sum of all hearts
taking off and landing that day, then the sum of all families

waiting for some good news. The airline creates a makeshift family
room to simulate a comfortable den crowded with chairs.
And now our last night together lingers mid-flight
in my mind, every beat of my unchecked heart
ticking like an antique clock searching for a home.
Yes, I am in love again. You don’t need any more proof

then this family photograph never taken, then this heart
seeking a chair to rest in, seeking its final home.
The delayed flight always harbors my fugitive proof.

© Sandra Yannone