Terry Hall Bodine

Pine Row Issue No. 8 Autumn 2023 - Featured Poet



You are gone when I slog to the kitchen, slosh coffee from the pot

into yesterday’s cup. I berate myself for hating that you didn’t leave a note, 

as if that’s what counts. As if that’s love. I wash. I dress. I cube 

the russet potatoes I’ve peeled, bury them beneath a cut of chuck 

and some Lipton’s onion soup. The wedding gift slow cooker I set to low. 

By five o’clock things will feel tender.


I pick up a six of Miller on my way home from work; I know you’re out 

since I killed the last can last night, late, waiting on the stoop, leaden clouds 

enshrouding a suet moon. You still aren’t here when I kick off my pumps. 

I check the roast, consider browning broth for gravy. Instead I put away laundry: 

socks rolled like dung beetles, your blue chino pants. 


Hoping you will be here soon I spoon meat and vegetables onto two plates, 

set ketchup and Parkay on the table. I picture us chuckling over dinner–about Carl 

in accounting, about the Barkers’ Halloween skeletons still sprawled on the lawn 

in June. You’ll complain about too little salt, about gristle. I press my thumb 

into a carrot stub as soft as rotted flesh. I am not hungry. 


At eight I scrape the plates into an ice cream tub we emptied back in May, 

then dump the mess in the alleyway which flanks our yard–a meal 

for the mongrel dog that haunts Wayne’s Tire and Garage. I figure the city 

will call me again, warn me not to encourage strays, stress that neighbors 

get annoyed. But what can I do? I hope you don’t mind, Harlan, 

that I’ve given him your name.


I’ve given him your name and when I call to him he comes.

 * * * * * * * * *

A Long December


         "...and there’s reason to believe

         maybe this year will be better than the last."

                                                           -Adam Duritz


I know I am not suicidal because I’m buying Christmas wrap half price

at the after-holiday sale. When the safety rail of the causeway bridge 

is slick with condensation, when riptides tease my ankles 

with insistent invitation, such markers are important.


It isn’t that remarkable to see Jesus in scorched toast. To the faithful

God is everywhere: in the delicate venation of a sweetgum leaf, 

the deeply muscled flanks of a quarter horse, a sleeping toddler’s

ruddy cheeks, flushed from hours of play.


I’d wager my atheist daughter forgets being christened 

into the Christian church at barely six weeks old--how subversive

the insurance taken out on her soul. Despite her obdurate 

disbelief, I still can trace God’s thumbprint in the whorls of her hair.


The ocean is bright like mica in the late December sun. If I behold 

Jesus in this dazzling light, beckoning me to his tiny boat, if waves cinch

like a glassine bag around my waist, around my neck, isn’t each step I take

a prayer? Whatever shape or size, whatever name we ascribe, this gift


we open is salvation. Chill waters spill across my head--a baptism, 

a satin bow. The sea bed shifts. Yes, I say. Enough. Amen.

About the poems:  as shared by the poet

For the past three years, I have spent a few days at the beach between Christmas and New Year's as a sort of mini-writing retreat. I began writing "A Long December" on the long, solo drive to the shore, trying to reconcile the depression I was experiencing at the time with the promises the two holidays proffer. "Harlan" is an exploration of the denial stage of grief --that period when the heart and mind cannot accept that the beloved is not coming home. 

A graduate of the College of William & Mary, Terry Hall Bodine works as housing coordinator at University of Lynchburg. Recent publication credits include Roanoke Review, The Tishman Review, and Typishly. Terry lives with her husband Bill in Virginia. 

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