Original Poetry: Sally Thomas

FORMA Review: Now presenting original poetry every week

Each issue of our print magazine features poems from two original poets. But since there is so much good poetry in the world, we also want to begin including original poetry in the FORMA Review. We want to help more poets find larger audiences, and we want to help more readers cultivate the habit of poetry-reading in their lives. We want to do our part, you might say. So to that end, consider this the first in a weekly series.

We actually published these first two poems in our Spring 2019 issue, but they deserve a wider audience. Sally Thomas is a poet from North Carolina whose book, Motherland, was a finalist for the Able Muse Book Award, and is forthcoming from Able Muse Press in 2019.

In this first poem, she writes about one of her recurring characters, a Hermit. It’s an ideal poem for these cooler days.


This frosty morning, he heats creek water and pours
Loud bucketfuls into his big tin bath.
In the window’s cold white light, the whiter steam
Rises and curls in figures that palely gleam,
Riders appearing along an airy path.
The hoofbeats of each faint approaching horse
Thunder silently. Sighing, then, he lowers
Himself into the bath. His own warm breath
Joins the riders passing like a dream
Above him, vanishing. These righteous seem
To turn in their saddles, beckon. Is this death?
His heart’s loud hoofbeats sound. Once more the hour’s
An hour of life. Outside, the silver day
Still shines for him. The spirits ride away.

“The Hermit Observes All Saints Day” was originally published in FORMA with a formatting error. It has been corrected here.

Vermeer, 1671

One writes, eyes downcast. The other smiles
At the intricate, bright window. The silver inkwell’s

A gleam at the lady’s elbow, her feather pen
A drift of sun, her sleeve a shadow on

Her shoulder, folded with daylight. Daylight also
Swells the curtain, brightens the brown torso

Of the maid who hugs herself as if she thought
No one saw. No one does see her, not

Anyone who matters. She isn’t pretty,
As women in our time might measure beauty.

The leaded pane’s not blank to her, but filled
With things to see, a tangible, known world

That speaks her unknown name, calls forth her smile.
The lady, writing, does not mark this small

Disloyalty, if you can call it that.
Her maid’s no more disloyal than a cat

Whose gaze locks on a goldfinch as it flashes
Among the tumbled roses. Perhaps that’s what she’s

Seeing, a moment’s movement, to light her eyes
That way. Or perhaps it’s the surprise

Of being seen, from outside -- someone passes
And is pleased by what is captured in his glance’s

Quick snare: a rose-cheeked girl, her brown head bare.
Now capped in light, the good wife’s hidden hair

Can shine, these days, when certain doors are shut.
On this secret theme, she has sat down to write.

The maid smiles, knowing. Her sunlit eyes say, Wait.

Sally Thomas is a poet and fiction writer. Over the past two decades, her writing has appeared in First Things, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Southern Poetry Review, The Sonora Review, Dappled Things, The Lost Country, Windhover, Plough Quarterly, and many other journals in the U.S. and U.K. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Fallen Water (2015)and Richeldis of Walsingham (2016), both from Finishing Line Press. Her full-length poetry book, Motherland, was a finalist for the Able Muse Book Award, and is forthcoming from Able Muse Press in 2019. Her poems have been anthologized in What There Is:  The Crossroads Anthology (ed. Heather Hirschi, Crossroads, 1996), New Voices:  University and College Poetry Prizes, Fourth Edition, 1989-1998 (ed. Heather McHugh, Academy of American Poets, 2002), and Grace Notes: Poetry From the Pages of First Things (ed. Paul Lake and Losana Boyd, First Things, 2010). She lives with her family in North Carolina.

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