J. C. Todd


What an exact moment,
beyond stop watch, clock, daily planner.
Nothing meted out. Pure season,
expression of something immense
that you barely glimpse.

Coiled tight like spirochetes, hundreds
squinched in a bunch, how many bunches
on a bush? On a bank of them? Fragrance
when sun hits not green but not blossom.

Less cloud, longer light, a shift of wind
to south—imagine—detonation
as though bombs have been ticking below notice,
ticking in a rhythm so full of silence
who could count it out?

Each noon buds loosen, scent is more intense,
perfume you long for, whiff of an awakening
so piercing it will disappear as you open to it.
The brain can’t hold such beauty
and keep the body running.
Just before it blows into bloom
you could die of it—lilac.

Cut, it will fade. You’ll say it’s lost
its scent, but that’s been given
to you, and to stay alive,
you’ve had to forget.
How harsh the desire to endure.

From The Damages of Morning
Copyright © J. C. Todd, 2018
Reprinted with permission from Able Muse Press

J. C. Todd’s recent books are Beyond Repair (2021), a special selection for the 2019 Able Muse Press Poetry Book Award, and The Damages of Morning (Moonstone Press 2018), an Eric Hoffer Award finalist. Winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Prize and twice a finalist for Poetry Society of America annual awards, she has received fellowships from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Leeway Foundation, and residency programs. Her poems have appeared in the Baltimore Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Mezzo Cammin, The Night Heron Barks, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, and other journals.

From Lullaby to Requiem, Ona Gritz in Conversation with J. C. Todd