Nancy Kenney Connolly died on August 18, 2020 at her home in
Chapel Hill, North Carolina (USA). Born into the Great Depression
in 1929, Nancy grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Graduating
from Swarthmore College, she was a Fulbright Scholar to India.
She earned a Ph.D. from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
in 1956. That year in India was a defining experience of her life, as
she fell in love with the culture and with the father of her children.
Her books include The Color of Dust, 33 Shades of Green, I Take
This World
, Second Wind, and In These Latitudes.

How It Happens

You roll out of bed, rub
the sleep from your eyes, you
pee, you glance in the mirror,

God is shaving there,
He sees you, He nicks
himself, He bleeds.

Now do you understand?

Village Girl

in memory of Amma

Unschooled, though upper caste, you were sixteen,
two torrid days in labor, still no first-
born son, the sky so black fortissimo
so wracked with karmic agony, they stretched
you on a bullock cart and lurched you past
the Shiva temple—now you bloom unveiling tales!
Your hennaed hands unfold like showy petals,
the cupboard keys forgotten at your side,
as laughter lifts the jasmine-laden air.
You cried when told your son would marry me.

Your husband, on the other hand, had two
degrees. He saw a future in pounds sterling,
not rupees. Saw you a banker's wife
so built a pink terrazzo'd bungalow
and played Pygmalion there: an English tutor,
a cosmopolitan veneer. Then from
the bougainvillea-vined veranda, sent
abroad your third-born son, who broke your heart
that blue flat day, returning with a foreign
wife. The day the sun struck yellow minor chords.

Somehow with my first-born I while away
two months with you, who let me pick and choose
what customs I would use. For me you roll
chapatis every meal though for the rest
you just boil rice. Beyond the veil of Maya
are we one? When you transcend a creed
devoutly vegetarian and offer me
your kitchen to cook flesh, I sense
a mother lode below the surface veins,
and so, pink pianissimo, I give you, no.

Athenian Shadow Over the Potomac

It is the gods' custom to bring low
all things of surpassing greatness.

A man of stature,
a crag above all others,
must have raised a fist against
those turquoise tides surging the Aegean coast—
behind his laureled brow still focusing
on proportioned columns, measured discourse,
the leafy days when civic virtues
walked the streets in sandals, when Socrates
reveled less in scripture
than questioning—
until something reptilian stirred the greedy seas to crush
like clamshells on the beach
that splendid interlude in Earth's spin,
that city upon a hill
where once had prospered the unfettered mind.

We Need the Stars To Withstand the Suffering

What times are these
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice.
—Bertold Brecht

And what are trees, Bertold,
but power exercised: their sun-greed
sucks the smaller saplings dry
and leaves the rose bush gasping.

Since the beginning, the gold coin
of this cosmos has been violence—
equity but paper money,
often laundered, seldom clean. And yet, Bertold,

the greedy trees stand tall, offering
a careless generosity of shade
to half-eaten corpses.
Listen to the music of their leaves
as they drum the wild wind's saraband.
How sweet, the tartness of their harvest.
Gaze long enough at them
and calm takes root, then courage flowers.
This is the second wind.

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