On Leaving a Family Reunion


Aunt June always starts it:

Tears, stuttering sniffles over

Apologetic grins;

Then my mother, cousin and her daughter

All join in

This choked and salty chorus.

I never have–but am no less loved,

Rather a needed stoic witness,

Marvelling again and again

At this too-rarely-felt mystery:


Defiant of time’s passage and distance apart,

Contained in some otherworldly undercurrent

Of affection.




Based on the painting “Corridor in the Asylum” 1889 by Vincent Van Gogh


by Julie Sumner

If we were in the asylum,

I hope it would be this one–

With sunny colors and repeating arches,

Rays of light even, here and there.

Perhaps inside the rooms

There are large casement windows,

Panes that crank open to sun and sky,

Views of sugar maples and osage orange trees.

As we gaze down at the terra cotta tiles,

Standing on the threshold, you and I

Realize–down that long corridor

Could be our own doors.

Our own space to fall apart,


From supposedly good choices,

From everyone else’s preconceived notions,

From our own quixotic expectations;

Fall into our own

Long-awaited, patient selves,

Into the wide, wide graciousness

Of the merciful unknown.

Flight Path


A bit of an introduction is in order, I believe, for this poem–and yes, I am calling it a poem, because it employs my friend Nita’s definition of poetry: “the best word in the best order.”  Technically, I think this is a prose poem, and hope to be doing more of these from now on.  It was very freeing to do after being locked in to 5-7-5 for so long.

Flight Path

by Julie Sumner

Snowy fog emanates from the still-summer-warm lake.  It is October in Tennessee, trees in the ochre, plum, and coral of a southern fall.  The geese have stopped here-for the whole winter? For just a day? How do they read their instinctive itinerary? Making a great racket, they wing into flight by fours and sixes–forming lines, angles, and ellipses.  Feathers and noise above the water, they circle, form one gentle apex heading further south.  For a long moment, they are silent but for the sound of twenty wings beating, beating, beating, reverberating off the hills, engulfing the lake, echoing my own heart.




by Julie Sumner





Thunder tumbles down

From heaven’s outer limits,

Shaking blind pink worms awake

As they nibble onward through sunless clay.





Thunder circles awkwardly

Around horizon’s wide gray edge,

Jarring afternoon’s syrupy sleep

As it turns sinking still deeper green.





Thunder insistently blares out

Of vast stormcloud speakers,

Trembling giant cumulonimbus

As it showers wet grace on all of us.