Janet McMillan Rives

  Janet enjoys sharing her poems.

Please enjoy the excerpts below from Thread: A Memoir in Woven Poems.


Thread: A Memoir in Woven Poems is available from Finishing Line Publications.

Washed by a Summer Rain: Poems from the Desert: 48 pages,
Amazon or Kelsay Publications

Into this Sea of Green: Poems from the Prairie: 26 pages
Amazon or Finishing Line Publications

First Excerpt from Threads: Snow Day

Icy air seeps under ill-fitted windows
through which I see nothing but white-
no maple tree, no stone wall,
no church steeple, just pure white.

Actually two maple trees graced our yard. The one out front by the road was large, symmetrical, lovely. Depending on the season, it could be loaded with crimson leaves or with little helicopter pods which we'd break open and stick on our noses. The other maple was close to the house by my sister's and my bedroom window. It was for climbing, something I tried to do for years before I succeeded. The stone wall was up the hill next to Route 195. It was the home of my three imaginary friends: Cincy, See Cloud, and Pobby Gellart. Storrs Congregational Church stood across the road from the stone wall. The church was originally built in 1745, and there were headstones out back to prove it. This was our church, a social hub of town as were Saint Thomas Aquinas and Hillel Synagogue just down the road. On a snowy day in February, I could see none of these childhood landmarks.

Bowls of cornflakes sit on our red
Chromecroft dinette table
while Mother stands at the sink,
cigarette and Coke in hand.

Second Excerpt from Threads: In Paris

When I was young
they put me in this city
on these famous streets
among these gigantic monuments.

It certainly wasn't my idea to spend eighth grade in Paris, away from my friends, from my first boyfriend, from the town and school and neighborhood I loved. But I had no vote, so off we went, a family of four, not one of us speaking a single word of French. The night we arrived after seven days crossing the Atlantic and then a long train ride from Le Havre, a taxi took us to the Hotel Regina at Place des Pyramides. There she was, Joan of Arc in bronze, triumphant astride her horse, banner raised high. That was the first Paris monument I saw, one of many I would come to adore. My favorite, always, was the Eiffel Tower, especially seen from below. Next favorite was a small replica of the Statue of Liberty situated on a small island, l'Ile des Cygnes, in the Seine near where I lived during my junior year in college. Another favorite, the steeple of the American Church on Quai d'Orsay might not be considered a monument per se, but I have always loved its welcoming presence.

They put words in my mouth,
words that slipped out
without pain
without difficulty.
My days were normal;
I breathed easily.

It was the wrong Hotel Regina that first night, by the way. The taxi driver eventually delivered us to the Regina de Passy, the correct hotel, more modest lodging on the rue de la Tour. That's where Fritz, the German night clerk who spoke perfect American English thanks to a stint in a POW camp in Pittsburgh, put some French words in my mouth.

Third Excerpt from Threads: Called to Stay

"My field unamplified as the voice of one bird's
in the corn...."
Mona Van Duyn, "Falls"

I would have settled
for the single crop

Corn everywhere. That's all I saw when I first moved to Iowa. Soon I learned Iowa wasn't just full of corn but also soybeans as well as the cattle and pigs that ate feed made from corn and beans.

would have been thrilled
to drive the curvy road
past the Quaker meeting house
past the horse farm

My driving route from Cedar Falls, where I lived, to Ames where I visited a friend, covered part of the east central portion of the state. I experimented with many highways and county blacktops until I found my favorite. That route contained the prettiest spot of all, a curvy road that stretched along a ridge just south of New Providence in Hardin County. The meeting house was a surprise, not the denomination I'd expected to find in rural Iowa. The sign outside the horse farm read "Clampitt." It must be the family of the renowned poet Amy Clampitt, who came from New Providence but lived her adult life in New York City.

Contact: Janet Rives