In Down Spiral so many things seem to merge in ways the rational mind can’t explain. The speaker feels an inner fog, a kind of loosening of identity while her dog hopes she will remember who she is and what they do. Then her friend, a singer, seems to associate song with sight, her eye being where her songs are kept. The speaker too must deal with the nature of vision—not only physical, but inner vision, as all these elements swirl together and land with the catbird who mistook a window for the world. This whole downward spiral is about how we see, what we see, and how we face those limitations. It is interesting that animals enter this poem as well as Millikin’s poem, as if these creatures carry some of the deep knowing we can’t put into words.

Linda Aldrich has published three collections of poetry. The most recent is Ballast (Deerbrook Editions, 2021). She was awarded the 2023 Maine Literary Award in poetry (short works). Linda lives in Portland.

Betsy Sholl, MAJ poetry editor.


Down Spiral


Tightly curled fiddleheads

inside embryonic sacs. Primordial.

Frightening. The winter ice went out quietly


during the night, the lake

an industry of cold waves. I’ve forced myself

to walk here with my dog to dissolve


the fog containing me

too many days now. He stands in the frigid water,



a stick in his mouth,

hoping I will remember who I am and

what it is we do.


A worn-out feeling, the fatigue

of trying. I had a friend named Sarah

with a beautiful voice,


who lost one of her eyes

and stopped singing. Can you tell which one?

I saw that nothing came out


of the painted eye, a trompe l’oeil

that would never open. It was my singing eye

they took, the place I kept my songs.


I didn’t understand. It could have been

worse, the doctor said, leaving a wake

of stitches around my own eye,


bird tracks in the mud of a sinking face.

Caught it early and you look good for your age,

and I want to say


looking good is not as important

as the energy to keep looking, but what

would be the point? I still had my eye,


and I am worse. Arriving home,

my dog nudges a catbird lying on the porch.

She hit the glass hard and huddles, wings


tucked, head trembling. Nothing

to be done. I’m so sorry my window was not

a world you could fly into.



Image at top: Nora Tryon, Flying Blind, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 16 x 20 in., 2022.