National Poetry Month 2011
This April has had its fair share of shoures soote in upstate New York. Thank you, Mr. Chaucer, for helping to turn us all in the direction of springtime and to the sense of renewal and personal expression. Our journey through the year has brought us around again to National Poetry Month, a time filled with more poetry presentations than usual, opportunities to read and share poems, and to consider the role of poetry (and by extension, all the arts) in our civic life. It’s become a tradition on OFF THE PAGE to invite poets to participate in the broadcast during April — and it does feel satisfying to establish a tradition. Once again, we have a delegation of established, published poets in the studio and lots of skilled, aspiring, creative poets in the listening audience who are invited to send us their work to be read on the air.
Speaking their poems and responding to listeners’ queries:
Gail Holst-Warhaft is a woman of international standing and many talents. A native of Australia, she holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Cornell University, where she is now the director of the Mediterranean Initiative in the university’s Institute for European Studies. She is also an adjunct professor of classics and comparative literature. Gail lived in Greece for many years and wrote the English translation of the works of poet and composer Mikis Theodorakis. Her 2007 volume of poems, “Penelope’s Confession”, appeared in a bi-lingual edition. Dr. Holst-Warhaft is also a musician and presently holds the title of Poet Laureate of Tompkins County.
Winter returns like Agamemnon,
fires on the hills heralding its coming.
Spring startles like Orestes,
its offerings placed on the dark earth,
locks of green hair on a grave,
a chorus of birds muttering doubts.
Susannah W. Simpson’s work has been published in many prestigious journals, including Phantasmagoria, Minnetonka Review, Nimrod International and The North American Review. Her first book of poems, “Geography of Love & Exile” has just been accepted for publication by Cervena Barva Press. Susannah spent much of her childhood in Afghanistan and has been working to advance the Afghan Women Writers Project. She co-founded the New Mexico Poetry Alliance and the Long Island chapter of Poets for Peace and is a member of the American Academy of Poets (sponsor of National Poetry Month) and the National Association of Poetry Therapy. A Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at Binghamton University, Susannah’s newest work is “EJ’s Johnson City: The People and Welfare Capitalism”, a collection of her poems and photographs that takes us into the lives and minds of people who live and have lived in that moody and moldering town.
My dad Sal came home after the war.
He didn’t say much about it,
but sometimes after a glass of two
of his homemade red, he would talk
about the French farmer who hid him,
talk about eating wind fall apples
and wild grapes and how he made
his way to Marseilles.
Some nights he would sit in the basement
next to the wine press, and tears would run
down his face. Our mother never asks,
she just wipes her hands on her apron
and keeps cooking.
Gail Holst-Warhaft and Susannah Simpson join Bill Jaker on OFF THE PAGE to share their poetry, the experiences that went into their poetry and their views of the poetry scene today. Theirs will not be the only poems on the program, because (another tradition) we invite listeners to send in poems they’ve written to OffThePage@WSKG.ORG. Poems should be somewhat short (no more than two minutes when read aloud) and should be in the body of the message, not an attachment. Bill will read as many as he can on the air and all of the poems received will be posted on our website.
SUBJECT TO CHANGE
The icy footprints marking the yard
grow large and disappear
mounds of snow shrink in cold rain
what is left behind lingers
and the things we keep coming back to
St. Francis emerges with the first green
on the lawn March evening’s wet snow gone
by afternoon as breezes shift south
maple sap rises
pushing gray branches into life
morning phoebe returns
the sun heads north
we turn the clocks ahead
and come full circle
When the days warm and the nights still cold
we’d go to the sugarbush
in the hollow down the hill
and run the metal buckets back
through the snow and mud
dump them in the seemingly towering tank
on top of the heavy wooden sled
pulled by a pair of old draft horses
icy water filling our boots sodden
we didn’t mind
we’d warm up in the sap house
smells of sweet steam and wood fire
boiling hot dogs
in one of the rows of evaporating pans
eating the thick syrup on the snow
a lifetime ago it seems
when there was white smoke
in the dark gray woods each spring
and the mark of heavy horseshoes
in the undisturbed snow
the unused dirt road
Time is only what we get done
spring becomes midsummer
then July halfway to August
what we get done
before going to grief swallows us
who knows when
morning phoebe calls
average temperature up
almost three degrees for the year
how we follow the clouds the thermoclines
the bleary lines the maps of dreams
the directions we dream our lives into
crowded with daylight and ghosts
only what we get done
till our time runs out
When I Am Gone
When I am gone,
I want the doors to my house
the walls knocked out,
carpets removed, and
the cow fence reconfigured
to include my house.
When I am gone:
to my cows
I leave everything.
I want them to lumber in,
rub their slimy cow snot
on the wallpaper. I want them
to itch their cow faces
on the ivory keys of my piano
and compose crazy cow tunes,
while their other end
splatters aroma. I want them
to dance on my porch, and look
through the big windows and make
faces at each other.
I want them to eat and trample
and flatten my garden.
And when they’re done, I want
the cows to burp
their milky breaths in satisfaction,
lie down, chew their cuds and
drift off to sleep.
September 11, 2002
everything but one
lodged between cold slabs of stone
I can’t move and it’s hard to breathe.
one is what’s already been done
the other is what’s yet to be.
everything comes down in time –
everything but one.
in the bleak morning sketches
of the dawn’s rising sun,
every bell has been silenced,
every bird is without song,
every shadow has no light,
every word’s muted sound,
and it all comes down in time-
everything but one.
it all comes down-
down to a thin gold line.
just as a match burns
until its flame expires,
the sun burns up the horizon
until the ash is without fire.
it all comes down in time
down to everything but one.
warmed by the sun’s embers,
just beyond the horizon,
strands of stained lavender clouds
drift with whispering winds.
among blunted branches
atop a barren pine tree,
a crescent moon lays cradled
in a blanket of haze fast asleep.
the moon like cupped hands
holds orphaned stars of the night.
once lost and abandoned
in the depths of the black ice.
so many there are
from so many years
and so many fallen
from clouded eyes so dear.
from van Gogh’s palette
of orange blended yellows,
a leaf lost is borne
to where restless winds may blow.
it doesn’t know
to where it’s bound,
only that it must go.
it knows not how far or near
or even if I’ll be found,
and I’m not certain
I’ll make it there
but like a leaf lost in autumn
I’ll fall silently to the ground
Taughannock Falls, New Year’s Day
Your calling me
to this tall setting.
shout to shout
sphere your exhalation,
soft your fume
distant birdflights tousled,
white wheeling doves.
your thousands singing
For us the frantic
hushed the hallelu
on the body
of a god.
Take your rightful tears
in grace, the sinking rain
the crumbling wall.
at your life,
dim the depth columnar
down your nave
below the massed
and quiet knees
unto the waiting
to the bending
to the benedight
who stare receiving
in my midwinter
you that are.
After disturbing sleep I stumble downstairs.
I fumble for a poem and coffee.
Kipling or Cummings, I don’t care.
And all before conference call.
They’ll have their lines
I have mine
She’ll have her lines
I have mine.
I have my lines; my newspaper thuds.
“It is difficult to get the news from poems…”*
“Why Hello, I’m Jello.
Shall we begin lightly today?”
*William Carlos Williams, Asphodel, that greeny flower
Like Finding the Right Horse
Like moon through incipient mist
There is loosening, tightening,
Loosening in your eyes,
Our sounds, my body.
I never doubt your spirit.
Like two old lovers abed
Loosening, tightening, loosening
You stretch and turn and roll
I stretch and hum and sigh
I never lose your presence.
Isn’t it wonderful we have nothing
To leave for last?
It reminds me of Yeats:
“Time’s bitter flood will rise
Your beauty perish and be lost
to all eyes but these eyes.”
The marsh rings
Insects abound, droning
their one-note songs.
Poisonous sumac trees
rear protectively above
these tiny lives.
Outside the marsh
sound harsh groans.
The bulldozers awake
under human hands
and joltingly move
huddled safely in the dirt
like field mice.
We’re under the sun
bending to pull the crabgrass
along the rows
of green beans.
I feel the earth
It shifts beneath my palms
leaving the imprint of each blade of grass.
Blade of grass – She grew up out of this-
Like me, a slender weed
Eager to grow tall
The mailman’s tires kick up dust
His passage rumbles across
the rock shelf
It’s 3 p.m.
We move to the tomato plants
Soft skins warm
From the sun.
Under this sun we grow
which I will eat
all with the taste
clinging to my molars
why they call it
We finish weeding
and walk slowly home.
Under my fingernails
burrow their way into my bloodstream:
endless mountain’s dirt.
I extend my hand to the world for help and the world responds…
My love lives on Page Street –
in robes as dark as kelp still wet from the sea.
“Does it hurt?” I nod to the cut on his shaved-smooth head
and he guides my hand through
the collar of his robe.
Here, his hair feels like silk.
“What do you think?” he says and
when I kiss him I receive
the taste of
salted plums in honey.
My love lives on Page Street
in the shape of a bell
I strike in the evening, once, twice,
as the world gathers
in robes of black and green
filling the Buddha Hall above me.
I feel the rhythm of his
steps against the cadence of the bell
and I pause
“in perfect oneness”
with the bell
I stand before-
At the signal, I give
the final strike:
Once, twice, and-the echoing waves carry
me, too-up the stairs to the Buddha Hall
where I pause,
for the silence within
the bell’s resonant end-
noting the taste of iron.
My love lives on Page Street –
really. No, he says, just right,
and I agree-
the tatami mats an open field
in all directions,
no matter where we place our cushions.
My love lives on Page Street
in the shape of a cup
I keep empty-
Fresh water-hot water-flows through
leaves of green tea-
the scent of cherries.
My love lives on Page Street
in the shape of a key,
resting in the pocket of my bell-shaped sleeves.
In the evening, I take the back stairs
to his room-
two at a time,
in robes of moss and
“Lovely,” he says, “made of
In the morning we walk-
in silence, in kinhin,
one behind the other-
only our robes murmur,
only our robes sway.
My love lives on Page Street
in the shape of a bell,
a cup, a key-
“Does it hurt?” He nods to the cut on my shaved-smooth head
and I guide his hand through
the collar of my robe.
Here, my skin feels like silk. Here
we kiss and receive
the taste of cherries, salt and fresh green tea.
I love to go out at night
When there is no more sunlight
When the wild dogs howl
And the birds don’t sing
And the trees are still
And all you can see is the dark night sky
When the lights are all off and the moon shows the way
And you lay down still in a pile of leaves
And look at the stars until the sun has risen
And the morning birds sing
Good Friday reprieve–
The enemy takes a break…
Wall Street closed today.
Though speaks not like Elmer Fudd…
Made money today!
Twenty-three beer cans from ditch–
One dollar fifteen.
If rising tides lift all boats…
Why has my boat sunk?
Captain of the ship
Chopping holes in the lifeboats–
Time for mutiny.
Banksters! Banksters! everywhere!
They’re in your pocket! They’re in your hair!
They’ll steal your house! They’ll steal your car!
Where are the feathers? Where is the tar?
The run begins tonight as the snow begins
Fairy dust, confetti, glitter
The world is mine alone on nights like these
My secret cold treasure
No one knows the salted paths
The shape of God’s face in the shattering sky
There is the moon
Like a bright, porcelain saucer
In the darkness of the early morning sky
And white stars– sending off sparks of light like
just polished silverware in the chandelier’s glow
From the big moon saucer I will lift up my cup
And drink in the darkness of outer space
With my glittering star fork
I will play with the planets
And hide them in my napkin
To savor their secrets still light years away
Running is my Church
In autumn my cathedral has stained glass windows
God has been busy with his palette of oak, ash and sassafras
‘Have faith’ he tells them
And they slowly sacrifice their solemn beauty
My alter is crowded with curling, crumbling leaves
Swirling.. wondering.. whispering..
Do you believe?
Black branches bend, to be baptized with the rain
A tender veil of mist anointing holy water ponds
Murmuring, muffled voices
I move on
The priest has passed here too
Swinging his censer of wood smoke and sweet decay
I bow my head, breathe in deep
Filled with wonder on this day
I leave the sacristy now
The sacred vessels
The scaring bells
I go in peace
Full Wolf Moon
You woke me up
Sliding through the window like you did
Casting dancing trees upon dark walls
Pretending to be some kind of night time sun
I had no choice being pulled to the window as I was
You must have wanted me to see your big round face and all those stars
The drifting snow and disappearing hoof prints
The emptiness and silence
And now, you expect me to sleep
Or is it dream?
AFTER ONE-TOO-MANY POETRY READINGS
There we were locked in
for not sitting close to door and escape,
listening quietly, too politely,
to someone confusing obfuscation with profundity
(only the espresso machine hissed its judgment).
Years ago Reagan’s manager electronically isolated
which phrases a wired focus group responded to,
positively or negatively.
Let’s require wannabe poets to gauge audience responses,
indicating “quit” or “continue your craft,”
Or reinstitute a version of the Gong Show
to abruptly end the audience’s agony
and abort a career–
before too much paper and patience
Responding to the charge that too many teachers
discourage students’ “creative” efforts,
Flannery O’Connor retorted:
Everyone has a right to their opinion–
but not an obligation
to inflict them on others.
Turkeys on the Hill
The turkeys skimmed across
Above the trees along the road-
Like pointed number signs.
I was happy to see them,
They confirmed my vision of a week or more
In the blue snow one morning
When I struggled to get ready to go
That black anvil poised
At the top of the hill next to the house
Pointed down between the trees and shrubs
I ran yelling through the house
For my husband
“turkeys, turkeys on the hill”
But they were gone
Before he could see them.
She would have been tall,
Pale olive skin, black hair,
Perplexingly blue eyes.
Proud haughty gait,
Alight with confidence.
Most men would shy to take her on;
To take to bed, or talk instead,
For fear lay bare their masculine,
Or intellectual inadequacies.
She, was a love child,
Fruits of an ambition.
Bereft of biological acquisition.
An enigma that could have been.
But now exists, not in some,
Tangible and feeling flesh
But in a dream.
What could have been?
What could have been?
At the stream,
we have “wet days” and “dry days”:
today is to be a “wet day”.
We splash our feet into the water
and shine our faces to the sun,
reveling in the glory of our naked skin.
It is too early for the creatures
that scuttle and snip,
that pierce the skin and suck the blood.
In April, the only bite
is in the water,
its icy piercing cold.
We are giddy with adventure,
we are drunk with freshness.
We are Celtic priests,
basking in the glory
both of the Father
and of His radiant Sun.
We are the life of this stream,
we are vibrant, full of ourselves,
We are young.
The peepers usher in the Spring
with full shrieking throats
and tiny one track minds
Heralding the changing season
as if their lives depend on it
and they do.
These miniscule sexed up amphibians
may or may not have more earnest sincerity
in their piercing notes
than the Hosannas of the crowds
but they most definitely have a better idea
of what they’re waiting for
and they know it with a surety
that mocks the heady arguments
They say the broken places
I’ll buy that.
There is a hard knob in my right hand
smashed against a wall in youthful anger
which attests to this.
They also say leaving wounds alone
will best let them heal,
and this is also true
as my skin is unmarked
by all but my most disastrous misadventures
(skateboard crash, ice tubing ATV mishap).
What they don’t mention
whatever the reason
(but it’s true)
when you get enough scars
it can be hard
to feel a pulse.
No matter how old I get
I will always be turned on
by Flamenco dancing.
When I am ninety
and The Price Is Right
is interrupted by the Tourism Board of Spain,
when a woman with caramel colored skin
throws one hand in the air
hikes her skirt with the other
pounding rhythm pounding rhythm
pounding pounding pounding rhythm
into the resonant wooden floor,
my nurse will notice my flushed face
and shortness of breath
and check her watch
to see if it’s time for my medicine.
No, it’s time to get out of this damn chair
and finally go
so that I can die to the sound of guitars
and pounding rhythm pounding rhythm
pounding pounding pounding rhythm.
And if reincarnation is an option,
I will come back as the dance floor,
feet pounding pounding pounding rhythm
as my eternal pulse.
And if not,
then I will go find Chopin
and tell him where to stick his Funeral March.
I am reminded of my grandfather’s farm
dusty stacks of old berry containers.
Emptied of juicy succulence,
then stacked and kept
rows of leaning towers
What the hell was he keeping them for?
Taking up the space
Maybe prompting memories
of summers past and juicy tartness
but there is no explosive sweetness of blueberry,
no smacking tang of blackberry,
just stacks on stacks of dust and emptiness.
I look again to the wedding photo on the wall,
take it down and put it in a drawer.
I am much more likely
to give a bottle of water
to a homeless person
than to debate the nature
of a Triune God,
far more inclined
to muck out your flooded basement
than to convict you of your sins
like the friends of Job.
The best thing those guys did
was to sit with him
in the ashes
for seven days
and keep their mouths shut
because they saw how great his suffering was.
And if God had only then
sealed their lips forever
they could have been forever wise.
Jane L. Doyle
Dry leaves blow through the Carousel
Past sightless peeling eyes
Of ponies stuck on lifeless poles
Of the bird that never flies
On broken mirrors reflected
Are scenes of days gone bye
When music from the calliope rang
So too, the barkers cry
When up and down the ponies pranced
The bird flew up and down
And up and down the children went
As well as round and round
Years have come and gone since then
As peeling paint will tell
In eddies spin the wind blown leaves
But not the Carousel
c 10/2/10 by Terry Berkson
Went to a mountain party
Everyone was there
Tiger, Rootie, Bird and Ludie
And Monte came by air
Had two pigs a cookin
In an oven made of wood
Salt taters, corn and pickeled beans
Boy, it all smelt good
He said, “I can’t take it with me
My million-dollar view
So, I’ll share these clouds with the whole damn crowd
Until my life is through”
Two weeks they were groomin
All the fields were mowed
Cattails down and Spirits up
On everyone I know
High up on the mountain
Takin in the view
Pitchin shoes and tossin eggs
And sippin Buddies’s brew
“And with my friends I share these memories
Forget these times I never will
They’ll all come back when winter’s over
To my place on Angel Hill”
Went to a cabin party
Usual crowd was there
Buster, Pam and popeyed Sam
Whose music filled the air
Couples were out dancin
Passin squash to Cathy’s call
Countin rope or pitchin tents
Or doin nothin at all
“No, I can’t take it with me
My million dollar view
So, I’ll share these clouds with the whole damn crowd
Until my life is through
The Great Blue Heron
The Great Blue Heron sprints over the Betsie River like a rocket: suddenly, the world pauses, and so does the heron. All is quiet and mysterious. The heron stands still on the edge of the riverside. His question-mark neck moves languidly, to the right, to the left; slowly he bobs his head into the water. One scrawny leg is lifted, then lowered. His silent, secretive prey seem to elude him as a sear branch floats down from a withered tree limb: This sharp motion cracks in the air sedately, but this enough to disturb the heron. Fleeing, the Great Blue Heron rises with awkward grace and some aloofness, lifts himself into the air and soars into the cool, blue and cloudless sky.
Lisa de Cunha-Koski
usually black with some gray boards,
like gray haired men.
Window panes are lost, long ago.
There’s some hay, nearly dust.
A barn swallow’s nest of mud,
lined with feathers.
The cattle are gone, milk house remains.
This barn beaten by all kinds of weather-
Rains, wind, blowing snow.
Rough hewn beams compose a skeleton strong.
Can you last? For long?
Will your stone foundation
become a gravestone without a name?
Barn, can you remain?
John B. Eidenier
If you don’t know
what to do
throw it in
turn the burner
wait, wait, and wait.
A kind of lesson
like the stewing pot
life slowly releases
as it simmers
a kind of listlessness
Not much effort required
hard work not needed
for life to nourish
to those who allow
All the way down Main
this morning, toward the store
for a paper and apples,
every light was red.
Let me be forgiven
for running them all
just to watch the lone crow
that flew in front of me
for ten blocks.
And the fingers of its wings
never moved, just lay splayed
out to shape the wind that blew
us east beside the low river
that is already beginning to stink.
For surety of the black beak
I have forsaken the stop signs
and trees half-wrapped in tinsel
shivering back to last Christmas,
I have renounced the used-car lots
where the same nine trucks have sat,
for as long as I can remember,
getting cheaper every year.
And I think I’m learning
how to be sorry, old town,
for every crack I’ve made
about those trucks and rust,
for the crumbs of pity I heap
on your broke-down rent-to-own
and dollar stores, and especially
for the splash of laughter
in your bars and Sunday-morning
puddles someone left there
the night before
in a little circle of themselves
returning to these streets.
Streets, forgive me and hold me
as the wind holds the crow
whose feet hide folded,
whose beak leads east,
whose wings do not flap
when the morning dapple
of light at every corner
runs over its dark
Give me the pure altars
to the slow satiation of June
that feed the sky with white smoke
I know from blocks away
by smell alone,
the way I know the smell
of my parents’ house
that used to be my house,
but isn’t anymore.
Cinderblock and chain-link
parking lot grills appear
sometime in the night
and stand ready
to offer that half-bird
on paper plates
on ramshackle tables
dragged out of basements
Eat and be thankful
for eating your fill.
Listen to the holy sermon
of fat drip and sizzle,
bend down and breathe
from the censer of breast and thigh.
Fill me, lift me,
take me home,
where I will gladly pray.
The Inheritance of the Farmer’s Grown Son
Here is hot, deepest July,
when everything can bend in supple joy.
Here is the cattail and the elm in the sun;
the tall dill and corn my father’s hands dug
into the earth, all now rooted strong as rope knots.
The loam then pebble then clay
gave way beneath his nails in spring,
when the blade of a clear night’s frost
still lurked at the cloche-edge until noon.
Here is the blackness of soil rich in rows.
That was months ago.
Now my father rises from the cool nimbus
of elm shade blooming in the late
late-afternoon only when he must.
Already riddled with the plague of age,
he carries marbles of ache in every joint
and must work hard
to catch a bat trapped in the house
or twiddle a game from the radio dial.
Still-and this is what I will take with me-
his hands are quick to pull up their old tangle
of roots and point over the roiling tops of trees
gone purple in the sun’s last light, to say:
There, the stars!
The stars; and, look: the moon!
The poison lives only in the leaves,
thick with instant bitterness to warn you,
and my Polish grandmother said
this was to kill off the lazy ones, the stupid ones,
the ones who wanted things handed to them,
who couldn’t find it in themselves to dig.
And planting it told everyone
you didn’t mind dirt under your nails,
that you knew life was hard work if you did it right.
So she grew more than the whole family could eat.
By May, her narrow terraced backyard
in the city’s First Ward was a lapping sea
of palm-sized leaves; by June, a solid ruff of green,
a pruning knife’s hooked blade biting
through the stalks with a flick of her wrist
and a quick snap.
The one time I tried this I sliced deep
into my thumb knuckle at first swipe.
We were both red inside,
me, the rhubarb.
That’s the stuff I didn’t really think about at ten,
how everything bleeds;
how everything must die somehow-
the stupid ones poisoned, the hard workers
heart-worn and wrecked.
We ate the rhubarb raw, stripped of all its leaves.
Dipped in sugar it still lingered
bitter on our tongues as a little inoculation
against the worst of what was yet to come.
Michael J. Kelly
New Jersey No Julia Pine Barren Blues
Light Emitting Diode
lit psuedo cedar sauna
Under a perfect pedicurial, mercurial moon
Lunar Emersion Dusk
My toes will never know the perfection of these land baron free pine barrens.
–Wishing you were here in the wet lands of New Jersey
Horace B. King
LATER, LAZARUS DIED
What kind of favor brought him into life,
Back from that cold security of clay
Which severed him from care? A cutting knife
Of fate had ended troubles of his day–
No more of taxes, barking dogs or cry
Of children. None of occupation troops
Would longer shade his door; or hungry try
His larder, raid the poultry from his coops.
Now comfortably dead, he heard dismayed
The Lordly voice which called him from his rest
To loyally come back into the pain
Thought to be overcome and passed. Once laid
In earth is no escape from living’s test:
The friends of God are called to die again.
Who was it who said stuff expands to fit the space?
Oh, yes, it was the late comedian, George Carlin.
Well, Mr. Carlin, I don’t see humor in it anymore.
We are surrounded by stuff
Stuff is in the hallway
Stuff is stacked in the spare bedroom
Stuff fills our basement
Stuff fills the garage.
Where did all this stuff come from?
When did all this stuff appear?
What to do with all this stuff, is my eternal question.
Much is filled with memories of children, parents and grandparents.
Much is filled with memories of young love and mature love.
If I get rid of the stuff, am I doing away with the memories, also.
Qadira P. Garger
I call to mind the day it did occur
It was as if a war had been declared
I heard it on the radio downtown
The workers faced a meltdown of the core
It was an open deadly spewing sore
And radiation travelled Europe’s zones
Attaining even Sweden, in pursuit
Of living flesh to lodge in, living bones
And after it had melted, folk were told
And did evacuate, but all too late
To halt the horde of cancer-cases, da
Their pets were left behind, their farms and fields
Resembled little villages of ghosts
As workers struggled, capping with cement
The core, where radiation spewed to sky
And other towns became the living hosts
Of refugees from Planet’s open wound
Ten thousand years and more, that hole shall spit
Its deadly radiation over land
And see and air and hearts, of human kids.
(c)2010 Qadira P. Garger
Stanley Colas, SR.
Fresh open spaces with flowers can be intoxicating
like drinking port wine on a sunny afternoon
Don’t wait for the world to celebrate you
find time to celebrate yourself
Your body and mind are your sacred garments
nurture them well
If your body doesn’t work well
neither will anything else
A comfort of self is what everyone needs
both inside as well as outside
Gardening can be an
expression of yourself
Floral colors and fragrances
release a seduction for self and others
When we connect with the EARTH
we find comforts in each other
Reading of poetry changes lives
so does writing them
As we work in our garden of life
our soul becomes visible
Come join me in this
Ritual of Rejuvenation
The Big Bang
Why do I turn like a Michelangelo figure
with a camera in hand flashing radio beams
into dreams through the shutters of my mind?
While you, in all your attire forge ahead like a
Ghengis Khan, nipping in the bud the ground swells
of each new horizon, oblivious to the sky light
which bathes our fondest dreams.
The Kitchen Garden
There is a wall of sorts between the kitchen and the garden
At its base a gnarled Serbian Spruce makes its way
between Etruscan stones, its tip pointing at the inscribed lintel
that sets above the door of the wall, an index to what lies beyond:
Sheaves of Green: the carcass of a bird waylaid by the claws of a cat:
A serpentine hoard of seekers stretching toward a cosmic field.
But for now, our interest is focused above the lintel over the open door,
upon which sets a scuptured stone dove with a skin of blue algae
and a drop of April rain on its beak.
The sun’s warmth lifts the fresh scent of
Hyacinths, Tulips and Narcissus,
the Crowns of the kitchen garden.
Borne on the breezes of spring,
Intoxicates me with pleasure!
How my fingers delight
In caressing your delicate blossoms
Hanging like golden beads.
I am overcome with ecstasy
Mixed with a twinge of sadness
Because your fragile beauty
Will fade all too quickly.
Soon you will be
A meer memory.
Therefore, I want to remain
In this sweet universe.
That will never be repeated,
I want to make it last
As long as I can.
Wendy Roe Hovey
So many shades of green
My emerald heart sings;
My tears taste of mint.
What I Needed
88: two infinity symbols;
two hourglasses: mother/daughter.
Turn an hourglass on its head: start over.
Let me start over:
You’re 88: I’m proud of you.
Can I help you feel better?
You feel you have no purpose?
Did you know that lately,
my poetry lacks purpose?
Sometimes it’s best
to let the purpose find itself.
What can I do for you?
Colors of the brain knead into gray,
like clay: they say the brain reconfigures.
On the one side, I can be irrepressibly-
I almost said irresponsibly-creative.
On the other side, tending to practical matters
sometimes seems more loving.
I persist, What can I do
to cheer you up?
You surprise me with:
Write a poem.
a poem in the spirit of those I am listening too
Hi — a poem to try —
A house is not a living thing
But with no protest to destruction
Gives of itself gracefully:
No gushing forth-its water was turned off long ago.
And that young tree too,
Not quite through winter to freshened spring,
Seemed lifeless and was crushed.
How similarly we – bright Spring arrival lying dormant now being pruned to perfection
Not letting it get too big
Bid it farewell and let it go —
Bark is harmed a bit but the roots remain
Don’t let it go yet or cut it all down
Hardy yellow weed they say
Don’t let it get too wild but rather more refined and shaped
Don’t disregard what they call a weed – we
Stand it straight, jump on it and level it out
But don’t fall off the bank doin it…
Don’t forsake me but do me like the tree-weed
Father Burbank might say it’s true of us
For I am Cynthia.
I could have shot him; but I didn’t.
He had eaten the carrot tops and started on the lettuce,
And I wondered at this audacity.
I asked, “Why don’t you just shoot him.” But I didn’t.
The grass was warm, sun shining on the garden,
Weeds not cleaned away, tomatoes unpicked,
Radishes not thinned, cucumbers turning yellow.
Spring thoughts were well-meaning, but time got away.
Of course, these weren’t the only tasks untended.
A lifetime of “I’ll to it tomorrows”
Trail back through memory,
Things undone, unseen to.
And remorseful things, too:
Unsaid words that mean much,
Unwiped tears that might have helped,
Children asking, “Dad home yet?”
So the woodchuck lives, eats more carrot tops,
And I watch the thievery without anger.
After all, why should I be angry?
He’s doing his job.
I think of Moses, who couldn’t see God’s face,
when I hear the rush of birds
in early morning.
That Time Of Year
Booms the fat, festive bastard.
Children scream and giggle,
squealing with delight
as a thousand fake icicles twinkle merrily.
They are rambling rodents,
scattering, teeth chattering!
Their brains are tainted, intoxicated
with delectable wonders.
Gentle hot chocolate washes the
bitter cold from their throats.
Cool, tingling peppermint
sends chilling excitement across their tongues.
Sharp gingerbread men titter merrily
while their limbs are snapped off
by tiny, white teeth.
I can almost hear their screams.
This world is frosted with happiness,
frosted with death.
How the dejected and neglected freeze
and never thaw.
Their eyes are glazed with
diamond ice shards.
The sinister black-blue of their unmoving skin
snakes up your spine, but you walk on.
Sip your warmth and joy.
Rejoice in the fat man.
He never gives presents to the homeless.
They don’t even find a lump of coal.
Nana’s Yellow Ware Bowl
The sustenance of life
watchfully blended, stirred.
Her love folded in for us.
I think of her.
My hands caress Nana’s
yellow ware bowl.
Baltimore, the Inner Harbor.
It’s the heart of Spring, not
yet the brutal heat and humidity
that summer will bring.
Bright sunshine, occasional clouds.
My daughter and I enjoying our walk.
A panhandler’s approaching, the
loud, funny, self professed
“Yeah, I’m a bum!” variety.
We walk on past the Constellation,
the Water Taxis, the restaurants.
We sit by the promenade to rest.
I vaguely see her peripherally,
homing in on us, father and daughter,
a safe bet for a touch. She approaches,
appears unremarkable until she gets closer.
The clothes are a little shabbier, her hair
a bit unkempt, her teeth a little more
in poor repair than from a distance.
“Do you think you could spare a dollar?”
comes with a weak smile. Reflexively
it comes to me, the flat “No.”, the
bum’s rush glare-and-look-away.
That’s when it happened. Like a cloud
obscuring the light, like a curtain coming
down. The effort filled smile dissolved
into a mask of shame. I could see life
flash before her. Wondering how it
brought her to this, begging for a pittance
from two nice people, on a beautiful day.
Richard Maurice Butler
UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKIES OF THE NORTHERN SUN
RAINDROPS FALL UPON SHARPENED BLADES OF GRASS
SPLINTERING SMILES THAT TURN TO LAUGHTER
WE KNOW NOT DIRECTIONS
YOURS IS THE WIND MINE IS THE SEA
WIND SWEPT LEAVES OF AUTUMN DANCE GAILY IN THE SUN
THE MUFFLED SOUNDS OF PASSING GEESE FORTELL OF THINGS TO COME
A FROSTY MORNING PUMPKIN WITH A SMILE CARVED ON ITS FACE
REVEALS THE TIME OF MASKS AND GHOSTS HAS COME AND GONE WITH HASTE
THE SEASON OF THE HARVEST IS WANING LIKE THE MOON
AND JACK FROST’S BREATH ON WINDOW PANES CONFIRM THE THOUGHTS THAT LOOM
THE COLORED DAYS OF AUTUMN LEAVES ARE SWIFTLY PASSING BY
BRINGING FORTH A YIELD OF CROPS AND BARREN FIELDS TO LIE
THE CROUCHING LION OF WINTER WAITS ANGRILY IN CHAINS
EAGERLY AWAITING TO CHANGE TO SNOW THE RAINS
SOON THE EARTH LOLLS GRATEFULLY IN WHITE REPOSE
AND DORMANT SEEDLINGS YET UNBORN ARE MINDLESS OF THEIR FUTURE THROES
IN PEACEFUL STILLNESS NATURE RESTS TILL SPRINGS WARM SUN REVEALS HER BREAST
THEN BURSTING FORTH THROUGH SEASONS STRIFE COME SPROUTS AND NESTS THAT BRING NEW LIFE
PLANTS AND CREATURES BOTH ABOUND
WHEN DARKENED SHADOWS COME AROUND
THEY CELEBRATE THE PASSING DAY
AND GATHER ALL TO ROMP AND PLAY
THE FIELD MICE SCURRY HERE AND THERE
AND NOW WE SEE SOME WHITE TAILED DEER
BLOOMING JASMINE OF THE NIGHT
FILL THE AIR WITH PURE DELIGHT
WHEN LISTENING CAREFULLY WITH TUNED EAR
A ROW OF GROWING CORN WE HEAR
A GROUP RACOON ALL IN LINE
SAUNTER OUT FROM UNDER PINE
A BEAR IN HONEY DIPS HIS PAW
A PECKING ROOSTER FILLS HIS CRAW
A WISE AND CAGY OWL ABOVE
HOOTS A TUNE TO WOO HIS LOVE
A BARNYARD FELINE PERCHED ON RAIL
EYES A BRACE OF BOB WHITE QUAIL
AND POSSUM NEVER SEEN BY DAY
ARE HANGING OUT TO WATCH THE PLAY
OH GOD HOW MUCH WE HUMANS MISS
WE SELDOM WITNESS SUCH AS THIS
SO IF SOME MOON LIT NIGHT PER CHANCE
YOU WATCH THE PLANTS AND CREATURES DANCE
THE SECRET MUST BE KEPT BY DAY
TO KEEP ALIVE THE DREAM THIS WAY
FOR SOON THE GENTLE MORNING RAYS
WILL KISS THE GLISTENING DEW
AND STRAIGHTEN BACKS OF BLADES OF GRASS
AND WAKEN ME AND YOU
My Son, Salvador
the star, the sun
my son, Salvador
gets up so early
the eye of a needle
sowing the news of the world
looking at the papers dirty with ink
ready for an eternal fire
My son, Salvador
Wears a tie
of silk and truth
under the one they see.
Mi Hijo, Salvador
La estrella, el sol
mi hijo, Salvador
se levanta tan temprano
el ojo de una aguja
cosiendo las noticias del mundo
mirando las papeles sucios de tinta
Mi hijo, Salvador
Lleva una corbata
de seda y la verdfad
debajo de la que ellos ven.
Lessons in an Old Mill
A tingling blush of fright
Seems always, these days,
To be running through, around.
Can we make it… What if…But…
I don’t know, We just don’t know
But, there in this dark corner
Of an old mill
I can kneel among these ancient tools.
In their midst I feel a calming,
Like a strong arm around me.
They seem to murmur that
Others have made it. Others have.
WHO WE ARE
“Is this the list of names
Of people killed in the
American Civic Association
Shooting – all these
Foreign sounding names?
No? Is it the wounded
Or is it the other survivors:
Fiala, Mollen, Zirkuski,…
Kopuz, Libous, Lupardo,…
Squeglia, Hinchey, Schumer,…
Arcuri, Charnetsky, Sarkisian?
Really? local VIPs?
They sound so much
Like Immigration names.”
It is enough
to talk of bones
dry and white in sun
to hope that feathers
float by on blue day
in early morning
to tremble at the shock
of magenta peonies
in loud moonlight
to plumb the surface
feel line slack, taut
against iridescent fish shadows
to own a sense of spring.
Snow controls a season in swing;
Violets struggle, inhale spring.
Goldfinch skims air on open wing;
Unruffled feathers inhale spring.
Stars in dry ice sky strain to sing;
Vapors transpire, inhale spring.
Cold-riddled streams swell waters, bring
Mist of damp mornings, inhale spring.
Pin oaks wave limbs, a final fling;
Branches shed worn leaves, inhale spring.
Green foretells blossoms, wind chimes ring;
Harmonies cycle, inhale spring.
Daylight disturbs eager evening;
Exhale winter, inhale spring.