National Poetry Month 2012

Published by April 1, 2012 8:57 pm Leave your thoughts

It’s possible, with a little imagination, to already sense lines and reams of wonderful words floating above New York’s Southern Tier and Finger Lakes and northeast Pennsylvania, perfect profundities or doggerel ditties, in flowing rhyme or electric meter, sentimental or silly or both at the same time.

For some people writing a poem is a rare personal experience, while others enjoy the opportunity for self-expression that comes from wrioting about everyday or extraordinary moments. And then there are those exceptional persons whose poetry may be inspired by other existing poetical works. Martin Bidney is a critic, translator and among the best of today’s “dialogic poets”. He is Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at Binghamton University. His works include commentaries on the Qur’an in “East West Poetry” and e-book translations of “Crimean Sonnets” by Adam Mickiewicz and the immortal Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in “Like a Fine Rug of Erivan.”

Dr. Bidney’s newest work is in dialogue with a great classic of world literature. Divine Adventure: The Fantastic Travels of Dante is a new translation of La divina commedia of Dante Alighieri, written not by Dante but originally in Italian by Ernesto Cerni and Francesca Gambino and rendered as a modern versification intended for young people. The 14th century poem tells of Dante’s spiritual and human strivings through the Inferno and Purgatory to reach Paradise. The opening lines of the first Canto of L’inferno (“Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita/ Mi ritrovai per una selva oscura…”) as told by Bidney:

Let the great adventure start
Of a poet of the past
Who had read with ready heart
Many books, and very fast.
Dante was the poet named,
And his surname, Alighieri.
All his tales were widely famed,
Some were spooky, really scary.
On a lovely day he found
He was in a gloomy wood.
Filled with fear he looked around;
He was shaking as he stood.
How he got in such a spot
He could never rightly say.
He was walking as he thought:
How Iíd like to get away!

Professor Bidney worked from a literal translation by Maria Altschuler of Binghamton. The colorful and dramatic illustrations are by Maria Distefano. The first group of young people to have an advance look into “Divine Adventure” are 7th and 8th grade students at Harpursville Middle School; they will offer their comments for Dr. Bidney’s consideration.


 

Listener Submissions

 

Peepers
Mary Lu Walker

In the country, in the Spring

On starry nights the Peepers sing.

Before the grass and leaves appear

The Peepers tell us Spring is here!
In the city, in the Spring

You cannot hear the Peepers sing

But something gentle in the air

Tells the people Spring is there!

 

For Sarah
Michael Evan Gold

A married man
Spends half his life
Waiting around
For his wife.

 

I Miss Her Still
A.J. Bodnar

I thought I was over her
Her soft hair
Her beautiful eyes
The way she leaned into me
Into that perfect space that seemed to be made
Just for her
She left a little over a year ago
And I was sure that by now
I would be over her
After all
I didn’t leave her
She left me
And
I cried
I cried
Oh god how I cried
And then finally
Finally I was over her
Until today when I saw another her
Out in the field
With the wind in her hair
I felt those yearnings
Stir in me again
It took me by surprise
I couldn’t run from it anymore
She (the other her)
Triggered the old feelings
I gazed upon her loveliness
Watched her with fascination
Captivated by her beauty
And as I watched her leap up
And catch the Frisbee in her teeth
I had to admit
I miss my dog.

 

This Old Man
Cliff Henderson

No one wanted his poetry
His only appearance more or less
Permanently in print
Was the sign scrawled outside his door
That began
This government
Those thieving bastards
The poems themselves
After endless rejection
He tore into pieces
And flung into the wind
Where they would from time to time
Reappear
Blown against wet windows
Or stuck to a shoe
And when held to the light
Read in fading phrases
Things like
Time passeth and
I lost her and
He loved.
Perchance to Sleep
by Deborah Carmichael

Snap the reading light shut.
Turn down page of soporific book.
Tuck pillow under left ear.
Rock blankets into every nook and cranny.
Ease into sleep’s embrace.
This is as it should be. But no.

Try to remember friend’s counting formula:
Down by sevens? Up by threes?
Never mind. Keep it simple.
Up by ones. No; down by ones.
Yes, down by ones.

Lose track by eighty-nine.
Worry about other things forgotten.
Can’t bring them to mind.
Never mind. Back to ones. Up this time.

Lose focus again in the early teens.
Drift over to larger concerns:
Is husband breathing? Will there be work for the son?
Various pains are called to life
by the deep quiet of the night.
Urge self to regain perspective.

Implement calming technique of own devising.
Let crescendo of rumination simply drift
out from top of head.
Achieve relief of mental stillness
accompanied by ill-timed alertness.

Recall snippet of online advice.
Count blessings before sleep:
forest floor bright with needle fall,
meal particularly tasty thanks to Marsala,
smartwool socks and the Volvo in winter.
Reconsider the book—not all that bad really.
Indeed, plot and character
exerting uncanny pull just now.

Flip open reading light.
Start all over.

 

Daughter’s Hands
Anna E. Rotach

Daughter’s hands with the gossamer of new butterfly wings,
Soft with discovery
Touch my face.  Their fingers brush my cheek as she smiles.
I feel the promise of a shared secret.
Her chrysalis: my arms – that time is ending.

She giggles and her eyelashes dance on winds she can see.
They are calling to her, singing for her sturdy legs to leap higher and higher.

I hold my breath as I smile and watch.

 

Iroquois Lady
Agastya Chaturvedi, Age 9

I see a lady tanning a skin,
Perhaps she is hearing the thunderous din
Of some enemies coming-
Algonquians, say.
Algonquians coming to ruin the day.
With some spears and some sword play
They’ll have their way!

But- this lady!
I see this look on her face!
She’ll stand and defend her Iroquois race!
“Men do the fighting”- Who says?
And besides,
With that tanning chisel, she’ll tan enemy backsides!!

As for those men, they aren’t enough!
As for the chisel, it’s rough as rough.
As for that lady, she’s tough as tough,
To those Algonquian bad boys
Who think her a bluff!

 

THE CALL
Katherine E. Rabenau

I too am called by inner voices
But don’t know how to answer
Having grown apart from earth and sea
Yet still there is a longing with the seasons
To move
To be released again
And go unerring
Like geese against the sky
Toward some unknown
Stronger than dreams
Though woven of them
It is a primal call
But not a wild one
Heavy with the scent of fading flowers
And after rain
An empty silence
That longs to be filled
With wind-songs and greenness
And something lost

 

Teeming Seas
Charles Elliott

Where we walk were teeming seas
Epochs in the past,
Swarming with hungry predators
Who would fade at last.

We know them from an accident
That caught some in the shale,
A fin, a tooth, a bony jaw
The remnant of a tail.

Their kind existed many years
In this primal sink.
We envy them and think of our
Geologic blink.

Gaiea once eternal home
Harvest and abounding store,
Now victim, prey and killing field
And we the predator.

 

English Road
Joel Murray

It’s far beyond the edge of town
but within earshot of the highway

closer to the buzz, hum, and chirp
of insects and rich breath of wildflowers

closer to the edge of the forest
and the yard with flagstones that drink the sun

the quiet creek with a cascade or two
shaping rocks and all who run through it

where the sun setting
marks the edge of time

and thunderstorms use words
I learned in silence

For  You… Michael Martin 2008
Thank you for your smile
For your warm embrace
Thank you for the laughter
The light upon your face
Thoughts I wish to tell you
From hidden places stir
I’m glad you’re in my life
I think you always were
Moments we’re together
Keep me from the cold
Passing stolen moments
Are precious more than gold

 

Kate Cook’s Voice
Miles McNett

Part wren in springtime courtship, part warbler, part firebird.
A siren’s (W)rap, Lian Hanson, Audi Cornish, Emma Jacobs,
All rolled….into one.
That voice, the tone and inflection, a controlled substance,
If it evens grazes one’s ear, you’re tethered, enveloped.

Like, when it’s late, on a foggy, moonless night.
You’re lazily awakened.
Somewhere out that misted windowglass,
Your sensorium couples up, the distant wail of a locomotive,
Caresses you, that oddly opaque beam, the crying whistle,
Holds you, then settles you back onto the pillow.
Dreaming again, you smile and sigh.

Yeah! yeah! Just like that….I swear.
Thanks, Kate. And WSKG.
For making the western wind, such an amie.

PROSPERITY’S LIMITS
From ‘And There Is More’
Hal Fischbeck

As I sit and survey the yard
My eyes end up in tree.
For all the seeds I planted then
Have prospered just like me.
So now the views of meadow land
The creek, the road, the sun.
Have all become just branch and leaf
Because of what I’ve begun.
While leaf and tree are beautiful,
And are home to squirrel and bird.
The vistas I enjoyed so much
Now unseen are there I’ve heard.
I’m hemmed in by my successs.
They’ve grown and prospered too.
But now to see the vistas
I must move or cut them through.
It’s easy to chuck a failure,
Or overcome some talent lack.
When success creates our limits
It’s so hard to trim them back
We may love the leaves and greenery
That encroach on every side
But we sure do miss the vistas
And visions they inspired.
Move on to new surroundings,
Trim and hack things back.
Learn to live in bounds that you created
Don’t let prosperity become your lack.

 

Saint Apollonia at the Nursing Home
Michael Dittman

Because she could not go with them,
she stays here within the too-cool walls
of Grove Manor. She gums her food, and
refuses to cooperate. Ignoring
Sunday services, she walks outside and
preaches her own message to the birds, and
shouts at pedestrians, kids on bikes,
young women in love.

Sleepless at night, she prays for those who left her.
Trapped in this chilly land, fingering
her rosary, until the papery skin
of her fingers and the smooth rose-beaded
decade start to find sympathetic grooves

She calls down angels to shatter windows
when she feels neglected during cold
Pennsylvania winters. When the temperature
drops below 85, palm leaves, reminders
of a warmer time, shed dust and shake unnaturally
from the force of her voice as she complains,
bellowing for sweaters and mulled red wine
which she never receives.

She rants of half-remembered persecutions
and fumbles in her purse for tools of ancient and
unclear purpose, as the nurses ignore her, and
schoolchildren sent to sing songs and spread cheer
back away from her awesome, terrifying humanity.

Water on the Moon
Max Bissell

There’s water on the Moon.
so they say
Snowflakes fly in June
every day.
Perhaps the world is flat
And maybe the cat
Has nine lives, after all.

There’s water on the Moon.
so I’m told
The clock strikes one at noon
and fire is cold.
Maybe up is down;
perhaps a verb’s a noun.
Who knows what each day will bring?

If there’s water on the Moon
is it absurd to hope and pray
That you will love me
as I love you
Someday?
Defying Gravity
Lonna McKeon Pierce  

Is there any feeling so lovely
As being picked up by a wave,
And then, gently, let down?
Like being lifted by the strong
Arms of your daddy as an infant;
Flying, and set safely down
On terra firma without a qualm.
Only now, as a full-sized adult,
No one lifts me high
Or places me on their lap,
Or defies gravity at all.
Until my once-yearly dip
in the salty sea,
Frolicking in the frothy, fearless waves.

 

Deirdre Silverman:

Your sneeze
sizzles up the fuse of  my spine
explodes in my brain
I wake up screaming

 

SHAMELESS SPRING
Frank Anastasio

There they are hanging out,
Their private parts exposed
To all the elements
And to the gaze and appetites
Of any creature buzzing by,
Or pausing to partake
Or flying close on ecstatic anticipation.

Shameless in their bold beauty
And allure of vibrant colors,
Silky textures and seductive aromas,
Inviting an engaging touch
In the hot sun,
Celebrating youthful blossoming,
Trumpeting their nakedness,
Promising a garden of delights–

Those tulips!
Sleeper
Ashley Spence Terry

Sleeper,
do not begrudge me this moment’s rest,
for I am tired
and it is quiet here
and your stone is broad and smooth.

I will not disturb your peace;
I want only to sit
and rest
and feel the warm sun on my face.

I see you are a kindred spirit:
no other stones stand near
to watch with you through these long, dark days.
Surely you have not been so long at your sleep
that you have forgotten the world’s waking troubles.

The shadows stretch long
and I must go;
I thank you for this brief peace.
Here, I leave a yellow-white daisy for your grave,
the last of the summer flowers —
a benediction of beauty for us both.

 

Long Winter Moon
Mark S. Williams

Men of science call this
the Long Winter Moon
A full moon
lasting longer than all others
The balance to drawn-out summer

where a greedy sun crowded the moon
But July seems too short now
The heat of your lips
the burn of you
is so far

I am the unaccompanied soloist
playing violin
in a stark Bach landscape
Distant and empty of you
And there seems no balance

Men of science measure everything –
like the Long Winter Moon
Black. White.
They have not learned to measure time
the way I do

Gravestone Sonnet
Seamus Houlihan (14)

Uselessly protected by í-ron, wrought
Into spiars and gyres, now long demolished,
By Time’s destruction dé-ficient in thought

I-ron which is now but a shell devoid.
Once lovingly carved of, the one, interr-éd,
Now long, erased, by Time’s relentless touch,
To mend the pain-ful death that had occurred
Man’s desperate last mark to life: nay, clutch

Time’s erasure has razed a life so vast.
Once a grand and monumental chateau,
For a man now long for-gotten and passed
From Earth taken, by Time’s persistent flow.

In spite of all, go construct one for me,
For hope shall remain an eternity.
FLYING MACHINE
Julie Suarez, Oneonta, New York

Wherever you went, you took your machine.  Homemade,
stowed in the back of your old green Volkswagen.
Simple, really, a few hoses, a mask.
It made you happy to have your own exit, your say about the end of things.

When we drove out into the country on Sunday mornings, you
could barely move for your arthritis, but we rolled along farm roads
and foothills, the putt-putt engine pushing us past knee-deep pastures and tender corn.
In our county June is the first month green comes on and we want

to believe winter is finally over.  You were always in pain, more gnarled
each year I knew you, crustier about some things, but we sang
Come, Josephine, in my flying machine, going up she goes!  Up she goes!
as we sailed over the hills with the windows open, laughing.

You had a broken body—I had a broken heart.
I cheered you up you said; you watched out for me,
calling at 2 a.m. sometimes, just to be sure I had not
put my head into the oven.  “Are you down?” your usual opener.
One day when your wife was out of town you fell
and lay hours, alone.  It was winter.  The stove
had gone out. Your heart had its own agenda

 

The Big Bang Theory of Poetry
Tom Heitz

Eons, eons ago
in the apex of nothingness
at the point of somethingness

When Mother verse
was but a single density
of cosmic tersity

Syllabic gravity unrhymed
ambic slippage caused
the tick of time

That terrible millisecond
exploded to infinity
a poetic universe

 

Lexicon of Touch
Heather Dunbar

A beautiful, grown man
Gently pulled me back
To where he crouched,
Tucked into his couch.

As a parent for a child,
As a cat for her kitten,
Patiently, without pulling,
His thighs as armrests,
He combed my hair
After a shower
With more tender care
Than I show myself.

Our babies gone
And mostly grown.
Across expanses
Bridges span;

Ours built equally
from fullness as lack.

Without explanation,
Outside customs
and taboos,
We were simply
Drawn contentedly
To yes:

Humans are good
And a summer night
So sweet.

 

Denise Place:

Developing Voice
takes time

Distilled thoughts
drip and fill

Softly balancing
the powerful force
to come

All grateful
it did

 
ENIGMA
Perry Owen

She would have been tall,
Pale olive skin, black hair,
Perplexingly grey eyes.
Proud haughty gait,
Alight with confidence.
Most men would shy to take her on.
To try 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?
 

Seasons
Evangeline Ray, Trumansburg, New York
If I could once in every season walk with you
Along some wooded path
And see the beauty of a leaf held in your hand
And hear you laugh
If I could stand beside you in the weeping rain
And catch the gentle drops that fall
From this dark canopy of naked boughs
And then
In summer drink
The sweet, hot sunshine from the riddling creek
And once again along the muffled path
In winter trudge the snow-lade way in silence vast,
Perhaps I’d know you then,
Perhaps begin
To see the light of him whom I call friend.

And if ever I should walk with you
In spring time’s lovely breeze
And see the tiny leaves burst forth
From gnarled, barren trees
While apple blossoms hold a dance
For nectar drunken bees
And sunlight glows with golden warmth
On every trembling leaf….

Then, oh my dear, the earth would dance
The dryads leap and spring
The woodland nymphs and sprites and elves
Would call us from the glen,
Oh let your spirits rise and soar
Come hither, winter’s here no more!
Come hither into Spring!

 

HAIKU
John Jackson, Jefferson, NY

Running out of words
Combatting stupidity–
Tax breaks for the rich.

New job opening:
Will train, no degree required…
Sharpen guillotines.

Frank did have a lisp;
He begged God for the rapture–
Then came the raptor.
Invisible ink
On everybody’s forehead–
Expiration date.

Rabid elephants
Ripping out Big Top’s tent stakes;
Circus collapsing.

 
Endless Mountains Storm
D. Becker-Rose

Looking up from my green grass-like spread in bed, raising my head,
Rain falling heavy, sun shining through, 6 o’clock too, peach pie baking
and picture I’m taking while I rest my eyes from the words works before me.

Heart shaped leaves of lilac trees and maple leaves with birds floating through
from branch to branch.
Aloe spears atop behinds of zucchinis where blossoms fell
with tell tale brown patches looking like staggering long loped boats.
Fading green mint bouquets in the brisk breeze tied to dry high near ceiling fly by.

I’ve attempted to paint a picture of this scene in green with my pencil perhaps.
All seen through light green tinted full spectrum glass and a brown green-eyed lass.
Drops of water rhythmically roll round and round within nasturtium leaves
looking like precious stones shine so bright.
I just came in then when deep smoky colored clouds over mighty meshing mountains moved south
to this side of the hill, bringing waves of rain onto my flesh where I did sit atop the sill until
I wasn’t able and the cat also took shelter under the checkerboard table in the far southwest corner,
not caring for the display on order at all but only to lay low.
Oh “Buttons”.
Me too thinks that always and wherever it may, we can find enough beauty in nature to soften the hardships
of real life and practically all in life. Really.
Miss Mole and Avogadro
George Joseph, Westford, NY

Miss Mole and Avogadro supped along the boulavadro
In a maze of garden roots
They cried “eureka!” in their boots.

 

Reflection
Audrey Scotto, Schenevus, NY

When young I longed for shiny things,
the glint of gold and silver rings,
but now, with age, the lasting joys
are not the baubles and the toys
of youth’s delight and innocence.
My days are filled with recompense
for years of toil and worldly care,
a single leaf becomes a prayer
of gratitude and happiness;
just as a quiet hour can bless
the solitude of mindfulness.
A tribute to Martin Bidney
Philipp Restetzki, Best wishes from Tübingen, Germany

This gentle vergil-voice will lead the youth through hell!
In purgatory’s flames only his words will shine
Above, and all that, versifying, we decline
Is speechless stuttering — in dialogic dwell.

To see those lightning words above this mountain path
We have to leave this flaming sea with hoping hearts
To teach our children: alas, seven-folded starts
The way to heaven — poetry will ease your wrath.

And then you’ll find your ever lasting love, a flow
In sublime virtues-spheres, a world is build of words
Surrounding you with withdom-seeking, holy glow.

To feel what in this lightning-vision you have heard
With all your being, all of your humanity:
This is the godly secret, that’s what set you free.

The Living Room
Laura Glenn

The wicker chair sits
round the wooden table, content.
Across the room
I rock back and forth.
I want to be part of the party
of nonbeings, self-accepting
like that clock ticking in another room.
I leave the chair still
rocking. I’ll lighten things up
with candles of death and rebirth,
the way the sunset fills windows
of houses with fire
without the heaviness of smoke.
The stubby candle’s an apple core
with a dark stem.
Let the candle-core plumpen to ripe fruit,
the paperweight rock become bread.
Let the cheese recoagulate
around its holes: the breathing spaces.
Let the wineglass fill
with grapes. Let the tree
knocking on the window
come in.
I’m restive.
Let the wicker chairs
sprout twigs with buds,
the table grow leaves,
the basket unweave into shocks
of straw, turn back
into waving fields.
Let the planter be clay
and the ivy
climb the walls. Let the moss
on the circle of earth
crawl out, cover the floor.

Let books discuss each other
without envy, or with envy,
with admiration. Let the claw-
foot console prowl the room.
I want all eyes on the tiger-
eye maple open
and the drawers closed
and the desk to have
no appointments.

 

WITHIN PLACES
Catherine (Towner) Rogers
COLD FRIEND LONELY
SOMEHOW OUT LOOKING
OLD DREAMS DASHED PATCHED
NOW LESS FOR SETTLING

EXPECTATION RAPID
COME MANY BUT
EXPLORATION FOR GATHERING
SOME ARE LOST LOOKING

CHEERING GIVING
PEOPLE TAKING CHANCES
HEARING SOME LIVING KNOW
EXPANSES ARE PLACES WITHIN
 

RAIN
Qadira P. Garger
The minister to France, his heart’s aflame
For Sally’s with the marchers on Versailles
And feelings that he’s feeling are not tame

To forfeit her to freedom she can claim
Appalls him, though he knows the girl is shy
The minister to France, his heart’s aflame

She’s not unmindful of HIS claim to fame
So many times she’s looked him in the eye
And feelings that he’s feeling are not tame

She is the slave yet he’s enslaved, the same
To shake this knowledge, knows that he must die
The minister to France, his heart’s aflame

She enters in his chamber, it’s no game
And strips out of drenched garments, it’s no lie
And feelings that he’s feeling are not tame

She tells him of her bloodflow without shame
He is so happy now that he could cry
The minister to France, his heart’s aflame
And feelings that he’s feeling are not tame.

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