Addah Belle’s Pocket Watch by Wren Tuatha

Addah Belle’s Pocket Watch

Addah Belle’s pocket watch stands open
on my desk like a sandwich board
advertisement.

I want to shrink down and crawl under it,
camping in my ticking tent. Constellations
and bug spray.

Addah Belle knew me. She could
look at me and tell my future. In her time,
women married.

Addah Belle chose door number two
and taught at a girls’ finishing school,
finishing them off for the altar.

Retirement came abruptly. Bourbon and
ceremonies. The stillness of her room
in the farmhouse. And no Marian.

Two twin beds, like a dormitory, and her
married sister downstairs with grandkids on
long weekends.

I, her grand niece, tracked in
with pocket frogs, too-close best
friends and notebooks. She noticed.

Mom cut my unattended hair short.
Strangers took me for a boy. A boy
with notebooks. Listening to Auntie.

And the pocket watch tent would ticka tick,
flashlights and ghost stories on her desk while
she advised I could be a writer, plan a career.

In her time pocket watches were for men.
That might be how it came to her. Tom,
the last at bat who walked home

lost, wondering why she wouldn’t
marry him, why remaining at school with
Marian was preferable. The watch

forgotten on a wash stand, a library shelf,
a parlor bridge table. Tempus abire tibi est.. . . .[It’s time for you to go away]
The watch she kept and wound, for the sound.

I was a writer when she died. I was a lesbian
when I found her love letters. Her watch,
a flashlight and a tape measure in my drawer.
Tempus vitam regit.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .[Time rules life]

by Wren Tuatha, first published in Bangalore Review.

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem draws the reader in slowly. By the end, the heart wrenching sadness of the narrator’s aunt is fully realized.

This Is Where I Slowdown On The Way Home by Billy Howell-Sinnard

This Is Where I Slowdown On The Way Home

I’ve come this way so many times,
kept an eye on the swan couple
residing in a private niche.

She spends her time on the nest.
A madonna in repose. Her
elegant neck so neatly folded

upon her body that I wonder,
for a second, if she still lives.
He floats carefree nearby,

or sometimes I see him
across the road,
the roving lover

exploring other waters,
but always back to her.
Not far from their parental

trusts, their necks
entwine in one purpose,
their white bodies

blend into a cloud
on the water
drifting into the reeds

into a privacy
from which I feel a need
to look away.

by Billy Howell-Sinnard

Editor’s Note: The title of this poem prepares us for the narrator’s description of a moment that happens often, but not often enough to remedy the awkward, emotional perspective of the final three lines.

Michael Jackson by Ciaran Parkes

Michael Jackson

In a dream Michael Jackson
is playing a concert in the town I live in
or a dream version of that town, beside a river
that doesn’t quite exist. Earlier, a priest

had preached a sermon, not quite condemning
Jackson from the pulpit, but talking about him
in such a way that no right thinking person
would be going to his concert. I watch him,

somehow from above, begin to sing
to an empty field in which there’s only
a sleeping homeless man and dog. The river
flows in front of him, makes the edge

of the stage he’s standing on. The light
is that light which sometimes comes in dreams,
brighter than normal light, as if it’s shining
from another world, in this case, from the one

outside the half closed curtains where the sun
is all set to wake me up but there’s still time
to see him realize the audience aren’t coming
and see how little it means to him. He sings

Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough or maybe one
of his mellow, mid-seventies hits like One
Day in Your Life or You’ve Got a Friend. His voice
the kind of voice you only hear in dreams

but, for him, just how he always sings
or how he always used to sing, back then. By now
a few odd people have started wandering in
to dance and sing along. The homeless man

and his dog have finally woken up and I’m
just about to, still half asleep, still listening
to Jackson in his blaze of sunlight, singing.

by Ciaran Parkes

Editor’s Note: The rambling prose-like lines of this poem mirror lucid dreaming’s abstracted focus, until the last few lines wake up the reader with stunning imagery.

The Morning of My Madness Waking by Jim Zola

The Morning of My Madness Waking

What’s left? Maybe some trees
on a hillside, the sudden
tufts of seedy grass.
Broadleaf grin, burred twig
dance, maker of saplings,
what’s left? Some trees, a hillside.
No philosophizing, please.
Vodka is given us to be drunk,
sturgeon to be eaten,
women to be visited.
Snow to be walked upon.

For one evening anyway,
I want to forget you are the ring
in my ear, the morning’s cough,
the dense flour of deepest sleep.
I wake and call for you. You
are the new crease in my right palm,
the itch below my knee, the world
turned inside out, my reckless heart.
I pull on socks, shoes. Beneath
each layer is another.
Madness wears the thinnest veil.
Dying. Singing. Some trees.

by Jim Zola

Editor’s Note: The images in this poem are fragmented as though the reader can see directly into the narrator’s thoughts. This technique offers a strong emotional framework for the final line.

From the archives – Explain That Again by Neil Flatman

Explain That Again

The part where we run down Box Hill
hand in hand, lose control of our legs
until all we are are footprints in grass
rebounding ’til we can’t be traced.
And the weight of the colors, like opening
hall doors silently at night, not to wake
the dark. How that’s terrifying and beautiful.
How the roots of the tree by your window
worm their way through the earth
through brick, make supple your house.
Tell me how you dreamed this alone;
a half moon by daylight, only you can see.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, May 10, 2016 — by Neil Flatman

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.

Vintage verse – Song of the Open Road, I by Walt Whitman

Song of the Open Road, I

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill’d with them, and I will fill them in return.)

by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.

Spring Wildflowers by Bob Bradshaw

Spring Wildflowers

Today I have called in sick. The boss’
rude eyes, always insisting

on everyone working overtime,
exhaust me. I want to flop over,

lie on the ground, like spent
dandelions. Today I’m hiking

the wooded hills, the Pacific’s winds
in their tossing limbs. The shade

of oak and pine heal the days
spent under my boss’ harsh glare.

I pause to stroke the reddish bark
of the refrigerator tree,

cooling my hands.
I climb a path that leads

past a fairy lantern, her head
bent downwards, her shy

snowy petals never fully open.
Scents of the soap plant

mix with my sweaty clothes.
The houndstongue licks

at my ankles as I brush past,
avoiding the poison oak.

In an oak’s branches a wild clematis,
having defied the serpentine soil,

soars with white clouds
of blossoms.

As I stride into full sun the musky
scent of monkey flowers clings

to me, the petite sun cups
lighting my path. The rarely glimpsed

‘mouse ears’ peeks at me from just
off the path, hidden among the chaparral,

its thumb sized blossom lasting one day.
The sea lies beyond the ridge,

where I look out on the Pacific
and think of Sir Francis Drake

who landed up the coast. What
will I do with my life?

by Bob Bradshaw

 

Editor’s Note: The litany of flowers in this poem leads the reader from work frustration into the that question we all ask ourselves once our minds have calmed enough to see clearly.