Vintage verse – I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman


I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
. . . .and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
. . . .deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
. . . .as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
. . . .morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
. . . .work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
. . . .fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Roar of the Freeway by Jesse James Doty

The Roar of the Freeway

Sandy grew up near a freeway
The 405 to be exact
The fact
Of the constant background noise
Made it possible to do most anything
At any time of the day or night
Made sounds of love
Or crying
Blend into the woodwork

Sandy misses the anonymity
Of the city
You could go to a store
And not be noticed
Every day she could start
All over again
With fresh eyes
And a brand new view

But time doesn’t travel backward
And wishing for what was before
Wastes precious time in the present

Now living in a rural community
The quiet deafens the dead
All Sandy can do is look ahead
To a time when she once again
Thrives among the living

by Jesse James Doty

Guest Editor’s Note:  While the technique is sparse, the first four lines of the second strophe are alluring.  From beginning to denouement the narrative and voice are consistent and charming.

Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.

Abiding Winter by Risa Denenberg

Abiding Winter

How we made it through another winter
is not the question. It’s not even an answer
since one of us was left behind in winter.

In Spring, in buoyancy, you asked a question.
Cups stood their ground between us, tea and coffee.
You wished to be the answer to your question.

If winter comes again and yet another,
a darkling season full of melancholy. The yanking
of my soul back to its gutter, that other

place where questions have no answers,
and answers only placate. It takes rafters
of steadfast faith, or mettle, to seek answers.

Truth is brutal. So much we can’t recover,
years I’ve begged for you to wait for Spring to bloom,
living in despair beside each other, and another

stormy season while we tussle for an answer
that is a coda to the sum of all of life’s bother.
I’ve learned to hold my tongue, to question
nothing. Questions are another sort of winter.

by Risa Denenberg

Guest Editor’s Note: The sonics, especially the consonance, create a pleasing effect when we hear this one.  In no small part to the final line, this may be the best villanelle we’ll see this year.

Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.

Wings of Pain by Arjun Dahal

Wings of Pain

Rooted memories, Slumberless brain
Insomniac hours, profound insanity.
The curse it’s casted in my veins,
Yes, I can bleed till the eternity.

Insomniac hours, profound insanity.
Soberness, bold and strong it reigns.
Yes, I can bleed till the eternity,
For all these years, inked in your name.

Soberness, bold and strong, it reigns.
Surreal day dreams and the hurling rain.
For all these years, inked in your name,
Now at bliss, flying with the wings of pain.

Surreal day dreams, and the hurling rain,
Sorry Angels, I don’t wanna go home.
Now at bliss, flying with the wings of pain
The attempt though vain, but I can’t leave her alone.

Sorry Angels, I don’t wanna go home,
Insomniac hours, profound insanity.
The attempt though vain, but I can’t leave her alone,
Yes, I can bleed till the eternity.

by Arjun Dahal

Guest Editor’s Note: The glose (or “glosa”) is a difficult Spanish form: a “cabeza” or “head” stanza from which a line will be taken in all subsequent (“texte”) stanzas. The abstractions and inversions could be jarring to a modern audience but may be entirely appropriate here.

Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.

March by Richard Meyer


The woods exhale a mist,
hillsides catch the sun.
Beneath its pitted crust
a creek begins to run.

Along a drifted hedge
girdled branches show
where hungry rabbits fed
when it was twelve below.

On top the backyard shed
a ridge of tattered snow
dissolves around its edge
and takes the melting slow.

The brittle sheet of ice
puddled beneath a spout
thaws and freezes twice
before the weekend’s out.

Naked trees cast down
a tracery of shade
across a patchwork yard
mottled white and brown.

The ground is working hard
to come back from the dead
and soften for the spade
that turns a garden bed.

by Richard Meyer, first published in Orbital Paths.

Guest Editor’s Note: It is difficult to manage delicacy in iambic trimeter, but Richard has done so here. The assonance is playful, especially the long “ee” sounds in each line of the fourth stanza.

Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (Sargent) by Susan de Sola

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (Sargent)

What had they caught? As if those Japanese lanterns glowing
pink and teal were full of fireflies or glow worms.

The girls’ black boots and stockings tread on the uncut grasses
and wildflowers and fortuitous lilies.

They stir with sticks, as if whirling fireflies to generate light,
a small buzz of protest ricochets against the paper prison.

Just two girls amid the profusion of fires and flowers,
their four feet, four hands, in white butterfly casings.

A girl myself, I stared long at this painting, trying to gather
its meaning, the mystery of its technology, the alluring toy they had.

Now, if a Sargent, I’d prefer a grande dame, monumental, frontal,
but here are his ladies in the making, making the light

lighting up their faces, heads tilted down, absorbed, not yet inclined
to let their faces take on the painter’s paint.

And very far away, on a Japanese bay, a thousand lanterns rattle,
the celebration unknown in England, where girls toy with souvenirs

hoping to coax fire from paper, heedless of lilies and carnations,
while their black boots stamp down the garden grasses and blooms,

and the white arms of the girls clasp whole globes, spinning out the light.

by Susan de Sola, first published in Ambit.

Guest Editor’s Note: The rhythms here are an intoxicating blend of iambs and occasional cretics with delicate alliteration and assonance throughout. It might not bring down the house as a performance piece but as spoken words the experience is mesmerizing.

Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.

From the archives – Stars Fall, Doors Open by Eleanor Lerman

Stars Fall, Doors Open

Spring, summer. Oh come again
Lay wide open the bright new world
then close it up with flowers
if only for one more season
Why not? I have lived long enough to be
sentimental. To be permitted to awaken

in June, rested, ready, alive. Oh come again:
days when the sun lives like a friend and
there is always more. See the door that has

been left open to the house on the path by
the river: yes, there is always more. I remember
it so and I demand that it be returned to me

Though of course, somewhere beyond the sky
a force to be reckoned with clocks in
and reads the notes that were left behind

An eyebrow is raised, a finger is lifted,
which puts into play unimaginable forces
I imagine them anyway. Night falls, stars fall

This is all real now and I know it
Make time stop is not one of the spells
that has been cast upon me but others have

I will open my book now and I
will read them. Stars fall. Doors open
Away, away

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 17, 2016 — by Eleanor Lerman

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim