Dementia by Alan Ford


I am in mourning. I have
lost you although you are still here.
I see your bewildered look,
your confusion. We are separated
by the death of thought.

You resemble a closed book
so I cannot turn the pages. There
are no notes, no explanations
in your margin.
Our life together is unread.

You lie there in a fog of words,
as if you are learning a new language.
Yet you cannot speak my name. And you
cannot recognize my face.
Our future is unspoken.

As you age you return to childhood.
As you move further away from me
I cannot imagine where you are
or why you have gone.
I just look for what remains.

For now I see you pace through my life
you stride back and forth. Are you
searching for something you cannot find?
A feeling. An intuition. Are you conscious
of the person you used to be?
In the reflection of your eyes do you
recognize yourself?

For time aches in the space between us,
longing to be filled. We live in
dead days and empty nights.
I want to embrace you but
I have gone from being your lover to your carer.

Our old life together is now over. But
I will be here until I am no longer needed.
I have taught you so little. But there is
so much I have learned about myself.

by Alan Ford

Editor’s Note: The beauty of the metaphors in this poem intensifies the grief of the underlying narrative until the closing line arrows itself into the reader’s heart.

Rocking Chair by John Grey

Rocking Chair

Winter blows in.
We are unnecessary,
sit still,
are dumped on
by the more virulent of snow,
the stuff that flies sideways.

We’re not thought about much.
When someone inside the house
looks out,
they see over under or through us.
The weather’s their concern.
It would be ours too
if we only had apprehensions.

But we’re filed under furniture
and not the cozy kind
that groups around a fireplace,
or the utile stuff
that supports the likes of meals
and sleeping bodies.

We’re here for warm sunsets
wine glasses,
gently swaying bodies,
and eyes looking westward.
And during something called summer.
At least, that’s the theory.

Even then, there’s storms.
And stuff that needs doing.
And arguments.
And phone call interruptions.
And just about everything
that can happen to a human
that applies not one iota
to a rocking chair.
Except for the absences.
The times we’re just a chair.

by John Grey

Editor’s Note: The personification in this poem is a skillful stand in (or sit in, as the case may be) for the messiness of human relationships.

From the archives – First Aubade by Jeremy Heartberg

First Aubade
Cut through blue and night, a sun
edges against you, a stray
cat or tired warmth. It is
no thin outlined body that
I have felt for in this pause
before the blue blurred light comes.
Tender, tender now, the snaps
of song move, undone, through trees.
Is it a morning thrush? Sleep
gentle, sleep gentle; nothing
is wrong; I swear, my dear, this
is not wrong. A bird of light
pulls me soft upon its string.

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 3, December 2006 — by Jeremy Heartberg

When Noise Annoys by Kevin Ahern

When Noise Annoys

A pesky mouse
Inside the house
Resides within my wall

It bumps all night
When out of sight
And rumbles down the hall

I’d like to trap
This noisy chap
He’s one enormous louse

Yes, I’ll be pleased
When I have seized
That hippopotamouse

by Kevin Ahern

Kevin on Facebook

Twitter: @ahernk1

Editor’s note: Here’s an extra poem this week, because we can all use a good dose of levity once in a while.

Wedding Dress Ghazal by Sally Thomas

Wedding Dress Ghazal

A girl blooms from a shantung hill that whitens
As sunlight touches it. Come do my buttons?

Her little sister’s thirteen-year-old fingers
Are careful: tiny loops, forty buttons.

Each button slips in through the looping eye
Whose pupil it becomes. She buttons, buttons.

The girl in the dress exhales. It fit last Friday.
Her sister tucks her chin, studies the buttons.

Another bridesmaid holds the illusion veil.
The little sister buttons, buttons, buttons.

Past the hard part now. Now you can breathe.
Breathing’s a good idea. Seven buttons.

The buttons’ blank white eyes regard her coolly.
Today is not her day. These aren’t her buttons.

Outside, something startles the mourning doves
That feed in the church courtyard. Three more buttons.

The girls’ eyes, like windows, flash with wings.
All the future’s fastened with these buttons.

At last she’s buttoned into it: the bride.
The doves, resettling, wink bright eyes like buttons.

by Sally Thomas

Twitter: @SallyThomasNC

Facebook: Facebook

Editor’s Note
: This ghazal seems simple until the seventh stanza when the quiet, emotional framework of the little sister is revealed.

Sheena’s Sestina by Jake D Sauls

Sheena’s Sestina

It’s too early for frost but there it is: a cocoon
wrapping all of the windowpanes. I make a soup,
the boy plays by my feet. Too still to be a real child,
he builds worlds from books and bottlecaps.
I stand in the doorway when I miss my father,
and if he is sleeping I stand near the bed.

For days now the sharks have circled his bed.
I hum Top 40 hits and want to shake him, but cocoon
him instead; swaddled in his quilt, my father
keens like a motherless infant and spits up his soup.
At night my son builds fairy-rings from bottlecaps
around both of our beds and I rock the child

gently, although he’s too old. When I was a child
my father told huge stories while I readied for bed:
of ships full of boys playing jacks with old bottlecaps,
of slant-eyed pirates, paper worms in cocoons.
They lived weeks at a time on mock-oranges and soup,
and my father was one of them, when he wasn’t my father.

Child-time has crocodile teeth, and when my father
moved in he grilled lunch and killed bears. I was the child
again, playing secret message in my alphabet soup,
or a little older, up all night smoking and reading in bed—
and the cancer hung, a large translucent web, a cocoon
I unwove during evenings all year. We tossed bottlecaps

into the yard. We’ll grow a beer forest, he said. Bottlecaps
gleamed like wishes in the moonlight and I loved my father,
smiled when the boy appeared, all wrapped up in sleep’s cocoon.
Today, though, I worry over them both. My child
draws sharks on the windowpanes and cries when I put him to bed.
My father flails, bites my hands when I spoon him the soup.

When he finally sails we’ll throw out the soup.
It will be spring and I’ll sweep up the bottlecaps,
I’ll let my son strike the matches, we’ll watch the bed
burn. We’ll toss it by fistfuls, into the yard with my father’s
ashes. We’ll grow a grandfather forest, I’ll say to my child,
where he’ll spin all of your nightmares in an opal cocoon.

And when he looks back on this year, of soup and my father,
he’ll jiggle a pocketful of bottlecaps and tease his own child
to get into bed. Nights will pass quicker now: a drink, a cocoon.

by Jake D Sauls

Twitter: @jakedsauls

Editor’s Note: As if the usual sestina repetition isn’t enough, this brilliant poem adds more within the lines, weaving an emotional journey all the more poignant for its transience.

Lamentation of Another Evening Wasted by Ralph Culver

Lamentation of Another Evening Wasted
—after Li Bai

The wine jug has been filled and emptied, filled
and emptied. My lips alone have kissed its wide,
wet mouth. Leaves of torn and crumpled paper
scattered about the chamber, covering
my feet. An entire night of raising a cup
to beg the moon’s blessings, hands blackened with ink.
Stain of autumn moonlight on my writing desk,
stain of forsaken verses on my fingers–
a night of drunken lines mourning my drunken days.
One page worth saving. If I thought I could
make it back to my room, I would drag
my body down to the banks of the Yangtze
in the awakening dawn and let
this single sheet set sail on its waters
under the branches of the red maples.

by Ralph Culver

Editor’s Note: Beautiful, precise imagery forms the bones of this poem, allowing the emotional drama to simmer quietly (as any poet knows, it takes at least three days to write a couple of useful lines).

Thunderstorm at Night by John Calvin Hughes

Thunderstorm at Night

No one tells you that shadows aren’t your friends,
that the dead pile up around you like old furniture,
that the stairs beckon with crooked fingers, broken teeth,
the stars fade watery and thin into indigo.
The sun doesn’t sink. Rather you turn away from it,
a thousand miles an hour, they say.
Instead, the world lies like a lover,
promises cracked like ribs,
beautiful lies arrayed before you,
preening for you.
So what you stumble?
So what the clouds rumble like menace?
The pillows whisper in your fitful sleep
where in dreams you wander from room
to room, street to street, lost, always lost.
What does that mean? What is your mind,
a thing of the world no doubt, trying to tell you?
That you don’t know where you’re
going? Hell, you already know that.

by John Calvin Hughes

John on Facebook

Editor’s Note: Personification creeps through this poem, heightening the ominous message, perfectly suited to this month and these times.

la vita nuda by Christos L. Hadjigeorgiou

la vita nuda

Apple orchards in bloom, treacle tart: oily malt arrives first
on the palate followed by smoked pineapple, summer
berries, pine nuts and almonds, a very soft hint of sulphur
. . . . . . . . . . . . . as in the baths of Davlos,
my father’s and grandfather’s
and great-grandfather’s village, Davlos, a torch
under the castle of Kantara, a craggy lime ghost
and the bray of donkeys tied
in 1973 on the capstan of the well still
rings in my ears and the bones of the dead, Greeks
and Turks, Phoenicians and Crusaders whirl
at its bottom for centuries.

Now Wolf moon over Kantara; a voyage; incoming; a boy’s legs
disappear into the wine-dark water
and although Auden is not
wrong about human suffering,
. . . . . . . children cram into inflatable boats
only to end up in concentration
camps and women plunge into the cold, their bodies
heavy with weeping as men carry infants on their
backs their feet, their tired
. . . . . feet . . . . . bare on beach
pebbles, ζωή . . . . . not βίος, bare life first
shot with military-grade cameras, bare life
incoming: and Mosse zoomed in
on a curious . . . . . little . . . . . girl holding onto a smart
phone and we fail to understand that poverty and despair have many
dimensions just as displacement and the sense
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . of home
and the white bodies are trapped in limbo
forever, la vita nuda masked as protracted refugee situations
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . intractable-

Cyprus cyclamen and pink
Anatolian orchids still carpet the pine forest in Davlos
. . . . . . . and I am told that as a small
boy, I tumbled down that slope into the turquoise sea,
looking for pearls, sea urchins, and turtles
and tonight we drink Craigellachie in small Limoges
cups but what started as an excuse
. . . . . . . . . . . .to discuss poetry and voyages over whiskey
turned into libation
. . . . . . . . . . . . and remembrance
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and horror.

by Christos L. Hadjigeorgiou

Editor’s note: The complicated enjambment and spacing of this poem mirrors the complex grief/anger/sorrow of the speaker.

From the archives – Picture of a House by Paul Hostovsky

Picture of a House

There are several V’s in my daughter’s drawing.
One is a gable and the rest are birds
flying off into a spiky yellow
sunset she’s coloring in on the kitchen table.

From where I sit across from her, writing
a check to the Hartford Federal Mortgage
Corporation, the birds are houses
and the house is a large bird, a vertical triangle

from eaves to ridge, ready to take off
at the drop of a letter, rooftop flapping
over the treetops to Hartford, Connecticut. . .

I sign the check as she signs the picture
in the bottom right-hand corner, and the birds
migrate softly into my hands as she gives me
the house. For keeps. No strings attached

to the birds which could also be houses,
or the sun which could also be time
running out, going down like a diminishing
crayon stub still eking out, incredibly,
enough yellow to warm a house 30 years.

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 7, December 2007 — by Paul Hostovsky