The Offering by Laura Foley

The Offering

These woods
on the edges of a lake
are settling now
to winter darkness.
Whatever was going to die
is gone—
crickets, ferns, swampgrass.
Bare earth fills long spaces of a field.
But look:
a single oak leaf
brown and shining
like a leather purse.
See what it so delicately offers
lying upturned on the path.
See how it reflects in its opened palm
a cup of deep, unending sky.

by Laura Foley, from Syringa.

Editor’s Note: The spare imagery of this poem perfectly depicts the quietude of winter, and its possibilities.

Pre-Raphaelite Morning: Paintings on the Beach by Jennifer Finstrom

Pre-Raphaelite Morning: Paintings on the Beach

Sunrise hammers the lake
into flattened metal, and two crisp
swallows detail the sky. Hunt
or Millais might have painted this scene,
the playground equipment intensely
cobalt as it waits unused, surrounded
by slender, newly planted trees. No one
sits in the slightly moving swing.
Not a young girl with a garland
of marguerites. Not Sylvia,
Dorothy, or Vanessa cutting class.

But still the school of nature beckons.
From my window, I watch a solitary
man amble the beach. He could be
a painter, planning his composition.
He could be drawn by the girl-less
swing on a grey day to imagine
that it is not too late, that painting
her there might make her real.
Or he may have risen early to avoid
sleep and his half-brother death
because even in morning, darkness

is always present, just as the heart
of snow beats steadily in June.
This day will pass as most days:
I will see the woman walking
her dog and the cloud that crosses
the sky like most clouds
that have passed. And when
I think of night with her train
of stars, I imagine, not a trailing
gown, but a steaming freight
that roars out of the west, devouring
each bright remnant of the day.

****
Painting titles used in the poem (grouped by stanza):

Young Girl with a Garland of Marguerites (Sophie Anderson)
Sylvia (Frank Bernard Dicksee)
Dorothy (Frank Bernard Dicksee)
Vanessa (John Everett Millais)

The School of Nature (William Holman Hunt)
A Gray Day (Daniel Alexander Williamson)
Too Late (William Lindsay Windus)
Sleep and his Half-brother Death (John William Waterhouse)

Heart of Snow (Edward Robert Hughes)
Woman Walking her Dog (Edward Robert Hughes)
The Cloud (Arthur Hacker)
Night with her Train of Stars (Edward Robert Hughes)

by Jennifer Finstrom

Jennifer on Facebook

Twitter: @jenfinstrom

Editor’s Note: Imagery, metaphor, personification—this poem is deceptively easy to read, yet the technique beneath its words draws the reader inside the narrator’s world with skillful appeal. The creative use of painting titles adds an additional element of ekphrasis to the poem.

Zerstzung by Erik Lloyd Olson

Zerstzung

The Stasi of East Germany was one of the most effective secret police agencies to have existed; its motto was: ‘Shield and Sword of the Party.’ It spied on the citizenry through a vast network of citizens turned informants, and fought any opposition by tactics of Zersetzung, or the hidden psychological destruction of targets.This was designed to ‘switch off’ perceived dissidents so that they lose the will for ‘unacceptable’ activities… it included wiretapping, bugging, mysterious phone calls, breaking into homes and subtly rearranging their contents… Usually, victims had no clue the Stasi was responsible.

My fond remembrance cannot reconcile
this recent find: I have a Stasi file.

. .No block was free, no park or public square—
the watchers’ eyes were hidden everywhere.
One night I met a girl, despite the fear,
in a loud cafe where no spy could hear.
She smuggled outlawed books, hard-packs of Kents . . .
her ruling conscience was her recompense.
. .We wandered in the darksome, cobbled maze,
slipped through the columns, took the alleyways
to get around marches extolling Marx:
In midnight’s mist torchbearers trailing sparks,
gloriously misnamed Free German Youth,
restricted open routes and sang untruth.
. .We made it to my Wilhelmina flat,
where we could be alone to more than chat.
My inner sanctum there was most uncertain,
all could see in, but for the window curtain.
Laughing, she pulled away from my embrace,
then drew the curtain clear. The only trace
she left was lipstick on a drained carafe.
They got to her, then . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .for my photograph!?
My student years are typed and paper-clipped,
stuffed in a drawer, a strange familiar script.

by Erik Lloyd Olson

Erik on Facebook

Editor’s Note: A haunting history lesson done in impeccable meter, with perfect rhyme, presses its knowledge into our minds with great emphasis.

From the archives – Putting by by Kevin Casey

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Putting by

Legs unscrewed and clattering in the flatbed,
grandmother’s sewing machine was hauled off
to my sister’s. But I took her button jar,
that had watched over the dooryard
from its windowsill perch since I was a girl.

Embossed with an angled “Bell,” that blue bank
gathered up her wood and bakelite coins
year after year — a stitch in time as the wind
would scatter frostbitten leaves, and snow,
then apple petals, strewn like flakes of nacre.

When grandfather was taken to the home,
my cousin took his tools, thrown into a box,
their sweat-burnished handles nicked
and scraped by each another’s bit and blade.

But I chose from the workshop a coffee jar
of washers, mote-shouldered, dented lid —
waste not, want not — and each rusted ring
plinked inside was a penny in a well,
a wish that the work wouldn’t end.

Huddled side by side, I’ve set both jars
on my kitchen shelf, putting by a portion
of what they sought to save, the life still
gleaming through those two smooth faces,
both brimming with their absence.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, December 1, 2015 — by Kevin Casey

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Night Fell by Florence Ripley Mastin

Night Fell

Night fell one year ago, like this.
He had been writing steadily.
Among these dusky walls of books,
How bright he looked, intense as flame!
Suddenly he paused,
The firelight in his hair,
And said, “The time has come to go.”
I took his hand;
We watched the logs burn out;
The apple boughs fingered the window;
Down the cool, spring night
A slim, white moon leaned to the hill.
To-night the trees are budded white,
And the same pale moon slips through the dusk.
O little buds, tap-tapping on the pane,
O white moon,
I wonder if he sleeps in woods
Where there are leaves?
Or if he lies in some black trench,
His hands, his kind hands, kindling flame that kills?
Or if, or if …
He is here now, to bid me last good-night?

by Florence Ripley Mastin (1886-1968)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Mockers by Mary Meriam

The Mockers

What rich glass bottle held the picture of
our music teacher, name I can’t recall.
I only know I had a twisted love
for her, that she was strange, alone, and tall.
We took the bottle to the field out back,
my childhood friend and I, and dug a grave.
Whatever crazy words we said, I lack
them now. Or did we sing or laugh, I crave
this memory, our kneeling on the ground
one afternoon to place Miss X in earth.
I strain my mind with hope to hear a sound,
even a bird, or leaves in wind, what birth
of folly or regret was brewing then,
what digging up could bring her back again.

by Mary Meriam, from The Lesbian.

Editor’s Note: This sonnet touches on a memory barely retained, yet still the emotional impact of regret and wondering lingers.

Symphony by Martin Willitts Jr.

Symphony

. . . . . . . .we are one note played in high altitudes
. . . . . . . .taking time reaching ground level
. . . . . . . .wondering if the descent is worth
. . . . . . . .the same as the slow ascent

sometimes a quarter note finds rim rock or pine jut
. . . .or sometimes it finds an indigo flower without a known name

or music dwells in a crag where snow melt dribbles slowly through
. . . .on its way in no particular hurry to get there

. . . . . . . .that single note can be impeded by cloudburst
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .or primary colors
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .or absorbed into the hush of ferns

it never sounds like death
. . . .nor the eclipse of awe
. . . . . . . .nor the angle of light on the sheer rock face

the powder-blue sky begins this day as a full orchestra
. . . .clouds arrive in tuxedoes with black music cases

. . . . . . . .cymbals clash
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .then a timpani of kettle drums
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .the harsh striking violins
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .make rain
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .a crescendo

. . . .a pause. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .a silent rest spot

in the aftermath there is a drop on a white dogwood flower
. . . .and a mockingbird reaches a high pitch
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .like a piccolo

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: Concrete poetry is often forced into place, and meaning takes a back seat to visual form. This poem, however, echoes the shape and sound of water and storm, supporting the imagery rather than detracting from it.