The Night You Left by Betsy Mars

The Night You Left
—for my mother

I came to watch and wait as you lay
unspeaking, mother-sitting duty.
You in your purple parachute jogging set,
propped up on pillows on your queen-sized bed.

I noticed you had squirreled away food
in the prednisone-swollen pouches of your cheeks —
not for winter, which was just then passing —
but one last attempt to please my father
as he spooned in breakfast before he left for a meeting.

I didn’t know then all the signs
I would later learn from hospice pamphlets,
but my mind burned on high alert.
I changed your Depends, heavy with urine,
made note of the darkness, figured
your kidneys must be slowing down.

We were silent all day. I bathed and clothed you.
I never said the words I love you.
I sprayed your wrists with cologne,
called my brother to come, kept you home
until you were ready to leave on your own.

by Betsy Mars


Editor’s Note: This poem feels very matter-of-fact—an easy itinerary of sorrow, until the punch at the end where every reader will wish to tell the speaker that her mother doesn’t need the words to know the love is there.

On Hold by Ed Hack

On Hold

Sometimes, as now, the light’s enough, the sun
behind a massive cloud that sweeps like sea
across the blue. The birds are still; songs sung,
they’re quiet, gone. The tree and stream agree
that silence is what’s needed now—as if,
for this brief once, the clock has stopped. On hold,
the sky, the leaves, white flash of wings—this is
the world as poem upon a page, untold.
The fan still whirrs, and that is all I hear,
like water far away. The books that burst
with languages are dumb, and each appears
exactly as it is. The world’s been purged
of Time. Is this a warning or a gift?
I think it’s both, like any granted wish.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: Careful punctuation creates space in this sonnet for the reader to breathe in the imagery and worry woven into the lines.

Telekinetic Dance by Stephen Bunch

Telekinetic Dance
for Vic Contoski

The others retired with spoons
to their rooms
but you chose a fork and stayed
in the dining hall, swaying,
eyes closed,
to music more distant
than you could imagine,
your thumbs caressing the curve of its handle,
feeling its warmth, its stainless
acceptance, you
and the fork attuned,
waltzing and bending
across a ballroom,
bending to the pulse
of music unheard.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: Skillful use of metaphor and enjambment elevates this seemingly simple poem into a heartfelt tribute.

From the archives — Carnations by Guy Kettelhack


And now into the viscous dark –
that blacker than imaginable heart
of things – I go to undergo new throes

of recollection – transformation. My
mother loved carnations – their peculiar
sweet timidity – I remember their

strange scent and hold on her and
on the hollow casket (she was nowhere
to be found in it) where they bestowed

their blushing and their bloom: riding
off the sides, they filled the room
with dissonance and odd perfume.

Three years ago, approximately
today, she started sliding on
the way to die the first week in July.

And now against the viscous dark –
that blacker than imaginable heart
of my unknowing – I imagine pink arising –

growing: redolently weird – its power
blasts the past and future into now –
enigmatic blossom of eternity: her flower.

by Guy Kettelhack

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 2, September 2006

From the archives — Sonnenizio on a Line from Neruda by Michaela A. Gabriel

Sonnenizio on a Line from Neruda

The night turns on its invisible wheels.
The stars are gone; first sunlight splinters
in the branches of black trees, drips onto

tired earth. And so a shadow falls on us,
on our love. I want to rub, to brush it off.
I want to strike a match, turn on another

light, grow my own sun, a wonderland
where waving wands is all it takes to forge
and reforge bonds, where nothing breaks

forever. Place your hand on my hot cheek
again, breathe life into my eyes, connect
the freckles on my back to spell out: Yes.

Write on my skin: We want. We can. We will.
Let me respond with sighs. Then let’s be still.

(First line from Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet LXXXI)

by Michaela A. Gabriel

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 5, June 2007

[Correction] Virtual Vision by Martin J. Elster

Editor’s Addendum: Please accept my most humble apologies for the incorrect attribution given to the previous post of this poem. I messed up, and I am very sorry.

Virtual Vision

She views the world through touch. Faint throbs of thread
relay what prey is trapped, what class of mate
draws near, what bird has come to satiate
its greedy gut. The ring of string has spread
like ripples on a pond. Inside her head
a tiny brain unravels all the facts.
Her spokes have spoken to her. She reacts
quick as a wingbeat. Will she be well-fed?

One evening, groping through a grove, you mangle
the moonlit sanctuary of some spinner
serenely poised to pounce upon her dinner.
Face full of filaments, you watch her dangle
then disappear. You flee the fangs of night,
not knowing she’s too sensible to bite.

by Martin J. Elster

Editor’s Note: This sonnet begins with a mystery (who is this creature?), but soon enough, we realize that a spider is the central character terrifying the speaker.

Memory Care by Greg Watson

Memory Care

In the memory care unit, everyone seems
pleased to see you — partly because
they believe you are someone else —
a wayward son not spoken to in years,
or the first boy to have uttered the word love
as though it were a fact, as solid as a tree
or the ground from which it emerged.
You walk behind the floor scrubber
as quietly as you can, your measured pace
slower than a monk’s in procession,
making certain that no water streams behind.
You have been called by many names here,
always smiling and nodding in return.
You have felt the presence of those lives
passing through for perhaps the final time.
You can’t help but think of your own mother,
how she longed for nothing more than
to forget, to forget, the ECT doing its best
to pinpoint the exact intersections of her pain;
how she forgot, too, the names of her sons
when she called from the next room
or considered them questioningly at dinner,
a stage actress fumbling for her next line.
Perhaps the Vedic masters had it right all along:
this world, however convincing, is merely
a passing show. God plays every part.
God holds a cardboard sign by the freeway,
makes your latte, calls you handsome.
We are divine against all logic and evidence.
We are divine, even as we soil ourselves,
stumbling back to the newness of childhood,
not yet able to write our own names,
knowing only the comfort of their music,
the familiar shape they carve into air.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: This heartache of a poem begins compassionately, if impersonally, but soon narrows down to a very personal sorrow. Repetition hammers home the sadness of the speaker, but the closing lines show how grief is also part of life, and precious despite the pain.

In A Shepherd Hut: An acrostic sonnet by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

In A Shepherd Hut: An acrostic sonnet

I bought a shepherd hut, where I could write—
Not being buttonholed, nor reached by phone—
And parked it in my garden, out of sight,
So all the world would leave me well alone.
Here I would craft a novel or a play,
Entirely undisturbed by daily chores,
Protected from distractions night and day …
However, once I hid behind its doors,
Excruciating writer’s block attacked
Relentlessly, until I came to see
Distractions served the food for thought I lacked—
Hermitic exile fed no muse for me! …
Up to my study’s bustle I returned
To write—and sell the hut, my lesson learned!

by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

Editor’s Note: Every writer knows that distraction is the enemy of the mind, but sometimes the very thing that we think is going to solve that problem becomes the problem, as this hilarious sonnet demonstrates.