An Inkling of Reality by Susan Delaney Spear

An Inkling of Reality
after the photos of Christian Spencer

Deep into my sixties, I dream a dream
of a dining room from my dark, distant past.
The room is barren. The walls, bare.
The green shag’s ground like winter grass,
the once-shiny chandelier hangs shallow
from the ceiling. Suddenly, I see them there!
A childhood charm of hummingbirds hovers,
a fluttering fleet above the light fixture,
beaks, bodies, and heads—all black—
their tails, a flash of fury in flight.

When all at once, the sun switches on,
each wide-open wing awash in light
diffracts fresh prisms of promise.
Red, orange, yellow, green,
blue, indigo, violet: here,
on a hundred holy humming wings,
the bow that sealed an ancient deal,
real, stronger than the strength of steel.

by Susan Delaney Spear

Editor’s Note: Alliteration forms a solid backbone for the dreamy imagery of birds in this ekphrastic poem. For some literary fun, here is a link where you can listen to a poem read aloud in this same alliterative meter, in Middle English, the original language of this form.

Poet’s Note: This poem is written in Anglo Saxon Strong Stress Alliterative Meter, with variations.

Choked by Jane Poirier Hart

for CBF

This morning, a brown oak leaf caught
in the chalice of a coral hibiscus. Intruder,
bringer of bad news: summer’s demise.
Invasive English ivy has insinuated itself
inside the screened porch, found chance:
the chink between panel & clapboards.
All season, inched, inched and wound
stem & leaf into one bare, back corner.
I haven’t the heart to cut it, tear it out.
Invasive because it chokes out other plants,
creates what’s called an “ivy desert,” but
something about the vine, its curve & curl
claiming air reminds me of seahorses, genus
Hippocampus. Hippocampus from
the Ancient Greek hippos meaning “horse”
and kampos meaning “sea monster.”
Hippocampus: twin curved horns in
the temporal lobe—pliable & vulnerable—
important to the limbic system, involved
in emotions, the cementing of memories.

by Jane Poirier Hart


Editor’s Note: This poem begins with a startling image that immediately draws the reader into a narrative of vine growth and its uncomfortable allegorical message (echoed in the title).

The Woolly Bear by Martin J. Elster

The Woolly Bear

Along a silvan lane, you spy a critter
creeping with a mission, a woolly bear
fattened on autumn flora. So you crouch,
noting her triple stripes: the middle ginger,
each end as black as space. Her destination
is some unnoticed nook, a sanctuary
to settle in, greet the fangs of frost,
then freeze, wait winter out—lingering, lost
in dreams of summer, milkweed, huckleberry.
Though she’s in danger of obliteration
by wheel or boot, your fingers now unhinge her.
She bends into a ball of steel. No “ouch”
from bristles on your palm as you prepare
to toss her lightly to the forest litter.

She flies in a parabola, and lands
in leaves. Though she has vanished, both your hands
hold myriad tiny hairs, a souvenir
scattered like petals. When this hemisphere
turns warm again, she’ll waken, thaw, and feast
on shrubs and weeds (the bitterer the better)
then, by some wondrous conjuring, released
from larval life. At length she will appear
a moth with coral wings — they’ll bravely bear
her through a night of bats or headlight glare,
be pulverized like paper in a shredder,
or briefly flare in a world that will forget her.

by Martin J. Elster

Editor’s Note: The rhyme scheme in this poem is a delight, as is the story, but it is the last line that really resonates and opens the door to allegory.

Poet’s Note: The rhyme scheme in the first stanza is a chiasmus.

From the archives – Poem for our Anniversary by Johanna Ely

Poem for our Anniversary

I ask you if you still want me
the way the shore wants
the ocean to lap
against its edges,
if you still feel the strong desire
of tides that pull and push
against a moon that is
slivered forever into my skin.
I ask if you remember me,
how I was before you really
knew me,
before you pulled me
to shore, breathing life
into my collapsed lungs
with your slow blues
and blackbird calls.
I want to love you
the way the shore delights
in choppy waves hitting
the seawall at high tide,
or longs for the silent calm
of receding water caressing sand.
You answer yes to everything,
even when I ask you if you imagined
my poems flying across your lips
the first time I kissed you.
I tell you I am the swallow
who will always return home
because you follow me there,
carrying marsh grasses in your beak,
the setting sun blossoming
like a bloodshot rose in your wings,
the ebb and flow of who we are inhaled,
how the love we have smells like the sea.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, September 30, 2016 — by Johanna Ely

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Roads Not Taken (Ode to Poems) by Sabrina Wiggins

Roads Not Taken (Ode to Poems)

Two roads diverged in a bright wood.
I can only travel one, but covet both.
Time, mine – so I stood,
plucking wild pigweeds as long as felt good;
terrified of taking a track I grow to loath.

I idle as others commence.
I am fixed at the fork betwixt ripening brush.
Stalling makes sense;
better wait than leap at my expense –
mind uncharted like the aisles – mustn’t rush.

All have trekked well into their trails.
I envy their found treasures, their reaped peace.
Inertia has not endowed such tales;
it is only the raven who will hear my wails.
“Nevermore –’’ he flees with the sun’s decrease.

I shall be telling this without excite,
as those weeds become vines that chain me in place
upon the dying of the light.
I didn’t rage into that good Night.
I slipped away, without grace or trace.

by Sabrina Wiggins

Editor’s Note: A thread of despair runs through this poem, almost as if the speaker could not find the right words to describe the emotion, and so had to construct it piece by piece from other poems. How many do you recognize?

The Permanent Wound by Dara-Lyn Shrager

The Permanent Wound

My mother with her fists full
of thistle and one stillborn kitten
to bury out back. Into the vine-
bound earth, my mother plunged
a metal shovel so deep it left
a tang on my tongue. Now my sons
are leaving home. How to stop
the ruin? How not to sit swollen
and stung? My mother in the dark
yard, digging until her fingers
went numb. The earth devouring
what we left to rot. No wonder
she courts the surgeon’s knife.
We want the permanent wound.

by Dara-Lyn Shrager

Editor’s Note: This harrowing poem begins with an unforgettable image and continues in that vein, with startling enjambment and piercing questions that lead to a disquieting last line.

Palimpsest by Natasha Sajé


Her last time in Rome, it was warm and damp
and crowded. My favorite city, a palimpsest,
that’s what she likes to say. The first time she’s
twenty and studies all the churches—interiors

uncrowded. Her favorite city, a palimpsest.
Some exteriors: Santa Maria della Pace.
More than twenty churches—inside or out
in seven days. She stays at the Pensione Terminus

two miles outside Pietro da Cortona’s portico,
run by a courtly proprietor and his German wife,
for seven days. She stays at the Pensione Terminus,
the rooms enormous, high ceilinged, the silver shining.

The courtly proprietor and his younger German wife
offer white rolls, butter, marmalade and jam.
Enormous rooms, high ceilinged, the silver scratched.
The fourth time she is married, the owner has a cane,

offers white rolls, butter, marmalade, and jam.
At La Buca di Ripetta, the waiters do not change.
The fifth time she is married. The maitre d’ shuffles a bit.
The antipasto table seems wondrous—squid she’s never had.

The Buca di Ripetta waiters finally change.
At Archimedes she and Catherine lunch with workers.
The antipasto table’s gone—she orders squid.
She dreams of campaniles and baldachinos. The last time,

Archimedes, where she and Cathy lunched with workers,
is closed, and she sees tourists, decaffeinato everywhere.
Bernini’s heavy campaniles had to be torn down.
The Terminus is gone, replaced by four-star glitz.

Eyes closed, she hears tourists, frothed milk everywhere.
Here lies ashes, dust and nothing, A. Barberini’s epitaph.
The sky replete with stars she cannot see.
Her time is short, nostalgia’s a mistake.

A Barberini’s epitaph: Hic jacet pulvis, cinis et nihil.
The first time in Rome she buys an ivory bracelet.
Her time is short; she wants a souvenir.
Here lies one whose name is writ in water.

The first time in Rome she bought an ivory bracelet
she’s now ashamed to wear. Dolce vita. Vita brevis.
Here lies one whose name is writ in water.
Rome was warm and damp and not the same, she says.

by Natasha Sajé

Twitter: @NatashaLSaje

Editor’s Note: The intricate repetition of this pantoum beautifully reflects the narrative. As the title suggests, everything is erased and rewritten—cities, workers, and of course, oneself. This is not always a comfortable transformation.

I Dreamt of a Broken Bird by Ciaran Parkes

I Dreamt of a Broken Bird

I dreamt of a broken bird that couldn’t fly
left by a child in a box of grass and found
years later making the same lost sound
so it seemed a miracle that it didn’t die.

I dreamt of someone clutched around a pain
that wouldn’t go away, a wound, an injury
that put on layers, grew outwards like a tree
until it seemed impossible to contain

within a body’s span. I saw the bird
still try to move, still pulsing desperately
in the sheltering place constructed for its safety
by that well meaning child. I saw the hard

growth round the tender wound. It took no art
to see my dream was all about the heart.

by Ciaran Parkes

Editor’s Note: This sonnet is built for the volta where the dream is uncovered, much like pushing a shroud aside to see what’s beneath it.

Sometimes It Takes a Storm by Siham Karami

Sometimes It Takes a Storm

When life comes in, it comes in as a threat:
Sally’s packing threatening winds and rain.
More needles poke your body to reset.

As you resist, your hands in mitts must sweat
their trap, like riding out a hurricane
or life, which often comes in as a threat,

a gas-masked doctor whom you’ve never met
who pulls you from the jaws of death and brain
gone haywire, more IV’s to poke, reset

the liver, kidneys, heart, the rough roulette
of day-to-day recovery. Come, let’s drain
from your incoming life what stops its threat:

the dams and sandbags ease would build, its bet
that death’s cool comfort lures to its domain
your needles poking out, your body set

on dear survival. No time to regret
the house burned down, the flooded fields, the pain.
When life comes in, it comes in as a threat:
a needle torrent pokes death—>NO! Reset.

by Siham Karami


Editor’s Note: Some verse fits so perfectly into current events that the small, structural metaphor it contains grows beyond the confines of the lines. This villanelle is one of those.

From the archives – Lost Cause In Six Or More Colors by Patricia Wallace Jones

Lost Cause In Six Or More Colors

It is no accident that I am here
where the only lane left has slipped to sea;
here on this fault with no safety belt,
no stay pole or traveler to slow the falling.

When tides run high and the herons leave,
I ride silent, north from Hare Creek
past the old sawmills and dog hole ports,
logging camps where alders lean white,
grieve in the leavings of old growth trees.

Approaching the Bailey bridge, my fear
becomes palpable, rises up from my gut–
heart to throat– while I wait for the flag man
to turn his sign from Stop to Slow, to be
the next one suspended over crews below.

Orange-vested and out-witted, they still try
to tame her. This year with rip rap, PVC
and red clover.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, October 16, 2015 — by Patricia Wallace Jones

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim