A silence with you
But a moment rich
by Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)
A silence with you
But a moment rich
by Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)
St. Vitus Day
He danced at my father’s funeral, his arms
asway from the buckled down shoulders hunching
and I sat beside him felt my muscles twinge
to the beat of that dance, the hallelujah
of hands not wild in the air. Some rhythms beg
you to dance, to stir in your chair, or just let your toe
bob along the ground like a sparrow.
Something tugs the middle of your limbs,
reels you out of the grieving water, gasping,
as that man flaps and claps and shuffles
a brain-bitten kumbayah. Oh he danced
and the rows before him swayed to his sway,
and the rows behind him swayed. And the priest
kept his shoulders rigid behind the altar,
his legs Riverdancing beneath the cassock.
He danced at my father’s funeral. I danced
at his, sashaying left, right, a Pip shining
in the reflection from his casket, his closed
casket, closed so no one could see him
boogie-oogie-oogie into the ground.
by Julie Carter
Editor’s Note: St. Vitus is the patron saint of entertainers and epileptics. Somehow, this poem sidesteps the weighty historical context and reintroduces us to the joy that can be had in the midst of grief.
Turns out I was wrong—the words landscape and escape don’t share a root.
Instead escape is from the French for the cape you shed in your pursuer’s hands
as you flee, while landscape first was Dutch, for the being-ness of land, a word
from the dyke-builders, culling land from sea: landship, like friendship and kinship,
in the Masters’ dark caves of thick paint. Nor, after all, are landscape and escape
opposites, antidotes, the solace I’d held on to. Turns out you can’t slip off the earth
like a cape, can’t flee for someplace else unseen and scape-less. Could the opposite
of scape, then, be space, that ever-expanding realm in which everything moves
away from everything else, flees, while I am still here, still life. The scapegoat
in the wilderness shares its root not with the landscape it roves about in, abandoned,
fled from, laden with the sins of others thrust upon it like a cape, but instead is rooted
with escape, though whose? Even when I die, dirt is where they’ll bury me—land
is where I’ll rest, or be said to rest, shrouded in its surface, my last-grasped cape my body,
the sin-bound scapegoat I am tethered to, as space moves cleanly and facelessly away.
Editor’s Note: Repetition is the name of the game in this poem. Realization hinges upon the multiple meanings of the words escape, landscape, scape, and space. It anchors the poem’s narrator within a mental exercise that leads to the realization of non-movement— landlocked.
within the body of the aux sables
the rock in the river shoulders the water
and casts off
in a languid lasso-let-go loop
a torso of water.
and while the river moves, new
water always creating the shape, the shape
is yet held. come down the river
quickens a gold leaf blown from a still complete maple.
who knew – ever – that this leaf
would adorn the body of water,
the girl within the woman
created by the casting-off of the rock,
the penumbra of the rock,
and that the leaf would pass over
her voluptuous blackness like an ember held in her hand
out toward the dark world
to illuminate its planes and fissures?
by Erin Wilson
Editor’s Note: When you can read a poem five times and still find something new, you know it’s a keeper. Surreality rules the narrative in this poem. [Aux Sables River]
I have traveled far in Concord.
H. D. Thoreau
Come and walk this path with me,
wherever it may lead—it’s fall,
my favorite time for pilgrimage.
Attune your senses. And if you dare,
leave thought behind, for I have traveled
westward paths before and know
that instinct makes the most of them.
You’re ready? It’s a trying walk,
but sanative for those sans terre,
who wander through uncharted woods
and wasted lands. You walkers-errant,
come! Let’s shoulder through this hedge.
Perhaps we’ll see a holy land,
find the way a la Sainte Terre,
where once, despite constraining creeds,
I strolled into a primal grove,
the only source of Saunterer’s Apples,
and lost myself amidst the trees
until I found the wind-fall fruit—
hallowed by its tang, my tongue
and lips were freed to sing of it.
by Ralph La Rosa, first published in Chimaera 7
Editor’s Note: The references to Thoreau’s work in this poem are interwoven nicely with the meaning, and ultimately, enrich the text beyond the poem’s cleanly constructed lines. [Thoreau: Walking and Wild Apples]
O Clouds Unfold
for Marissa Lingen and Elise Matthesen
The month has started under water —
too much to shove at, too much to swallow:
sprawling projects, tax returns …
To wield a spear like an Amazon,
to hammer fears into a gleaming bow —
these aren’t skills I list on my present
résumé, but what the present
needs is something like. From the water,
hauling my soggy rear back into the bow,
gasping out what I couldn’t help but swallow —
it isn’t pretty, training to be an Amazon.
I’m told such pangs will yield happy returns
but some days I think of all the sad returns
during my warehouse days — this unwanted present,
that unhelped self. My wishlist at Amazon
changes by the week, like flavors of water
nestled in a sales rep’s cooler. Swallow
this magic pill; now make your bow
in the Wonderland court. Tied up with a bow,
neatly wrapped — low risk, low returns.
I know that, but the truth’s still tough to swallow
when long-steeped weariness outweighs the present.
I have to remember how petrels pierce the water,
scaring off sharks with the skill of an Amazon.
I’ve never longed to sail down the Amazon
but then I never expected each night to bow
my head with such thanks for running water,
schooled by floods and droughts. The returns
of every field, I now regard as a present.
I’ve watched dying people, how they can’t even swallow
the thinnest dribble of water. Oh, when the swallow
nests again by the bell, will we see the Amazon
gliding into harbor as well? Will it present
a dazzlement of gems — the gold-bright bow,
a garnet-studded scabbard? What returns
isn’t always what was cast upon the water —
when I dream, men in swallow-tails
bow to Amazons as their equals. But waking
returns me back to the present — to the water.
by Peg Duthie
Editor’s Note: The first line of this poem convinced me to read it, and then the sestina form drew me into the narrative. The poem skillfully presents multiple possibilities with one voice and only six words: Amazon, water, bow, present, swallow, returns.
Ivy halos his hair.
Draped over her ankles
vines dangle like willow leaves
there is immortality here
entwined outwardly — inwardly
White as moonlight on limbs
she is kneeling-death beside him
corpse face, eyelids closed
wears a shoulder-less robe
with tangent circles, some red as poppies,
no beginnings — no endings
Coal-curly hair. He is centered.
Face, a hidden sunrise
rectangles on his heavy robe
strength upon pillar of strength
black — white: absence — presence
Below their waists: circles — rectangles
merge, patterns intermingling,
as if his rectangles were doors
her circles — knobs
shapes fitting together, into each other
harmonious as sun, moon
One of his hands supports her cheek
the other like a weathervane points
to the temple of her wisdom, where
embedded flowers encircle her thoughts
as his lips, light as fallen leaves,
press against her snow covered cheek
they have entered each other: they are air
Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss.” 1907-1908. Oil and gold leaf on canvas. Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna, Austria.
I hoped that he would love me,
And he has kissed my mouth,
But I am like a stricken bird
That cannot reach the south.
For though I know he loves me,
To-night my heart is sad;
His kiss was not so wonderful
As all the dreams I had.
by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)
The Robot Scientist’s Daughter [one of us]
There was something wrong with her; that much was clear.
She ran around in circles, meowing or mooing,
the yellowjackets a cloud in the sun. Men in black suits
hovered in doorways, dodging shadows;
a safe kept locked at all times in her house.
The basement glowed and ticked, and the children
there emerged damaged. The furniture was cracked
and pasted back together – even the flowers
in their blooms knew soon they would be plowed under,
left as rubble. What chance did she have, even then,
did she know how her future was already written,
her roots stunted and sick like those dogwoods
with their grafted limbs? Someone kept stealing
their dogs, cars arrived in the night and disappeared again
before morning. Even though their strawberries
were so sweet, even though their daffodils nodded
cheerfully to us, we could see: she would never be one of us.
by Jeannine Hall Gailey, first published in The Journal, and is part of the new book, The Robot Scientist’s Daughter.
Editor’s Note: The narrative in this poem is just slightly askew—the reader can follow the thread of the narrator’s thoughts, but the images contribute to a sense of strangeness that underscores the neighborhood’s rejection of the daughter.
From leafless branches etching crooked lines
against the sky—scars coldly cut across
a bloodless cheek—some poets weave designs
of desolation, stories laced with loss.
They find in webs of winter-blackened limbs
the shapes of emptiness and elegies—
but those who see the stuff of requiems
miss what another eye obliquely sees:
the rugged grace of living filigree
that scrawls a promise on the open air,
a craggy silhouette of constancy
that tacitly rebuts boot-deep despair.
Though darkly drawn, these etchings may impart
the vital signs at winter’s still-warm heart.
Editor’s Note: This sonnet is so perfectly constructed that the volta at the end of the poem slips into the mind quietly, but with great effect.