Snow Day by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Snow Day

. . . . . . . .A Hot Steam’s somebody who can’t get to heaven, just wallows around on lonesome roads…
. . . . . . . .Jem, To Kill a Mockingbird

Every avenue a snowy dead end
we pause midway to note the damage
in felled trees and wires. Windows glitter
with frost so thick, no one sees
in or out, and the mountains at the corners
where two streets meet
halt all traffic. There’s little to say on your return
yet we don’t mourn the steamy days of summer, where
goldfinches twirled the humid air,
dove through the hydrangeas for shade. Heat
kept us distracted in its foggy mornings,
when sweat was a length of silk thread
down your chest, calling to be spun.

Our laughter’s risen and fled, blurred the sky
to a beautiful oblivion, and we watch juncos,
puffed twice their size,
huddle on the fallen branches. We are past
complaining about a distance
we can’t change, and the wind carries
all our frozen words to the river, where they cling
to cattails stiff in ice.
It’s impossible to go further, so we stand
blind with snow, sun and silver,
our warm breath ghosting behind us.

by Marybeth Rua-Larsen, first published in Poetry and Art: an exhibition of contemporary poetry and responsive art

Editor’s Note: This poem’s imagery combines the memory of summer with the glittering abandon of winter’s icy landscape. The best part is that it isn’t just a collection of pretty scenes—rather, the poem gives us an emotional framework where even our breath is part of the beauty.

For Ed, Who Lost JD by Gabriel Welsch

For Ed, Who Lost JD

I drove the familiar tonight,
Berwyn to Lancaster, rutted route 30
through the once-nothing
studded with light, now-smaller fields
rotten with manure and heaped grass—
where once we raced your dad’s Renault
in the small hours, adrenalized
with pushing the meager limits
of our age and time. You sang
Johnny Cash with an abandon
I still cannot muster, and while I distrust
memory, I know these fields were empty,
that all I passed tonight—the halogen
gas stations, the glittering cul-de-sacs
like landing pads guttering in the dark—
all I passed had grown anew. We are rootless,
having moved from every place we ever lived,
now making some new place with people
we could not foresee, who came to love us,
awkward as we were and yet are,
wearing paths around us as your dog did,
as I read in your letter, who you had
to put down. I started at the line
you wrote, how his path in the yard remains,
though his feet no longer tell the dirt
of his domain. It will take years for grass to return,
and I think of you and that dog, you I have known
for so long, how you carry your depth
of hurt and care, how you hold tight
those you love, how you, without thinking,
give in to abandon, give in to what love
of other places, times, and things demands.
But now, I have decided to stop the cruelty
of trying to understand, and instead hold out
my hands, to gauge the weight of your grief.

by Gabriel Welsch

twitter: @gabrielwelsch

Editor’s note: The line breaks determine where to pause in this poem littered with long, conversational sentences. Is this a dirge? Possibly, though the narrator’s friend is not dead. The dog, though, carries a weight of grief and meaning not easily forgotten.

Barn Swallows by Martin Willitts Jr.

Barn Swallows

Under the bare branches shaking their last leaves,
increments of light never reach here.
Two barn swallows are soundless in miles of heat.
They are where the river once cut across.

Not from the church choir
they are too parched to practice for.
They have folded wings into starched clothes
like prayer hands etched from plowing.

They begin gliding for no reason.
Maybe they are trying to stir the stilled air.
Maybe this is why the miles are soundless,
why singing just doesn’t help anymore.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem makes its point indirectly, using non-literal imagery. As someone who has often watched barn swallows flying, the suggested reasons for their behavior appealed to me.

From the archives – Tide and Terrain by Jean Kreiling

Long Beach, Plymouth


Tide and Terrain

(Long Beach, Plymouth, MA)

I didn’t know that it would be high tide;
I never check the charts. I felt the need
for salt air and drove east to walk a wide
soft swath of gold dust—but twice-daily greed
for territory had provoked the bay
to occupy the shore right to the rocks,
the beach now intermittent, and my way
a mix of grainy mud and granite blocks.
Compelled by this terrain to improvise,
I strolled through water, then on well-soaked sand,
then on the jetty. As the shoreline sifted
itself, I did the same, my feet and eyes
adjusting as each moment made its stand
against the last, then drowned as power shifted.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 23 — by Jean Kreiling

photo by Jean Kreiling

Vintage verse – Sonnet 130 by William Shakespeare

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
. . . .And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
. . . .As any she belied with false compare.

by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

Read by Stephen Fry:

More sonnets at TouchPress

The Girl Who Collected Fishbones by Karen J. Weyant

The Girl Who Collected Fishbones

In late April, the water was still too cold for wading,
so I clung to the edge of Bill Gardener’s Pond,

looking for bones of black crappie and bluegill
caught in brown grass or the winter slivered cattails.

I discovered the local creeks held more promise:
with the tip of my shoes, I nudged aside stones,

and wrestled fish heads and rotting fins from
the shallow pools where locals gutted their catch.

Once, I caught an old fishing hook in the ball
of my finger, rinsed my hand in the water,

and watched the red disappear from my skin.
At home, I lined up my collection on the porch banister,

sure that every ripple spoke through the bones,
that a brook trout would announce that

the water was cold but clear, that the perch
would murmur shallow like a hushed sigh.

Muffled whispers of the water drowned out
the way everyone around me laughed.

When later that summer, thousands of dead carp
floated to the shores of the local reservoir,

their bones sharp, eye sockets empty but staring,
so much that local residents swore they dreamed

of dead fish in their sleep, I wanted to say
See, You Should Have Been Listening.

by Karen J. Weyant

Editor’s Note: This is a wonderful example of a narrative poem. Note the balanced line lengths and the closure at the end of the poem.

My Heart Is an Extremity by Siham Karami

My Heart Is an Extremity

Who crowned the heads of conquerors with leaves?
You slam the door. I’m rolling up my sleeves.

We read each other’s eyes and almost drown
like gypsies rendered speechless by the leaves.

Then winter strips us down to skeletons:
static, silence, sparks are all it leaves.

What is this archaeology of love,
brushing fragile shards, preserving leaves?

Waking to a gentle blush, we whisper
truth in half-words, all the heart believes.

We slowly die, let loose from the tree,
then whirl in restless, weightless crowds of leaves.

Your hands dry out like parchment on their bones,
but longing for their firm grip never leaves.

The spine holds words together, names the whole
but we extract their meaning from the leaves.

Don’t measure time, Siham, by things that fall,
but by the upward thrust of newborn leaves.

by Siham Karami, first published in Angle Poetry

Twitter: @SihamKarami

Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem is unexpected, making it easy to picture the scenes detailed by the repetition of “leaves.” The longing that underpins the ghazal form is beautifully illustrated here.

The White Queen by Ruth Thompson

The White Queen

Comes the White Queen worrying
and hurrying to keep up and losing
her hairpins. Mind pieces slip
out of their sockets.

Because it is all held together
with hairpins —
the old kind, meant to be invisible?

And they were invisible.
I didn’t know they were there holding my mind together
until I started
to lose it.

Someone whose name I should remember
talks of the sweet dishevelment of love,
but this dishevelment is not sweet.

Or perhaps I am wrong,
perhaps I should

no, could, because one should speak
only in possibilities not rules

but where was I

I could perhaps experience
this dishevelment as sweet —
this mental coming apart

or opening up, which is a more
appealing concept —
the mind dropping hairpins
not in the process of falling
in chunks

but of opening up.
Light through the cracks.

So this dropping
off of things — of memory,
cleverness, concentration —

perhaps is not matter for grief
but sign of expansion.

If poetry cannot be made,
perhaps it will come in
as a gift.

Joy creating everything,
even this.

Even the White Queen,
silly and confused and showering
silver hairpins
so beautiful and full of light.

by Ruth Thompson, from Woman with Crows

Ruth on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The fragmented form of this poem perfectly captures the meaning and imbues it with subtle grace.

The Beatles’ Last Photo Shoot by Christine Potter

The Beatles’ Last Photo Shoot

Tittenhurst Park, August 1969

This is what I want to think about today,
not the sky gone twilight two hours past noon
and buzzards riding the predicted wind
past perfectly normal empty trees creaking

their old bones. Four young men, knee-deep
in late summer weeds and bloomed-out
flowers, Yoko giggling, Linda pregnant, air
alive with the scent of straw and dry earth.

A donkey, a sheepdog, an 18th century house
with its diamond-shaped windows and dark
woodwork. Beards, wide-brimmed black hats.
Ringo said he didn’t know it was the last time

they’d pose together. This is what I want to
think about: that last time, frozen solid in
what we hope we’ll remember, how when I
finally got to England there was some of it still

left there for me, a wall of trees, the lawn
already a little brown in spots, the possibility
of redeeming love–arranged for a few clicks
of the shutter–that didn’t seem the work of fools.

by Christine Potter

Christine on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The first line of this poem convinced me it was worth reading because the desire for a perfect moment is universal. This ideal inevitably breaks down, of course (“Ringo said he didn’t know it was the last time // they’d pose together.”), but the wish remains.

Who are you? by Mary Meriam

Who are you?

I am the unlocked door to the cellar
The cement floor and the flooded washer
The man who said I see everything
The mollusk in the seagull’s beak

The cement floor and the flooded washer
The lost mutt in a ghetto
The mollusk in the seagull’s beak
The wild unweeded garden bed

The lost mutt in a ghetto
The beach towel spread on hot sand
The wild unweeded garden bed
The long fresh nightgown slipping on

The beach towel spread on hot sand
The forest and the fiddlehead fern
The long fresh nightgown slipping on
And though you may not see me

The forest and the fiddlehead fern
Orlando and Paradise Lost
And though you may not see me
I will always wonder who you are

Orlando and Paradise Lost
The man who said I see everything
I will always wonder who you are
I am the unlocked door to the cellar

by Mary Meriam

Editor’s Note: The repetition in this poem threads a possible image of the narrator’s psyche through disparate moments in time. Each time I read it, something else is revealed.