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
off
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.

From the archives – Exit Wounds by Stephen Bunch

exit wounds

 

Exit Wounds

It’s out, out, one’s going.” —Robert Creeley

A driftwood angel washed out
of the arroyo, anything green
gone into the sun.

A stars-and-stripes butterfly
decal departs in finished ambiguity
in the rear window of an old Ford pickup.

Fingers bent, then extended,
everything is edges, as the difference
between hand and mirror, regret
before it bleeds into dread,
ice cube and water.

Perhaps a page is torn
or missing here or there,
but the story still plays out
its diaspora of words.

A sign on an abandoned shack
says OPEN.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 19 — by Stephen Bunch

photo by Dianne Wilson