The Enchanted Knight
Lulled by La Belle Dame Sans Merci he lies
. . . .In the bare wood below the blackening hill.
The plough drives nearer now, the shadow flies
. . . .Past him across the plain, but he lies still.
Long since the rust its gardens here has planned,
. . . .Flowering his armour like an autumn field.
From his sharp breast-plate to his iron hand
. . . .A spider’s web is stretched, a phantom shield.
When footsteps pound the turf beside his ear
. . . .Armies pass through his dream in endless line,
And one by one his ancient friends appear;
. . . .They pass all day, but he can make no sign.
When a bird cries within the silent grove
. . . .The long-lost voice goes by, he makes to rise
And follow, but his cold limbs never move,
. . . .And on the turf unstirred his shadow lies.
But if a withered leaf should drift
. . . .Across his face and rest, the dread drops start
Chill on his forehead. Now he tries to lift
. . . .The insulting weight that stays and breaks his heart.
by Edwin Muir (1887-1959)
Prayers for Everywhere
Prayers for the volcanoes
that need garlands when they erupt
and prayers for the freeways
you never drive them the same twice,
prayers for the buds
that look like babies’ faces
as they open next week and for the blossoms
opening their soft legs to bees.
Prayers for everything the soul
must reluctantly or passionately kiss:
a pebble in the shoe,
the silt gritty on your ocean-washed lips.
Because what is a prayer
but a laugh that can’t be formed
in letters, but only heard
in that place that, praised, lights up.
So prayers for everywhere
that needs them,
Prayers for the worms washed out
of the grass onto driveways,
prayers to step over as they swim
because you can’t pick them up
without damage. So much
of the heart can only be helped
without direct touching.
Prayers for everyone
in the throngs who need well-wishes
to suck on in their sleep
like giant glowing lollipops.
Prayers going to every restless sleeper
on this earth who needs a cool hand on the brow.
Prayers for their own sake,
prayers as beautiful as dolphins
leaping and twisting, prayers
freed from gravity’s pull
to fly glistening into the air.
By Rachel Dacus, from Gods of Water and Air
Editor’s Note: The moment I read “prayers for the buds / that look like babies’ faces” I fell in love with this poem. So often similes are trite or cliché, but this poem is full of unique imagery and delightful personification.
Exactly like the first time I flew:
sitting beside a baby and its mother,
the voice so sickly sweet “… should the plane suffer
a sudden drop in pressure you should do
the same as shown by members of the crew.
Make sure your mouth and nose are fully covered,
then tighten the straps before you help another”
. . . . . . . .even if your child is turning blue.
I used to think I’d never pull the mask
to my face first, that this could finally earn
my father’s touch, that while I choked and shuddered
a better life would live. Until I asked
why you had left and you said I must learn
to love myself before I could love another.
by Lew Watts
Editor’s Note: Once again we see how enjambment works with this sonnet. The meter isn’t completely uniform, but that’s okay—it avoids the sing-song rhythm that can lull a reader into a lack of comprehension. Lines 4-5 firmly establish iambic pentameter and ground the poem within its structure.
The Gear Turner’s Work
the gear turner’s burden
is a wrench and lonely work
on the plains beyond
old 66 where grass
fire prays the flowers
into smoke he turns
his shoulder to his work
where he sweats the ground
grows mud he knows
the hoarse and tired voices
calling from the gears
creaking aching groaning
rusty throats and steel tongues
pinned and staked
burned and buried all the years
forgotten when the earth closed
healing on their work
in strange articulation
the gear turner hears a song
the old machines the old machines
he’ll whisper to the others
when evening fires burn low
he’ll creak and groan
in steel tongue stolen
riddles to their questions
by James Brush
literary journal: Gnarled Oak
books: Birds Nobody Loves, A Place Without a Postcard
Editor’s note: Gorgeous use of enjambment to advance the rhythm and sonics of this poem.
“Body of well-known naturalist found in river”
A woman wanders to escape. Her noetic life has dwindled
. . . . . . . .down to grandchildren she never sees and a failure to remember
their names. She retains an ossified memory of the taxonomy of birds,
. . . . . . . .but has lost her car keys for the last time. She miss-mates the buttons
on her flannel jacket. There is no one to straighten it or care,
. . . . . . . .no one to straighten her affairs —
not the trysts of mid-life, but the sort that bury you under piles of junk
. . . . . . . .in your seventies. Physically, she is strong with steady heart
and unburnt lungs; she can hike for hours wielding a hand-carved
. . . . . . . .walking stick, backpack not a burden, canvas for shade or to lie upon,
enough water for a day. She roams the path along the river where she knows
. . . . . . . .the flora and the pitch of bird calls.
The once-weekly chat with her daughter came this morning
. . . . . . . .at ten. She no longer looks forward to these calls, but does her best
to fake it. Pleasantries were tendered and repaid. No hint
. . . . . . . .was given of any plan or prayer. In the river, tiny eyelets open
within eddies as she slides from bank to current with a splash.
. . . . . . . .She is a perfect pear-shaped sea-bound droplet.
by Risa Denenberg
Editor’s note: At first, I balked at noetic (“of or relating to mental activity or the intellect”), but upon further reading, I found some lovely internal rhyme and alliteration in this poem.
Autumn Sky Poetry Daily publishes one poem every weekday and occasionally on weekends.
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