You Leave in February by Donna Vorreyer

You Leave in February

March arrives with its wind
and a profusion of blossoms,
the blood-rush of asphalt
shifting from slush to slick.

I pull back the curtains, hear
the hedge scream spring, each
branch newly straight, released
from the weight of winter ice.

This quiet wakes me like
the sudden stillness of a train
whose steady sway has lulled
its passengers to sleep.

It is time to slough off the dead
skin of remembering. Crocus
beds peep, tongues singing
in their soft purple mouths.

by Donna Vorreyer

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Twitter: @djvorreyer

Editor’s Note: This poem uses enjambment and imagery as allegory to gently suggest the emotional difficulty the narrator is experiencing as she tries to move past a loved one’s departure. The last three lines in particular push forward the idea of remembrance versus movement into the future.

Hang Son Doong by O.P.W. Fredericks

Hang Son Doong

And the earth heaved a sigh
when I came into knowing
what is yet to come

. . . . . . . .before time was time

I’ve felt the fall of rain
the warmth of sun
as it lolled across the sky
teased my face
and my shallows with life
tender roots
that plucked at my skin
and tickled my soul

. . . . . . . .and you thought to look

tread gently as you go
there’s much much more
you’re not ready to know

. . . . . . . .I’ve kept secrets

by O.P.W. Fredericks

Editor’s Note: Some things in this world are too vast to truly comprehend. This cave is one of those things. This ekphrastic poem mimics the incomprehensible size of Hang Son Doong with pieces of emotional imagery (sun, skin, rain) and grounds it within the awe we all feel in the face of such secretive wonder.

From the archives – Feeder Lamb — by Robin Yim


Feeder Lamb

At the end of its neck arched in rigor mortis pose,
its head touched its backbone. Its lower jaw was gone.
Its upper molars, exposed to the examination
of the sun, witnessed to its youth: barely worn.

With my son, nine years old, we saw its white flags
of surrender scattered across the stubbled ryegrass field
half the distance between us and where it lay still.
We circled its pale, picked-over form and stood.

There was no shepherd, no electric fence, no fold
to keep it in. Left behind when the sheep truck came,
it remained. We poked its bones, wondered how it died,
noticed the open space from where its eye once saw the field.

I turned away toward the voice of my wife calling us
to continue our walk, yet, I wanted to turn, again, to my son,
to take him into the fold of my arms, a place not left behind,
but he ran ahead of me urging me to come.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 3 — by Robin Yim

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – When I Heard the Learned Astronomer by Walt Whitman


When I Heard the Learned Astronomer

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Read the rest of the cartoon by Gavin Aung Than.

House Song #3 by R. Nemo Hill

House Song #3

That brute midwinter we fled further south
and showered in the garden’s open mouth,
and dined on not-quite-cool though not-yet-warm
tree ripened mangoes harvested each dawn,
on buoyant green bananas, curved like boats,
and, once, on the roasted testicles of goats.

Delighted by the first few whirr-winged blurs
of through-the-glassless-window, wind-launched birds,
we latched all shutters open, day and night,
secured our shelter in the path of flight,
and slept with stars, on firefly-stitched bedding,
beneath sheer drapes of pale green nylon netting.

Those tents would breathe with breezes in the dark,
each whoosh a whispered lesson in the art
of constant trespass. Rested, tradewind-schooled,
we spent one lonely burning afternoon,
in a fenceless orchard, listening to the sound
of heavy grapefruits thumping on the ground.

Impetuous, you’d burned your upper lip
on unknown berries. Coral-cut, I’d slipped
from rocks a sudden tide-turn’s wavecrest swept.
We both collapsed on shore. And as we slept,
our rucksack unattended, thinned by theft,
soon yielded up what little we had left.

We’d traded nesting tax for smoke and axe,
and peeled longs strips of dead skin from our backs.
And on the day we left, as we packed our clothes—
from closets we’d left blithely unenclosed,
great clouds of now disturbed mosquitoes rose
buzzing farewell oratorios.

(Point Baptiste, Dominica—1985)

by R. Nemo Hill

R. Nemo on Facebook

Editor’s Note: I would like to go on this trip and cozy up to the perfect iambic pentameter while nibbling on grapefruits and wind.

Preface to Casanova’s Histoire de ma vie by Ruth Daniell

Preface to Casanova’s Histoire de ma vie

A member of the universe, I speak to the air
though often I imagine a woman there,
resplendent in a silk gown, slender arms bent
in reproach. Ivory or cream hands. The scent
of lavender or powder. And yellow plaited hair
gathered to a soft knot on the crown where
it is trimmed with a white feather, a bit of lace
or threads of sun. I never see her face.

Alone now, I write my story. It’s unwise
but I need something to occupy me—thighs
and breasts and throats for the younger man
I once was. Why deny myself? I began
in pleasure and so continue. I speak to the air,
remember her finger-smoothed coin-gold hair.

“A member of the universe, I speak to the air” is taken from the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova, History of My Life, translated from the French by Willard R. Trask.

by Ruth Daniell, first published in The Malahat Review, issue 167, Summer 2009.

Twitter: @ruthedaniell

Editor’s Note: Interestingly, this sonnet pivots twice—once at the end of the first octave and once at the end of the sestet. The two moments of reflection, “I never see her face.” and “remember her finger-smoothed coin-gold hair.” remind the reader that the speaker is not simply imagining himself alone, but with another person. Does this imply his yearning for connection? Or is it simply pleasure he seeks?

The Muse of Concord by Ralph La Rosa

The Muse of Concord

In summer woods, her springtime voice matured
as beckoning notes that mystify—a creature
thrumming when at rest, Tee-chur, Tee-chur,
but sweetly lyrical in flight. A bird
impetuous and speedy, songs assured,
she could elude, confound this woodland seeker,
who sensed the ovenbird was nature’s speaker,
though, he knew, she never said a word.
Until the chill of fall, he would be sure
the warbler calling from its hidden site
was midday’s sonic, acrobatic blur
that chased the sun, then dipped into the night.
Although her voices faded with the fall,
on winter days he still could hear her call.

by Ralph La Rosa, from Sonnet Stanzas

Editor’s Note: Sometimes the birds lead us on a merry chase. Who is calling? Where did she go? Such tricksters. Even the sonnet form can’t truly capture a bird’s elusive teasing.

Shhh by Billy Merrell


You drive us home that night, stroke my leg like one
strokes an animal to calm him, though I am

so near sleep I feel guilty. You say it’s okay
so I tilt my seat back, watch the lights

passing through the side mirror, stars slowly strung
like beads: quickly passing and aligning. Such

ease. Your hand rounds my knee and then back.
Slow pulse of the road, impossible to read

how fast we’re going. It’s okay, go to sleep but
I want to watch your reflection in the windshield. You are

the one who has to get up early. You are the one
who’s been up all day and should be sleeping.

But you say shhh and I grip your hand,
unable to see the road and no need to.

by Billy Merrell, from talking in the dark

Billy on Facebook

Editor’s Note: Internal slant rhyme, enjambed lines, and repetition tether this poem to its emotional narrative. This is a perfect example of how free verse can be just as delicately and beautifully constructed as any sonnet.

Harveston Lake by Doris Watts

Harveston Lake

This lake is actually quite meek and small,
and there are those that might not call this lake
a “lake” at all. Perhaps a puddle-pond
with narrow shore – assuming such a shore

can be called “shore,” And there’s a sidewalk path
where children ride their bikes and walkers pause
for crossing coots. This lake’s not deep yet deep
enough for fishermen to fish: the fish

themselves once caught are small just like the lake
so must go back and then be caught again,
or if the fisherman feels generous,
are tossed to the night heron waiting there

to share. There’s room enough here on this lake
for small disputes between the coots and ducks
and for a turtle sunning on an out-
cropped rock. And this lake easily contains

and then gives back the city lights, reflected
ladderlike all night, and even sometimes
a full moon. Now surely this is lake enough,
except, of course, I guess, for those poor fish.

by Doris Watts

Editor’s Note: Repetition, rhyme, and iambic pentameter weave this poem into the perfect image of a place where all are welcome: children, fishermen, birds, and, of course, the “poor fish.” This poem makes me yearn for summer.

From the archives – Poet — by John Calvin Hughes



Why are there always roses
and moonlight in your poems?
What’s that supposed to be?
It’s not love, I
know that. Lamplight and bedclothes
and beautiful girls in various states
of undress, but they don’t mean anything
and neither do your poems,
flashy and smooth
but empty as drums.
You call yourself a poet,
but look: your eyes are all
blacked up, two fingers
off your left hand.
You look more like a garbage man.
I’ve seen you, rising at noon
to sit at the kitchen table
and pour a handful of brandy
into a short glass.
And I’ve seen you raise
it to the sunlit window, saluting
with absent fingers,
scribbling on yellow pads and laughing.
Then, drinking the brandy,
turning your closed eyes to me,
you say, this is the life.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 9 — by John Calvin Hughes