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.
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.
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
Evening In A Sugar Orchard
From where I lingered in a lull in march
outside the sugar-house one night for choice,
I called the fireman with a careful voice
And bade him leave the pan and stoke the arch:
‘O fireman, give the fire another stoke,
And send more sparks up chimney with the smoke.’
I thought a few might tangle, as they did,
Among bare maple boughs, and in the rare
Hill atmosphere not cease to glow,
And so be added to the moon up there.
The moon, though slight, was moon enough to show
On every tree a bucket with a lid,
And on black ground a bear-skin rug of snow.
The sparks made no attempt to be the moon.
They were content to figure in the trees
As Leo, Orion, and the Pleiades.
And that was what the boughs were full of soon.
by Robert Frost (1874–1963)
He brings me poison
words tormented love separation
a withered bouquet woven
with absinth wormwood
abandonment boredom regret
starry anemones delicate asphodels prickly
burdock the seeming happy amethyst and canary carnations
screaming antipathy and disdain
an untranslatable orange lily
whispering hatred against a pale vase
vain dream-like clusters of hydrangeas
jealous lemon hyacinths lost
in the sorrow of their vivid violet sisters
. . . . . . .and
a forsaken single blood red tulip—the perfect suitor
nestled among fragrant creamy tuberoses
by Laura LeHew
Laura on Facebook
Editor’s Note: Spring usually means joy and celebration, but what if instead it brought poison? Torment? The imagery in this poem is lush and vivid and terrible. Sometimes a bouquet can hide a dangerous obsession.
swans over the house—
his great body in pain
refusing to go
Long with Mr. Berkenshaw in the morning at my musique practice; finishing my song of “Gaze not on Swans,” in two parts, which pleases me well, and I did give him 5l. for this month or five weeks that he hath taught me, which is a great deal of money and troubled me to part with it. Thence to the Paynter’s, and set again for my picture in little, and thence over the water to Southwark to Mr. Berkenshaw’s house,and there sat with him all the afternoon, he showing me his great card of the body of musique, which he cries up for a rare thing, and I do believe it cost much pains, but is not so useful as he would have it. Then we sat down and set “Nulla, nulla sit formido,” and he has set it very finely. So home and to supper, and then called Will up, and chid him before my wife for refusing to go to church with the maids yesterday, and telling his mistress that he would not be made a slave of, which vexes me. So to bed.
Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys.
by Dave Bonta, first posted on Via Negativa
Editor’s Note: Haiku is one of the most difficult forms of poetry to write because you have very little time to speak. This poem succeeds with that task, and has the added little delight of originating from within another source of words. Erasure poetry is very cool.
Tenacious winter, like a guest who stays
too long, repeats his tired tales of snow
while spring approaches, like a bride, with slow,
shy footsteps; soon she’ll toss her bright bouquets.
The cold, once crisp and fresh, turns merely trite,
exhausted by the circling of the year
that starts to tilt the sun-starved hemisphere
politely towards its source of heat and light.
As tolerant terrain reciprocates
the sky’s attempt at warmth with the debut
of unripe grass and intermittent mud,
the snow, now powerless, procrastinates—
piled high at curbs and corners, melting too
reluctantly to pose a threat of flood.
by Jean L. Kreiling
Editor’s Note: “intermittent mud”—how well I know the tenacity of it. And the curl of black snow along the edges of the roadways is perfectly described in this lovely sonnet. How interesting to read such pretty sonics about such an annoying time of year!