The Ugly Woman by Marci Ameluxen

The Ugly Woman

My camera is out and I ask if I can take her picture, the old woman in an orange dress carrying a large metal can of cooking oil on her head. “Soy fea” she says, I am ugly. But the can is heavy and because like all women she is not ugly at all but beautiful, two angels who are walking along the beach stroll up to her and take the can from her head. The angels ask the woman where she is going, and between them they carry the can, following her. No one is astonished, really, to see angels at the beach. They like to watch the waves as much as anyone. In a culture of incense and conjuring, angels are quite commonplace. Some are summoned by flutes played in villages, others arrive to bring luck in the middle of dice games. Robe colors are varied and fashionable. But the majority of angels hover around women, whose needs are great. Children, goats, buckets of water and vegetable gardens, early in the morning and all day long women require the angels’ help. Angels do what they can. Sometimes, you won’t know when an angel is around. A child holding a rag doll. A man pulling a hoe through potato mounds. That woman, kneeling in the mud, looking for a curved, lost bone.

by Marci Ameluxen

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Editor’s Note: Prose poems can be very tricky because they’ve lost one of the things that help make a poem work properly—line breaks. Within that constraint, this poem beautifully combines allegory and narrative with first person point of view. By the end of the poem, the reader is invested in the story.

Wherein the Snow Is Hid by Catherine Chandler

Wherein the Snow Is Hid

Along potholed ruelles, plowed rough and high,
lie last December’s snows
with jagged firn from months when I,
in numb good-night,
have curled up in the company of crows.

My roof is tempest-proof, my kitchen bright;
still, a bleak expanse
blinds my bedroom’s line of sight
as if to tease,
in squalls of gusting, icy sibilance,

that somewhere, past this sepulcher, past trees
shrouded in Lenten brume,
daffodils and bumblebees
won’t make it through
the hard earth. Yet I know the pond will boom,

the wild geese will return. They always do.
And so it is I cope
with winter. For although it’s true
one’s fear of God
at times might rule out razor, river, rope,

hope holds me here, ludicrous and odd,
valuing March above
July’s colossal verdant fraud,
because a mass
of freeze-thaw scree bears witness to a love

that once approached the melting point of glass.

by Catherine Chandler, first published in Quadrant

Editor’s Note: I think I may have chosen this poem simply because I am so desperate for spring. The lovely rhyme and meter hypnotized me into believing anything is possible, even the “melting point of glass” after a long, cold, snowy season.

Meditation on Adolescence by Larina Warnock

Meditation on Adolescence

She sat on the floor cross-legged,
knobby knees encased by denim, protruding
too far from her body like branches that forgot to stop
growing after the tree has died. She wore
mismatched fuzzy socks, a blue t-shirt preaching
WALK THE WALK, a phrase she pretended to understand.
She considered what it means
to be a teen in the twenty-first century. She
wondered if her mother or her mother’s
mother wondered if ugly words were true,
if they ever felt that youth was torture, if they
were ever curious about who the hell they really were
beneath the acne and the makeup and the hair gel.

She wanted to turn herself inside out
like a t-shirt ready for the wash, to proclaim that
the inner SHE was the better SHE,
that WE is just another word for “other people like me,”
a word spoken in the meanness of youth and the hard
edges of friendships that drift and change and shatter.

She didn’t know if she was sitting for prayer or meditation
or contemplation or simply for the silence of being
between ages, disconnected from the child, rejected by the adult.
She suspected that being a teen looked a lot different
for her mother and her mother’s mother because they,
unlike she,
still wanted to be young.

by Larina Warnock

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Twitter: @larinawrite

Editor’s Note: The casual narrative voice of this poem deceives the reader into believing that it’s about one person: a teen girl. In reality, the poem is about three generations of women. The older women’s voices abruptly arrive in the last three lines of the poem, strong and startling.

From the archives – Sonnenizio on a Line from Neruda — by Michaela A. Gabriel

Sonnenizio on a Line from Neruda

The night turns on its invisible wheels.
The stars are gone; first sunlight splinters
in the branches of black trees, drips onto

tired earth. And so a shadow falls on us,
on our love. I want to rub, to brush it off.
I want to strike a match, turn on another

light, grow my own sun, a wonderland
where waving wands is all it takes to forge
and reforge bonds, where nothing breaks

forever. Place your hand on my hot cheek
again, breathe life into my eyes, connect
the freckles on my back to spell out: Yes.

Write on my skin: We want. We can. We will.
Let me respond with sighs. Then let’s be still.

(First line from Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet LXXXI)

from Autumn Sky Poetry 5 — by Michaela A. Gabriel

Early Morning Sunlight Swaying With The Trees by Matthew Gowan

this morning in a mulberry bush by Bill Jansen

this morning in a mulberry bush

the war is over
the dead are alive
in the movies
in the supermarket checkout line
in the quiet crossing streets at night
in the DNA of children sterilized by lies
in climate change bamboo
growing over Atfalati graves
in saddle bags on a Camel cigarette
I ride down the canyons of a rose
in the green fuse of a souvenir coconut
germinating
in my father’s dusty South Pacific attic
his pajama’d oblivious body zipped into a bag
in the flatter and spatter of the news
in the residue of cocaine
on a Jiffy Lube coupon the cop drops
onto my yard sale sofa
because I am too tired from laughing
at the Love Boat to notice
I just want to bug out
but I keep moving forward
following a formation of dream Panzers
attacking a younger, stronger dream.

by Bill Jansen

Editor’s Note: The first line of this poem is in opposition to the title (and its suggestion of the nursery rhyme, where movement is repeated again and again). This sets up the contradiction of images that appear in the rest of the poem, even at the end when one would think a tank (dreamlike or not) would crush everything with finality. Such is war and its trauma.

Birds by John Savoie

Birds

Birds bead along the wire
rounded as water drops,
or a single note strung
across the sky’s crude stave,
Schumann’s repeating A
only he could hear,
black on black, sagging
in the middle like most
any symphony and this
one scored by Salvador
Dalí, the felt weight
of music or memory,
that one touch of your hand
sounding again and again,
till birds unfold their wings
and scatter to the woods,
droplets shivered from
a lustrous lab whose one
sharp bark sets the mind
free from its obsession.

by John Savoie, earlier version first published in Ellipsis

Editor’s Note: This poem is actually a single, very long sentence. Usually, I would find that daunting, but the skillful line breaks organize the imagery even as the length of the thought underscores the obsession of the narrator’s mind.

52 Hertz by Peleg Held

A lone cetacean, believed to be either a Blue Whale or a Fin Whale, has been tracked and recorded in the Pacific since 1989. A singer heard but never seen. The whale sings at a frequency unheard of for any known species. It has gone alone and unaswered, as far as we know,  for decades. 

52 Hertz

By fathomed sound we count you round
five thousand knots a year,
across trench and rift and otolith
we press our windwhipped ear

down, upon the blue womb wall,
and fashion what we hear—
a soul charcoaled on bulla bone,
an unmanned mind drawn near.

At every checkpoint monitored
from every spec of sphere,
unanswered cries come in from out.
The world’s a rumbling smear

of songs of lonely firsting-fire
and square-pegged bursts of queer
tolling under dark sea face,
each scrawling rawl a flare

appearing in the lower skies
to mark each mutineer
or call some flagging will to form,
some leaper to the shear.

Songs of lonely firsting fire
and square pegged burst of queer,
soundings all along the wall—
motherfuckers I am here.

by Peleg Held

Editor’s Note: Type 52 Hertz into Google and a plethora of links appear, eager to explain the mystery of a single, unidentified whale singing in the wrong frequency. This poem does a fabulous job of highlighting the regularity of the call via form: rhyme and iambic meter broken with enjambment and repetition.

Listen to the whale song.

A Cosmology Expands Around You by Eleanor Lerman

A Cosmology Expands Around You

Turning the page, you have the thoughts that would
come to anyone encountering that forgotten photograph
of an adventurous man in a canoe, with his daughters
They are on a north country river in a golden summer
Golden sunlight, golden girls

Oh well. Things change. Time passes. And then a sigh—
like a sigh in a an old painting, perhaps a pastoral—identifies
how the moment ends, how nostalgia enters and fades away
Oh well. We must go on. Oh yes indeed: mysteriously, if we
live on, even sadness passes. (“Can you believe he died a
decade ago? That nowadays the younger one can
barely remember how to get to the supermarket?)
Bear in mind, though, that nothing really replaces it,
that sadness. Never. Nothing at all

Instead, a cosmology expands around you
Yes, you heard right: the cosmos expands to embrace you
but don’t expect that you will know when this is happening:
you won’t be enlightened. Your back will still hurt
and your dog will not suddenly start speaking to you
When you fall asleep at night, your dreams will still be
confusing. Not prophetic. Quite the same

This is because “a cosmology” does not mean a revelation
or even an awareness of universal truths. After all, we cannot
bank on the idea that there are any.(Or that this is a
group effort, this life, these memories) Still, it is possible
that one or two individual constants will begin to
make themselves known to you when the time comes
No one in their right mind can predict when that will be

Though it can’t hurt to try. Start by lifting up your face
to your old friend, the moon, who has been watching you
The moon has a lot it wants to tell you: how it woke up
all alone in a cave before there was fire. How it marveled
when an unseen hand created the ox and lamb.
(That’s correct: even the moon has no idea how life began)

And how it wept when it saw the pyramids. How it weeps still
How nowadays, to relieve a little tension, it sometimes likes to
dress like a golden-hearted boy and wander down the
city boulevards, going nowhere special. In other words,
the moon itself is surprised by what it sees and what it does
By how afraid it is, at dawn, to close its eyes

So rehearse this phrase: I don’t know what’s going on
but maybe I’m not supposed to. Then, come summertime
again—and yes, don’t worry, in the way we talk about
what happens, it always comes again—there will be
another river. And an adventurous girl will smile and smile
when the moon leans out of its side of this story, out of
the nighttime into the expanding light and waves to you
It waves good-bye, good-bye

by Eleanor Lerman

Editor’s Note: When grief arrives, it leaves one feeling just a bit off-balance. This poem’s inconsistent punctuation takes a clean narrative voice and upends clarity. Everything seems to make sense, but it no longer fits quite right, either. Sorrow feels like this… until it doesn’t.

The Eumenides by Stephen Bunch

The Eumenides

Every night the murderers cruise the neighborhood.
Sometimes they wield golf clubs, sometimes Uzis
or canisters of gas or syringes dripping
heart attacks. Their headlights
shine down the cul-de-sac and back
leaving a cloud of sweet exhaustion.

They call themselves harvesters
and comb the mowed lawns
with footsteps heavy as the odor
of four-o’clocks opening at dusk.
We call them hellhounds, keep the doors
locked till dawn, try to sleep without dreaming.

With daylight we make coffee, step
outside for the news, walk dogs,
go to work. Most mornings we won’t notice
the ambulance stopped down the street,
lights flashing, or the crime scene tape
as it catches the sun in its latest tangle.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: A long time ago, I read Aeschylus’ The Eumenides (in translation). I remember the difficulty of determining what justice means. This poem captures that sense of tragedy and applies it to the modern era. Allegory is a sharper than the sword.