The Washer at the Ford
—from a Celtic Tale
if you must cross the river,
cross it here, at the shallows,
at the place of clear water.
Your piebald horse agrees.
She steps forward
to gulp and be slaked.
Why do you rein her?
True, I am not pleasing to look at,
my wild hair no longer black,
my gnarled hands raw
with all this laundering.
You are a big handsome fella—
jaw like a sharp crag at Moher,
a goodness about you like honey.
You’ve not been shaving long,
would be my guess,
yet you’re off a’ soldiering.
What war is it this time, then?
On your way, lad.
Don’t bore me.
I’ve no time for questions.
It’s better you don’t know
whose linen it is that wants washing
or why the water around these rocks
runs suddenly red.
by Kate Bernadette Benedict
Editor’s Note: Some poems need context, but since the interwebz lies at our fingertips, it’s the simplest thing in the world to look up that which one does not know. This poem rides on an old story about the bean nighe, and is quite haunting.
It’s pleasing to fill crystal with callas again,
to recall how little they ask to grace ditches,
forgotten plots, a mother’s grave twice a year.
Some pay money for what locals call weeds.
Me, I see women so simply exposed
they can be drawn with one perfect line.
by Patricia Wallace Jones
Patricia on Facebook
Editor’s Note: The last two lines of this delicate poem carry the entire thing. That is all.
Elegy for Eva
It’s true you’ve changed. You are
at the dark end of the street
now. If there is time
I’ll meet with you
not here in fields of gold canola,
not by the old barquero’s boat,
not where the water is wide
at river’s bend,
not under those tall trees.
In Georgia? I’m resigned
to joining you
beyond the cold and tears,
in heaven (if fate will grace us both).
In the early morning,
rain reminds songbirds
that summertime is over.
The rainbow is swept away
with autumn leaves. Every colour wades
into your blue eyes.
Crying in the rain dilutes the drops from cheek to cheek
like words forgotten yesterday,
like vows unkept
or curses in a fever that soon fades.
A red, red rose is all
that may remain.
How can I keep from singing
“Kathy’s Song”? It has the drizzling
rain, the street
I read the letter,
where you wrote that time
is a healer, death a nightbird
at your door, but these two cures
are taking far too long.
At least I can imagine drinks will do,
at last, what can’t be done
by notes and rhyme. Perhaps
it doesn’t matter any more.
from Autumn Sky Poetry 12 — by Colin Ward
Video by Colin Ward
clouds and white rain
in the backyard
untied the drops from
leaves and twigs
with a long singing.
by A.R. Ammons (1926–2001)
Northern Mockingbird at The Cornell Lab of Ornithology
A man rounds the corner, zigzag
shadow reaching for the woman
who steps out of it.
He’s a late-comer, can’t catch up
to the lady strolling through dusk
that blazed gold only this morning.
He’d pulled the quilt over his head,
begged the clock for ten more minutes
but she’d already pitched forward
to events no one can plan. Along
straggling streets that will never
connect them, the woman moves on.
Behind her, the man elbows through
the crush, searching all the places
where a door is left ajar. A wedge
of light spills onto steps falling
from the house into the hooded evening.
He’d have followed her the way
she’d always wanted, but night curves
without warning, the stars do not
touch, the road stretches down to the sea.
by Cheryl Snell
Editor’s Note: In this poem, the reader isn’t sure if the woman pursued is real, a shadow, or beam of light. In the end, it doesn’t much matter. The point is the pursuit, not the person.
I built a frame of apricot
wood. This was for you. The clouds float
through it even as I sleep. You wrote
once of wild herbs gathered and brought
to a lovely girl, an offering not
of passion but of some remote
desire to hear a word from the throat
of the Lord Within Clouds. I thought
of this as I chiseled the wood.
Last night it rained. I listened to
it from my bed by the open
window, hoping that the clouds would
not leave. This morning two birds flew
by. It is raining again.
by Robert Okaji, first published in SPSM&H
Editor’s Note: This poem demonstrates what I think of as a “new form” sonnet. The rhyme is embedded within the sentences, leaving the enjambment to function much as it would in a free verse poem. Because of the lack of iambic meter, the form of the poem allows the surreal quality of the narrative to function as it should: dreamlike and scattered.
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
Marci on Facebook
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.