From the archives – Stingers — Anna Evans


The bees are disappearing.
In England beekeeping is at risk
of replacing the national pastime.
Meanwhile, what some Americans call bees
are often wasps, a waste
of language sharp as a bee sting—

so keen it can only be perfect once.
I was stung by a wasp as a child,
stuck at the top of a corkscrew slide
behind a boy too scared to go down.
His screams paralyzed my screams.
Sometimes the thing you can see

that’s wrong, is not what’s most wrong.
Why do we call wasps bees?
Because color is dangerously
over-important to the species
homo sapiens. Seeing the same stripes
we miss the slender waist, the sleekness—

wasps and bees are only of the same
order, Hymenoptera. My elbow,
when I finally reached the ground,
had swollen to the exact size of a baseball,
a sport I knew nothing of then.
Nor could I have defined “allergic.”

Despite zero bee stings
and the puzzling absence of bees,
I always feared wasps and bees equally,
wrongly. Bees are not predators;
wasps are fitter for this imprecise world
from which gentleness fades, unnoticed.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 17 — by Anna Evans

Video from Franco Grisa

Vintage verse – Going Down Hill on a Bicycle by Henry Charles Beeching

Going Down Hill on a Bicycle

A Boy’s Song

With lifted feet, hands still,
I am poised, and down the hill
Dart, with heedful mind;
The air goes by in a wind.

Swifter and yet more swift,
Till the heart with a mighty lift
Makes the lungs laugh, the throat cry:—
“O bird, see; see, bird, I fly.

“Is this, is this your joy?
O bird, then I, though a boy,
For a golden moment share
Your feathery life in air!”

Say, heart, is there aught like this
In a world that is full of bliss?
‘Tis more than skating, bound
Steel-shod to the level ground.

Speed slackens now, I float
Awhile in my airy boat;
Till, when the wheels scarce crawl,
My feet to the treadles fall.

Alas, that the longest hill
Must end in a vale; but still,
Who climbs with toil, wheresoe’er,
Shall find wings waiting there.

by Henry Charles Beeching (1859–1919)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Buzzard by D.E. Kern


Foulness—beyond central air or fan—floats above her balsa-wood frame.
Sweats suggest she’d sprint the block if she could, wind
. . . .unwinding tinsel mane.
My name escapes her serrated tongue; glasses of another Nana top her head,
as she runs down a list of second-cousins bound to never dawn this narrow door

where I hulk, my eyes ammonia stung, tears blurring the edges of her too-angular face.
Her hand, sumac splotched, bids me to join her on the bed, recite the customary lines,
. . . .describe how I’m taking on water.
“You put me in the red pony’s stall,” she says, recalls mucking dung on the farm.

How can the bed-ridden mourn over space?
Or is it work she craves to accompany her labored breath?

Projects ambitious as the WPA’s were her air those summers, spent hemming
in her flowers, with tractor tires turned to beds. Mumbling “don’t tread on me,”
she painted them, barber-pole-style, filled them with geraniums,
peonies so vibrant you would’ve swore the petals were pottery, confections.

Her trowel left a vapor trail … She turned macadam into topsoil, brought life
from a Karst hard as immigrant strife, grew squash the size of watermelon
down the hill from the little, red, two-seater outhouse

next door to my grandfather’s shop. He retreated there to make their tidy house in miniature,
cedar and pine versions for chickadees and wrens. She raised her thumb, and he erected
baths for these scaled-down Caesars, Cardinals and Canvasbacks with laurel sprigs
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .hanging
jauntily, from the corners of their blue-grass-stained mouths.

Then, with her as pleased as she was bound to be, he bivouacked by tractor while she ground
. . . .in lessons on the well-weeded life, the importance of being earnest.
I picked berries ’till my hands were stained, my knees red,
trimmed down the grass where it worked its way up the side of the barn.

He returned at the gray end of dusk, having cut in two directions. I had bathed in stainless
. . . .steel, braved basement chill as I jumped in my clothes.
Our respite was measured in nine innings, 27 instances where failure laid somewhere else.
She sat in the corner, worked the crossword, reminded us of how soon morning came.

Broadcasts faded to echoes the last of his winter nights; he’d run short on grass and wood.
They tell me she held his hand and dabbed his brow, but I imagine she spied
. . . .dried mustard on his chin.
But the time my plane touched down there was no use in accusing her of killing spirits—
neither for what she did to him nor what she said to me.

by D.E. Kern

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Editor’s Note: This poem’s complex imagery requires several readings to fully appreciate the layered emotional impact of the narrator’s story. Death and dying are often difficult subjects to tackle, and this poem impressively interweaves the many responses we can have towards this inevitable closure.

Wonderland by Draven Museus


I am the Mad Hatter with no hat,
I disappear like Cheshire, but I’m no cat.
Just like Alice, I stumble and fall.
And like the white rabbit, I have no time at all.
We are all trapped in life’s hourglass,
As helpless as the sand.
So why not sit back,
And enjoy the wonder of Wonderland?

by Draven Museus

Editor’s Note: The rhyme and play on a classic story gives this poem an enjoyable and lighthearted sensibility.

When the Moonstruck Speak by Nicole Yackley

When the Moonstruck Speak

He turns toward light
and suddenly moon is sleeping in his mouth
as if in a cave at night
somewhere warm and south.
He is the cave voice
and I just an echo,
the water lapping, the wind shouting to be close:
all speaking, but none managing to glow.

I, too, had a cave mouth once
hidden depths of bouncing sound, brought down
not by rocks but the gentler touch
of water rising above where it crowned
(there are many ways
to drown sound waves,
and not all of them are loud).

by Nicole Yackley

Editor’s Note: Surrealism is a brilliant way to create an emotional framework for a poem. This one uses imagery of the moon and water to create a space where the reader can imagine multiple emotions simultaneously. Also, the rhyme is lovely.

Faulty Wiring by Joel Best

Faulty Wiring

There was a house
Near the playground
Where my son played
When he was very young
All the afternoons
As he worked in the sandbox
I watched him
And also watched the house
From the corner of my eye
Without intention
I memorized the house
Sagging roof
Peeling clapboard
Cracked front window
The same way I memorized
The movements of my son
How he shaped the sand
Creating mountains
Carving valleys
This tiny god-creature
Deft of hand
He and the house
Two entities vying
For space in my thoughts
Many years later
I’ve forgotten much about my son
Things no father should ever forget
You try to hold on
Each small piece slips away
Fades from recollection
The lovely god who was
And now no longer
While the house
The damned house
That never meant anything to me
Remains in perfect focus

by Joel Best

Editor’s Note: Memory is so frustratingly fickle. This poem uses simple imagery to convey the passage of years—a reader is almost lulled into complacency until you realize the title and the end of the poem neatly tie into the description of the disintegrating house.

Tragedy Undone by Christine Potter

Tragedy Undone

I gave the assignment most years: how do you
make this end well? Do it in one scene, write it,
perform it for the class with your study group,

with simple costumes, on Friday. So, the Nurse
smuggles Juliet to Mantua, Macbeth tells his
wife to pipe down, Hamlet gets over himself,

Hester says Screw the Letter and the horse all
of you rode in on. Meanwhile, Dimmesdale
grows a pair. Daisy realizes that Gatsby and her

husband Tom are both trouble and walks out of
the too-hot hotel room to cool off at the movies.
Three skinny high school boys wrapped in

someone’s cut-up red and green plaid Christmas
tablecloth, someone in his uncle’s snazzy white
suit with big lapels, a red construction paper

A saucering the air like a frisbee. And laughter,
laughter. I never asked them What was the
thing you just lost? I didn’t want them to see it

that way, to get used to bleak relief that comes
after two hours of for-real tears, to expect sorrow
to roll around like a curriculum: Hester in the

autumn, Gatsby right after the daffodils finish.
That’s for the teachers. We don’t know for a fact
that Shakespeare’s birthday was also the date of

his death fifty-two years later. What I’m saying
is nothing is written in stone–not really. I loved
all of your scenes. Happy weekend! You all aced it.

by Christine Potter

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Editor’s Note: This poem pivots at What was the / thing you just lost? After slogging through college for a creative writing degree and raising two sons, I’ve noticed that the focus of literary studies is tragic. This poem spoke to me because the narrator deliberately avoids that common cliché. Not all the stories we tell each other are sad.

From the archives – Dandelions — Marybeth Rua-Larsen


You squat in a sun puddle, tug petals
from star-faced dandelions, sprinkle
their crushed remains, like seeds,
across the ground. I try to teach you

the art of arrangement, pose
limp stems in jelly jars, like I did
for my mother, or to stuff your cheeks
with air and blow

their feathery seed-heads to the wind,
but you prefer your own game, wrestle
your bruised treasures from me and fly,
a hummingbird at twilight. Frantic

before torpor, you dart through the yard,
swipe a fistful of clover, grab
at daffodils on the other side of the fence.
You don’t yet understand

why you can pick dandelions
but not tulips, columbine or love-
in-a-mist. I have not yet found
the heart to explain it.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 10 — by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Playgrounds by Laurence Alma-Tadema


In summer I am very glad
We children are so small,
For we can see a thousand things
That men can’t see at all.

They don’t know much about the moss
And all the stones they pass:
They never lie and play among
The forests in the grass:

They walk about a long way off;
And, when we’re at the sea,
Let father stoop as best he can
He can’t find things like me.

But, when the snow is on the ground
And all the puddles freeze,
I wish that I were very tall,
High up above the trees.

by Laurence Alma-Tadema (1865–1940)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Garden Expert Talks about Lilacs by Maryann Corbett

The Garden Expert Talks about Lilacs

They wander in, the couples, looking for lilacs.
They’re young; they don’t know squat about their plants.
I tell them every time: You get at most
two weeks in flower. Then the blooms turn brown.
They hang on till they turn to brown-black seedheads
that drain the plant of vigor and look like death
unless you’re out there wielding a pair of loppers,
pruning them off, patiently, one by one.

Don’t get the white kinds if you love your lawn!
They sucker—send up more shoots every year
as if they meant to colonize the planet
like movie Martians. And don’t try being frugal
by using sucker shoots to start a hedge!
The volunteers—the elm and maple seedlings—
take root among the stems, and soon they’re in
too deep for weeding, full of fast new growth.
They stick their wacky limbs up tall and wide
and finally make a sad disfigured hash
of your hedge plan. I’ll tell you how it ends:
in twenty years, in thirty, you’ll be here
renting a truck or tractor to pull up
the stumps of your Frankenstein hedge.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .I tell them this.
It makes no difference; some still leave with lilacs.
It has a lot to do with living here
where winter’s five months long. We can forgive
a lot in a plant that wakes us with perfume
after we think we’ve died. They buy the purple,
the species, since it’s cheap; they buy the white
because it’s fragrant—tip the pot on its side,
the branches poking out of the tied-down trunk,
and drive off, dreaming of vases filled with sprays
of giant bracts of bloom in bridal white,
set in the bedroom, along with other things
uselessly warned against, and much too brief.

by Maryann Corbett

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Editor’s Note: The voice of the narrator in this poem is wise and experienced, but also exasperated. It transcends the usual first person narrative of so much modern poetry and becomes a conversation between the character and the reader.