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
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
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
Maryann on Facebook
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.
The Telescope That Always Fails
It is pleasant, when the sea is high and the wind is dashing the waves about,
to sit on shore and watch the struggles of another. —Lucretius
No, it’s not.
Unless you’re seagulls snapping up an easy meal,
a heart without a conscience there.
I’m right beside a friend of mine,
tied by raw necessity to chemo pumps.
I hope beneath the scarves I sent,
her chestnut hair hasn’t turned
to clumps of autumn’s brittle straw,
once in bales tied with ropes, but not right now.
I pray it hasn’t fallen off
old bumpy trucks on graveled roads.
We’re hanging on with long, wet socks
clipped to broken clothespins pulling on a tired wire.
Once I tried a telescope to glance away
from things the way they really are.
It never worked. Just like pasta overcooked,
because I looked away from all the burning mist
above the fiercely roiling boil.
My glasses still reflect disturbing close-up shots—
bullets lodged in heaving chests—
their heavy fists attacking me, leaving me
with bloody noses filling up a bathroom sink.
We shouldn’t be like ocean sharks
that smell the dying far away.
Then seize on it, as if they’re quite
above it all, bigger than the rest of us.
Having hides of thicker skin
prevents the world from striking nerves.
So what if life’s not lilies or a poppy bowl
returning stronger every year.
Enveloped in a muddy cloud
lends meaning to the fickle light.
by Janet I. Buck
Editor’s Note: Some things are too painful to discuss directly. Chemo is at the top of the list, so this poem side-steps the issue and uses imagery to describe the wrenching anger, grief, and pain.
Dorothy as Madwoman
After the tornado, you sink.
Half the house gone, the other still present
but somehow missing.
Piano twice-drowned in the corner,
& every key
You’ll let your hair grow long again,
let it grey & tendril,
follow the beaches
& their trailing wreckage along the shore
seagulls battering your back
by Meggie Royer
Editor’s Note: An imaginative retelling of a familiar story serves as the framework for this poem. The description of madness is both delicate and regretful.
Five is the gathering hour,
time to pool scraps from napkin backs,
thoughts that passed slowly enough
to stuff in a pocket—
hurried impressions of an oil-slicked loon,
the words soft fear on a line alone.
Another lists catfood, Risperdal
and celery; skips a line before a reminder
to check the meaning of reverie.
Last, on the back of a sketch I made
of your laugh, only the words brief respite.
by Patricia Wallace Jones
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Editor’s Note: Some poems have such strong imagery that it seems as if I’m looking at a painting instead of reading verse. This is one of those poems.
Por Favor No Maltratar Los Aguacates
“Please do not
written in black
marker on blue-
lined legal paper
and taped to a box
at a Yonkers bodega.
Someone has felt
for ripeness, deemed
one inept squeeze
and render it
I’m no longer
sure if I could pass
for ready, if I’m worthy
of such a sign.
Forever I’ve waited
for competent hands
to protect me
from the careless,
by Laryssa Wirstiuk
Editor’s Note: My first favorite poems were those written by William Carlos Williams and Theodore Roethke—imagery rules their lines. This poem evokes that sense of wonder I felt as a teen. Its imagery and enjambment belie the underlying introspection of the poem’s narrator. The title is a clever nod to the language of New York’s myriad bodegas.