A Letter from the Soul to the Body
You spoke today into being.
That’s half the battle won.
You are tempestuous, afro in a rain storm,
lightning bolt cutters.
YOU ARE LOUD.
You are heard.
You are RESISTANCE.
You are feeling EVERYTHING.
You are taking up space, and better for it.
You are the ant that makes its presence known
the elephant that sees life on a flower
you are universal.
Demand life from yourself.
You are broken arm rainbows,
eight shades of chipped beauty–the profit of life’s nonsense,
you are not going gentle into that good night, you burn white-hot, you are light,
you are not a child.
You are the art of never running
you are all the days that led up to today, the hot, the cold:
you are a place beyond infinity—a place beyond words.
Dearest love of my life,
Dear only one I have,
You are not on your own.
by Irene Vazquez
Editor’s Note: Sharp imagery and interesting line lengths give this poem energy. My brain is still trying to visualize “broken arm rainbows” — not an unpleasant way to spend a half hour. Dear Irene: keep writing poems.
This Is One Story I Thought I’d Never Tell
I didn’t think I’d get so attached, but years later here we are, teenaged hearts in adult bodies. Kisses snuck in high school stairwells became kisses given with morning breath and sleepy lips. Wondering if we’d make it over the summer turned into wondering if we’d make it after college. Your eyes live in the face of my unborn daughter and your arms wrap around me like my future sons. I read somewhere once that “whatever we are made of, he and I are the same” and I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere out there, in all of time and space and distance and physicality, we were born from the same hands. I was never one who dreamed of marriage, but I’m beginning to understand, because I would put on that white dress if it meant I got to keep you.
by Abigail Parlier
Abigail on Facebook
Editor’s Note: Prose poems are delicate creatures—too much and it’s exhausting to slog through all the words. Too little can be frustrating—where’s the rest of the story? But sometimes they’re just right. In this poem, the form is perfectly suited to the content.
We lived eleven miles out
across the arroyo
beyond the cattle gate
on a deeply rutted road
impassable in April’s rain.
We dug and weeded.
We seeded and transplanted.
We pruned. We planted according to the moon.
We harvested, watered, fertilized, turned.
We fucked. We argued.
Some of us screamed.
Some of us smashed glass and drove away.
One left by bus, abandoned his belongings
in his orange tent.
A red Buddha laughed at the end of the driveway.
from Autumn Sky Poetry 10 — by Kathryn Good-Schiff
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim
Oh strong-ridged and deeply hollowed
nose of mine! what will you not be smelling?
What tactless asses we are, you and I, boney nose,
always indiscriminate, always unashamed,
and now it is the souring flowers of the bedraggled
poplars: a festering pulp on the wet earth
beneath them. With what deep thirst
we quicken our desires
to that rank odor of a passing springtime!
Can you not be decent? Can you not reserve your ardors
for something less unlovely? What girl will care
for us, do you think, if we continue in these ways?
Must you taste everything? Must you know everything?
Must you have a part in everything?
by William Carlos Williams (1883-1963)
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.
We Became Summer
Long before we needed protection,
we formed tribes and picked a chief.
First-borns have a knack for stirring idolatry.
Bike rides energized us on innocent mornings.
The sun perfumed our fresh skin,
before self-awareness replaced laughter
and possession replaced play.
At dusk, seduction set in.
Bruises faded and mosquitoes fled.
Lightning bugs appeared, as beer-soaked dads
threw teen neighbors into backyard swimming pools
and we invited boys into the playhouse shed,
before ennui replaced embracing fear of the unknown.
by Amy Barone
Amy on Facebook
Editor’s Note: Long, lazy, childhood summers inevitably give way to adulthood. This poem uses that memory as an extended metaphor for growing up.
As heat prevented you from keeping doves
you loved a cat instead. She claimed you at
your office door at closing, rubbed her bones
against your pants. You walked on streets that float
on top of sand, your loafers sinking deep
into the day contained within cement.
To whom did she belong, if not to you?
Khamsin about your ankles. Devil of dust.
Translucent as kamarudin, the desert sky
now gentles towards evening while—their sands
already cooling—dunes will slide across
the roads to reassemble themselves there.
khamsin: a dry, hot, sandy local wind, blowing from the south, in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula
kamarudin: sun-dried apricot paste
by Claire Zoghb
Editor’s Note: Even imperfect iambic pentameter sounds like music, and sometimes is more pleasing to the ear than the most rigid sonnet.
I would have you half-buried at the bottom of the sea,
decaying hand in mine, sand filling up the spaces
in your skeleton, lungs eroding, water between your ribs,
salt where once you could breathe. I would have you
howling in bed, sheets pooling around your skin,
finding parabola in the curves of your hips and god
in the blessed breath escaping your lips. I would have you
ablaze, a body burning, pocket of heat like an open wound
torn into the atmosphere, silent scream in the form of
sacrificial pyre, starlight condensed, furious flesh fed by fire.
I would have you torn apart by wolves, skin painted
by slanting shadow and viscous moonlight, hot metallic
blood watering the ground. I would have you blue-lipped
and stuttering, stony-faced, ice-cold, frostbitten and
suffocating, wind carrying the dying whispers
from your throat. I would have you a broken symphony,
all spasmodic limbs and the snapping of violin strings.
I would have your rust-wrought
body and all.
by Sheng Kao
Kao on Facebook
Editor’s Note: Love poem or murder? Sometimes the two are interchangeable. This poem’s imagery paints obsession with light touches. I’m more inclined to love, but other readers may find more ominous connections in this verse.
A Very Short Love List
A row of buttons on a dress.
A book next to the roses
On the nightstand.
A bird on the windowsill,
The carelessly drawn blinds.
A man and a woman
But softly as monks.
A very white winter in Harlem,
Many years ago.
by Tim Suermondt
Editor’s Note: Imagery conveys a story fraught with history in this poem. The reader’s experience fills in the gaps (and in doing so, we discover that those gaps are deliberate trails into a narrative rich with meaning).
Like Van Gogh
A listening ear, spongy ear.
Voice of infinity, a spiral
life’s journey to the center
a conch shell whisper
methodic waves, an ear
with strength and fortitude.
Wing-like mystery, a breath
in the wind, tympanic labyrinth.
Not a mallet to drive a point across
or baby artichoke with Orecchiette
to soak up saucy meat like gossip.
An ear auspicious in intentions
your ear compliments my tongue.
A lobe pierced, diamond stud
I clink my teeth on.
Tree trunk, conchoidal bole
with rings, your ear our growing love.
The ear that doesn’t want to hear
those three words. I say them anyway.
by Laurie Kolp, first published as Ear in Poets and Artists.
Editor’s Note: This poem uses an extended metaphor to convey one simple image (love) with an incredibly complex emotional narrative.
Letter to my father
Neglect, pure and simple, brought this on,
but age and incompetence put beyond my reach
the means to make our garden gate fit snugly
in its gap—
. . . . . . . . . .until this recent rain swelled,
as it will, the wood, or sprung a joint
and we needed our special doorstop stone
to keep out neighbours’ glances.
. . . . . . . . . .Finally, I’ve cursed it
off its hinges, sawn off (not straight)
the bottom three rotten inches—but
that’s not rot’s end. Overmastered,
I’ve called in Steve from Sunbeam Timber Products
to bail me out.
. . . . . . . . . .Now, waiting
for the gate he’s going to make,
I think of you, and how this
was the last carpentry you did for us,
and that disturbs the sediment of guilt.
Maybe I should have thought of this,
unhinged and stripped and painted while I could—
done this in remembrance of you.
. . . . . . . . . .But that was never your way. Use
and practicality was all. Besides,
your years as master craftsman were long gone,
and I can’t help noticing where your saw missed
or chisel slipped. We’re more alike
than either would confess. I know how
to read Shakespeare with twelve-year-olds,
but couldn’t do it now without slip or mishap.
. . . . . . . . . .So let it go. We’ll have a new gate
by next week. I’ll close it and think of you.
from Autumn Sky Poetry 3 — by Stuart Nunn
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim