“like like like” by Joel Best

“like like like”

beyond the spirit village
beyond every lonely ghost
a ribbon of lake
like a giant child worked a toy shovel
like the child dug a furrow
like the child filled the furrow with ink
like like like
say the word too many times
it sounds wrong
forget like
say the lake is black
that works

the murderous rain
hammering from above
we huddle in tiny shacks
made of dripping bark
the trees by this lake have died
murdered by bleak winds
we settle in
let the weather do its worst
we make horns at the sky

was that you singing in the night I ask a man
who will not speak his own name
will not say why
obviously there is a reason
such a lovely song I tell him
soulful and comforting
its resonance rose above the storm
which is no small trick
not me the man says
can’t carry a tune in a bucket
he seems ashamed for the admission
for reasons unknown

my home by the lake
shack by a large gray stone
the stone seems to have a face
maybe someone I once knew
or perhaps a stranger
the shack and its earthen floor
once uneven
impossible to sleep upon
until I stamped the dirt flat

the man who won’t say his name
what he wants to talk about
late in the damp night
is a wife left behind
when angels spoke
telling him to abandon the old life
and search
for the new
the angels who whispered to everyone here by the lake
we know the sound of those voices
like broken glass in a cardboard box
like like like

by the light of the evening fire
the wood laced with chemical deposits
we are two people by a lake
each with a story to tell
maybe if there were wine
the stories might be easier to hear
the fire burns purple and green
moths throw themselves into the flames
abstracts swell in our vision

the man describes his wife crying at the end
how it tore him apart
he never would have left
if not for the angels
their commands
you cannot ignore the sound of an angel’s voice
it is quite unfair
what did I do to deserve this he asks
though of course there is no answer
and there is another by the lake
she has asked herself
the same question

the final hours with my husband
are too difficult to recall
I’ve lost track of the details
like a hole has yawned in my thoughts
it’s an unhealthy way to live
like the burning moths
like like like
some lifeforms are destined by nature
to self-destruct

by Joel Best

Editor’s Note: At first this poem reads like a celebration of solitude and weather, but then the narrative winds down into itself and the last two lines drive home the true nature of this beast.

Love Poem No. 54 by Rosemary Cappello

Love Poem No. 54

I wish I knew how you create ceramics. Do you start with clay?
There. I show how ignorant I am when it comes to raw materials to shape
and heat to art; smooth, bright colored discs both square and circular,
bearing little semblance to their first consistency. You like your women
strong of body, pliable as clumps of dough under your rugged hands as you
sometimes seem to want to shape them into stone statues.
I’m neither clay nor rock. Though made of earth, my flesh is flesh.
But not my mind. There lays my strength, where you can never place
your hands, and yet you’ve shaped it into something kindlier as it absorbs
new sights and feelings. What’s lacking in my love: you won’t say love,
but the more that you stand firm in your denial,
the more I love.

by Rosemary Cappello

Editor’s Note: This poem is very conversational in tone, yet by the end, the narrator’s inflection belies such easy familiarity with the tenacity of emotion presented. Look at the long line lengths and how the shortness of the last one drives home the central theme: “…I love.”

G O D by Gerard Sarnat


There was a man who is no more.

At this week’s session, Dr. Godofsky promises
Pops would still be there, just not in real time,
except of course if he’s one of the dead
who don’t want to go on mixing with the living.

God of Sky helps me reel back fond fragments to frame
my memories … Daddy’s LaBron drives to the hoop
with the grace of a god.

It’s so excellent to be in his company again.

Then I gather him in, pale and swollen, barely escaped
from his next to last hospitalization. Year short of one hundred,
he’s nourished by drug soup and an oxygen line.

A fawning male nurse — Father’s newest filial appendage –
shares our usual corned beef (now puréed) and the fraud
its iron’ll decrease a reliance on transfusions.

But since we’re both physicians, Father and I know better;
you never return to golden fields.

A cold breeze blows the surgeon emeritus into my hands.

Now the boss is my baby. Wiping his bunghole,
sometimes I don’t want to be there,
want to shut his hole that makes nasty words.

Ball of fire, everyone rises and sets.

Glory be to Good Old Dad…

There was a man who is no more.

by Gerard Sarnat

Editor’s Note: This poem is less structured than others, but the form mirrors the lack of coherence that many of us face in life and in death. This fragmentation of life is natural, though that doesn’t make it any easier to let go.

A Netherworld by Elizabeth Robin

A Netherworld

From the frosted glass emerges a figure—
slim, quixotic in posture—with a giant
schlong ending at knees created by
trickling drops. Fertility figures

must quiver, cast sidelong glances
from their appointed Met displays.
Labeled merely “wood: Igbo” masks
the clues that narrow place and tribe.
teak? mahogany? ebony? mango?

Identity matters, she thinks, as water
slides down the shower wall, erasing
her Bangwa king, the steamy replica
her imagination conjures in a misty stall.

The crude, oversized, exaggerated hope
worries at her fevered mind. What next?
Jesus in honeyed pancakes?
Buddha in the laundry pile?

by Elizabeth Robin

Editor’s Note: Sometimes the mind plays tricks on us and sees patterns in the chaos of everyday life. However, the pivotal part of this poem lies in the center, where memory meets realization (“Identity matters…”).

Walking Home by Neil Flatman

Walking Home

Somehow I knew this would be how it began.
So easy to say, the coral fire of sunset;
the bright hand of a god at the end of the world. You

just have to be there. Try not to picture it.
A lens can’t capture a moment the way
the eye sees. Cliché

And that this stanza would consider
how you pass a finger through a candle’s flame
without burning, or, at most, with a little pain. Trial

and error. Some know better
than to linger long, others come to love
then need, the sting.

Now I can only tell you
how it is I love
the way she often laughs so hard her body heaves

loose the strings. Convulsions in the waves
that reach her feet and beat a jig
no mermaid could dance.

It’s like trying to stand
on the horizon, the corner of a canvass
but this is soon, I can’t see

more than shade at the periphery, how
gears change in the dark, turn
down the sun.

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: Enjambment and imagery create a relationship with each other in this poem, only one step removed from the divine (but isn’t that what love is?).

From the archives – The Editor Writes That She is Tired of the Word Drifting — Donna Vorreyer


The Editor Writes That She is Tired of the Word Drifting

perhaps she spends too many
winter hours watching snow
shift itself into slanted banks

or she despises the soporific
rhythm of the sea delivering
itself onto the shoreline

perhaps she imagines the eyes
of a lover wandering away, too
far from her own sad face

or maybe she hates the word
itself, the laziness of it, all
that snow and sand and love

just carried along complacent
on the wind, so delicate, so
powerless, so imprecise

from Autumn Sky Poetry 14 — by Donna Vorreyer

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Orchard by H.D.



I saw the first pear
as it fell—
the honey-seeking, golden-banded,
the yellow swarm
was not more fleet than I,
(spare us from loveliness)
and I fell prostrate
you have flayed us
with your blossoms,
spare us the beauty
of fruit-trees.

The honey-seeking
paused not,
the air thundered their song,
and I alone was prostrate.

O rough-hewn
god of the orchard,
I bring you an offering—
do you, alone unbeautiful,
son of the god,
spare us from loveliness:

these fallen hazel-nuts,
stripped late of their green sheaths,
grapes, red-purple,
their berries
dripping with wine,
pomegranates already broken,
and shrunken figs
and quinces untouched,
I bring you as offering.

by H.D. (1886-1961)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Folk Singer by Carl Boon

Folk Singer

Past prostitutes lingering
and toddlers wandering in shadow,
I recognize the chords
of “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Then I see her face: a woman
who doesn’t belong here
playing a song these folks’ve
never heard. Though behind
the usual cliché—the guitar case
collecting coins—she’s not.

She’s as beautiful as Joan Baez,
though her hands are cracked
and her lips splintered pink.
Her long skirt brushes
the cement of the Newgate station
and her whispers are calls to look.

She’s the girl I made love to
when I was young, the woman
who went from me
when I refused to dance.
She’s the singer whose words
carry us from place to place
in this long and ardent city.

Atop the subway steps
I peer back at her
as she folds her song sheet
and smiles crookedly to no one.

by Carl Boon

Editor’s Note: At first, this poem is a simple snapshot of a moment: station, singer, speaker. The last three lines are the surprise, for they establish the character of the woman as independent from the narrator’s nostalgic recollection. The reader is left wondering: what is she thinking?

Elegy for Gatsby by Jennifer Finstrom

Elegy for Gatsby

I used to think that stories ended neatly,
and that even if you were dead, floating
in a green pool like Jay Gatsby, it was okay
and somehow you were still able to see
what happened after, how the phone that rang
and rang really was Daisy, how wildflowers
have covered your smooth lawn. And even though
I know now that dead is dead, this is all still
somehow true. How can nineteen-year-old me
not know that I cover her headstone in words?

by Jennifer Finstrom

Jennifer on Facebook

Twitter: @jenfinstrom

Editor’s Note: Careful enjambment gives this poem both energy and quiet contemplation, sometimes simultaneously.

The Mole People by Ed Shacklee

The Mole People

Blinking like the stars, as deep as night
and ugly as we thought they were, they came,
emerging from clandestine faults to light
abysses surface people feared to name,

and no one saw them coming, as they’d learned
self-effacing insight from the dead.
Untroubled by what common sense discerned,
they looked beyond dark oddities we fled,

and what they were, they were, and didn’t hide.
Attempts at dazzlement had no effect,
our offers of enlightenment, denied;
for we who’d not been moved could not direct

the halting, awkward progress of the blind
who felt their way to what we failed to find.

by Ed Shacklee

Ed on Facebook

Editor’s Note: Is this a horror story or enlightenment? This sonnet invites multiple interpretations within its smooth iambic pentameter (not too much, not too little).