Vintage verse – Theme in Yellow by Carl Sandburg



Theme in Yellow

I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o’-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children know
I am fooling.

by Carl Sandburg (1878–1967)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.

A Prayer for the Prayer by Martin J. Elster

A Prayer for the Prayer

While straightening the tail end of October,
. . . .I step across my rug
. . . .of turf and see a bug
as slender as a drinking straw, a sober

pea-green, and unassuming as a nun.
. . . .Perhaps she is entreating
. . . .the god who has been heating
her body the whole summer not to run

away and strip the trees too rapidly
. . . .and leave her in a blizzard.
. . . .Now, basking like a lizard,
she doesn’t try to flee but studies me

with eyes that nearly dwarf her swivel-head.
. . . .I stroke her back. She races
. . . .away. Yet what she faces
is not my finger but the milky spread

that, by and by, will glaciate this lawn.
. . . .She stops as if she’s caught
. . . .my thought. Now on this plot
she’ll ambush flies till she and they are gone.

When will the mandibles of winter take
. . . .her spirit like some prey?
. . . .Who knows? But now, today,
she’ll revel in the sun — until I rake.

— Martin J. Elster

by Martin J. Elster, first published in The Flea.

Editor’s Note: It seems appropriate that this poem is an elegy of sorts because it first appeared in The Flea (which deserves an elegy). Rhyme and autumn seem to go together quite well.

How to Celebrate my Life by Johanna Ely

How to Celebrate my Life
(El Dia de los Muertos)

The first year
after I die,
celebrate my life
on my birthday.
(El Dia de los Muertos)
Set up an altar
in the living room,
under the Rivera painting
of the woman embracing
the white calla lilies.
Put everything on that
heavy carved wooden
table next to the window.
Light a church candle
with an ornate picture of
the Madonna of Guadalupe
wrapped around the glass
to help me find my way home.
Tempt me with a round loaf
of sweet Mexican bread
covered with candy sprinkles,
pan de muerto.
I want a ghoulish turquoise
skull with bright orange
marigold eyes to sit on
the table and grin at you
as you walk by, my former smile
hidden behind its clacking teeth.
Leave me a plate of soft, gooey brie,
and a box of Carr’s water crackers.
Cleanse my palate with a silky red cab,
and don’t forget the cut crystal goblet.
Fill a clear vase of yellow roses
with your tears. A simple ceramic
bowl of salt and seashells will
remind me of the ocean.
Place my favorite calaca, the skeleton
dog wearing the violet sombrero,
next to an open book of Haiku poetry.
Read her a poem about longing and a full moon.
Call her “perro de mi corazon”.
If my friends are still alive, invite them over.
Hire a loud, cheerful mariachi band and
dance all night to Rolling Stones cover songs.

Place all my poems
in a neat pile on the altar.
Let each friend take a few
off the top until the stack is gone.
Tell them the blank sides are good
for writing down lists.
(the living like to do that)
Finally, take off your shoes,
peel off your skin, and
rest your tired bones.
Stay awhile. Remind me,
that I’m really not alone.

by Johanna Ely

Editor’s Note: Though this poem is not ekphrastic, the imagery is as vivid as a Technicolor photograph with the saturation turned up way past max until the color becomes not so much a visual phenomenon as an emotional framework for life.

Black and White by Jane Blanchard

Black and White

In an old photograph
Of the first Halloween
That I can remember,
I stand as a clown
Next to my sister, a witch,
Who later says way too soon
While sitting in my room
And coloring with my crayons,
“There is no Santa.”
I recall running to the kitchen
And asking Mama for the truth.
Late each and every year
As the days grow cold and short,
I still long for a lie.

by Jane Blanchard, first published in The Stony Thursday Book.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes you don’t know where a poem is going until the very last line.

to have and to hold by Kathleen Spivack

to have and to hold

and he said to me
live and be happy

coming back coming back

and I heard him in the flowers,
the tender new leaves, little hands

and I heard him in the sky;
the rooftops, as in archetypal
photos and I heard him in the dental
office also; everywhere:
he, saying, live.

be happy.
Listen – heard it – give
this attention. remember.
that whispering, was it the wind;
the ocean telling its consolations?

new life, the foal
unfolding wetly at its mothers’
side and tottering to stand?

the upturned flowers
in their simplicity;
their opened eyes?


The sadness was finished; the failures.

The night sky
didn’t trouble as it once had;

and his great swollen
broken body
was made whole again,

entering the cosmos
in a great dust/ light/ energy/ particle/swirl:
the glare and white whoosh of the Yes.
live and be
happy Kathleen

he said (as he turned).

And I would.

by Kathleen Spivack

Editor’s Note: Random punctuation, line lengths, and emphasis give this poem a haphazard atmosphere at first glance. However, upon careful rereading, one realizes that the narrator is conveying an important life lesson through the passing of a loved one. Some voices retain strength even after they are gone.

tell me again by Julia Klatt Singer

tell me again Singer

tell me again

about the man
with the pear tree
who lost his wife
after fifty-six years of marriage
and how that tree doesn’t know when enough is enough
that last August
he had to prop the poor thing’s branches up
with two-by-fours
it was so laden with fruit.
He gave you a bagful of those pears
and their scent filled the car
even with the windows rolled down.

by Julia Klatt Singer

Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic poem handles grief with a sideways feint—spoken of between the lines, with fruit and movement.

Painting by Julia Klatt Singer

From the archives – Letters — Brigita Orel

Brigita Windowsill


I’ll remember
long when your footsteps grow silent
on the porch
when your laughter dies
in the crackling waves of the lycra curtains
when your smell evaporates
into the thick fragrance of faded cyclamens
on the window shelf
and the song of your fingers
on strings suffocates
in the nonsensical rambling of the radio
when letters addressed to you
stop winding up in my blue letter box
as lost as me without you
with no addressee
only with a stamp
of lost, longing love
of unheard words
secrets painful to keep
but forced to nurse them
for the future, for a future
without you
when I’ll remember

from Autumn Sky Poetry 12 — by Brigita Orel

Photo by Brigita Orel

Of Parchment Scored by S. Thomas Summers

Of Parchment Scored

Old leaves litter
the forest floor,
sacred scraps
of parchment

by a season’s hand;
children gather
each crinkled skin,
mustard and wine,
olive and gold,

as wizards and sages
gather a millennium’s
history, trace
cold fingers
across a page’s

wrinkles and ink,
the possibilities
of beauty,
the tragedies

of loss, hanging the solemn
passages of autumn
on the refrigerator door,
the stories mommy
and daddy must learn.

by S. Thomas Summers

Twitter: @summerspoet

Editor’s Note: This poem encapsulates autumn, the history of writing, and the beginning of literacy… and then it somehow ties all of this into the emotional trauma of parenthood.

Late Night B Movie by Ed Shacklee

Late Night B Movie

Colossus in a tub with model ships,
the lizard-suited actor runs amok.
Waves sweep plastic soldiers off the dock
as subtitles outpace staccato lips

of jut-jawed admirals wearing rented suits
who cover ears in pantomimes of noise
to prove the tanks and missiles aren’t toys,
while teenaged extras counterfeit salutes.

In the darkness, I remember when
each thing from Monster Island had a name.
The screen light flicker imitates a flame:
Tokyo the phoenix burns again.

by Ed Shacklee

Ed on Facebook

Editor’s Note: I confess, I adore action flicks of all kinds. This sonnet spoke to me of flickering black and white screens and plastic terror.