Remodeling My Daughter’s Room by Jeff Burt

Remodeling My Daughter’s Room

All the kitsch—pheasant feathers poking out
a top hat, hammered metal plates
made to look like silhouettes,
mustard and rose dresser with blue china pulls,
the carved black walnut desk with photos
of pebbles wet from a recent wave
and your mother wading in emerald water,
vinyl albums gathered from yard sales
for cover art of long-haired men
with cowboy mustaches and banjos—all goes.

I move a wall to make a homogenous room
that will accommodate any guest,
but that light, that early morning share of sunshine
like a slice of lemon straddling the curve
of a plain glass of water, that light remains.
I paint the room a darker blue,
hang curtains of tan cotton,
stain hardwoods with golden honey,
but each time I enter the light restores,
and you are with me lacing up boots
for a hike in the forest, or running shoes
to go on the wild and diminishing trail.

by Jeff Burt

Editor’s Note: This poem seems like a straightforward narrative reflection, until the reader realizes that the missing character, the narrator’s daughter, drives the emotional movement of the imagery. Life is very much not a static experience and this poem emphasizes that beautifully.

Cookiegirl by Sherry O’Keefe

Cookiegirl

He calls at work to say
he’s bringing a spider home. Not even
my favorite after-work drive
through darkened streets lit with living-
room lamps and red tail lights pulling
into driveways coaxes me this time to relax
and let the universe in. (Which is why we need
a tarantula, he had said before I disconnected.)

Now, still buttoned in my parka and laced
in my boots, I wrap my I’m-back hug
around his neck as he teeters on a stool
talking to Cookiegirl in his sleepy
voice. With tutu motion she hesitates,
then eases from his hand to climb about his chest.
Such delicate stallion steps. I try to pull away

when she regards me and my mittens.
Take them off and stroke her fur, he whispers
to my fear. See, he teases, how she laces
rosy ballet slippers halfway up each thigh? I bite
my lip and nibble on my list: sirens, wrecks, test results, giving
into trust. A car drives by. Cookiegirl shrinks. I slip
off a mitten and bare my skin. Invite
the world in.

by Sherry O’Keefe, first published in Making Good Use of August.

Editor’s Note: The funny title at first leads one to expect an amusing poem, but by they end of the first stanza one realizes that these lines have more to do than to simply make readers smile. By the last line, one realizes the possibilities inherent in inviting the world inside, and sometimes this begins with a pet spider.

Maples by Gwen E Owen

Maples

In my yard a forest
of seedlings sprouts among
the blades of grass,
in the fissures and canyons
of the driveway,
between the pavers,
weaving into the chain link fence.

I pluck them,
imagining they could someday
shove aside the car
upheave the pavement
and lift my house into the
canopy.

Already there
within each flimsy shoot:
the shade it will cast,
its autumn color
and bare winter branches.

Now,
when I lean in very close I see
tiny birds
flying branch to branch,
tiny squirrels
spiraling the slender trunks,
tiny children
building tree forts and there –

a tiny woman and her tinier dog
are walking in the shade.

After a while
she pauses and rests
her back against the smooth green
and gazes up into the blue
of my eye.

She marvels
at the big beautiful world
while her tiny dog whines
for her to keep
moving.

by Gwen E Owen

Editor’s Note: A surreal poem feels appropriate for the surreal beauty of this autumn season.

From the archives – Thirst for Rain — JB Mulligan

1puddle

Thirst for Rain

Waiting for deliverance of the package of life:
a box holding the truth our truths are about —
the feet suck to the ground as if they had
a choice, a fly’s gymnastics more graceful
and only slightly less erratic or brief;
the eyes blink at the sun and peer into
the threat of shadow; the hands shape things
because they must, the compulsion to build
for that which is capable of building, the way
termites are sentenced to erecting mounds.
Life like hands cupped and raised to a sky
from which the rain is always ready to fall.
But we want what makes the water thunder
on the hard parched earth and the thick mud:
the maker of rain; the form of the first drop
that poised like a star and rushed downward;
the thirst for water that was always meant only for us.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 2 — by JB Mulligan

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Lost Cause In Six Or More Colors by Patricia Wallace Jones

Lost Cause In Six Or More Colors

It is no accident that I am here
where the only lane left has slipped to sea;
here on this fault with no safety belt,
no stay pole or traveler to slow the falling.

When tides run high and the herons leave,
I ride silent, north from Hare Creek
past the old sawmills and dog hole ports,
logging camps where alders lean white,
grieve in the leavings of old growth trees.

Approaching the Bailey bridge, my fear
becomes palpable, rises up from my gut–
heart to throat– while I wait for the flag man
to turn his sign from Stop to Slow, to be
the next one suspended over crews below.

Orange-vested and out-witted, they still try
to tame her. This year with rip rap, PVC
and red clover.

by Patricia Wallace Jones

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Editor’s Note: This poem uses allegory to create an emotional narrative that is deeper than the obvious imagery of driving through construction.

Redundant by Neil Flatman

Redundant

Sometimes when I walked
I admired the stillness
of the horses in the field, happy

dog along, disjointed lope
all nosing, snuffling by the fence.

Come summer they reminded me
of combines tearing up the dirt, then
winter brought a coat and boots

sparse pickings and hay dumped
by the barred steel gate.
I once saw Lippizanners work.

Their hall ornate, with chandeliers
and windows way above head height

that let in white October
excited by the kicked up dust.
A pair of posts grew from the floor

that must have reached eight feet
with rings and a chain
though I never saw them used

just the stallions in collection
cantering, water over falls. The men
on the ground

had long whips capped
by narrow threads that sang
and the stallions eyes

darted as they listened
for the whistling air, inevitable
snap.

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: The title of this poem takes what might be simply some lovely imagery, or a memory, and turns it on its head.

Hanging Out on the Old Croton Aqueduct by Christine Potter

Hanging Out on the Old Croton Aqueduct

Dobbs Ferry, the early 1970’s

The last thing we thought of was water but
long pipes to The City were still there, buried
beneath a grassy trail that led only to itself,

really. It was Middle Earth, or pen and ink
drawings from an old children’s book, with
round stone towers barely taller than we were,

like toy castles. Someone had heard they were
ventilators left over from 1840 and always
said so as we passed them. Then we all knew it

and forgot about them. What we drank was
beer, or when we were stupid, Southern Comfort,
which was like swallowing pine cones instead

of kicking them as we walked. Twenty-six
miles from The Bronx to The Dam, in Croton.
No one jogged then, so no adults—except for

someone mowing the shady back yard of his own
enormous house in Irvington. He ignored us,
we him. Back behind Mercy College, past the

nuns’ cemetery with its Stations of the Cross,
each sad and holy scene set in what looked like
a bird house. I found them beautiful and knew

better than to say so. We never walked the
whole trail. It could have been a foreign country,
even endless. Home from college, our guitars

dangling upside down over our shoulders.
We’d end up at Jimmie’s, order manicotti,
baked clams, Chianti in a rattan basket. And

my brother wiped everyone’s plate clean with a
heel of Italian bread. So the chef came out and
pounded his shoulder. You’re a good boy! he said.

by Christine Potter

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Editor’s Note: This narrative poem uses imagery to convey nostalgia and to compress a childhood into a few lines. At the end, even if you’ve never been to the Croton Aqueduct, you find yourself nodding along because you’ve done all of these things, either in this life or the next.

Mary and Venus: A Crib by Jack Kristiansen

Mary and Venus: A Crib

The Renaissance put things
in perspective, painting Mary

as winsome and bringing Venus
back to life. Mannerism stretched

Mary’s lovely neck, twisted Venus
into giving her son an open-mouthed kiss.

The Baroque showed off Mary
as barefoot, Venus as enamored

with her mirror. What could it mean
that Dutch interiors highlighted

the play of light on firm furnishings
and left the young women adrift

in their musings? Any Rococo Mary
would have cavorted, her skirts

fluffing out with a venereal flounce.
Neo-classical bodies conform

to decorum, Mary demure,
Venus naked and disarming.

Romanticism favored energy
and disarray, a rifle brandishing,

bare-breasted Liberty leading
the charge. Realism gave

a frank look to everyday life,
Mary a bather drying off,

Venus a self-assured prostitute
staring straight at our eyes.

Impressionism took easels
outdoors and, later, filled museums

with the lasting impression
that many things, even women,

need exist only as brush strokes.
Expressionism altered vision,

Mary becoming languorous,
provocative, Venus’ hair rising

in a scary flare. Cubism puzzled
women’s violin bodies apart.

Then Surrealism rendered
accurate dreams of Mary

as an earful and Venus
as a chest of drawers.

by Jack Kristiansen

 

Editor’s Note: This is the ultimate ekphrastic poem — a visual history of Mary versus Venus throughout multiple art eras. The ending is particularly apropos for our modern trend toward meaninglessness.

Butterfly Weed by Bob Bradshaw

Butterfly Weed

The petunias flaunt their purple dresses
and their petticoats like can-can girls.
The geraniums on the fire escape
lean out with their bright faces

like children along a parade route.
Everywhere I am welcomed.
with festive oranges and yellows.

The perfumed ladies in lavender
forgive my mistakes at the office.

They are as forgiving as children
on birthdays. Old sins
are not logged. There is no memory
of lost annuals, or plants dug out

with leaf mold. Every day I bring
long drinks of water to this garden.
Like the butterfly weed, I long to live

only for the moment, my days
diaries of water and sun.

by Bob Bradshaw

 

Editor’s Note: Personification drives this poem from image to image. The narrator’s voice is a flower of mistakes at the office.