Postcard from Bali—On Reading by Neil Flatman

On Reading

Donaghy and Gilbert, flipping
poems in the sun. Donaghy was still
bound tight, but Gilbert
well thumbed, strained until I broke
his spine, him
spilling out, page by page
on a wind I’d otherwise
never have noticed

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: Anyone who has read Jack Gilbert’s work will understand the relationship of this poem to many of his-the ordinary imagery caught by the last few lines’ realization.

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Henry by Christine Klocek-Lim

timber

Henry

The first knot his father taught
him held a mattress to the top
of the car. This is a Trucker’s Hitch,
the old man said, looping the rope
in and out of itself as though fastening
large things to small places
was easy. Lord knew, Henry
had never had any luck keeping
beds and whatnot from sliding
off the rails. The next knot
was a Figure Eight.
Again, his father said, a thousand
times over. This one came undone so easily,
Henry didn’t see the point.
The Tautline Hitch at least made sense—
his tent’s tension kept it strong,
even in the rain. Even when he heard
his father had cancer. A year after
that, they used Two Half Hitches
the night the tree came down
next to the house. They dragged
that log a thousand yards, it seemed,
though Henry let his father
do the tying of knots. In the rain,
the wet rope looked like a snake and bit
just as quick. Thunder and darkness
make everything feel impossible,
but even so, Henry didn’t know
that damned tree would be the last
wild thing his father ever knotted tame.
When the old man died, Henry tried
a Bowline Hitch to secure the tarp
over the mounded ground near
the gravestone, but rescue
had never been his strength.
Some things can’t be saved,
his father once said,
and so Henry never did learn
how to knot it right.

by Christine Klocek-Lim.

Editor’s Note: As an editor, I feel it’s important to avoid indiscriminate self-publishing, but on one day a year, perhaps you will forgive me (yes, it’s my birthday). This poem is from a collection I’m working on in which I explore third person narrative. Inspired by: How To Tie The Only Five Knots You’ll Ever Need

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Loam by Carl Sandburg

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Loam

In the loam we sleep,
In the cool moist loam,
To the lull of years that pass
And the break of stars,

From the loam, then,
The soft warm loam,
. . . . . . . .We rise:
To shape of rose leaf,
Of face and shoulder.

. . . . . . . .We stand, then,
. . . . . . . .To a whiff of life,
Lifted to the silver of the sun
Over and out of the loam
. . . . . . . .A day.

by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Sonnenizio on a Line from Yeats by Catherine Rogers

Sonnenizio on a Line from Yeats

An aged man is but a paltry thing.
An aged woman, on the other hand,
Has no time to be paltry like her man.
She’s coaxing fire to make the kettle sing.

She fries the sausages and sets the forks.
He sighs his own obituary, then dozes,
Dreaming of imperishable roses.
Real roses must be pruned. She gets to work.

The old man has his legacy to tend;
He mourns his fading powers with aching heart.
Her hands ache with arthritis, but she’s smart
And takes an aspirin; she has socks to mend.

Byzantine sage, enough of fiery gold!
The real trick’s being too busy to get old.

by Catherine Rogers

Editor’s Note: Feminism isn’t always loud and badass. Sometimes it’s spoken with a quiet voice, while quiet hands mend this arthritic world.

A Thanksgiving Anthem, by William Billings – Christine Potter

A Thanksgiving Anthem, by William Billings

Ye dragons, whose contagious breath
People the corridors of death
Change your dire hissings into heavenly song
And praise your maker with your forked tongues
—William Billings, 1794 – (a paraphrase of Psalm 148)

For-ked, with two syllables, and six or eight
sixteenth notes on “for”. Repeatedly. For
measure after measure. Breath control,
says my husband. He reminds me it was

my idea our choir sing this anthem. It’s what
I deserve for having cocktails with him and
a Sacred Harp CD. William Billings, leather
tanner, street sweeper, composer, missing

an eye, one leg shorter than the other, loved
dragons. Hissing dragons, especially, because
he could win even them. So what if they
smelled bad and King James gives them just

one word in Psalm 148? Billings turned his
anthem into dragons, turned his whole choir
into dragons, turned choirs into dragons two
hundred and twenty years into the future.

And because of his love, the dragons were
grateful. They unfolded their napkins and
ate turkey and Indian Pudding. Make sure
you hit the “s” in “hissings”, my husband says:

Hissssingss! Thus instructed, our lizard-like
scales include the whole world, as they were
intended to. See? The dragons are carrying
everyone’s plates to the kitchen sink. Alleluia!

by Christine Potter

Christine on Facebook

In lieu of my usual Editor’s note, I give you Christine’s explanation: “It’s an oddball piece I wrote last year about an early American Thanksgiving anthem with musical sound effects that mimic the hissing of dragons as they praise God, and so are redeemed. For real. Guy who wrote it was a nut!”

Editor’s addendum: Give thanks! I almost posted this poem for today:

There once was a turkey named Byrd—
had a temper as foul as a turd.
With Thanksgiving day dread
he hid in the head
and yelled: Go away, I’m a shit not a bird!

Prelude by Ralph Culver

Prelude

Come winter. Autumn pockets
her colors, pulls up
the once warm roots
and hunches southward: a gray,
drained hand rises. Shadow. Shadow.
It stops the blood. It stops
the brain’s fragile traffic. It stops

a buck, rumping a doe
grazing near fast water. He lifts
a tentative hoof and peers.
Every November that he began
waiting to starve is coming in
on the cold purpose of this wind.

And I count the times
I could not keep from turning
to check, mid-step,
the footprints strung behind
in the climbing snow.

by Ralph Culver, first published in Albatross.

Editor’s Note: Astonishing imagery elevates this poem from mere description of a season to brilliant allegory.

Canticle for My Clavicle by Kate Bernadette Benedict

Canticle for My Clavicle

Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. —Psalm 51

“Nonunion” is the state my bone is in.
This collarbone, a jagged twig that snapped.
Bedaze me in your light, erase my sin.

Behold, I am ill-shaped, atilt, askew,
unable to embrace, outstretch, or clap.
Correct me, that my bearing may be true.

For I admit my role in this my fate,
having broken rank as well as bone.
My soul’s fragmented too; it’s warped, not straight.

Some exult when they become the crone
and do not mourn the passing of their youth.
But I decried it. Now must I atone?

Hide thy face from each wrong thought and choice.
Uphold and shore me, every place that’s rent.
Have mercy, that this clavicle rejoice.

by Kate Bernadette Benedict

Editor’s Note: Kate told me that “A canticle is a prayer-poem, often based on a Psalm and so it be…” and how could a reader deny the supplication that transcends mere injury and becomes a metaphor for life choices in these lines? The pain is sharp and nagging both, and this poem’s entreaty describes it perfectly.