Departure by John Calvin Hughes


Last night,
coming from dark bars,
from the closeness of strangers,
coming home late again,
the door was open:
the floor was peppered thick with rice:
patterns of splayed places
in that grainy carpet
where the polished maple
shone through: skidding footprints.

The parakeet was greenly gone,
the wire door torn down;
the bird ranges the wind
from tedious curse and praise.

The refrigerator stood open:
inside the cool white cube,
the bulb, the empty racks.

The cat bowl tipped,
gray milk linoleum halo,
bone-chipped spill.

She has freed the small appliances:
ascended to junk
they are utterly broken.
The cat highsteps among the ruins.

by John Calvin Hughes

John on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The rice on the floor sold me on this poem, but the rest of the imagery is just as startling and evocative.

Trigger Warning by Larina Warnock

Trigger Warning

This isn’t what you think it is.
It is, instead, a memory drawn from a well
of memories so deep as to mingle with ghosts.
It is a shadow crossing
paths with the light just right, so that flickers of yesterday
become quicker than today, become the ray
of whatever isn’t shining through the window,
something similar to something we’ve felt before, but not so
much more than a disguise for the prayer we don’t feel a right to.

It is déjà vu, but less exact,
like a pact was formed between morning and eve
that the day will forever be
neither and both. It is ether, a flask
filled to the brim with emotions forgotten and unforgotten,
longer felt, no longer felt. It is stronger than aged
brandy, but weaker than the edges of a dream.

It is reverse masonry, chiseling away at brick,
dusting the remainder of mortar from our skin, finding it
filling gaps between who we were then and who we are now,
who we wanted to be and who we became, one tragedy and another,
my tragedy and another’s, some other
feeling forgotten to make room for something old and something new.

It is holding up a shattered mirror
and seeing some past version of myself,
trying again and again to create an end
that never did,
that never can

by Larina Warnock

Larina on Facebook

Twitter: @larinawrite

Editor’s Note: Repetition emphasizes the trauma of flashbacks to great effect in this poem. So, too, do the careful line breaks. The sonics are brilliant. You can never escape your own mind’s tricks.

Where the Shadows Grow by S. Thomas Summers

Where the Shadows Grow

The cardinal,
red crest capping
its head as flame,

hops from branch
to branch,

through the thorns
with the confidence
of fire,

from the dark weave,
into the air

under the pine trees
where the shadows grow.

by S. Thomas Summers

Twitter: @summerspoet

Editor’s Note: Somehow, this poem manages to embody both a dread of terrible events, and the flame that keeps hope alive. Perhaps that is too much explication for an imagistic poem and a single bird, but current events always seem to inform my perception.

Not Winter by Ion Corcos

Not Winter

This year the rain did not fall.
Cold air did not arrive. I did not

shut windows, pull down blinds.

I did not have to wear a jumper,
wrap a scarf over my mouth.

I do not have to reply to notices,
letters, neighbours. I do not need

an evil eye on my door, my steps,

the path. I do not have to count days,
argue. We are not there anymore.

by Ion Corcos.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes, the best way to describe a thing is to detail all of what it is not. This poem’s emotional impact slips in through the denials and enjambed lines.

Symphony #9 by Martin Willitts Jr.

Symphony #9

Yes, the sparrows sing in the rain
because they adore the unattainable.
They welcome harshness coming afterwards
when the temperature either dips down
or increases, by ten degrees of misery.
Sparrows sing because joy is misery’s twin
and they recognize both like feathers
with or without rain. They sing from branches,
hidden like all great secrets are hidden
and must be searched vigorously.
Their white throats know only release of music
and profound love. They understand music
is given to those who profess. And if they fail,
it is because life had failed them, or if rain
was not long enough, short as pinfeathers.
Rain is giving them what they need. The air
is a great provider. The sky tells: change comes
and goes. Smack of rain is decisive song choices.
To the un-listening ear, there is no difference
between before, during, or after rain,
but I have heard the high chattering
and the calm later. I heard the grateful urges
like crocus opening like an aria. I have heard
worms moving out of the soil as ground swells
with rain, and the excitement of sparrows
to see what has been delivered in exchange
for their unsolicited praise. Yes, it rains
birdsongs. Yes, the sparrows flock in numbers
singing Ode To Joy. Yes, said Beethoven,
that is exactly what God wants from us and
how God rewards us,
as his deaf ears filled
with white feathery rainwater. This is how I feel
waking up next to my wife each morning.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

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Editor’s Note: Music and poetry have a long history of hidden moments together, and sometimes the same bed holds both music and birds.

From the archives – The Gull — Pattie Seely

The Gull

It was sudden
to come upon her
that way—

the usual way
Life interrupts Herself
and seems to take

neither joy nor sorrow
in such suspension,
only quiet indifference

to our desires. I was
walking the boardwalk
along Lake Ontario

the waters steely
on a January day
of pearl clouds.

The planks creaked cold
beneath my weight
with a dry crunch

from a dusting of snow.
Then I saw her.
At first I hoped for rubbish

something tossed
over the sands where

an old north wind
would have laid it
against the snow fence.

But then I knew
when I saw
white feathers lifted

in the tendrils
of an inconspicuous
wind. So I

found my way
through the maze
of weathered, winter fences

and there she laid
with her head looking

backward toward the deep
and dark waters and
tucked beneath her wing.

a kettle of gulls swirled low
white under gray

and soon fell
into the Great Lake
like a long string of pearls.

from Autumn Sky Poetry 9 — by Pattie Seely

Video by Sarah Filmer

Vintage verse – The Mirabeau Bridge by Guillaume Apollinaire

The Mirabeau Bridge

Under the Mirabeau bridge flows the Seine
. . . . . . . .And all our loves
. . . .Why does it make so plain
That any joy must always follow pain

. . . . . . . .Let the night come the hour sound clear
. . . . . . . .The days all pass I’m still here

Our hands intertwined let’s stay face to face
. . . . . . . .While far below
. . . .The bridge of our arms strays
The languid wave of each endless gaze

. . . . . . . .Let the night come the hour sound clear
. . . . . . . .The days all pass I’m still here

Our love drifts away like these waters flow
. . . . . . . .Love drifts away
. . . .And our lives are so slow
With Hope more violent than we could know

. . . . . . . .Let the night come the hour sound clear
. . . . . . . .The days all pass I’m still here.

The days and weeks pass in a ceaseless train
. . . . . . . .But no past time
. . . .Or past love comes again
Under the Mirabeau bridge flows the Seine

. . . . . . . .Let the night come the hour sound clear
. . . . . . . .The days all pass I’m still here.

by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918)

Translation by John Irons

Photo via Wikipedia

Night Feeders by Tricia Knoll

Night Feeders

The cop’s cruiser patrols east.
Saturday night may turn
to drunks and domestics.
Wet streets, tire slosh, midnight traffic.
Three youths in bandanas and black jackets,
a man in a motorized wheelchair with a whole earth flag.
She pinches her thigh, tight blue pants on slick seat,
a fat test before her next fitness challenge.
Voodoo Doughnuts is open all night.
Coffee. Maple bars. Or carrots and broccoli in her bag.

Sunken graves, tipped stones,
the pioneer graveyard promises this man only an owl
gives a hoot at a lean January moon
hung in wisps of shredded cloud.
At the service center they call him William.
He rustles in his pack, hauls out a tarp
and tucks a slab of hand-me-out carrot cake from St. Andrews
in the lip of plastic beside his knife sharpened
to shine — talismans against wary night with bite.
One yank on knitted cap under sweatshirt hood.
Blankets from his cart, not too damp, unfold on tarp.
He rolls up like a cigar and closes down
hooded eyes against jungle blood.
He’ll be gone before the jogger’s Jack Russell
sniffs crumbs of sweet cake.

The great horned owl waits
atop a Douglas fir, glad to be rid of a mob
of crows at the golf course. He shifts
at crackle of tarp and plastic
near the mausoleum’s wrought-iron fence.
He hears a siren, a man snoring. He swivel-blinks
for vole, mouse, the low belows of graveyards
calling forth launch, float on silent wing
to feed on this, the end of day.

by Tricia Knoll, from Urban Wild.

Twitter: @triciaknollwind

Editor’s Note: The intense detail of this poem’s imagery may seem overwhelming, but the title reminds the reader that there is purpose and narrative in every line.

Survival by John L. Stanizzi


Autumn bees
heavy on goldenrod
must know what we know
as they work that
easy industrious sway
toward the inevitable dark
this humid October day,
a gasp held in,
a breath released,
red falling everywhere,
clouds pinning us down,
30 second downpour,
and thousands of ladybugs
answering the fall heat,
engulfing the house,
lifting it away
to where nothing
weighs anything —
it’s all passion;
insects birds leaves clouds;
it’s the way you feel
when you make love —
not small or large
but perfect,
alone and singular
the two of you.

by John L. Stanizzi

Editor’s Note: The title of this poem weighs the surreality of the imagery down, allowing the reader to connect what might be light with what is real and weighty (yes, that was a complicated way of saying that not all love poems suffer from an excess of sentimentality).