From the archives – Bottomless Lake by Elizabeth Kerlikowske

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Bottomless Lake

It didn’t matter which one, they were a chain of lakes
in crooks of dells and around every sharp curve.
The lake was bottomless so when we swam we knew
it was for keeps but the water held us and let us play
in it and only once did I feel a moment of fear. Big Star
or White Fish or Podunk or Half Moon. The lake was dark
and rolling and it was glass and it was still bottomless
and cold, spring-fed jets of ice we swam through and sought
on the hottest days, bottomless yet we ran aground and
lost the pin on the motor and had to row home. What is
the pin? How could we lose it? There was nothing
the bottomless lake would not accept. I have seen it swallow
a piano, a truck. Condoms, not fresh, washed ashore.
It was the ocean because we had never seen the ocean.
The little sun and closer moon rose over our bottomless lake,
so bottomless we told it everything and there was room for more.

by Elizabeth Kerlikowske

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, September 15, 2015 — by Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – A Light in the Moon by Gertrude Stein

A Light in the Moon

A light in the moon the only light is on Sunday. What was the sensible decision. The sensible decision was that notwithstanding many declarations and more music, not even notwithstanding the choice and a torch and a collection, notwithstanding the celebrating hat and a vacation and even more noise than cutting, notwithstanding Europe and Asia and being overbearing, not even notwithstanding an elephant and a strict occasion, not even withstanding more cultivation and some seasoning, not even with drowning and with the ocean being encircling, not even with more likeness and any cloud, not even with terrific sacrifice of pedestrianism and a special resolution, not even more likely to be pleasing. The care with which the rain is wrong and the green is wrong and the white is wrong, the care with which there is a chair and plenty of breathing. The care with which there is incredible justice and likeness, all this makes a magnificent asparagus, and also a fountain.

by Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

For a Bird Found Dead on my Doorstep by David Parsley

For a Bird Found Dead on my Doorstep

We found him after lunch just
out of the snow.
My wife touched the still-warm breast,
one limber claw drawn in an infant curl.

Yellow as sun, too exotic for our climate,
he would have come while we were eating,
sent while the season’s first stormfall
and its clouds clung to surrounding hills.

We watch those clouds leave our valley today.
Trees and brambles shake down their snow.

I remind her we don’t always know
how hunger approaches our door.
We look for it as we can, ignorant
of where it comes from, and when.

by David Parsley

Editor’s Note: The simple yet surprising images in this poem convey meaning without pretension. The enjambment is particularly well chosen.

The Year of the Dragon by Siham Karami

The Year of the Dragon

My parents’ fire spent, time seems to drag on
until the cosmos, smoking, spawns the dragon.

All my waters burning. Every look a flare.
Every boy I love turns me to dragon.

Stretch your wingspan’s luck between two rivers.
One, an ancient stream. One, a pipe to drag on.

Stalactites stab me, living in this cave—
to leave or enter in, pass through the dragon.

The marrow of all living things is soft.
The marrow of the universe is dragon.

Einstein, stumped. The Theory, elusive.
Beneath their grand equations skulks a dragon.

The daily drip-drip-drip of tedium
feeds the growing fires of the dragon.

I sit alone each night and dream escape.
Then wake each dawn to stroke the seething dragon.

We’re at each other’s throats. Why stay together?
Old friends walk off and shudder. It’s the dragon.

You smile and whisper in my ear, Siham, I promise.
O garish words! You made me kiss the dragon.

by Siham Karami

Twitter: @SihamKarami

Editor’s Note: The lines of a ghazal usually yearn towards something (love, spirituality, understanding), and this one does not disappoint. The dragon image is a metaphor upon which the reader may meditate.

Crisis of Faith by Rick Mullin

Crisis of Faith

I can’t believe anyone pays us a nickel
for putting an oar in the Enterprise Space.
Our white paper’s not up to wrapping a pickle,

the boxplots are blotto, the figures are fickle,
our Cartesian pie charts are wrong on their face.
I can’t believe anyone pays us a nickel.

It’s Hammer & Champy meets Hammer & Sickle,
it’s reengineer with Saber & Mace.
Our white paper’s not up to wrapping a pickle,

so everything’s coming up higgeldey-jickel.
Our global perspective’s all over the place.
I can’t believe anyone pays us a nickel.

These robust solutions are murky and mickel,
a worst-case scenario case after case.
Our white paper’s not up to wrapping a pickle,

its data work better when choked to a trickle,
it’s 85 slides, but I’ll cut to the chase.
I can’t believe anyone pays us a nickel.
Our white paper’s not up to wrapping a pickle.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: A villanelle with impeccable punctuation, meter, rhyme, and humor is a rare creature. Enjoy!

Ode to a Bedside Lamp by Elizabeth Kerlikowske

distressed lamp

Ode to a Bedside Lamp

Oh alabaster lamp from the ritzy side of the road
in a pile of exquisite crap next to an original
Frida Kahlo, your light casts its crazy shadows
at angles spiders catch to read by. Burnt oranges
and dead roses enliven the circumference of your
shade. Although you asked for fishnet stockings,
these orange Clementine bags will have to do.
Do not try to dictate your shade style or I will
dust not your base. Sun and moon to my room,
source of barely heated molecules, snap of your
switch begins and ends my days. Lamp, you watch
over tapping fingers and cats purring on the printer.
And being alabaster, for the right person, you make
a convincing weapon.

by Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Editor’s note: The second line sold this poem (“exquisite crap” is an entirely unexpected image). The conversation is entirely one-sided, yet if one squints a bit, one can almost hear the lamp’s reply in an acerbic, no nonsense tone of voice.

Photo by Elizabeth Kerlikowske

Oven by Michael Pollick

Oven

I see in her mottled skin
such visions
of dishwater pain,
The desperately overturned
second-hand furniture,
stripped bare of our lunch money.

Here in the crispest of mornings
lies purpose- in oatmeal, in Praise the Lord,
in sitting still while the tea boils;

Here in the emptiness of my third grade,
she is free to be trapped in polyester,
free to consider all the worlds
her hands have had to make from scratch.

(He is a forgetful bastard this morning,
all caught up in his steering gears
without a drop of change.)

So this is what warmth can be,
as we huddle by the gas oven for heat,
and stare holes through the blue flames.

She is not my mother this morning-
She is a scalloped-skinned mutt,
carefully trampling down the circles
where she may find tea-stained redemption.

I would tell you more,
but sometimes yellow
trucks stop by,
to rescue small children
from all matters human.

by Michael Pollick

Editor’s Note: This poem’s imagery is fractured, and this emphasizes the disturbing home life of the narrator, a child. Memory, too, is often fractured, but trauma tends to linger.