Let Down Your Hair by Ed Shacklee

Let Down Your Hair

Like Goldilocks, I’m off in search
of the bed that feels just right,
not the soft, too accessible perch
where strangers commute at night,

nor the hard one, the bed of nails
with blankets so small and thin,
or quicksand, which conveniently fails
to explain what I’m sinking in,

but the bed, as the fairy tale goes,
that isn’t too lumpy or brittle,
and doesn’t cut off or stretch my toes
for being too long, or little.

I don’t want a tortured affair
with some growly old bear that could bite;
Rapunzel, my dear: let down your hair,
wherever you sleep tonight.

by Ed Shacklee

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Editor’s Note: This poem’s deft play on several fairy tales delightfully belies the underlying desperation for connection.

Spring Will Leave You Behind by Martin J. Elster

Spring Will Leave You Behind

The thaw has drawn the robins, ravenous, eager
for things that creep, while terra firma teases
with wafts of geosmin, hints of the hocus-pocus
that brought the thundershower, woke the crocus,
and coaxed the chorus frogs to call, which breezes
convey like news. They’ve lived through winter’s meager

provisions, trilling the nip out of their blood.
A cattail pond I walk by every day
already stirs with cyan, orange, gold
and reddish shapes. Your hypothermic hold
diminishes with each and every ray
that touches fur and feather, flower and bud.

I watch a balancing act above as chill
as were your rime-caked eyes: a soaring hawk,
its wings as motionless as your emotions,
scans the fields for mice. No magic potions
will bring you back. You’ve vanished in the talk
of the towhee and the whistling whip-poor-will.

by Martin J. Elster

Editor’s Note: This poem’s abccba rhyme scheme echoes the Dream Songs of Berryman, but without the uneven stresses. The form gives the poem a sense of structure not immediately apparent on the first read. Spring is always caught between winter and summer: a balancing act, much like the rhyme balanced between lines.

Nightfall by Neil Flatman

Nightfall

Up here, it’s easy to imagine:
Gordian knot as slip – solved.
The writhing, somewhere
between gravity and desire
where decisions possess
infinite weight. It’s knowing
you could that draws the eye
to the pool, lights affirming
stillness through the blue.

When Martyn leapt they said
he was high, dancing, tripping,
but I think he’d lost the knack
of himself, balance, how to ride.
I could never have known
he was falling, he seemed so fixed
in place, but the ripples closed
in until they found him.

by Neil Flatman

Editor’s Note: Peering down into an abyss does not have to be dark. Sometimes the abyss is filled with light and deception.

Cooking for One by Gregory Palmerino

Cooking for One

A scent
of garlic rose
into the vacant air
and mingled for a moment there
with you
and me,
the broken bulbs, the cutting board—
where only rosemary
leaves kiss the cloves
in thyme.

by Gregory Palmerino, first published in Amaze.

Editor’s note: The words in this poem layer multiple meanings over and into the imagery because describing the lack of someone is not simple.

From the archives – March by Jean Kreiling

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March

Tenacious winter, like a guest who stays
too long, repeats his tired tales of snow
while spring approaches, like a bride, with slow,
shy footsteps; soon she’ll toss her bright bouquets.
The cold, once crisp and fresh, turns merely trite,
exhausted by the circling of the year
that starts to tilt the sun-starved hemisphere
politely towards its source of heat and light.
As tolerant terrain reciprocates
the sky’s attempt at warmth with the debut
of unripe grass and intermittent mud,
the snow, now powerless, procrastinates—
piled high at curbs and corners, melting too
reluctantly to pose a threat of flood.

by Jean L. Kreiling

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 18, 2015 — by Jean Kreiling

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

Paul Revere’s Ride

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said “Good night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war:
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon, like a prison-bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed to the tower of the church,
Up the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,–
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay, —
A line of black, that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride,
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now gazed on the landscape far and near,
Then impetuous stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height,
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village-street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed that flies fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders, that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river-fog,
That rises when the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When be came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British Regulars fired and fled,–
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard-wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,–
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Notes on a Ruled Surface by Cheryl Snell

Notes on a Ruled Surface

A few lines flung about the paper land in a cone shape, which we imagine as a hat. The hat is then flung about the curved head of a woman standing in the margins of a French novel. No. That’s not quite right. It should be a conical hat, better suited to scrolling down a set of points swept by a moving straight line. Think: a river dotted with lanterns.

When you let your eye follow the hat, you see how softly it slips over the woman’s edifice of tightly latched birdcages, falls over the tight Achilles tendons that brought her to her knees. Her hips can no longer swing from the cages, she can no longer make out the points that were so easy to find before the dark descended. Now she is a figure leaning into herself, imagining the river.

Behind her sprawls the diagrammed idea of an exit, a staircase spiraling to the ceiling, as in the Louvre. No. Let’s try that again…spiraling up to a sky full of clouds— which, by the way, are just now assembling themselves into triangles, wedges, pyramids—competitive shapes that can be flung at the hat until there is a confusion of three-cornered objects blanketing the sky.

No one knows how such transformations happen. It’s a mysterious process, narcissistic to the core. And with so much flinging back and forth, none of the shapes notices that the woman is trapped inside her only means of escape, crouched low inside a birdcage twisted open. The day spoils in the sun. The figures are just geometry and cannot hear the woman cry.

by Cheryl Snell

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Editor’s Note: Prose poems are deceptively simple, until you try writing one and realize the lack of line breaks means you must figure out another way to emphasize imagery. This poem’s surreal narrative moves from a sketch to dreams and back again.