Something In The Air by Jerome Betts

Something In The Air

How soon it seems the window pales
And curlews bubble round the field.
Fresh out, the cattle lift their tails,
Kick, run and bellow, all spring-heeled;
House-sparrows, building in the eaves,
Trail dead grass left from winter floods;
A bass-broom hedgerow-top receives
Its bristle-softening of buds.

First bulbs poke up their smooth green gapes;
Palm willows thrum with early bees;
By rooks’ wind-ruffled swaying shapes
Half-moons of twigs blotch leafless trees;
The ditches harbour glistening spawn;
Gold lichen spangles roof and rails.
Each day the light returns at dawn
How soon it seems the window pales.

by Jerome Betts

Editor’s Note: Iambic tetrameter displays the change of season from cold to warm in this poem (and is a fitting mirror to On The Turn). The repetition of the first line at the close of the poem neatly reminds the reader of the season’s ephemeral nature.

The Seamstress by Len Kuntz

The Seamstress

Our bathtub is filled with buttons–
mother of pearl and metal,
plastic pea coat shapes with
embossed anchors,
wooden toggles from Holland,
horn and hemp.

Your hair is a gray dandelion gone to seed.
Your eyes flit like a startled squirrel
and saliva webs your mouth when
you open the door saying,
“What on earth?”

Later in bed that night
I listen to your coarse breath,
your frail bones moaning when you toss and turn.
But we were young once,
and you stitched beautiful things then.
You dressed queens and saints,
men with money.

I slink off the mattress now,
and click on the bathroom light.
As I slide inside the tub
the buttons chatter and gossip,
their color shimmering.

Perhaps you clipped them
because they reminded you of better days,
or maybe you overhead me on the phone with the rest home folks.
Either way, I grab handfuls and watch them clatter
across the great heap.

When I look up,
you’re there,
naked but smiling,
asking, “Is the water warm?”
Then, “Got room for two?”

by Len Kuntz

Editor’s Note: Enjambment and imagery thread through this poem’s narrative with deft fingers. The last stanza is brilliant.

Patience by Luke Stromberg

Patience

His ears set back, his eyes fixed on the dark
Beneath the radiator, the cat crouches,
Glimpsing whiskers there, two feet, a nose.
And when a mouse decides to test the light—
Sniffing the kitchen air—he rises higher
On his haunches—But he doesn’t pounce.
Instead, he allows it to escape, tail twitching
Behind it, back into the dark, untried.

Reckless, he waits. Patience is also risk.
And though it may not seem this way to most,
That takes real nerve: letting a chance slip past,
Believing that a better one will come.
Meanwhile, the pretzel bag’s chewed full of holes.
Turds are on the counter. The mouse, alive.

by Luke Stromberg, first published in The Rotary Dial

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Editor’s Note: Blank verse and an excellent volta provide structure for this sonnet, despite the lack of end rhyme. What one expects is not always what one gets.

Bone Density by Bill Yarrow

Bone Density

The Fauves are visiting. Come to redesign
the patio, they have upstaged the heart.
They have brought with them their own music
and solemn gondoliers. Madame Fauve,
with a twisted braid, is dancing. So is
the decadence in the wall. I applaud
the thoroughness of the measurers
but I cannot sanction their pervasiveness.
The Fauves must leave: stat. I forgot I have
an appointment with deadness at 3 PM.
They say they understand, but I sense they don’t.
I have offended the sorcery of art. Ah, Art.
Ah, Liquidity. On the bulkhead of the horizon,
clouds collect, indifferently, like restaurant fish.

by Bill Yarrow

Editor’s Note: When color and imagery are more important than realism, poetry mirrors art. This poem suggests an emotional narrative with brief, surprising images. By the end, the reader understands something is broken within the narrator, but full interpretation is up for grabs.

Picture Book in the Present Tense by Victoria Kornick

Picture Book in the Present Tense

If the photo has noises, they are shallow
as summer’s last insects or a faraway harmonica.
The blueberries are on the hill, the bay holds
the sky’s pink, slick as an oyster-skin, the house
is a rental and brown, but your flash knocks
its light against me and omits every detail.
My face lashless as the moon, eyes so hard
to distinguish from the rest, I could be staring
from my cheekbones or my teeth.
It’s as if the photograph were just words,
and missing most. So give me its illustration,
sketch our hands eating mussels,
the shells in our fingers like claws
pulling out the flesh of another by its tongue.
Black out the next page for night overcoming us,
and the next, go down to the stones and muck
of shore, close enough to draw the shells
where we threw them, their open, buttered mouths
washing back into the tide by morning.
Or write in more, tell me how I look:
wild, frightened, full of joy, the way I want you to.
Now give me a story the image can’t hold:
some sailors wear heavy boots to sea
because they can’t outswim a storm.
I’m trying to listen, but your voice unspools
and you don’t tell me what we need to sink us
when we want impossible things.

by Victoria Kornick

Editor’s Note: A picture is worth a thousand words (says the old cliché), but what if the words create the picture, and tell a story that hasn’t yet finished its journey? This poem is rife with questions and imagery. Sometimes the impossible things we desire are best described in verse.

From the archives – You Leave in February by Donna Vorreyer

You Leave in February

March arrives with its wind
and a profusion of blossoms,
the blood-rush of asphalt
shifting from slush to slick.

I pull back the curtains, hear
the hedge scream spring, each
branch newly straight, released
from the weight of winter ice.

This quiet wakes me like
the sudden stillness of a train
whose steady sway has lulled
its passengers to sleep.

It is time to slough off the dead
skin of remembering. Crocus
beds peep, tongues singing
in their soft purple mouths.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 31, 2015 — by Donna Vorreyer

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Hours by Hazel Hall

Hours

I have known hours built like cities,
House on grey house, with streets between
That lead to straggling roads and trail off,
Forgotten in a field of green;

Hours made like mountains lifting
White crests out of the fog and rain,
And woven of forbidden music—
Hours eternal in their pain.

Life is a tapestry of hours
Forever mellowing in tone,
Where all things blend, even the longing
For hours I have never known.

by Hazel Hall (1886–1924)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

I Met My True Love Walking by Marly Youmans

I Met My True Love Walking

I met my true love walking
. .Out in the open air,
My arms all piled with books
. .And flowers in my hair.
Summer sun was spilling
. .Fine arrows everywhere,
And I was struck by gold
. .And bright, magnetic stare.

I met my true love strolling
. .Along the bayou’s edge,
Where thrushes sing in rain
. .And crickets in the sedge.
The light caressed his face
. .As he ringed my wrists with wire,
As he filled my hands with stones
. .And gave me to the mire.

by Marly Youmans

Marly on Facebook

Twitter: @marlyyoumans

Editor’s Note: Just when the reader loses all hope of escaping the sweetness of this poem, the last four lines redeem it utterly.

Note from the poet: The trimeter quatrains are close to ballad meter. And the poem has a certain slantwise relationship to Yeats’s little song, “Down by the Salley Gardens.”

To March by Ralph Culver

To March

Cutting carrots for soup, I’m distracted by the trees outside the window, their branches
making sweeping gestures through pale air half an hour before sundown,

officious yet somehow disinterested, the somber limbs directing, urging us to move
more quickly past the scene of some disaster or other and go about our business,

and I think, That’s March, isn’t it? They stand, the trees, above cracked plates of snow
that look like a pile of slate shingles just tumbled off a truck

and spilled around the trunks in shards. But that’s March, too, the declining sunlight
suddenly flaring up across a glaze of ice that appears without warning

at a bend in the road, this unavoidable fact about yourself and the moment, and
you realize, as you turn the steering wheel smoothly into the skid, that

you are at ease with the prospect of any possibility. Everything in the bed
shifts as you hit dry pavement and then goes cascading, the whole load thunders overboard,

but you’ve stopped; stopped. Somehow, you’re on all four tires. And when you climb
out of the cab, there is the wind, that storied, oft-venerated wind

moaning and clawing at your throat, a lover who wants you or wants you dead. Maybe both.
Probably both, I think, looking across the snow crust

gathering murk as dusk settles in, winter each day just a bit more distant, each day itself
just a bit longer and brighter than the last,

and return to the comfortable heft of the knife, the kitchen sweetened by steaming broth
and promise, another seeming catastrophe survived.

by Ralph Culver, first published in Common Ground Review.

Editor’s Note: Second person point of view gives this poem an interesting perspective. Is the reader a part of the conversation? Possibly. The season marches on, regardless of perspective.

On Losing the Old Dog by Rae Spencer

On Losing the Old Dog

It’s bad enough the car is empty
No panting navigator
But the house is empty, too

Dog empty, anyway
Cats don’t fill the same spaces

So we stumble to the bedroom
Seizure-soiled and shocked
By the sudden expected loss

Six months of grasping last gasps
New medicines and doses, new emergencies

Years beyond the playful toss and fetch
Leashed by arthritis, deaf and blind
The old dog had withered to mostly heart

We had withered with her
Miserable in our indecision

Hobbled by her pain
And ours
Holding on for dear life

Now gathering the cold grief
Of losing her too soon, the hot guilt

Of letting go too late, the hopeless
Clutter of responsibility and love
The empty hours ahead

by Rae Spencer

Rae on Twitter: @raespen_

Editor’s Note: Some poems speak directly to the heart. This is one of those poems.