The Carrion Flamingo by Ed Shacklee

The Carrion Flamingo

The carrion flamingo is an undead parakeet
with feathers tinged the iridescent pink of rancid meat,
whose wingspread is high-handed, while its flapping seems effete;
its hooded gaze is overcast with just a hint of sleet.

It lays an addled egg, abandoned just before it hatches.
Its heart looks like a casket or a book of soggy matches.
Its skin is pale and leprous – pocked with sores, it sheds in patches.
The smirking beak invites you, though you wonder what the catch is.

Some lair in mausoleums, others underneath a rock.
Their voices shake like rattlesnakes; one quails to hear them talk
about the corpses over which their sunset shadows flock,
and few sights are as ghastly as their limping, gimpy walk.

They stand as still as statues just before the chase is on,
and make folks blanch on mornings when they find them on the lawn,
carnivorous as hearses with the silken curtains drawn,
their plastic hues a mockery of rosy-fingered dawn.

by Ed Shacklee

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Editor’s Note: Imagining plastic flamingos as living birds only leads this poem back to the dead.

Island by Ciaran Parkes

Island

A lake the size
of a small room

an island no bigger
than a single bed

when you set out in your boat
you’ve already arrived

to lie on your back
beneath a dazzling sun

so small you can blot it out
with one finger

by Ciaran Parkes, first published in Poetry Ireland Review.

Editor’s Note: Ten simple lines still somehow paint a startlingly vivid picture in this poem.

Pavlov’s Dogs by Rebeca Ladrón de Guevara

Pavlov’s Dogs

In a matter of days,
the starving dogs of desire
learn to identify
the punctual chimes of affection.

Domesticated into contentment,
they salivate at the seven o’clock ring
and its announcement of love.

On the day the bells cease,
the hounds are shaken into
an unbearable awareness of their needs.

They pace their cages,
bearing teeth and growling.
Wonder how they became
so easily conditioned
so fast.

by Rebeca Ladrón de Guevara

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Editor’s Note: Allegory is both subtle and shocking in this poem.

What Is Lost by Stephen Bunch

What Is Lost

What is lost
returns in dreams,
what is missed

clings in memory
like morning fog
in river bottoms,

the touch of a hand,
a conspiracy of bodies
in dark receding rooms.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: This imagistic poem is one long sentence, forcing the reader to make associations from line to line, until the last two settle into the mind with shocking realization.

From the archives – June by Jean Kreiling

June

We feast on color, ravenous for red,
devouring violet, savoring sky blue;
we swim through fields where buttercups are bred,
awash in waves of grass and dirt and dew.
Inhaling trills that flutter from the throats
of robins, we join in the wild gavotte
that breezes blow, and bask in sunny notes
of bagatelles the winter ear forgot.
Indulging in a pagan’s wanton passion,
our games undimmed by caution or by shade,
we try to prove, in humble human fashion,
our fitness for the glittering parade—
and neither doubt nor reason can infect
the holy foolishness we resurrect.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, June 4, 2015 — by Jean Kreiling

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

Aunt Viola by Bob Bradshaw

Aunt Viola

She paid five bucks a month to have a star
named after her.
She would point to the sky’s crush of stars
and say there it is.

This is the same Viola whose creditors
took away her furniture every quarter
as if her house were a stage set.

Viola, who used to pay me
to pull Spanish moss from her oaks
as she lay in a lounge chair,
the bachelors in the apartment complex
eyeing her through binoculars.

Viola, whose husband came home one night
and threw her lover naked
into the street.
Viola,
who reprimanded her husband
for not trusting her, demanding an apology.

Viola, who I learned today
died several years ago. Viola,
who I suddenly miss. I squint up
at the night sky. I wonder how many times, Viola,

your star has been renamed? It’s missing,
as if you didn’t keep up the payments.

Like you, reclaimed by your creditors.

by Bob Bradshaw

 

Editor’s Note: The narrator’s casual voice belies the sudden grip of nostalgia for a more innocent past.

Baby’s Breath by Kole Allan Matheson

Baby’s Breath

All day hiking long blue mountains, three
tiny strides to match your mommy’s step,
little ducking flapping upward,
patting along the path,
panting breaths escape your weary face
until the color of a flower leaps onto your lips,
“Look, Da Da!”

All night in the dozing Shenandoah,
the wheezing zees of wind inside the forest,
weaving with your breath,
rhythm in the air,
little nest of baby blankets on your chest
rise and fall, rise and fall.
Silver walls of night light,
shadows in the window,
midnight’s cold and colored voice,

no more to my core
than your breath asleep.

by Kole Allan Matheson

Editor’s Note: Sometimes instead of the parent singing the child to sleep, it happens the other way around. (I particularly liked the second line of the second stanza: “wheezing zees”.)

[Apologies for the double post today: I published the poem with the wrong title in the email/blog post subject.]

June Twenty-First by Bruce Guernsey

June Twenty-First

My mother’s cigarette flares and fades,
the steady pulse of a firefly,
on the patio under the chestnut.

The next door neighbors are over.
My father, still slender, is telling a joke:
laughter jiggles in everyone’s drinks.

On his hour’s reprieve from sleep,
my little brother dances
in the sprinkler’s circle of water.

At fourteen, I’m too old
to run naked with my brother,
too young to laugh with my father.

I stand there with my hands in my pockets.
The sun refuses to set,
bright as a penny in a loafer.

by Bruce Guernsey

Editor’s Note: The subtle tension of family relationships from the point of view of a teen is colorfully drawn in this poem’s imagery.

Endings by Christine Jackson

Endings

The past drags across the sky
And snags on treetops;
The air smells of rain.

You stop the car at water’s edge;
A toxic canal flows between two berms,
A grim overlook of what we used to be.
You dared to call this morning,
And I answered;
We wait together
As signatures gather
To seal the end.
So here we sit,
Breeze and bluster,
Filling the car’s front seat
With silent recrimination.
A hubcap standing on edge
Gleams through tea-stained water.

On the far bank,
Palm fronds toss their manes,
Neighing to the wind;
Rain spatters the car hood.
Two ibis march in veiled white formality.
They grub for food on awkward, stalky legs,
Arced beaks scissoring after scraps.
Silver rivulets cross the windshield;
Bubbles pock the brown face of the canal.
Tossed on the wind, the birds flee.

We watch through the storm
As a crane uses its great bill as pincers;
Nuzzling into the grass,
It pulls up a garter snake
And wrangles out the rope.
The snake contracts its muscular line,
Shapes the “s” of a question mark,
Wraps once,
Twice,
Clamping around the crane’s bill.
The brainless crane head shakes to break the coils,
Ruffles the down of its body.
The snake unwinds,
And the crane dips the dangling strand in the water
To answer the question.
The bird head lurches,
Nibbles and wriggles,
Until snake gut touches vertebral gullet,
All its length.

Under the unclenched sky,
The water’s flat surface shimmers.
Ducks thresh among the prisms,
Feathers mirrored in the green water.
Shadows dissolve into clear lines,
But too late.
On the far bank
A pair of desperate pigeons
Bobs and pecks,
Lost among the errant weeds.

by Christine Jackson

Editor’s Note: Personification enhances the ruthless imagery of this poem. The end of a relationship is always difficult.