Floor by Emilio Aguilera

Floor

The house is creaking.

Its sounds are foot and pier
plank over ocean. And I,
in that boat, hide

in the hangover. In its dark,
I find the floor

where brothers wrestled,
or father and son fight,

or the ring mother threw.

And in the bottle, I find,
more ocean.

by Emilio Aguilera

Editor’s Note: The careful choice of words that end the lines in this poem serve the subject matter well. Every line break and image offered reinforces the poem’s despairing voice.

What the Earth Offers by Corbin Buff

What the Earth Offers

At that point where the land had bested us
(Its paths too steep, its briars too thick)
We gave up and came down toward water,
That yet-untainted haven of sea and sky and sound.

And what a surrender it was, that coming down:
The glory of the land giving way to water,
Fish quiet and dreaming in its half-lit depths.

I remembered then the story of water,
How it stood formless, dark, and deep,
Until the unmoved mover moved upon it
And so carved with light the earth’s first poem;
A poem of life and leaf and song;
One of darkness, longing, grief.
A small song for every traveler,
A shield for every trial.

By Corbin Buff, first published in Bird’s Thumb.

Editor’s Note: The repetition in this poem lulls the reader into a state of watchful appreciation. The nod to Frost’s poem in line nine reinforces this dreamy state.

Spiderwort by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Spiderwort

I sit alone in your room, spinning all the things you touched
and wouldn’t let go of. Sea stars and periwinkle shells
arranged and rearranged on your bureau, lotion smoothed
and pressed on the inside of your tiny wrists like perfume,
the reek of vanilla everywhere. Sometimes, you’d twirl
and twirl and twirl, believing dizzy made you strong.

Two floors below, spiderwort blooms,
casting its deep bruising purple everywhere
and I remember, in our first home, when I named it weed,
spent an entire summer dragging it up by its roots
worried it would overcome the dahlias,
but true wildflowers don’t die, and I’ve grown

to love such intrepidness, watching each
three-petaled bloom close at sunset
while the next lies in wait for sunrise. Unstoppable,
like you, twirling, my arms outstretched
to catch you. Dangers lurk everywhere,
the worst we don’t see coming.

by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Editor’s Note: In this poem, imagery spins possible loss and worry and wisdom into a coherent whole. Life is both messy and beautiful.

Scribbled In A Country Saleroom by Jerome Betts

Scribbled In A Country Saleroom

The hammer seals the fate of Sundry pots;
Encrusted grime receives a last quick wipe
As bidding opens on the better lots –
One decorative pink-tinted Nailsea pipe.

Next up, an item that provokes mild mirth,
A large Victorian tub-shaped lady’s chair.
(Designed to fit around the ample girth
Of Number 19’s bulbous jardiniére?)

Here lives are measured out with melon scoops,
Or Spode tureens and seats in figured plush,
With Thirties memorabilia, Betty Boops,
Parisian prints that once made buyers blush.

A salver, (pie-crust edges) . . . Did it bear,
Clasped tightly in a servant’s nervous hand,
Some telegram with tidings of despair,
Financial ruin, loss of house and land?

And will these very pages, now so new,
Their present readers passed on, burnt or boxed,
One day know fresh appraising eyes that view
Marked catalogue, historic, badly foxed?

by Jerome Betts

Editor’s Note: I must confess to a fondness for iambic pentameter, and this poem does not disappoint. The easy roll of the meter supports the whimsical voice of the narrative, giving the last line a satisfying punch.

The Cost of Bread by Alan Walowitz

The Cost of Bread

I’d come home from school some days
to find Harold Dugan from the bakery truck
taking a spin on my mother’s old calculator.
Or for all I knew on my mother–
an old rumor that hardly matters now.
But she sure knew how to make his numbers work
as they spun out on those rolls of tape
and, times being tough, how to defray the cost of bread.
And he was a smooth talker, that Harold,
and school wasn’t done till three
and he owned his route
and he made his own time.

My mother kept books her whole life–
in her head and with a careful hand–
but now the numbers spin all over the page
and she can’t pin them down.
When the doctor asks her to draw a clock,
it looks like a scrambled egg,
the numbers floating in and out of the shell.
Draw three o’clock, the doctor orders,
and she says it’s too early for lunch.
I tell her, Ma, we already ate
and my mother informs me—and for my own good—
she can eat any time she damn well pleases.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: Freedom of thought is stolen from those whose minds fail with age, but in this poem, that freedom still lingers. The close of this poem reopens the beginning, but not in any way that comforts the narrator.

From the archives – Our Scars by Cynthia Neely

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Our Scars

The long line along my spine,
the new ligament in your knee,
the gash the chainsaw slashed

as you ordered our unruly woods, a wound
so deep you could see right down
to the blanched heart of it. So pristine it didn’t bleed.

The slice above my breast to take the snake
of tubing to my own rebellious heart, a portal for all things
chemical and mean to clean the cancer from my cells.

And that deep seam from pubis to navel
like the cleft of an over-ripe peach,
muscles un-repaired in the haste of need,

the speed of my life gathered in, now
a reminder, each mirror glance, of that chance,
that child, unborn.

The love-tap from a bobcat on your chin,
a boy’s first lesson about all things wild
that can’t be tamed.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, June 16, 2015 — by Cynthia Neely

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Say over again (Sonnet 21) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Say over again (Sonnet 21)

Say over again, and yet once over again,
That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated
Should seem “a cuckoo-song,” as thou dost treat it,
Remember, never to the hill or plain,
Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain
Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.
Belovèd, I, amid the darkness greeted
By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt’s pain
Cry, “Speak once more—thou lovest!” Who can fear
Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,
Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?
Say thou dost love me, love me, love me—toll
The silver iterance!—only minding, Dear,
To love me also in silence with thy soul.

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Gray Day (Pine Trees Dripping) by John Calvin Hughes

Gray Day (Pine Trees Dripping)

And as if you weren’t wet enough
in God’s awful downpour, not coming
in, like that proverbial fool, and standing
too close when a car throws water up and off
the street, and it curls over you like the back
of a seashell, like a wave breaking on your head, gritty,
gray, cold as an oyster.

And aren’t you always supposed to be
somewhere? Sitting guilty in your car
in a drugstore parking lot, reading creasy
paperbacks, Rilke in a “new” translation.
And rain thick as rushes, rain no wiper can
wipe, whipping drops like crystal thumbs.
Rain, popping the windshield like BBs. And
can’t you just have this minute, this one minute?
Tomorrow you can joke about getting old, dying.

And what specter might there be who would dare
stand before you and declare that even the asphalt
does not rise up to reproach you, does not scrape
its accusing finger out of the shiny paving to point
at you, and remind you that in bright bathrooms
your body bares its weaknesses and betrayals,
and that in the marbled light of the wet afternoon
the leaves whisper there, detailing your
failings each to each, that from under the grumblings
of autos comes a deeper voice detailing every defeat,
every coming short, every apex, peak, summit, zenith,
alphabetically fallen short of. And who is that at
the corner where the three streets converge, beckoning,
overly dramatic in his peaked hood, ridiculous in his
peaked hood, pretending to be Death, Fate, the Eternal
Whatever?

by John Calvin Hughes

John on Facebook

Editor’s Note: Intensity rules the lines in this poem. Run-on ideas and imagery create the emotional confusion of growing old with all its attendant anxieties.

On changing tides by Luke Evans

On changing tides

Out by the rails, the grass too tall to walk through,
but we did anyway, checking each other for ticks
afterwards. We itched like the blades
still scored our legs. She always had
such sensitive skin,
but I don’t.

The break room was our island of sun
beneath the skylights. She told me over slushies
what attraction was, its traits of irresistibility,
how it drags us out like a rip tide.
How we shoot the moon
to keep the rising tide from our shoes.
At some point, she sneaked in
a pun on hearts,
but I can’t.

Such a hard rain and so many worms on the asphalt.
I watched her in the gray-light, a parka
darkening her face, the car’s tires kicking up
droplets as she pulled away. Clocks
only scab the wounds, they never heal.
Packages come and go, zip codes change.
I watch the sky grow dark and light,
tirelessly, black and blue
again. One day she’ll see I’m gone,
at peace with the moon.
I’ll pack up my things,
take some lotion in case,
thinking she’ll know,
but she won’t.

by Luke Evans

Editor’s Note: The form of this poem perfectly mirrors the ebb and flow of the narrator’s emotions. Relationships sometimes (often) don’t last, but that doesn’t assuage grief or memory.

For The Shade Gap Ladies Auxiliary by Steven Knepper

For The Shade Gap Ladies Auxiliary

The masters share their favorite recipes,
The measurements and times transcribed with care.
Their friends approximate the taste with ease
But don’t achieve the dish that won the fair.

Particularity of stove and pan
Can introduce a teaspoon’s worth of risk,
More so the eyes and nose with which they’re scanned,
The hand and wrist that briskly move the whisk.

The body’s knowledge won’t abstract to words,
At least not fully, lettered out and read.
Experience itself must be procured,
A taste, a touch, a smell that won’t be said.

It takes sensation shared at tabletops,
A long apprenticeship on tired legs,
Pouring together over bowls and pots,
To pass on lessons shelled like speckled eggs.

by Steven Knepper

Editor’s Note: No matter how many times I try, or how carefully I follow the recipe, my meatballs do not taste like my mother’s meatballs. Nor do they taste like my grandmother’s meatballs, but then, neither did my mother’s. Some things cannot be copied, only remembered fondly.