This is Heaven
The man we love most in the world
is dying. He sits, fingers curled
around the covers of an open book
to mark his place, and though
he nods asleep, each time he wakes
he reads with wonder what he takes
to be words he’s not read before. Tonight
dim light pools on the floor
about his bare and swollen feet,
taut skin pale as a winding sheet.
He says there’s nothing after death, so this
is heaven’s realm, the breath-
less living room, its curtains drawn
against the night. “We’re here, we’re gone.”
He shrugs, and smiles at us, son and wife.
“This life’s a benison.
“No other heaven can compare.”
It’s true we’d rather not despair.
These long evenings, spanning years, are blessed,
and best, it staves our tears.
by James Von Hendy, first appeared as a winner in the Writer’s Digest Poetic Asides forms challenge.
Editor’s Note: The form of this poem interweaves rhyme, syllables, and subject matter, portraying the end of a treasured life with great dignity.
Poet’s Note: This poem uses a Welsh form called Byr a Thoddaid.
Black and White
In an old photograph
Of the first Halloween
That I can remember,
I stand as a clown
Next to my sister, a witch,
Who later says way too soon
While sitting in my room
And coloring with my crayons,
“There is no Santa.”
I recall running to the kitchen
And asking Mama for the truth.
Late each and every year
As the days grow cold and short,
I still long for a lie.
from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, October 28, 2015 — by Jane Blanchard
photo by Christine Klocek-Lim
When the dawn unfolds like a bolt of ribbon
Thrown through my window,
I know that hours of light
Are about to thrust themselves into me
Like omnivorous needles into listless cloth,
Threaded with the heavy colours of the sun.
They seem altogether too eager,
To embroider this thing of mine,
Into the strict patterns of an altar cloth;
Or at least to stitch it into a useful garment.
But I know they will do nothing of the kind.
They will prick away,
And when they are through with it
It will look like the patch quilt my grandmother made
When she was learning to sew.
by Hazel Hall (1886–1924)
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim
Ex Organ Donor
I used to check the driver’s license box
So they could use my organs for transplants,
Seeing it as a good deed without cost,
Oblivious to any consequence.
It’s grim to ponder what might have played out.
Would the person who drew my heart also get
Its foolish impulses? Talk about
A bittersweet, Faustian side effect.
But now I’ve overstepped the age limit
So my heart won’t be making any moves.
It’s stuck where I can keep an eye on it,
In my rib cage, chained with veins and nerves,
Scheming as it beats its one-note drum
And matching wits with me for years to come.
by David Stephenson
Editor’s Note: The clever volta of this sonnet raises a question most of us eventually ask—how much longer do I have?
Drift the Corners
Here is to a year of living dangerously
because those who dole out portions miss the whole
point that dawns do not rise with guarantees.
I think we should abandon the word sparingly,
for there’s no sense to the notion less is more.
Here is to a year of living dangerously.
No map can measure all the world we have to see;
the distance to be covered by expanding minds.
The question is tomorrow will you go with me?
The plan is to pursue joy so relentlessly
we have no choice but to leave the rest to chance.
Drift corners in this year of living dangerously.
The shackles some pinned on you rather heartlessly
are a burden I’ll drag anywhere you choose,
to bury so the sun sets on them splendidly.
I scarcely can count all the gifts life’s granted me,
still there’s little doubt which one I treasure most.
I want to carry you through years spent living dangerously;
may all the dawns of all our days break with you facing me.
by D.E. Kern
David on Facebook
Editor’s Note: Villanelles can be difficult to write without losing the reader’s interest, but in this poem, the repetition underscores the narrator’s philosophical assertion with useful emphasis.
Asked, I Cannot Tell You What He Feels
I can only say how they begin and end–
an arresting cry then a startled look
as vocal chords contract seconds before
his hand flies skyward and legs give way.
Shorty, part Aussie herder, beats me to him;
attacks his pant leg, the perceived intruder
until, freeing a hand, I can shoo her away.
Lumpy, sweet feline familiar, hangs in,
rides them out near his feet alternating
between wide-eyed and yawning.
Within a minute he blues about the mouth,
shakes violently and goes rigid; then comes
the grinding, blood and saliva, the soiling
and it’s over.
He will remember nothing;
may or may not ask why his jeans are wet,
his left eye bruised and tongue is sore.
Gloves are advised but I never use them
convinced that touch can be curative.
by Patricia Wallace Jones, first published in Wordgathering.
Patricia on Facebook
Editor’s Note: This heart wrenching poem speaks to the caregiver in all of us. Love pushes us into difficult wildernesses.
The Crash at Lackawanna Terminal
There is a mix of phthalocyanine
and cobalt in the heavy beams that cross
beneath titanium and crinoline,
a glass that filters cadmium to dross
and lights the space in saturated grays.
It’s aqueous and beautiful, a round
embodiment of contrasts in the steel
that arches and the iron on the ground.
A firmament. A sphere, a world, a wheel,
an engine balancing the grit and glaze
outside the stony Beaux-arts waiting room.
A palette worked for ages yielding blue
and gold to kilowatts and diesel fume
at 20 miles an hour plowing through
the hurling platform of our latter days.
by Rick Mullin
Editor’s Note: The contrast of beauty to destruction is skillfully illustrated by this poem. The end rhyme of “phthalocyanine” to “crinoline” is creative and unexpected.
That evening while her loved ones sat beside
The bed it seemed she might be getting well.
Even when her boy fidgeted and cried
She felt calm, lulled by his familiar smell,
As by her husband’s voice when he recounted
His day: a haircut, work, the grocery store.
Both scent and tenor gradually surmounted
The fear that she should never hope for more
Than intermittent health. No regimen
Or drug the doctors ordered could relieve
The pain her family had quelled again
By visiting, though soon they’d have to leave.
Then she would wait alone for sleep—a guest
Who seldom came; or coming, brought no rest.
by Peter Vertacnik, first published in Lucid Rhythms.
Editor’s Note: The slow movement of this Shakespearean sonnet draws the reader into the patient’s world. The volta at the end emphasizes her tragic existence beautifully.
tell me again
about the man
with the pear tree
who lost his wife
after fifty-six years of marriage
and how that tree doesn’t know when enough is enough
that last August
he had to prop the poor thing’s branches up
it was so laden with fruit.
He gave you a bagful of those pears
and their scent filled the car
even with the windows rolled down.
from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, October 26, 2015 — by Julia Klatt Singer
Painting by Julia Klatt Singer
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.
He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.
by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894)
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.