Icarus, Icarus, Paratrooper by Marly Youmans

Icarus, Icarus, Paratrooper
Homage to Charles Causley

Slung down from heaven, torn silks whipped
By precipitous wind, he tripped

From air and rammed the blasting sea
That seemed a gun, cocked vertically.

Seas stalled in the chute, let him down
More than he’d ever been let down

By men, hurled and harrowed farther.
Glitter strafed the skin of water.

Stars and starfish are just fool’s gold
Where salts turn iron—he burns with cold,

Fingers like candles, a birthday wish
Darting and slipping off like fish.

His throat is streaked with phosphorus,
His May-day eyes are kissed (not by us),

And his arms hold harms like lilies
In the deep green meadows of the seas.

by Marly Youmans

Marly on Facebook
Twitter: @marlyyoumans

Editor’s Note: This poem’s nod to Icarus calls to mind notes of Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts,” as well as Brueghe’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” while also drawing the reader into modern times. The imagery is no less striking, but somewhat more violent (gun, cocked, harrowed).

Naomi by Christine Klocek-Lim

Naomi

The angel told her not to fall
asleep outside, but Naomi
had never been very good—
always the wild child.
The girl with the bold
words and songs
no one understood.
And anyway, the sunset had given
her ideas on how to pile
stones at the edge
of the field, like a pyramid
or a temple or a shrine,
and then she’d lost
her shoes in the grass.

An owl hooted.
Trees bent down further
than they ought, trying to see
what she’d done.

“This is what happens
when you don’t listen,”
the angel said.

Naomi captured a firefly,
thinking it might show
her secrets.
It had light. It could fly.

The angel fluttered like a broken
leaf above the scene, stern and righteous.

Naomi let the bug go.
She stretched out her feet and hands.
Watched the moon walk over the mountain
like an old wise woman, face turned
toward the past.

The angel tried again.
“This is not your place.”
“This is not your home.”

Naomi closed her ears and eyes,
remembering her lost dog.
Thinking of her dead mother’s cat,
how the creature would stare into the brush
for hours because everyone knew
a mouse lives beneath the world.

The angel swept wind over the field.
Scattered leaves and dust
as if anger had fingers.

Naomi pulled starlight
over her shoulders and elbows.
Tucked her feet into the hill.
“This is my dream,” she said.
“And I am not
afraid.”

by Christine Klocek-Lim.

Editor’s Note: As an editor, I feel it’s important to avoid indiscriminate self-publishing, but on one day a year, perhaps you will forgive me (yes, it’s my birthday).

Caesura by Catherine Chandler

Caesura

Between the last triumphant note of fall,
when maples, marigolds and pumpkins vie
for orange jurisdiction, and the rime-
embellished month of Christmas, there he is,

November. Stark. Severe. Demanding all
imagination can afford: a lie
might do the trick; an epic if there’s time.
Anything to fill that void of his.

by Catherine Chandler, first published in Candelabrum.

Editor’s Note: That quiet pause between seasons is beautifully demonstrated by this poem (form and imagery).

From the archives – Prelude by Ralph Culver

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Prelude

Come winter. Autumn pockets
her colors, pulls up
the once warm roots
and hunches southward: a gray,
drained hand rises. Shadow. Shadow.
It stops the blood. It stops
the brain’s fragile traffic. It stops

a buck, rumping a doe
grazing near fast water. He lifts
a tentative hoof and peers.
Every November that he began
waiting to starve is coming in
on the cold purpose of this wind.

And I count the times
I could not keep from turning
to check, mid-step,
the footprints strung behind
in the climbing snow.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, November 25, 2015 — by Ralph Culver

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Medusa by Louise Bogan

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Medusa

I had come to the house, in a cave of trees,
Facing a sheer sky.
Everything moved,—a bell hung ready to strike,
Sun and reflection wheeled by.

When the bare eyes were before me
And the hissing hair,
Held up at a window, seen through a door.
The stiff bald eyes, the serpents on the forehead
Formed in the air.

This is a dead scene forever now.
Nothing will ever stir.
The end will never brighten it more than this,
Nor the rain blur.

The water will always fall, and will not fall,
And the tipped bell make no sound.
The grass will always be growing for hay
Deep on the ground.

And I shall stand here like a shadow
Under the great balanced day,
My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind,
And does not drift away.

by Louise Bogan (1897-1970)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Crows by J.K. Durick

Crows

Would they really call it a murder, this gathering of crows
late afternoon in the trees just beyond the Hannaford
parking lot, late autumn now, whole leafless trees full,
regular bare-ruined choirs, squawking, talking, welcoming
the newcomers, late arrivals, from this direction and that,
gathering back from their day of scrounging and scavenging
roadsides aplenty, some discarded fries and flattened squirrels,
their day of watching and patrolling set areas in pairs, teasing
and terrorizing smaller birds, their voices, their stiff strutting,
and dark presence fill their day till this late, then they gather
back again, this murder of crows, the safety of crowding,
the safety of a scene, a noisy dark murder scene, like this.

by J.K. Durick

Editor’s Note: Imagery creates an active picture of crows in all their noisy glory. The closing line packs more of a punch than expected.

A Long Winter’s Tale by Doris Watts

A Long Winter’s Tale

Stopped on a siding, they spied
chokecherries weighing the branches,
clusters of purple-black berries begging
to be picked, inviting as any siren song.
And so with whatever containers
that they could find on the weigh-car,
and with the engineer – who at first said
he would wait but then was suddenly
there running right behind them –
they hightailed it through the tall grasses
and through the dust to the place
where the chokecherry bushes grew.
And they picked berries at top speed,
then scrambled back to where the engine
waited, breathing it’s impatient steam,
having gambled their jobs, for they all knew
that if they had been caught doing this,
they would certainly have been fired.
And all through the long winter months,
we ate that wine-dark jelly on breakfast toast
or fresh buttered biscuits or new-baked bread
hot from the oven, all the time pondering
the risk at which it had been bought.

by Doris Watts

Editor’s Note: Sometimes the risk of a thing sweetens it delightfully.

Mud by Emily Laubham

Mud

There is an enemy inside who willingly starves.
Delicate energy.
For that enemy, it’s always too much.
But it’s enough to keep your teeth clamped, lips curled.
Enough to make your heart beat blood.
Enough to make your feet shuffle, mind pulse.
Food.
Not enough.
Food.
Not nearly enough to survive.

You are a girl.
Isn’t beauty your birthright?
Isn’t hunger your friend?

Pour red wine into measuring cups.
Calculate the price you’ll pay for one more quarter.
Barter with your conscience and promise to be less.
The wine makes your head spin like children
Who haven’t yet learned that beauty is anything more than mud,
Scraped knees or low-limbed trees.
You sway.
One more quarter cup.
Head between knees. One more. One more.
You drift and jolt, spilling red on the carpet.
I’m wasting, you think, rubbing it in with your heel,
I’m wasting away.

A life of comparison.
Tear every girl apart.
Gashes, severed limbs, and surgery.
Maybe then.
Maybe when the stitches heal there’d be one.
An acceptable collection of bones.
What other purpose do you have?
Than to draw all eyes and appease an appetite?

A lifetime of counting.
The rib bones and decimals and sidelong glances.
The times you’ve had your shoulder squeezed – looks aren’t everything.
But they are more than kind eyes, strong arms, or steady heads and hearts.
You are dwindling.
On the edge of existing.
Telling yourself, to be less is to win.
A looking glass replica telling you,
You can do this forever.

But I’m telling you now, let go.
Beauty is already yours.
It’s beneath your nails like mud.

by Emily Laubham

Emily on Facebook
Twitter: @Laubham

Editor’s Note: The rambling, conversational imagery of this poem draws the reader into the narrator’s inner landscape. The struggle against beauty norms is ongoing and difficult.

Late November by Richard Meyer

Late November

Not a cloud or wisp of cloud
ruffles the wide unwrinkled sky
stretched tight as a blue scrim.

Trees stand bare and mute,
each leaf played out, a fallen note
in this quiet concert hall.

Intermission.

Somewhere in a large white room
another orchestra tunes up.

by Richard Meyer, first published in Orbital Paths.

Editor’s Note: The clean, spare lines of this poem reflect the pause between the seasons with great silence.

Transfer of Power by Rick Mullin

Transfer of Power

It’s only natural, our hearts attuned
to reconciliation, that a great divide
would bleed into its center as the wound
reverts to scar on the resilient hide.
There are the massacre and Pentecost.
The fumes of war, the bright tongue of the dove.
Given ample rope, we’d hang ourselves,
but our imagination casts above
the rafters and the heavy attic shelves
on which our bound philosophies are tossed.
There comes a desperate encounter, fraught
with animal ferocity, a hand
extended where a battle has been fought
to one who rises from the bloody sand
already overwhelmed. Already lost.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: This poem’s strong meter begs for an audio recording of its lines, but alas, we must imagine a strong voice as the hard, sharp rhymes resound within our mental landscape.