Fortunate Sons by Bruce Guernsey

Fortunate Sons

My Uncle Sheldon never went to war,
the oldest son exempt by law
to carry on our family name,
to care for the farm.
From milking cows his hands grew strong
those cold, Catskill mornings,
and gentle, too, bathed in milk,
his fingers long against the firm,
pink udders, and by the time his brothers
came back from overseas,
he’d taught himself to play the piano.

His brothers—
Alfred, Douglas, Charles—
he calmed with those hands
when they’d wake in their beds like boys
to the high whine of shells
and brute fact of lead,
the rhythm, like milking, of his fingers at the keys
stilling the rattling windows
with music like steam, grassy and sweet
from the buckets rising, filling with sleep
the house they each were born in.

by Bruce Guernsey, from FROM RAIN: Poems, 1970-2010.

Editor’s Note: This poem’s narrative is deceptively simple. Sometimes describing trauma is best approached from the side of things.

This is the Face of a Widow by Susan Butler

This is the Face of a Widow

These are the hands of a widow,
seeking comfort in pockets and pages,
flapping at the questions
like a frantic small bird trapped in a tangled snare.
These are the hands of a widow, ineffectual,
lurching, reaching for someone they will never touch,
growing thinner, even bones
nearly vanishing.

These are the eyes of a widow,
eyes that don’t see but never stop seeing,
dead stars that still must wake.
These are the eyes of a widow,
burnt crumbs
that still must burn, must disguise,
poorly,
this aching vacancy.

This is the mouth of a widow
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..

This is the face of a widow,
stained with weeping salt, skin brittle,
this half moon
cradled in no other hands.
This is the face of a widow,
trying to look forward
instead of down at the earth,
the dirt that covers him,
that will cover her.

This is the word widow.
It means what will never be.

by Susan Butler

Twitter: @ouisuzette

Editor’s Note: Loss and grief illuminate this poem. The narrator’s search for words fails midway through the poem, though the trauma lingers.

Fire Watching by John Savoie

Fire Watching

Last night I dozed before the fire
watching the remnants collapse
in spurts of flame, quick blue tongues,
the secret whispered back and forth;

and saw the red tremulous heart
beat within black ribs, then frosting
over to the crystalline sound
of ice etching a window pane;

dimmer still, mere undulance
in the dark, ashes curled, embers
sighed like the hunter who can trudge
no more, leans back in drifted snow,

face to sky, catching pale flakes
(the darkness turning inside out)
so oddly warm upon the brow,
one eye open, as two eyes close.

by John Savoie

Editor’s Note: Anyone who has watched a fire burn down knows how mesmerizing the flames can be. In this poem, the imagery feels exactly like that strange slump into sleep.

The Office Dreams of Freedom by Eileen Murphy

The Office Dreams of Freedom

It’s cold here and dusty, the air perfectly still.
Voicemail sings when people are gone.
It pities pencils locked in supply rooms.
It sings to its friends in offices everywhere.

Voicemail can sing when people are gone
Because it dreams that it’s free to dream.
Voicemail makes friends in offices everywhere,
Meeting near fish tanks, lurking in halls.

Because it dreams, it’s free to dream.
The phones fall silent when voicemail sings,
Meeting near fish tanks, lurking in halls
As the office dreams of freedom.

The phones fall silent when voicemail sings
About the pencils locked in supply rooms.
While the office dreams of freedom,
It sings that it’s cold here and dusty
And the air is perfectly still.

by Eileen Murphy

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Editor’s Note: Personification and repetition are used to great effect in this poem. The underlying creepiness of isolation is decorated with whimsy, luring the reader into its dusty clutches.

From the archives – Beyond All Bearing by Susan Delaney Spear

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Beyond All Bearing

In winter, when pines weary,
When aligned limbs quiver with longing,
And the ground moans under gravity’s weight,
It’s then, through the northern night
That concentric silver circles radiate
Like wind-borne waves racing shoreward,
Beautiful beyond all bearing.
. . . . . . . .Swifter still—
God speeds across the cosmos
Earthward, arms open wide.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, December 7, 2015 — by Susan Delaney Spear

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – A Winter Blue Jay by Sara Teasdale

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A Winter Blue Jay

Crisply the bright snow whispered,
Crunching beneath our feet;
Behind us as we walked along the parkway,
Our shadows danced,
Fantastic shapes in vivid blue.
Across the lake the skaters
Flew to and fro,
With sharp turns weaving
A frail invisible net.
In ecstasy the earth
Drank the silver sunlight;
In ecstasy the skaters
Drank the wine of speed;
In ecstasy we laughed
Drinking the wine of love.
Had not the music of our joy
Sounded its highest note?
But no,
For suddenly, with lifted eyes you said,
“Oh look!”
There, on the black bough of a snow flecked maple,
Fearless and gay as our love,
A bluejay cocked his crest!
Oh who can tell the range of joy
Or set the bounds of beauty?

by Sara Teasdale (1884-1933)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

She speaks of gifts by O.P.W. Fredericks

She speaks of gifts
for Patricia Wallace Jones

There’s sparkle in her eye, still
a glint of yesterday, the memories
she keeps in faith, to share
while on the brae,
like emery’s abrasive touch
life’s not a grand bouquet.

When on she hints from time to time,
in rhyme or verse, a line
or two, hold fast youth’s prime
and spring’s first wine
for with years comes more brine
than brew.

Ne’er at a loss to speak her mind
she tends our dreams and souls in kind
and shares her wisdom
gained in spite of bitter ills
she’s faced in plight.

The weight her words of life
betray the spark behind her eyes
convey and so we ponder on
in time her rhyme, her verse, yes, line
by line, her voice
like bells, so soothing,
the meaning hidden deep within
and wonder
at her smoothing.

by O.P.W. Fredericks

Editor’s Note: After yesterday’s poem, this poem falls easy on the ear and mind. (Can a poem be an ode to another? I say yes.)