Singing My First Funeral by Christine Potter

Singing My First Funeral

I think his last name was Messerich. His first…Charlie?
Probably. I hear my father’s voice saying it with

that friendly lilt men use to mean a good guy: Charlie
Messerich, church sexton during those few years Dad

tried believing what the rest of us did. Charlie’s funeral.
Everyone else was still alive. Sextons cleaned, fixed things—

but clearly not everything. Like having to die. Zion Church
looked embalmed as ever: dim, airless, polished, Victorian—

even with Sputnik twinkling in circles over our heads.
Someone else must have cleaned, I thought, and wondered

why I couldn’t cry. I knew you were supposed to. One girl
whose name I’ve also lost crayoned a picture: a man labeled

Charlie Messerich leading the Junior Choir skywards, all
our arms out straight before us like movie monsters, all

our kimono-sleeved choir robes dragging behind us on
pink and orange clouds. Melissa, maybe. I’d watched her

roll Italian bread into little balls and swallow handfuls
of them at the Spaghetti Dinner. Kids said her parents had

to call the ambulance and get her stomach pumped. Would
she have died? She cried at the funeral, and I could not.

Hymns. An anthem. It was just more church, and not
even Good Friday. I never asked her about her stomach.

Afterwards, I took off my starchy collar and freed my hair
and bobby pins from my choir beanie for The Reception

in the Parish Hall. Everyone’s mother smiled through
a haze of heated-over ham and pineapple slices too dense

for me to want any. I don’t think I ever cried, even later,
back home. I scuffed the soles of my patent leather shoes

all the way to my parents’ car. All afternoon, everything
was too bright, like staring at a bare light bulb. Like Heaven.

by Christine Potter

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Editor’s Note: The detailed voice of the narrator meticulously leads the reader through her first experience with death as a singer, and offers the realization that nothing is as simple as she thought. The last couplet is a killer.

Mother Makes Paella by Jim Zola

Mother Makes Paella

Mother makes paella in the morning,
asks me to slice an onion. Outside
a battle waits with soldiers scaled

in armor, sticks sharp enough to poke
out an eye. In her flowered blue apron
and big fuzzy slippers, Mother makes

paella in the morning. Father hides
in the basement fixing things
with rusted tools. The air smells dank.

She asks me to slice with a dull knife. When
father goes on trips, I sneak downstairs
to his red and yellow chest full of magazines.

Mother makes paella in the morning. I slice
and fight back tears. Soldiers never had to
do this I say. She laughs and cuffs my ears.

I hear victory on the hill behind the garden.
Losers have to chew wild rhubarb. Mother makes
paella in the morning. I slice with eyes barely

open. Father stumbles up the basement stairs,
looks at me. He sits to eat. I sit in silence,
listen to them talk, try to break the code,
while picking out all the onions.

by Jim Zola

Editor’s Note: This poem’s refrain is threaded throughout the poem in unexpected places, skillfully highlighting the immature emotional state of the young narrator.

From the archives – The Retirement Of The Lighthouse Keeper by Phil Wood

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The Retirement Of The Lighthouse Keeper

I could do without the light.
The bottled shadows pour
another slow glass, though
they cannot block that eye –
it blinks and blinks again,
both lamp and lens conspire
to see the sea through crusts
of salt; if light should slow
in whiskey’s blur of time –
but it beams across the zest
of spray, that grinning bay
with granite cliffs, and wakes
the ghosts in wrecks. I hear
the prayers shiver from voices.
I hear the drowning clock.
I could do without that light.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 14, 2016 — by Phil Wood

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – The impact of a dollar upon the heart by Stephen Crane

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The impact of a dollar upon the heart

The impact of a dollar upon the heart
Smiles warm red light
Sweeping from the hearth rosily upon the white table,
With the hanging cool velvet shadows
Moving softly upon the door.

The impact of a million dollars
Is a crash of flunkeys
And yawning emblems of Persia
Cheeked against oak, France and a sabre,
The outcry of old beauty
Whored by pimping merchants
To submission before wine and chatter.
Silly rich peasants stamp the carpets of men,
Dead men who dreamed fragrance and light
Into their woof, their lives;
The rug of an honest bear
Under the feet of a cryptic slave
Who speaks always of baubles,
Forgetting state, multitude, work, and state,
Champing and mouthing of hats,
Making ratful squeak of hats,
Hats.

by Stephen Crane (1871-1900)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Poem for a Partly-Warm Winter’s Night by William Ruleman

Poem for a Partly-Warm Winter’s Night
(26 December 2016, Montgomery Bell State Park, Burns, Tennessee)

The wind is blowing over the lake tonight
After a day so mild it was well-nigh warm.
The geese are crying out as if in fright;
The stage is set for a sure and simmering storm.
The world has rarely been so dark, we think.
Nothing will ever be the same again.
And now and then our musings reach the brink
Of sentimental thoughts of way back when.
We keep the window open all night long.
By and by, a colder air returns,
Rushed on the wind’s absurd, relentless song;
And some deep force inside our beings yearns
For nights of childhood oh so long ago
When we lay snug and heard the chill winds blow.

by William Ruleman

Editor’s Note: The highlighted lines in the midst of this Shakespearean sonnet stick in the mind. Most of us have moments when we yearn for childhood innocence (when ignorance was bliss).

Surprise Possession by Karen Kelsay

Surprise Possession

She spends her afternoons beside the tree,
where Mr. Lizard’s made his home. Last week
she caught him in her mouth, and forcefully,
my husband pried him out. She doesn’t seek
this reptile, or a patterned, scaly prize—
just itches for a thrilling chase. For days
she’s turned into a sphinx. Unblinking eyes,
and breath held in her breast. Her mind’s ablaze
with thoughts of how he was in her possession.
He watches from the wall where he’s protected.
They play their waiting game. No intercession
at dusk is needed. She comes inside dejected,
and marches to the house to scheme and plot.
Tomorrow she will have another shot.

by Karen Kelsay

Editor’s Note: This sonnet is a delight for any cat lover.

Spring Cleaning After Eden by Katie Hoerth

Spring Cleaning After Eden

In a perfect world, homes clean themselves.
There are no epic battles waged between
dust and vacuum cleaners, mud and mops,
order and chaos. Who could live in such
a place, she wonders as she thinks of Eden,
how her hands were idle, how she tiptoed
through a home she never felt she owned.
Here, the clutter’s hers and hers alone

to clear. She is the savior of this home –
the one who sweeps the cat hair, scrubs the stains
that mar her countertops, fills up the trash,
with yesterday’s mistakes – the empty bag
of potato chips, the crumpled letters
of apology the size of fists,
the bitten apple core that’s turning umber.
She fills the trash and Adam rises up
from his Easy Chair, lets out a grunt
and takes it to the curb. His work is done.

Eve puts her hands on hips and heaves a sigh,
declares this tidy paradise their own.

by Katie Hoerth

Editor’s Note: The blank verse of this poem slips into the reader’s mind with ease, supporting the narrative’s easy lesson.