Distorted Glass by George Longenecker

Distorted Glass

Where we lived then some of our old window
panes were rippled; we looked through blue-green water
at lilacs and cosmos; in winter we looked through ice,
everything white, gray and frozen.
We had a baby then.
Some days winter sun, low in the south,
made rainbows on wide, worn floorboards.

Our daughter crawled to catch colors.
Then there were dark days, ice upon ice;
we looked at each other from either side of distorted glass,
neither one really seeing the other.
It was dark by four, windows leaked cold air,
on windy nights thumb latches rattled
answering mice in the walls.

Some things have to be fixed
if you want to survive winter,
not hide with your child under quilts.
It took us three years,
but we replaced the windows—
clear glass with no icy drafts.

Sometimes I wish I’d kept one of the window panes.
In the morning I’d look at fragmented iris,
their purple scattered here and there, or at icy rain,
or even at you in a different light—
not that I’d really want to go back—
except maybe to see our child
crawling after rainbows on the floor.

by George Longenecker, first published in Poetry Quarterly 2016

Editor’s Note: This poem uses allegory to convey an emotional narrative of a life, and how time passes and changes one’s point of view.

Transference by Laura Foley

Transference

The inmate says he wants
to smash someone’s head
against a concrete floor.

My brother’s stolen
my land, and here I am
stuck in jail.

His face is livid,
his fist twitching.
We spend all day

meditating in silence;
eight hours in a quiet room
with a concrete floor,

I breathe his anger in.
The next morning,
my neck’s so stiff and sore,

I have to hold my head
with my hands to save my neck
from its weight.

The inmate punches a guard,
is strait-jacketed,
taken upstate.

Six months till my head
and neck exhale, six months
to heal the ache.

by Laura Foley, first published in Mom Egg Review.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes empathy isn’t enough.

From the archives – Glaucoma by Neil Flatman

Glaucoma

My father worries the pressure’s gotten worse
that only touch will see him

through until the whorls of the world fade
away, the hand in front of his face.

He asks if I still see my mother
and if memories keep

the promises of dreams. I say he’ll be fine,
I say. Draw whirlpools behind your eyes.

Each tide must turn. He says these things
are hereditary. I take the path

of least resistance, speak in autumn:
burning leaves and the spice

port leaves on your tongue
when the sun has all but sunk

with the warmth of a cousin’s kiss. I describe
the light as watery, he says it’s mist.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, February 1, 2016 — by Neil Flatman

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – I Know It Will Be Quiet When You Come by Joseph Auslander

I Know It Will Be Quiet When You Come

I know it will be quiet when you come:
No wind; the water breathing steadily;
A light like ghost of silver on the sea;
And the surf dreamily fingering his drum.
Twilight will drift in large and leave me numb
With nearness to the last tranquility;
And then the slow and languorous tyranny
Of orange moon, pale night, and cricket hum.

And suddenly there will be twist of tide,
A rustling as of thin silk on the sand,
The tremor of a presence at my side,
The tremble of a hand upon my hand:
And pulses sharp with pain, and fires fanned,
And words that stumble into stars and hide.

by Joseph Auslander (1897-1965)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

On the Road near Chiangling… by Robert Wexelblatt

On the Road near Chiangling the Poet Chen Hsi-wei
Encounters a Young Musician, Summer, 597 A.D.

Tallow leaves hang low, grass is brittle underfoot.
Birds spiral lazily then flutter down in the shade.
Prickly lettuce and withered jasmine
lie flat, like bing cakes baking on the dirt.
Paving tiles burn right through straw sandals.

Her eyes are so alert, it’s as if she just found them.
The heat barely touches her, this devotee of song.
She’s not the sort to compromise, not yet.
She asks me about music, what I’ve heard and whom.
Did I hear the great Zhang Chu in the capital?

Her reverence for her art exalts them both. She’s
sure a celestial melody floats just above her head;
if only she could tug it down and play it then
the world would certainly change for the good.
The sun wouldn’t scorch, perhaps taxes would drop.

She is small, delicate, nearly a child, though
if you look closely, you’ll see that’s half true,
that she’s a soft soul in a hard cocoon.
Her faith is as unspoiled as her smooth skin.
Who would dare to scoff? Not me.
She asks my name and when I give it
I’m startled. She bows low, calls me Master,
can hardly believe it, tells me how much she
loves my old poem about Lake Weishan.
Her face is fervent as a praying monk’s.

Taking up her liuqin, she begins to sing
and it’s like running water by a dusty road.
I feel my forgotten poem surfacing from
Lake Weishan itself transformed, summoned
by the sudden beauty of this butterfly.

by Robert Wexelblatt

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem imagines an encounter between an old master and young woman, yet even though it is set within the distant past, the emotional story still resonates.

Downsizing by Alan Walowitz

Downsizing

No tears when the stately old divan
departed. Only when the new owner
sawed off its middle leg to get through
the door, did it give my mother pause.
Meanwhile her three remaining pals
dutifully chose one shmata each
they’ll surely never wear themselves,
but come Christmas might offer the help.
Finally a few items had to be trashed
—moldy Good Housekeepings: recipes
she couldn’t bear to part with,
but never good enough to make;
tchotchkes varie: the alligator nut-cracker
from the Everglades, Baby Big Ben
that once played God Save the Queen,
olive oil we pressed ourselves in Spain,
surely rancid now,—then we thought we were done.
Till we looked at the glacier
that had formed in the freezer:
Interred there like a twelfth century mountaineer
hiding lost truths, were meals from lifetimes ago:
a meatloaf from the 90s buried behind
more recent triumphs; half pints of milk
smuggled from the Senior Center in case of natural disaster.
And this, a shriveled piece of wedding cake.
Ma, that was to be eaten
your first anniversary, for luck.
She pauses, thinks about her husband
long dead, longer mourned and says,
Maybe that’s why things didn’t work out
and drops it in the trash.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: Some poems are meant to convey the human condition. This one lists the detritus and treasure of a life, with a kicker of a closing.

Russian Oven by George Moore

Russian Oven

Circulating among stars,
the smoke comes back to haunt
the bread, which is its trophy,

cured extreme, the one simple
subject of the oven’s hot sentences,
how smoke keeps from cooling

through a brick interweave
of the stones growing heat,
till the ghost stands in the center.

Black as the rye of a good year,
the bread is rubbed round by
the earth’s movements;

the soft core breathes a low
Za zdorov’e! and an old world
opens like a hungry mouth.

We share a table, a plate,
and a knife like a flag
in a jam jar,

and nothing is foreign,
nothing left out, the loaf
like a boat, or the span

of a bridge, a pair of hands
warmed in a pair of hands held
above a single hearth.

by George Moore

Editor’s note: This poem uses bread as an allegory for the human condition—don’t we all yearn for connection and warmth?