MRI by Elise Hempel

MRI

Inside this tunnel, still and prone,
so enclosed and so alone,

I’m waiting in a well-lit tomb
or a cold and arid womb,

about to be, or done and was,
on hold to Muzak, this jack-hammered buzz

and now a ray-gun’s droning song.
Without my watch, can’t tell how long –

nine months, a flickering moment? – I’ve been
paused here in this in-between….

When my timeless time inside
is over and they slowly slide

the lid away, will I go forth
into Heaven or onto Earth?

They’ll be the same, my welcoming crowd,
but what will rock me – arms or cloud,

and will my voice be cry or mute?
Held tight, or released, will I float

into After or out of Before?
Either way, alone no more.

by Elise Hempel

Editor’s Note: This poem uses repetition and rhyme to convey the sense of confinement (both physical and mental) found within an unfortunately necessary medical device.

May 30th by Patricia Wallace Jones

May 30th

A year ago I wrote to you
of temple bells, about the silk-tassels,
how they grow like weeds, shimmer
in the wind beneath my window.

After a mild dry winter,
scant spring rain, you sing to me
of homemade tortillas, the sweet
heady taste of vine-ripe tomatoes.

Out of step with your seasons,
these cool windy mornings
my catkins dance early, grey faster,
fall even softer this year than the last.

And to think—
before you came
with this uncommon friendship,
the remarkable beauty
in distant correspondence,
I would have missed this day,
used it for a calendar, a decoration
for my wall if I noted it at all.

by Patricia Wallace Jones

Patricia on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The internet has given us the ability to easily form friendships with people on the far side of the planet. This poem addresses that sometimes surprising mismatch of seasons, and the gratitude that knowing one another brings.

The Cabin by Ed Granger

The Cabin

Skip down the ladder from the loft
where yesterday’s last feverish kiss
of heat mothered you overnight.
Wrench open the stove door screeching
like an old iron safe, embers banked
in one corner like dreams awaiting
their next breath. You’re here, dead center
of nowhere, Nova Scotia. You came expecting
insight of some kind. You were mistaken.
The molten seethe of pine logs as they snap
latent sap up the black iron pipe
back into these baffling woods
tells you nothing. Dreams of your father
alive again, upstairs, shaving,
have followed you here. Of course
you told him you loved him,
even through purple lesions as he
whispered something about a Jesus
he’d never believed in. Feed brittle bits
of moss to the feeble orange glow, scraped
from the roof so they won’t claim renegade
sparks. Finesse the vents for a sense
of control. Your coffee is barely potable.
Your father was rarely approachable.
Lace up your boots, head out. Your father
was killed because he tried to pound
a square-peg self into this life until
his round-peg 9-to-5 metastasized. You
came here seeking liberation, found
this new routine. Today, maybe hike
to the logging camp where saws
weep dry crocodile tears. Stay available.
Reconcile yourself to this place.

by Ed Granger

Editor’s Note: Sometimes a memorial offers one a glimpse into one’s own life. This poem speaks of a search for insight that is often unattainable.

From the archives – The Shapes of Clouds by John L. Stanizzi

The Shapes of Clouds

. . . . . . . . . . . . .Childhood is far away.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .War is near. Amen.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Yehuda Amichai
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Songs of continuity, land mines and graves #5

i

the lovers sit still along the broad river
. . . . . . . .clouds in passage. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .massive cities
colossal animals. . . . . . . . .fictive worlds above
. . . . . . . .roiling transfiguration unnoticed mostly
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .except on long drives when you were a child
and someone played a game to pass. . . . . . . . . . . .the time

. . . . . . . .there’s a castle
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .there’s an elephant. . . .a king. . . .a dog
a tank. . . . . . . . .a ghost
and…..I don’t know what. . . .that is

ii

now there is war. . . . . . . . .in the air
. . . . . . . .indistinguishable. . . . . . . . .shapeless

it is spring. . . . . . . . .the cottonwoods have snowed

the lovers are old
. . . . . . . .grandchildren play along the broad river

they are in danger

we are all in danger

look. . . .look. . . .look at that cloud. . . .a child says
. . . . . . . .it’s in the shape of a. . . .…of a. . . . . . . . . . . .of…

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, May 4, 2016 — by John L. Stanizzi

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – The Caterpillar by Robert Graves

The Caterpillar

Under this loop of honeysuckle,
A creeping, coloured caterpillar,
I gnaw the fresh green hawthorn spray,
I nibble it leaf by leaf away.

Down beneath grow dandelions,
Daisies, old-man’s-looking-glasses;
Rooks flap croaking across the lane.
I eat and swallow and eat again.

Here come raindrops helter-skelter;
I munch and nibble unregarding:
Hawthorn leaves are juicy and firm.
I’ll mind my business: I’m a good worm.

When I’m old, tired, melancholy,
I’ll build a leaf-green mausoleum
Close by, here on this lovely spray,
And die and dream the ages away.

Some say worms win resurrection,
With white wings beating flitter-flutter,
But wings or a sound sleep, why should I care?
Either way I’ll miss my share.

Under this loop of honeysuckle,
A hungry, hairy caterpillar,
I crawl on my high and swinging seat,
And eat, eat, eat—as one ought to eat.

by Robert Graves (1895-1985)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

[Editor’s Note: Please forgive the double posting. The previous post had the incorrect poet—this poem is by Robert Graves, not Walt Whitman.]

Rondeau Written After The Season’s First Encounter by Wendy Babiak

Rondeau Written After The Season’s First Encounter

When the hummingbirds come near I sense Your grace.
Back to the window, I hear the whir, and brace
myself. I turn, and suddenly — yes — she’s there
sipping coral honeysuckle, and I stare —
a lover memorizing her lover’s face —

until she’s off, running Hunger’s endless race.
And I’m left relishing Love’s sweet, swift embrace.
Of course, when I look I find You everywhere.
When the hummingbirds come near

the garden feels complete, but always this place
speaks Love’s lexicon: leaves’ graceful curls, the lace
of bare branches against a painted sky, here
where day meets night. Still, I have to say a prayer
of thanks for each visit. Nothing can replace
when the hummingbirds come near.

by Wendy Babiak

Editor’s Note: This graceful poem uses form to emphasize the stillness and joy the narrator feels at the start of a new season. In these trying times, this grace is desperately needed.

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.

Addah Belle’s Pocket Watch by Wren Tuatha

Addah Belle’s Pocket Watch

Addah Belle’s pocket watch stands open
on my desk like a sandwich board
advertisement.

I want to shrink down and crawl under it,
camping in my ticking tent. Constellations
and bug spray.

Addah Belle knew me. She could
look at me and tell my future. In her time,
women married.

Addah Belle chose door number two
and taught at a girls’ finishing school,
finishing them off for the altar.

Retirement came abruptly. Bourbon and
ceremonies. The stillness of her room
in the farmhouse. And no Marian.

Two twin beds, like a dormitory, and her
married sister downstairs with grandkids on
long weekends.

I, her grand niece, tracked in
with pocket frogs, too-close best
friends and notebooks. She noticed.

Mom cut my unattended hair short.
Strangers took me for a boy. A boy
with notebooks. Listening to Auntie.

And the pocket watch tent would ticka tick,
flashlights and ghost stories on her desk while
she advised I could be a writer, plan a career.

In her time pocket watches were for men.
That might be how it came to her. Tom,
the last at bat who walked home

lost, wondering why she wouldn’t
marry him, why remaining at school with
Marian was preferable. The watch

forgotten on a wash stand, a library shelf,
a parlor bridge table. Tempus abire tibi est.. . . .[It’s time for you to go away]
The watch she kept and wound, for the sound.

I was a writer when she died. I was a lesbian
when I found her love letters. Her watch,
a flashlight and a tape measure in my drawer.
Tempus vitam regit.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .[Time rules life]

by Wren Tuatha, first published in Bangalore Review.

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem draws the reader in slowly. By the end, the heart wrenching sadness of the narrator’s aunt is fully realized.

This Is Where I Slowdown On The Way Home by Billy Howell-Sinnard

This Is Where I Slowdown On The Way Home

I’ve come this way so many times,
kept an eye on the swan couple
residing in a private niche.

She spends her time on the nest.
A madonna in repose. Her
elegant neck so neatly folded

upon her body that I wonder,
for a second, if she still lives.
He floats carefree nearby,

or sometimes I see him
across the road,
the roving lover

exploring other waters,
but always back to her.
Not far from their parental

trusts, their necks
entwine in one purpose,
their white bodies

blend into a cloud
on the water
drifting into the reeds

into a privacy
from which I feel a need
to look away.

by Billy Howell-Sinnard

Editor’s Note: The title of this poem prepares us for the narrator’s description of a moment that happens often, but not often enough to remedy the awkward, emotional perspective of the final three lines.

Michael Jackson by Ciaran Parkes

Michael Jackson

In a dream Michael Jackson
is playing a concert in the town I live in
or a dream version of that town, beside a river
that doesn’t quite exist. Earlier, a priest

had preached a sermon, not quite condemning
Jackson from the pulpit, but talking about him
in such a way that no right thinking person
would be going to his concert. I watch him,

somehow from above, begin to sing
to an empty field in which there’s only
a sleeping homeless man and dog. The river
flows in front of him, makes the edge

of the stage he’s standing on. The light
is that light which sometimes comes in dreams,
brighter than normal light, as if it’s shining
from another world, in this case, from the one

outside the half closed curtains where the sun
is all set to wake me up but there’s still time
to see him realize the audience aren’t coming
and see how little it means to him. He sings

Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough or maybe one
of his mellow, mid-seventies hits like One
Day in Your Life or You’ve Got a Friend. His voice
the kind of voice you only hear in dreams

but, for him, just how he always sings
or how he always used to sing, back then. By now
a few odd people have started wandering in
to dance and sing along. The homeless man

and his dog have finally woken up and I’m
just about to, still half asleep, still listening
to Jackson in his blaze of sunlight, singing.

by Ciaran Parkes

Editor’s Note: The rambling prose-like lines of this poem mirror lucid dreaming’s abstracted focus, until the last few lines wake up the reader with stunning imagery.