Nelly by Robert Ford

Nelly

We buried you on the hottest day for years.
No breeze. The cornstalks were silent,
the air seething in crowded spaces under
a sky wiped duck-egg blue at the edges.

Through the heavy substance of veteran oaks,
sycamores, gasping over the hedgerows,
you could see all the way down the lazy apron
of the river valley to our town, the thumb of

its church steeple gilt-framed by the haze.
It seemed apt. A decade later, it’s still how
I picture you – though I’m no more than an
unopened parcel of memories in your future

—a girl, each thin-ice step you take a question,
leaving behind farm, family, village, home.
A whole lifetime waiting for you down there,
waiting to gather you up into its embrace.

by Robert Ford

Editor’s Note: Grief often defies description, but poets keep trying. This poem’s intense imagery presents yet another facet of sorrow, embedded in present, past, and future.

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From the archives – Feedback — Ben Rasnic

Feedback

This thing remembered—

tendrilled wisps of amber
groomed from sweaty plough blades
of Nebraska soil, waves breaking
the black earth into gold flames
ripening in air, rich with mirrors.

“It’s only wheat”,
she said,
“Just big dumb fields
of nothing but wheat”,
said

this harvest from my
loins, tawny fingers weaving
strands of sun-bleached
tasseled hair, face
flecked with straw
glistening

her bright smile,
her star rising.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, July 21, 2016 — by Ben Rasnic

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Songs for the People by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

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Songs for the People

Let me make the songs for the people,
. . . .Songs for the old and young;
Songs to stir like a battle-cry
. . . .Wherever they are sung.

Not for the clashing of sabres,
. . . .For carnage nor for strife;
But songs to thrill the hearts of men
. . . .With more abundant life.

Let me make the songs for the weary,
. . . .Amid life’s fever and fret,
Till hearts shall relax their tension,
. . . .And careworn brows forget.

Let me sing for little children,
. . . .Before their footsteps stray,
Sweet anthems of love and duty,
. . . .To float o’er life’s highway.

I would sing for the poor and aged,
. . . .When shadows dim their sight;
Of the bright and restful mansions,
. . . .Where there shall be no night.

Our world, so worn and weary,
. . . .Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
. . . .Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.

Music to soothe all its sorrow,
. . . .Till war and crime shall cease;
And the hearts of men grown tender
. . . .Girdle the world with peace.

by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

[Editor’s Note: Though I posted this poem last year, it seems appropriate to post it once again.]

Sonnet: Disquieting by Martin Willitts Jr.

Sonnet: Disquieting

This present moment — is gone, gone
like sparrows into the disquieting sky. Gone
white as sycamore branches before memory
releases their leaves. Gone as flattering light.
Gone as bliss and recognition of bliss. Gone,
taken away, the way rivers take silt,
depositing elsewhere. Moments are dissonant
and gorgeous, then — gone.

The pristine rains never last. It cannot rain
metaphorically everywhere with consistency.
Gravity cannot hold wind, even if wind
kisses our faces, even if it sheds sycamore leaves,
even if light folded, even if sound was shaken,
even if we clutched every moment to our chests.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem’s lack of meter and rhyme contradict its title while also emphasizing the meaning of it. This poem is an uneasy testament to the power of words used to describe difficulty.

All Lovers Entitled by Patricia Wallace Jones

All Lovers Entitled

Upon learning of your illness
the sky dimmed.
By morning, fog woman arrived
riding bare, low on the back of a heron.
She was followed by high tide, the sea
fiercely dressed in blue-black moiré,
her best autumn combers.

They are primed, ready to fight
alongside your wife and me
and your muse, since the cradle,
the resolute moon—
with all of us this coming rain.

By early evening I had handpicked
and planted ninety new bulbs,
all of them tulips, Sissinghurst white—
fifty plus eight for your party come May,
the balance for us all to crow on.

by Patricia Wallace Jones, first published in The Flea.

Patricia on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem’s use of gorgeous imagery underscores the frantic difficulty of loving someone who has fallen ill.

The Snare Drummer’s Plight by Martin J. Elster

The Snare Drummer’s Plight

The highlight of the evening is Bolero.
The snare drummer begins the famous beat,
the marrow of the land of the torero.

The players, who have sprayed themselves with Deet,
ignore the insects swarming in the light
or lighting on the scores. The music’s bite
and lyric passion build each bar, with singing
strings, winds, and brass — while buzzing bugs seek meat.
One gently touches down and starts to eat
blood from the snare drum player’s nose. The stinging
clings like a picador’s sharp lance of worry.

How can he stop to scratch? His part must never
cut out. Time’s poky arrow will not hurry.
Bolero! May it live — not last — forever.

by Martin J. Elster, first published in Verse Wisconsin.

Editor’s Note: The poet included the name of the form for this poem, Stefanile triadic sonnet, and it is quite complex. This poem’s lighthearted narrative is an excellent example of how the best formal poems transcend their form, and speak to the reader despite the strictness of meter and rhyme.

Airport Pigeon by George Longenecker

Airport Pigeon

A pigeon picks for scraps of burritos,
chips and hamburger buns on the carpet
near Gate 73—white with black feathers
on her wings and head— she ekes out a living
trapped inside Newark International Airport
hopping around the feet of weary passengers.

She thinks she came here willingly, perhaps
through an open passenger gate, but now she’s
trapped like us, eating what she can find.
She can fly miles inside the terminal,
up over Hudson Books and Vino Volo,
but she can never reach the sky.
Meanwhile we’ll escape, board
our jets and— for a few hours—
soar for miles over mountains and tiny towns,
thinking we’re free as birds.

by George Longenecker, first published in Santa Fe Literary Review

Editor’s Note: This poem is a perfect demonstration that verse can encompass the most ordinary of things with brilliant emotional insight.