Soon Now by Darrell Petska

Soon Now

Paint drying on expectant walls,
restless rocker testing the floor,
windows polishing light—
curtains hush the ceiling fan
chirruping “soon now soon now soon”.
Bears and bunnies gather in corners.
Decaled sheep pace dresser drawers.
A yawning bassinet crowns the room
toward which all doors incline.
The house holds its breath.
In the trees’ sheltering boughs
sun and moon hone lullabies
while stars polish their points.

by Darrell Petska

Editor’s Note: The personification in this poem perfectly conveys the sense of expectant hope that heralds the birth of a new child.

Peripheral Vision by Carol Oberg

Peripheral Vision

She walks down the road
Passing trees, wildflowers, shrubs
She couldn’t name in a million years.
Strolls the seasons
Without seeing the first buds,
Some oak leaves refusing to ever fall
The slow melt of ice and snow.
She doesn’t notice the cricket’s temperate pace
Or the v’s of traveling geese overhead.
If like sleeping beauty she were to
Suddenly awake with the kiss of a prince
It would be impossible to guess if it was
Late in the fall or very early spring.
She doesn’t garden but buys
Flowers and produce at Farmer’s Market
And appreciates a gorgeous sunset
Without the need to describe it in words
Or fix it in the lens of a camera.
Her house inside is unadorned
The yard simply grass that
Changes from green to brown
When she isn’t looking
Much like herself.
But driving down a country road
When the leaves on trees are
Red, orange, yellow and every
Unnamable color in between
She thinks Heaven
Must look exactly like this.

by Carol Oberg, first published in The Avocet, a Journal of Nature Poetry.

Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem conveys meaning through the denial of it—the narrator’s vision is limited, but the imagination is not.

A Child Stolen by Deirdre Parkes

A Child Stolen

Calloused and rough,
your hand gently caresses my hair,
a rambling story of your youth
often heard before.

Automatically
my mouth forms the response
as you tell a new story
a story of manhood unfolding.

The curtains smell of stale drink
they block out the light, and my innocence.
Cigarette burns on the covered floor
I know that story too.

The sudden heat of skin unfolded
the mouth that gently speaks
the hand that tells its own story.
Eyes turned away in disbelief

this story has a different ending.
No sleeping beauty wakened with a kiss,
just the terrible knowledge
of your Guinness tainted breath.

by Deirdre Parkes

Editor’s Note: The broken punctuation of this poem forces the reader to revisit these lines more than once, and it is through this rereading that one discovers the trauma that lies at the ending of the story.

I Nailed You by Rick Mullin

I Nailed You

I nailed you and I have you in a box
I balance on my lap aboard the train.
A 9-by-12 inch portrait that unlocks
what I believe to be your soul. A stain
on canvas, a permanent and mortal mark.
In years to come you’ll gather dust between
a night class nude and Landscape with a House
above my bookshelf. But for now the green
I mixed with red unbuttoning your blouse
is wet, the shadow on your shoulder dark
and thick, the highlight on your face
uneven, though it captures your distinct
appeal and can be scraped. I can erase.
But I will not, as neither of us blinked
tonight in your apartment on the park.

by Rick Mullin, from Transom, Dos Madres Press, 2017

Editor’s Note: Rich imagery marries painting to poetry in these lines, while delicately narrating the eroticism of an encounter that might be permanent (and might not).

Not on Her Original To-Do List by Jean L. Kreiling

Not on Her Original To-Do List
for Sarah

These chores so nearly weren’t hers—this drill
of clean up, pick up, cheer up, save the day,
read Dr. Seuss although she’s had her fill,
make chocolate milk, make monsters go away,
sing bunny songs, play hide-and-seek, explain
why everything, learn how to fix toy trucks
and choo-choo trains and how to toilet-train,
teach that a cow moos and a chicken clucks,
and kiss skinned knees. So when she has a few
free moments to converse with grownups, read
a grownup book, and eat as grownups do—
from toddler’s tyranny fleetingly freed—
she’s startled by her dread as it occurs
to her: this life so nearly wasn’t hers.

by Jean L. Kreiling

Editor’s Note: This sonnet describes the tediousness of parenting, yet by the end, the joy of it is much more strongly felt than the frustration.

From the archives – On changing tides — Luke Evans

On changing tides

Out by the rails, the grass too tall to walk through,
but we did anyway, checking each other for ticks
afterwards. We itched like the blades
still scored our legs. She always had
such sensitive skin,
but I don’t.

The break room was our island of sun
beneath the skylights. She told me over slushies
what attraction was, its traits of irresistibility,
how it drags us out like a rip tide.
How we shoot the moon
to keep the rising tide from our shoes.
At some point, she sneaked in
a pun on hearts,
but I can’t.

Such a hard rain and so many worms on the asphalt.
I watched her in the gray-light, a parka
darkening her face, the car’s tires kicking up
droplets as she pulled away. Clocks
only scab the wounds, they never heal.
Packages come and go, zip codes change.
I watch the sky grow dark and light,
tirelessly, black and blue
again. One day she’ll see I’m gone,
at peace with the moon.
I’ll pack up my things,
take some lotion in case,
thinking she’ll know,
but she won’t.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, June 2, 2016 — by Luke Evans

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Epigram on Rough Woods by Robert Burns

Epigram on Rough Woods

I’m now arrived—thanks to the gods!—
. . . .Thro’ pathways rough and muddy,
A certain sign that makin roads
. . . .Is no this people’s study:
Altho’ Im not wi’ Scripture cram’d,
. . . .I’m sure the Bible says
That heedless sinners shall be damn’d,
. . . .Unless they mend their ways.

by Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.

Home Coming by Alarie Tennille

Home Coming

To go back to your hometown
and find it doesn’t recognize you.

To see your old house bedraggled
like hand-me-downs left to Goodwill –

gutters stripped, azaleas gone for no good
reason except it’s not your home.

To dread awkward reunions almost as much
as not running into anyone you know.

To get a little lost, finding landmarks
have run away with your childhood.

To startle at the silver-haired man
walking by who’s too much like your dad.

To feel gutted by the gap that was
your high school, but jealous

of a new museum and elegant restaurants
where you’ll never have a favorite table.

To understand this strange place
doesn’t feel like home, but always will be.

by Alarie Tennille, first published in Poetry Breakfast.

Editor’s note: Careful enjambments and clear imagery highlight the bittersweet touch of nostalgia in this poem.

Smalls by Gail Thomas

Smalls

They spread across tables at flea markets,
spill out of boxes, mementos from a trip
or romance, collections of salt shakers,
heirloom silver spoons. After my parents die
I find a wax paper square with my name
and hank of fine flaxen hair, box of teeth
with rust-blood roots, hand-sewn dress.

My grandmother’s hair is wrapped in tissue,
not the curled grey helmet I knew, but a long,
golden braid. Did she cut it off when her first
child was born, too worn out to care for
one more thing? It lies curled upon itself
like a soft animal, shimmering with lights
that must have lured her husband to unpin it
until the soft fall rained over his hands.

There are no silver cups, no engraved watches;
these smalls are stained bibs, hair and teeth
preserved like the relics my people prayed to
in the old country. Children were their saints,
the ones who would live larger, easier.

Now, my daughters are grown.
I pare down, save the chalk drawing
of a blue horse in the desert, the scent
that rose from my baby’s skin,
a small blessing.

by Gail Thomas

Editor’s note: The detailed description of things emphasizes the lost relationships the narrator has with both the living and the dead.

Entrenched by Devon Balwit

Entrenched

The house rattles, father and son
at loggerheads,

the father bitter that the son chooses
differently

with his fine, strong body that his father
cannot repossess,

the son flinching at the sear of disapproval,
its raw burn

repeated in an endless tallying of keloid
zeroes.

The father bellows from below-stairs,
hammers

the wall for good measure to bypass
the headphones

behind which the son swaddles.
So much time

lost fighting over the same ground,
trees blown

to stumps, blast craters seeping
and stinking.

Were each to stumble upon the other’s
body,

he’d find, tucked close, photos of the same,
house,

creased letters with Dearest in the same
hand.

by Devon Balwit

Editor’s Note: This poem’s difficult imagery conveys the difficulty of father/son love with great precision and emotional complexity.