Disconnected, all empathy bleeds
out, mass extinctions nothing in
the shadow of the personal.
The objects of attachment fall
away with the climb, the acceleration—
sheltering rooftops, playgrounds,
streets, cars, pools, the nervousness
then dissipate with the clouds.
Free will long since bartered
for desire, landing is an abstract
possibility but unlikely at this point.
Going is all, all
by Stephen Bunch
Editor’s Note: This poem’s grim narrative drags the reader along until the brutal end.
The Day of the Eclipse
Leaves patchwork a trail to the stream.
My footfall on the bank scatters the trout
who come to spawn each August, jeweled
reflections following instinct.
My son called today, a should-he
or shouldn’t-he conversation. I listened,
questioned. His indecision is unknown
by wild things who live the primordial,
Through the trees, moon eclipses sun
in an eerie twilight not ruled by manners,
mores, norms. Crickets start reverberations
in the trees. Bright glints in the water move
through my shadow, the moon’s shadow—
stars in an ancient galaxy.
by Sarah Russell
Editor’s Note: This poem’s quiet imagery belies the extraordinary nature of the eclipse that fell across the North American continent. It’s insistence on ordinary things illuminates how extraordinary it is that we are all alive at all.
day turns from bright dawn
to paler shades of blue
your face turns grey
perhaps you hear our voices
brothers, daughter, lover, poet, nurse
but in reality
it’s a slow fading of light
perhaps voices, perhaps a dream
from the bridge you look out at water
Winooski River grey
ice chunks against a dam
brick mill buildings
hum of your bicycle tires on a street
Tuesday morning repeats itself
birds outside a screen porch
singing the same songs
over and over
songs fade to grey
for George Mathon 1945-2017
by George Longenecker
Editor’s Note: The aching grief in this poem is emphasized by the repetition. We will all experience this day eventually.
Never had so many songbirds been so silent.
Not one was spreading noise, curving over the pines.
A congregation had gathered, and not one bird
erected a thin mist of music. Not one note
rustled its wings. It was eerie. Curse?
Silent worship? What caused this hush?
There were so many birds in the sky
like rainclouds, darkening, enigmatic, quiet —
a strangeness of birds, and their ambiguity
purposeful, their luxuriant colors, their frequency
of moment — why were they composed
this way? This wall of fragments and silence,
not even one wing beat? Are they insulting us?
Is there some bad news that they are encapsulating?
by Martin Willitts Jr.
Martin on Facebook
Editor’s Note: This poem’s eerie questions seem strangely apt today, in the midst of Hurricane Harvey’s ongoing lashing of the Texan coast.
From an Empty Nest
He watches each leaf
drop painfully slow,
parting the way two
hands shaking let go
after a final embrace:
outstretched, silent, and bare;
the other strains
and falls away
by sailing outwardly
of dubious air quality.
He knows this leaving
is natural: leaves
must fall for newer vistas
just to tease
the hairy sky; and he
must trust the bole
that memories of spring
will fill the hole.
from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, September 29, 2016 — by Gregory Palmerino
photo by Christine Klocek-Lim
Life, believe, is not a dream
So dark as sages say;
Oft a little morning rain
Foretells a pleasant day.
Sometimes there are clouds of gloom,
But these are transient all;
If the shower will make the roses bloom,
O why lament its fall?
Life’s sunny hours flit by,
Enjoy them as they fly!
What though Death at times steps in,
And calls our Best away?
What though sorrow seems to win,
O’er hope, a heavy sway?
Yet Hope again elastic springs,
Unconquered, though she fell;
Still buoyant are her golden wings,
Still strong to bear us well.
The day of trial bear,
For gloriously, victoriously,
Can courage quell despair!
by Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855)
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.
The First Night
You don’t know the kid slumped dead
drunk on the sidewalk. Someone says
he lives in your dorm. Sick already
of the squandering of this night,
you offer to escort him back in a taxi.
The driver threatens $300 if he pukes.
He pukes. You hand over his credit
card, sick already of the squandering
of this night. Back in the dorm,
you do not pass him off to his RA,
a mandatory reporter. The kid was dumb,
but so were thousands, everyone
getting the same letter to avoid this,
which all ignored. You want him to live
through the night, prop him on his side,
face over the trash, check his breathing
for hours, sick already of the squandering
of this night. Tomorrow, you hope
he will thank you. Tomorrow, you hope
college will be fun.
by Devon Balwit
Editor’s Note: Enjambment and repetition create an uneasy emotional narrative in this poem. Many of us will recognize the sentiment of the last two lines.
The goat pen is an acre island in a sea
of more land. Among the browsing bodies
are two Akbash, primitive dogs, built
over millennia to kill bears. They gaze
for hours through the electric netting
at each breezing branch, all the hunting jays.
It’s the sounds they answer.
The short legged dogs down the road.
The senator’s helicopter, the propane delivery.
All warned not to enter, these dogs have faced
down the bear. They won’t suffer you. Hours
and goats and sounds. The pen is an island.
Only the weather changes, bitter rain, sleepy heat.
The ranch dog is fascinated by every tool
the rancher brings into the pen. Microbes
from the last job or the mice that tip toe
across it in the shed. Worlds, stories, forensics.
The cold metal hammer. It made
the barn and the pen. It ricochets shots of sound
away from here.
by Wren Tuatha
Editor’s Note: This poem’s title serves multiple meanings as the lines unfold the story of two dogs and their purpose within a larger narrative of tools and wonder.
Her Red Dress
after reading Kim Addonizio’s “What Do Women Want?”
She calls it her burial gown,
and it reeks of absinthe sweat,
cigarette smoke, and one too many
broken-heeled walks home all alone
where cabs don’t go that time of night.
It slips over curves it doesn’t dare hide,
turning every used-up inch of the sticky
white skin it embraces into an ashy smolder
of regrets as deep as the way her men breathe.
It’s a wanton red lust, wet with kisses that suck
all its sour secrets before the panting end comes —
wrinkled and thrown to the floor.
by Danny Earl Simmons, first published in Vine Leaves Literary Journal.
Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem is visceral and shocking, but is exactly what’s needed to convey a sense of lingering regret and joy entwined.
The stranger lounging in the window seat
orders the same as me, but does not eat.
Is he an ally to protect, a threat
to liquidate? No way of telling yet.
Objectives form in time on their own terms.
A signal from my watcher’s eye affirms
the code, a coin dropped on the busy street
IDs the target; I remain discreet—
look at the girl ahead of me in line,
the guy who stole the barstool next to mine,
or the grave matron with her brooding son
who asks me for the time—is she the one?
I ease across the border with my skill
to camouflage, impersonate, or kill.
To a man like myself obeying orders
from pole to pole, the world is full of borders.
by Erik Lloyd Olson
Erik on Facebook
Editor’s Note: The delightful irony of this poem’s closing emphasizes the rules of our lives. When does the next Bond movie come out?