The old man at my door
hands me the bag of Chinese food,
quietly wishes me good luck.
I eat my egg roll, then
open the cashew chicken.
Where are the cashews,
I mutter darkly, as I push
fat pieces of pepper around.
I find exactly eight nuts.
They’re big but I want more.
Afterwards, I crack my cookie,
study the fortune inside. You will
find what you are looking for
it says. Ha I say. My cat stares
with his cryptic white face.
Later that evening I sleep
deeply. I don’t see the moon
curved like a cashew in the sky,
smiling down at me; I don’t
see my cat dancing dreamily
in its pale light before coming to
sit beside me, how he raises his paw
like those little statues, whispers
good luck. . .
by Tricia Marcella Cimera
Editor’s Note: This poem’s narrative voice is a delight because it is so real, right up until the dreamlike conclusion.
When the hidden rip sucks out
beyond the blue swell
uncurling noisily upon the sand,
out beyond the raucous sea-birds
circling, soaring and dipping
above the white topped crests,
out into dark, trackless waste
where the moving water mountain
towers glass smooth and sheer
and over its vast plateau top
waves foam and rumble
in irresistible chaos,
then only surrender remains,
letting the mighty surge
sweep where it will,
holding in a few tiny cells
the longing for a gentler swell
to wash slowly back
into some sheltered cove
where the patterned ripples
kiss the yellow sand,
where hope fills the clear blue sky
and the whole glorious world
shines again bright and new.
by Neil Creighton
Editor’s Note: This poem requires careful reading to puzzle the long, slow, unending imagery into a single, whole picture.
Appalachian Come Inside
like a last bite
but who’s counting,
January and coffee
strong enough to hold
my own turns sixty-one,
I would click my heels
if not for their knees.
A tall hickory pitches
a bird at the sky,
noon is a high fly ball,
The New River is quiet
the air so clean it splashes
the city from my face
and I want to say thank you
but the sun is already
an arm of you’re welcome
around my shoulder.
by Charles Carr
Editor’s Note: Stellar imagery imbues this poem with narrative force, until the last line sighs gently into place.
She spends her afternoons beside the tree,
where Mr. Lizard’s made his home. Last week
she caught him in her mouth, and forcefully,
my husband pried him out. She doesn’t seek
this reptile, or a patterned, scaly prize—
just itches for a thrilling chase. For days
she’s turned into a sphinx. Unblinking eyes,
and breath held in her breast. Her mind’s ablaze
with thoughts of how he was in her possession.
He watches from the wall where he’s protected.
They play their waiting game. No intercession
at dusk is needed. She comes inside dejected,
and marches to the house to scheme and plot.
Tomorrow she will have another shot.
from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 19, 2017 — by Karen Kelsay
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim
Rite of Passage
(or How the Owl Got its Pointy Ears)
I was there when the house cat stood
and let her whiskers fall,
hollowed her bones with a blackwood
wind and tendered in her crawl.
She beaked her yowl, let her questions sing,
asking who belongs to who?
And answered herself the very same thing
as her wings came working through.
She spread the claws on her last two paws
and, taloned, perched the sill.
When she looked from me to the dark lined trees
I knew she’d had her fill
of lap and bowl and the ringing bell
that once had tamed her through.
She layed her wings on the falling dark
and, lithely homeless, flew.
I sleep with that window open now
and sing to where she’s gone
I swim the dark between the trees
beyond the feralled lawn.
She is no one’s lost possession
I do not wish her home
I sing to raise the downy barbs,
to empty out the bone.
Black locust breaks the hedgerow,
the floorboards are alight,
the axe is in a deadfall fire
which will not last the night.
There’s music in the inbetween
I can’t tell who from who
I’ll meet dawn at the ridgepole’s end
and see if wings are true.
by Peleg Held
Editor’s Note: The surreality of this poem is beautifully set within the constraints of the meter and rhyme.
A light I stop for paints the asphalt red
and shows a possum isn’t playing dead;
a bump upon a country road, a white
and grayish remonstration of the night.
Feasting on the cricket and the tick,
unprepared and neither fierce nor quick,
a fuddy duddy relic, now run over,
who muddled through the thickets and the clover;
who had a dozen children in the spring
but now’s a flattened, matted, bloody thing
the vultures will descend on in the day,
and, like myself, has little else to say,
for sorrow like the headlights of a car
illumines for a moment what we are
till night returns and mathematics yields
half a dozen possums in the fields.
by Ed Shacklee
Ed on Facebook
Editor’s Note: It is always difficult to write a poem about roadkill—there is the grim subject matter, and the inevitable comparison to Stafford’s poem. However, this poem’s formal meter frames the situation within a philosophical context, without losing the emotional resonance of the experience.
Waiting for You
Just like a good steady rain,
handwritten by the blue jay’s flight,
the edges of the world need you.
I am aware of the heartbreak
behind the rain’s curtain.
The river banks swell, the ground
is saturated, run-offs follow
a downward slope like arpeggios.
The clouds are squeezed tight.
Rain crunches on roofs, abundantly;
but like love or pain, it cannot last forever.
There is no sound inside the rain
that is not you. A heart is breakable,
but the door is unlatched, waiting for you.
by Martin Willitts Jr.
Martin on Facebook
Editor’s Note: This poet’s exploration of the limits of the sonnet form continue in this poem. Emotional imagery is highlighted within the form’s fourteen short lines and octave/sestet relationship.
Beauty and the Beast
Thick with snow
the slope behind my house
rolls its whiteness down
and over a thick sheet of ice
by shimmering black
long liquid slivers
while out front
cars splash salt and sand
as fluffy drifts morph
into dirt tinged mounds
and careless plows
scrape raw brown scars
into sleeping green
by Joan Kantor
Editor’s Note: The initial personification in this poem threads through the rest of the imagery, and it becomes easy to imagine the world has a voice.
And you find that the thirst
of alcohol is more powerful
than the thirst of salt.
The thirst for relaxation,
the thirst for inspiration,
the thirst for confidence:
all these, yes, and beyond
them the interaction
of blood and chemistry: the taste
of metal, of a dagger
at the throat; the scent of orange
blossom on a cloudy day
when the rain appears gray
and crooked in the distance,
and suddenly it’s running
down your neck, soaking
through your too thin jacket,
and you feel
the thickening of your voice,
hear the hoarseness
of the laughter in the room.
And alcohol takes you
by the hand and asks you,
so politely, to dance.
by Paul Ilechko
Paul on Facebook
Editor’s Note: This poem is what addiction feels like.
By the Time I Came Upon Him
By the time I came upon him, it was late in the day,
he was pounding water near the rock-walled well,
standing over the bucket of water so black in that December light,
so like a mirror, one hand gripping its rim, the other a fist,
a hard pink fist raised over the back bent to the thing
he was so earnestly about. The fist came down and down
onto the face of the water which seemed to accept it,
the pummeling, as water accepts all things—
the diving sea-hawk, the sea wreck, the suicide,
the fly-cast, the glacial calve, the tea bag, the muzzle in thirst,
the test finger, the leaf released, Narcissus’ gaze . . .
The woods I had come from stood leafless.
The going had been slow, the way tangled, the light weak.
The clearing held in diorama the rock-walled well,
the man at his business and the bucket of water.
The slash of sky it framed was low and gray and swollen.
I did not stop to ask directions.
by Clark Holtzman
Editor’s Note: The narrative in this poem is strange and confusing. It raises the question, “why is he doing this thing?” But neither the reader nor the narrator has the courage to ask.