Beauty and the Beast by Joan Kantor

Beauty and the Beast

Thick with snow
the slope behind my house
rolls its whiteness down
and over a thick sheet of ice
broken only
by shimmering black
long liquid slivers
of river
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.

Thirst by Paul Ilechko

Thirst

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 Clark Holtzman

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.

From the archives – Winter Visitation by Peter Vertacnik

Winter Visitation

Although I hurry home as soon
As work is done each afternoon
(Speeding through every yellow light,
Tailgating, passing on the right),
It’s almost dusk when I arrive.
Having parked quickly in the drive,
I scan the birches in the yard
Whose branches look both iced and charred—

And empty. In the house, it’s dark
Already, calm. The birch trees’ bark
Glows through the kitchen window. Here,
Hoping they will reappear
Tonight, as they have for a week,
I sit and wait for the oblique
Descent that’s sudden but quiescent,
Wings flashing black and iridescent.

Their voices peal—discordant, keen—
While they begin to roost and preen.
They’ve been forced to these few cramped trees
(Where, for the moment, they won’t freeze)
Because some woods were felled and sold
For condos that the wealthy old
Will live in only half the year,
Leaving when autumn turns austere.

Meanwhile, the rest of us remain
As light and warmth and color wane,
Then struggle back toward spring in slow
Steps through the salted, melting snow.
These crows are now a part of this,
A presence we cannot dismiss.
One neighbor gripes, “Loud, that’s for sure.”
Another thinks they’re sinister.

To me each one seems an informant
Assuring us we’re merely dormant,
Not dead. If in the trees behind
My house they sometimes bring to mind
Hitchcock’s Birds, or the strange beaked mask
Plague doctors donned for their grim task,
The fractured music that emerges
Resembles dark airs more than dirges.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 13, 2017 — by Peter Vertacnik

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Desolation by Elaine Nadal

Desolation

Letters are written on tossed paper towels.
The trees hunch their shoulders.
Their trunks have too many carvings.
They have been stripped bare.
The fruit is gone.
There isn’t enough light for planting.
Darkness offers companionship,
an invitation to fly.
Feet hang at the edge of balconies
for even a messiah gets hungry
after forty days and forty nights.
How long must one beg for bread?
Who will build houses for birds with broken wings?
And if one must not live on bread alone,
from where does one draw water?
Proclaiming progress is hard with dry lips.
Dawn has become pale.
It wears yesterday’s clothes,
and the trees can’t bear to watch
spirits, once filled with music and dance,
become silent, returning to the ground they love,
but can no longer recognize.

by Elaine Nadal

Poet’s Note: I wrote this poem after watching a video posted by The New York Times on Saturday, January 6, concerning the mental health crisis in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. It was devastating for me to learn that many Puerto Ricans are considering suicide. They need help, and I feel helpless.

Editor’s Note: The unanswered questions and stark imagery in this poem heighten the narrator’s lack of agency.

A Tufted Titmouse Braves a Cold Spell by Martin J. Elster

A Tufted Titmouse Braves a Cold Spell

Peter-peter-peter cries my voice
echoing through the trees. Flakes fall to test
my stamina and patience. It is cold.
Tomorrow will be chillier still, fresh rime
glazing flower and fence. My whistles chime
like piccolos to pierce the stale and old
that clings as lichen to a larch. I rest
in a nest in a lifeless oak. I have no choice
but to sing and to hole up in this secondhand
woodpecker’s dimple, no alternative
but to twitter to my better half, to live
in my feathered fashion. Oh, but it is grand
and it is hard and it’s both work and play
and — peter-peter — it is cold today.

by Martin J. Elster

Editor’s Note: This sonnet is a delight to read, and one any birder would love.

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Weather, No Forecast by Christine Vovakes

Weather, No Forecast

After three dry months
a night-long rain broke through
combing the morning with wet fingers.
A slow-eyed sun rose through cloud remnants,
spread a gauzy layer over the lawn
as I walked the dog out back to the apple
and peach trees, the crevices of their pruned limbs
empty cribs March will fill with buds and nests.

Geese break the silence, a noisy skein
dipping toward the nearby river.
I’m tethered here: no wings, no tongue to taste
the wild salmon the eagle hunts.
My black lab alerts, scent of mole,
and digs deep in search.
Dirt flies. I bend down, crumble
a handful of damp soil, dank earthy smell,
summer’s rotting wildflowers
and the last of autumn’s fallen fruit–
a spoiled brew letting microbes fester;
new life looms where the earthworm wriggles.

by Christine Vovakes

Editor’s note: The personification in the first stanza captures the attention, and cradles the detailed imagery to follow.