Voices of desert ghosts by Ginny Short

Voices of desert ghosts

It frets, it spins, it howls, it moans,
and as it calls, it slips, it stalls,
drops paper bits and dusty sand—
lost castoffs on my windowsills.

It fills up holes and covers dogs
barking anxious at the bleats
and creaks of swingsets in the dark,
and blankets lawns and garden seats.

It’s born, then dies, and then reborn,
and picking up anew with leaves
with flowers clutched in ghostly hands,
it dies and drops them and retrieves,

then madly whirls down alleyways
and skitters pebbles past the wall
where old folks sit and children play,
and strains of latin music call—

that on a calmer night might drift
from roof to roof through open doors—
tonight runs counterpoint and soft
to that discordant, windy score.

by Ginny Short

Editor’s Note: The personification of the wind in this poem creates a moving tableau of imagery via rhyme and repetition.

Rubbernecking by Coleman Glenn

Rubbernecking

Beyond the median, a crumpled frame,
Police lights, acrid smoke. So now it’s clear
Why two miles back the interstate became
A shuffling carpet queued for a premiere.
I try to keep my gaze ahead; with luck,
Delays like this will soon be obsolete,
When cruise control ensures each car and truck
Can keep its steady progress down the street,
Immune to horror’s all-too-human hold
On those who cannot help but slow and see;
Creating distance, comforting and cold,
From the appalling possibility
That vehicles on both sides of the line
Contain, in fragile flesh, lives just like mine.

by Coleman Glenn

Twitter: @colemanglenn

Editor’s Note: This sonnet captures the moment of realization where mortality and curiosity mingle together uncomfortably.

From the archives – Madison Square Tableau — Joseph Harker

Madison Square Tableau
—(a helix sestina)

And here’s Fifth Avenue on a Friday: hollow,
rings like a church bell of bone. Pumps-and-skirt ladies
weaving with Japanese tourists and boys with stains
on their knees, the drifter calling out, Please, please,
with a cup full of quarters and dreams. Who can tell
one face from another? There isn’t any sun

ringing the towers with light. This tourist, with his son
on his shoulders, lifts his camera, a long hollow
one. He snaps the Flatiron, heads for Gershwin Hotel,
with hipster trainees past his feet, here to lay these
weavings on a quilt and shout, Art For Sale. Their pleas
and craftwork move no one. Passing taxis leave stains

on the sidewalk. The day wears on, trades disdains
with disappointments, the slow fathomless waltz un-
ending, and always the drifter’s calls of Please, please,
weave in the crowd. Nobody stops to say hello.
One drops a dime: fixed-gaze woman, Midtown lady,
ring on her finger. Art For Sale. One could foretell

with certainty her path: recon, business intel,
weaving through the land of Silk and Money. What stains
ring the soul of such a proper face? The lady’s
one of those who crowns herself with the midday sun
and thinks nothing of the moon. Polishes her halo
on her sleeve. Stalks away. She has no time for pleas,

weaving as quickly as that. Art for Sale. Please, please.
One boy passes, pink mohawk, post-punk (you can tell),
on Broadway. Snags some fags: ten bucks and a hallo,
and peels back the cellophane. He’s got nicotine stains
ringing in his teeth: but knows how to catch the sun
with his hands, knows how to reach up, pull down, lay the

one next to the other, quiets the hipster ladies
and shakes the gold Indian-head box. He whispers please
with a lover’s deepness. Cellophane glints with sun
rings, sun pools, sun eddies, breaks the sky: go and tell
on the mountains, hills, penthouse floors, here the cloud stains
weaving the Earth were bleached away. For a hollow

minute, the ladies paused on the pavement, and sun
knew city, stained its weaves against that hallow face,
ringed with one forever light. Tell it true. Please. Please.

by Joseph Harker

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 22, July 2011

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Patient by Melanie Bettinelli

Patient

Be patient as the pines are patient
perching on the headland, staring over the sea
at the white sails.

The birds fly away,
the boats sail away,
the waves draw away and away and away
leaving the pines behind.

They lift their silent arms
and sigh.

by Melanie Bettinelli

Painting: Pines by the Sea, 1912 by Bertha Boynton Lum

Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic poem personifies the emotional impact of the painting with skillful repetition and spare lines.

After the Storm by Stephen Bunch

After the Storm

Silence.

Then dark stains bloom on the wallpaper
around the windows.
Through the clouded pane of the kitchen door
a changed world—
water running down the alley,
hailstones collected in low places,
garden mud beaten to a froth,
poppies tossed like salad greens,
fruited tops of tomato plants
broken, bent
to the wind’s geometry.
Battered onions fill the air with their sighs.

Silence.

And now, tonight,
after the storm,
rising from the heavy grass,
the first fireflies of summer.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: The space and imagery in this poem drive home both the destructive power of a storm, and the sweet, quiet aftermath.

Inhabiting an Ant by Sarah Dickenson Snyder

Inhabiting an Ant
—after Ross Gay

The hunger of it,
the grip, even when
it is upside down.
The smallness,
the finding of an opening
in a box of sugar, that endless sweetness
and in this way I feel fine
when it slips unhit into darkness
between the counter and stove,
and in this way we survive
side by side my hand silenced
as I watch another find its way
up the steep wall
of the smooth ceramic sink,
climb with an ease
I wanted in Patagonia,
my backpack snug
against my body,
my poles a part of my arms
scaling rocky inclines,
moving in unimaginable beauty
so far from this kitchen,
in unbroken land
skirting turquoise lakes
under clouds collecting
like a partition above.
Wind everywhere.

by Sarah Dickenson Snyder

Intstagram: @sarahdickensonsnyder

Editor’s Note: The opening line of this poem immediately pulls the reader into a journey of epic proportions where every moment leads one step higher, until the final line rewards the reader with everything.

Life Goals by Kim Ports Parsons

Life Goals

To see, the way a coneflower sees
a carpenter bee, vibrating with hunger
and need. To need, the way a stone requires
rain, wind, time, and gravity’s pull.
To pull, the way a birch pulls from its core
without practice or instruction, bends to
grass with grace, forgiving the wind’s trespasses.
To forgive and hold firm, as the goldfinch
on the thin, swaying stalk of millet in March.
To shine as this same finch when summer comes,
flashing sun on broken glass, loop of golden air.
To hear, the way the mole hears, through every hair,
the next shining moment of the underground day,
a lighthouse made of sound, life at the root.

by Kim Ports Parsons

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kim.parsons.522/

Editor’s Note: This poem’s clear imagery welcomes the reader into optimism while the title hints of how difficult such an intention can be.

Rich Strike by Ed Ruzicka

Rich Strike
—for Nancy Von-Brock

Mine eyes deceived me, mine.
I thought that was the 2 horse
that came flashing forward,
legs like pistons firing three
times for each two the other
horses’ struck. I was, we were,
after all, before all, drunko, drunkas,
drunkat, drunkamus, drukatis, drunkant
on Nancy Von’s uncle’s recipe
handed down for generations
from Todd County, Kentuck—
the recipe that calls for bourbon,
mint, bourbon, sugar, bourbon,
shivers of ice, bourbon, mint, bourbon.

I look closer, me, with zero,
looped-out eyes, me. It’s number 21.
No way. Who the frog is this?
What is that glorious bay so lit up on
that he goes a-nipping at the stable horse’s
long-cabled neck? Is this irritation,
thrill, anxiety or high-jinx?

What a stamp, what a finish, what a period
at the end of a drunko, drunkamus day.
All those tons of top-dollar horse flesh
done in, limp & ragged without riches,
succumb to the furious thunder of nobody
who rode, do-dah-day, into Derby history.
Who bet the bay, Mattress Mack? Who bet the bay?

Oh my God, that indelible sable-dark stallion
whose eyes mine eyes fell into
like I was set to pull a parachute cord
in a night-wind tumble, drifted back to Show

and I can feel the wind that jockeys with skin
as taut and electric as their mount’s hides
feel as they press into stirrups in the stretch,
thorough-bred’s endless necks stuck out,
tornadoes of dirt flung backwards.
a hundred thousand tickets blow off
in the long, wind of twenty ponies
lathered up and pounding.

by Ed Ruzicka

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem’s repetition and word play rollicks into exhilaration as both the speaker and horse race towards the last line.

Its Part by Ed Hack

Its Part

The trees await the wind, the grass the light
and shadows that it brings, the sky, the birds’
swift, acrobatic flights, and we the bright
attention of our love before a word
is said. On coldest days of ice and snow,
the world a hermitage of winter rest,
when trees strip down to bone and rivers slow,
love has made a freezing room a nest.
And here it is, at last, the spring, though sun
is fickle as a doubting mind. Yet blue,
the soul’s sweet cloak, has now at last begun
to show up almost every day, renew
our spirit’s hope, the veteran old heart’s
deep dream that love will always play its part.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: Sonnets come in many flavors, but this poem’s classic ode to both love and the seasons will soothe even the most jaded of readers.

From the archives – The Big Bang — Elizabeth H. Barbato

Night sky picture of constellation Orion.

The Big Bang
for Jess, Emma, & Lila—when they were twelve

Before there was Light,
God snapped fingers
and almost without music
muscled the world into being.
Some people call this
the Big Bang.
It’s not much of a name,
when you think about it.
Perhaps the scientists tried
with their scientist brains
to come up with something,
well, perhaps more mellifluous.
Or at least with a more sophisticated
vocabulary. Maybe, after sweating
for hours in the lab, they called up
their poet friends, drunk on knowledge.
Give us a name for the beginning,
they slurred. But the poets,
knowing there can be only One
Logos, carefully hung up.
They changed the messages
on their answering machines—
“Gone Fishing,” or “See you real soon!”
chirped their voices on the scratchy tapes.
And they fled the country that night
as Fritz Lang, the director, had years ago
when Hitler, after having seen
his masterpiece Metropolis,
sent men to his door to haul him
into service for the Fuhrer.
I could call that a Little Bang,
that type of resistance, the artist
leaving his home and all his possessions
behind to chase safety into the outer dark.
But here, in the secret Atlantis
of the poets, Fritz is safe, as is anyone
who wonders what God called the event.

by Elizabeth H. Barbato

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 10, June 2008

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim