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

Spring Fires by Hilary Biehl

Spring Fires

I am driving home from the mall with my son in tow.
It’s 3 PM. I’ve turned my headlights on.
Everyone else has, too. Where there should be sun
and clouds moving over a face of abyssal blue

there is only an orange smudge, immense and near,
as if a feverish hand had tried to blot
some indiscretion but managed instead to coat
the sky with an eerie grime of regretful fear.

The smoke is apocalyptic. My son coughs
and I reach for his inhaler. I’m grateful we still
have a home to drive to; I try not to add “until.”
I try not to let my thoughts go to bleaching reefs

and nuclear weapons. Find the apartment key.
Open the door. Put the groceries away. Wash up.
And the molten glitter I wash with leaves the tap
in cool abundance, as if it might never run dry.

by Hilary Biehl

Editor’s Note: The slant rhymes in this poem highlight the juxtaposition of gratitude and disaster felt by the speaker by keeping the reader always slightly off-keel.

Crowded Cambridge Buses by Thomas DeFreitas

Crowded Cambridge Buses

I won’t sing a winsome ballad,
As my strings are all unstrung;
I’ll forsake my merry mischief:
You were taken far too young.

I won’t swim the English Channel;
I won’t climb McKinley’s peak—
Since you died, my hopes are rubble:
I’ve been crying for a week.

I won’t lift a glass of Guinness;
I’ll abstain from Maker’s Mark:
I’ll put down the gin martini
(No more cocktails after dark).

How I’ve searched for you in churches!
But despite my anguished prayer,
All I see are sculpted angels:
I can’t find you anywhere.

August will collapse to autumn
With its nights of killing frost:
Faith would say that God has gained you;
I will weep for what I’ve lost.

Now I stumble through a city
Where the trace and trail of you
Evanesce to cherished memories
In my heart so bruised and blue.

You were sunlight, you were fire,
You were Holy Eucharist:
You were Irish Catholic Boston;
Yours, the blush-bright cheek I kissed.

In the spring, you had a backache,
Then they told you what it was,
And it stole you in the summer:
I ask why; there’s no because.

I can’t rouse you from your coffin;
I can’t raise you from the dust:
I can’t get your stopped pulse beating;
I protest because I must.

Can’t you call me up or text me,
Speak some solace through the phone?
I ride crowded Cambridge buses,
But I’m horribly alone.

by Thomas DeFreitas

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dylan0618/
Instagram: @thomasdef1969

Editor’s Note: This beautifully written lament emphasizes the bluesy grief of the speaker with its melancholy rhythm (trochaic tetrameter). 

Advice from a Bat by Michael T. Young

Advice from a Bat

Hunt only at night. Fly erratically.
Defy even your own expectations.
Feed on beetles, moths, and mosquitoes,
whatever is small and annoying.
Cultivate the myths about you
until every predator fears your legend.
When hunting, be guided by a language
only you can hear. The same is true
when courting the one you love.
Clean fangs and fur nightly. Crawl
or climb to confuse the observant.
Retreat to a cave no one believes in.
Let the day and the world pass
while you sleep, and sleep upside down,
ready to wake and fall into flight.

by Michael T. Young

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michael.t.young.180/
Twitter: @miketoddyoung
Instagram: @miketyoung

Editor’s Note: This delightful poem teaches the reader the wisdom a bat already knows.

In the Bakery by Carole Greenfield

In the Bakery

Sienna-skinned, she waits on us,
patient behind glass, silver trays
balancing cakes, pies, a fragrancy of cinnamon
spiking the close air.

Behind her, hollows in the wall,
dug-out shelves of adobe
painted white and dark with bread,
loaf on loaf stacked above her head,
her hair the nut-brown of crust.

My father is troubled by verbs.
He points at what he wants,
a crumble-topped cake shaped like a color wheel
shading buttercup to maple. It’s his favorite.
She knows from months of Sundays
and smiles, wrapping.

‘Anything more?’ she asks politely, her syllables
slowed for him. He nods.
‘Two of bread,’ he answers, and I love him
for his firm awkwardness.
She twists her body carefully,
as if she were trying to protect it,
and searches the depths of the loaf-homes,
shelf on shelf of variegated breads, wheat and rye
and other grains whose names I haven’t tasted.
‘Light or dark?’ she says to my father, but her words
sift past the mes of his limited vocabulary
and he stands on the floor, helpless and smiling,
clutching his cake.

Before I can lean up and whisper,
she strains across the counter.
The smells of yeast and sugar seep out from her creases
as her fingers touch my hair. ‘Like this?’
and then, retreating, taps her own crown,
shining walnut in the dim interior. ‘Or like this.’

My father’s heavy eyelids lift. He stares at the woman
whose face is lighted in reds and browns,
covers my head with a weight that cups
my skull and soothes, and smooths.
‘Like this,’ he tells us. ‘Like this.’

by Carole Greenfield

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem offers the reader the resilience of love over time and the kindness of strangers as we navigate our often difficult world.

The Optimist by Robert Fillman

The Optimist

My wife’s fuzzy socks might
have freckles. Some are pink
or gray from heel to toe.
Others are striped. When she
peels them off her sweating
feet and tosses them on
the floor beside the bed
in the middle of night
I am always asleep.
But every morning while
I am making the bed
I find them lying there
together, and I smile.
I can hear her downstairs
laughing with the children,
and I’ll pick up the pair,
twirl it limp in my hand,
then rub my thumb across
a ribbed elastic cuff
before dropping them in
the hamper. I never
know if I’m supposed to.
They always smell so fresh.

by Robert Fillman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robb.fillman/

Editor’s Note: This syllabic poem cracks a window for the reader to peer into an ordinary life, yet the surprising last line and title reminds us that what is ordinary is also often extraordinary.

From the archives – Poetics in the Season of Migration — James Owens

Foggy farm field with barely visible pine tree in the distance.

Poetics in the Season of Migration

After fog, the sun unhitches geese
from the gleaned-over stubble-ground
where they have huddled through the night.

They rise now, clumsy, angling up
to blue, above the planet’s shade,
the mist and morning slurred with calls.

How apologize for poetry?
For how it fails the flock’s long pull
against the heaviness of Earth,

against wind, the mortal shear
of entropy that scatters form?
Their one, blared note sums up a year,

but words falter and trip, waste breath,
lose the smell of dirt or rain,
the wings once more climbing sunlight.

Such a long work, waiting to hear
that hard, scraping honk as song….
No longer clumsy, the geese order

and wheel, squared-off and cutting south,
stars intuited along the way,
written tight into their wedge, and gone.

by James Owens

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 21, July 2011

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim