From the archives – Walking Is Good and Other Things We Tell Ourselves — Luke Evans

Walking Is Good and Other Things We Tell Ourselves

The edge of the asphalt is cracked and crumbling
where he steps on the painted white line, blessing
the wheat and thistle with outstretched palm.

Boys in a car hoot and holler, but he does not
flinch. He envisions leaping onto their trunk, ripping
the door open, and throwing each one into a tree.

A gray finch lies on the roadway. He bumps it
with his shoe. It is like a toy. Its feathers are still soft,
its eyes black with a crystal glint. There is no blood.

He stands in the archway of a mausoleum, presses his ear
to the stone door. A draft whispers secrets of the dead
to the corn spider wrapping a beetle in a silk cocoon.

He sits in the shade of a pine along a cemetery road
thinking about deer ticks and how itchy the grass is
and scrambles away when a car crunches down the lane.

A padlock key lies along the curb. He rolls it
through his fingers, tosses it into the gutter, revels
in the clinks off the grate and the sploosh of the water.

Puffs of clouds court the horizon; he is surrounded.
Unseen space and flighty wisps lord over him
as the sun continues its ceaseless interrogation.

He plucks the head off a wildflower between his knuckles.
It is a giant white ring on his finger, a thousand tiny
blossoms he never could make. He twirls it and twirls it.

A rabbit picks at the gravel before him. It stops as he crunches
closer, perks up. They stare each other down.
It is frozen; he draws closer; its ears twitch; his lips part.

It, too, runs away.

by Luke Evans

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 18, July 2010

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

We All Rise Eventually by James Diaz

We All Rise Eventually

Everything that matters
comes at you
a little bit at a time
so much rain on a windshield
so much mud on a shoe
no shortcuts
no easy-through
the pain is baked in

And I want to say it’s better that way
but I’m on my knees
and it hurts to breathe
and even still
there are miles calling out to me
more to go
and well, you know
how it is

you think you can’t
but you do

I don’t know about you
but I’ll take it how it lays
and I’ll kick it on up the road
me and mine
and all of the awful is a kinda wonder
in someone’s eyes
I suppose
if you can’t see the glory in stumbling
than the ride you’re on is riding you
things’ll turn around in the dark
in ways you can’t put your hands to

time is that friend who tells no lies
tonight, it’s mirror fight
against the dying light
and try as you might
it’s all there in the skin
written in, stories of pain
songs of shifting road and god is good
I doubt it
but I don’t doubt this:
we’re hard to please even when it’s easy

I’m on my knees tonight
but I’ll rise
and ain’t it always a surprise
how you rise
when you feel wedded to the floor

I’ll take this one wild ride as long as it goes
till I run out of road
and even then, hell, who knows:
maybe dying is just a beginning again.

Again.
Play it again;
right into the ground.
Things turn around.
And you will too. In wonder.
In wonder.

by James Diaz

Twitter: @diaz_james

Editor’s Note: This conversational poem seems deceptively simple, but it mirrors the complexity of life, and more importantly, how important and difficult it can be to choose to live.

House of Women by Sydney Lea

House of Women

All he calls back from the last of the War are cameos.
He’s barely three, and the house all women—mother and grandma,
cousins and aunts and friends, the husbands in Europe or Asia,
in something the women keep calling a theatre. There’s theatre at home,
.. . . . . .he believes. But how can he know it, theatre,
having never seen play nor film, the great drug TV unheard of?
He crouches in the kneehole, curtained, of Aunt Fay’s vanity table

While nightly she daubs on makeup, although it isn’t makeup
that makes her a beautiful woman. With a flourish, he parts the cloth
and the show begins: she’s lovely, despite the polio-withered
leg that makes her lurch so dramatically. The lurch—
.. . . . . .it’s part of the beauty. All done, she sighs.
She kills the light and lights a smoke: a Lucky Strike,
though he can’t say how he knows that. She puffs and sighs and puffs

Some more and sighs. She must miss the deadbeat Uncle Nick,
who isn’t yet that, the deadbeat, but cruises somewhere in a ship.
The boy doesn’t care. Their daughter Nancy’s a grownup, fourteen,
and flirts with him, though he surely can’t know that word either,
.. . . . . .kisses just sweets from the stores of the women,
inexhaustible, warm. Sun stands low, theatrically so,
on the roof of the Farnums’ house next-door when he appears,

Strapping stranger in khaki, with nerve enough to scamper
up the drive toward the house as though somehow he owned it.
The child is standing watch at an upstairs window, in shock,
the end of a world lying near. He is sick with terror and anger.
.. . . . . .Meanwhile the high-heeled shoes of his mother
avalanche downstairs despite his howls, the impostor
lifting her, swinging her round and round, till earth must seem

Distant to her as a star. His own days of stardom are over.

by Sydney Lea

Editor’s Note: This complex poem flirts with two points of view—the child and the omniscient narrator—which describe an emotional landscape of war and theatre and childhood and how relationships function within these difficult situations.

Sonnet for Olivia by Diane Elayne Dees

Sonnet for Olivia

Your voice was crystal—vintage, not too polished;
it traveled like a current to my heart,
and sometimes left me smiling and astonished,
or fighting tears. Yours was a special art—
a marriage of simplicity and emotion,
that conveyed your love for every living thing;
it filtered through the vastness of the ocean
as a promise we would hear the dolphins sing.
You declared that optimism was a choice,
then you chose it. And so every time you spoke,
your courage was the high note in your voice
that dispensed the gifts of fortitude and hope.
You held on to the end, as you intended;
your time on Earth was nothing short of splendid.

by Diane Elayne Dees

Twitter: @WomenWhoServe

Editor’s Note: This lovely sonnet is a beautiful elegy for hope in the midst of loss.

The Floral Guests by Irena Pasvinter


The Floral Guests

The blossoms flew upon the wind
and landed all around:
a few got caught among the leaves,
some finished on the ground
and, trampled by the passers-by,
they were pink no more;
but others reached the balconies,
a couple for each floor.

A cleaning lady wiped them off,
without a second thought.
A child marveled at the blooms,
then tore the pinkish lot.
A man with dying cigarette
searched for the guilty tree,
and an old woman softly said,
“You’re withered, just like me”.

It was young mother, rushing through
another crazy day,
who smiled at the floral guests
before they flew away.

by Irena Pasvinter, first appeared in Ariel Chart

Editor’s Note: This sweet poem is enhanced by the meter and rhyme, and just what is needed to clear the mind after reading too many dire headlines.

Interpretation by Eric T. Racher

Interpretation
All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full—but whence poureth out Man?
—Rashi, Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1.7

The wood stooped at the edge of the pond,
and I bent down to glance beneath the glare.
I poked in a stick to stir up muck,
and see what might be lurking there—
a spotted newt, a minnow or two,
a yearling painted turtle that slipped
among the pondweed and was gone.
I smile to remember what I thought then—
that my mind was like that pond:
still, small, and fed by rain and unknown springs,
all clogged with dross accumulated
through the years, and rank with weeds.
I looked up and saw a buck step out of the woods.
He stopped, and sniffed the air.
He neither smelled nor saw me, it appeared,
but he paused, a bit, perhaps unsure,
then walked up to the water’s edge,
bent down to drink,
and I stood still and watched him.
As a child I sat upon this bank
and fished for bluegill and pumpkinseed,
dreaming of pike and largemouth bass
that lurked, so I fancied, beneath the lily pads.
Each spring the pond grew smaller.
I left it there and went about my days.
Years later, when I returned,
the image in my mind had overcome the pond.
I did not know the pond, I knew the image.
The image was not the pond. The image sang;
the pond stood still and was.
The pond reflected me—my eye,
fixed upon that vacancy, was stunned.
The mind dances upon the brain;
that dance sustains our love,
loss, plenitude, desire, despair.
The eye rebels at the sun’s reflection,
rejects that brute and lucid glare.
The mind cannot endure this blank face,
and broods upon the world it fills
with desperate significance.
The movements of the buck possessed a grace
like a harpsichord or ’cello playing Bach,
a resonant voice reading Greek hexameters,
yet less translatable than either one
because its form is alien to us,
wholly independent of the human mind;
yet somehow it is part of what we are.
The buck continued drinking with a royal air,
and then he raised his head, still unperturbed,
and fixed the darkness of his eye on me.
Relentlessly he stared,
as if the blank, unmeaning sea
he sensed in me had dared disturb
the stillness of his being,
and then he turned and walked into the trees.

by Eric T. Racher, from Five Functions Defined on Experience

Twitter: @Eric_Racher

Editor’s Note: This beautiful ode’s subtle meter and rhyme never overwhelm, allowing the reader to absorb the imagery and the message with ease and grace.

From the archives – our lady of perpetual contusions — Nielle Norton Buswell

our lady of perpetual contusions

we couldn’t figure out what she saw in him:
slope-shouldered, slope-hoped,
those hands that hung loose from thick arms,
huge but soft, like loaves of bread but heavy
like something unsaid and sometimes
you’d see them catch and lock in fists
when he looked at her too long, got caught.

and the way he looked at her—
like a man held two inches under
the water’s surface. trouble.

she was maybe lonely, no matter
how busy we kept her, that mind of hers
off fishing, her body sipping coffee
or under a hair dryer or trying on shoes
while her mind floated on hazardous currents
bobbing and drifting downstream.

so they married. a beautiful cake, sugar roses
and ribbons that flowed down the columns.
on top, a bell, a pair of birds.

we watched her reflexes improve.
sometimes her eyes weren’t eyes
but shadows, fast shadows outrunning
what might be a memory. her arms
broke out in fingerprints, every day
she grew more opaque. eight years later
when whatever was in him gave out,

the burial shocked her back to earth, to us.
what was it, what of him was love we had to know.
his hands, her voice sank low, oh, those hands of his.

by Nielle Norton Buswell

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 18, July 2010

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Steamed Bread by Zhihua Wang

Steamed Bread

I inherited it, and injected my ideal of creating splendid bread:
water, wheat flour, yeast, cage-free eggs, no sugar added bread.

Mix the ingredients, I can’t wait to see the dough rise. Crush
it, it grows again. Do I expect more than my humbled bread?

Knead it by my hands, divide it, roll it, shape it like a flower
or stuff it with bean paste, set it aside to prove rounded bread.

Put them in the steamer. Vapor expands the numerous beehives
inside to full size. Time & temperature are key to grand bread.

Gaze at them with amore, feel their warm, moist, and dappled skin,
break one, send it to my mouth. Oh, elastic, chewy, revered bread.

Like being a chef, Zhihua? Yes! This augmenting process is more than
healing. If you ask me and steamed bread who lasts, steamed bread.

by Zhihua Wang

Editor’s Note: An inherited bread starter is a most precious commodity, and this ghazal is an ode to both family and deliciousness.