Hidden, in our final kiss by Steven Lebow

Hidden, in our final kiss
—For Madeline S. Sable

Let all the saints there are come bless you.
May all your questions end with yes.
Let every sphinx’s riddle come back answered.
Not even one must be a guess.

May all the Hebrews there are acknowledge
the messiah made his home within your womb.
And even if it goes disputed
let them meet you at that empty tomb.

Let all the Buddhists swear you’re happy
and all the evangelicals be saved.
Until all the Moslems and the Hindus say
there’s no one left there in that common cave.

The agnostics are never sure of anything,
but the atheists claim they know.
Even when all the temples, mosques, and churches were demolished
and all their buildings decay from down below.

When all the Sikhs discard their turbans,
and all the Jews shave off their beards.
Now there is nothing that is left over
that is unknown, or even weird.

And even then, at last,
until the coming of the apocalypse.
You and I will find salvation,
hidden, in our final kiss.

by Steven Lebow

Editor’s Note: This poem alludes to much, but by the final verse, the reader understands that love is everything.

With the Current by Richard Jordan

With the Current

We’re at the Squannacook again. The trout
are stirring as my father leans against
a willow, watches dimpled rings emerge

where open mouths poke through the surface, pluck
drowning damselflies. We’ve come to choose,
perhaps simply imagine the perfect spot

to spread his ashes when he’s gone. This place
right here, he says. Yes, this place where he taught
me to cast upstream and let the river

present the fly the natural, dead-drift way.
Stay with the flow. The current feeds the trout
what arrives. A rainbow leaps. Another.

My father takes a step toward the water,
bends to dip a finger, slowly rises.
We’re not here to fish today. We left

the car in idle, steady hum reminding
us to go and do what might need doing
this bright May morning, now approaching noon.

by Richard Jordan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/richard.jordan.7106/

Editor’s Note: The subtlety of blank verse serves this poem’s beautiful imagery well, allowing the emotional backbone of the narrative to emerge slowly but surely.

Facing The Music: An acrostic sonnet by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

Facing The Music: An acrostic sonnet

From having crashed while drunk against a shop,
A driver opted to take flight, but got
Chased hard by somebody who wouldn’t stop
In hot pursuit through streets, a garden spot
Nearby, and farmers’ fields, until the chase
Got interrupted when a fence appeared.
The fugitive jumped over it, to face
His fate: A bird to whom he’s not endeared
Expressed the outrage of a threatened mom—
Malicious pecks in lieu of angry words—
Until he chose to face the music from
Some cops instead, as flight was for the birds …
If you’re intent on dodging justice, then
Choose not to hide inside an emu pen!

by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

Editor’s Note: This poem’s delightful narrative emphasizes what we all know about emus.

From the archives – Ostinato — Esther Greenleaf Mürer

Ostinato

—(byr a thoddaid)

Where is the air of yesteryear?
Where are the fields, fallow as deer?
They’re gone, gone in a whorl of brine, to burn
until the rain turns alkaline.

Where are the snows of morrowmorn?
There high up on the Matterhorn
they dance, undecided which way to fall,
point and pirouette all the day.

Where are the stars of nevernight?
You cannot know, poor anchorite
who spurn the milk of skybridges unseen
for the glare of your mean fancies.

Hope remains, like a wire-wrapped string
that sends its ground bass pulsating
under the ever-shifting harmonies
drifting on the breeze from afar.

by Esther Greenleaf Mürer

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 14, July 2009

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

She, Barkeep, to Him, Barfly by Thomas DeFreitas

She, Barkeep, to Him, Barfly

Sometimes you’d really get to me, y’know?
Fifty-cent vocab and a slacker’s gut,
you’d guzzle Newcastle ’til you browned out
on the barstool where you left a pair of cheek-prints.

Still—lavish tipper! Oh, you’d never stiff me,
but really, forty percent? Shoot, you must have
wanted me more than the dark English stout
you’d use to ease your Niles Crane love-fluster.

I gave you grief. You took it straight, no chaser,
never flinching from my ashtray trash-talk,
my moods as changeable as late October.

I miss you sometimes, kid. You weren’t a jerk.
And I know I could be a piece of work.
And hey, good luck, I heard you’re getting sober.

by Thomas DeFreitas

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

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s use of first person point of view illustrates a gritty narrative from the inside, inviting the reader into empathy without sentimentality.

Desire in the Time of Pandemic by Carole Greenfield

Desire in the Time of Pandemic

Something that I never did and now do every day
Count the hours that forever keep our lives apart
Tick them off my fingers one by one, each time I say
The only way that this will end is with a broken heart.

Count the hours that forever keep our lives apart
While our energy connection yet spells us and enchants
The only way that this will end is with a broken heart
Still we edge ever closer to the possibility of chance.

While our energy connection yet spells us and enchants
Our longing yearns across the continents and oceans
Still we edge ever closer to the possibility of chance
Reason is submerged beneath the storms of our emotions.

Our longing yearns across the continents and oceans
Before desire’s rising tide, my defenses crumble
Reason is submerged beneath the storms of our emotions
All I want to do is take you into bed and tumble.

Before desire’s rising tide, my defenses crumble
On soul and body level, we both know what we are missing
All I want to do is take you into bed and tumble
We shall spend those endless counted hours kissing.

On soul and body level, we both know what we are missing
Tick them off my fingers one by one, each time I say
We shall spend those endless counted hours kissing
Something that I never did and now do every day.

by Carole Greenfield

Editor’s Note: This lovely pantoum’s repetitive form perfectly captures the tension of love, desire, and distance.

Work Until Rain by Ed Hack

Work Until Rain

It rained as soft as loving hands at ease
as afterwards, as sapphire wings that glide
the light-filled air in summer’s sweet release
that offers stricken hearts a gentle guide.
I’d worked until the sky turned dirty gray,
the forecast was correct, then air turned spice,
perfume of heat, macadam, rain—the day
a brew I deeply sniffed, a sudden prize
as unexpected, calming, as loved eyes.
I put my tools away, vac’d saw dust from
the floor, then sat in the garage, surprised
in part the way what is at bottom stuns,
and watched, breathed in the honeyed scent of rain,
and tired and satisfied, I was sustained.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s unexpected pivot from stately philosophy to concrete images mirrors the emotion the speaker feels when one suddenly swims up from work to find the world perfectly beautiful.

The Landscapes of our Bodies by Julia Klatt Singer

The Landscapes of our Bodies

Green covers anything stone sky or dirt it can take hold of. Only the clear water moves quick enough to keep it from taking root in it too—although from here, from the bridge, we see the greens reflected in it, swimming swiftly down to the bend—a curve like a woman’s hip—and another that takes it out of our view. I remember standing near my mother, how she’d talk and laugh, laugh and talk, and how the material of her skirt, cool and cotton, beckoned me to slip under. Standing with her legs, I felt like I’d enter a forest world all my own. How old was I? One and a half? Two? It hadn’t been that long since I’d left the world of her body. You tell me this is your landscape, this oak and grass and wildflower dotted rolling hill terrain. Black raspberries. Sumac. Mullen. Thistle. Ash. Somewhere a stream that leads to a river that leads to a bigger river that leads to a sea. Somewhere toads hatch and crayfish hunt. You pluck a black walnut, hold its hard green body to my nose. It smells astringent, like something my mother used to clean. I remember the smell of her blood. How she left a pool of it on the kitchen floor. Even after it’s been cleaned up, I picture the thin line, like the outline of a new continent, on the parquet floor. I lean against the iron railing, I lean against you. You smell like wood, something hard and true. Its been thirteen years and still it feels so new. I remember her favorite color was green.

by Julia Klatt Singer

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julia.k.singer/

Editor’s Note: The imagery in this prose poem slowly creates an emotional landscape that starts with the world outside, and ends with the indelible ties that bind us together within ourselves.

One Piece at a Time by David Stephenson

One Piece at a Time

It starts with little things you hardly miss,
taken while you look the other way,
and every year there’s just a little less,

as when a steady, unobtrusive hiss
continually drains air or steam away.
The little things are easy to dismiss

as you are out attending to business,
focused on collecting your day’s pay,
and though you see each year there’s less and less

you’re confident it can’t go on like this,
that someone will step in and save the day
and bring back all the little things you miss—

but you have mis-assessed the whole process,
the things in motion, the advanced decay.
With every year you’ll learn to live with less

until you’re frog-marched into the abyss,
and as the light fades you’ll hear others say
It started with some things we hardly missed
and suddenly we find there’s nothing left.

by David Stephenson

Editor’s Note: The villanelle form lends itself beautifully to this poem’s central theme of slow erosion.

Shark Facts by Charles Weld

Shark Facts

I’m being quizzed by a nine-year-old about p.s.i.,
how the pounds per square inch of a Bull Sharks’ bite
compare to the jaw’s pressure of a Great White
Shark. I guess one hundred, and get an amused sigh
which means I’m way off. “Higher”, he says, as I go
up in increments, a little too halting and slow
for his liking. “Higher,” he urges, then impatiently
gives me the answer. Six hundred plus for the Great
White, a thousand or more for the Bull. After that, he
begins to ask about each animal’s length and weight.
And I think of Thoreau’s sentence—Let us not underrate
the value of a fact—that he wrote in an early book review,
each, a surveyor’s stake, put down to help us arbitrate
the vastness, and, with some luck, find our way through.

by Charles Weld

Editor’s Note: This sonnet somehow manages to capture the curiosity of a child while also paying homage to an adult’s need for order. By the end, the reader remembers to enjoy the wonder that some facts offer.