Abiding Winter by Risa Denenberg

Abiding Winter

How we made it through another winter
is not the question. It’s not even an answer
since one of us was left behind in winter.

In Spring, in buoyancy, you asked a question.
Cups stood their ground between us, tea and coffee.
You wished to be the answer to your question.

If winter comes again and yet another,
a darkling season full of melancholy. The yanking
of my soul back to its gutter, that other

place where questions have no answers,
and answers only placate. It takes rafters
of steadfast faith, or mettle, to seek answers.

Truth is brutal. So much we can’t recover,
years I’ve begged for you to wait for Spring to bloom,
living in despair beside each other, and another

stormy season while we tussle for an answer
that is a coda to the sum of all of life’s bother.
I’ve learned to hold my tongue, to question
nothing. Questions are another sort of winter.

by Risa Denenberg

Guest Editor’s Note: The sonics, especially the consonance, create a pleasing effect when we hear this one.  In no small part to the final line, this may be the best villanelle we’ll see this year.

Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.

Wings of Pain by Arjun Dahal

Wings of Pain

Rooted memories, Slumberless brain
Insomniac hours, profound insanity.
The curse it’s casted in my veins,
Yes, I can bleed till the eternity.

Insomniac hours, profound insanity.
Soberness, bold and strong it reigns.
Yes, I can bleed till the eternity,
For all these years, inked in your name.

Soberness, bold and strong, it reigns.
Surreal day dreams and the hurling rain.
For all these years, inked in your name,
Now at bliss, flying with the wings of pain.

Surreal day dreams, and the hurling rain,
Sorry Angels, I don’t wanna go home.
Now at bliss, flying with the wings of pain
The attempt though vain, but I can’t leave her alone.

Sorry Angels, I don’t wanna go home,
Insomniac hours, profound insanity.
The attempt though vain, but I can’t leave her alone,
Yes, I can bleed till the eternity.

by Arjun Dahal

Guest Editor’s Note: The glose (or “glosa”) is a difficult Spanish form: a “cabeza” or “head” stanza from which a line will be taken in all subsequent (“texte”) stanzas. The abstractions and inversions could be jarring to a modern audience but may be entirely appropriate here.

Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.

March by Richard Meyer


The woods exhale a mist,
hillsides catch the sun.
Beneath its pitted crust
a creek begins to run.

Along a drifted hedge
girdled branches show
where hungry rabbits fed
when it was twelve below.

On top the backyard shed
a ridge of tattered snow
dissolves around its edge
and takes the melting slow.

The brittle sheet of ice
puddled beneath a spout
thaws and freezes twice
before the weekend’s out.

Naked trees cast down
a tracery of shade
across a patchwork yard
mottled white and brown.

The ground is working hard
to come back from the dead
and soften for the spade
that turns a garden bed.

by Richard Meyer, first published in Orbital Paths.

Guest Editor’s Note: It is difficult to manage delicacy in iambic trimeter, but Richard has done so here. The assonance is playful, especially the long “ee” sounds in each line of the fourth stanza.

Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.

Vultures by Laura Rutland


We come—the vultures of old houses—
Circling through grass and knee-high clouds of weed
To stare with eyes jeweled in vulture greed
Upon a corpse of battered rotten wood.
We tear at nails with the talons of our hands
And gorge our pockets with their rusty shapes.
You taste the woodwork, I sample the stairs,
While another simply waits—expectant—stands
Before a half-dead row of cedars that
Mark an already buried path. They will speak,
We say, if wind blows. Reluctant vultures,
Hungry for a trace of wind, the faintest creak
Of wooden voice or moan. And these dead walls,
Oppressed by breathless wind and vulture calls.

by Laura Rutland

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Editor’s note: This sonnet uses anthropomorphism to illustrate the decay of human endeavor.

From the archives – Spring Will Leave You Behind by Martin J. Elster

Spring Will Leave You Behind

The thaw has drawn the robins, ravenous, eager
for things that creep, while terra firma teases
with wafts of geosmin, hints of the hocus-pocus
that brought the thundershower, woke the crocus,
and coaxed the chorus frogs to call, which breezes
convey like news. They’ve lived through winter’s meager

provisions, trilling the nip out of their blood.
A cattail pond I walk by every day,
already stirs with cyan, orange, gold
and reddish shapes. Your hypothermic hold
diminishes with each and every ray
that touches fur and feather, flower and bud.

I watch a balancing act above as chill
as were your rime-caked eyes: a soaring hawk,
its wings as motionless as your emotions,
scans the fields for mice. No magic potions
will bring you back. You’ve vanished in the talk
of the towhee and the whistling whip-poor-will.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 23, 2016 — by Martin J. Elster

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – A Violin at Dusk by Lizette Woodworth Reese

A Violin at Dusk

Stumble to silence, all you uneasy things,
That pack the day with bluster and with fret.
For here is music at each window set;
Here is a cup which drips with all the springs
That ever bud a cowslip flower; a roof
To shelter till the argent weathers break;
A candle with enough of light to make
My courage bright against each dark reproof.
A hand’s width of clear gold, unraveled out
The rosy sky, the little moon appears;
As they were splashed upon the paling red,
Vast, blurred, the village poplars lift about.
I think of young, lost things: of lilacs; tears;
I think of an old neighbor, long since dead.

by Lizette Woodworth Reese (1856-1935)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Reading the Sky by Peg Duthie

Reading the Sky

for Mary Alexandra Agner

To seek eclipses–to prize things in the way,
the partial views and full-bore speculation
about what transits mean, what they mean to say

and whether to put stock in such a day
thick with pseudo-expert conversation–
is that what we yearn for, when we weigh

sunshine vs. frost, leaven stubborn clay
with compost and peat? Will germination
greet us before we’re ready? Who can say

they haven’t taken shortcuts, tried to stay
time’s ruthless march toward annihilation,
and learned that even when there’s will, the way

is sometimes not to be? But one can sway
and strut through shadows too. The rotation
of the earth can be measured, scholars say,

by notes on BCE eclipses. May
there be more data, more observation,
stamina past slurs, high roads past “My Way”-

riddled swamps. When I lay me down to pray,
“Deliver us, Lord, from obfuscation,”
it’s shorthand for a list as long as day.

I long for happy endings–that to pay
one’s dues pans out, that skilled navigation
will steer us out of darkness, lead the way
to answers true as stars, that save the day.

by Peg Duthie

Editor’s Note: This is a quasinelle (fortunately, the poet tells me these things, because I had not heard of this form). This poem’s repetition is skillfully handled, leading the reader through the poem instead of into dead ends.