Bewildered by Susan McLean

Bewildered

The lilacs are confused. They don’t remember:
has winter come and gone now? No, a drought
has crisped their leaves like piecrust. Some, in doubt,
hold out flambeaux of blossom in September.

Their swoony fragrance pierces like remorse.
Did we not let them frizzle in the sun?
And now they’ve come deliriously undone,
throwing bouquets out as a last recourse.

The bees, too, seem bedazzled. A fall swarm
has settled on our pine. To leave their hive
this late means they’re unlikely to survive
the winter. Hurriedly, while it’s still warm,

we call a beekeeper, who nabs their queen
and lures them to a nucleus box. He’ll bring
it home and feed them sugar till next spring.
They’d die if someone didn’t intervene.

And us? The patterns change and we’re dismayed.
As glaciers melt, lakes dry, and species die,
we flinch and look away from reasons why,
trapped in a minefield we ourselves have laid.

by Susan McLean

Editor’s Note: This poem is an interesting blend of beautiful imagery and sonics and grim narrative. It’s odd how humans can create such beauty amidst destruction.

When Noise Annoys by Kevin Ahern

When Noise Annoys

A pesky mouse
Inside the house
Resides within my wall

It bumps all night
When out of sight
And rumbles down the hall

I’d like to trap
This noisy chap
He’s one enormous louse

Yes, I’ll be pleased
When I have seized
That hippopotamouse

by Kevin Ahern

Kevin on Facebook

Twitter: @ahernk1

Editor’s note: Here’s an extra poem this week, because we can all use a good dose of levity once in a while.

Wedding Dress Ghazal by Sally Thomas

Wedding Dress Ghazal

A girl blooms from a shantung hill that whitens
As sunlight touches it. Come do my buttons?

Her little sister’s thirteen-year-old fingers
Are careful: tiny loops, forty buttons.

Each button slips in through the looping eye
Whose pupil it becomes. She buttons, buttons.

The girl in the dress exhales. It fit last Friday.
Her sister tucks her chin, studies the buttons.

Another bridesmaid holds the illusion veil.
The little sister buttons, buttons, buttons.

Past the hard part now. Now you can breathe.
Breathing’s a good idea. Seven buttons.

The buttons’ blank white eyes regard her coolly.
Today is not her day. These aren’t her buttons.

Outside, something startles the mourning doves
That feed in the church courtyard. Three more buttons.

The girls’ eyes, like windows, flash with wings.
All the future’s fastened with these buttons.

At last she’s buttoned into it: the bride.
The doves, resettling, wink bright eyes like buttons.

by Sally Thomas

Twitter: @SallyThomasNC

Facebook: Facebook


Editor’s Note
: This ghazal seems simple until the seventh stanza when the quiet, emotional framework of the little sister is revealed.

Sheena’s Sestina by Jake D Sauls

Sheena’s Sestina

It’s too early for frost but there it is: a cocoon
wrapping all of the windowpanes. I make a soup,
the boy plays by my feet. Too still to be a real child,
he builds worlds from books and bottlecaps.
I stand in the doorway when I miss my father,
and if he is sleeping I stand near the bed.

For days now the sharks have circled his bed.
I hum Top 40 hits and want to shake him, but cocoon
him instead; swaddled in his quilt, my father
keens like a motherless infant and spits up his soup.
At night my son builds fairy-rings from bottlecaps
around both of our beds and I rock the child

gently, although he’s too old. When I was a child
my father told huge stories while I readied for bed:
of ships full of boys playing jacks with old bottlecaps,
of slant-eyed pirates, paper worms in cocoons.
They lived weeks at a time on mock-oranges and soup,
and my father was one of them, when he wasn’t my father.

Child-time has crocodile teeth, and when my father
moved in he grilled lunch and killed bears. I was the child
again, playing secret message in my alphabet soup,
or a little older, up all night smoking and reading in bed—
and the cancer hung, a large translucent web, a cocoon
I unwove during evenings all year. We tossed bottlecaps

into the yard. We’ll grow a beer forest, he said. Bottlecaps
gleamed like wishes in the moonlight and I loved my father,
smiled when the boy appeared, all wrapped up in sleep’s cocoon.
Today, though, I worry over them both. My child
draws sharks on the windowpanes and cries when I put him to bed.
My father flails, bites my hands when I spoon him the soup.

When he finally sails we’ll throw out the soup.
It will be spring and I’ll sweep up the bottlecaps,
I’ll let my son strike the matches, we’ll watch the bed
burn. We’ll toss it by fistfuls, into the yard with my father’s
ashes. We’ll grow a grandfather forest, I’ll say to my child,
where he’ll spin all of your nightmares in an opal cocoon.

And when he looks back on this year, of soup and my father,
he’ll jiggle a pocketful of bottlecaps and tease his own child
to get into bed. Nights will pass quicker now: a drink, a cocoon.

by Jake D Sauls

Twitter: @jakedsauls

Editor’s Note: As if the usual sestina repetition isn’t enough, this brilliant poem adds more within the lines, weaving an emotional journey all the more poignant for its transience.

Sonnet by Those Who Stay Behind by Betsy K. Brown

Sonnet by Those Who Stay Behind

I’ll see you again in many days, or a few.
Just leave your echo here within these walls
To wait in corners with your old footballs
And piles of papers, artifacts of you,
Reminding those remaining what is true
Behind the curtain every time it falls:
Choirs wait in quietness, till the calls
Of trumpets reunite them at their cue.
Till, then, dear friend, I ask you, leave your echo
For me to gather up while you are gone,
Like wildflowers, or penny after penny
Into a jar of moments I won’t let go
Of till again you fill this room with song.
I’ll see you again in a few days, or many.

by Betsy K. Brown

Editor’s Note: The repetition in this lovely sonnet adds a mournful musicality to the sorrow of the speaker.

Grammar Twins by Irena Pasvinter


Grammar Twins

Two strange creatures Who and Whom
Emerged from primal grammar doom—
Mischievous twins without means,
With lust for complicating things.

Who stuck to He and Whom to Him.
It proved to be a perfect scheme:
Nobody knew if Whom is Who
And how to tell between the two.

They married, on the same day,
The Ever twins, as grammars say.
Two fine monsters they begot,
The Whoever-Whomever lot.

Since then life is forever tough
For those who deal with grammar stuff:
The dynasty of Who and Whom
Delights in breeding mess and gloom.

by Irena Pasvinter, first published in Every Day Poets

Editor’s Note: What better poem than this one to remind us that language is always moving into more interesting, bothersome, confusing, helpful, and surprising directions?

From the archives – And This Remains by Cynthia Neely

And This Remains

I heard your mother found you
in your bed as if asleep,
your affairs all tidy, neat.
The glass sat in the sink, clothing
folded at your feet.
And this remains

your mother’s final memory of you,
one she has to keep.
You waited until spring,
thought the timing would be right
and planned it just as carefully
as how you threaded skis through
tight white-mantled trees.

Why antifreeze, I wonder?
Wouldn’t sleeping pills suffice?
As your gut disintegrated,
did you think it might keep ice from
forming in your soul,
a man who so loved winter, only snow
could keep him whole?

I have to think I’m lucky;
my last memory of you
is a swirl of snow in vortex
behind a disappearing back,
sweeping, swift down Cowboy Mountain
in the trail of your deep tracks.

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 4, March 2007 — by Cynthia Neely

Bastard by Robert Nisbet

Bastard
Interviews at Oxford, 1959

The guide book phrase is dreaming spires, the facts
are pleasing too, the staircases and quads.
Train-loads of schoolboys shuffle in, disperse.
I’m bound for Jesus, for an interview.
Sounds pleasingly irreverent, that phrase:
“I’m bound for Jesus”. Then alas, ill-met,
here’s John the Baptist getting on the bus.

Who is this man, smile spread, grin grown so great?
He has the Bard’s Collected Works, and totes
this ammo to his holster arm, before
he fires in his first offence. Your school?

My glum, gruff Welsh response is slow:
It’s Milford Haven (‘Grammar School’ left out).
I do not ask his school. He tells me though.

His school spreads wide on England’s Southern coast.
‘Tis Beadles, Boodles? Rather good, he says.
Good little school. But so of course (he grins)
is Milford Haven. What a sizzling pratt.

And on we go. Next question. Do you ect?
Ecting?
In sooth. My mind describes new views
of some foul practice known to him alone,
of buggery in Boodles, beastly boys.
And then he clarifies: In our place
we did King Lear.
The monstrous grin now spreads
so far it seems to hinge half-off his head
(a large one) and he booms that he of course
was Edmund. Now, self-deprecating wit:
The Bastard Son of Gloucester. And I think,
Well yes. We read in Milford Haven too.

The bus conductor’s shout hails my release.
To Jesus. Ed’s for Queen’s. I leave him thus,
the Bastard Son of Boodles on the bus.

by Robert Nisbet, first published in Prole (Wales, 2010)

Editor’s Note: The irreverent tone of this poem doesn’t quite disguise the sense of insecurity that pervades both the speaker and his nemesis, coloring their narrative with tension many readers will understand.

Poet’s Note: Form: blank verse with a concluding heroic couplet, in the manner of a Shakespeare scene.

A Phone Is Ringing by Ed Hack

A Phone Is Ringing

A phone is ringing, waiting for a voice.
The shadows mime the source they’ve travelled from.
All nature speaks, and what is Time but choice?
The phone’s alarm might be to urge the dumb
to speak, to wake from their bad dream, the one
they call their truth. Two ducklings in the stream
send ripples like a broadcast tower. They’ve swum
away and left more messages that gleam
then fade away. That ring might be a scream
or plea—or stranger’s voice that wants to sell
the cure for everything. Bird song redeems
the silent trees. The ring might be a knell
announcing who knows what? So shrill, the sound,
so small, so vast the space where it now drowns.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: The disparate images in this sonnet coalesce into something resembling a life philosophy, but the closing lines remind the reader that any conclusion about existence is relative.

Of This World by Greg Watson

Of This World

There’s a window open between each written word.
Words alone are my witnesses within this world.

The witnesses to our childhoods fall away, one by one.
Who is left to say we were here, walking this world?

My daughter calls out to the crows along our walk.
She needs no convincing to love this world.

Still, we study endlessly the passing of things.
We want only to say that it’s not the end of the world.

Once, long ago, I saw the lake-light pierce your skin.
I knew in that moment I was alive in this world.

Even in sleep, your words could astonish and beguile.
It was hard to limit yourself to just one world.

Words, like memory, are the least reliable of guides;
but we follow them into the silence of the world.

The names of many things continue to elude me.
One day I will forget my own, and that of this world.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: The repetition in this ghazal presses the importance of small, singular moments into the reader’s mind, for they encompass the entire reason for our existence.