Last Things by Ciaran Parkes

Last Things

Mid-fifties London, the world outside is spinning
from ration books to free love, rock and roll.
The condemned prisoner, not long out of school,
is listening to a radio show and winning

another game of cards. He never loses,
indulged as some sick child who’ll never mend,
no lost games or angry words offend
his last unraveling days. He chooses

tomorrow’s meal. The chaplain comes to call
and softly talk his sins away. He walks
one final time across the withered stalks
of winter grass, beneath the high stone wall,

hearing the city going by outside. He sleeps
one last time, or tries to sleep, and must
have drifted off somehow because a burst
of voices wake him. The hurried breakfast creeps

with dreadful slowness. Calming words are spoken
by the guards. A door he never knew
about slips open. The hangman and his two
assistants come in on silent feet. He’s taken

by the elbows, half lifted off the ground,
and glided backwards through the waiting door,
a hood pushed on his head, and up the four
steps to the wooden platform. He hears the sound

of birds begin to wake, feels something lop
soft round his neck, then hears a muffled prayer
go speeding past his face, then the rush of air
as breath leaves him behind, the final drop.

by Ciaran Parkes

Editor’s Note: This poem is both shocking and beautifully written. The rhyme and meter unobtrusively hold the narrative together until the ending creeps up and stuns the reader at the very end.

Articles Extinction by Irena Pasvinter

Articles Extinction

On this tragic night when articles died
Few people noticed and nobody cried,
But as morning slowly got on its way,
Linguistic skies turned depressingly grey.

Words stuck in throats, sentences stumbled,
Grammar growled at syntax, idioms grumbled,
So that by time of evening floss
Mouths got sour with taste of loss.

“Oh, never mind,” polyglots said.
“Who cares if article creatures are dead.
Latin or Russian don’t deal with this scum.
Let’s conjure declensions — it’s gonna be fun.”

They started declining, but linguists prevailed,
“We’ve still got word order. You should be ashamed!”
Yet some shady writers were openly thrilled,
“No articles? Fine — less darlings to kill.”

As tensions grew higher, police intervened.
Declension leftovers were urgently cleaned.
Emergency measures strongly advised
To use “one” and “this” from strategic supplies.

And so life continued, largely unblemished.
Only scientists wondered why articles vanished.
Theories flourished, brilliant and lame,
But somehow nothing was ever quite same.

by Irena Pasvinter, first published in Slink Chunk Press

Editor’s Note: This delightful poem employs personification, meter, and rhyme to convey a clever story about grammar and linguistics. Writers find this sort of thing highly amusing.

Champ Speaks by Christine Potter

Champ Speaks

I’m old, but I was glad to move my den.
My humans made my bed next to the fire—
a comfort on these winter mornings when
The South Lawn doesn’t beckon, and the choir

of shutter-clicks and shouted questions wear
me down. These days I run my best in dreams;
let Major ’s woofing end up on the air.
This good boy understands that all regimes

begin and then they end. You humans choose
your dogs and cats and Presidents, and put
them in this house to charm the world—or snooze,
like me, the dog who didn’t break Joe’s foot.

Real wisdom’s seldom something loud and fleet.
An old dog knows the fireside is sweet.

by Christine Potter

Christine on Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Editor’s Note: Doggie wisdom is always more intelligible than the blather humans tell each other.

Communication 101 by Kevin Ahern

Communication 101
Sometimes when you don’t know an answer
It pays to just admit it
This happened to me recently
And I’m so glad I did it
I was taking a communications class
And had an oral exam
The instructor said there was just one question
And I thought to myself “DAMN!”
The question was if I could illustrate communication
And I didn’t know what to say
So I just shrugged my shoulders
And she gave me an ‘A’

Sometimes when you don’t know an answer
It pays to just admit it
This happened to me recently
And I’m so glad I did it

I was taking a communications class
And had an oral exam
The instructor said there was just one question
And I thought to myself “DAMN!”

The question was if I could illustrate communication
And I didn’t know what to say
So I just shrugged my shoulders
And she gave me an ‘A’

by Kevin Ahern

Kevin on Facebook

Twitter: @ahernk1

Editor’s note: The philosophical question of communication is at the heart of poetry, but rarely is it so succinctly demonstrated via narrative verse.

From the archives – February by Jean L. Kreiling

February

From leafless branches etching crooked lines
against the sky—scars coldly cut across
a bloodless cheek—some poets weave designs
of desolation, stories laced with loss.
They find in webs of winter-blackened limbs
the shapes of emptiness and elegies—
but those who see the stuff of requiems
miss what another eye obliquely sees:
the rugged grace of living filigree
that scrawls a promise on the open air,
a craggy silhouette of constancy
that tacitly rebuts boot-deep despair.
Though darkly drawn, these etchings may impart
the vital signs at winter’s still-warm heart.

by Jean L. Kreiling

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, February 19, 2015

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – A Plaint by Alice Ruth Moore

A Plaint

Dear God, ’tis hard, so awful hard to lose
The one we love, and see him go afar,
With scarce one thought of aching hearts behind,
Nor wistful eyes, nor outstretched yearning hands.
Chide not, dear God, if surging thoughts arise.
And bitter questionings of love and fate,
But rather give my weary heart thy rest,
And turn the sad, dark memories into sweet.
Dear God, I fain my loved one were anear,
But since thou will’st that happy thence he’ll be,
I send him forth, and back I’ll choke the grief
Rebellious rises in my lonely heart.
I pray thee, God, my loved one joy to bring;
I dare not hope that joy will be with me,
But ah, dear God, one boon I crave of thee,
That he shall ne’er forget his hours with me.

by Alice Ruth Moore (Alice Dunbar Nelson) (18751935)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – The Kiss by Gregory Palmerino

The Kiss

Something is cast in beauty that receives
the mind and won’t let go: it seems as fine
as sunlight dappling beneath the eaves

or yellow jasmine fragrant on the vine,
and you, with florid lips and furtive eyes,
inviting me to cross that whirlwind sign;

it keeps compelling me to recognize
this look of yours, in half a measure’s time,
is only half of splendor’s sacred prize.

For music sought inside this holy rhyme,
the scent of flowers, and the taste of wine
all flee to me from Rodin’s cold sublime—

when last I tempt that spell and cross that line
then take your hand and press your lips to mine.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, February 21, 2017 — by Gregory Palmerino

Sculpture by Auguste Rodin courtesy of Rodin Museum

Moving by Gail White

Moving

How difficult it is to move
even from simple place to place,
how hard to pack the books, to shove
the cat into its carrying case;

how hard to sit in Airport-land
through one more endless flight delay
while Trebizond or Samarkand
sits half a universe away;

how hard to get the papers filed
that separate you from your past,
newly and legally enisled,

and yet, and yet my father’s last
great journey out of self to shade—
how easily and quickly made.

by Gail White, first published in Measure

Editor’s note: Sonnets often say the hardest things with the most ease.

Shore of Tago Bay, Ejiri at Tōkaidō by Martin Willitts Jr.

Shore of Tago Bay, Ejiri at Tōkaidō
Katsushika Hokusai, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, picture # 18

Men have cast their fishing nets from the prow. All day, they pull up nets of emptiness, over and over and over. All this hard work in harsh light, and all they catch is sunburn. They will return home at the end of the day, once again, with nothing to show for their efforts. It is not easy catching the nothingness.

On the shore, workers are tiny and insignificant, raking the flats for salt. Some have already gathered the salt, and now they are carrying their bags to the kilns. Inside the kilns, water boils to keep the salt. These workers will have much to show for their efforts. It is not easy boiling down a day into a single moment.

None of them care that they are close to the Tōkaidō highway. That road could take them far from all of this salt and lack of fish and pull of oars. The road is always there, yet these people always stay performing the same tasks as their ancestors. Small details persisted. The more they struggled, the more they failed, like sunlight, like heartbeats, like salt trying to avoid crystalizing in a kiln, like birds circling uncertain where to land, if to land. It is not easy to be so near a road that can take us elsewhere, and stay doing the same meaningless task.

Mount Fuji is always in the background, always with snow on its peak, always below the setting sun. The sense of Always is the only constant we have in this world. Even that is temporary, dissolving like water in the kiln. It is not easy being temporary.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Sun is in a net,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .taken to the kiln to bake,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .turns to salt in heat.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic poem (prose and haiku) tells a straightforward story, or so it seems, but the persistent energy of the images resonates with the woodblock print, creating more layers of meaning than is immediately obvious.

Image by Katsushika Hokusai

Romanesque by Rick Mullin

Romanesque

O volunteers. O lost boys with your guns,
cigars and adolescent costume play;
O stalwarts of a reenacted Sons
of Liberty demanding right of way,
I’m sorry that you feel so trod upon.

I’m sorry that a narcissist has taken,
like some Antichrist, your sense of dis-
enfranchised hopelessness and grim mistaken
quest upon himself to the abyss.
I’m sorry that your Paine is QAnon.

I’m sorry that it’s come to this. Your snake
has turned as surely as the fabled worm.
The truth is severed and the news is fake.
Behold, mere anarchy is brought to term
and takes its place across the Rubicon.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: This poem is chock full of references and word-play, such that every reread uncovers more hidden meanings. This is the best kind of poem, especially when one is needful of something to help make sense of the world in which we live.