The Big Question by Kevin Ahern

The Big Question

“Rain falls down,” she said to me
“That’s very easy to see”
“It guess it’s due to gravity”

I told her she was right as rain
And I admired her little brain
But then she asked me to explain

“If rain comes falling through the air”
“And covers the ground everywhere”
“How did it got there?”

I said, “It’s very simple, lass”
“The clouds contain the liquid mass”
“And then it falls on us, en masse”

“Oh, no,” she said, her face in frown
“I understand how rain gets down”
“To the ground”

“But for it to be up in the sky”
“I do not understand why”
“The rain all got up there so high”

With that I felt a sudden sting
That sometimes comes when answering
A child who thinks you know everything

But my mind was blank, I thought, “uh oh”
I couldn’t lie, but did not know
Change the subject? Perhaps lie low?

Silence revealed my dilemma so
She said to me with eyes aglow
“That’s OK, Daddy. Mom will know”

by Kevin Ahern

Kevin on Facebook

Twitter: @ahernk1

Editor’s note: This poem’s lighthearted dialogue is a fun read right up until the last line when the child’s response wallops the reader upside the head.

The Lumber’s Groan by Daniel Milbo

The Lumber’s Groan

Thrashed and foundering upon the waves,
with taut sail against an ocean gale
Lurching in the ebb of blackened days,
the vessel heeled from its twisted keel.
Torn and bashed on endless brine,
the lumbers groan to the masthead’s moan
Heaving against backstay and line,
thrown astray by thunder’s sway.
All hands grapple, lest the sea’s surge
sweep into the cold deep
the condemned whose conviction quavered
and were lost to the tempest-tossed.
Black and soaked to the wearied bone,
Splintered and crusted; burred and rusted
Old timbers and tar muster the drafty sail,
and defy the starless night to stay.

by Daniel Milbo

Editor’s Note: The deliberate use of rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and consonance remind the reader that sonics as well as sense can be used to great effect, sailing a reader through a poem’s storm.

Take Flight by Carole Greenfield

Take Flight

Late summer sun sifts through a screen of trees
Still dripping from my swim, I see her taking flight
Completely naked, tiny feet tucked up to knees
Her fingers with her father’s locked in tight.

If we could just return to that one place
where we were all their world, our parents’ goal
to keep us safe from harm, and one day face
our restless lives with hearts intact and whole

The scene plays out before my tear-wet eyes
A joyful spirit swung into the air, delighted cries
And as her father steps away from shore
she weeps, “Again. Again. I want some more.”

He gently calms her tears. “No need to cry.
Just tell me. Say the words, ‘I want to fly.’”

by Carole Greenfield

Editor’s Note: This delightful sonnet delivers joy with each rhymed line. Sometimes we need this reminder.

Where we put our mother by Joe Crocker

Where we put our mother

She didn’t understand quite how she got there.
Always now. A service hatch. A home.
It wasn’t home. We knew and we forgot her

longing to be safe with us and not where
helpers meted kindness off the bone.
She couldn’t understand quite how she got there.

Home was what she wanted – not a soft chair,
cloistered in the care of hands unknown.
It wasn’t home. She knew that. So much hot air,

warming her dis-ease. She couldn’t stop there,
she told us, told us, told the answerphone.
We played at understanding. How she got there,

was tidily rehearsed, but it was not fair.
Trusting us, bewildered and alone,
she wasn’t home. She knew. She missed the plot where

she had grown her children. She had lost her
harvest, lost her oozing honeycomb.
She didn’t understand how she had got there
Far from home. Unfastened. We forgot her.

by Joe Crocker

Editor’s Note: This wrenching villanelle illustrates the difficult question of eldercare with a loved one cast adrift in an ocean of love and guilt and choiceless reality.

From the archives – Deck of a Beam Trawler, Gloucester, 1923 – Jean L. Kreiling

Deck of a Beam Trawler, Gloucester, 1923
—after Edward Hopper’s “Deck of a Beam Trawler, Gloucester.” 1923. Watercolor over graphite pencil on paper. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

He saw the art of work, despite the lack
of workers: the expectant energy
aboard the unmanned deck, the sinewy
preparedness of heavy ropes left slack,
the muscle of the mast. Where rusty black
abuts the dullish red of industry,
we know men labored, though we cannot see
their forms or faces or what they brought back.

They likely sailed before this sky turned blue,
before sunlit perspective clarified
the architecture of their work; they would
have felt their way through chores. The trawler’s crew—
unlike the painter—didn’t need a tide
of light to show them work they understood.

by Jean L. Kreiling

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 19, October 2010

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

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

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.

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.