Your Abstract Body by Martin J. Elster

Your Abstract Body

Hon, you breathe the very same air the ginkgoes
breathed as brontosauruses lumbered past them,
bending them as blusters of wind will riffle
meadows of barley.

Ancient as the galaxies, old as space-time,
hoary as the sea, but as fresh as rollers
riding bareback over the brine to borrow
some of its water,

flung from dazzling suns that have spent their rations,
cycled through the eons, your precious body
must be worth, what, hundreds of thousands, millions,
billions of dollars?

Estimate: far less than a lunch at Denny’s.
You, pet, are the atoms of moons and mountains,
rushing rivers, thunderstorms, plants and planets—
common as comets.

Who, then, plays your melody? Why, the cosmos
coursing through the energy you are made of,
through the living cells of your corporation.
You are a blueprint.

Dare I fall in love with an abstract template?
Dare I not? What curious magnetism—
strong force, weak force, gravity, cosmic laughter—
draws us together!

by Martin J. Elster

Editor’s Note: This syllabic ode (ll and 5 syllable lines) uses dazzling wordplay and imagery to convey the narrator’s fervor for his love.

A calm, fixed mind by Peg Duthie

A calm, fixed mind

I know the friends and cousins cannot stand my ways—
my cleaning gears and baseboards no one will inspect.
They call my love of order a crimp upon my days,
seeing my routines as relics of a sect,
of Christian tyranny—cannot fathom how
anyone of passion could willingly submit
to reins and regulations. “There is no time but now”
the motto of new rebels. No Top 40 hit
will celebrate my kind—our plodding path
does not contain the arcs that make hearts beat faster
but martyrs don’t live past The Ends. I’d rather do the math
and live on in the flesh than immortalized in plaster.
My tending of minutiae leads to what I crave—
my saved-up shekels equal license to be brave.

by Peg Duthie

Editor’s Note: This sonnet is a delight for those of us addicted to order.

From the archives – Losing the Art of Love (2017) by Ralph La Rosa

Losing the Art of Love (2017)

There was a time when poets sang of love
without embarrassment, when versifiers
happy at their trade were gracious liars
in measured sonnets. They’d imitate a dove,
an owl, perhaps a dawn-drawn bird above,
who sighting human beauty soon desires
to mate his heavenly might with earthly fires
of passion: begets a paradox of love.

But tapping keys that text or tweet romantic
notes is so archaic, old-school, stilted
that songs of love, once tender or ecstatic,
are elegies about the lost or jilted.
Raving in rhyme about a love that’s new?
Postmodern ironies evaded you.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, April 24, 2017 — by Ralph La Rosa

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Lucy Bakewell Audubon Takes Her Grandson on a Late-Night Walk to Find Her Husband by Myrna Stone

Lucy Bakewell Audubon Takes Her Grandson
on a Late-Night Walk to Find Her Husband

Minniesland, Manhattan, July, 1848

There has not been, nor shall not be
birdsong as beguiling as John James
mocking a mocker in our chokecherry

tree. Most birds, boy, both tame
and wild, are drawn to him as if by
magic, though I spy well his game.

His mind may ail but he is handy
still at palming seeds from his pocket.
Mockers thrive on weed seeds, Willie,

as you do on potatoes. Such thickets
as these are habitations for all sorts
of fliers—chats, thrashers, kinglets,

crows—yet only a mocker will resort
to song beneath the moon’s whey-
faced light. What kind of true report

shall we make for John James’s sake,
child, when he asks why we are out?
Yes, of course, what’s apt: to take

him an oil lantern with nary a pout
at his absence again from the supper
table—his two most fervently devout

followers up and about to buffer
him, at least for one brief hour, from
his own befuddlement. Let us suffer

his load of midnight hubris and shun
nothing he will ask us to hear or see:
bird on the wing, the mocker’s tune

neat and naive, a quixotic spree
of mimicry until he alights, perfectly
pat and plumb, on John James’s knee.

by Myrna Stone, from Luz Bones

Editor’s Note: This beautifully constructed poem is a masterpiece of formal dramatic monologue. The careful enjambment and clean rhymes support the voice of Ms. Audubon.

The Ballad o’ Billy Bob by Johnny Longfellow

The Ballad o’ Billy Bob

Once Billy Bob ‘d been to war
. . . . . . . .He up ’n’ went right back.
See, nothin’ mattered much no more
Once Billy Bob ‘d been to war.
He’d say times can’t be like before
. . . . . . . .‘Is time spent in I-raq.
Once Billy Bob ‘d been to war
. . . . . . . .He up ’n’ went right back.

Belinda loved ol’ Billy Bob
. . . . . . . .An’ said she’d be ‘is wife.
Before she met that a-hole, Rob,
Belinda loved ol’ Billy Bob.
But, he was jus’ a workin’ slob
. . . . . . . .Who’d picked a soldier’s life.
Belinda loved ol’ Billy Bob
. . . . . . . .An’ said she’d be ‘is wife.

Each night he tried to fall asleep
. . . . . . . .Po’ Billy Bob ‘d dream:
There’d be these A-rabs herdin’ sheep
Each night he tried to fall asleep—
Then, “Waaaaaa!” these babies all ‘d weep;
. . . . . . . .Their mommas all ‘d scream . . .
Each night he tried to fall asleep
. . . . . . . .Po’ Billy Bob ‘d dream.

When Billy Bob was back again
. . . . . . . .He swore, “What’s done is done.”
An’ one dark night—jus’ after 10—
When Billy Bob was back again,
He burned Belinda’s letters, then
. . . . . . . .He cleaned ‘n’ cocked ‘is gun.
When Billy Bob was back again
. . . . . . . .He swore, “What’s done is done . . .”

As Billy Bob was laid to rest
. . . . . . . .The townfolk called ‘im brave.
Belinda wore ‘er Sunday best
As Billy Bob was laid to rest . . .
She stood there—like their daughter—dressed
. . . . . . . .In black beside ‘is grave.
As Billy Bob was laid to rest
. . . . . . . .The townfolk called ‘im brave.

by Johnny Longfellow, first published in Stepping Stones Magazine.

Johnny on Twitter: @BAD_ACID_LABS

Editor’s note: This ballad’s consistent meter carries the narrative from grim verse into the realm of a blues song.

The Buoy by Siham Karami

The Buoy

Lost, fluorescing with the ferry’s glow
across the pleasure sea from San Francisco,
tripping lightly into Sausalito,
I found myself inside a stranger’s yacht
and joined him waxing floorboards. Then his smile
burst like sun through dangling seaweed—our eyes,
deep underwater lips, entangling, blurred.

The gravity of ties now in my hold,
I think of consequence, the darkening wake
where love has sunk—how to care so deep
and yet retain what hums, what radiates
a raw blue edge on every passing thing
as neon burns above the ocean freight,
to buzz the midnight air like wasps in heat.

by Siham Karami

Twitter: @SihamKarami

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s imagery is almost surreal, leading one to believe that the story told is a dream, but the final lines are all too real.

The Prince of Egypt and the Sphinx by Marly Youmans

The Prince of Egypt and the Sphinx

On the northern and the southern roads,
He reveled, shooting at a bronze target,
Pursuing lions and vast herds of beasts
Until his chariot was a gold blur
And horses changed to coursers of the wind.
At noon, the young prince napped between the paws
Of Horus-in-the-horizon, the Sphinx
Who guards the sun and gates to the beyond.
And there he dreamed the carved stone spoke to him
And promised him the kingship of the earth,
Both the White and Red Crowns of the Two Lands,
If he would only, grain by grain, remove
The sands that choked the limbs of the Great Sphinx.

And though he wasn’t next in Pharoah’s line,
These things promised in dream did come to pass.
Some say this was the first recorded dream
In all our wayward human history,
Some say this is the way ambitious men
Have always spoken of themselves as dream:
The chosen of the race, the mystery.

by Marly Youmans

Marly on Facebook
Twitter: @marlyyoumans

Editor’s Note: The iambic meter in this poem is just consistent enough to establish a rhythm, but not enough to lull the reader into a false sense of security.

From the archives – We found an unexploded mine that day by Deirdre Parkes

We found an unexploded mine that day

We found an unexploded mine that day
and stared so much we let the ocean creep
to wet our feet before we ran away.

How would it be if courage let us stay
inside that story that wasn’t ours to keep?
We found an unexploded mine that day.

There was no one there to warn us, to say
how cold the water was, how deep.
We wet our feet before we ran away.

That debt of blood wasn’t ours to pay.
We should have been at home in bed, asleep.
We found an unexploded mine that day.

Older feet than ours were left in clay
like fossil footsteps, frozen in mid leap.
We wet our feet before we ran away.

The summer sky turned suddenly to grey.
The country lanes turned desolate and steep.
We found an unexploded mine that day
and wet our feet before we ran away.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, April 28, 2017 — by Deirdre Parkes

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Ekphrastic (I) by Andrew Szilvasy

Ekphrastic (I)

Sarcophagus Depicting a Battle between Soldiers and Amazons

The broken, headless warriors fight, of course,
for love: the men, to glorify their names
(and Rome), beat back the force of spear and horse
and roam the marble coffin, numb now and tamed;
the Amazons, as Herodotus tells us,
must kill a man if they’re to marry one,
and so they battle, by life and love impelled
to fell a Roman, or else live alone.

Need they present the bloody witness of a man?
The limbless, or the beheaded on this tomb—
was it for future husbands they remain
. . . . . . . . . .Think on this, and think too on
the man who, missing and missed, waits instead
at home, longingly, for a severed head.

by Andrew Szilvasy, first published in Shot Glass Journal.

Poet’s Note: The original piece is a sarcophagus at the Houston MFA.

Editor’s Note: The mythological speculation of this poem culminates with a surprising emotional impact in the final three lines.

From the archives – Song: Go And Do It by Aaron Poochigian

Song: Go And Do It

Leap Niagara, ask a Mountie
where they keep the joie de vivre,
then cruise down to Orange County,
surf the curl and smoke some reefer.
Ride class fives in the Cascades,
water-ski the Everglades,
. . . .go, go, go
. . . .until you know
precisely where the Good Times flow.

Hitchhike through the heartland, travel
wide, acquire a taste for tillage.
Where the asphalt turns to gravel
settle down in some quaint village—
cloudy, clear or partly sunny,
your new Land of Milk and Honey
. . . .will appear
. . . .much like here
but less suburban, more sincere.

Search through endless desert places
for the perfect little spot.
When at last some plush oasis
tallies with the spa you sought,
think of me and write a letter
gloating over how much better
. . . .life is there—
. . . .I’ll still swear
we could be happy anywhere.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, April 17, 2017 — by Aaron Poochigian

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim