Waiting for Dawn atop Butterfly Mountain by Martin J. Elster

Waiting for Dawn atop Butterfly Mountain

A dilapidated lepidopteran
dying atop The Mountain of Butterflies
holds out her wings to the darkness—wings as thin
as the mist that swirls beneath monsoonal skies—

and pictures the tea farm women, who often glow
like painted sawtooths dotting the plantation;
and, wallowing in the Mahaweli’s flow,
trumpeting in carefree conversation,

elephants plashing, washing away all worry.
Unlike them, she’s alone here on this rock,
a decent rock on which to dream. No hurry
to flee the fleeting memories that flock

like the birds of Sinharaja: the cunning jackal,
the whistling thrush, the fish in every lake
(which lure the hungry to come with boats and tackle
and float on magic molecules that slake

the roots of rice), the din of Devon Falls
reverberating through a green expanse
where a muntjac barks, a magpie calls and calls,
and footsteps crack the chrysalis of her trance—

men climbing toward her haven. Soon the sun
will oust the night. Slowly she beats her wings,
wings like frozen wood as, one by one,
they gain the hilltop, quicker as someone sings

a hymn to dawn, then darts away as a bell
blossoms like an orchid on the height
and, rising with the most resounding knell,
fades like the constellations at first light.

by Martin J. Elster, first published The Society of Classical Poets

Poet’s Note: The title alludes to a mountain in south-central Sri Lanka, rising to 7,359 feet (2,243 m), which is variously known as Adam’s Peak (the place where Adam first set foot on earth after being cast out of heaven), Sri Pada (Sacred Footprint, left by the Buddha as he headed toward paradise), or perhaps most poetically as Samanalakande (Butterfly Mountain; where butterflies go to die). Some believe the huge “footprint” crowning the peak to be that of St. Thomas, the early apostle of India, or even of Lord Shiva.

Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem is so rich and detailed it feels like a painting, but the beautiful meter (iambic pentameter) and rhyme take this poem beyond mere image and into meaningful narrative.

2020 In A Mirror by Ellie Fowkes

2020 In A Mirror

It was March, it was December
It’s very hard to remember
Me arguing like an ambulance siren
My sister roaring like a lion
Noises mix Boom, Clash, no and yes
Mom loses temper less and less

Getting kicked off Zoom
I won’t come out of my room
There is something squishy in my bed
Me rereading books I’ve already read
My blanket’s as hard as a rock
My door won’t unlock

Whoosh, the school year went by so fast
Trying to get it in the past
Me in class swaddled up like a baby
I need to get up to stretch daily
2020 is over, now let’s have a good happy new year
Let’s not put 2020 in a mirror

by Ellie Fowkes, age 11

Editor’s Note: The easy (and somewhat cheerful) rhyme and meter of this poem is juxtaposed upon difficult and sometimes disturbing images, creating a dissonance that perfectly encapsulates the trauma of the past year.

[Dear teachers: If any your of students writes a particularly good poem, I am open to publishing it, with permission of the parents.]

From the archives – Let Death Come by Martin Willitts Jr.

Let Death Come
—villanelle, starting with a line from Jane Kenyon

Let evening come — I am not afraid of dying
for I have known the kindness of birds and seed.
Let trouble find someone else. I have time

to find the climbing blue flowers, trying
to talk to God. Let winds tear, let rivers recede,
let evening come — I am not afraid of dying.

None of this will succeed in denying
what I know is true: not one will impede.
Let trouble find someone else, I have time

before I die, to search for God, and find
bees hording secrets and worms for bird feed—
let evening come, I am not afraid of dying

in the winter of my life, in everlasting, crying,
searching. Death will have me, even if I plead:
Let trouble find someone else. I have time,

I have time; I can fit more love in my mind
and heart. Let the turtles try to hide in reeds,
let evening come — I am not afraid of dying.
Let trouble find someone else — I have time.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 20, 2016

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – Winter Visitation by Peter Vertacnik

Winter Visitation

Although I hurry home as soon
As work is done each afternoon
(Speeding through every yellow light,
Tailgating, passing on the right),
It’s almost dusk when I arrive.
Having parked quickly in the drive,
I scan the birches in the yard
Whose branches look both iced and charred—

And empty. In the house, it’s dark
Already, calm. The birch trees’ bark
Glows through the kitchen window. Here,
Hoping they will reappear
Tonight, as they have for a week,
I sit and wait for the oblique
Descent that’s sudden but quiescent,
Wings flashing black and iridescent.

Their voices peal—discordant, keen—
While they begin to roost and preen.
They’ve been forced to these few cramped trees
(Where, for the moment, they won’t freeze)
Because some woods were felled and sold
For condos that the wealthy old
Will live in only half the year,
Leaving when autumn turns austere.

Meanwhile, the rest of us remain
As light and warmth and color wane,
Then struggle back toward spring in slow
Steps through the salted, melting snow.
These crows are now a part of this,
A presence we cannot dismiss.
One neighbor gripes, “Loud, that’s for sure.”
Another thinks they’re sinister.

To me each one seems an informant
Assuring us we’re merely dormant,
Not dead. If in the trees behind
My house they sometimes bring to mind
Hitchcock’s Birds, or the strange beaked mask
Plague doctors donned for their grim task,
The fractured music that emerges
Resembles dark airs more than dirges.

by Peter Vertacnik

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 13, 2017

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

A New Year Begins: An acrostic sonnet by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

A New Year Begins: An acrostic sonnet

Adieu to Twenty Twenty! Now it’s gone,
New hopes arise for what we could soon share:
Emancipation from a marathon
Withdrawal of companionship and care.
Yet ending this pandemic with vaccines
Entails their distribution planet-wide——
An end to loneliness in quarantines
Requires the rich to help the poorer side …
Below the radar, or behind the scenes,
Essential workers toil, and in return
Get all too scant support, while those of means
In comfort stay secure with scant concern …
New Year must face a truth the old laid bare:
Society’s most free when it’s most fair!

by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

Editor’s Note: Hello 2021! Might as well start off with a poem that rhymes ‘vaccines’ with ‘quarantines’—not something you see everyday in a sonnet.

From the archives – December by Jean L. Kreiling

December

Arriving modestly, without a sound,
the first snow of the season fills the night
with tiny flakes of other-worldly light
that settles in pale patches on the ground.
The stone-cold air turns flannel-soft, transformed
by small wet stars that fall and thereby lift
the eye and heart—a fragile, frozen gift
that leaves our spirits fortified and warmed.
Another silent night may come to mind,
another star, another gift, but He
need not be sought as heaven falls to earth
in icy, cloud-spun pieces that will find
the pious and the pagan, equally
anointing all who see the season’s birth.

by Jean L. Kreiling

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, December 2, 2015

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Winter Sleep by Edith Matilda Thomas

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Winter Sleep

I know it must be winter (though I sleep)—
I know it must be winter, for I dream
I dip my bare feet in the running stream,
And flowers are many, and the grass grows deep.

I know I must be old (how age deceives!)
I know I must be old, for, all unseen,
My heart grows young, as autumn fields grow green
When late rains patter on the falling sheaves.

I know I must be tired (and tired souls err)—
I know I must be tired, for all my soul
To deeds of daring beats a glad, faint roll,
As storms the riven pine to music stir.

I know I must be dying (Death draws near)—
I know I must be dying, for I crave
Life—life, strong life, and think not of the grave,
And turf-bound silence, in the frosty year.

by Edith Matilda Thomas (1854-1925)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Labor of Love by Coleman Glenn

Labor of Love

The heavens fill with smoke as campfires blaze
and actors paint themselves into their pictures
while speakers echo back the choral strains
of tracks laid down in living rooms then mixed
for these tableaux. Cars crawl down Quarry Road
past shepherd families gathered in the gloom,
past travelers barely sheltered from the cold
beside the inn, told, “Sorry, there’s no room.”

Eight miles away a shepherd’s son, a nurse,
turns left to leave St. Joseph’s Hospital,
his finished double shift among the worst
since COVID hit — breaks skipped, the ward past full,
his team a missing-membered skeleton,
outbursts, code after code. A patient dead.
He hears among the blended baritones
his own voice as he nears the church ahead.

The wise men know, and Mary, and the choir,
that all their work here won’t bring on the dawn —
that they cannot supply the balm required
to give untroubled sleep to anyone
whose days and dreams of harried desperation
permit no heavenly peace, no silent night.
Only for this their weeks of preparation:
a single touch of myrrh, one tiny light.

by Coleman Glenn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julia.k.singer/

Editor’s Note: The mix of perfect and slant rhyme (and iambic pentameter) nudges the reader along in this poem, past the hopelessness of despair, until we arrive at the last two lines where a tiny smidge of hope concludes the poem exactly right.

In a Mist by Rick Mullin

In a Mist
Off Manhattan
—For Kate Light

Streaming Mozart’s Requiem from the cloud,
a chorus crystalizing somewhere high
above the Hudson River in a shroud
of nearly concrete fog this morning, I
must navigate by radar, iron borne,
a ghost aboard the gray form in a mist.
I see no buildings. I do not see water,
lost at harbor, turning in the twist
of an untraceable idea of order
out here somewhere gone around the horn.
My vehicle, a hollow drum, has found
the rhythm of a river down below
to which I port a brisk angelic sound
from agents in the wind of time, the flow
of passing shadows dark and torn.

by Rick Mullin

Editor’s Note: I recently saw a meme that instructed readers to post the “quietest picture” they had on their cell phone, and this poem does that brilliantly well with imagery, enjambment, rhyme, and meter.

Put to Shame by Jenna Le

Put to Shame

How funny that the bedroom it hurts least
to write about’s the one in which the beast
that is my body felt the greatest pain:
the room where nurses came time and again
to stick my green-blotched upper arms with needles
whose sting would last whole minutes while in fetal
posture I’d cringe away, my eyes squinched shut,
the room where intravenous lines would jut
into my elbow creases like insistent
inquisitors on orders from some distant
nefarious lord to torture me, to not
allow my arms to bend, to undercut
my wish to lie face down…. It’d hurt still more
to write about that other, clothes-strewn floor.

by Jenna Le

Editor’s Note: A single emotionally excruciating sentence spans thirteen lines of this sonnet, interrupted only by the shocking pivot of the volta into the reader’s skin.