From the archives – Who are you? by Mary Meriam

Who are you?

I am the unlocked door to the cellar
The cement floor and the flooded washer
The man who said I see everything
The mollusk in the seagull’s beak

The cement floor and the flooded washer
The lost mutt in a ghetto
The mollusk in the seagull’s beak
The wild unweeded garden bed

The lost mutt in a ghetto
The beach towel spread on hot sand
The wild unweeded garden bed
The long fresh nightgown slipping on

The beach towel spread on hot sand
The forest and the fiddlehead fern
The long fresh nightgown slipping on
And though you may not see me

The forest and the fiddlehead fern
Orlando and Paradise Lost
And though you may not see me
I will always wonder who you are

Orlando and Paradise Lost
The man who said I see everything
I will always wonder who you are
I am the unlocked door to the cellar

by Mary Meriam

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, February 9, 2015

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Transfer by Greg Watson

The Transfer

One of the earliest tricks to master
in parenting is what is generally referred to
as the transfer, that most delicate
operation of moving a sleeping child
from car seat, sofa, or lap
to the soft reassurance of the bed,
and somehow not startling them awake.
The wrong creak of the floorboards,
tilt of neck, or simple, dry cough
can induce wails of panic
and agitation, thick droplets of tears,
the whole body in sudden protest.
This is not right, scream the lungs.
This is not the place we started from,
kick the legs in exclamation.
So we learn this sleight of hand,
the language of mime, monk, assassin,
learn to slow our bodies and breath,
and to silence the world that holds them.
We learn to move without moving,
and to let that which we love most alone,
sleeping just out of reach.
Perhaps this is what we all long for
in the end — one tender hand
cradling our sweat-dampened head,
the other lifting us, as though
the entirety of our lives weighed
nothing at all, holding us so very gently
that we hardly notice moving
from one room to the next.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: This poem describes a nearly universal feat of parental skill, but it’s the last few lines that elevate the narrative from an ordinary action to thoughtful delight.

First morning coffee by Naida Mujkic

First morning coffee

He came and took me with him
He was wearing a shirt with rolled up sleeves
It was white as the face of a worried woman
We went through the tall grass
Which gnawed at the tips of our fingers
He looked at me without speaking
And I didn’t ask where he was taking me
I just walked next to him
Through the tall green grass
That’s how it is when you are happy
You are silent and walk like a coiled
alarm clock – time is no longer an issue
Until you wake up
Sweaty in your empty bed
And you start coughing your
Heart on warm sheets
He won’t come for you
And take you to the ocean
As the grass grows
He has no legs to walk on
He has no hands to lead you
He has no eyes to dive into
He has no mouth to comfort you
You have nothing left
But to get out of bed
And make your first morning coffee
Hoping that one day everything will pass

by Naida Mujkic

Editor’s Note: This poem’s short, staccato lines and surprising metaphors create suspense and emphasize the tension of the narrative, until the last few lines break the story open.

Deer County by Martin Willitts Jr.

Deer County

I’ve seen the night beating like a frightened heart.
An apparition appears out of nowhere —

I should have gone slower at that time of night
when objects loom suddenly. A deer zig-zags.

We all should compensate for the unknown.
We never know what lurks in the dark.

Fear stokes more fear, jolting us,
a deer bolting out of the dark —

finding a tuff of brown hairs on a car
or lose a windshield or broken engine block.

On rain-slick roads, when deer lunge
like heart attacks. We pull over after a thud,

find nothing but a small dent we could beat out
with a ball peen hammer. Or, find a deer

pulled to the side like a marker, red glass splinters
from a broken break light like blood splatter.

In a blink, every moment can change direction
and night takes your heart in its hand.

The unknown lurks in either light or dark.
We never see the inevitable coming.

If we could, we’d swerve,
sigh many heart-jerks, many tear-jerks.

Sometimes, we’d survive the deer combat zone.
Sometimes, we make it home in time, undented.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The stark two line stanzas in this poem emphasize the sudden jolt of an unexpected trauma, creating an undeniable allegory for life. Also, the first line is truly remarkable.

To the Pileated Woodpecker by Jacob Stratman

To the Pileated Woodpecker

Just outside of Moab, after a long night
of navel gazing, I looked up and out
to the tops of the cliffs, red rocks,
where the rising sunlight caught a hard line

and slowly, irreversibly lowered. I walked,
frozen and hungover, down the clay road
not knowing how long I’d have to keep
moving to meet the light, now changing

the rock face’s color, sharing itself.
But I knew I couldn’t remain still
in that tent, ill-prepared for early spring
frost, ill-prepared for the desert, ill-prepared

for ill preparation. I didn’t know
much about hope then, but I knew I hated
being cold. I’m not there now, though,
but I’m cold, running down this road,
on the homestretch, before I wake up
the boys for school, thinking about Moab,
looking up at these fall pin oaks, the sunrise
cutting a hard line across their tops.

Above me, far away, the pileated
woodpecker looks like a buzzard—
red dot, dark body, patient in its rhythm.
The closest I’d come to this biggest

woodpecker was childhood Saturday
mornings jammied in front of the TV.
Now in this new place at this new age
on the woods’ edge, I love its massive head

leading the rest of it from tree top to welcomed
tree top, immersed in sunlight, in all this hope,
yet it’s sad to know that I couldn’t see it
clearly, that I misplaced it for something else.

by Jacob Stratman

Editor’s Note: This poem’s smooth movement from nostalgia to now draws the reader into the narrative with an expectation of realization, and yet the last line deftly upends any simple conclusion.

Calcium Deposits by Goddfrey Hammit

Calcium Deposits

The days don’t amount to much anymore:
they get spent on coffee-making and flossing, then work and, at best, sleep,

all those debts owed to the day that leave a person
with only a jangle of change left of evening after dinner,

or that quiet dime’s-worth of time between knotting the shoelaces
and the necessity of standing up and walking out of the house before the sun’s even up.

I’ve taken to skipping the flossing before bed sometimes,
and I’ll even forgo the shower every so often on a Sunday,

just for the coppery daylight it nets me in the late morning,
or the silvery slant of moonlight glinting on the carpet,

not all that different from the mornings I would wake up
on nickel-gray days to find a warm quarter tucked under my pillow.

Back then my grandpa would call and ask for me, and invite me over
for an afternoon to help him roll pennies, fifty at a time, in brown paper tubes,

pennies that he gathered in one of the jars my grandmother would bottle peaches in,
the slow drip from his open palm over that jar, over months, like sap from an old tree.

With my quarters at home in a little cardboard bank,
and with a smile excavated to near-collapse,

it felt pointless to roll those pennies that, even taken together,
wouldn’t amount to much—but I tucked in to the table, and my grandmother let us be.

He set the jar between us, heavy as an anchor,
refracting layers on layers of one-cent scales, shimmering through the clear water of glass,

and at the table with us was the smell of the instant coffee he had had that morning,
and, under the table, the shoes he had laced up just to wear around the house, out of old habit,

plus the rich, rusty smell of not quite ten dollars in pennies
stinking our fingers all afternoon, so much like the smell of a freshly-lost tooth.

by Goddfrey Hammit

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem is rich in imagery that pulls the reader into memory where the relationship between old age and youth is presented with layered intention.

Light Sleeper by Greg Watson

Light Sleeper

Nearly anything, it seems, can startle you
awake these days — the faint rustle
of a bedroom curtain, clang and gurgle
of a steam radiator, phantom steps
crossing the hardwood floor,
the thinnest strand of light seeping in.
Hovering between sleep and awake,
you turn from one side to another,
the cool underside of the pillow
reaching downward, while you float
among the surface of things,
neither rising nor falling for hours.
It was not always this way, you think.
You slept like a stone through childhood,
slept through monsters and ghosts,
through colds and dangerous fevers,
slept as though dropped from
a passing plane, limbs positioned
like the most random of stars,
planted in the earth, unmoving.
Your daughter sleeps this way now.
Perhaps this is the gift we pass along,
the naive promise of sweet dreams
kissed into eyes and brow,
the worries we happily take on.
A father must sleep lightly,
every groan and ping of the universe
taken in, held, acknowledged;
while a child must not be bothered
by the trivialities of this world,
even if it breaks apart, even if the pieces
are lost for years and years to come.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: This poem is perfectly constructed: regular line lengths, a few startling images, and a conversational tone that almost distracts you from the way it reaches into your heart and squeezes just enough to remind you of why you’re alive.

Wild Bergamot by Martha Deed

Wild Bergamot

You should get a smaller car the woman said
who blocked my exit from the poetry reading parking place
in a field off the grid on Wheeler Hill and rallying to her cause she said
There is no reason for that big SUV and climbed into her puny Kia
that had me turning and backing and forwarding and looking
and considering like the days on West 111th Street
on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, six inches longer than the car
all that’s needed on those streets, but this was a green grass hilltop
and this was poetry and sunshine and singing birds in nearby shrubs
and in all that space the woman with the Kia could find no better place to park
her vehicle than too close behind my car and nothing better to do
than to make an environmental point on a Saturday afternoon in August.
I need this car I said to hold my daughter’s power wheelchair
and continued the backing and turning until I freed myself.
She handed me a tiny pink flower. It’s a Wild Bergamot she said.
Thank you I said, and she left no doubt thanking herself for being kind
but I knew who was kinder that day ‒ I did not say “dead daughter.”

by Martha Deed

Martha on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The rush of words in this poem mirrors the swell of frustration that the speaker feels in a very difficult situation. The contrast of the clearly punctuated last line with the previous ones gives it even more of an emotional punch than it would otherwise have.

Let’s name this afternoon after a Miles Davis song by Julia Klatt Singer

Let’s name this afternoon after a Miles Davis song

Let’s read your tea leaves.
Read them in a language we don’t know—
Persian or Hungarian—even if the tea
is from India and you are drinking it
out of a cup from Sweden.

The one my grandmother gave me
when I moved into my first apartment.
Before I knew you. Before I knew me too.

Your leaves are lush, dappled in sunlight.
Your leaves sing the rhythm of the rain.
Your leaves are shaped like a continent
or a birthmark—and the sheen
of a beloved cello.

I rub my finger
along the cup’s rim, hum
with them.

Let’s read them like braille
with our hands. Let’s read them out loud,
till we can’t help but notice
the sky is drenched
in some kind of blue.

by Julia Klatt Singer

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

Editor’s Note: The title of this poem provides a wonderful framework on which the imagery of the narrative can riff, allowing just enough emotional space to sing.

1975 by Patricia Wallace Jones

1975

There was no warning
that New Year’s Day
would change the world, steal tomorrow
and return it old, etched and gray
as February –
no warning in the afterglow
of champagne toasts and fancy clothes,
wishes strewn about the living room floor
that the flag was down,
corners folded to grace the mantle;
no warning that swallows
had built their home in the chimney flue,
that a stuffy nose and simple cough
would come to mean
I’d never wear the red dress again,
dance or dream for years to come.

by Patricia Wallace Jones

Patricia on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem’s difficult emotional punch builds slowly, using metaphor and imagery to illustrate the speaker’s experience, until the last few lines reveal a narrative of years of difficulty rather than just a single moment.