Enjoying Nature During a Pandemic While the World Burns
Grass twitches on the screen. A beat-up
box fan blows a gentle breeze at my bare
feet. To the right of my laptop: a painting
of tulips in pinks, oranges, and reds, mailed
to me last month by a former student turned
friend. A car whirrs past the grass, or did
whenever this video of grass was recorded.
A plane sighs somewhere far above my condo.
Sometimes now, I go days without stepping
outside. On mornings when our family does
get out to walk, my youngest oo-woo-oo-oo-oos
in response to both mourning doves and displays
his fistful of roly polies, declaring that he cares
for bugs. I tell him I’m glad, but roly polies
aren’t bugs; they’re crustaceans like shrimp.
He still cares. He builds a nest of leaves
on the sidewalk and asks if they will be happy
there. I can’t say no. For the last few weeks,
the Eurasian collared dove on the roof has called
constantly and more loudly than the aircraft.
Is it protecting its home? Does it long
for company? If I weren’t so exhausted,
I might also spend all my time screaming.
by Katie Manning
Katie on Facebook
Editor’s Note: The explicitly descriptive title of this poem fools the reader into thinking this poem will be rather straightforward, and so it is, right up until the killer last line.
My mother tells me the story of her mother,
the gray, hard-edged world from which
she emerged; how denial became
the common language, silence a bridge
between angry shouts at God
and anyone else who might listen;
tells how her mother’s parents refused her
pleading for a doll to call her own,
and how one day she wandered
past the fields until she found a stone,
round-shouldered and smooth,
wrapped the stone in discarded cloth,
cradling it, calling it her baby.
She tells me also of standing as a child
on the cold train platform,
the long journey north ahead,
shaking with tears while her father —
a cruel man on the best of days —
told her that her beloved ragdoll would
not be allowed on board.
That decision, he spat, was final.
My daughter will know none of this.
The floors here are strewn with
plush toys, action figures,
plastic Lego waiting for the most tender
part of the foot to find them.
We stroll our quiet neighborhood,
collecting twigs, autumn leaves
of burnt sienna and gold,
stones that she assures me have
fallen from the moon, or have been
thrown from angry volcanoes,
stones that still contain the images
of animals from long ago,
imprint of a hand or a small face turning,
grateful to be held so gently,
to whisper their stories once again.
by Greg Watson
Editor’s Note: The narrative of this poem defines its shape and length, and ultimately, the imagery that makes the last several lines so precious.
When the hidden rip sucks out
beyond the blue swell
uncurling noisily upon the sand,
out beyond the raucous sea-birds
circling, soaring and dipping
above the white topped crests,
out into dark, trackless waste
where the moving water mountain
towers glass smooth and sheer
and over its vast plateau top
waves foam and rumble
in irresistible chaos,
then only surrender remains,
letting the mighty surge
sweep where it will,
holding in a few tiny cells
the longing for a gentler swell
to wash slowly back
into some sheltered cove
where the patterned ripples
kiss the yellow sand,
where hope fills the clear blue sky
and the whole glorious world
shines again bright and new.
from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 30, 2018 — by Neil Creighton
Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim
elegy for her
how is it we mourn for someone whom we didn’t know?
to see three photos and wish her eyes transform?
to think about gender and how it shifts in each camera shot
her profile: a boy in a dress
hair jagged, chin cut as if there’d been a brawl,
empty fight with men gone very wrong.
her portrait: young girl,
eyes bent with sadness
stress around nostrils,
anger carved silent like glass.
her look beneath kerchief when asked
to shift her head right: young woman.
how is it her features soften against the force of chair
when dark cloth swaddles her hope of flowers,
river mist, laughter?
how is it that five numbers are all we have to find only three photos?
a “Z,” Zigeuner (German for Gypsy), to create a category
in which they’ll haul her out,
bludgeon any smiles she might have saved for someone
from Autumn Sky Poetry 19, October 24, 2010 — by Theresa Senato Edwards. Painting by Lori Schreiner.
Photo by Wilhem Brasse used with permission from the archival collection of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim.
The day wore sequins and rhinestones,
shed her cotton dress for a more daring image,
an image reflected in sun-glints rippling
through the surface of Detroit Lake. There is
something violent about rhinestones,
blinding and heavy, weighting cartilage
and bone, but the day wears what she must
when she must, trusts this glittering newness
to carry her through dusk like sequins
sewn across the night sky.
by Larina Warnock
Larina on Facebook
Editor’s Note: Personification inhabits this poem the way a dress wears its girl—sparkling, but with an undercurrent of armor.
Before the Hurricane
as tall trees sway
in unhurried warning
of stormy flint
as the sky turns green
when the birds and frogs
have fled to hidden places
to prepare one cup of tea
before everything goes dark
by Diane Elayne Dees
Editor’s Note: This spare poem demands attention via the imagery, and of course, the killer last line.
You woke today to an ache
you thought was spent—that season
already mourned and set aside,
flushed away like pink-tinged tissue.
It’s a late-March-snow in February, far
too early to be so transient; yet
its whitewash is not unwelcome to the grime
of the fading season. Even now,
as wasps stumble out of the woodwork, fumble
drunken and useless on gray stone floors, winter
begins its end, always before you are ready, always
before your mind has softened
to the idea of it. You hold on too long,
as if letting go will lose…what?
The clean and cold, the muffled
and muffed, safely layered in wool and white?
Or the weightlessness that comes with snow?
It’s not that you dread the beginning
of the new, but the ending
of the old. Still you lighten your step
when the earth is young, green rising,
and despair spring petals’ fade.
You bask in the heat of long days,
relish the taste of salt, then miss the sweat of it
in coming shadows. How you whistle
so you can see your breath
in the first frost of fall, but grieve
that last leaf ’s bright tumble.
by Cynthia Neely, first appeared in Bellevue Review (runner up for the Vilcek Prize)
Editor’s Note: Beautiful use of alliteration enhances the imagery in this poem, creating an atmosphere of calm even as the speaker’s ambivalence resists dismissal.
The Last of the Harvest
I’ve been keeping a census
of squirrels, naming the circus of thieves
who gnaw the blackbirds’ seeds.
With empty beaks, the grackles still sing
a morning song, its solos low
over a chorus of insects. Voices tumble
from the church over the hill,
down the pumpkin vines like geese calls.
All this tangled, impossible
to separate. I don’t have patience
to decide which knot to tear
first. The sunrise splits
over ironwoods and pine. It streaks,
dusty pink, on the white logs of the fire.
As I child, I slept with smoke-
scented sweatshirts, rolled as a pillow.
On Sunday mornings, the songs I liked best
were sung by the dove, perched alone
on cold peaks. I keep trying
to live that moment for the rest of my life.
The weak, beautiful hoot shimmering
up my spine, like grandmother’s voice
reading verses to me. A distant train whistle.
The world is going on, but does it need
me? I listen to birds sullen tweets,
hungry hymns of lament, and I want
to be content. I must get to my feet,
unlock the garden gate and invite
the squirrels to the last of the harvest,
to glean ground cherries and
clean the colors from the grapevine.
by Matthew Miller
Editor’s Note: Every line of this beautifully written poem uses precise imagery and thoughtful line breaks to support the central theme.
Reasons to Run
In the east a planet hangs low in the sky,
A silver apple ready to be plucked.
Last week it was robins. This week
Squirrels—how long since I’ve seen a rabbit?
The lake mirrors the slate blue sky.
And what do I mirror?
Am heartbeat, am steady, am certain
That no one can see me now
Dancing as I run to Aretha
Like the sweet morning dew
I took one look at you,
And it was plain to see
you were my destiny… you, still
and asleep and dreaming; fleet foxes,
a star in your mouth, moonlight
in your bed.
by Julia Klatt Singer
Editor’s Note: The surreal imagery in this poem beautifully mirrors the way the mind wanders while running, while also allowing the reader a glimpse into the life of the speaker.
My 1917 Royal
have poured through their fingers
and onto these keys before me
With each clunking laborious stroke
rattling tap and rustling ribbon
ink was sealed onto the page
and couldn’t be deleted
or completely rubbed off
with the putty-pink tip of a pencil
While slowly typing
I’m mindful of more than my words
and glad that the space bar
is in disrepair
giving me pause
time to think
how the present
can’t erase the past
yet indelibly lasts
as a shadowy stain
seeping into the future
by Joan Kantor
Editor’s Note: Writing about writing is a tricky topic, fraught with history and vintage typewriters, and people and intention.