Directions for Dealing with Suicidal Thoughts by Lauren WB Vermette

Directions for Dealing with Suicidal Thoughts

Pick up a shaker; no, not that one.
The one filled with salt. Retrieve it

from the kitchen, your dining table,
a tv-tray. Hold it to your ear and tip

it back and forth— notice the pulse
against your ear drum, a brief sigh

and a thump, sigh and thump.
Feel the weight of the grains

as they drop from top to bottom.
Count each one as it descends.

This moment is the present,
and you are shaking salt

to remind yourself
that you are still here.

by Lauren WB Vermette

Editor’s note: Allegory is a most useful technique, and this poem makes excellent use of it.

Sirens by Greg Watson

Sirens

All summer long we have heard
the sirens rising, falling,
blazing down our tree-lined streets—
fire trucks and ambulances
parting the seas of traffic,
stopping time at the ticking
lights of intersections.
We have heard the dogs howl
in response, the shrieks of crows,
heard the silence that follows,
the sudden stillness of sky.
We are weary with this
small but constant mourning,
as we are guilty of occasionally
forgetting where these sirens lead,
the story at the other end,
the life unspooling into daylight.
Yet we are admittedly grateful
as the blare and lights fade,
our ears still ringing in shock;
we are grateful that today
we stand quietly observing,
with barely our shadows
to weigh us down,
just off to the side of it all.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s note: This poem is so smoothly written that the imagery slips into the mind’s quiet chamber with ease, yet the echo of the words lingers. This poem reminds me of something Ted Kooser said about writing a poem: “Enjoying a well-written poem can be like going for a ride in a glass-bottomed boat.”

Enough by Judy A. Johnson

Enough

After months of wearing green,
the trees have had enough,
lusting after bursts of red, yellow, orange, brown
against bright blue October skies
until their leaves have also had enough,
and drift down into piles that crunch underfoot.
The tomato and pepper plants—
of more use to the deer than me—
have cried enough,
their spindly stems now moved to the brush pile.
My flowers too have declared enough, enough
. . . . . . .except for the impatiens
. . . . . . .losing leaves but still flaunting petals
. . . . . . .like the balding woman in chemo
. . . . . . .dyeing her few remaining strands of hair bright pink.

by Judy A. Johnson

Judy on Facebook

Editor’s note: This poem seems simple, with lovely imagery and personification, and then the last four lines leap up like a shout.

3 AM in the Time of Covid-19 by Laura Rutland

3 AM in the Time of Covid-19

Sleep is the silent nest of hope,
but the spirit cannot stop chirping.
The spirit cannot stop fluttering.
It lifts its head and shrieks at emptiness.
It hops up and down on the branch,
flaps its wings, fluffs its feathers.
Frantic, it counts invisible hawks.
After hours of lonely thrashing, it watches,
drunk with fatigue. When first light hatches
on the edge of the sky, vision darkens
just as daylight demands begin.

by Laura Rutland

Laura on Facebook

Editor’s note: A dramatic first line immediately draws the reader into this poem, where metaphor and allegory speak of sleeplessness and frustration.

Nunc Dimittis by Rebekah Curry

Nunc Dimittis
In memory of Geoffrey Hill

Lord, now lettest Thou. Leaf-fires
smoke in pale rain. A hawk circles.
All that is given, I have: the dark
of pines, the tooth of the fox,
the slow blood, breath through the mist.
What must be enough is enough. Mine eyes
have seen Thy salvation, my death
lies in the sodden roots.
In peace so let me. I hide
under the shadow of these wings.

by Rebekah Curry

Twitter: @rebekah_curry

Editor’s Note: Abbreviated sentences and careful enjambment frame this lament with weary grief, and while the nod to classical prayer is evident, the imagery reminds the reader that death is more visceral than cerebral.

The Bottom of the Mountain by Jennifer Shneiderman

The Bottom of the Mountain

Exhilarating sting of snow
light dusting of powdered sugar lashes
you flew in the night
skis whispering
catch up
catch up
the frozen surface crunches
and chatter-chants
sister, brother
wait, wait
wait for me
at the bottom of the mountain.
The siren trees bend and speak
plant your pole
bend your knees
catch up
catch up
the wind and stars call to you
at the fork
you are swallowed
whole.
We will remember you
forever
at the bottom of the mountain.

by Jennifer Shneiderman

Twitter: @JenniferShneid3

Editor’s Note: Repetition and short lines create speed in this poem, calling to mind the motion of skiing and the pounding of one’s heart as the bottom of the mountain rushes up to you.

What I’ve Been Trying to Tell You About Dancing by Peg Duthie

What I’ve Been Trying to Tell You About Dancing

This business of bodies too often makes
a woman shrivel up and shrink
instead of claiming all of the space,
all of the stage, all of her life.
I didn’t learn to unclench until I fled
the slippers of glass, invisible but ever
present, pinching, shredding the curves
of my feet into raw, reddened wounds.
I’ve heard of tunnels that aren’t haunted
by trains or wrecks or absent light.
I’ve heard of traipsing toward a happy ending.
Last night you spoke to me of a princess
who not only slept on top of the pea
but skipped it across the moat, and married
not the prince—who’d want such a queen
as one’s mother-in-law—but the fish who’d gobbled
up the tiny globe, which somehow broke the spell
that had him swimming around a castle
instead of standing on its parapets. That happens, I know,
in ballads and ballets: limbs leaning into
whatever the story needs, however unnatural
its shape or color or trails. It’s often unearthly
and sometimes gorgeous and glorious
but what I crave at the end of the night
is a welcoming bed, sans litmus-test-by-legume:
to close my eyes and rest within steady
arms, or fins, or wings—we both spreading out
as safety and stillness slide us into sleep.

by Peg Duthie

Twitter: @zirconium
Instagram: @zrpeg

Editor’s Note: The conversational tone of this poem is the perfect foil for its fairy tale imagery, at once making it feel mythological and dreamy, yet also grounding the reading in what is real and true.

Equal Night by Caitlin Grace McDonnell (repost)

Equal Night

Turning toward
the second half of a century
as the world turns half dark,
and we have not yet lost,
and we’re no longer young,
as our lungs learn to empty
and fill up again, we will look up
away from the small dark mirror
to the cold blue autumn sky.
The bear spotted near my cabin
on my birthday morning
was a small bear, meaning
a mother might be near.
My daughter, whose name
means home,
calls at the time
I was born, at the time
of the equinox, keeps me
on the line while she cooks
and dances, tells me
how to prepare.
If it’s a brown bear,
stay still, don’t turn away.
Clouds part. Cinnamon,
Zinfandel. If it’s a black bear,
get big and loud. Resin,
sumac, wind chime
without the chime.
But if it’s a
polar bear, fight.
Fight for your life.
What will happen next?
Her replacement—
a new precedent.
The bear is waking
from a long sleep.
Get big.
Don’t turn away.

by Caitlin Grace McDonnell

Editor’s Note: This poem has short, disjointed lines that slip the reader into the speaker’s stream-of-consciousness as she grapples with a significant birthday. The last few lines speak loudly, and with consequence.

(Apologies for the resend of the email—typos must be fixed!)

Equal Night by Caitlin Grace McDonnell

Equal Night

Turning toward
the second half of a century
as the world turns half dark,
and we have not yet lost,
and we’re no longer young,
as our lungs learn to empty
and fill up again, we will look up
away from the small dark mirror
to the cold blue autumn sky.
The bear spotted near my cabin
on my birthday morning
was a small bear, meaning
a mother might be near.
My daughter, whose name
means home,
calls at the time
I was born, at the time
of the equinox, keeps me
on the line while she cooks
and dances, tells me
how to prepare.
If it’s a brown bear,
stay still, don’t turn away.
Clouds part. Cinnamon,
Zinfandel. If it’s a black bear,
get big and loud. Resin,
sumac, wind chime
without the chime.
But if it’s a
polar bear, fight.
Fight for your life.
What will happen next?
Her replacement—
a new precedent.
The bear is waking
from a long sleep.
Get big.
Don’t turn away.

by Caitlin Grace McDonnell

Editor’s Note: This poem has short, disjointed lines that slip the reader into the speaker’s stream-of-consciousness as she grapples with a significant birthday. The last few lines speak loudly, and with consequence.

From the archives – Simple by Robert Nisbet

Simple

Imagine this. Brown-panelled surgery.
You’re simply told of what you’ve hoped so long:
You’re clear. Just that. You’re clear, you’re bloody clear.
You hear your heart’s wild shout. Huge days stack up.

You’ll walk into the morning (will you not?)
and every cornice, pavement, starling, cloud,
each doorway, primrose, coffee cup and street,
that man’s inconsequential smile, your heart,
the whole vast, lovely, all-but-shapeless heap,
will seem to say, its breath quite still, You’re clear.
How very, very beautiful is life.

Now we, my friend, my compeer, we’ve not known
that rasping clash with our mortality.
For me, for you, might days still be like that?
Why can’t you, can’t we, every trembling day,
gaze on that drift of surely random cloud,
that coffee cup, the starling’s glossed black,
the stranger’s sudden smile (that most of all),
the whole big, deep shenanigans of hope,
and in the warm heart’s certain core, be glad?

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, October 20, 2016 — by Robert Nisbet

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim