From the archives – What Breaks the Human Heart (iv) — Bebe Cook

What Breaks the Human Heart (iv)

The heart is covered by a sheath
of fine fingered threads,
a gauze of nerves. Alternating currents
which work in consort, cusps of skin
that rudder the mechanical—open and close
close and open. Valve merchants
who barter in vigor exchanging old for new.
I lost the boy (the child with arrhythmia)
at the state fair. His mother and I still taste
that metallic hour, we searched frantically,
we prayed fervently. At dusk we found him
standing on the fringe, the out-most edge
of the midway behind the tents of barkers
and carnies. He said he had been listening
to the whispered fables of tattoos. Muscled
arms of naked women, secret codes on numbered
fists and flowers adorning midriffs; natural
soothsayers that spoke Igpay Atinlay.
We did not tell him after —how fearful
we became of the circus and the voices
of inanimate things (unsure of the classification
of drawings on skin). How thankful
we were of the denizens of impulses
that kept him secure—within our gate.

by Bebe Cook

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 15, October 2009

Artwork by Bebe Cook

Found in a Jam Jar by Robert Nisbet

Found in a Jam Jar

In a large jam jar, sealed and cast off
from the Welsh coast in 1964
and found now in Tilbury, shall we say,
or Southampton, a set of objects.
Two cinema stubs, at one-and-nine,
a Press cutting, Jazz on a Summer’s Day,
two cards for folk club membership,
a plectrum for guitar, sheet music,
Seeger, We Shall Overcome. Then
a message, a declaration really:
We are going forward. We are strumming
the bright rhythms of sex, the sounds
of brotherhood and love. Whether
our message will be heard in Cabinets
and coalfields, as yet we do not know.
But we know that tonight the street
to the folk club is busy with moonlight,
that people are arriving hand in hand.
The plectra will strum those strings,
we shall hear the songs’ clarion, and we,
moon-lit, hand-holding, a duet,
believe these things implicitly.

by Robert Nisbet, first appeared in Poetry Wales

Editor’s Note: This poem’s clear imagery and carefully chosen repetition skillfully draw the reader into the narrative. The closing lines are hopeful, and much appreciated.

Signs by Cathleen Cohen


This year we lost an oak
to illness that withered the grasses,
leeched sap from trunks in amber drops
until the yard was bleached of green,
deep sienna and crimson

like lifeblood. Lantern flies feast,
wilt the willow our neighbors planted
when their daughter was born.
And we’ve had storms, dark,
out of season, changing

how we watch the sky
for signs. All this freedom
was given, choices
in how to live.
Is landscape enacting

old stories, old lessons
that we’ve forgotten—
plagues, storming waters,
viruses, emerald borers
in the ash trees?

Our neighbors wrap willow branches
with nets and tape
to trap swarming nymphs.
So fragile. We must rush
to help them.

by Cathleen Cohen

Instagram: @cathleencohen8
Twitter: @CathleenCohen

Editor’s Note: This poem’s clear imagery is a perfect metaphor for the world’s grim uncertainty, yet still the last few lines remind us how to be human despite our misgivings.

Walls by Robert van Vliet


A locked garden but
with no walls And
carrying that grudge for
thirty years until you

have forgotten his name
and even his trespasses
But you still savor
the almond tang of

walking the schoolbus aisle
eyeing the driver’s eyes
and charging up the
sprint in your heels

which will carry you
four decades before you
realize your old fear
is your old strength

And you begin to
pity the bullies who
prepare only for victory
Who have no radar

for the lurking thug
No tingle on the
nape like a tongue
touched to a 9-volt

No harsh whisper Run
It’s a trap The
poor fools swagger right
into the rotor blades

And you are free
And they are forever
trapped by the locked
gate with no walls

by Robert van Vliet

Twitter: @_robertvanvliet

Editor’s Note: The fractured line breaks and punctuation in this poem reveal how trauma lingers even when the heart has moved on.

From the archives – Adjusting to war coming — David McAleavey

Adjusting to war coming

On the theory that if you tread enough water
the waves won’t close over you,
I did sufficient chores
to get out of the house,
its pretense of interminability –
solid bookcases, solid tables,
objects, objects.

Walked past the World Bank,
people with smudgy crosses on their foreheads,
Ash Wednesday,
past the souvenir stands, t-shirts 5 for $9, talk about cheap,
one of those days so full of signifying
even the veins in a slab of marble
look like figures, see,
that’s a tall person, slacks tight on her buns,
walking away.

Picked a route around puddles, melting snow,
noticed a stubby obelisk beside the Ellipse
put up by the DAC to name men
given the 17th century right
to own this land.

When our lives turn long enough
we realize we’ll never
have anything the way it was,
we set up stones,
asking them to speak,
pretending they will last.

Many more stones coming,
rows and rows, across the river.

We call this adjusting.

by David McAleavey

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 20, January 2011

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Day by Yvonne Zipter

The Day

Everything delights me today—
the sun’s extravagant light,
the frost spreading across
the window like branches

on a tree, the dog’s tongue
lolling out from the side
of her mouth like a pink
curtain blowing out an open

window, the bass line
in that Lucinda Williams’
cover, the smoke tumbling
from chimneys like troops

of acrobats, my hair’s
independent spirit.
It was a year ago today
that a murderous mob tried

to drive a stake through
the heart of our democracy.
Faith has never been
my strong suit, but

I hang on to a belief
in goodness, as if
to the string of a kite.
And the kite were my heart.

by Yvonne Zipter

Instagram: @yvonnezipter
Twitter: @YvonneZipter

Editor’s Note
: This poem’s emphasis on joy (and hope) is beautifully supported by the similes and metaphors sprinkled throughout. The last line is brilliant. 

Your Birthday by Ciaran Parkes

Your Birthday

Your birthday in the quiet
days just after Christmas.
The castle you wanted to visit
that no one local had heard of,
and, when we got there
it was early closing day.

We sat in the cafe,
wandered the grounds,
both sick, our various ailments
held at bay like the rain,
always threatening to come
down and fill the trees’ expectant arms.

Or at least I remember it that way
and how we found a weeping willow tree,
a green castle when we stepped inside.
The shadowed light, the rough trunk
just waiting to be caught in your embrace.

by Ciaran Parkes

Editor’s Note: This poem’s careful enjambment and delicately drawn narrative offers the reader a glimpse of how to make the best of something imperfect.

Demeter in the Overworld by Cameron Clark

Demeter in the Overworld

Pray for my daughter:
for Charon’s dipped oars in the obsidian of forgetting:
for a girl’s half-expectant face.

. . . Once, returning
home, you think you catch
a glimpse of her: old god, awash
in winter
and diesel smoke
in a high street swarmed
with graystained voices and gray
coats, wearing her waiting buttoned
to the throat,
on the other shore
of the road’s harsh
and catalytic sea.

Some woman’s face, you think,
one more mother
among the press
of the street; unremarkable as the missing
posters that mar
the symmetry of brick.

So you walk
on because the sun
is already shallow
in the sky; you have no
time to stop or help or pray.

Pray, gods. For the mother:
for the trees crouched uselessly above her:
for these last ice-bitten lilies of the valley hanging their heads.

by Cameron Clark

Editor’s Note: In this poem, the juxtaposition of old myth with modern life creates an dichotomy that vibrates between nostalgia and yearning.

Year in Review: 2021 Stats

I would like to thank everyone who reads Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, and all the poets who’ve sent their work to me over the years. I never guessed I would be doing this for so long when I began publishing Autumn Sky Poetry back in March 2006 as a quarterly ezine. There have been several long hiatuses and a few times I thought I might quit publishing altogether, but the quality of work I receive on a daily basis keeps me going. The stats for 2021 are truly impressive and have exceeded every other prior year:

  • Total views: 52,107 (average 4342 per month)
  • Total visitors: 21, 434 (average 1786 per month)
  • Likes: 1781
  • Comments: 359

This year I intend to keep posting poems from the defunct quarterly archives every Sunday. And though I will probably go on a few breaks here and there, rest assured that your spectacular poems and our community of poetry aficionados will keep Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY going for many years to come.

-Christine, editor

Reading our fortune in the patterns of frost by Julia Klatt Singer

Reading our fortune in the patterns of frost

How swirling the sky. How tumbling the stars
frozen in time, in place, angling towards
some soft landing, clear and bright.

Sure the mountains are jagged and tall, tipping
towards the sun. Sure the pines are lonely, perched
there, edging towards abandon. A moment

of sunlight and it’s as if they never existed at all.
But we know. We’ve seen the stars fall.
We’ve been to the mountaintop.

We’ve stood at the edge, gave in
to abandon. And we’d do it
again. And we do it


by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem demands that the reader feel what is seen, because it is both important and human to give in to the bit of vertigo that some beauty demands.