Chorography by Martin Willitts Jr.

Chorography

I had a flash — our bodies turned
to cremation ashes — in a forest,
memory is waiting, large as broad leaves
in shimmering rain of cello notes.
A whole continent of sadness
was emptying its dreams
like tap shoes dancing.

Then a tsunami of constellations
hastened hysteria like whirling Sufi,
our names chanting off the tiles and walls
in a metronome precision.

I was in that trajectory of loss,
clutching a prayer shawl,
begging for more time
to be with you. And from faraway,
you listened, and it did not prevent you
from swiveling your head
like a passion flower
seeking light
in the darkest midnight corner.

We conversed in the after-world,
still not tired of each other
and the patter of vowels
were the symphony of caring.

As quickly as I had shifted to daydream,
I’d transitioned back into reality —
this other memory, still echoing
like descending footsteps
dancing away.

Outside, the calla lily sun was in the lavender sky,
placing one foot in front of the other, step
by elusive step. When you approached,
my heart exalted-leapt like a male ballet dancer
jack-knifing into the stratosphere.

And, o, the overtones of mysterious light were everywhere!
All I needed was cedar waxwings in the early music
among the rosewood, or a corona of sun opening in a blue lake.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

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Editor’s Note: The startling imagery (metaphor, simile, personification) of this poem carries the reader through turbulent emotions. The final stanza is elegiac as it closes the narrative.

Broom Zen by Wren Tuatha

Broom Zen

(In memory of Charles Curtiss)

Charles’ mother is dying.
He has planed
800 miles.
Now he sweeps
her kitchen.
He sweeps the hall,
2 seconds per stroke
by the mantle clock.
“Get the stairs while
you’re at it,”
his father says.
He sweeps the living room
and the porch.
He sweeps the lawn.

His mother is awake.
She asks about his plans.
He talks of job changes.
She takes out 3 papers
and crunches numbers
on the first.
Charles makes
clarifying calculations
on the second.
She rests.

And Charles waltzes the broom.

He spreads out the pages—
her handwriting, his;
The choreography of cursive.
And one more…
He takes the unused page,
with a pause for
all symphonies in the ether,
unwritten,
and drags his dust pile
onto the page
with his mother’s broom.

by Wren Tuatha, first published in The Green Revolution and Winamop.

Guest Editor’s Note: A playful tone and a swift turn at the end sweeps through this poem (a poetic broom?), handling difficult material in a deftly dazzling way.

Please welcome Guest Editor Laura Foley from March 27-March 31, 2017.

What Sticks by Kim Mannix

What Sticks

Every soft surface in Grandma’s suite
made softer with plush toys.
Teddy bears guard the sofa,
expressionless dolls, flop-eared bunnies,
and a lifelike white cat take over the bed.

A rainbow of sticky notes
on the cupboards, under light switches.
Hints in her own shaky hand
or reminders left by Mom.

A list on the fridge door, stuck with a leprechaun magnet:
bread; cream; carrots; Bill died in ’92; call Helen S.; margarine

Would you like some tea? asked and answered a third time
and now I guide her to the kettle.

A dog barks in the hall.
The therapy pups, she says. They come on Thursdays.
A glance at a calendar on the beige wall confirms
she’s got this one right.

She talks about the time
the woodshed caught fire in ’44.
From her bed she heard the hiss of flames,
the pop of logs, and ran
across the stubbly grass
in bare feet and just her nightgown.

I remember our collie. Beautiful girl.
She barked and barked at the fire.

The shrieking kettle calls her back.
Sugar…hon? she asks. My name’s slipped
somewhere too far to reach.

I watch her pour the tea and wonder
why some things stick, like
wadded gum to the mind,
while others burn up,
float away like ash.

by Kim Mannix

Guest Editor’s Note: Heart-wrenching story told lightly, vivid details that convey the everydayness of loss, the mystery of what remains.

Please welcome Guest Editor Laura Foley from March 27-March 31, 2017.

Here on the path by Kate Foley

Here on the path

surrounded by that giant who swipes the clouds,
huffs the wind that lifts the sea
over its edges,
we walk.
Intemperate, uncouth
as a big dog, he aims to please,
thinks unremitting and unrelieved
green and greed of grain is all the green we want to see.
Massive tractors track
their giant-trainer-treads

here on the path

where tiny black elegant pearls of rabbit pooh
scatter the battered soil,
hawthorn petals struggle with barbed wire,
poppy seed heads promise red,
a wren flashes its tail, its transparent song,
a blackbird hangs its golden rings
in each of our ears
and the shadows of decayed leaves
are printed on the memory of earth

here on the path

where ‘little’ pits its needle wit
to outlast ‘large’.

by Kate Foley

Guest Editor’s Note: This poem is a luscious mind-dance, waking the reader to delightful sounds and images, large and tiny.

Please welcome Guest Editor Laura Foley from March 27-March 31, 2017.

From the archives – Patience by Luke Stromberg

Patience

His ears set back, his eyes fixed on the dark
Beneath the radiator, the cat crouches,
Glimpsing whiskers there, two feet, a nose.
And when a mouse decides to test the light—
Sniffing the kitchen air—he rises higher
On his haunches—But he doesn’t pounce.
Instead, he allows it to escape, tail twitching
Behind it, back into the dark, untried.

Reckless, he waits. Patience is also risk.
And though it may not seem this way to most,
That takes real nerve: letting a chance slip past,
Believing that a better one will come.
Meanwhile, the pretzel bag’s chewed full of holes.
Turds are on the counter. The mouse, alive.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 9, 2016 — by Luke Stromberg

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman

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I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
. . . .and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
. . . .deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
. . . .as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
. . . .morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
. . . .work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
. . . .fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Roar of the Freeway by Jesse James Doty

The Roar of the Freeway

Sandy grew up near a freeway
The 405 to be exact
The fact
Of the constant background noise
Made it possible to do most anything
At any time of the day or night
Made sounds of love
Fighting
Or crying
Blend into the woodwork

Sandy misses the anonymity
Of the city
You could go to a store
And not be noticed
Every day she could start
All over again
With fresh eyes
And a brand new view

But time doesn’t travel backward
And wishing for what was before
Wastes precious time in the present

Now living in a rural community
The quiet deafens the dead
All Sandy can do is look ahead
To a time when she once again
Thrives among the living

by Jesse James Doty

Guest Editor’s Note:  While the technique is sparse, the first four lines of the second strophe are alluring.  From beginning to denouement the narrative and voice are consistent and charming.

Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.