From the archives – Ellen Andreé Comments in a Letter to Her Sister on L’absinthe by Degas — David W. Landrum

Ellen Andreé Comments in a Letter to Her Sister
on L’absinthe by Degas

Of course I look dead drunk. I think that’s what
he aimed for—and, of course, he always got

the effect he wanted. I am staring out,
my eyes unfocused. Marcellin is the lout

beside me, puffing on a pipe, his eyes
scanning the room, as if for his next prize,

his next seduction. He has a soft drink,
I have a green cocktail—green, and I think

it’s called Absinthe. I’m not a connoisseur
of mixed drinks, so I’m not completely sure

that’s right. We both look stupid, but I guess
that’s what Monsieur Degas sought to express.

Painters are strange creatures—men who can look
on your bare form and never feel the hook

of lust snag in their flesh—like doctors they
can see you but not be carried away

with the desire most men feel in their blood
at a woman’s nakedness. I guess that’s good.

He’s never made advances—yet sometimes
I wonder if he even sees my charms

or thinks the parts of me that ravish men
might be a prize he’d go great lengths to win.

I’m getting off the subject. I’ll be down
next Saturday to see you in your town.

I’m glad to hear, thank God, Dafne, your child,
got over smallpox—that the case was mild.

To answer you, I don’t know if I’ll pose
for him in the future. As far as modeling goes,

I doubt if I can do it anymore.
I don’t like being painted as a whore,

and a drunk whore at that. As Crème de Menthe,
is always preferable over Absinthe,

modeling is dull; the stage is so much better.
I prefer acting. Now I’ll post this letter.

by David W. Landrum

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 19, October 2010

Painting by Edgar Degas, “The Absinthe Drinker.” 1876. Oil on canvas. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.

Operatic by Faith Thompson


Someone is being operatic here,
Beside the garden off the coffeehouse.
We all were sitting and admiring rocks
And greenery and yellow dahlias

When suddenly, from over the east wall,
Came warbling a wildly ranging voice—
Some Carmen or Aida holding forth—
Thick with feeling to indecency.

It is disruptive; there’s no doubt of that.
But part of me is wistful after it—
Not the skill or beauty of the voice,
Though that’s a point of envy, sure as sure.

But it’s her recklessness I really want—
Singing opera over garden walls,
Beauty rattling a tamer beauty—
A voice to discompose the dahlias.

I’d like to think that singer could be me.
Instead I sit, and sip at lukewarm tea.

by Faith Thompson

Editor’s Note: The conversational tone of this poem draws the reader inside the narrative with ease (because who among us has not felt the same combination of envy and admiration?).

Thinned Larch, or What If a Body Lost Its Leaves by Michael Goodfellow

Thinned Larch, or
What If a Body Lost Its Leaves

Needles storm weak,
wind bent, sky turned,

it lost everything
again, barked spire,

stone pinched,
roots a plate

chalky with want.
It nearly wasn’t,

just a rock lip
where the wind caught

part of the world,
thin enough

to hand cut, arm
to trunk. Bone soft,

it broke clean
again and again—

by Michael Goodfellow

Instagram: @camfirenotes

Editor’s Note: This imagistic poem invites the reader to imagine instead of reason within an emotional narrative.

Making Future Plans by Michelle Meyer

Making Future Plans

As if it were an option
I begin to imagine myself standing
in my mother’s kitchen.

I have just returned from a run.
I am making tea. She is making coffee.
I spoon out honey, cream, and then
we both sit—pass another hour just talking.
About what, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

A neighbor knocks on the door to tell us something
insignificant. We observe
the cat running through the house—a sure sign
that he has just pooped. We cheer him on,

A pair of cranes walk past the pond,
gurgling. They are so elegant and awkward.

We plan our day. It’s simple.
Eat. Walk. Savor

the sun, the heat,
the fact of our togetherness,
of our exclusive, uninterrupted time
which (like Christmas) only happens
once a year.

Pull a chair up to the ocean. Marvel
at the breeze
as if it will not be our last breeze. Marvel
at the day
as if it will not be
our last day.

Take a selfie. Marvel
at our big, toothy, ignorant grins.

by Michelle Meyer

Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem is crystal clear and all the more wrenching when the final two lines tell the reader what is true.

You will fall through the world on fire by James Diaz

You will fall through the world on fire

And on the days when you need hope most
you must pretend it’s there

root around in the dirt
until the dark reveals its truest face

pain is always more convincing than everything else
tell the dumber story

laugh louder than you meant to
don’t look around in embarrassment

be all looks at once
be your own eyes upon yourself

we are all telling the same story;

ok, so you don’t really know who you are
what’s so bad about that?

I have seen the clouds, like Joni says
I really don’t know the world

but I know the pain
the stumbling, doubting, dumb, useless shit

let go of it
arrive at the party soaking wet

or not at all
eat pizza alone in the park

smiling at squirrels being squirrelly
join them

I’ve seen it done
I’ve wanted a freedom like that

it’s always there
beneath all the dark

you can run right into it
and never come back out

it’s an easy thing: to hate your life
I’ve been there, I stayed longer than I meant to

and on those days when I forget where I came from
I look up at the sky

because there’s no bottom to it
because heaven is just a twisting of the neck

look, there, all that true-blue
and you…

by James Diaz

Twitter: @diaz_james

Editor’s Note: Sometimes a poem reaches out and grabs the reader by the throat. This poem’s first line is brilliantly true.

From the archives – When Jesus Was Grown — Gail White

When Jesus Was Grown

His mother breathed a deep sigh of relief
when he turned 25 and nothing strange
had happened. (Maybe it was all a dream,
that business with the angel).

She might yet manage to arrange a match
with some nice Jewish girl — it was high time —
and then she could relax, look forward to
a few polite grandchildren.

But though he was the finest carpenter
for miles around, had really learned the trade,
and knew and loved the Torah, nonetheless
she had concerns about him.

He seemed too fond of prophecies about
the world turned upside down, and although she
was charitable to a fault, she felt
he loved the poor to excess.

And now there was a prophet drawing crowds,
living on locusts, wearing camel skin.
His preaching was outrageous, and she hoped
her son would never hear it.

by Gail White

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 21, April 2011

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Snow Storm by Martin Willitts Jr.

The Snow Storm

A blizzard locks down my small street.
There’s nothing to do to change the conditions—
shoveling is a lost cause.
Still, I work outside as silence falls.

A thousand hidden noises speak louder in snow:
the slosh as I push the snow aside;
the birds hovering in the thin hedge branches;
the way a flake lands on a child’s tongue.

The quiet arrives from a great distance,
from grey clouds. I do not pay attention
to what I am doing in the cold silence.
The quiet tells me, listen closer, listen deeply.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem circles around a central plea—listen to the silence.

Waiting for Winter by Bruce Gunther

Waiting for Winter

All that remains is the crow’s nest
clinging to barren branches.
The skeletons of French lilacs
rest for the long journey
toward spring.
Leaden skies are paired with stillness.
We, too, hunker down as winter
trudges in on heavy, loud boots,
idling at this junction of rest
and potential rebirth.
The yard cleared of the maple’s
autumn suit; brittle leaves clatter
like playing cards over the pavement.
The potential of the days ahead:
snowbound, wind with sharpened teeth,
the futile spin of tires, tread
lodged in wet snow.
Present, too, this resolve to live
on nature’s terms – to unfold
within this powerful silence.

by Bruce Gunther

Twitter: @BruceGunther3

Editor’s Note: In this liminal winter week, the clear imagery of this poem feels particularly apt.

From the archives – After the Storm — Donna Vorreyer

After the Storm
Clouds scribbled
their white back
and forth as if you
had tried to erase
the sky, as if you
held some grudge
against the weather
or the atmosphere
or a certain shade
of blue, as if you
could command
the horizon, as if
words once spoken
could be recalled,
as if you could
erase anything,
as if the past was
not indelible, as if.

by Donna Vorreyer

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 11, September 2008

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Oh, Tannenbaum by Yvonne Zipter

Oh, Tannenbaum

It was about some notion of elegance,
yes, but mostly about control,
every curl of metal on the rigid
wire limbs of my grandmother’s
aluminum tree exactly the same,
every branch spaced evenly,
satin balls—red or green only—
at uniform intervals. All the years
of my childhood, that lifeless
facsimile occupied the corner
at Christmas, its sparkle displayed
to all of Brentwood Avenue,
a quartet of picture windows
framing it like art. What a nightmare
it must’ve been for her, Christmases past,
with those delicate glass ornaments,
bell shaped and ball shaped and some
shaped like pinecones—how ever
do you arrange them on boughs
so supple and untidy? Better
the aluminum tree, spare and clean
in the barren space beside the outsized
panes, telling lies about the rest
of the house, the tangled lives within,
and every silvery sliver of fake foliage
reflecting her face, soft with powder.

by Yvonne Zipter

Instagram: @yvonnezipter
Twitter: @YvonneZipter

Editor’s Note
: This poem’s tragic last line invites the reader to wonder what drove the speaker’s grandmother to such desperate control, and why.