My 1917 Royal by Joan Kantor

My 1917 Royal

Whose love
passion
sadness
fears
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

about awareness
impulsivity
intention

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.

You Arrive Like Fall, Suddenly by Bob Bradshaw

You Arrive Like Fall, Suddenly
leaving my heart thumping
like a banging shutter. You missed

the bigleaf maples that hung
like mid air vineyards in spring,

their long racemes
of yellowish green flowers

heavy as grapes. Now
they have the anemic yellows

of leaves folded
like handkerchiefs waiting

to be pocketed away. That alone
should have alerted me to loss.

Haven’t the blow-wives long lost
their beautiful heads of white hair

to shearing winds?
Still, there’s hope you’ll stay, right?

Like the woolly mule’s ears
with her long blonde hair

you too feel at home
in the cool air,

one moment clinging to me
like a monkey flower to a fence,

as if intent on staying.
And yet the next moment

I sense you don’t need roots
–that like a moon jelly,

there isn’t a rock
or a patch of soil or a man

that could ever
anchor you.

by Bob Bradshaw

Editor’s Note: This poem is a study in metaphor and simile, with the heart of the poem set squarely in the middle—loss.

What Is There About Us Always by Tracy Rittmueller

What Is There About Us Always

You gave me a teacup, terra-cotta inside, outside
. . . . . . . . . . . .sun-washed like some villas in Italy.
It pleased me, as it pleases me when
. . . . . . . . . . . .every morning you wake early
to prepare my tea, even now when you cannot remember
. . . . . . . . . . . .the day, washing dishes I knocked my teacup
against the faucet. My teacup. I gathered
. . . . . . . . . . . .ochre shards, trashed them on the day’s spent tea
leaves, said nothing. Finding those fragments
. . . . . . . . . . . .you spoke one word. Oh. Rinsed them,
dried them, glued them together. Later
. . . . . . . . . . . .you brought home a miniature cactus
encircled with thorns. You potted
. . . . . . . . . . . .potentially maiming barbs, tamed them
in that teacup, fragile as the distinction between scars
. . . . . . . . . . . .and art. Sometimes I worry your tenuous
memory will fracture our companionship.
. . . . . . . . . . . .But I know who you are, always the one
who salvaged those wrecked remnants—
. . . . . . . . . . . .my heart—to restore that broken vessel—me.

by Tracy Rittmueller

Tracy on Facebook

Twitter: @TLRittmueller

Editor’s note: Brilliant use of enjambment and indention mimic the broken pieces of the speaker’s cup and emotions, making the last three lines of this poem all the more powerful.

Dancing Zuihitsu by Andrena Zawinski

Dancing Zuihitsu

The lone baleen circles and circles, water sprite at home
in the lagoon off the bay, having lost her way North.
So thin, so weak, her knob head rising every minute
to catch a breath.

I stand waiting for her breach, for fins to slap the surface
sheen, for a burst of blowhole spray. I am afraid she may
beach, join other ghosts hugging the breast of the coast,
language of grief upon me even before the loss.

I daydream dancing at water’s edge, feet slippered in sand,
balancing en pointe between sea and sky, ocean spray
joining in on the buoy’s song.

Sun is about to set itself down as day begins to blur, nosy
moon poking its nose through scattering clouds.

A train sounds its horn across the distant square. A car alarm
goes unheeded at the curb. Rippling waves lap the shore,
lick the weathered dock.

The whale rises again and again, slaps, sprays, circles,
circles, and circles yet again.

Butterflies flirt milkweed. Honey bees buzz poppies.
Their wings, their perpetual evanescence, a performance
in pirouettes skittering off stage behind drawn curtains
ballooning in day’s last breath of wind.

by Andrena Zawinski, first appeared in Drifting Sands (Origami Poems Project microchap)

Editor’s Note: Zuihitsu is a Japanese genre that loosely connects imagery and fragments, and this poem holds true to that idea. Each stanza exists on its own, but it isn’t until the reader reaches the end that the resonance of the whole poem sounds.

Because He Cannot Be Human, and She Cannot Be Donkey. by Dianna Mackinnon Henning

Because He Cannot Be Human, and She Cannot Be Donkey.

His name is Jacob, his fur an unruly thatch.
My sister is in love with him, brings him carrots,
apples and such. He lives in a field down the road from her
in Starksboro, Vermont. They are neighbors.

I wonder if he dreams about her at night,
if he’d like to snuggle with her at the old Mill House
on cold evenings. He reaches so far into his barreled chest
for a voice to greet her that it must take years

for such braying as his, a voice filled with such sadness
that only momentarily they will meet like this; two
reaching across the fence to hold, to stay held, to be
steadied by what fierce yearning as brings opposites together.

by Dianna Mackinnon Henning, first appeared in Pacific Poetry

Editor’s Note: This poem begins with simple imagery and a sweet story, but soon pushes the reader past that and into an intense emotional reckoning.

What do you save by Karen Paul Holmes

What do you save

when a wildfire swarms toward your home?
Ten-thousand acres last week, double today. The Nantahala Forest
combusts like hay: drought plus rough terrain. Bless firefighters
who’ve come Oregon-far to help the Blue Ridge. Bless everyone
praying for rain, damning
the arsonist. These mountains should flame
with autumn; instead, falling leaves become torches,
wind-carried, hell-bent.

Not morning fog, this scrim over my view, but smoke
the sun can’t burn off. Eyes itch, I taste acrid hickory,
won’t let the dogs play outside. Farmers fear for cattle—
the thick smolder, chemicals sprayed to stop it. What about lungs
of ducks here for winter refuge on Lake Chatuge?
And osprey, fox, bear, deer…

Eight miles away, police at my friend’s door: Evacuate. She packs
her sister’s sculpture, mother’s portrait, binders of genealogy notes.
I could grab documents but not
Reverend Cobb’s table cut from a hundred-year oak,
nor the maple desk made by a local man.
The mattress with its imprint of the body I loved.

There’s an odd beauty I don’t want to like,
the smell of campfire, the silver-ringed sun, striated
purple sunsets. I’m in a Turner painting, everything blurred,
obscured under goose down.
Last night the moon glowed red.

by Karen Paul Holmes, from No Such Thing As Distance (Terrapin Books, 2018)

Karen on Facebook

Editor’s note: Careful line breaks emphasize the imagery in this poem and heighten the emotional dismay of the speaker. The enjambment throws the few single line sentences (beginning, middle, and end) into sharp relief, highlighting heartbreak.

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.