one on the wall by JB Mulligan

one on the wall
(Lance Corporal John Henry Ferril II, 6/3/46-7/7/67)

I

Your brother and your sisters speak
and sometimes hear the silence take
a familiar shape, and break.

Your shadow moves in shadows on their floors.
Your knock is sunlight on their doors.
Your smile might brush at night against theirs.

Your job. Your eyes. Your time alone.
So many threads undone
that air and light and dark are thinned.

Some essential pulse is lost,
something that dips and soars along the coast,
some egg that tumbled from the nest
and leaves each morning sky unblessed.

II

Stranger in a strange land,
speaking to new acquaintance or friend,
looking frequently around

this vivid lack of home
in shifting shadows of hope and gloom,
aware that what is to come

might be the trickle of a drying well
from which you drank the little that was all
that you could take before you fell.

Your memories are brittle coins
and gems scattered among the jagged stones
of a battlefield in broken designs
worn smooth by the seasons.

III

A man born on the day you died
would be nearing fifty – bellied
and balding, perhaps, laughing loud

as he pokes at the holiday grill,
watches sparks dance up from coal,
the drift and drop and settle of a gull

on the sea: backdrop of waves
frilled and ragged; a boat which leaves
its peeling wake. He loves

(since he is not) invisible children
running on sand, a wife unseen,
unkissed, unmet. You are gone
and he might have been your son.

by JB Mulligan

Editor’s Note: This poem handles potential and loss in three parts, using shadows, a boat’s wake, and other imagery as the backdrop of grief because some things can’t be touched directly. You only know they exist because of their absence.

Running Boy by Daniel Williams

Running Boy

Out the window,
a hollow metal thud and clattering.
I stand startled from my desk and see
a boy running madly up the road.

Spotting nothing ahead
to draw him on,
I trace his trail back.
A bike, one tire spinning,
lies on the pavement,
half beneath my truck
where it docks at the sidewalk,
ticking in sunlight,
invisible to a boy
until it knocks him down.
“So,” I mutter, smiling,
“we had a crash.”

The boy dashes away
for fear’s sake, away
from the shadow of my house,
a place of dangerous potential,
every window
an image of wrath
I remember so well
from a childhood spent trespassing,
hacking at trees I didn’t own,
believing no one owns the woods
or fields or sheds and barns with wide open doors,
running terror-struck from voices
of old men,
chased far away by the echo
of their anger in my head,
those ghosts,
my fear of them.

I watch the boy run for cover,
how his whole life is in it,
this escape, a precious thing,
worth running forever,
and I laugh,

I’m the old man now.

by Daniel Williams

Twitter: @dpwillia2

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem uses thoughtful line breaks and clear imagery to convey how nostalgia can become more joy than trauma.

Some Facts You Should Know About The Love Of Music by Christine Potter

Some Facts You Should Know About The Love Of Music

Johann Sebastian Bach had a street brawl with a student
whose bassoon he’d insulted and who was therefore trying

to brain him with a stick. Tchaikovsky and Saint Saëns liked
impersonating ballerinas together. Bach was carrying a knife.

Tchaikovsky was almost certainly gay, and Saint Saëns, too.
The student’s clothing was shredded before his friends

pulled Bach off him. Tchaikovsky’s wife would never have
comprehended the words describing homosexuality. A 20th

century composer of organ music named Richard Purvis
wrote an arrangement of “Greensleeves” in a fox hole, under

live fire, during World War II. Saint Saëns eventually left
his wife. Tchaikovsky did, too. Richard Purvis led the first

military band through liberated Paris after his rescue from
a German POW camp. His “Greensleeves” sounds like the

whole world’s broken heart, trying to bear up. A grave robber
dug up Haydn’s skull. It was replaced with someone else’s

but later found. Now there are two. The judge let Bach’s
student go and cautioned Bach to be more likable. Music

is the last thing to leave anyone with dementia. Bach and
Handel were blinded by the same inept surgeon. My own

mother, before her diagnosis of terminal kidney disease, sat
in her doctor’s office, singing “Flat Foot Floozy,” out loud.

by Christine Potter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christine.potter.543
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Christine-Potter/e/B001K7URHS/

Editor’s Note: This poem opens with a deceptively simple list of facts about musicians, but soon the repetition begins to press inward, and suddenly the “whole world’s broken heart” appears mid-poem, with such startling clarity, that the emotional refrain echoes long after the last line.

What to Expect: The Teen-Age Years by Cati Porter

What to Expect: The Teen-Age Years

A distant echo, like fruit belched up from breakfast,
I remember how it felt to house your body in my body,
how it knobbed up to meet the palm of my hand,
how every gas bubble even before you could
was a kick. Then, you grew. Plop, you fell out of me
like a menarche clump of red cells except you
were pink and frail and required oxygen.
Then, suddenly, you were pushing up to standing,
then walking, running, playing Matchbox cars,
and now here you are, only a toddler, with your own
car and license and my time is my own again
and I don’t know what to do with it.
There was nothing to prepare me for this.
I read The Baby Book until the spine cracked
and pages leaked out like my nipples oozing milk
whenever you cried. I read What to Expect When…
each stage a fresh new hell, except, once you hit
puberty, there were no guidebooks to tell me
how to teach you to drive, how not wind up in the ER
after a drinking binge, or how to make you love
poetry, or me. That book doesn’t exist, but I imagine
if it did it might begin with a chapter or two on mourning
who you’ll never be, and accepting that.
Forget college. Forget the golf scholarships.
Never mind that homework. I forgive you for giving up
on me not giving up on you. Instead, I give you
the freedom to fail, and my unwavering love
as I watch you clamor at the guardrails,
pulling yourself back up, up, and then off again,
while I sit here barely daring to sip my glass of wine,
phone beside me, volume high, waiting, waiting.

by Cati Porter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cati.porter/
Twitter: @cati_porter
Instagram: @cati_porter

Editor’s Note: The conversational tone of this poem makes it easy to read fast, much like the shocking distance from infancy to teen years, but by the end, the aching worry of parenthood is firmly fixed in the mind.

Welcome to the Natural World by John Grey

Welcome to the Natural World

Shrunken heart, in a tiny kitchen,
you’re long past the season of your youth,
You find your solace only in the obituaries,
or the cold that has everyone bundled up
and not just you and your pacemaker.
Hardened arteries, blotchy skin—
how can this ever be the way forward.
No encouragement from your veins.
It’s all they can do to make it to your surfaces.

Your body struggles to the parlor.
Like it or not, the only action is on the television.
Your senses gravitate to nature programs.
A lioness stalks a herd of zebra.
You sympathize with that black and white striped horse.
But it’s the feline that strikes the jealous note.
If only you could move with such cruel elegance.
But your bones creak like snapping chalk.
And you cough like an old charcoal fire.
Your prey would feel your presence from a mile away.

The camera moves in for a close-up
as the lioness leaps upon the zebra’s back.
It’s an uneven contest.
Of course, in your life, contests always are.
Then there’s scenes of the male and two cubs
feasting on the kill.
You’d look away but your neck muscles forbid.
Up next is the mandatory scene
of that lazy full-maned lout mounting
the one that’s done all the work.
A smile of recognition crosses your lips.

You doze a little as the ad for dish washing liquid
scours out all the blood.
And another for double-ply trash bags
provides room and heft enough to stuff all of the bones.
Next up is a loud blurb on the benefits
of a new wonder pain pill.
What’s the point, you mutter.
You’re with the zebra on this one.

by John Grey

Editor’s Note: Skillful metaphors draw the reader into this poem even as the second person point-of-view mirrors the central image of a documentary program, and we empathize from our distant screen, joints aching.

From the archives — May 30th by Patricia Wallace Jones

May 30th

A year ago I wrote to you
of temple bells, about the silk-tassels,
how they grow like weeds, shimmer
in the wind beneath my window.

After a mild dry winter,
scant spring rain, you sing to me
of homemade tortillas, the sweet
heady taste of vine-ripe tomatoes.

Out of step with your seasons,
these cool windy mornings
my catkins dance early, grey faster,
fall even softer this year than the last.

And to think—
before you came
with this uncommon friendship,
the remarkable beauty
in distant correspondence,
I would have missed this day,
used it for a calendar, a decoration
for my wall if I noted it at all.

by Patricia Wallace Jones

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, May 30, 2017

radioactive by Sam Rose

radioactive

we take the afternoon off work to visit the nuclear
medicine department at the hospital
and in the evening I try to access some feeling and I ask myself

if I cry, will that help flush the radiation out of my body?
or will it just give the bags under my eyes a buttercup glow
as if my pupils had become suns

stop
I say
stop
It was just a CT scan, just a tiny amount of radiation
and you are just melodramatic
you are just a girl, not spiderman
and nothing is happening

but that’s what burns

by Sam Rose

Twitter: @writersamr

Editor’s Note: The fractured lines and words of this poem perfectly encapsulate the uncertainty inherent in dealing with illness and the medical treatment that can feel more like a machine than healing. 

This Is Not My Story by Yvonne Zipter

This Is Not My Story

I am weeping in the kitchen, cutting tomatoes for dinner.
My wife comes into the room and asks what’s made me cry.
They showed a boy, I sob, and then must stop because I am weeping
again. I am weeping for a boy on the news. He is ten and walking
along a caliche road. Alone. He is walking along a gravel road
in La Grulla, Texas, ten and walking in a desert, not another soul
in sight until a border patrol guard sees him. The boy is ten,
and though he wears a Batman t-shirt and hooded jacket
like any ordinary boy, he is not ordinary. Four hours alone
in the desert, a Nicaraguan boy abandoned in the night
by the migrants he was traveling with, and he is sobbing so hard,
his chest heaves beneath the face of a cartoon character. And I
am sobbing with him, crying because he is ten and alone,
and I know that fear, the fear of solitude, the fear of never
being found, though I was never abandoned, let alone in a desert.
And then the pain of knowing his fear asks all of my other pain
to join it, and I am crying for my dead mother, for my cancer,
for the way the world tries to divide me and the boy, me
and his parents in Nicaragua, because of the color of our skins.
But this is not my story. I am not lost. I am in my kitchen,
safe, with someone to hold me while I weep, someone
to kiss away my tears. This is a story of desperation,
of a boy, looking for safety and a kitchen full of light and food
and love, looking for someone to hold him while he weeps.

by Yvonne Zipter

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YvonneZipterWrites
Instagram: @yvonnezipter
Twitter: @YvonneZipter


Editor’s Note
: This poem’s conversational tone emphasizes the empathy of the speaker, bringing the trauma of understanding up from the darkness and into the light.

Plans by M.J. Iuppa

Plans

Listen. I can’t explain what we’ve been through.
This year of isolation has made us slightly mad.
All of us wishing we could sleep a hundred days
in the crease of a rugged mountain and wake
somehow stronger than before we were given
this wager—
. . . . . .To survive learning the hard way isn’t a joke.

We look out our windows, full of whatever
weather is happening, and dream of being
swept up by a steady wind that comes from
far away. We think this is a good plan—we
want to be safe but stand ready with our next
move. We’re living behind masks. All anyone
sees is our pupils—those corridors, narrowing
or dilating in response to what we need to do.

Whose plan was that?

Someone who stays up late into the night.
Someone who promises everything will be perfect.
Someone who believes you have what you need.

Listen. We are not ones to say: all bets are off.

by M.J. Iuppa


Editor’s Note
: The speaker’s voice in this poem is strong and direct, drawing the reader into the imagery that describes the unbalance people feel while living through a difficult time in history.

From the archives – Lascaux Horse by Ciaran Parkes

Lascaux Horse

Where are you heading to, Lascaux horse,
rust and bonfire coloured, running
across the eggshell coloured postcard?
Never mind if your legs appear too thin

to bear your weight, they were never meant to.
You were born like this, caught between the earth
and sky, under someone’s moving
fingers clutching clay and charcoal, lit

by uncertain fire light, so you seem
to move in and out of shadows, one
of Plato’s ideal creatures, not needing
anything more than this to be alive

and permanent. On the other side
of the postcard, words of love and greeting
from years ago, in some unknown hand.

by Ciaran Parkes

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, April 21, 2017

photo is in the public domain