Intimacies, Number 18 by Julia Klatt Singer

Intimacies, Number 18

We set off into the woods,
never a glance back.
Nothing in our pockets
but the stones and pinecones
we find along the way—
the occasional treasure
of bone and eggshell, moss
and feather. We knew the story
of Hansel and Gretel.
The old woman’s house—
much like our grandmother’s
we’ve just left
for these woods.
Deeper in until the sunlight
struggles to find us.
Deeper in until the sound
of the dead trees we’ve kicked down
fall silent. Deeper in
until neither of us knows
how long or how far
we’ve gone. The hunger
in our bellies, the light
now slant, we turn
let the panic quicken
our pace. Let the trees
usher us out.
They never scold us.
Lay us a path
of leaves and twigs
roots and soft needles.
Lead us to the sounds
of the road, the short walk
back, the smoke from the chimney
reaching like a long arm, fingers beckoning.
Entering the house (how contained it feels)
we smell like trees, like air;
cool and free and endless.

by Julia Klatt Singer

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julia.k.singer/

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem deftly captures both the folly and risk of youth, and the delicious freedom of it, leaving the reader yearning for more at the end.

Pandemic: “Repurpose Old Shirts for Masks” by Amy Miller

Pandemic: “Repurpose Old Shirts for Masks”

I expected regret, but not
this dissection. How clever
the sleeves—each a single sheet,
shoulder shirred, wrists

tapered. Such skill in the bound-off
seams, square cuffs. I cut it all
away, lay each part flat on the table.
I keep thinking of charts—

loin, shank, ribeye, chuck—the countries
of a body. The back, for instance,
perfect for the long ties, strips,
plaid lines to guide the shears

as it gives up all that held it together,
making an almost beautiful sound
like someone who worked all day
and is now changing into something else.

by Amy Miller

Amy on Facebook
Twitter: @AmyMillerPoet
Instagram: @AmyMillerPoet

Editor’s Note: The allegory inherent in each image of this poem aches so beautifully one must read it again and again.

From the archives – This is the Face of a Widow by Susan Butler

This is the Face of a Widow

These are the hands of a widow,
seeking comfort in pockets and pages,
flapping at the questions
like a frantic small bird trapped in a tangled snare.
These are the hands of a widow, ineffectual,
lurching, reaching for someone they will never touch,
growing thinner, even bones
nearly vanishing.

These are the eyes of a widow,
eyes that don’t see but never stop seeing,
dead stars that still must wake.
These are the eyes of a widow,
burnt crumbs
that still must burn, must disguise,
poorly,
this aching vacancy.

This is the mouth of a widow
. . . .

This is the face of a widow,
stained with weeping salt, skin brittle,
this half moon
cradled in no other hands.
This is the face of a widow,
trying to look forward
instead of down at the earth,
the dirt that covers him,
that will cover her.

This is the word widow.
It means what will never be.

by Susan Butler

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, December 14, 2016

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

A tentative wilderness by Emma McCoy

A tentative wilderness

I put my hands in the dirt
and so do you. We walk for miles,
wade through water, cover each
other’s wounds without speaking.
I bite my tongue as always
and skip a stone across the surface.
The brush entangles our ankles
and dust settles as fast as my feet
can kick it up. At night the embers
of a fire glow softly on our faces
as I map the stars for you, hesitantly.
Gentle heat wards off familiar cold,
I open my bag on the boundary
to reveal the hidden things;
I sketch the landscape in the dark
and you listen to poetry like it’s music
and hear the words you never said.

by Emma McCoy

Instagram: @emma.mmccoy

Editor’s Note: After an invitational opening line, this poem transports the reader into the wilderness with exquisite detail—and really, isn’t that precisely what a relationship is?

Grand Opening on Commercial Avenue by Tony Press

Grand Opening on Commercial Avenue

White canvas tarps cover the day’s labor,
paint guns and tool boxes tucked away.
Cars pose along the east wall, noses pointing north,
the proud Mustang raised just a bit higher.
Spit-clean and spotless, The E & S Auto Body Shop.
You could eat a meal off this floor.
Some children will.

Tonight, rented tables, eight chairs each, Winnie-the-Pooh balloons.
Add three broad boards stretched across sawhorses
sagging with chicken, rice, beef, beans, bread and more rice.
The service counter this night swept free of estimates,
work orders, insurance forms, transformed to a full bar,
nothing held back, bottles set for function, not for show.
Steel buckets burst with ice, beer, soda.

A body shop makes a good dance hall.
Cavernous. It is an aircraft carrier.
Giant speakers blast from all corners.
Lights flash and rotate, machine fog shimmers in the glow.

Three, four, five languages. Owners old and new.
One babe in arms, clutching with both hands
her very first pink plastic bottle,
her wide eyes dilating beneath pure ebony lashes.
Her perfect white shoes could hang
from the mirror of a cherry ’57 Chevy.

Three, four, five languages.
Hablando de Puebla. And Seoul. Calexico. Long Beach.
New owners from Mexico. Old owners, new friends: Korea.
Borders and oceans in the self-same breath.

Kids scramble like puppies,
pinballing into soft aunts, laughing uncles, hard walls,
stopped only by exhaustion, swooped up and tucked into corners,
blanketed under winter coats.
Adults dance. Teens kiss. Adults kiss. Teens dance.
Y todos estan hablando.

It’s a sound stage now.
Hollywood could shoot a movie, MTV a video.
But Monday, back to a body shop, Quality on Commercial Avenue.

Tonight we speak of Puebla, and Seoul. Tonight we dance. Tonight we kiss.
Puebla remains 2300 miles away, and that’s just in miles.
Hablando de Puebla, y bailando, y besando. Y esperando.

by Tony Press

Tony on Facebook

Editor’s Note: Some say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this poem’s words create pictures worth a boxful of photos—each one layered on the next, threaded with relationships that no mere image could achieve alone.

Rumaki Under the Mistletoe by Amy Corlew

Rumaki Under the Mistletoe

I came across a photo of us
Christmas party 2010.
Ten Christmas trees later
I no longer can recall your voice.
I recall we both loved the rumaki
offerings from the abundant holiday spread
alongside the cheese dips and crackers.
Clinking together our tooth picked hors d’oeuvres
under the mistletoe.
Toasting each other with holiday cheer and love.
The snow globe centerpiece filled with holiday magic
we pretended it was our very own crystal ball.
I still have the same blouse I wore in the photo.
It hangs in the closet, a ghost of Christmas past.
Occasionally I still make rumaki and drink peppermint martinis.
Your arm around me, wearing the sweater
you bought for a bargain
not caring if you lost the ugliest sweater contest.
Its softness and comfort were all the prizes you needed.
Ten years later
all your clothes have been taken to donate.
The dead do not pack for their journey.
I consider there is another couple around a holiday spread
pretending the snow globe is their crystal ball.
Toasting each other holiday cheer and love
under the mistletoe.
Shopping at a thrift store
a stranger choosing a sweater.
Winning a contest.
No one notices the tiny stain on the cuff from a dropped rumaki.
No one imagines it worn, in another time, by a man toasting
under a mistletoe consumed with love.

by Amy Corlew

Twitter: @CorlewAmy
Amy on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem meanders through nostalgia and it isn’t until the narrative nears the end that the reader realizes grief doesn’t have an expiration date.

Malarial Dreams (for my former partner upon his passing yesterday) by Heather Bourbeau

Malarial Dreams (for my former partner upon his passing yesterday)

I first said I love you in the highlands of Madagascar, over the phone—
a mix of cowardice and bravery to be so vulnerable, so far away.

It took 10,000 miles and one week alone for me to surrender.
You had led the charge three months before.

I came home to your open arms, our legs wrapped and hungry, our mouths
wanting to take and spill more than was possible at one time.

Today I brushed my teeth without thinking about your death. I went outside,
felt my shoulders loosen with the sun. I got my lunch and made plans.

While walking home, I cried and stifled sobs at the memory of your face
from the time of us. Not the bloat of a man older and settled and unknown.

This afternoon, I bought lip balm and Kleenex forgetting the shock, the loss.
I worked for hours and felt the weight lift from my lingering flu.

I edited my latest story, worried about quality, verb tenses. I marveled at my ability
to breathe through both nostrils, deeply, without coughing, and drank tea.

And when meeting with friends, I held that breath, closed eyes, and flashed
through all the sweetness between us I had forgotten over the years.

I wish your children well. I wish your brother well. I wish I knew how to mourn
someone I hadn’t spoken to in years but wanted to still be in this world.

Tonight I will go to sleep to the quick patter of film noir or the rich language
of poets laureate. I will curl into my side of a bed I do not share.
And I will sweat out my sorrow in the malarial dreams of an old love.

by Heather Bourbeau

Editor’s Note: The rich imagery of this poem drives the narrative through the speaker’s grief, allowing the reader to slowly experience all the moments in between as the emotion slowly matures into nostalgia.

From the archives – Confessional Work: Late Advent by Maryann Corbett

Confessional Work: Late Advent

Long lines at this season, everywhere.
I’m used to them: airport security,
checkout, post office queue, holiday movie.
In darkness that falls early, they fold into corners,
hugging the buildings for something like support.

Always the choreography of burden,
balanced against the hip, hugged to the chest,
kicked ahead of me in the snaking line:
the carry-on that I already know
will not fit in the overhead compartment,
the package that can never arrive by Christmas
to buy me an impossible absolution,
the near-despair clutched at for thirty years.
the pointless sin, the life I never fix—
when my arms tire, I will drag it across the floor
through a trail of puddle left by slushy boots
to a counter where a face, with practiced patience,
will ask me, Anything else? and motion me on.

And all this longing for no reason I know,
except that even now, the lumped gray sky—
as if it heard earth sing Rorate coeli
plops down fat flakes, thick with springlike wetness,
and parking lots filled with the scraps of autumn
look cleaner, in the very way we beg for
in the prayer of another season: white as snow.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, December 10, 2015 — by by Maryann Corbett

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

Uncontained by Peg Duthie

Uncontained

The minks are purses refusing to close
though what they contain will kill us:
the candies, coins, and Kleenex handed
about by mommies, aunties, and grannies
who will not—cannot—conceive or connect
how their presence in the pews
could possibly aid the Angel of Death

and why indeed should they heed that conclusion
having themselves been raised on ever-afters
perforated with heal-all kisses,
not to mention magic slippers
never getting tugged from feet by mud
en route and around inadequate graves.
None of them—nor the deacons or preachers
nor the so-called reality shows—
talk about how dead bodies leak
and fart and darken into hues
not approved by Disney or Dior.
Early on Black Friday I saw
the Angel of Death grinning broadly
at row upon row of shopping carts:
visions of people merrily crowding
one another into plastic bags
danced in that herald’s eyes,
speckled with the gleam of yet more carts
becoming makeshift mobile trunks
for many more about to lose their homes—
more for the Angel to harvest faster
than we can preserve in time.
Tennessee clay may not be as light
as Danish loam, but it won’t matter
how much our latter-day Pharisees
try to cover the corpses or tracks:
there will be no masking the stench
of all they let perish during their watch.

by Peg Duthie

Twitter: @zirconium
Instagram: @zrpeg

Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem is so beautifully contained within the lines that the shocking emotional impact sneaks up on the reader with every enjambment.

Your Shoes Beside My Bed by John Tustin

Your Shoes Beside My Bed

I woke up alone this morning
Like I always do
With my arm around my pillow
And the pillow told me I love
Your shoes beside my bed.

I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth
And my toothbrush told me I love
Your hairbrush on my sink.

I sat to breakfast
And my fork told me I love
Your legs in long black socks beneath my table.

I got into my car and when I turned the key in the ignition
The engine told me I love
Your fingers tangled in my hair.

I checked my rearview mirror
And the mirror told me I love
Your body in the passenger seat,
I love
Your deep kind eyes in the rainy night of the Cross Island Parkway.

I got home that night
And when I fell into bed
The sheets told me I love
That the scent of you still lingers there, just enough.

by John Tustin

Editor’s note: The personification in this poem allows the objects around the speaker to tell the narrative indirectly, enhancing the emotional impact of the last few lines.