From the archives – Prayers for Everywhere by Rachel Dacus

Prayers for Everywhere

Prayers for the volcanoes
that need garlands when they erupt
and prayers for the freeways
you never drive them the same twice,
prayers for the buds
that look like babies’ faces
as they open next week and for the blossoms
opening their soft legs to bees.

Prayers for everything the soul
must reluctantly or passionately kiss:
rain-running gutters,
a pebble in the shoe,
the silt gritty on your ocean-washed lips.

Because what is a prayer
but a laugh that can’t be formed
in letters, but only heard
in that place that, praised, lights up.
So prayers for everywhere
that needs them,

Prayers for the worms washed out
of the grass onto driveways,
prayers to step over as they swim
because you can’t pick them up
without damage. So much
of the heart can only be helped
without direct touching.

Prayers for everyone
in the throngs who need well-wishes
to suck on in their sleep
like giant glowing lollipops.
Prayers going to every restless sleeper
on this earth who needs a cool hand on the brow.
Prayers for their own sake,
prayers as beautiful as dolphins
leaping and twisting, prayers
freed from gravity’s pull
to fly glistening into the air.

By Rachel Dacus

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, February 6, 2015

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – Painting Czeslawa Kwoka by Theresa Senato Edwards

Painting Czeslawa Kwoka

I

In Brasse’s black and white photos,
you are a young girl with a round face
dropped into a flat, gray world,
26947 sewn on a striped wardrobe,
naked beneath these numbers.

What does color bring to you?
In color you move through our minds.

In color you are a movie star: Mia Farrow—
slightly protruding upper lip, swollen bottom
forms a dense shadow to your chin.

In color you are a young woman
bleeding from within: pale skin
filters red to pink. This is the
girl you are at Auschwitz, Czeslawa.

You are not a criminal.

II

Your full color portrait
forces our reaction—
your hair is the warmest
fall in a dead winter, amber
background sparks the short, matted
bristles: adolescent questions
quickly extinguished when a scarf adds
texture, diagonal patterns, another
look of a 14-year-old prisoner.

In color you transform: we can
touch your swollen mouth, feel the
voice beneath the left side of your face,
where grays mix with pinks,
a rash of illness.

The contrast holds us.

III

In a soft color profile,
above and slightly right
of 26947, we see a tear
from your right eye spilling down,
just underneath skin transparent,
thin from a bleak setting.

We follow the contour of your
smeared mouth, slightly opened,
trace from lower lip to the
bottom of your chin:
this part of pinkish-gray flesh
appears as number 7.

This is not intentional.

IV

In color we feel the
blacks of uniformity,
harsh marks of suffering
blacken the scratched
shadows below your nostrils.

The black slit above your
gray lower lip sucks us
empty—your eyes, black
oval platters reflecting
SS soldiers and worse
within deep, gray carvings.

Black is blacker in color.

V

Painted close-up: a bright
yellow backdrop brightens
the scarf’s pattern, your hair
hidden in black and white
becomes strands of sunlight,
movement on still life.

Yellows warm your cheeks,
your forehead clear of dirt,
yellows remove the dark patch
from the tip of your nose we see
in each of Brasse’s photographs.
Yellows plunge orange,
settle on the center left of your chest.

You can breathe them in.

by Theresa Senato Edwards

from Autumn Sky Poetry 15, October 10, 2009, previously published in AdmitTwo

Paintings by Lori Schreiner.

Photo by Wilhem Brasse used with permission from the archival collection of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim.

From the archives – Let Death Come by Martin Willitts Jr.

Let Death Come
—villanelle, starting with a line from Jane Kenyon

Let evening come — I am not afraid of dying
for I have known the kindness of birds and seed.
Let trouble find someone else. I have time

to find the climbing blue flowers, trying
to talk to God. Let winds tear, let rivers recede,
let evening come — I am not afraid of dying.

None of this will succeed in denying
what I know is true: not one will impede.
Let trouble find someone else, I have time

before I die, to search for God, and find
bees hording secrets and worms for bird feed—
let evening come, I am not afraid of dying

in the winter of my life, in everlasting, crying,
searching. Death will have me, even if I plead:
Let trouble find someone else. I have time,

I have time; I can fit more love in my mind
and heart. Let the turtles try to hide in reeds,
let evening come — I am not afraid of dying.
Let trouble find someone else — I have time.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 20, 2016

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – Winter Visitation by Peter Vertacnik

Winter Visitation

Although I hurry home as soon
As work is done each afternoon
(Speeding through every yellow light,
Tailgating, passing on the right),
It’s almost dusk when I arrive.
Having parked quickly in the drive,
I scan the birches in the yard
Whose branches look both iced and charred—

And empty. In the house, it’s dark
Already, calm. The birch trees’ bark
Glows through the kitchen window. Here,
Hoping they will reappear
Tonight, as they have for a week,
I sit and wait for the oblique
Descent that’s sudden but quiescent,
Wings flashing black and iridescent.

Their voices peal—discordant, keen—
While they begin to roost and preen.
They’ve been forced to these few cramped trees
(Where, for the moment, they won’t freeze)
Because some woods were felled and sold
For condos that the wealthy old
Will live in only half the year,
Leaving when autumn turns austere.

Meanwhile, the rest of us remain
As light and warmth and color wane,
Then struggle back toward spring in slow
Steps through the salted, melting snow.
These crows are now a part of this,
A presence we cannot dismiss.
One neighbor gripes, “Loud, that’s for sure.”
Another thinks they’re sinister.

To me each one seems an informant
Assuring us we’re merely dormant,
Not dead. If in the trees behind
My house they sometimes bring to mind
Hitchcock’s Birds, or the strange beaked mask
Plague doctors donned for their grim task,
The fractured music that emerges
Resembles dark airs more than dirges.

by Peter Vertacnik

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 13, 2017

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – December by Jean L. Kreiling

December

Arriving modestly, without a sound,
the first snow of the season fills the night
with tiny flakes of other-worldly light
that settles in pale patches on the ground.
The stone-cold air turns flannel-soft, transformed
by small wet stars that fall and thereby lift
the eye and heart—a fragile, frozen gift
that leaves our spirits fortified and warmed.
Another silent night may come to mind,
another star, another gift, but He
need not be sought as heaven falls to earth
in icy, cloud-spun pieces that will find
the pious and the pagan, equally
anointing all who see the season’s birth.

by Jean L. Kreiling

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, December 2, 2015

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

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

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

From the archives – The Office Dreams of Freedom by Eileen Murphy

The Office Dreams of Freedom

It’s cold here and dusty, the air perfectly still.
Voicemail sings when people are gone.
It pities pencils locked in supply rooms.
It sings to its friends in offices everywhere.

Voicemail can sing when people are gone
Because it dreams that it’s free to dream.
Voicemail makes friends in offices everywhere,
Meeting near fish tanks, lurking in halls.

Because it dreams, it’s free to dream.
The phones fall silent when voicemail sings,
Meeting near fish tanks, lurking in halls
As the office dreams of freedom.

The phones fall silent when voicemail sings
About the pencils locked in supply rooms.
While the office dreams of freedom,
It sings that it’s cold here and dusty
And the air is perfectly still.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, December 12, 2016 — by Eileen Murphy

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – Hope by Neil Creighton

Hope

When the hidden rip sucks out
beyond the blue swell
uncurling noisily upon the sand,

out beyond the raucous sea-birds
circling, soaring and dipping
above the white topped crests,

out into dark, trackless waste
where the moving water mountain
towers glass smooth and sheer

and over its vast plateau top
waves foam and rumble
in irresistible chaos,

then only surrender remains,
letting the mighty surge
sweep where it will,

holding in a few tiny cells
the longing for a gentler swell
to wash slowly back

into some sheltered cove
where the patterned ripples
kiss the yellow sand,

where hope fills the clear blue sky
and the whole glorious world
shines again bright and new.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 30, 2018 — by Neil Creighton

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – Transfer of Power by Rick Mullin

Transfer of Power

It’s only natural, our hearts attuned
to reconciliation, that a great divide
would bleed into its center as the wound
reverts to scar on the resilient hide.
There are the massacre and Pentecost.
The fumes of war, the bright tongue of the dove.
Given ample rope, we’d hang ourselves,
but our imagination casts above
the rafters and the heavy attic shelves
on which our bound philosophies are tossed.
There comes a desperate encounter, fraught
with animal ferocity, a hand
extended where a battle has been fought
to one who rises from the bloody sand
already overwhelmed. Already lost.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, November 21, 2016 — by Rick Mullin

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim