From the archives — So Near by David Ayers

So Near
for M

First love’s best, love.
You, days from the womb, already master
of the long jaw-movement; me,
near thirty, still seeking where I might fit
in every bone of your face.

I watched
over the sterile blue drape—
that first startled breath, before the blue
body’s rest slipped out of her
slit belly. Then, you cried,

but where the cord wrapped
twice around that ox-like neck,
there’s not a mark to show.

As if life hadn’t hung
on a strapped
piece of flesh. As if, floating in the dark,
those eyes hadn’t first
opened and grown wise.

by David Ayers

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 1, June 2006

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives — from The Survivor by Jenn Koiter

from The Survivor

I speed, late as usual,
to the ceremony
thirteen days after your death.
You hated my driving.
Slow is smooth,
you said, again and again,
smooth is fast, but
I never slowed down.

In your brother’s living room,
your white friends sit solemnly,
trained by church, while
your Indian friends relax
and chat quietly, trusting
the ritual will go on
just fine without them.

Marigolds draping
your photo, spot of vermilion
on your forehead, the drone
of the pandit’s chant: the atheist in you
would have hated all of it, but
you left. You don’t get to pick.

The pandit says your journey
to the afterlife takes a day
for you, but a year for us, that finally
you were leaving, having lingered
these thirteen days. Though
I hadn’t felt you there,
or at your house, or your memorial.
Even my dreams, when I dream of you,
are only dreams. Perhaps,
as usual, you left early.
Lord knows you hate to be late.

Couldn’t you linger
just a little longer, just this once?
Slow is smooth,
smooth is fast. Surely
you can make up the time.

by Jenn Koiter

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, July 1, 2021

photo courtesy of Day Eight

From the archives — Dandelions by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Dandelions

You squat in a sun puddle, tug petals
from star-faced dandelions, sprinkle
their crushed remains, like seeds,
across the ground. I try to teach you

the art of arrangement, pose
limp stems in jelly jars, like I did
for my mother, or to stuff your cheeks
with air and blow

their feathery seed-heads to the wind,
but you prefer your own game, wrestle
your bruised treasures from me and fly,
a hummingbird at twilight. Frantic

before torpor, you dart through the yard,
swipe a fistful of clover, grab
at daffodils on the other side of the fence.
You don’t yet understand

why you can pick dandelions
but not tulips, columbine or love-
in-a-mist. I have not yet found
the heart to explain it.

by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 10, June 2008

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives — We Leave the Beaches for the Tourists by Ira Sukrungruang

We Leave the Beaches for the Tourists

Except when the water receded and what lay there
were gape-mouthed fishes, flopping and gasping
on land that had not seen unfiltered sun

for millennia. We watched, at first,
seaweed, like the long, luscious hair of a mermaid
tangling their feet, and coral like polished

bone. We rushed out toward
the extended shore with wicker baskets to catch
the squiggling fishes, writhing in the heat.

And we were like them, those tourists, for a moment,
amazed at the world and oblivious to the hungry strays
dashing far from the beach, surrendering

the food offering of the sea. We were oblivious
to many things, the elephants that ignored
their handlers, as they made toward the highest

part of the island, the coming wave
that would take us all, sweeping us into the gullet
of the planet and into our next lives.

We remain behind, but hide in shadows.
Only the white faces haunt you, tourist-ghosts
lingering on the beach in bikinis and swim trunks

and sunglasses, wandering back and forth, confused
about the direction of the wind, their unheard voices,
the water that can never carry them home.

by Ira Sukrungruang

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 15, October 2009

photo by Ira Sukrungruang

From the archives — The Uninvited Guest by Wendy Babiak

The Uninvited Guest

So Death comes to call; I offer him tea and
take his sickle and hide it in the closet. Its handle
feels rough on my palm. The foyer smell of cedar
chases away the moths from his empty sockets.
His robes flutter with butterfly wings.
He wears a necklace of hummingbird skulls.

In the kitchen the refrigerator’s hum
drowns out his whispered words.
I pretend he isn’t talking while
I sweeten the tea with lavender honey
but birdsong from outside
rolls in bitter on my tongue

“In England, Shakespeare
had no trouble dying.”
Death’s voice rings out
razor sharp. I shiver
as my bare feet on the tile floor
catch February’s chill.

Rummaging in the cupboards, I think
Now that’s just swell. Death comes to call
and I’m all out of cookies
.
That’s what happens
when you forget to go shopping.
I make a note to write a poem later
on the back of a grocery list.

“God, that’s just like an American.”
Death’s disgust at my lack of hospitality
rankles. The overfilled pitcher of nicety
grows too heavy for my weakened hands
and falls, crashing to bits on the floor.

Like my own Lilliputian minutemen
the shards scatter into a circle around him
barring the way against his heavy feet
while I, light with emptiness
levitate over the painted table.
Arms crossed, I address my guest:

“And now Mama-san will tell you
you presumptuous usurper
what’s up: you will take your
rough-handled sickle, fluttering robe
and ominous whispering, and depart.
And you will stay long away.”

Death hangs his bony head, smooth as an egg
(his has no cracks, as ours do, for through which
birth canal did it ever pass?), already missing
the taste of my tea. I tell him I must find out first
what can’t be discovered. He laughs.
The birds outside sing Hoc opus, hic labor est.

The teacups dance to the sound of his leaving.
Pen in my left hand and rolling pin in my right
I hear his voice as he strides, resigned, away:
“Get to work, girl, and the next time I visit
you’ll be glad for the rest.” My refrigerator hums.
His parting words: “By the way, I prefer scones.”

by Wendy Babiak

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 2, September 2006

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives — “Upon Waking to Find a Sparrow Loose in My Room” by J. Brian Long

“Upon Waking to Find a Sparrow Loose in My Room”

I dreamed again the ghost of you.
I dreamed again the folds and the heat
of you sudden in my sleep, I dreamed you wet

against the salt of my want. This is a thing a dream,
a muse, becomes: a flutter whispering about
the dust of the drape, a shadow tangling

must webs in high, hard corners,
the flit, the rasp, of wings tattering
against the pane, against the false, baring light.

I pen you to the sheets, your song
against the dark of my palm; this
is a thing a dream, a poem becomes.

by J. Brian Long

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 1, June 2006

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives — Ramble of the Bygone Mind by James Uppstad

Ramble of the Bygone Mind

So we see more partings
than returns. So we are old. So the wrinkles do not make
a workman, but a crippling,
a reed or weed on lawn. So cattails bend, unbend, at this lean
hour. It means nothing
but the wind is strong today. I shuffle by marsh-
mires: here no reed
stand strong to take hold of and lift me, dirty but just-
dry against the wind, that
which beats me. Clouds cross like ships, fire ammo
the sound of
thunder and shape of lightning. My clothes swell
in the wind and in the rain
that shape it into breathings, shapes without shape.
I haven’t told of the dream
in which a Greek boy hunched beneath the shelter of trees,
but he dripped and shivered
like me. In the wind, by daybreak, each leaf a grape
pulled up by the stem,
as from somewhere a force had come, they rustled
and bowed like that
as the cattails bend, unbend, at this lean hour.

by James Uppstad

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 7, December 2007

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives — Carnations by Guy Kettelhack

Carnations

And now into the viscous dark –
that blacker than imaginable heart
of things – I go to undergo new throes

of recollection – transformation. My
mother loved carnations – their peculiar
sweet timidity – I remember their

strange scent and hold on her and
on the hollow casket (she was nowhere
to be found in it) where they bestowed

their blushing and their bloom: riding
off the sides, they filled the room
with dissonance and odd perfume.

Three years ago, approximately
today, she started sliding on
the way to die the first week in July.

And now against the viscous dark –
that blacker than imaginable heart
of my unknowing – I imagine pink arising –

growing: redolently weird – its power
blasts the past and future into now –
enigmatic blossom of eternity: her flower.

by Guy Kettelhack

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 2, September 2006

From the archives — Sonnenizio on a Line from Neruda by Michaela A. Gabriel

Sonnenizio on a Line from Neruda

The night turns on its invisible wheels.
The stars are gone; first sunlight splinters
in the branches of black trees, drips onto

tired earth. And so a shadow falls on us,
on our love. I want to rub, to brush it off.
I want to strike a match, turn on another

light, grow my own sun, a wonderland
where waving wands is all it takes to forge
and reforge bonds, where nothing breaks

forever. Place your hand on my hot cheek
again, breathe life into my eyes, connect
the freckles on my back to spell out: Yes.

Write on my skin: We want. We can. We will.
Let me respond with sighs. Then let’s be still.

(First line from Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet LXXXI)

by Michaela A. Gabriel

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 5, June 2007