From the archives – Earth-bound by Rosemary Badcoe

Earth-bound

Tonight we’re waxing gibbous, giddy
with our arms out-flung in late-night light from stores
that stock their windows high. We sow distraction,
lope in doorways, carve our immortality
in bus shelters and benches. Here’s where hares
shovelled starlight on the recreation ground,
the mound like broken glass flinging reflections of our feet
up to a sky boxed in by banks of tenements.

Like leverets we’re born in shallow scrapes, eyes wide –
no chance to set a burrow where there’s space to grow.
We sling the stones that burst the lighted panes.
The hares pursue the moon into the sky
and squat there, pestles pounding rice cakes,
faces turned away.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, February 24, 2016 — by Rosemary Badcoe

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Color – Caste – Denomination by Emily Dickinson

Color — Caste — Denomination

Color — Caste — Denomination —
These — are Time’s Affair —
Death’s diviner Classifying
Does not know they are —

As in sleep — all Hue forgotten —
Tenets — put behind —
Death’s large — Democratic fingers
Rub away the Brand —

If Circassian — He is careless —
If He put away
Chrysalis of Blonde — or Umber —
Equal Butterfly —

They emerge from His Obscuring —
What Death – knows so well —
Our minuter intuitions —
Deem unplausible

by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

My Valparaiso by Clark Holtzman

My Valparaiso
Or, The Fish
. . . . . . . .—for Carlos, Camila, Claudia & Ryan at the Neruda house, Valparaiso, Chile

This Pacific could not be bluer
if we waved a wand, or
this snail’s shell more green
or more certain of its greenness.
This stair could not labor so sensibly
up the hill of the poet’s dream
or these windows carry us
farther to paradise.

A minute here passes
like the cargo ships on the bay,
eternally, at ease, like the cat
licking itself in strong sunlight
on the funky garden bench.
I am caught by it, a fish in time,
surprised by the hook, the sharp,
startling wound of happiness.

by Clark Holtzman

Editor’s Note: This poem calls to mind the intense imagery of Jack Gilbert’s work—emotion is a tricky narrative to tread, but the close of this poem steps carefully and well.

Lessons by Martin Willitts Jr.

Lessons

The sky sighs one snowflake,
and it floats like a manta ray.
It is outlined in the dark, falling
awkward, only to be called back.

There are areas where silence
is traced like a river of air,
a voice calling us,
telling us it is getting late.

I keep reminding myself,
Spring is closer and further away
than I think. When I look,
nothing is there.

*

A work crew takes chainsaws to the mulberry.
But its roots are deep, entangled,
and it will not go easily. Saws lose their edge,
going dull as a conversation.

The mulberry had been here since Victorian times,
scolding newness like a grouchy grandparent
set in their ways. God wrote into Creation,
we would have to tolerate whatever stands in our way.

*

A skunk was scrubbed against the road, odor stumbling,
half-blind. Boys lifted their wrinkled noses,
souring their faces. Girls danced perfume into the air,
hoping for the best, but disappointed, like with a kiss.

A child listening to a bedtime story asks, what’s that?
Answers open other questions a crew must clean up.
A skunk only has one way to get its point across.
Once it teaches its lesson, we learn never to forget it.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem’s three parts showcase the title’s definition. The last part’s repetition of previous imagery ties everything together with an difficult lesson.

Reminiscent odd duck blues by Charles Carr

Reminiscent odd duck blues

The sky was always cloudy
when I was fifteen
and the bell rang at noon
and I was the new kid
for a third straight year;
the cafeteria fear of alone,
how clean and quiet
the bathroom was,
its four sinks,
their separate mirrors,
my reflection in each
as though me and all my friends
washed our hands
before we stood and stared
through the fold out windows.
How strange it would have seemed
if anyone knew I was alive,
how my sandwich didn’t last
more than five minutes
which left at least twenty
to go over the words
I would never have the nerve
to say to the girl
with the hair as long and dark
as a February afternoon.

by Charles Carr

Twitter: @selfrisinmojo

Editor’s Note: This poem is a lovely example of how the marriage of imagery and narrative can create a complex emotional space.

The Lost Brigade by Bruce Guernsey

The Lost Brigade

My Uncle Donald always knew the weather.
“Had to, during the war,” he told me, “in Alaska,”
as we stood on the steps of our cabin in New Hampshire,
this strange, middle-aged man and I,
scanning the skies for Zeroes—
“I hear ‘em. Doncha? Doncha, through the clouds?”—
but I heard nothing, saw only the lake, its surface
the color of pewter before a storm, and my uncle
cupping his troubled brow with his hands
like a soldier with field glasses, his blue eyes blank
and far, far away.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .He’d been a member, I learned years later,
of “The Lost Brigade,” the men shipped to the Arctic
in 1942 to guard the Aleutians, those stepping-stones
the ancient Asians crossed centuries ago,
and on Umnak Island Uncle Don gazed west for months
toward Kiska, the island base of the Japanese
fifty miles away.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Taking turns in twelve-hour shifts,
he and the others of “The Lost Brigade” stared across an open tundra
seemingly forever, watching for cracks, some small fracture
in the steel-gray weld of sea and sky, blinded finally
by all they did not see, like the farmers out here in Illinois
after weeks of plowing the empty, late fall fields,
staring into their coffee, silent, numbed
by so much nothing. Forgotten on Umnak for nearly two years,
Private Donald Heffernan went insane, had to be shipped
back to the States, and by the state,
put away.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .“He saw God’s foot on the treadle of the Loom,”
Melville says of Pip, the cabin-boy swept from the Pequod
into the sea, gone mad from that immensity. And my uncle?—
a priest without beads, mumbling to himself, an old man now
in his dead parents’ house on St. Pete Beach
where he’s piled a fort of old papers
deep as snow on any tundra, and boarded up the doors.
From there last week, hurricane season, they dragged him off
screaming about devils in the distance
to a locked ward at the Florida V.A., a room without windows.
Donald’s had enough of sky
though he knows the weather, the gathering clouds
a squadron’s thunder
so far away.

by Bruce Guernsey, First Published in TriQuarterly. Reprinted in From Rain: Poems, 1970-2010.

Editor’s Note: Impeccable narrative poetry sucks the reader into the story. In this poem, we learn that absence can drive one mad as surely as a life filled too much.

Huck. by Neil Creighton

Huck.
(For Joan Colby in thanks for her poem, “Tom Sawyer“)

Yes, it’s true, Tom married Becky,
became a lawyer, then a judge,
forgot that vibrant youth,
harrumphed and carved the roast
and settled into opinionated age.

But not you, Huck,
weeping over the dark heart of your fellows,
triumphing in goodness over faulty conscience.

They say you lit out for the Territory
but you have had many guises.
I know you re-appeared in Greenwich Village
in the 1960’s with curly long hair,
dreamy eyes and a bag full of songs
about the folly and darkness
of the mighty river of your country.

We need you on your raft again,
writing and singing of all you see.
The King and the Duke are still with us,
lying, cheating, vilely manipulating.
The Shepherdsons and Grangerfords still feud
and the murderous madness of the mob threatens.

Come again, Huck. Re-appear.
We need your truthfulness and your vision.
That at least is a kind of liberty.

by Neil Creighton

Editor’s Note: This poem’s pragmatic tone conveys a world of dark folly (although the last line offers a thread of hope).