A Day Mirrors Itself by Martin Willitts Jr.

A Day Mirrors Itself

1.

It is exactly one minute after midnight; a new day
crawls out the last day like a snail pulling darkness,
after leaving its shell. The town rolls up
sidewalks, the streetlights yawn, fighting sleep,
and the curious dandruff of snow filters the stilled,
patient air. Everyone fidgets with cabin fever.
At eleven, a teenager races to beat curfew.
I sit in a dark room, developing daily snapshots, rising
out of printer’s emulsion of memory. Snow cakewalks
in its finest attire. The music of silence falls on bare branches
like a waitress tips of a few pennies. The clock drags its feet.
Sleep eludes me. Silence teaches me about listening,
and I am a terrible student. Although it feels like an hour,
it is still the same minute of stillness and intention to detail.

2.

It is still the same minute of stillness and intention to detail,
and I am a terrible student. Although it feels like an hour,
sleep eludes me. Silence teaches me about listening,
like a waitress tips of a few pennies. The clock drags its feet
in its finest attire. The music of silence falls on bare branches
out of printer’s emulsion of memory. Snow cakewalks.
I sit in a dark room, developing daily snapshots, rising
at eleven. A teenager races to beat curfew.
Patient air. Everyone fidgets with cabin fever,
and the curious dandruff of snow filters the stilled
sidewalks. The streetlights yawn, fighting sleep,
after leaving its shell. The town rolls up,
crawls out the last day like a snail pulling darkness.
It is exactly one minute after midnight; a new day.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: Beautiful imagery drives the repetition in this poem, offering the reader subtly different views of the speaker’s life.

Name by Mir Yashar Seyedbagheri

Name

I slink through stores
and the narrowest of country roads
my name butchered and battered
carried upon my back
they ask from whence it comes
in starched smiling tones

but what do they mean?

sometimes, I proclaim myself tsar
an imperial majesty to my name
and I imagine the questioners genuflecting
each bow graceful and easy
while Tchaikovsky booms with bombast
over vast marbled floors

they say they’re just curious
it’s so exotic, a name they’ve never heard
am I an Arab? A Greek? An Israeli?
I smile while they guess and try to look beneath their words
is there a grimace there, while they butcher it again?
or am I just imagining?

Of course, they blow up and shoot tsars
but I just want to hold onto that word for a night
or two
tsar, a sharp edge
and speak not of questions or laws, but of edicts, orders
striding not slinking, a beatific smile rising from neat-trimmed beard

I want to speak that word one last time
before I slink down another country road
questioners battering my name

I want to waltz one last waltz
before my back breaks

by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri

Editor’s Note: The “exotic” name in this narrative poem is an excellent metaphor for racism, highlighting the inescapable frustration and emotional burden the speaker feels.

Bewildered by Susan McLean

Bewildered

The lilacs are confused. They don’t remember:
has winter come and gone now? No, a drought
has crisped their leaves like piecrust. Some, in doubt,
hold out flambeaux of blossom in September.

Their swoony fragrance pierces like remorse.
Did we not let them frizzle in the sun?
And now they’ve come deliriously undone,
throwing bouquets out as a last recourse.

The bees, too, seem bedazzled. A fall swarm
has settled on our pine. To leave their hive
this late means they’re unlikely to survive
the winter. Hurriedly, while it’s still warm,

we call a beekeeper, who nabs their queen
and lures them to a nucleus box. He’ll bring
it home and feed them sugar till next spring.
They’d die if someone didn’t intervene.

And us? The patterns change and we’re dismayed.
As glaciers melt, lakes dry, and species die,
we flinch and look away from reasons why,
trapped in a minefield we ourselves have laid.

by Susan McLean

Editor’s Note: This poem is an interesting blend of beautiful imagery and sonics and grim narrative. It’s odd how humans can create such beauty amidst destruction.

Revenant Etudes by Stephen Bunch

Revenant Etudes

She plays piano in an upper room
in the only unhaunted house in town.
Her calloused fingertips caress
the flats and sharps, the keys
like knife blades arrayed before her,
the dried blood long worn off
by hours of arpeggios, staccatos, and trills.

Sometimes she sings, but usually
she listens, mimics with fingers spread
the sound of the oak’s shadow pressing
the window, or the soft turning
of her husband in sleep.

As she plays she works
to see stars through the ceiling,
to reproduce the faces
of her grandchildren behind
the walls of other houses
in other towns, to hit

the note exactly
as the telephone rings,

and when it doesn’t ring, to pause
precisely and sustain.

With hands crossed, she can make
the sun rise, again and again,
never the same, panta rhei,
with the soft hammering of thumbs,
the interval between then and now.
In the angle of her wrists
the pulse of an ovation,
but she continues to play,
refusing to take a bow.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: This poem highlights that moment all artists crave—zen, flow, being in the zone—while also delicately speaking of the danger of its call.

From the archives – Details by Ayesha Chatterjee

Details

I have lost you in the clutter
of such ordinary things: bones
picked clean, piled neatly
in the November sun,
pennies recounted like thoughts
on the kitchen counter,
the flutter of electric bulbs
across continents.

I can recall the exact
colour of your eyes, the taste
of your breath, the lope of your stride
and feel my heart
beat whole and strong and separate
as though you never were.

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 2, September 2006— by Ayesha Chatterjee

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

What my Father Found by Greg Watson

What my Father Found

My father says that he remembers nothing after
finding my grandmother, thrown as if by force
upon the kitchen floor, her blue eyes gone
blank as river stone, blood not red but black,
reaching, as one hand did, into the stillness of air,
the other held inward, as if cradling a book
which no one could have seen or deciphered.
He remembers the bottle of arsenic glinting
in sunlight, the maddening shouts of the crows,
the strange weight of his own breath hovering;
remembers walking slowly back to the car,
easing it up the gravel road to the Halverson’s
to start up a game of afternoon baseball.
I can’t know his thinking, or whether all thought fled.
Yet in my mind’s eye I see him, unwashed jeans
dragging at the heel, the bill of his cap pulled low,
walking much the same as I did at that age,
hands in pockets, gazing vaguely at the ground.
I can see him kicking at the dirt, signaling,
his H&B bat suddenly connecting, startling
the barn swallows out of their secret chambers,
the thin, red stitching of the ball turning
and turning, fast upon itself, shooting past
the billowing tops of summer trees; and below,
the lengthening silhouette of that farm boy
running, running toward a fierce blinding light
where, for one imperceptible moment,
he somehow manages to all but disappear.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: Shock is an indescribable experience, yet this poem somehow manages to bring it forth with stunning imagery and clear focus.

The Orchestra by Bob Bradshaw

The Orchestra

We played
for a bit of extra food,
for extra blankets
—thin as scarves—

and to lose ourselves,
like lifeboats adrift in mists,
rowing our bows
across our strings.

Sometimes we played
when new arrivals
were escorted by guards
to the gas chambers.

As I bowed I imagined
the children, mothers, old men
inside, turning, staring—
bewildered
by the shower’s blank walls.

What could a prisoner
working inside the crematorium do
afterwards but hook their bodies
with poles,
and drag them to the lift
where they were hoisted
to the furnaces?

If they were lucky a stoker
would utter a Kaddish
before pushing them into the flames,
their smudges of ash
dirtying the empty
sky.

All while our music played,
not the lively pace
of music dispensed
when work details
marched in and out of camp

but songs played as beautifully
as we could muster,
the last sounds they might hear.
At times, despite the risk
a trumpet would erupt
into sobs, a violin
weep.

by Bob Bradshaw

Editor’s Note: The tragedy of this particular poem gives weight to the grief that is evident with every line. The plethora of art that continues to pile up in the collective history from this human disaster is a tragic statement all in itself.

The Bath by Ciaran Parkes

The Bath

—after the photograph of Lee Miller taking a bath in Hitler’s apartment on the night of his suicide, 1945.

I admire, despite myself, his white
and gleaming bathroom. There’s a row
of soap dishes fixed above the bath,
one for his shaving soap perhaps, his high

maintenance moustache that needed to
be taken care of. There’s the loop
of a shower hose, safely tucked away
against the pristine tiles. A small

statue of a Greek goddess is placed
on a sideboard and, surprisingly,
a portrait of the man himself displayed
at the foot of the bath, just there

for the shot perhaps. Like Artemis
surprised while bathing, the photojournalist
is looking up from where she’s cleaning
her pale back. I washed off the dirt

of Dachau in his tub, she said. Her boots,
lined up on the floor, have brought
in the outside world, have trampled mud
all over his immaculate white rug.

by Ciaran Parkes

Editor’s Note: The last few lines in this poem highlight with stark simplicity the complicated mess of history and war and human nature.

Dementia by Alan Ford

Dementia

I am in mourning. I have
lost you although you are still here.
I see your bewildered look,
your confusion. We are separated
by the death of thought.

You resemble a closed book
so I cannot turn the pages. There
are no notes, no explanations
in your margin.
Our life together is unread.

You lie there in a fog of words,
as if you are learning a new language.
Yet you cannot speak my name. And you
cannot recognize my face.
Our future is unspoken.

As you age you return to childhood.
As you move further away from me
I cannot imagine where you are
or why you have gone.
I just look for what remains.

For now I see you pace through my life
you stride back and forth. Are you
searching for something you cannot find?
A feeling. An intuition. Are you conscious
of the person you used to be?
In the reflection of your eyes do you
recognize yourself?

For time aches in the space between us,
longing to be filled. We live in
dead days and empty nights.
I want to embrace you but
I have gone from being your lover to your carer.

Our old life together is now over. But
I will be here until I am no longer needed.
I have taught you so little. But there is
so much I have learned about myself.

by Alan Ford

Editor’s Note: The beauty of the metaphors in this poem intensifies the grief of the underlying narrative until the closing line arrows itself into the reader’s heart.

Rocking Chair by John Grey

Rocking Chair

Winter blows in.
We are unnecessary,
sit still,
are dumped on
by the more virulent of snow,
the stuff that flies sideways.

We’re not thought about much.
When someone inside the house
looks out,
they see over under or through us.
The weather’s their concern.
It would be ours too
if we only had apprehensions.

But we’re filed under furniture
and not the cozy kind
that groups around a fireplace,
or the utile stuff
that supports the likes of meals
and sleeping bodies.

We’re here for warm sunsets
wine glasses,
gently swaying bodies,
and eyes looking westward.
And during something called summer.
At least, that’s the theory.

Even then, there’s storms.
And stuff that needs doing.
And arguments.
And phone call interruptions.
And just about everything
that can happen to a human
that applies not one iota
to a rocking chair.
Except for the absences.
The times we’re just a chair.

by John Grey

Editor’s Note: The personification in this poem is a skillful stand in (or sit in, as the case may be) for the messiness of human relationships.