In the Bakery by Carole Greenfield

In the Bakery

Sienna-skinned, she waits on us,
patient behind glass, silver trays
balancing cakes, pies, a fragrancy of cinnamon
spiking the close air.

Behind her, hollows in the wall,
dug-out shelves of adobe
painted white and dark with bread,
loaf on loaf stacked above her head,
her hair the nut-brown of crust.

My father is troubled by verbs.
He points at what he wants,
a crumble-topped cake shaped like a color wheel
shading buttercup to maple. It’s his favorite.
She knows from months of Sundays
and smiles, wrapping.

‘Anything more?’ she asks politely, her syllables
slowed for him. He nods.
‘Two of bread,’ he answers, and I love him
for his firm awkwardness.
She twists her body carefully,
as if she were trying to protect it,
and searches the depths of the loaf-homes,
shelf on shelf of variegated breads, wheat and rye
and other grains whose names I haven’t tasted.
‘Light or dark?’ she says to my father, but her words
sift past the mes of his limited vocabulary
and he stands on the floor, helpless and smiling,
clutching his cake.

Before I can lean up and whisper,
she strains across the counter.
The smells of yeast and sugar seep out from her creases
as her fingers touch my hair. ‘Like this?’
and then, retreating, taps her own crown,
shining walnut in the dim interior. ‘Or like this.’

My father’s heavy eyelids lift. He stares at the woman
whose face is lighted in reds and browns,
covers my head with a weight that cups
my skull and soothes, and smooths.
‘Like this,’ he tells us. ‘Like this.’

by Carole Greenfield

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem offers the reader the resilience of love over time and the kindness of strangers as we navigate our often difficult world.

The Optimist by Robert Fillman

The Optimist

My wife’s fuzzy socks might
have freckles. Some are pink
or gray from heel to toe.
Others are striped. When she
peels them off her sweating
feet and tosses them on
the floor beside the bed
in the middle of night
I am always asleep.
But every morning while
I am making the bed
I find them lying there
together, and I smile.
I can hear her downstairs
laughing with the children,
and I’ll pick up the pair,
twirl it limp in my hand,
then rub my thumb across
a ribbed elastic cuff
before dropping them in
the hamper. I never
know if I’m supposed to.
They always smell so fresh.

by Robert Fillman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robb.fillman/

Editor’s Note: This syllabic poem cracks a window for the reader to peer into an ordinary life, yet the surprising last line and title reminds us that what is ordinary is also often extraordinary.

From the archives – Poetics in the Season of Migration — James Owens

Foggy farm field with barely visible pine tree in the distance.

Poetics in the Season of Migration

After fog, the sun unhitches geese
from the gleaned-over stubble-ground
where they have huddled through the night.

They rise now, clumsy, angling up
to blue, above the planet’s shade,
the mist and morning slurred with calls.

How apologize for poetry?
For how it fails the flock’s long pull
against the heaviness of Earth,

against wind, the mortal shear
of entropy that scatters form?
Their one, blared note sums up a year,

but words falter and trip, waste breath,
lose the smell of dirt or rain,
the wings once more climbing sunlight.

Such a long work, waiting to hear
that hard, scraping honk as song….
No longer clumsy, the geese order

and wheel, squared-off and cutting south,
stars intuited along the way,
written tight into their wedge, and gone.

by James Owens

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 21, July 2011

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Buggy by Greg Watson

The Buggy

You won’t remember now being quite
so small, combing that long stretch of Carolina
sand for rocks, shells, anything shining,
the ocean insistently whispering its secret
language, untranslatable upon land.
Nor will you recall the wheels of your stroller
edging closer and closer to the waves,
so slowly that none of us took notice,
none but that stout Eastern European woman
in head scarf, waving her thick arms,
shouting in alarm, “The buggy! The buggy!”
For one flashing moment, my heart leapt
like a startled fish, believing she might actually
be right, that you might be spirited away
by the unforgiving Atlantic, back to Scotland
or Wales, the fabled white cliffs of Dover,
closer to your family’s ancestral home,
but further from the ones who love you here.
But, of course, you were right there
when we turned to look, your beach hat
shielding your eyes, your chubby legs
just beginning to learn what they’re for,
ready, soon enough, to carry you anywhere.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: Every once in a while a poem reminds us of why life is worth living.

When the Power Goes Out During a Spring Storm by Diane LeBlanc

When the Power Goes Out During a Spring Storm

“A day, if a day could feel, must feel like a bowl.” —Jane Hirshfield, “The Bowl”

The house is a corpse, its breath and hum gone.
I take a book and a sleeping bag to my bed.

Hail lashes the screens and piles like white rocks
while I read a poem about a bowl, remarkable hands

holding the bowl. I lie for almost an hour,
until the ceiling fan groans and starts to spin,

the room once again noisy with light. Maybe this day
feels not so much like a bowl holding a storm

but a scrap of muslin drinking all that seeps
from the small wounds I neglect to bandage,

hours stained with thawing raspberries, a swatted fly,
early pollen, and faint yellow fossils on glass.

Diane LeBlanc

Editor’s Note: This poem opens with a fantastic metaphor and the rest of the imagery is as vivid and useful as the first line as the poem leads the reader to knowledge.

Interior Lives by Jane Poirier Hart

Interior Lives

All day, wandering through streets of my life as if in someone else’s
old city: brick-bound, blue-sky-capped. Each alley dead ends in foreboding.
Half-toned shadows make a constant companion. But this is better than
night dreams, my car sailing off the bridge, filling up with river water.
Fear of fervor is prickly, like sweat trying to break skin on a bone-
dry day. I flick the feeling off my shoulders, settle them down and back.
Old yoga lessons, when I believed a body could know salvation.
All that I know now is contained, here, in this kitchen: butter, sea salt.
If heat to the skillet results in some mundane miracle, is it
possible that a man and woman—or woman and woman, man, man—
redefining touch, souls resurfacing, shaking off muddy river
weeds, can make a meadow of themselves, shelter in it, unafraid of
insects there, see song in skeptical work bees share? Can any of us
see what lies past outstretched arms, a sizzling pan, coarse salt changing butter?

by Jane Poirier Hart

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jane.p.hart

Editor’s Note: This poem teaches the reader what is important by asking questions, and allowing the imagery to fill in the details.

Poet’s Note: This is a “Seussian” sonnet, after the poet Diane Seuss: 14 lines, 17 syllables per line.

Madagascar by Bob Bradshaw

Madagascar

Who knew that words were in flight,
that there are linguists like birders
counting their disappearing numbers,

that malagrug and brannigan and brabble
would vanish like the passenger pigeon,
the Lyall’s wren, the Dodo, the Great Auk?

Or more disturbingly like the friends
that once populated my neck of the woods—
the Nancys, the Dianes, the Lucilles,

the feckless Fanny, the doxy Dolly…
Why was my heart always a flutter-burst
for the illecebrous Ann?

Call me a gudgeon. I never believed
that names that once delighted my tongue
would go the way of snow broth—

vanishing like the Bonin grosbeak,
the Mauke starling, the Guadaulupe caracara,
like the vouropatra, the aepyornis,

the mulleronis. My youth is like Madagascar,
an island with more and more losses.
No extinction of a species could haunt me more

than at night when I drift off into wittendream,
thinking of you, Ann. It’s heartbreaking
to think we could have lived our lives together

like a couple of wrens sharing the same perch.
Recalling you, forty years later, I can conjure
up your voice as I drift off to sleep

as clearly as I can the song of the disappearing
nightingale or the rose-breasted grosbeak,
your memory a wondrous twitter-light.

by Bob Bradshaw

Editor’s Note: This poem is a word lover’s delight, filled with birds and multi-syllabic sonics and joy.

Vorfreude by Matthew Miller

Vorfreude

(n.) the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures

Turkish coffee, crunch of first snow, calligraphy—
any leaf of paper can be filled with a future never
coming, a past never happening

again. I thumb Instagram feeds. I shake out
blankets, sheets, the crinkles of trail maps,
corners of the sanctuary. Looking for candles.

Letting them burn out, just to rekindle. Every
match lit promises light and heat, a small bit
of comfort. An ambiance of silence, steam

of cinnamon and ginger. I dream of tender
expectation, then march, relentless, to resolution.
But the moment before a page is bent

is breathless with intrigue. The inhale before
the vibration of strings, the poem not yet
put in ink, a story put in motion, beginning.

by Matthew Miller

Twitter: @mattleemiller32
Instagram: @matt.lee.miller

Editor’s Note: The unexpected and thoughtful line breaks of this delightful poem startle the reader into paying attention while subtly reinforcing its allegorical intention.

This Fierce Elation by Wendy Drexler

This Fierce Elation

—after the photo “Autumn Abundance” by Yvette Melzer

Look into this window with me:
all these tomatoes ripening
on the sill, their fleshy heft caressed
by light—these Romas in a bowl
are fire-engine red and then a chime
of tangerine, then Brandywine,
then one creamy white that rests
upon the shoulders
of a large-lobed Heirloom,
a peek of tiger—as if their flesh
will never be blemished or blighted,
always this empire of ruby,
amber, sandstone, the promise
of salt on the counter, the knife’s
slice, and seduced as I am
by such fierce elation, I haven’t
noticed until now there’s a woman
behind them, camouflaged
against the sepia background
(her kitchen?), thin-strapped chemise,
bare shoulders, a mug of coffee
in her hand, and now I look harder,
the woman’s fingers are clenching
the handle of the mug, her grip insisting
I see the work of holding on—
planting the seeds in soil, watering,
weeding so the seeds would cling
to earth, staking the sprouting tendrils,
holding each ripe tomato in her
cupped palm, confirming wholeness,
before she picked them one by one,
placed them gently in her basket
and carried them into her kitchen,
setting them down on that sill—
I see you, vigorous parade
of tomatoes, woman with your still-
warm cup of coffee in your hand.

by Wendy Drexler

Editor’s Note: The detailed, clear imagery of this poem highlights the strength that lies behind the obvious beauty of tomatoes, and the fierce joy of this discovery.

From the archives – So I Can Feel — Eric Blanchard

So I Can Feel

Do not give me love,
for love is hard to hold on to.
Give me a lover instead,
so I can revel in her touch
and taste her lemon skin.
Give me sweat
dripping from her curves
and the scent.
Give me the tangled limbs
and the screaming.
Give me the gentle—
the butterfly kisses
and the sighs—
so I can feel
like I have had a lover
after the spinning
and the rinsing of linen
in the morning,
when I am alone.

by Eric Blanchard

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 14, July 2009

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim