Of This World by Greg Watson

Of This World

There’s a window open between each written word.
Words alone are my witnesses within this world.

The witnesses to our childhoods fall away, one by one.
Who is left to say we were here, walking this world?

My daughter calls out to the crows along our walk.
She needs no convincing to love this world.

Still, we study endlessly the passing of things.
We want only to say that it’s not the end of the world.

Once, long ago, I saw the lake-light pierce your skin.
I knew in that moment I was alive in this world.

Even in sleep, your words could astonish and beguile.
It was hard to limit yourself to just one world.

Words, like memory, are the least reliable of guides;
but we follow them into the silence of the world.

The names of many things continue to elude me.
One day I will forget my own, and that of this world.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: The repetition in this ghazal presses the importance of small, singular moments into the reader’s mind, for they encompass the entire reason for our existence.

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

Moving My Son into College During a Pandemic by Lisa Wiley

Moving My Son into College During a Pandemic
—after Shoshauna Shy

My pulled pork sandwich
with generous portions piled high
smoked to perfection
as stacks of wood
on the premises
attest to its flavor
dribbles out of the soft bun
which I couple with choice
of warm mac and cheese
like a yellow rainbow
accented with Dill pickle
which causes me to smile slightly
however

the red umbrella
doesn’t sufficiently shade
my dish as I down
a pint of crisp local draft
consuming what I can
off my crowded plate

and then before
we don our masks
it’s soothing to note
how normal we feel
momentarily content
in the August sun

by Lisa Wiley

Twitter: @wileymoz

Editor’s Note: This poem’s focus on the ordinary nature of a meal highlights the stark contrasts of life within a pandemic—normalcy vs. disaster, contentment vs. the unknown.

When You Were Young You Wrote Poems by Shi Yang Su

When You Were Young You Wrote Poems
—after Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art

When you were young, you wrote
poems about big sycamore trees, hot
bright summer, and several girls you’d
chase after school. You kicked balls, watching
them bouncing high to the lemon tree, cared
less about what you wrote. You typed whining
words on your cellphone, treated poetry as another
trash message to social media. When
you were young, words flew like dewy leaves—they
didn’t fall, they swirled in the air. So much love. So
sad. You drank Bacardi for a whole afternoon
just to come up with a single pretty line, then burned it all, threw
it away in a day coming back from your sports training,
and let sweat stain your shirt, on your papers.
Years later, you write poems. recalling days lingering
in the bar, German beers with shivering bubbles, bragging
about life and dreams. You are losing. Some
good friends, family members, warmth on the bed.
You are losing your favorite blue marble, your old boots,
the key to the Tudor house, your small green pond, jeep car
you drove thousands of miles, the ID card, your passport
to this strange continent. You lose them all.
So this morning, you write poems. Again.
You buy parchments from a vintage store, listen
carefully to the sounds of pen and ink.
When you are old, words choke in your throat like
saltwater, they lose their fluidity, like
you. You would sit a whole evening in a coffee shop,
watching people coming in and out, jot down some
broken words, compose them carefully
like decorating a birthday present in your distant
childhood. Days, you wake up, a new morning,
you find an empty pocket in your body,
find yourself taste the loss, then regret
nothing. When you are old, you write
poems.
You write poems.

by Shi Yang Su

Editor’s Note: This poem’s meticulous imagery carries the reader through a life with one narrative thread that stretches throughout—the act of writing.

Near the Airport of Kabul, 16 August 2021 by Jane Blanchard

Near the Airport of Kabul, 16 August 2021

“. . . the dreadful martyrdom must run its course . . .”
—W. H. Auden, Musée des Beaux Arts

And so it goes, another fall—
Of those who thought themselves too small
To fight against the mighty clan
Now moving through Afghanistan,
Where fear has long kept hope in thrall.

The images—the plunge, the sprawl—
At least are able to appall
Some there, elsewhere without a plan,
. . . . . . .And so it goes.

If only such a shock could stall
The suffering to come to all
Opponents of the Taliban
Let loose by one American
Who failed to follow protocol,
. . . . . . .And so it goes.

by Jane Blanchard

Editor’s Note: The lyricality of this rondeau chillingly belies the utter disaster of its subject matter.

Slow River Waltz by Matt Quinn

Slow River Waltz

Come and walk with me down by the river
where it’s winding its way from the town,
where it whispers of woodland and pasture,
and it wants us to follow it down

to the bridge where the brambles are growing,
to the track where the steam-trains once sang,
to the hedgerow that edges the meadows,
to the tree where the rope-swing still hangs.

Let us drift our way down to the weir
where the silkweed lets down its green hair,
to the pool where our childhoods are swimming.
Come and rest for a while with me there.

by Matt Quinn

Editor’s Note: Sometimes we just need a poem that will bring us a little bit of ease.

My Mother’s Kitchen by Joanne Durham

My Mother’s Kitchen

Of course I thought my mathematician Dad
was the source of my school smarts,
all those A’s first grade through grad school.
Yet here in my uncle’s memoirs—
Lillian the funny sister, and Clara,
the smart one.
Clara, my mother,
who smoothed hurt feelings
like she ironed wrinkles from my father’s
shirts, but never went to college, started
work in the bargain basement
at fifteen pretending she was twenty,
married and escaped into homemaking,
led girl scout camping trips
and baked chocolate chip cookies.
I mocked her in my teenage years
for how ardently she redid the kitchen
in a palette of mauve and faux fern.

The smart one. All that time I was satisfied
with a simple language and now I know
I needed one with twenty words for snow,
or that at least spells mother six different ways,
and I’m sitting again at her kitchen table
that morning she mused about the gifted class
she loved in second grade, but they moved
for the third time and anyway she was just
a little girl. Then she folds her yellow
flowered apron and steps aside, as she
always did, to let everyone else’s life
parade along the crowded pavement,
while she smiled and waved and cheered us on.

by Joanne Durham

Twitter: @DurhamJoanne

Editor’s Note: The irony of “escaped into homemaking” in this narrative poem becomes ever more evident as the lines carry the reader through a life that so many women lived, with love.

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

Powers of Ten by Ciaran Parkes

Powers of Ten

The richness of our own neighbourhood
is the exception,
the calm voice over says
at the point when the imaginary cameraman
has swung out to a distance from the earth

where galaxies appear as distant stars,
small and far apart. This loneliness
is the norm,
he says, then turns
the camera round, heading back again

to where the film started out, the lake side
in Chicago, the couple sleeping
after a picnic, their blanket on the ground.
The camera zooms in on the hand

of the man but doesn’t stop there, goes
deeper in, sliding like a beam
of radioactive light to show the worlds
that wait inside. Finally we come

to the heart of an atom, two electrons
dancing in a circle, in a tight embrace
of mutual attraction. Deeper down,
chaotic darkness swirling, empty space.

by Ciaran Parkes

Editor’s Note: The closing lines brilliantly highlight the central image of this poem, where loneliness and an eternal longing for connection keep pace with the insistent reality of space.

Moon When All Things Ripen by Julie Moore

Moon When All Things Ripen

Late August moon, its full face
brilliant in the blue-soaked sky,
hovers over morning. The thick air
of summer has lost its weight,
thinned into the cool dry wind
that will soon turn the leaves
crisp, chill the trees’ brave bones.
My daughter has gone to college.
I find myself standing in her room,
staring at her vacant, neatly made bed.
Why do I dust her table & dresser,
taking care to arrange whatever
she’s left there—a broken
necklace, half empty bottle of lotion,
three brown buttons—
in such precise places?
Why call the dog to come,
speak in low tones as she circles
the room, snuffling every remaining
scent? When I look out the window,
I see my daughter at ten,
riding her bike for the first time alone,
up the hill to her friend’s house,
less than half a mile away.
I remember how, distracted
by her sister, I returned
to discern only the rider-
less Schwinn, already in that drive.
O, that absentminded moon: Star-
struck, it has forgotten the time
& lingers with the light.

by Julie Moore, first published in Adanna Literary Journal and appears in Full Worm Moon (Cascade Books, 2018)

Twitter: @JulieLMoore18
Instagram: @julielmoore19
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=julie%20l%20moore%20poet

Editor’s Note: It’s when the imagery in this poem suddenly zooms down into exquisite detail (buttons, a broken/necklace) that the reader begins to understand the speaker’s longing for more time, an emotion that every parent understands.