Work Until Rain by Ed Hack

Work Until Rain

It rained as soft as loving hands at ease
as afterwards, as sapphire wings that glide
the light-filled air in summer’s sweet release
that offers stricken hearts a gentle guide.
I’d worked until the sky turned dirty gray,
the forecast was correct, then air turned spice,
perfume of heat, macadam, rain—the day
a brew I deeply sniffed, a sudden prize
as unexpected, calming, as loved eyes.
I put my tools away, vac’d saw dust from
the floor, then sat in the garage, surprised
in part the way what is at bottom stuns,
and watched, breathed in the honeyed scent of rain,
and tired and satisfied, I was sustained.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s unexpected pivot from stately philosophy to concrete images mirrors the emotion the speaker feels when one suddenly swims up from work to find the world perfectly beautiful.

In Gratitude by Madhav Ajjampur

In Gratitude

I thank him who set my splintered bone
and gave life back to flesh around my thumb
that I might once more hold hands with the world.
Who, with his dexterous hands and whetted eye,
gave back the fulcrum to my hand
so it could once more spin and twirl
and summon forth, perhaps, a swirl
of words that glide and curl
like fragrance from some unseen flower.
.. . . .Three years have passed now
.. . . .since the accident, three years
.. . . .since he with so much care reset
.. . . .those broken shards of thumb,
.. . . .the injury seems like a dream of day.
.. . . .So though I seldom think of him
.. . . .(for who holds memory in a thumb?),
.. . . .I sometimes spread and look unthinkingly
.. . . .upon the webbing of my hand
.. . . .where, within the vein that rivers down
.. . . .between the index and the thumb,
.. . . .I see once more the gratitude I owe to him.

by Madhav Ajjampur


Editor’s Note: Personification is used with a light touch in this poem, complimenting the imagery that allows the reader to experience a difficult injury from the flip side of trauma: gratitude for what is instead of what might have been.

The Landscapes of our Bodies by Julia Klatt Singer

The Landscapes of our Bodies

Green covers anything stone sky or dirt it can take hold of. Only the clear water moves quick enough to keep it from taking root in it too—although from here, from the bridge, we see the greens reflected in it, swimming swiftly down to the bend—a curve like a woman’s hip—and another that takes it out of our view. I remember standing near my mother, how she’d talk and laugh, laugh and talk, and how the material of her skirt, cool and cotton, beckoned me to slip under. Standing with her legs, I felt like I’d enter a forest world all my own. How old was I? One and a half? Two? It hadn’t been that long since I’d left the world of her body. You tell me this is your landscape, this oak and grass and wildflower dotted rolling hill terrain. Black raspberries. Sumac. Mullen. Thistle. Ash. Somewhere a stream that leads to a river that leads to a bigger river that leads to a sea. Somewhere toads hatch and crayfish hunt. You pluck a black walnut, hold its hard green body to my nose. It smells astringent, like something my mother used to clean. I remember the smell of her blood. How she left a pool of it on the kitchen floor. Even after it’s been cleaned up, I picture the thin line, like the outline of a new continent, on the parquet floor. I lean against the iron railing, I lean against you. You smell like wood, something hard and true. Its been thirteen years and still it feels so new. I remember her favorite color was green.

by Julia Klatt Singer


Editor’s Note: The imagery in this prose poem slowly creates an emotional landscape that starts with the world outside, and ends with the indelible ties that bind us together within ourselves.

One Piece at a Time by David Stephenson

One Piece at a Time

It starts with little things you hardly miss,
taken while you look the other way,
and every year there’s just a little less,

as when a steady, unobtrusive hiss
continually drains air or steam away.
The little things are easy to dismiss

as you are out attending to business,
focused on collecting your day’s pay,
and though you see each year there’s less and less

you’re confident it can’t go on like this,
that someone will step in and save the day
and bring back all the little things you miss—

but you have mis-assessed the whole process,
the things in motion, the advanced decay.
With every year you’ll learn to live with less

until you’re frog-marched into the abyss,
and as the light fades you’ll hear others say
It started with some things we hardly missed
and suddenly we find there’s nothing left.

by David Stephenson

Editor’s Note: The villanelle form lends itself beautifully to this poem’s central theme of slow erosion.

From the archives – Magritte Serves Up the Sun — Donna Vorreyer

Magritte Serves Up the Sun
—after René Magritte’s “The Banquet” 1958. Oil on canvas. Art Institute of Chicago®. Chicago, Illinois.

We cannot see the fine linens,
the glasses of wine, the crystal.
We have been called to a feast,

but there is no food. We have
waited for hours. Then the sun
sails toward us through the trees,

a perfect orange wafer of light,
hovering now below the branches,
floating low, a silver tray waiting

to cradle its fire. We applaud.
To call the sun from the evening
sky is no small feat. A bold host

to lay such strokes, to summon
not just light but the source of light
to humble itself, to feed our darkness.

by Donna Vorreyer

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 15, October 2009

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Near the Subway Station and the Highway Exit Ramp by Hilary Sallick

Near the Subway Station and the Highway Exit Ramp

Walking home, I pause
to survey the pond.
There’s a man down there
on the unsteady piled-up
rocks of the bank, a clutter
of shards deposited
to shore up this road.
He’s busy with something intricate
in his hands.
Earlier, I counted turtles, five of them,
sun-stunned, on an ancient
curl of root, beside the orange
No Trucks sign half-floating
with the scum and other
bits of trash,
and I photographed the greening willows,
how they trailed over the pond
almost touching it.
What is that man doing?
He holds a stick, broken
from one of the leafless bushes
or small trees straggling up
this side of the pond, and he’s working with it,
maybe tying a line
to one end. It takes time.
Two children slow to look at him.
Keep going, their mother says.
A couple in running gear
watches a while, then continues on.
I am full of curiosity
as I lean over the rail.
The man is so absorbed
he doesn’t seem to notice us,
as if he’s in another world
in this environment.
He picks up a rock, heaves it
toward the water, then
another rock, and another.
I see he’s making a jumbled
pile, an outcropping, and he stands on it.
Now he opens the plastic bag he’s brought.
Inside, something is folded
in newspaper. What is it?
I watch the steady angle
of his gaze, the motion
of his arm. Something
is being drawn through
something else. He finishes,
straightens, edges a half-step
closer to the water.
Then his arm with the stick
draws back, and he launches the line.
It can’t go far,
just a few short feet.
The bait sinks down, dangles
long seconds in the liquid sway.
He draws it out, flings it again,
gesture of grace.
Where and when did he learn that?
A breeze comes running
over the water,
precise ripple of widening light.
He’s utterly focused,
so relaxed. His line falls, sinks,
hangs. We’re both watching.
What is about to happen?
He pulls it up, casts again,
and again.

by Hilary Sallick

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem draws the reader in with a question, but at the end, the answer isn’t as important as the journey.

Shark Facts by Charles Weld

Shark Facts

I’m being quizzed by a nine-year-old about p.s.i.,
how the pounds per square inch of a Bull Sharks’ bite
compare to the jaw’s pressure of a Great White
Shark. I guess one hundred, and get an amused sigh
which means I’m way off. “Higher”, he says, as I go
up in increments, a little too halting and slow
for his liking. “Higher,” he urges, then impatiently
gives me the answer. Six hundred plus for the Great
White, a thousand or more for the Bull. After that, he
begins to ask about each animal’s length and weight.
And I think of Thoreau’s sentence—Let us not underrate
the value of a fact—that he wrote in an early book review,
each, a surveyor’s stake, put down to help us arbitrate
the vastness, and, with some luck, find our way through.

by Charles Weld

Editor’s Note: This sonnet somehow manages to capture the curiosity of a child while also paying homage to an adult’s need for order. By the end, the reader remembers to enjoy the wonder that some facts offer.

All There Is by Ken Hines

All There Is

God is like a poet, Kierkegaard once said to
the confessor’s ear of his journal, turning the universe
itself into a glorious poem, still unfinished after 14.5 billion years
as the author awaits the next creative eruption,
hoping he can top the delicious irony that
atoms in your thumbnail are also the stuff of stars,
which makes you kinsman to the heroic shapes staring down
on you as you take out the garbage Monday nights. Imagine
doing all of this without words or punctuation, instead fashioning
it from an alphabet of earthquake, avalanche and flood, figuring
the audience will pick up on your near rhyme of love and grave,
will see that all there is, is in the poem, including the reader
who feels changed somehow, the way daring poems often leave you.

by Ken Hines

Editor’s Note: The blending of faith and science in this poem lingers with the reader (as the last line suggests), because to be a poet is to give meaning to the things that are often indescribable.

Instructions for Hugging Your Momma by Sarah Mackey Kirby

Instructions for Hugging Your Momma

Forget about the car ride, where you both
talked past each other, after all that tired
rolled into a boil. Walk up the front path,
kicking away stray twigs that could cause
her to stumble. Wait, even in this 100-degree
summer heat, so she can stare at thirsty roses,
shake her head at growing weeds, and smile at
clusters of pink phlox and orange daylilies.
Help her up the concrete steps. Into the
front door. And after she catches her breath,
kiss her forehead right next to the scar
where cancer first reared its ugliness.

Wrap your arms around her arms,
and don’t let go. Squeeze out every
back-in-the-day embarrassed teenage
eye roll. All those July mornings she came
inside covered in sweat and garden dirt.
Grab on to every Saturday buying blackberries
at the farmer’s market. Each time you had to redo
her mascara and all her huffing at the TV news.

Clutch each facepalm instance she didn’t
know the names of bands and comedians,
so you helped her finish her crossword puzzle.
Hug the smell of almost-done banana bread,
the knock-you-out perfume that lingered
after she’d leave a room. Hug away this hell,
this wicked hell, so it’s not the first thing
you’ll forever think of. Hug her zest for travel, her
concern for people, her lack of patience of any kind.
Her gorgeous smile and finger-snap gumption.
Her terra cotta pots and love of lighthouses.
Hold on to her laugh, her marvelous laugh.

Grab her hands that never put down a book.
Squeeze her shoulders that carry too much tension.
Feel her heartbeat, her skin, her quiet strength.
Hold on to this moment for as long as the two of you
can. And pray to everything. To God. To the universe.
To the ground, the stars, the taxis, the refrigerator.
Pray to the trees. For another exhausting tomorrow.

by Sarah Mackey Kirby


Editor’s Note: The opening image of this poem immediately draws the reader into a moment to which we can all relate. The end of the poem is where the title’s admonition pushes against the heart.

Peonies by Sarette Danae


This is the fourth poem I’ve tried to write
about peonies. In one version, they were “closed fists”
and in the next “nature’s scepter.” The most recent
refused metaphors, attempting instead a transcribed timelapse
of a bouquet we brought home from our trip to the farmer’s market.
Within hours the buds had opened, layers of red and pink peeled back,
pressed together in a vase that before looked comically large.
We marveled at their expanding every time we passed by, but by morning
They were already fading, stems soft as they broke and capsized;
the kitchen counter now covered with fallen petals and dusted pollen.
I tried to analyze what these peonies symbolized: life’s brevity, time’s passage,
the crest and fall of a lover’s passion. But all this meaning making felt trite,
felt like trying too hard. Because a peony is just a peony.
Except for when you waited patient, arms full of grocery bags,
While I picked the perfect bundle — and took them from me gently
To carry as we walked home.

by Sarette Danae

Editor’s Note: The conversational tone of this narrative lulls us into thinking that this poem will be a simple listing of poetic effort, but then the emotional wave of the last three lines rises up to surprise even the most jaded reader.