Paddling with Dragonflies by John Fritzell

Paddling with Dragonflies

Who is this restless couple
this twisted pair, this light
iridescent heart
contorted abdomens
unwed confliction of wings
and short antennae,
their pulsing cadences
trying to straighten out
that which cannot be
straightened out,
but scorched instead
by the hard and the hot
deck of my old friend’s
kayak, before she lifts them
with the cool blade of her
paddle and lowers them
down to the lily pad—lit,
to float in their room
not taken?

by John Fritzell

Editor’s note: A single sentence of short lines makes up the entirety of this poem, reflecting the shape of the kayak with short bursts of imagery. The delightful small nod to Frost at the end seats this poem firmly in the realm of nature verse.

From the archives – On Watch by Neil Flatman

On Watch

Il Paretaio, Tuscany 2004

Felt the hard stone of the window’s lip
against my hand, its age, the permanence
of walls. Night breathed in
the dark and swung a pocket watch
over the hills and winding roads
until they slept and in the olive grove below
fireflies swam in whirlpools in the trees
where a nightingale sang:

For god’s sake hold me or I’ll drown.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, September 29, 2015 — by Neil Flatman

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Death Jar by Sara Backer

The Death Jar

My sister’s chore was cleaning; mine was killing.
Each summer morning, my mother sent me to her rose garden.
With a flick of my finger, Japanese beetles slipped off pink petals
into a jelly jar half-filled with turpentine.

The beetles, like lacquerwork miniatures, gleamed iridescent
green; hard wings shone copper. Six barbed legs
ended in tiny hooks lifted in curved gestures, holding kabuki poses
while they ate. When they flew, they whirred and wobbled.

For sport, I slid a slipknot up a beetle’s leg, prodded the beetle to fly,
and delighted in catching the dangling thread, grabbing a life
out of mid-air. My sister called me cruel, and I stopped; but why
it was wrong to play with beetles and right to kill them?

My mother cherished her roses so
she couldn’t see Japanese beetles had their own elegance,
even though they rendered leaves to skeletons
and carved ugly craters through rose buds. I loved roses, too.

I buried my nose in pink and golden vortices, kissed
their petals to feel softness on my lips, to ease the lesson
of summer: that I must destroy beauty to save beauty, while sensing,
in a child’s way, that I was more the beetle than the rose.

by Sara Backer, from Such Luck, first published in Bamboo Ridge.

Editor’s note: This narrative poem’s opening line and title immediately intrigue the reader and the rest of it does not disappoint as we follow the speaker from beetle murderer to self-awareness.

A Moment Grasped and Gone by Thomas Reed Willemain

A Moment Grasped and Gone

It’s like you’re in a speeding car
trying to spot mushrooms lurking
between asphalt and woods
as they rush from sight behind.

It’s like that but it’s not.
You’re not in a car hunting mushrooms.
You’re in a hammock in a
lush and hushed back yard
on a soft July eve.

What you’re sensing is time
dissolving while you try in vain
to freeze its flow,
wishing you could race
backwards on the spinning world
to grasp one more minute of sunset.

What you’re knowing is this time,
this soft quiet green moment,
is only a moment.
Days will inch shorter, forcing
a search for peace in other moments
that have more color, less heat, more edge.

by Thomas Reed Willemain

Editor’s Note: This poem describes the indescribable with metaphor and imagery, because some things can’t really be spoken, only felt.

from Second Life by Stephen Bunch

from Second Life

The quantum mechanic’s garage is busy 24/7,
or timelessly (as clocks don’t work and numbers
are words without meaning)—tires perpetually
in rotation, oil incessantly
changing, headlights oscillating between particles
and waves. Dents disappear and reappear,
then disappear again. The paint dries
and never dries.
All car radios are tuned to WSL
playing The Unrecorded Performances
of Suns Ra and Their Arkestras (theoretical string
arrangements by Stephen Hawking).
No one has the time or space to drive.
Meanwhile, next door, at Boltzmann’s Café
everyone waits for yesterday’s special,
tomorrow’s unscrambled eggs.

by Stephen Bunch

Editor’s Note: The conflation of auto mechanics with advanced physics is unusual, but somehow apt (likely because no car is ever fully repaired; it is only ever in a state of being repaired, once it reaches a certain age).

The Darkroom by Kenneth Salzmann

The Darkroom

I have seen wondrous images ghost their way
toward a representation of truth or something
like it while they bathed in trays filled with what
might have been black magic and tiny drops
of time passing. I have seen the merest traces
of light prophesy darkening shadows
beneath the safelight and I have tasted
the slow teasing impressions gathering
in the chemistry like revelations. I have
watched and waited and in the waiting
have remembered that this is the way
revelation always comes to me—not
in pixelated flashes of insight but in
nine zones of emerging detail
witnessed under a dim red glow.

by Kenneth Salzmann, first published in Third Wednesday.

Editor’s note: The careful enjambment keeps the reader engaged with unexpected choices that forces rereading, lest one miss a revelation—this poem’s central theme.

Falling for a Japanese Maple by Bob Bradshaw

Falling for a Japanese Maple

What man doesn’t long to sit
among high branches, peering straight up
at the white undergarments of clouds?

I am embarrassed to admit it.
But I had no choice after
snapping branches that I clipped

in my fall. What were you thinking?
is what everyone asks. A man
at your age….

As I negotiate steep stairs
with my crutches,
my wife asks “Now do you regret
your foolishness?”

I pause at the top step. A Japanese maple,
her red leaves tiling the air,
leans against the window,
her shimmering dress

as lovely as any kimono’s,
a beauty always worth
going out onto
a limb for.

by Bob Bradshaw


Editor’s Note: Personification makes quite a show in this poem, but so does foolishness and joy, perfectly framed within short lines and whimsical imagery.

From the archives – A Letter from the Soul to the Body by Irene Vazquez

A Letter from the Soul to the Body

Dear body,

You spoke today into being.
That’s half the battle won.

You are tempestuous, afro in a rain storm,
lightning bolt cutters.

You are heard.

You are feeling EVERYTHING.
You are taking up space, and better for it.
You are the ant that makes its presence known
the elephant that sees life on a flower
you are universal.


Demand life from yourself.

You are broken arm rainbows,
eight shades of chipped beauty–the profit of life’s nonsense,
you are not going gentle into that good night, you burn white-hot, you are light,
you are not a child.
You are the art of never running
on empty,
you are all the days that led up to today, the hot, the cold:
you are a place beyond infinity—a place beyond words.

Dearest body,
Dearest love of my life,
Dear only one I have,

You are not on your own.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, June 30, 2015 — by Irene Vazquez

photo by Terry Lim

Lucy as a Work of Art by Jennifer Finstrom

Lucy as a Work of Art
—Secrecy has this disadvantage: we lose the sense of proportion; we cannot tell whether our secret is important or not. –E.M. Forster, ‘A Room with a View’

You’re reminded of the chapter titles
in E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View
where Lucy is variously lying to George,
Cecil, Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeychurch,
Freddy, the servants, and Mr. Emerson.
Not that you’re specifically lying to anyone,
but there is a growing current of things
remaining unsaid, and this makes you
uneasy, makes you think, too, of what
you choose to include in poems and
what you choose to omit. Last night
you found the conversation you were
having over dinner difficult, weren’t sure
which of your stories to tell or how
to tell them. On the first date you went on
with this man, he told you that your
eye contact was unusual but a turn on,
and last night you gazed at him steadily
as you sipped your beer, unsure of what
you were trying to convey. Forster’s novel
chronicles Lucy’s search for beauty,
truth, and love even as she was lying
to herself, and you think of George
discarding her postcards of The Birth
of Venus and the Guido Reni Madonnas
because he didn’t want her to see
that they’re covered in blood. Every poem
you write could be different, could offer up
that one detail that changes everything.

by Jennifer Finstrom

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Editor’s Note: Poems written in second person point-of-view are strange and unsettling, and this choice perfectly supports the oddity of this narrator’s thought pattern.

Visit to the Geriatric Doc by Alan Walowitz

Visit to the Geriatric Doc

Though young, it seems like he was born for this,
the way he can tell an old guy
there’s a problem without revealing much at all.
But who could refuse more blood work—
sort of free on Medicare—
though the waiting could wear you down to a nub?
I try my oughta-be-retired Geritol joke
and he says, What’s that?
and I answer, For tired blood,
and he goes, Hmmph, with half a smile
and one eyebrow gently raised
to acknowledge—while mostly consumed by his phone—
he hasn’t the faintest what I’m talking about.
Then he chokes my arm with a rubber band to pop my vein,
no gentle man, this one, for all his politesse
and says, You’ve got good veins,
and I want him so to address me as Pop.
I’d say, Thanks, Son—cause we’re beginning to feel like family—
with all the attending discomfort
of knowing everything about each other
that we’re ever likely to know.
And this visit just the beginning;
and, sure as I’m sitting on the edge of his table
chilled in my undershirt,
it will not be a happy end.

by Alan Walowitz

Editor’s Note: They say that age is just a state of mind, but it’s also stuffing your brain full of memories that young folk don’t understand. Mortality tends to catch up with us in the end, much like the last line of this poem.