Passing by Ed Hack

Passing

The mournful early morning rain-soaked train
call softened by the sodden air calls through
the woods then vanishes like midnight rain
that pounded down so we don’t miss what’s true—
we’re tethered by a fine silk thread that’s strong
as life but snaps when fate decrees and we
go to the dark where we began. Our song
now sung, if song it was, we are set free
and disappear from light and day and night
from voices that we love, from coffee’s smell,
from everything we are and sense, the sight
of sky and bird and grass, the witch’s spell
of life. Today, a mother, wife, and friend
will pass into that dark that has no end.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet speaks of grief, and the sudden, shocking realization that life is short.

Its Part by Ed Hack

Its Part

The trees await the wind, the grass the light
and shadows that it brings, the sky, the birds’
swift, acrobatic flights, and we the bright
attention of our love before a word
is said. On coldest days of ice and snow,
the world a hermitage of winter rest,
when trees strip down to bone and rivers slow,
love has made a freezing room a nest.
And here it is, at last, the spring, though sun
is fickle as a doubting mind. Yet blue,
the soul’s sweet cloak, has now at last begun
to show up almost every day, renew
our spirit’s hope, the veteran old heart’s
deep dream that love will always play its part.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: Sonnets come in many flavors, but this poem’s classic ode to both love and the seasons will soothe even the most jaded of readers.

. . .a distance / not yet thought of by Ed Hack

. . .a distance / not yet thought of
—Norman MacCaig

Inside the light, beyond the wind, far past
a child on a bike whose joy is go
and go and go, are distances that last
as long as hope, the only prayer we know.
No unbelievers in the crowd, logic-
ians in the anteroom. No saints to
sanctify a minute’s grace. No magic fish
to feed a crowd, for everything is new,
and that’s enough. There is no argument
or policy, diplomacy or war.
What’s there is one long road whose sole intent
is what-comes-next, an ocean or a star.
The only mantra is a child’s laugh,
which lasts because it simply cannot last.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s graceful meter and slant rhymes beautifully frame the sentiment within—a child’s joy is both ephemeral and priceless.

Winter In The Soul by Ed Hack

Winter In The Soul

The birds are singing in an afternoon
as green as emeralds from days of rain.
The sun lets go, the light a vast balloon
that lifts the eye, the world become a flame
that quickly dims. An outburst, nothing more,
as silvered-white and gray resume, the spring’s
new palette for a time of bloody war.
And yet, and yet, some birds begin to sing
their sweet, brief songs, two notes or three. They pause.
they start again. And much it grieved my heart
to think / What man has made of man. . . . What cause
but madness, evil playing its old part?
What is this ice within the human soul
that hates, that kills, that does what it is told?

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: Wordsworth said it first, but this poem’s mourning of human folly (even as spring arises) serves to emphasize the everlasting futility of “bloody war.” 

Ukraine by Ed Hack

Ukraine

Not lawnmowers, but bombs exploding homes
and shops and streets, her world now gone to shit.
Her children’s lives at risk. No lights. No phones.
The last of groceries. No single bit
of her old life—that’s yesterday—remains.
Debris is all she sees outside. death’s near
as her next breath. She barely can stay sane,
but knows to live she can’t give in to fear.
The kids have knapsacks on. She locks the door
and picks her way downstairs out to the hell
all life’s become, the sky a threat, the stores
collapsed, some cars on fire—no dream, no spell,
this lunacy. They run, three kids, a mom.
The train’s two miles away. And then more bombs.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: The beautiful sonnet form describing war makes the reader weep and rage in equal measure.

A Phone Is Ringing by Ed Hack

A Phone Is Ringing

A phone is ringing, waiting for a voice.
The shadows mime the source they’ve travelled from.
All nature speaks, and what is Time but choice?
The phone’s alarm might be to urge the dumb
to speak, to wake from their bad dream, the one
they call their truth. Two ducklings in the stream
send ripples like a broadcast tower. They’ve swum
away and left more messages that gleam
then fade away. That ring might be a scream
or plea—or stranger’s voice that wants to sell
the cure for everything. Bird song redeems
the silent trees. The ring might be a knell
announcing who knows what? So shrill, the sound,
so small, so vast the space where it now drowns.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: The disparate images in this sonnet coalesce into something resembling a life philosophy, but the closing lines remind the reader that any conclusion about existence is relative.

On Hold by Ed Hack

On Hold

Sometimes, as now, the light’s enough, the sun
behind a massive cloud that sweeps like sea
across the blue. The birds are still; songs sung,
they’re quiet, gone. The tree and stream agree
that silence is what’s needed now—as if,
for this brief once, the clock has stopped. On hold,
the sky, the leaves, white flash of wings—this is
the world as poem upon a page, untold.
The fan still whirrs, and that is all I hear,
like water far away. The books that burst
with languages are dumb, and each appears
exactly as it is. The world’s been purged
of Time. Is this a warning or a gift?
I think it’s both, like any granted wish.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: Careful punctuation creates space in this sonnet for the reader to breathe in the imagery and worry woven into the lines.

No Less Beautiful by Ed Hack

No Less Beautiful

So new and old, the stream that hurries by,
the hands of wind all over it and trees
that rock and shuush, like whispers from the sky,
go still, then murmur more, by wind released
to say what can’t be understood. Up there,
the clouds, white, passing shapes. They are. They’re not.
And blue is no less beautiful, though bare
and blank as unsaid words, as untied knots.
A hawk glides by like ice, a razor’s edge
that doesn’t leave a trace, and I’m all that
I did and didn’t do that’s long been etched
in others’ lives, my life become their fact.
The trees are whispering as dark comes on
an indecipherable, ancient tongue.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: Regret and nostalgia meet up with startling imagery in this sonnet to describe a life that seems ordinary, but holds beauty nonetheless.

Winter Hawk by Ed Hack

Winter Hawk

A hawk among the skeletons. Macbeth
out there, the sky a freezing silver scrim,
the trees the bones fall left behind, the death,
the final, stinging death of spring, the grim
white light of ice. The hawk, a sharpened knife
with wings as unforgiving as the snow.
The winter says this is the end of strife—
accounts are closed, in case you didn’t know.
It’s now you see who rules the world outside
your warmth of walls, that bubble of a self
that’s tethered to your myth. You cannot hide
from ancient cold. You can’t be someone else.
The hawk’s the night that breaks through winter sun.
The hardest time, it says, has just begun.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: Evocative imagery sets the scene for this sonnet’s pivot in the last four lines, where life lessons are offered with unequivocal emphasis.