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.

Gooseberry Island at Sunset by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Gooseberry Island at Sunset

There isn’t a beach, just rocks the size of small
regrets. They’re flat and long enough for two.
The water’s deep, and swimming, as we knew,
would be a danger. Instead, we stumble, crawl
along and find our spot. Like snakes, we ball
together, gather warmth amidst a slew
of crying gulls, and watch the sun fall through
its day to meet the ocean near the seawall.
This is our quiet place. We’re not too old
or stubborn to repent for our misdeeds.
We’re not afraid of words, the bitter or harsh.
Our fangs have dulled, and we’ve made tiny toeholds
on the slipperiest of rocks. Our needs
are simple. We’ll sit here until it’s dark.

by Marybeth Rua-Larsen, first published in Crannóg

Editor’s Note: The first sentence of this sonnet grabs the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go.

An Ode to Poison by Irena Pasvinter


An Ode to Poison

In shadow depths of wild woods
A flower grows amongst the trees,
So marvelous the blossom looks —
Delicious food for hungry bees.
Don’t stop to breathe its magic smell
Or touch its lovely petals. Go!
Or, stricken by its deadly spell,
On mossy carpet you shall fall.

On crumbling leaves of dusty books
A poem flows amongst the prose,
So marvelous it sounds and looks —
Delicious food for hungry souls.
Don’t stop to savor it but leave.
Don’t read, don’t listen, but depart,
Or, stricken by its fragrant grief,
Forever changed shall be your heart.

by Irena Pasvinter

Editor’s Note: The clever near repetition of the first stanza primes the reader for the second, but then the last line unexpectedly cuts open the heart with truth.

Voices of desert ghosts by Ginny Short

Voices of desert ghosts

It frets, it spins, it howls, it moans,
and as it calls, it slips, it stalls,
drops paper bits and dusty sand—
lost castoffs on my windowsills.

It fills up holes and covers dogs
barking anxious at the bleats
and creaks of swingsets in the dark,
and blankets lawns and garden seats.

It’s born, then dies, and then reborn,
and picking up anew with leaves
with flowers clutched in ghostly hands,
it dies and drops them and retrieves,

then madly whirls down alleyways
and skitters pebbles past the wall
where old folks sit and children play,
and strains of latin music call—

that on a calmer night might drift
from roof to roof through open doors—
tonight runs counterpoint and soft
to that discordant, windy score.

by Ginny Short

Editor’s Note: The personification of the wind in this poem creates a moving tableau of imagery via rhyme and repetition.

Rubbernecking by Coleman Glenn

Rubbernecking

Beyond the median, a crumpled frame,
Police lights, acrid smoke. So now it’s clear
Why two miles back the interstate became
A shuffling carpet queued for a premiere.
I try to keep my gaze ahead; with luck,
Delays like this will soon be obsolete,
When cruise control ensures each car and truck
Can keep its steady progress down the street,
Immune to horror’s all-too-human hold
On those who cannot help but slow and see;
Creating distance, comforting and cold,
From the appalling possibility
That vehicles on both sides of the line
Contain, in fragile flesh, lives just like mine.

by Coleman Glenn

Twitter: @colemanglenn

Editor’s Note: This sonnet captures the moment of realization where mortality and curiosity mingle together uncomfortably.

From the archives – Madison Square Tableau — Joseph Harker

Madison Square Tableau
—(a helix sestina)

And here’s Fifth Avenue on a Friday: hollow,
rings like a church bell of bone. Pumps-and-skirt ladies
weaving with Japanese tourists and boys with stains
on their knees, the drifter calling out, Please, please,
with a cup full of quarters and dreams. Who can tell
one face from another? There isn’t any sun

ringing the towers with light. This tourist, with his son
on his shoulders, lifts his camera, a long hollow
one. He snaps the Flatiron, heads for Gershwin Hotel,
with hipster trainees past his feet, here to lay these
weavings on a quilt and shout, Art For Sale. Their pleas
and craftwork move no one. Passing taxis leave stains

on the sidewalk. The day wears on, trades disdains
with disappointments, the slow fathomless waltz un-
ending, and always the drifter’s calls of Please, please,
weave in the crowd. Nobody stops to say hello.
One drops a dime: fixed-gaze woman, Midtown lady,
ring on her finger. Art For Sale. One could foretell

with certainty her path: recon, business intel,
weaving through the land of Silk and Money. What stains
ring the soul of such a proper face? The lady’s
one of those who crowns herself with the midday sun
and thinks nothing of the moon. Polishes her halo
on her sleeve. Stalks away. She has no time for pleas,

weaving as quickly as that. Art for Sale. Please, please.
One boy passes, pink mohawk, post-punk (you can tell),
on Broadway. Snags some fags: ten bucks and a hallo,
and peels back the cellophane. He’s got nicotine stains
ringing in his teeth: but knows how to catch the sun
with his hands, knows how to reach up, pull down, lay the

one next to the other, quiets the hipster ladies
and shakes the gold Indian-head box. He whispers please
with a lover’s deepness. Cellophane glints with sun
rings, sun pools, sun eddies, breaks the sky: go and tell
on the mountains, hills, penthouse floors, here the cloud stains
weaving the Earth were bleached away. For a hollow

minute, the ladies paused on the pavement, and sun
knew city, stained its weaves against that hallow face,
ringed with one forever light. Tell it true. Please. Please.

by Joseph Harker

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 22, July 2011

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

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.

Spring Fires by Hilary Biehl

Spring Fires

I am driving home from the mall with my son in tow.
It’s 3 PM. I’ve turned my headlights on.
Everyone else has, too. Where there should be sun
and clouds moving over a face of abyssal blue

there is only an orange smudge, immense and near,
as if a feverish hand had tried to blot
some indiscretion but managed instead to coat
the sky with an eerie grime of regretful fear.

The smoke is apocalyptic. My son coughs
and I reach for his inhaler. I’m grateful we still
have a home to drive to; I try not to add “until.”
I try not to let my thoughts go to bleaching reefs

and nuclear weapons. Find the apartment key.
Open the door. Put the groceries away. Wash up.
And the molten glitter I wash with leaves the tap
in cool abundance, as if it might never run dry.

by Hilary Biehl

Editor’s Note: The slant rhymes in this poem highlight the juxtaposition of gratitude and disaster felt by the speaker by keeping the reader always slightly off-keel.

Crowded Cambridge Buses by Thomas DeFreitas

Crowded Cambridge Buses

I won’t sing a winsome ballad,
As my strings are all unstrung;
I’ll forsake my merry mischief:
You were taken far too young.

I won’t swim the English Channel;
I won’t climb McKinley’s peak—
Since you died, my hopes are rubble:
I’ve been crying for a week.

I won’t lift a glass of Guinness;
I’ll abstain from Maker’s Mark:
I’ll put down the gin martini
(No more cocktails after dark).

How I’ve searched for you in churches!
But despite my anguished prayer,
All I see are sculpted angels:
I can’t find you anywhere.

August will collapse to autumn
With its nights of killing frost:
Faith would say that God has gained you;
I will weep for what I’ve lost.

Now I stumble through a city
Where the trace and trail of you
Evanesce to cherished memories
In my heart so bruised and blue.

You were sunlight, you were fire,
You were Holy Eucharist:
You were Irish Catholic Boston;
Yours, the blush-bright cheek I kissed.

In the spring, you had a backache,
Then they told you what it was,
And it stole you in the summer:
I ask why; there’s no because.

I can’t rouse you from your coffin;
I can’t raise you from the dust:
I can’t get your stopped pulse beating;
I protest because I must.

Can’t you call me up or text me,
Speak some solace through the phone?
I ride crowded Cambridge buses,
But I’m horribly alone.

by Thomas DeFreitas

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dylan0618/
Instagram: @thomasdef1969

Editor’s Note: This beautifully written lament emphasizes the bluesy grief of the speaker with its melancholy rhythm (trochaic tetrameter). 

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.