House of Women by Sydney Lea

House of Women

All he calls back from the last of the War are cameos.
He’s barely three, and the house all women—mother and grandma,
cousins and aunts and friends, the husbands in Europe or Asia,
in something the women keep calling a theatre. There’s theatre at home,
.. . . . . .he believes. But how can he know it, theatre,
having never seen play nor film, the great drug TV unheard of?
He crouches in the kneehole, curtained, of Aunt Fay’s vanity table

While nightly she daubs on makeup, although it isn’t makeup
that makes her a beautiful woman. With a flourish, he parts the cloth
and the show begins: she’s lovely, despite the polio-withered
leg that makes her lurch so dramatically. The lurch—
.. . . . . .it’s part of the beauty. All done, she sighs.
She kills the light and lights a smoke: a Lucky Strike,
though he can’t say how he knows that. She puffs and sighs and puffs

Some more and sighs. She must miss the deadbeat Uncle Nick,
who isn’t yet that, the deadbeat, but cruises somewhere in a ship.
The boy doesn’t care. Their daughter Nancy’s a grownup, fourteen,
and flirts with him, though he surely can’t know that word either,
.. . . . . .kisses just sweets from the stores of the women,
inexhaustible, warm. Sun stands low, theatrically so,
on the roof of the Farnums’ house next-door when he appears,

Strapping stranger in khaki, with nerve enough to scamper
up the drive toward the house as though somehow he owned it.
The child is standing watch at an upstairs window, in shock,
the end of a world lying near. He is sick with terror and anger.
.. . . . . .Meanwhile the high-heeled shoes of his mother
avalanche downstairs despite his howls, the impostor
lifting her, swinging her round and round, till earth must seem

Distant to her as a star. His own days of stardom are over.

by Sydney Lea

Editor’s Note: This complex poem flirts with two points of view—the child and the omniscient narrator—which describe an emotional landscape of war and theatre and childhood and how relationships function within these difficult situations.

Sonnet for Olivia by Diane Elayne Dees

Sonnet for Olivia

Your voice was crystal—vintage, not too polished;
it traveled like a current to my heart,
and sometimes left me smiling and astonished,
or fighting tears. Yours was a special art—
a marriage of simplicity and emotion,
that conveyed your love for every living thing;
it filtered through the vastness of the ocean
as a promise we would hear the dolphins sing.
You declared that optimism was a choice,
then you chose it. And so every time you spoke,
your courage was the high note in your voice
that dispensed the gifts of fortitude and hope.
You held on to the end, as you intended;
your time on Earth was nothing short of splendid.

by Diane Elayne Dees

Twitter: @WomenWhoServe

Editor’s Note: This lovely sonnet is a beautiful elegy for hope in the midst of loss.

The Floral Guests by Irena Pasvinter

The Floral Guests

The blossoms flew upon the wind
and landed all around:
a few got caught among the leaves,
some finished on the ground
and, trampled by the passers-by,
they were pink no more;
but others reached the balconies,
a couple for each floor.

A cleaning lady wiped them off,
without a second thought.
A child marveled at the blooms,
then tore the pinkish lot.
A man with dying cigarette
searched for the guilty tree,
and an old woman softly said,
“You’re withered, just like me”.

It was young mother, rushing through
another crazy day,
who smiled at the floral guests
before they flew away.

by Irena Pasvinter, first appeared in Ariel Chart

Editor’s Note: This sweet poem is enhanced by the meter and rhyme, and just what is needed to clear the mind after reading too many dire headlines.

Interpretation by Eric T. Racher

All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full—but whence poureth out Man?
—Rashi, Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1.7

The wood stooped at the edge of the pond,
and I bent down to glance beneath the glare.
I poked in a stick to stir up muck,
and see what might be lurking there—
a spotted newt, a minnow or two,
a yearling painted turtle that slipped
among the pondweed and was gone.
I smile to remember what I thought then—
that my mind was like that pond:
still, small, and fed by rain and unknown springs,
all clogged with dross accumulated
through the years, and rank with weeds.
I looked up and saw a buck step out of the woods.
He stopped, and sniffed the air.
He neither smelled nor saw me, it appeared,
but he paused, a bit, perhaps unsure,
then walked up to the water’s edge,
bent down to drink,
and I stood still and watched him.
As a child I sat upon this bank
and fished for bluegill and pumpkinseed,
dreaming of pike and largemouth bass
that lurked, so I fancied, beneath the lily pads.
Each spring the pond grew smaller.
I left it there and went about my days.
Years later, when I returned,
the image in my mind had overcome the pond.
I did not know the pond, I knew the image.
The image was not the pond. The image sang;
the pond stood still and was.
The pond reflected me—my eye,
fixed upon that vacancy, was stunned.
The mind dances upon the brain;
that dance sustains our love,
loss, plenitude, desire, despair.
The eye rebels at the sun’s reflection,
rejects that brute and lucid glare.
The mind cannot endure this blank face,
and broods upon the world it fills
with desperate significance.
The movements of the buck possessed a grace
like a harpsichord or ’cello playing Bach,
a resonant voice reading Greek hexameters,
yet less translatable than either one
because its form is alien to us,
wholly independent of the human mind;
yet somehow it is part of what we are.
The buck continued drinking with a royal air,
and then he raised his head, still unperturbed,
and fixed the darkness of his eye on me.
Relentlessly he stared,
as if the blank, unmeaning sea
he sensed in me had dared disturb
the stillness of his being,
and then he turned and walked into the trees.

by Eric T. Racher, from Five Functions Defined on Experience

Twitter: @Eric_Racher

Editor’s Note: This beautiful ode’s subtle meter and rhyme never overwhelm, allowing the reader to absorb the imagery and the message with ease and grace.

Steamed Bread by Zhihua Wang

Steamed Bread

I inherited it, and injected my ideal of creating splendid bread:
water, wheat flour, yeast, cage-free eggs, no sugar added bread.

Mix the ingredients, I can’t wait to see the dough rise. Crush
it, it grows again. Do I expect more than my humbled bread?

Knead it by my hands, divide it, roll it, shape it like a flower
or stuff it with bean paste, set it aside to prove rounded bread.

Put them in the steamer. Vapor expands the numerous beehives
inside to full size. Time & temperature are key to grand bread.

Gaze at them with amore, feel their warm, moist, and dappled skin,
break one, send it to my mouth. Oh, elastic, chewy, revered bread.

Like being a chef, Zhihua? Yes! This augmenting process is more than
healing. If you ask me and steamed bread who lasts, steamed bread.

by Zhihua Wang

Editor’s Note: An inherited bread starter is a most precious commodity, and this ghazal is an ode to both family and deliciousness.

What We See by Ed Hack

What We See

Amazing what we see—Here’s life again,
the morning says in light, so shadows too.
For things are what they are and what they seem
and what they’re not, and all three views are true.
Our past is shadows cast that do not fade
away. They’re in our children’s DNA,
and thus their children’s too. So what we are
is river flowing by and bottom we
can’t see or even guess. I say a word
that echoes through the story that I am
passed on to me by those I do not know.
A vessel that’s a self, part of a flow
I cannot name but know has brought me here,
to 8:15 and all that I hold dear.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s title fools the reader into thinking that what we see is the point, yet the poem encompasses everything else.

Hidden, in our final kiss by Steven Lebow

Hidden, in our final kiss
—For Madeline S. Sable

Let all the saints there are come bless you.
May all your questions end with yes.
Let every sphinx’s riddle come back answered.
Not even one must be a guess.

May all the Hebrews there are acknowledge
the messiah made his home within your womb.
And even if it goes disputed
let them meet you at that empty tomb.

Let all the Buddhists swear you’re happy
and all the evangelicals be saved.
Until all the Moslems and the Hindus say
there’s no one left there in that common cave.

The agnostics are never sure of anything,
but the atheists claim they know.
Even when all the temples, mosques, and churches were demolished
and all their buildings decay from down below.

When all the Sikhs discard their turbans,
and all the Jews shave off their beards.
Now there is nothing that is left over
that is unknown, or even weird.

And even then, at last,
until the coming of the apocalypse.
You and I will find salvation,
hidden, in our final kiss.

by Steven Lebow

Editor’s Note: This poem alludes to much, but by the final verse, the reader understands that love is everything.

With the Current by Richard Jordan

With the Current

We’re at the Squannacook again. The trout
are stirring as my father leans against
a willow, watches dimpled rings emerge

where open mouths poke through the surface, pluck
drowning damselflies. We’ve come to choose,
perhaps simply imagine the perfect spot

to spread his ashes when he’s gone. This place
right here, he says. Yes, this place where he taught
me to cast upstream and let the river

present the fly the natural, dead-drift way.
Stay with the flow. The current feeds the trout
what arrives. A rainbow leaps. Another.

My father takes a step toward the water,
bends to dip a finger, slowly rises.
We’re not here to fish today. We left

the car in idle, steady hum reminding
us to go and do what might need doing
this bright May morning, now approaching noon.

by Richard Jordan


Editor’s Note: The subtlety of blank verse serves this poem’s beautiful imagery well, allowing the emotional backbone of the narrative to emerge slowly but surely.

Facing The Music: An acrostic sonnet by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

Facing The Music: An acrostic sonnet

From having crashed while drunk against a shop,
A driver opted to take flight, but got
Chased hard by somebody who wouldn’t stop
In hot pursuit through streets, a garden spot
Nearby, and farmers’ fields, until the chase
Got interrupted when a fence appeared.
The fugitive jumped over it, to face
His fate: A bird to whom he’s not endeared
Expressed the outrage of a threatened mom—
Malicious pecks in lieu of angry words—
Until he chose to face the music from
Some cops instead, as flight was for the birds …
If you’re intent on dodging justice, then
Choose not to hide inside an emu pen!

by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

Editor’s Note: This poem’s delightful narrative emphasizes what we all know about emus.

From the archives – Ostinato — Esther Greenleaf Mürer


—(byr a thoddaid)

Where is the air of yesteryear?
Where are the fields, fallow as deer?
They’re gone, gone in a whorl of brine, to burn
until the rain turns alkaline.

Where are the snows of morrowmorn?
There high up on the Matterhorn
they dance, undecided which way to fall,
point and pirouette all the day.

Where are the stars of nevernight?
You cannot know, poor anchorite
who spurn the milk of skybridges unseen
for the glare of your mean fancies.

Hope remains, like a wire-wrapped string
that sends its ground bass pulsating
under the ever-shifting harmonies
drifting on the breeze from afar.

by Esther Greenleaf Mürer

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 14, July 2009

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim