MRI by Elise Hempel

MRI

Inside this tunnel, still and prone,
so enclosed and so alone,

I’m waiting in a well-lit tomb
or a cold and arid womb,

about to be, or done and was,
on hold to Muzak, this jack-hammered buzz

and now a ray-gun’s droning song.
Without my watch, can’t tell how long –

nine months, a flickering moment? – I’ve been
paused here in this in-between….

When my timeless time inside
is over and they slowly slide

the lid away, will I go forth
into Heaven or onto Earth?

They’ll be the same, my welcoming crowd,
but what will rock me – arms or cloud,

and will my voice be cry or mute?
Held tight, or released, will I float

into After or out of Before?
Either way, alone no more.

by Elise Hempel

Editor’s Note: This poem uses repetition and rhyme to convey the sense of confinement (both physical and mental) found within an unfortunately necessary medical device.

Vintage verse – The Caterpillar by Robert Graves

The Caterpillar

Under this loop of honeysuckle,
A creeping, coloured caterpillar,
I gnaw the fresh green hawthorn spray,
I nibble it leaf by leaf away.

Down beneath grow dandelions,
Daisies, old-man’s-looking-glasses;
Rooks flap croaking across the lane.
I eat and swallow and eat again.

Here come raindrops helter-skelter;
I munch and nibble unregarding:
Hawthorn leaves are juicy and firm.
I’ll mind my business: I’m a good worm.

When I’m old, tired, melancholy,
I’ll build a leaf-green mausoleum
Close by, here on this lovely spray,
And die and dream the ages away.

Some say worms win resurrection,
With white wings beating flitter-flutter,
But wings or a sound sleep, why should I care?
Either way I’ll miss my share.

Under this loop of honeysuckle,
A hungry, hairy caterpillar,
I crawl on my high and swinging seat,
And eat, eat, eat—as one ought to eat.

by Robert Graves (1895-1985)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

[Editor’s Note: Please forgive the double posting. The previous post had the incorrect poet—this poem is by Robert Graves, not Walt Whitman.]

Rondeau Written After The Season’s First Encounter by Wendy Babiak

Rondeau Written After The Season’s First Encounter

When the hummingbirds come near I sense Your grace.
Back to the window, I hear the whir, and brace
myself. I turn, and suddenly — yes — she’s there
sipping coral honeysuckle, and I stare —
a lover memorizing her lover’s face —

until she’s off, running Hunger’s endless race.
And I’m left relishing Love’s sweet, swift embrace.
Of course, when I look I find You everywhere.
When the hummingbirds come near

the garden feels complete, but always this place
speaks Love’s lexicon: leaves’ graceful curls, the lace
of bare branches against a painted sky, here
where day meets night. Still, I have to say a prayer
of thanks for each visit. Nothing can replace
when the hummingbirds come near.

by Wendy Babiak

Editor’s Note: This graceful poem uses form to emphasize the stillness and joy the narrator feels at the start of a new season. In these trying times, this grace is desperately needed.

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.

Sonnet to negotiate peace with your dementia by Tracy Lee Karner

Sonnet to negotiate peace with your dementia

You’re dozing in your rocker, feet planted.
You clutch the chair’s arms, appearing prepared
for the shock of bad news, your neck slanted
head jutting forward. Oh my dear gray scared
bird, while invisible worms still burrow
you stop searching for a table to hold
your reading glasses. And then you furrow
your forehead, begin to snore. You turn old.
The unread want ads lie on your stomach.
They rise and fall between us as we breathe.
Will I tell you? No, I’d rather mimic
you now, observe in silence all that seethes.
I thought I might explain why we’re broken.
But sleep. This, too, will remain unspoken.

by Tracy Lee Karner

Twitter: @TracyLeeKarner

Tracy on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem delicately offers a glimpse into the slow loss of a person. It’s all the more poignant because the narrator’s emotions are strong, but kept in check by love.

Over the Edge by David Stephenson

Over the Edge

The wind was strong and at our back all day
So we sped merrily across a sea
Awash with floating patches of debris,
Mostly planks and oars and castaway
Crates and sea chests, and sometimes a stray
Capsized lifeboat, thudding sluggishly
Against our hull with tiresome frequency
And spinning and foundering on the ricochet.

The boats they sent to stop us have turned back
And there are no birds trailing in our wake;
We sail beyond the maps and charts alone.
And now the waters swirl and skies grow black
And in the distance vast waves rise and break
And we are doomed. If only we had known.

by David Stephenson

Editor’s Note: This sonnet offers the reader a bleak situation. It isn’t until the closing lines that the metaphor becomes real.

San Diego Sky by Jean L. Kreiling

San Diego Sky

At first you doubt the San Diego sky—
you think such perfect blue is bound to fail—
but there’s no limit to the vast supply
of azure backdrop for white sand and sail.
It seems the palms stand tall just to be near
that crisp cerulean consistency,
where sunshine polishes the atmosphere
with warmly steadfast luminosity.
Blue graciously recedes at close of day,
and for a passing shower now and then,
but at Balboa Park or on the bay
or by the piers, blue soon prevails again.
There’s not a lot on which you can rely.
but you can trust the San Diego sky.

by Jean L. Kreiling

Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic sonnet slips the reader seamlessly into San Diego with imagery that is clear and descriptive, but not melodramatic. The scene is restful, as is the poem.

Photo by Jean L. Kreiling

Vintage verse – Sonnet 54 by William Shakespeare

O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odour which doth in it live.
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the roses,
Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly
When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:
But, for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwoo’d and unrespected fade,
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth.

by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)