From the archives — Carnations by Guy Kettelhack


And now into the viscous dark –
that blacker than imaginable heart
of things – I go to undergo new throes

of recollection – transformation. My
mother loved carnations – their peculiar
sweet timidity – I remember their

strange scent and hold on her and
on the hollow casket (she was nowhere
to be found in it) where they bestowed

their blushing and their bloom: riding
off the sides, they filled the room
with dissonance and odd perfume.

Three years ago, approximately
today, she started sliding on
the way to die the first week in July.

And now against the viscous dark –
that blacker than imaginable heart
of my unknowing – I imagine pink arising –

growing: redolently weird – its power
blasts the past and future into now –
enigmatic blossom of eternity: her flower.

by Guy Kettelhack

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 2, September 2006

From the archives — Sonnenizio on a Line from Neruda by Michaela A. Gabriel

Sonnenizio on a Line from Neruda

The night turns on its invisible wheels.
The stars are gone; first sunlight splinters
in the branches of black trees, drips onto

tired earth. And so a shadow falls on us,
on our love. I want to rub, to brush it off.
I want to strike a match, turn on another

light, grow my own sun, a wonderland
where waving wands is all it takes to forge
and reforge bonds, where nothing breaks

forever. Place your hand on my hot cheek
again, breathe life into my eyes, connect
the freckles on my back to spell out: Yes.

Write on my skin: We want. We can. We will.
Let me respond with sighs. Then let’s be still.

(First line from Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet LXXXI)

by Michaela A. Gabriel

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 5, June 2007

[Correction] Virtual Vision by Martin J. Elster

Editor’s Addendum: Please accept my most humble apologies for the incorrect attribution given to the previous post of this poem. I messed up, and I am very sorry.

Virtual Vision

She views the world through touch. Faint throbs of thread
relay what prey is trapped, what class of mate
draws near, what bird has come to satiate
its greedy gut. The ring of string has spread
like ripples on a pond. Inside her head
a tiny brain unravels all the facts.
Her spokes have spoken to her. She reacts
quick as a wingbeat. Will she be well-fed?

One evening, groping through a grove, you mangle
the moonlit sanctuary of some spinner
serenely poised to pounce upon her dinner.
Face full of filaments, you watch her dangle
then disappear. You flee the fangs of night,
not knowing she’s too sensible to bite.

by Martin J. Elster

Editor’s Note: This sonnet begins with a mystery (who is this creature?), but soon enough, we realize that a spider is the central character terrifying the speaker.

In A Shepherd Hut: An acrostic sonnet by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

In A Shepherd Hut: An acrostic sonnet

I bought a shepherd hut, where I could write—
Not being buttonholed, nor reached by phone—
And parked it in my garden, out of sight,
So all the world would leave me well alone.
Here I would craft a novel or a play,
Entirely undisturbed by daily chores,
Protected from distractions night and day …
However, once I hid behind its doors,
Excruciating writer’s block attacked
Relentlessly, until I came to see
Distractions served the food for thought I lacked—
Hermitic exile fed no muse for me! …
Up to my study’s bustle I returned
To write—and sell the hut, my lesson learned!

by Mike Mesterton-Gibbons

Editor’s Note: Every writer knows that distraction is the enemy of the mind, but sometimes the very thing that we think is going to solve that problem becomes the problem, as this hilarious sonnet demonstrates.

Drowning Stroke by Ciaran Parkes

Drowning Stroke

A kind of stroke you never have to learn,
it comes installed already like the long
lazy crawl you practiced in the womb
before you could even breathe. Your feet go down,

your head goes up, like someone standing
up in water, or trying to, like someone
who’s forgotten everything they’ve ever known
about how to float, how to keep on living

in this world. You stick your arms up, waving
about for help. You stretch your mouth wide open
for a final breath or two. You turn
streamlined as a fish, a stone, then something

grabs you from below and, like a midwife,
pulls you, gasping, backwards out of life.

by Ciaran Parkes

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s brilliant enjambment almost fools you into believing that all will be well, but as the title states, this particular stroke of the pen ends in tragedy.

Last Words by Greg Watson

Last Words

In the end, I don’t need to know what your last words might have been — whether some sly, unassuming wisdom, cry of anguish, or blasphemy — before your body offered up its last and holiest secrets. For you, a man who conserved words as if allotted only a handful in this life, one silence leading into another would seem fitting. The endless books of quotations and insight, the intricate wounds coughed up as speech, we must now leave for others. Even the words I wrote after your death, winding them into a pencil-thin scroll to be fed into cemetery dirt, somehow elude me now. Their mystery is yours, their meaning gone back into darkness. Let it remain so. Let me learn, if anything, the grace of saying nothing at all.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: This prose poem uses imagery very sparsely, but where it does, the impact is all the more startling.

Seen and Unseen by Jane Blanchard

Seen and Unseen
. . . . .Saint Simon’s Island

Wind from the east drives cloud by cloud toward shore—
enormous cotton balls appear to swipe
the too-blue summer sky—their shadows turn
the ocean from dull gray to duller tan.

The tide continues getting higher while
wind from the east drives cloud by cloud toward shore—
the sandbar is submerged—pelicans
routinely glide, then dive-bomb schools of fish.

Swimmers return to help sunbathers move
all chairs and towels out of danger as
wind from the east drives cloud by cloud toward shore—
remaining beverages are soon consumed.

Beyond the seawall stand palmettos, fronds
waving—above them flies a dragon, tail
wiggling, string held by someone not in view—
wind from the east drives cloud by cloud toward shore.

by Jane Blanchard

Editor’s Note: This viator poem features a refrain that threads through the narrative, placing the reader firmly within the leisurely pace of Saint Simon’s island.

Bird Aubade by Alexander Pepple

Bird Aubade

Daybreak and not one sound is heard
as was routine of trilling jays
that were aflutter as they stirred
the air muggy with June heatwave.
They’d dart between two trees ablaze

with alpenglow—their choice playground
alongside two apartment blocks.
Their silent airs today astound.
Some social distancing to save
plumage against some newfound pox . . .

succumbed at last to this June’s sear . . .
or did they just migrate away?
Not one hour later, a whirr
amongst the trees! How they behave
as they’ve been wont, still no one’s prey.

How tardy! Have they now become
afflicted with our sleep-in malaise . . .
or wearied by the rival hum
and thump that made a schoolyard cave
in for a close-by condo maze?

A symphony of seesaw trills—
the usual morning reveille—
clear and rampant as it spills
forth now, before it’s time to brave
Caterpillars soon to wake and wail.

by Alexander Pepple

Editor’s Note: The form of this poem constructs a framework that denies the awful fragility of bird life (and perhaps our own as well), especially considering the new and terrible avian illness sweeping across the land.

Volleyball by Betsy K. Brown

or, of the high school athletes who preferred form to free verse

The players love the net. They raise it high
Like heraldry in the gymnasium,
Unfurl it edge to edge, a standard set,
A boundary for their bounding, bruising play.
A battle line drawn firmly in the earth,
The net expects a leap and a long reach;
The players reverently touch its stern face
At every spike; it flutters, unperturbed.
The net conducts their dance. The back-and-forth,
The contra and the canter to the line,
The gentle set and death-defying dive,
The meeting, parting, serving, sprinting. Then
After the game, they show me all their wounds.
No glory, they say, if not for the net.

by Betsy K. Brown

Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s direct comparison (via the title) of poetry with a sport juxtaposes two things that don’t often go together, with delightful results.

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.