From the archives — So Near by David Ayers

So Near
for M

First love’s best, love.
You, days from the womb, already master
of the long jaw-movement; me,
near thirty, still seeking where I might fit
in every bone of your face.

I watched
over the sterile blue drape—
that first startled breath, before the blue
body’s rest slipped out of her
slit belly. Then, you cried,

but where the cord wrapped
twice around that ox-like neck,
there’s not a mark to show.

As if life hadn’t hung
on a strapped
piece of flesh. As if, floating in the dark,
those eyes hadn’t first
opened and grown wise.

by David Ayers

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 1, June 2006

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Traveling Back to the Heart by Hafsa Mumtaz

Traveling Back to the Heart

The metal-stiff bubbly palm of cobbles in
The terrace rebel against my calcaneus
As I saunter under the cyan sky where
Streaks of clouds frisk and fumble for vapour
Thrushes chant to the waking sun as
Their beaks osculate the wedges among the
Humid stones searching for beads of millet
The damp metal of the railing from between
Cracks and tatters of the knife-thin varnish
Feels arctic like the water under an iceberg,
And looks like the skin under a crisp scab
My eyes alight on a fungus-hued plant clad in
A not-so-exact domino of a cactus—
The needles stuck on its face remind me of
The mornings when mom would quickly stitch
A button on my uniform shirt that had been hanging loose
Like a marcescent leaf waiting to fall
The delicate thread in the needle was like a ligament
Holding our love intact for the love of a mother is infinite and matchless
These needles—pricking the green oblong balloon
Look sharp like the ramified fingers of a fork from which
My friends and I, on birthday parties, would burst birthday balloons
My eyes traverse through the mornings before school
When my mom would use a hairbrush that looked like this plant
To style my hair lovely; I was sixteen-year-old child who
Couldn’t decide which hairstyle to make for I knew none
These needles—poignant as the nib of my sketching pencils
With which I’d draw mom’s sketches on the mom’s day cards
I’d make for her, sticking on them her favorite chocolate
These needles—long as raindrops falling from the sky at midnight
When mom, my sister and I would stroll the lane
With ice-cream cones in our hands, dark umbrellas above our heads
These needles—thin like the borders of kohl around my mom’s eyes
In the mirror as I stand alone making up my face for a party
These needles—attenuated like the intricate designs of henna
On my hands on every Eid
These needles—the scarf pins I bought when I started Hijab
These needles—
A tender knock at my aperture leading to my mind
And scenting of warm feelings in my heart

by Hafsa Mumtaz

Editor’s Note: The meandering imagery at the start of this poem mirrors the way nostalgia tugs gently at the heart before arrowing sharply to those memories most poignant and stubborn.

Falling Angel, September 11 by Angela C. Bilger

Falling Angel, September 11

And so it was
that a shadow fell—
or was it light,
absorbing too well
a darkness too dark
to behold? My lips
keep trying to say
but the vowels
won’t sound, for a body
doesn’t exhale while
suspended and unresolved.
I wish I could walk a high wire
between stars. I wish I had
a hand to hold.
I turn off the TV
and sink into
the inaudible.
Some days, grace
threads your shadow, the sky
sprouts wings, and we
are caught, heaven-held.

by Angela C. Bilger


Editor’s Note: Stunning imagery and careful enjambment showcase both longing and grief in equal measure within this elegiac poem.

The Woman with Carrots by Rachel McInturff

The Woman with Carrots

She’s there whenever I am,
in the morning on the trail by the wash,
always at the spot where the old trees grow largest;
I think they’re probably watching.

She quietly pushes a black stroller
with a dog in it, small pink bows on curly white ears,
and a ten pound bag of carrots
chopped and perched accessibly on top.

More than once I’ve seen her talking
to herself—or maybe to her dog—or, this morning,
to the rabbits. They live by the dozens in this chosen spot
where shade kisses the desert from

the trees that grow like a psalm, all of us watching
the quiet woman pushing her little white dog,
talking to animals, and sewing the ground
with pile after pile of orange kindness.

Once I saw her in the grocery store,
nothing in her cart but carrots
and a little white dog with bows on.
I wonder, do angels not need to eat?

Sometimes we smile at each other, awkwardly, but
she doesn’t know how much I think she deserves a poem,
how much we (the dog, the rabbits, the trees, and I),
think she might be a poem.

by Rachel McInturff

Editor’s Note: The meticulous imagery in this poem elevates the narrative from mere oddity (dog in a stroller + carrots) to the moment when the speaker realizes that this woman adds joy to the world.

The Hang Glider by Ralph La Rosa

“We hug the earth,—how rarely we mount!
Methinks we might elevate ourselves a little more.”
Thoreau, Walking

The Hang Glider

It is said transcendent souls inform us:
. . . . .I sometimes think
Mine is like a soaring hang glider’s

Shadow, sauntering across mountains
. . . . .On sunny days,
Skipping over tree tops, disappearing

Behind a grove or into a deep crevice
. . . . .And popping up
On a clean-swept shale slope,

Huge, much larger than the glider,
. . . . .Far less defined,
Almost amoebic as it slinks its way

Across unleveled earth—but then contracts
. . . . .As the glider
Swiftly sinks toward its safe ground,

The shadow moving ever more slowly,
. . . . .As if waiting
For its substance to catch up with it.

If that shadow’s anything like a soul,
. . . . .It’s most active
When a body willfully transcends it,

Most indolent when the body hugs it
. . . . .Too tight to earth.

by Ralph La Rosa

Editor’s Note: The central image in this poem moves from visual description to philosophy as the lines meander to a surprising and inevitable close.

From the archives — from The Survivor by Jenn Koiter

from The Survivor

I speed, late as usual,
to the ceremony
thirteen days after your death.
You hated my driving.
Slow is smooth,
you said, again and again,
smooth is fast, but
I never slowed down.

In your brother’s living room,
your white friends sit solemnly,
trained by church, while
your Indian friends relax
and chat quietly, trusting
the ritual will go on
just fine without them.

Marigolds draping
your photo, spot of vermilion
on your forehead, the drone
of the pandit’s chant: the atheist in you
would have hated all of it, but
you left. You don’t get to pick.

The pandit says your journey
to the afterlife takes a day
for you, but a year for us, that finally
you were leaving, having lingered
these thirteen days. Though
I hadn’t felt you there,
or at your house, or your memorial.
Even my dreams, when I dream of you,
are only dreams. Perhaps,
as usual, you left early.
Lord knows you hate to be late.

Couldn’t you linger
just a little longer, just this once?
Slow is smooth,
smooth is fast. Surely
you can make up the time.

by Jenn Koiter

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, July 1, 2021

photo courtesy of Day Eight

Moving My Son into College During a Pandemic by Lisa Wiley

Moving My Son into College During a Pandemic
—after Shoshauna Shy

My pulled pork sandwich
with generous portions piled high
smoked to perfection
as stacks of wood
on the premises
attest to its flavor
dribbles out of the soft bun
which I couple with choice
of warm mac and cheese
like a yellow rainbow
accented with Dill pickle
which causes me to smile slightly

the red umbrella
doesn’t sufficiently shade
my dish as I down
a pint of crisp local draft
consuming what I can
off my crowded plate

and then before
we don our masks
it’s soothing to note
how normal we feel
momentarily content
in the August sun

by Lisa Wiley

Twitter: @wileymoz

Editor’s Note: This poem’s focus on the ordinary nature of a meal highlights the stark contrasts of life within a pandemic—normalcy vs. disaster, contentment vs. the unknown.

When You Were Young You Wrote Poems by Shi Yang Su

When You Were Young You Wrote Poems
—after Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art

When you were young, you wrote
poems about big sycamore trees, hot
bright summer, and several girls you’d
chase after school. You kicked balls, watching
them bouncing high to the lemon tree, cared
less about what you wrote. You typed whining
words on your cellphone, treated poetry as another
trash message to social media. When
you were young, words flew like dewy leaves—they
didn’t fall, they swirled in the air. So much love. So
sad. You drank Bacardi for a whole afternoon
just to come up with a single pretty line, then burned it all, threw
it away in a day coming back from your sports training,
and let sweat stain your shirt, on your papers.
Years later, you write poems. recalling days lingering
in the bar, German beers with shivering bubbles, bragging
about life and dreams. You are losing. Some
good friends, family members, warmth on the bed.
You are losing your favorite blue marble, your old boots,
the key to the Tudor house, your small green pond, jeep car
you drove thousands of miles, the ID card, your passport
to this strange continent. You lose them all.
So this morning, you write poems. Again.
You buy parchments from a vintage store, listen
carefully to the sounds of pen and ink.
When you are old, words choke in your throat like
saltwater, they lose their fluidity, like
you. You would sit a whole evening in a coffee shop,
watching people coming in and out, jot down some
broken words, compose them carefully
like decorating a birthday present in your distant
childhood. Days, you wake up, a new morning,
you find an empty pocket in your body,
find yourself taste the loss, then regret
nothing. When you are old, you write
You write poems.

by Shi Yang Su

Editor’s Note: This poem’s meticulous imagery carries the reader through a life with one narrative thread that stretches throughout—the act of writing.

My Mother’s Kitchen by Joanne Durham

My Mother’s Kitchen

Of course I thought my mathematician Dad
was the source of my school smarts,
all those A’s first grade through grad school.
Yet here in my uncle’s memoirs—
Lillian the funny sister, and Clara,
the smart one.
Clara, my mother,
who smoothed hurt feelings
like she ironed wrinkles from my father’s
shirts, but never went to college, started
work in the bargain basement
at fifteen pretending she was twenty,
married and escaped into homemaking,
led girl scout camping trips
and baked chocolate chip cookies.
I mocked her in my teenage years
for how ardently she redid the kitchen
in a palette of mauve and faux fern.

The smart one. All that time I was satisfied
with a simple language and now I know
I needed one with twenty words for snow,
or that at least spells mother six different ways,
and I’m sitting again at her kitchen table
that morning she mused about the gifted class
she loved in second grade, but they moved
for the third time and anyway she was just
a little girl. Then she folds her yellow
flowered apron and steps aside, as she
always did, to let everyone else’s life
parade along the crowded pavement,
while she smiled and waved and cheered us on.

by Joanne Durham

Twitter: @DurhamJoanne

Editor’s Note: The irony of “escaped into homemaking” in this narrative poem becomes ever more evident as the lines carry the reader through a life that so many women lived, with love.