Vintage verse – I Hear America Singing by Walt Whitman


I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
. . . .and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the
. . . .deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing
. . . .as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the
. . . .morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at
. . . .work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young
. . . .fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

by Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Roar of the Freeway by Jesse James Doty

The Roar of the Freeway

Sandy grew up near a freeway
The 405 to be exact
The fact
Of the constant background noise
Made it possible to do most anything
At any time of the day or night
Made sounds of love
Or crying
Blend into the woodwork

Sandy misses the anonymity
Of the city
You could go to a store
And not be noticed
Every day she could start
All over again
With fresh eyes
And a brand new view

But time doesn’t travel backward
And wishing for what was before
Wastes precious time in the present

Now living in a rural community
The quiet deafens the dead
All Sandy can do is look ahead
To a time when she once again
Thrives among the living

by Jesse James Doty

Guest Editor’s Note:  While the technique is sparse, the first four lines of the second strophe are alluring.  From beginning to denouement the narrative and voice are consistent and charming.

Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (Sargent) by Susan de Sola

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (Sargent)

What had they caught? As if those Japanese lanterns glowing
pink and teal were full of fireflies or glow worms.

The girls’ black boots and stockings tread on the uncut grasses
and wildflowers and fortuitous lilies.

They stir with sticks, as if whirling fireflies to generate light,
a small buzz of protest ricochets against the paper prison.

Just two girls amid the profusion of fires and flowers,
their four feet, four hands, in white butterfly casings.

A girl myself, I stared long at this painting, trying to gather
its meaning, the mystery of its technology, the alluring toy they had.

Now, if a Sargent, I’d prefer a grande dame, monumental, frontal,
but here are his ladies in the making, making the light

lighting up their faces, heads tilted down, absorbed, not yet inclined
to let their faces take on the painter’s paint.

And very far away, on a Japanese bay, a thousand lanterns rattle,
the celebration unknown in England, where girls toy with souvenirs

hoping to coax fire from paper, heedless of lilies and carnations,
while their black boots stamp down the garden grasses and blooms,

and the white arms of the girls clasp whole globes, spinning out the light.

by Susan de Sola, first published in Ambit.

Guest Editor’s Note: The rhythms here are an intoxicating blend of iambs and occasional cretics with delicate alliteration and assonance throughout. It might not bring down the house as a performance piece but as spoken words the experience is mesmerizing.

Please welcome Guest Editor Earl Gray from March 20-March 24, 2017.

From the archives – Stars Fall, Doors Open by Eleanor Lerman

Stars Fall, Doors Open

Spring, summer. Oh come again
Lay wide open the bright new world
then close it up with flowers
if only for one more season
Why not? I have lived long enough to be
sentimental. To be permitted to awaken

in June, rested, ready, alive. Oh come again:
days when the sun lives like a friend and
there is always more. See the door that has

been left open to the house on the path by
the river: yes, there is always more. I remember
it so and I demand that it be returned to me

Though of course, somewhere beyond the sky
a force to be reckoned with clocks in
and reads the notes that were left behind

An eyebrow is raised, a finger is lifted,
which puts into play unimaginable forces
I imagine them anyway. Night falls, stars fall

This is all real now and I know it
Make time stop is not one of the spells
that has been cast upon me but others have

I will open my book now and I
will read them. Stars fall. Doors open
Away, away

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 17, 2016 — by Eleanor Lerman

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Hysteria by T. S. Eliot



As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved in her laughter and being part of it, until her teeth were only accidental stars with a talent for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps, inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by the ripple of unseen muscles. An elderly waiter with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty green iron table, saying: “If the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden, if the lady and gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden…” I decided that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of the fragments of the afternoon might be collected, and I concentrated my attention with careful subtlety to this end.

by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

The Miles Before Sleep by Martin Willitts Jr.

The Miles Before Sleep

I did something hard: I stared at my mother
on a ventilator, lungs working overtime.
The end was in her sight, the shortening miles
before she could pull over and rest.

Her eyes were begging, make it end.
I looked into her eyes, trying to pull her back,
until I saw she wanted to drown
in silence. She had provided birth, and now
she craved death like it was a candy bar.

She was evaporating into her skin like a prayer,
fingers on a rosary, her road map
indicating miles to go before arriving.

I didn’t look away from observing death.
There is no shame in dying, no dishonor
in remorse, no journey without someone looking back.
She gazed straight into the nowhere, terrorized
at what was next. Religion had warned her
about heaven and hell, simple sins
leading to confession booths, scabbing the knees.

I began talking to her, mundane to important words,
chattering like a magpie. She was heading into Somewhere
and my voice might reassure her, telling her it was alright,
she could leave, I would be fine.

I have seen the eyes of surrender
as a field medic in Vietnam. It is not explosive
as a minefield, it is not zipped silent in a body bag,
it is not always gory, but always the eyes
are unable to say what they wanted to say.
When they are doped up on morphine, they can’t speak,
can’t name their fear. Sad eyes, seen-it-all eyes,
tired-of-battlefields or common-problems eyes,
the same eyes needing comfort.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The conversational tone of this poem gives the reader the sense that she is listening to a friend describing the indescribable.

Thirteen by Chella Courington


We hate the tall grass by the river
afraid we’ll step on a cottonmouth.
But water the color of indigo
waits for us the other side of danger.

We shed jeans shirts underwear
mark our place at the edge
hold hands like Ruth and Naomi
wading into the deep.

With each step water moves higher
chills our new breasts.
I throw my arms around Anna Claire
press against her for warmth.

She pushes away
plunges into the dark blue
surfaces arches
plunges again

swims under me
and cradles my back in her palms
lifting me to the air
so I float on her fingertips.

Her hands move gently
touching my shoulder and thigh
as she kisses my lips
uncloses my eyes with her tongue.

We don’t say a word
reach the point of mooring
and venture back
through the tall grass.

by Chella Courington

Editor’s Note: The opening line of this poem commands the reader’s attention, and as the narrative unfolds, the “hate” of that opening takes on multiple meanings.