All Summer by Donald Sellitti

All Summer

We counted down to everything
like astronauts, t-minus ten to
everything we yearned for,
sliding backward through our days
yet gliding forward through our lives
while never really feeling we were moving.
And when we somehow finally
reached July, we vamped one
single carefree day until the fall
and called it summer. Just summer.
Lying smooth in the memory
like a polished white stone.
Endless muggy mornings and sirens,
like distant muezzins, calling us at midday
as we chose up sides for war on the street
where Sally drove his ice cream
truck come nighttime.
Just summer. When time seemed wrung
from everything; the leaves, the trees, the sky,
ourselves. But we grew older
in our bodies anyway, as clueless
as the leaves about their coming fall.
I remember it only as ‘summer’,
but for a few stray strands of memory
that I’ve never slicked down—
and what stands out,
stands out for a reason I’m told.
So what am I to make of remembering
like it was yesterday, the owl perched atop
the rusting pole at dusk, and the way
it felt exactly when that older girl
chucked me under the chin
as we waited for our ice cream?

by Donald Sellitti

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem uses precisely the right imagery and pacing to draw the reader into the hazy memory of warm days and innocence.

My Alarm by Eric Nelson

My Alarm

Isn’t my neighbor’s boots, though he stands on his porch
every dawn and slams them together repeatedly, dry muck
flying like dark sparks. Sometimes it sounds like the woodpecker
that beats its head against my house. Sometimes a drumstick
rapping a snare’s rim, sometimes a gavel demanding order.

He pulls on the boots, double knots the laces, and drives off
to his landscaping job. Sure, there’s days I pillow my ears.
But the sound of his two boots clapping is reassuring—
a sturdy, reliable answer to the news raging from the radio,
relentless as gunfire and wildfire. No, my alarm began long before

my neighbor. Today, it’s twenty-three species declared extinct.
Yesterday, record overdoses and evidence that summers burn
hotter and longer than ever, spring and fall collapsing into one
long winter. Every day, I walk past a fake gravestone some
guerilla installed on the greenway, R.I.P. hand-lettered across

the top, and underneath: We don’t deserve paradise anymore.
I think of my neighbor at his work planting trees, making paths.
Amending and mulching. At the end of the day, the last bed made,
he’s back on his porch, sweat-stained and beat, pushing the muddy
boots off, leaving them at the door, heels up, to harden by morning.

by Eric Nelson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eric.nelson.58958343
Instagram: @ericnelson2022

Editor’s Note: This philosophical poem is deeply grounded in practical imagery, providing the reader with an easy doorway into ecological contemplation.

A Cartography of Home by Hayden Saunier

A Cartography of Home

My mother was a place. She was the where
from which I rose. Once on my feet, I touched

my forehead to her knee, then thigh, then hip,
waist, shoulder as I grew into my own wild country,

borderless, then bordered, bound
by terrors, terra incognita and salt seas.

I took my compass rose from her, my cardinal points,
embodiments of wind and names of cloud,

but every symbol in the legend now
belongs to me—rivers, topographic lines and shading,

back roads, city streets, highway lanes that end
abruptly at the broken edge of cliffs

where dragons snorting fire
ride curls of figured waves in unknown seas.

Monsters mark the desert blanks on her charts too.
Before she died, I folded myself back

to pocket-size, my children tucked inside
like inset maps and I lay my head down on her lap.

My mother stroked my hair
the way her mother had stroked hers,

and hers before hers, on and on, and we
remained like that—not long—but long enough

to make an atlas of us, perfect bound,
while she was still a place and so was I.

by Hayden Saunier

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hayden.saunier
Twitter: @Hayden_Saunier
Instagram: @hayden_saunier

Editor’s Note: The beautiful sonics of this poem (alliteration, assonance, etc.) supports its emotional backbone as the speaker draws a map of love and inheritance from mother to child.

Endangered by Melanie McCabe

Endangered

Save us before we disappear behind gleaming screens,
before we no longer find tongues to carry our frantic words.

Save us while we tremble at the anthers of late blooms
for a ration of nectar in our parched mouths.

Act now. Breathe back into our tightening throats
the coin and jingle of oxygen, the lulling anaphora

of the said-before, the call and refrain of the lungs
to the air. Pledge to hold us inside of our skins,

inside of our jackstraw and tenuous bones. Call
back the buzz, the exodus from the gassed hive.

Seal broken shells; fill them with hubbub and wings.
Sign new rings into the trunk of the narrow tree.

Guard us like condor, ocelot, and tamarin.
Guard us like mink and ivory and whale song.

Help us move through the darkness with our failing eyes.
Light up the dormant switchboard with stars.

by Melanie McCabe

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/melaniemccabepoetry

Editor’s Note: This ode’s imagery drives the speaker’s plea for the wonder of life, so it may continue despite humanity’s obliviousness.

From the archives – Crouching Female Figure: Pompeii — Gail White

Crouching Female Figure: Pompeii

At first they were not much afraid,
but hour by hour the ashes fell,
layer on layer overlaid—
the soft gray snow that falls in hell.

When panic came, her mistress said,
Lucilla, take the child and run.
But when she stumbled, both were dead.
Ashes had eaten up the sun.

Now, in an iron carapace
of ashes, here she crouches still,
shielding in vain her charge’s face
while tourists photograph their fill.

Could God explain in layman’s terms
what vices necrotized Pompeii,
when urban gods and rustic herms
were ashes in a single day?

No law, no logic eases pain
or stops the tidal wave of death.
Sinai and Etna both can rain
ashes that suffocate our breath.

by Gail White

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 13, April 2009

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Abecedarian for Little Brothers at the Border by Theresa Senato Edwards & Lori Schreiner

Abecedarian for Little Brothers at the Border
—in response to Lori Schreiner’s painting “We Have Each Other”

all light, those
brothers, ages 3 and 4,
carry each other
don’t dismiss their bravery
every step is theirs, every
fraction of their stride
gives hope to each refugee they pass
hate is nowhere, yet
it’s everywhere
just like survival
kicking wind
latching onto each other,
momma so far away in the
noise
oh, little boys
pink beneath your small shoes
quiet walking
residents to those awful borders
sunlight gold
traces one elbow, another’s head
unusually bright like a turban
voices magenta
where painting condemns
xenophobe, ignites
young brothers,
zealots

by Theresa Senato Edwards. Painting by Lori Schreiner.

Painting in response to Todd Heisler’s NYT’s photo.

Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic poem’s spare imagery is just enough to convey both hope and horror.

All Night I Harvest Your Name by Martin Willitts Jr.

All Night I Harvest Your Name

All night, the wind teaches the branches
how to write your name,
and a thousand eyes witness their writing
with soft river-sounds.

All night, sand grains murmur your name,
shifting each vowel,
trying out each sound, their smoothness
like the plush-velvet skies
as the night begins its aria.

Yes, all night, there is the dissembling
of ideas because I’m searching for you.

Although the world is vast and faceless,
and occasionally meteors streak across
blazing your name,
I can’t find you.

All night, all night, crickets brim
excitedly, repeating your name—

your name of serious translations, a name
purpling into nightfall, a wing-full of a name
into an uncommon wind.

I ask the great horned owl,
and he admits he doesn’t know who you are.

When the wind rushes your name
against my window, I open the blinds,
and I can see fire and water mixing together.

If I ignore your name,
your name might turn into foam, pull back
into the ocean of many names,
because whatever is freely given
can be taken back. All night, I worry about this.
All night, I write your name feverously in my heart.

I write your name in the shadows between rose petals.
I write your name into the green world
almost broken by possible loss.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: Repetition, imagery, personification… these elements elevate this ode from mere verse to a truly beautiful love poem.

The Weeds Are Taking Over by Sarah Mackey Kirby

The Weeds Are Taking Over

Begonias don’t live here anymore. Inside
clay pots framing the pebbled concrete patio.
No petunias to speak of, splashes of red and purple
in hanging baskets that line the wooden fence.
I didn’t plant them this year. I didn’t.

It’s only May, and I’m already tired. I wish I could
spread mulch over the roses, covering soil so rich
and loamy their roots anchor themselves like a man
in a comfy old recliner, and they thank me with an
endless-blossom summer that continues into fall.

But these days, the days themselves are heavy.
Weeds hang out where tomato plants should grow,
and I know it’s not going to happen this season.
Tomatoes and peppers. Not going to happen.
Oh the herbs, a jungle of thyme and mint.

I listen to the birds, and they still seem to like it here.
Three nests. Morning singing. Discussions in the corner
about whatever wrens discuss. The hummingbirds
have forgiven me, I guess. This once. Though I didn’t plant
their sweet hibiscus, and begonias don’t live here anymore.

by Sarah Mackey Kirby

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SMKwriter

Editor’s Note: Expert enjambment and the variation of short and long sentences creates an atmosphere of exhaustion in this poem that is easy for a reader to understand, but more importantly, to feel.

I Went to a Wedding Once by J. Rod Pannek

I Went to a Wedding Once
—for David and Lesli

The bride
stood silent, as if
she had a great question
the oracle had yet
to resolve.

I am sure she trembled
at the coda and rustled
her bouquet, wondering
where her hem was falling
against her leg or what
the man next to her thought
about the way she answered.

The children in the front
row coughed and scribbled
throughout the day.
The other guest were wary
of convention but nodded
in agreement with every
word from Ecclesiastes.

The groom wanted
to fix the carpet that had
pulled apart along
the step to the altar
and smooth the ruffle
on the minister’s sleeve.
He had it in him to make
things better and wondered
yet what the outcome might be.

Outside, under the planed
Texas sky, where couples left
in cars and remembered
moments spent leaning against
an oak or relished on a sofa,
single men disdained
the law and girls held
ceremony in contempt.

Now, at home, I finish my beer
and scrape at my plate,
while Byzantine December
and her inherent jostling,
try once again to pull back
the curtain on certain miracles.

We are all Psalmist, I concede,
when confronted with
accidental beauty,
when the clouds cleave
and we realize that the person
we are standing next to
fills every vessel with
their soul.

by J. Rod Pannek

Editor’s Note: The careful and detailed imagery of this poem slowly pulls the reader through the speaker’s thoughts of ceremony, and what meaning our rituals perform, while trying to describe the indescribable.

Truth is a Wall, Protects Nothing by Larina Warnock

Truth is a Wall, Protects Nothing

I’ve spent the better part of the best parts of my life disguising
dark truths with darker veracity,
verifying my vulnerability as if the admission alone could armor me
against my own meandering sense of self:
the me that speaks like a wise, old owl who is more old than wise,
or the me that creeps
among secrets held too long, the young and slender jaws of regret
wetting my lips with a lathery substance that tastes too much
like a memory, so I hide
behind a lie of telling everything. There is no stronger wall
than verifiable victimhood, so I mold
bricks from trauma and mix mortar from whatever grit
they think exists
inside my mind/body/soul because I am still here.
I build and I build and I build.

by Larina Warnock

Twitter: @thedocnock

Editor’s Note: This poem lays bare the difficulty of trauma and survival: even supposedly healthy coping behaviors can become a lie that holds true healing at bay.