From the archives — Dandelions by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Dandelions

You squat in a sun puddle, tug petals
from star-faced dandelions, sprinkle
their crushed remains, like seeds,
across the ground. I try to teach you

the art of arrangement, pose
limp stems in jelly jars, like I did
for my mother, or to stuff your cheeks
with air and blow

their feathery seed-heads to the wind,
but you prefer your own game, wrestle
your bruised treasures from me and fly,
a hummingbird at twilight. Frantic

before torpor, you dart through the yard,
swipe a fistful of clover, grab
at daffodils on the other side of the fence.
You don’t yet understand

why you can pick dandelions
but not tulips, columbine or love-
in-a-mist. I have not yet found
the heart to explain it.

by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 10, June 2008

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Moon When All Things Ripen by Julie Moore

Moon When All Things Ripen

Late August moon, its full face
brilliant in the blue-soaked sky,
hovers over morning. The thick air
of summer has lost its weight,
thinned into the cool dry wind
that will soon turn the leaves
crisp, chill the trees’ brave bones.
My daughter has gone to college.
I find myself standing in her room,
staring at her vacant, neatly made bed.
Why do I dust her table & dresser,
taking care to arrange whatever
she’s left there—a broken
necklace, half empty bottle of lotion,
three brown buttons—
in such precise places?
Why call the dog to come,
speak in low tones as she circles
the room, snuffling every remaining
scent? When I look out the window,
I see my daughter at ten,
riding her bike for the first time alone,
up the hill to her friend’s house,
less than half a mile away.
I remember how, distracted
by her sister, I returned
to discern only the rider-
less Schwinn, already in that drive.
O, that absentminded moon: Star-
struck, it has forgotten the time
& lingers with the light.

by Julie Moore, first published in Adanna Literary Journal and appears in Full Worm Moon (Cascade Books, 2018)

Twitter: @JulieLMoore18
Instagram: @julielmoore19
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=julie%20l%20moore%20poet

Editor’s Note: It’s when the imagery in this poem suddenly zooms down into exquisite detail (buttons, a broken/necklace) that the reader begins to understand the speaker’s longing for more time, an emotion that every parent understands.

Desiderium by Hiba Aamer

Desiderium

There are different places inside a home we call home.
In this silent blubber of nightfall, I plunge into a futurity,
my fingers stroking the warm wombs of orange rinds.
Streetlights are rippling over the rims of kitchenware,
and I picture our son walking barefoot on pixelated countertops.
Imagination is a whorl of breath. There is vigour in each longing.
A million years from now I will be cooking in this kitchen,
birthing an aroma that allows me to travel back to this
sombre moment of quiescence. Our son’s neatly brushed scalp
toddles against the rhythm of convulsing streetlights,
his sparrow-soft eyes hungry for biryani or halwa puri.
Food is also transcendental. It fills the crevasses of memories;
a tea cosy on every unwashed gash. I imagine a moment
where I am kissing our son goodbye for school.
His fading footsteps, a stampede on my ribcage. . . . . . . .You.
You are a moon-blanched figment, a sheen on porcelain against
immensity. Yet to lose you is to emancipate a merry child
into the verbosity of this damaged world. Maybe growing old
is growing comfortable in the gentle beauty of heartbreaks.
Denial is the weight of my fingers thrashing against the dough.
Grief is a soundless droplet of sweat trickling behind my ear;
it is the same river that changes, burbles and travels to future,
to a home that fails to surrender the restful progenies of suffering.

by Hiba Aamer

Twitter: @Hiba_poet

Editor’s Note: The lush, unexpected imagery in this poem pushes the reader into the center of the speaker’s heart, where uncertainty and love and the inevitable rush of time all exist at once.

Angel from Montgomery by Susan Azar Porterfield

Angel from Montgomery

The girl in the dorm room next to mine playing her guitar
must’ve been sitting, like me,
on the top bunk, other side of the wall,
and she was singing, sweet-voiced, Make me an angel, and me,

I wasn’t singing, I was studying, hunched over, Poly Sci or French,
and then here was longing like a cut,
and I wanted to be of that world, maybe be her, even,
though we’d never met. She didn’t care

about stuff like guys, I storytold, wasn’t into clothes, junk like that—
she was one of those all-natural types, you know the kind,

like her hair was thick as raw silk, and when she washed it,
she just let it air dry, and she was stunning in her bones in an odd,
go-it-alone way, and though she didn’t write poetry,
I bet she read it and knew who Rilke was, and, like me, sort of kept to herself,

not being unfriendly, just quiet,

and she was just like that other girl
in my history class, who was also somehow so cool, and our professor,
who was herself youngish and cool, also got that, I sensed,
the way she treated her more like an equal, and once I saw her—the girl—

stopped at a light on her motorcycle, not a big one, but still, I mean,
when do you see a girl like that, like she knew who she was, out there in traffic like that,
and she wasn’t afraid. She wasn’t. And we nodded to each other, slightly, before she took off.

By Susan Azar Porterfield

Twitter: @azarcole

Editor’s Note: The long lines and meandering sentences reinforce the daydream-like narrative of this poem, setting it firmly in a life’s sweet moment.

Kabul by Greg Watson

Kabul

For a moment, the young men appear
to be outrunning even the enormous plane,
gunmetal gray, pregnant with the weight
of its designated survivors, crawling slowly
along the tarmac, which waves and shimmers
like a colorless flag in the sweltering heat.
For a moment, at just the right angle,
none of their feet appear to be touching
the earth, such is their immediate desire for
release, the endless scroll of blue sky.
For a moment, their shouts seem almost
celebratory, their upheld hands as if in rapture.
They leap and grab at the air, as if tugging
the invisible hem of a god manifested
from this catastrophe by cries and cries alone.
But the ship casts its cold shadow now,
an enormous carpet of night shifting
beneath them, pulling gradually faster until
they are left standing, all but motionless,
on this sun-bleached cement, phosphorescent,
as if something had just been erased,
something already being forgotten.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: This poem drives home the surreality of disaster with its juxtaposition of beautiful, ecstatic imagery against the very real horror of catastrophe. The last line is the killer.

From the archives — We Leave the Beaches for the Tourists by Ira Sukrungruang

We Leave the Beaches for the Tourists

Except when the water receded and what lay there
were gape-mouthed fishes, flopping and gasping
on land that had not seen unfiltered sun

for millennia. We watched, at first,
seaweed, like the long, luscious hair of a mermaid
tangling their feet, and coral like polished

bone. We rushed out toward
the extended shore with wicker baskets to catch
the squiggling fishes, writhing in the heat.

And we were like them, those tourists, for a moment,
amazed at the world and oblivious to the hungry strays
dashing far from the beach, surrendering

the food offering of the sea. We were oblivious
to many things, the elephants that ignored
their handlers, as they made toward the highest

part of the island, the coming wave
that would take us all, sweeping us into the gullet
of the planet and into our next lives.

We remain behind, but hide in shadows.
Only the white faces haunt you, tourist-ghosts
lingering on the beach in bikinis and swim trunks

and sunglasses, wandering back and forth, confused
about the direction of the wind, their unheard voices,
the water that can never carry them home.

by Ira Sukrungruang

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 15, October 2009

photo by Ira Sukrungruang

Truth by JR Solonche

Truth

I asked my mathematician friend
if mathematics is an invention
or a discovery, for I had been
wondering about it a long time.
It’s both, he said. First it was a
discovery and then it was an
invention. I thought so, I said.
It’s just like poetry, which first
was a discovery and then was
an invention, except that poetry
keeps reinventing itself while
mathematics doesn’t. It’s done.
That’s because mathematics has
already discovered the truth, so it
doesn’t need to keep reinventing
itself as poetry does, he said.
The trouble is that you poets keep
looking for the truth in the wrong
places. Oh, where’s that? I said.
In your hearts, he said. You’ll
never find the truth there. You’ll
only keep finding the same old lies.
Maybe so, I said. But you have to
admit that you guys need us. For
what? We already have our one
beautiful truth, he said. Yes, I said.
But you need us and our thousands
of beautiful lies to let you bear your
one and only beautiful truth.

by JR Solonche

Editor’s Note: The lack of punctuation and short lines propel the reader through this poem so easily that by the time the end arrives, the truth of the narrative sneaks up almost unnoticed.

Room for Waiting by David Breeden

Room for Waiting

How fast a world crumbles.
How slowly one gathers again.

There is the arriving;
there is the going away.
There is the train siding

with its birds and debris.
And waiting. And waiting.

There is the falling rain beating,
beating against windows.

How slowly a world gathers,
if ever one arrives. Yet
something glimmers—both

birds and debris. Rain.
Windows. Trains.
Arriving. Arriving.

by David Breeden

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/david.breeden/
Twitter: @DBreeden

Editor’s Note: The deliberate line breaks and careful handling of single words/images set this poem within a contemplative meditation on the state of the world from the inside out.

Washing up by Archer Lundy

Washing up

I
My husband tells me
I don’t have to do them,
especially as the mess in the kitchen
is his anyway and he’s happy to take
over this morning. But I need to do
the breakfast dishes, need to fill the sink
with suds, unruly, extravagant. When I have
the house to myself, when I can put on music,
chamber perhaps, what best suits the weather,
inside and out. Clear the counter, clear my head

II
and wash my grandmother’s bone china plate,
the same plate on which she served bread
and biscuits and cake, her tiny kitchen a Paris
bakery on Portage Avenue, all yeasty-warm.
She’s been dead all my adult life, my love for her
like a dream of home, pure and constant, not messy
like mother-love. What I bear for the mother I know
and the mother who bore me. I have invented stories
and lies to cover them both.

What do I fill my daughter’s heart with?

Almost tidier to mother a son.

III
My mother had a friend
who called it
warshing, the r
rough like scour.

IV
Do I wash
myself
with as much
deliberation
as I wash dishes?
More a lick
and a promise
these days. But
so like my mother
as I smooth
Oil of Olay
over my cheeks,
chin, forehead—
fingers circling
circling.

V
When my daughter sliced
her thumb, she
let me do her dishes
until her wound healed.
Such a gift,
truly.

VI
I wasn’t always so
sanguine about dishes:
petitioned
two decades ago
armed with The Second Shift
for a 50/50 split of domestic duties.
And a room of my own.
You can imagine
how well that played out
or how it goes, for that matter,
even in the best of relationships.

VII
After the family gathering I spotted the tiniest
of cracks in my grandmother’s plate.
My husband fixed it with crazy glue.

When it hardened, I wiped it clean.

VIII
Sometimes atonement
feels like grace.

IX
Now there’s room
on the counter
for my notebook,
and my husband and I
vie for kitchen time.

My son
is the cook
in his marriage—

I suspect
my daughter-in-law
does the washing up.

by Archer Lundy

Editor’s Note: Each section of this poem highlights a brief moment with an image of everyday life, but as the poem walks through its lines, the relationships of a family begin to emerge.

From the archives — The Uninvited Guest by Wendy Babiak

The Uninvited Guest

So Death comes to call; I offer him tea and
take his sickle and hide it in the closet. Its handle
feels rough on my palm. The foyer smell of cedar
chases away the moths from his empty sockets.
His robes flutter with butterfly wings.
He wears a necklace of hummingbird skulls.

In the kitchen the refrigerator’s hum
drowns out his whispered words.
I pretend he isn’t talking while
I sweeten the tea with lavender honey
but birdsong from outside
rolls in bitter on my tongue

“In England, Shakespeare
had no trouble dying.”
Death’s voice rings out
razor sharp. I shiver
as my bare feet on the tile floor
catch February’s chill.

Rummaging in the cupboards, I think
Now that’s just swell. Death comes to call
and I’m all out of cookies
.
That’s what happens
when you forget to go shopping.
I make a note to write a poem later
on the back of a grocery list.

“God, that’s just like an American.”
Death’s disgust at my lack of hospitality
rankles. The overfilled pitcher of nicety
grows too heavy for my weakened hands
and falls, crashing to bits on the floor.

Like my own Lilliputian minutemen
the shards scatter into a circle around him
barring the way against his heavy feet
while I, light with emptiness
levitate over the painted table.
Arms crossed, I address my guest:

“And now Mama-san will tell you
you presumptuous usurper
what’s up: you will take your
rough-handled sickle, fluttering robe
and ominous whispering, and depart.
And you will stay long away.”

Death hangs his bony head, smooth as an egg
(his has no cracks, as ours do, for through which
birth canal did it ever pass?), already missing
the taste of my tea. I tell him I must find out first
what can’t be discovered. He laughs.
The birds outside sing Hoc opus, hic labor est.

The teacups dance to the sound of his leaving.
Pen in my left hand and rolling pin in my right
I hear his voice as he strides, resigned, away:
“Get to work, girl, and the next time I visit
you’ll be glad for the rest.” My refrigerator hums.
His parting words: “By the way, I prefer scones.”

by Wendy Babiak

from Autumn Sky Poetry, Number 2, September 2006

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim