Madagascar by Bob Bradshaw

Madagascar

Who knew that words were in flight,
that there are linguists like birders
counting their disappearing numbers,

that malagrug and brannigan and brabble
would vanish like the passenger pigeon,
the Lyall’s wren, the Dodo, the Great Auk?

Or more disturbingly like the friends
that once populated my neck of the woods—
the Nancys, the Dianes, the Lucilles,

the feckless Fanny, the doxy Dolly…
Why was my heart always a flutter-burst
for the illecebrous Ann?

Call me a gudgeon. I never believed
that names that once delighted my tongue
would go the way of snow broth—

vanishing like the Bonin grosbeak,
the Mauke starling, the Guadaulupe caracara,
like the vouropatra, the aepyornis,

the mulleronis. My youth is like Madagascar,
an island with more and more losses.
No extinction of a species could haunt me more

than at night when I drift off into wittendream,
thinking of you, Ann. It’s heartbreaking
to think we could have lived our lives together

like a couple of wrens sharing the same perch.
Recalling you, forty years later, I can conjure
up your voice as I drift off to sleep

as clearly as I can the song of the disappearing
nightingale or the rose-breasted grosbeak,
your memory a wondrous twitter-light.

by Bob Bradshaw

Editor’s Note: This poem is a word lover’s delight, filled with birds and multi-syllabic sonics and joy.

Vorfreude by Matthew Miller

Vorfreude

(n.) the joyful, intense anticipation that comes from imagining future pleasures

Turkish coffee, crunch of first snow, calligraphy—
any leaf of paper can be filled with a future never
coming, a past never happening

again. I thumb Instagram feeds. I shake out
blankets, sheets, the crinkles of trail maps,
corners of the sanctuary. Looking for candles.

Letting them burn out, just to rekindle. Every
match lit promises light and heat, a small bit
of comfort. An ambiance of silence, steam

of cinnamon and ginger. I dream of tender
expectation, then march, relentless, to resolution.
But the moment before a page is bent

is breathless with intrigue. The inhale before
the vibration of strings, the poem not yet
put in ink, a story put in motion, beginning.

by Matthew Miller

Twitter: @mattleemiller32
Instagram: @matt.lee.miller

Editor’s Note: The unexpected and thoughtful line breaks of this delightful poem startle the reader into paying attention while subtly reinforcing its allegorical intention.

This Fierce Elation by Wendy Drexler

This Fierce Elation

—after the photo “Autumn Abundance” by Yvette Melzer

Look into this window with me:
all these tomatoes ripening
on the sill, their fleshy heft caressed
by light—these Romas in a bowl
are fire-engine red and then a chime
of tangerine, then Brandywine,
then one creamy white that rests
upon the shoulders
of a large-lobed Heirloom,
a peek of tiger—as if their flesh
will never be blemished or blighted,
always this empire of ruby,
amber, sandstone, the promise
of salt on the counter, the knife’s
slice, and seduced as I am
by such fierce elation, I haven’t
noticed until now there’s a woman
behind them, camouflaged
against the sepia background
(her kitchen?), thin-strapped chemise,
bare shoulders, a mug of coffee
in her hand, and now I look harder,
the woman’s fingers are clenching
the handle of the mug, her grip insisting
I see the work of holding on—
planting the seeds in soil, watering,
weeding so the seeds would cling
to earth, staking the sprouting tendrils,
holding each ripe tomato in her
cupped palm, confirming wholeness,
before she picked them one by one,
placed them gently in her basket
and carried them into her kitchen,
setting them down on that sill—
I see you, vigorous parade
of tomatoes, woman with your still-
warm cup of coffee in your hand.

by Wendy Drexler

Editor’s Note: The detailed, clear imagery of this poem highlights the strength that lies behind the obvious beauty of tomatoes, and the fierce joy of this discovery.

From the archives – So I Can Feel — Eric Blanchard

So I Can Feel

Do not give me love,
for love is hard to hold on to.
Give me a lover instead,
so I can revel in her touch
and taste her lemon skin.
Give me sweat
dripping from her curves
and the scent.
Give me the tangled limbs
and the screaming.
Give me the gentle—
the butterfly kisses
and the sighs—
so I can feel
like I have had a lover
after the spinning
and the rinsing of linen
in the morning,
when I am alone.

by Eric Blanchard

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 14, July 2009

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

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.