From the archives – What Remains by Sally Houtman

What Remains

There is a knocking in the eaves tonight,
an earthly sound that buckles over distance,
echoes through this room of straight-backed
chairs and shadows where I lie atop the blankets,
shoes and glasses on. For I know, outside,
not far beyond the darkened field and sturdy
oaks, the watchman waits, leaning on his spade.
But before he takes me, before the breathing stops
and I lay naked as when mother-born, in the shallow
end of nowhere where nothing blooms or grows
and the water is no longer blue, I tell you I will
have the final say. For these long eighty years of life
rough-cast, what have I now to show? Nothing
but to work and work, to remember what is lost,
the squandered years, the gaps I’ve muscled through.
But I tell you, at this waning hour I would tongue
the devil’s ear to have them back. For here I wait,
night on night, staring at the coal-face
of another hundred midnights, maybe more,
and I am tired. I have seen decay, the way a thing
grows fallow, goes yellow in the margins,
closing in its grief of memory, fingerprints
and breath caught between the pages and yes,
this too shall pass, they say, but what of what remains?
Am I to offer up this body, wings outstretched
and pinned, in hopes that it goes quick? Or
should I wait, and in so waiting thus prolong
the stuttering decay? I ask each sly,
unticking moment just how much more
this life can take from me—this slow
unravelling, the body doing what it will,
beginning with the hands then moving
inward, and what goes next? The eyes,
the hair and teeth and then the heart,
the lungs no longer whistling mighty sleep,
and next the mind, a’slur with words unmoored,
sounds drifting, sliding in the one good ear.
The vision blurs, fingers swell, a damp cloud
settles in the bones until at last the pulse is dimmed,
flesh chewed to pulpy marrow and flayed remains.
What more is there to say? No belligerent madness,
no crying out will stop these hours driving forward
to an elsewhere I can neither cheat nor comprehend.
And so I pour a shot, and then two more, and raise my glass,
a toast to words remembered—The cup unfilled is of no use!
because tonight it is the whiskey chorus that will turn
this grief to gladness, lift rage to exaltation—
what relief it is to slip aside this pain!

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, April 25, 2016 — by Sally Houtman

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – Self Portrait With Fruit & Implement by Sara Balsom

Self Portrait With Fruit & Implement

Some things I have I wish I didn’t,
silver plates, soft oranges, birds inert and patient,
the blue dress that’s too blue, the hot aqua sky.
I used to unwrap grapes one at a time
with my tongue and teeth — that is the ugly kind
of joy I have forgotten. In the mirror, whorls
of flesh. Light appears wanting to cross-hatch
and accidentally illuminates everything.
Today, I chide myself for thinking “flesh.”
If you ask me to undress I will undress,
because what else is there to do? talk about it?
I cross my legs and put one hand in my lap.
In this equation, the other hand could hold anything —
silver, or steel. A girl was killed by the sun in a hot room
because she didn’t move. Here is me going from place to place by bus,
and now by train. In this diagram, I am something like alive.
In the room, by the curtain, I stand with one hand on my silver,
and one against my face. The passion fruit I hold
doesn’t fit this pose. Neither does the knife.
If I cut the fruit, the world comes sliding out.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, April 14, 2016 — by Sara Balsom

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – Beach Breathing by Jean L. Kreiling

Beach Breathing

I breathe the damp and dizzy ocean breeze,
inhaling salt into my blood and bones;
the air that bears the gull’s careening moans
fills up my lungs with fresh infinities.
I breathe the rousing ocean rhapsody,
my nerves and tissues widening to collect
the well-tuned blue that lilting waves reflect
in shiny, shifting swells of harmony.
I breathe the sea-struck sun, and like the sky,
my cells and sinews brighten and expand;
I breathe the world along this stretch of sand,
and feel its vast resilience amplify
my own. It seems I hardly breathe at all
until I see salt water rise and fall.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, April 6, 2016 — by Jean L. Kreiling

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – Daffodils (Narcissus jonquilla) by Kathryn Good-Schiff

Daffodils (Narcissus jonquilla)

They had yellow hearts
or a midnight sheen.
Some of them
were seasick green.
They bared fiery teeth,
showed petticoats
or moon-colored wings.

Every winter, Dad and I chose
more from the catalog.
Better than a calendar,
they marked the time
every spring.

On dewy blue mornings
I went out, sliced through
crunch of stem, crammed
all the color I could
into a jar. I brought them
to school, carried them
from class to class, studied them
instead of books.

They had rain inside and out. My life
was so boring. The stalks
leaked and drank where I cut them.
I had no idea how lucky I was.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, April 15, 2016 — by Kathryn Good-Schiff

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – Patience by Luke Stromberg

Patience

His ears set back, his eyes fixed on the dark
Beneath the radiator, the cat crouches,
Glimpsing whiskers there, two feet, a nose.
And when a mouse decides to test the light—
Sniffing the kitchen air—he rises higher
On his haunches—But he doesn’t pounce.
Instead, he allows it to escape, tail twitching
Behind it, back into the dark, untried.

Reckless, he waits. Patience is also risk.
And though it may not seem this way to most,
That takes real nerve: letting a chance slip past,
Believing that a better one will come.
Meanwhile, the pretzel bag’s chewed full of holes.
Turds are on the counter. The mouse, alive.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 9, 2016 — by Luke Stromberg

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

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

From the archives – Spring Will Leave You Behind by Martin J. Elster

Spring Will Leave You Behind

The thaw has drawn the robins, ravenous, eager
for things that creep, while terra firma teases
with wafts of geosmin, hints of the hocus-pocus
that brought the thundershower, woke the crocus,
and coaxed the chorus frogs to call, which breezes
convey like news. They’ve lived through winter’s meager

provisions, trilling the nip out of their blood.
A cattail pond I walk by every day,
already stirs with cyan, orange, gold
and reddish shapes. Your hypothermic hold
diminishes with each and every ray
that touches fur and feather, flower and bud.

I watch a balancing act above as chill
as were your rime-caked eyes: a soaring hawk,
its wings as motionless as your emotions,
scans the fields for mice. No magic potions
will bring you back. You’ve vanished in the talk
of the towhee and the whistling whip-poor-will.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, March 23, 2016 — by Martin J. Elster

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim