The Glassmakers by Jean L. Kreiling

The Glassmakers
—Simon Pearce Glass, Quechee, Vermont

for Jane, Kate, Maureen, and Sally

Five women watched as one man’s breath inflated
the molten glass, one man spun it in flame,
one trimmed and shaped it. Expertly translated
by patient craftsmen, ash and sand became
a useful vessel and a work of art,
exhaled and fired and molded into being.
Each piece required each man to do his part,
a deft alliance nurturing and freeing
both elegance and strength. Each woman bought
a finished bowl that caught the autumn light
and scattered it—a slow-baked prize, well-wrought,
like their decades-long bond. With eyes as bright
as autumn sun and just as sure to fade,
they savored all that breath and warmth had made.

by Jean L. Kreiling

Editor’s Note: Every artist knows that the act of creation is a work of hope, and this sonnet’s narrative breathes life into what happens after the work has found its way home.

From the archives – Deck of a Beam Trawler, Gloucester, 1923 – Jean L. Kreiling

Deck of a Beam Trawler, Gloucester, 1923
—after Edward Hopper’s “Deck of a Beam Trawler, Gloucester.” 1923. Watercolor over graphite pencil on paper. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

He saw the art of work, despite the lack
of workers: the expectant energy
aboard the unmanned deck, the sinewy
preparedness of heavy ropes left slack,
the muscle of the mast. Where rusty black
abuts the dullish red of industry,
we know men labored, though we cannot see
their forms or faces or what they brought back.

They likely sailed before this sky turned blue,
before sunlit perspective clarified
the architecture of their work; they would
have felt their way through chores. The trawler’s crew—
unlike the painter—didn’t need a tide
of light to show them work they understood.

by Jean L. Kreiling

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 19, October 2010

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Timpani in the Time of Coronavirus by Jean L. Kreiling

Timpani in the Time of Coronavirus

They always bellow, they’re always commanding,
their voices drawn out by the mallets landing
precisely on the drum heads, tuned and taut
above the wells of air. But in these fraught,
infected days, the timpani’s dark boom
sounds darker, bigger. Does it signal doom,
or lead the battle? Does it frighten you,
or brace you for the fight? How you construe
its hefty, hollow rumble may depend
on which thunder you hear. I recommend
the second movement of Beethoven’s last
and bravest symphony, the ninth. It’s fast,
and full of stirring noise. The strings begin,
but timpani aggressively leap in,
and their insistent octave sets the tone;
its power vibrates in the blood and bone.
A vigorous orchestral conversation
ensues, the timpani’s determination
its measured, mighty pulse. Each copper bowl
holds only air, and for all his control,
the timpanist extracts only a sound,
no cure—but his touch lets the drum expound
on how to lead, how to be resolute.
Sometimes that means the timpani is mute:
it waits for word from one who knows the score,
patient until the time is right for more
well-crafted clamor. Though the timpani
could lead you elsewhere—gloom, anxiety,
or anger might live in its resonance—
I hear both discipline and confidence,
judicious vigor we might emulate,
undaunted mettle that might animate
our own. Beethoven often seems to know
what we require; his will from long ago
still sings to us. And in this movement’s grit
and grace lives triumph; at the heart of it—
the beating heart—the timpani exude
a strength that feeds my hope and fortitude.

by Jean L. Kreiling

Editor’s Note: The alliteration and rhyme in this poem beautifully mirror the sonics of a symphony while the words bring a glimmer of hope to the reader during these trying times.

You Turn the Page by Jean L. Kreiling

You Turn the Page

“Whenever I see someone reading a book . . ., I feel civilization has become a little safer.” Matt Haig, How to Stop Time

You turn the page because you have to know—
because the youthful wizard is in trouble,
because the wife’s about to pack and go,
because you just like living in this bubble
of graceful prose and other people’s ills
and joys, because turning the pages makes
you see things from a new perspective, fills
your mind with more than you, and maybe breaks
your heart or your routine, or breaks apart
what’s rusted shut, or else draws a connection
where you thought there was none. And once you start,
the pages lead you to the intersection
of art and life and your own empathy;
the pages turn you toward humanity.

by Jean L. Kreiling

Editor’s Note: This sonnet lays bare the truth that every bookworm knows.

Living Room by Jean L. Kreiling

Living Room
—after the painting by Alex Colville

His wife asked him to listen, so he does—
his straight-backed chair encouraging attention
as she plays Brahms. He can’t say when it was
she last made this request; they hardly mention
their private interests to each other now,
so he’s a little baffled. But he sits
respectfully, while marveling at how
the dog naps right through all the noisy bits,
snout pointed at the baby grand. Is this
the “living” called for by this room—this hour
of patient joylessness, this fear he’ll miss
something that he should love? Brahms has no power
to move him. Though his wife plays earnestly,
the notes only confound him. So does she.

by Jean L. Kreiling

Editor’s Note: This ekphrastic sonnet depicts a relationship of resignation delicately paired with love that has grown comfortable, even if the chair in which the speaker sits is not. Please click through to see the painting via the link.

From the archives – February by Jean L. Kreiling

February

From leafless branches etching crooked lines
against the sky—scars coldly cut across
a bloodless cheek—some poets weave designs
of desolation, stories laced with loss.
They find in webs of winter-blackened limbs
the shapes of emptiness and elegies—
but those who see the stuff of requiems
miss what another eye obliquely sees:
the rugged grace of living filigree
that scrawls a promise on the open air,
a craggy silhouette of constancy
that tacitly rebuts boot-deep despair.
Though darkly drawn, these etchings may impart
the vital signs at winter’s still-warm heart.

by Jean L. Kreiling

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, February 19, 2015

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – December by Jean L. Kreiling

December

Arriving modestly, without a sound,
the first snow of the season fills the night
with tiny flakes of other-worldly light
that settles in pale patches on the ground.
The stone-cold air turns flannel-soft, transformed
by small wet stars that fall and thereby lift
the eye and heart—a fragile, frozen gift
that leaves our spirits fortified and warmed.
Another silent night may come to mind,
another star, another gift, but He
need not be sought as heaven falls to earth
in icy, cloud-spun pieces that will find
the pious and the pagan, equally
anointing all who see the season’s birth.

by Jean L. Kreiling

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, December 2, 2015

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

The View from Shore by Jean L. Kreiling

The View from Shore

Not too far out, two paddlers carved their bit
of bay into a pliant stream that held
the solitary kayak they propelled
in perfect synchrony. Their intimate
accord was clear: they’d worked out how to fit
their bodies in the narrow space and meld
their muscled strokes. But my next glance dispelled
illusion; this romance was counterfeit.
What I saw was not one kayak, but two,
joined only by a trick of light and tide
for seconds, not a lifetime. As they drew
apart, each craft distinct, I modified
my story. They were strangers; one breeze blew
them close, the next one parted them and sighed.

by Jean L. Kreiling

Editor’s Note: The alliteration in line one of this sonnet immediately captured my attention, and happily the rest of the poem does not disappoint: sonics, meter, and metaphor draw the reader in before letting go in the last line.

Finn’s Acres by Jean L. Kreiling

Finn’s Acres
for Suzanne and Ed

A flash of black and white across the green
of six a.m. Maine meadow—flying fur,
a mighty heart, a nose for prey unseen,
an eye for playthings tossed—Finn’s always sure
to catch the disc that sails across his lawn,
to catch the sunlight in his glossy coat,
to catch and so to share whatever dawn
might promise, in his flight the antidote
to vague human complaints. He runs a race
he always wins, past drifts of Russian sage,
beyond the trellised grapes; he owns the place,
and us as well, demanding we engage
with earth and atmosphere and things that fly.
Our hearts rise with his, happy to comply.

by Jean L. Kreiling

Editor’s Note: As always, this poet’s easy grasp of the sonnet form supports the central theme—Finn. This poem explains why we love our pets.

Not on Her Original To-Do List by Jean L. Kreiling

Not on Her Original To-Do List
for Sarah

These chores so nearly weren’t hers—this drill
of clean up, pick up, cheer up, save the day,
read Dr. Seuss although she’s had her fill,
make chocolate milk, make monsters go away,
sing bunny songs, play hide-and-seek, explain
why everything, learn how to fix toy trucks
and choo-choo trains and how to toilet-train,
teach that a cow moos and a chicken clucks,
and kiss skinned knees. So when she has a few
free moments to converse with grownups, read
a grownup book, and eat as grownups do—
from toddler’s tyranny fleetingly freed—
she’s startled by her dread as it occurs
to her: this life so nearly wasn’t hers.

by Jean L. Kreiling

Editor’s Note: This sonnet describes the tediousness of parenting, yet by the end, the joy of it is much more strongly felt than the frustration.