A Tufted Titmouse Braves a Cold Spell by Martin J. Elster

A Tufted Titmouse Braves a Cold Spell

Peter-peter-peter cries my voice
echoing through the trees. Flakes fall to test
my stamina and patience. It is cold.
Tomorrow will be chillier still, fresh rime
glazing flower and fence. My whistles chime
like piccolos to pierce the stale and old
that clings as lichen to a larch. I rest
in a nest in a lifeless oak. I have no choice
but to sing and to hole up in this secondhand
woodpecker’s dimple, no alternative
but to twitter to my better half, to live
in my feathered fashion. Oh, but it is grand
and it is hard and it’s both work and play
and — peter-peter — it is cold today.

by Martin J. Elster

Editor’s Note: This sonnet is a delight to read, and one any birder would love.

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim


Weather, No Forecast by Christine Vovakes

Weather, No Forecast

After three dry months
a night-long rain broke through
combing the morning with wet fingers.
A slow-eyed sun rose through cloud remnants,
spread a gauzy layer over the lawn
as I walked the dog out back to the apple
and peach trees, the crevices of their pruned limbs
empty cribs March will fill with buds and nests.

Geese break the silence, a noisy skein
dipping toward the nearby river.
I’m tethered here: no wings, no tongue to taste
the wild salmon the eagle hunts.
My black lab alerts, scent of mole,
and digs deep in search.
Dirt flies. I bend down, crumble
a handful of damp soil, dank earthy smell,
summer’s rotting wildflowers
and the last of autumn’s fallen fruit–
a spoiled brew letting microbes fester;
new life looms where the earthworm wriggles.

by Christine Vovakes

Editor’s note: The personification in the first stanza captures the attention, and cradles the detailed imagery to follow.

The Hotel Is Lonely Because You Aren’t There by Tim Suermondt

The Hotel Is Lonely
Because You Aren’t There

And the day was charming, people
sprinkled over the avenues and boulevards,
the park full of carriage riders and flowers—
even the dirty statues of the once prominent
flashing an aura of loveliness.

And now at night I lie on the bed, reading
a book where on page 17 one character
says to another “I miss her.” Enough.
I close the book and turn off the desk light,
watching a few city lights rummaging

behind the curtain’s gauze, pulsating
like the stars and the sad hearts of the ghostly.

by Tim Suermondt

Editor’s Note: A great title and excellent personification make this poem a delight to read.

The Dark by Alan Walowitz

The Dark

Though I’ve called the county plenty,
the street light’s been out for days
while I’ve struggled in this moonless winter dark
for the path to the door, crunching in the now faint footsteps
I’d previously made, and more than once fumbled my keys
and hoped I’d catch them, the way a trapeze artist
might feel for the hands of his mate in the neon circus dark.
But when they fall, as they will, I pray they’ll dent the layer of ice
that’s limned the lawn for weeks now, and might be dug out easy,
and God forbid, not have to hear them skid down the hill we live atop
and back into the street, which is the direction I’ve already come
so many times, and it’s dark down there and oh so cold.
Don’t buy a house on a hill. the inspector’d said.
You won’t be young forever.
Dark magic, that he could tell the future,
and how like me that I was bound,
as if by spell, not to pay him any mind.

by Alan Walowitz, first published in Muddy River Poetry Review.

Editor’s Note: This poem’s conversational tone deceives the reader into thinking that it is about an ordinary night, when in fact the narrator moves beyond that moment and into more mysterious places by the last three lines.

sometimes coyotes by James Brush

sometimes coyotes

sometimes there are coyotes
all around the house

they bed down in the front yard
in the trees and behind my memories

asleep with one eye open watching stars
twirl the pole counted and known

they’ll rise and howl at owls, the moon
or anyone else impersonating

strangers who come up to the yard
they stalk a defensive perimeter

while we sleep while we dream
they open the fridge and eat

the last of the girl scout cookies
a little whipped cream for their coffee

come morning they’ve gone, a few
paw prints in the dewy grass

by James Brush

literary journal: Gnarled Oak
twitter: @jdbrush

Editor’s note: Surreal, dreamlike imagery moves through this poem, much like a wild animal moves through the spaces we think we own.

From the archives – Heading Towards Home by Martin Willitts Jr.

Heading Towards Home

The distance heads towards a small village
of post card, white clapboard houses,
where pale-green pastures level off
before another hill begins. The sky is waiting
for the rain to arrive, and dampness enters
the bones. A bird is nowhere, wherever wind is.

Heading this way is a van, pulled over,
its engine ticked off, cooling. A family is eating
lunch, while a man checks the map to see
the answer to every child’s question:
are we there yet? He’s not sure where they are.
Perhaps, they missed the turn. His wife is angry.
They should have turned right long time ago
but he was too lazy to ask questions, or
he said too many times he trusted his instincts.
The wind did not bring them here.

The town ahead is too small to be looking for.
Their two boys know it is time to play in mud,
while adults settle their scores. The houses
are turning on their suppertime lights.
Sheep are heard ringing in the fields, nearing,
like child’s questions. Everyone wants to know
where they are in relation to home, and crave
a familiar sight; no one wants to be in the lost.

No map tells you where you are,
but only your relationship to somewhere
if you have a familiar landscape.
And you are lost in anger, no map gets you out.

The dampness moves in. The doors of the village
open and call out to children. The sky greys
and triangle sheets of rain open like maps.
The van turns on headlights, breaks through mist
hoping someone knows where somewhere is,
while all the time the village knew where home is.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 27, 2017 — by Martin Willitts Jr.

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

January at Five in the Afternoon by James Owens

January at Five in the Afternoon

Sun on snow a shine
too bright to look at:
blindness, migraine,
glister of frostbite,

all day as if alive
inside the mind
of a child
thinking of white.

Now, as evening lowers
over these fields of snow
that earlier fired and froze
with an unnuanced purity,

we find a grainy, scumbled grayness
rising in them, somehow kind,
which is sleep growing heavy
in the child, her own and the sky’s.

by James Owens

Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem is startling and true.

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim