We found an unexploded mine that day by Deirdre Parkes

We found an unexploded mine that day

We found an unexploded mine that day
and stared so much we let the ocean creep
to wet our feet before we ran away.

How would it be if courage let us stay
inside that story that wasn’t ours to keep?
We found an unexploded mine that day.

There was no one there to warn us, to say
how cold the water was, how deep.
We wet our feet before we ran away.

That debt of blood wasn’t ours to pay.
We should have been at home in bed, asleep.
We found an unexploded mine that day.

Older feet than ours were left in clay
like fossil footsteps, frozen in mid leap.
We wet our feet before we ran away.

The summer sky turned suddenly to grey.
The country lanes turned desolate and steep.
We found an unexploded mine that day
and wet our feet before we ran away.

by Deirdre Parkes

Editor’s Note: This villanelle uses repetition to chilling effect—the unexploded mine feels as if it is about to explode, or has already exploded (emotionally).

Bone-Chilled by Martin Willitts Jr.

Bone-Chilled

These mountains were not high enough to have snowcaps
but a toddler tugged on his mother’s sleeve
as a silent plea for safety. The pond was frozen over,
although spring was coming out of its cabin,
carrying a berry-picking tin pail. The boy shivered
in his parka, back-glancing at the junipers
where the all-day bird was singing, knowing weather
was purposely fickle. His mother had pushed off
the latest attempt by another no-account guy
who had stared once too intently at his eight
year old sister. Bone-chills emanated from that man,
like a kind of mean wind blasting them in the face.
He went with his mother, searching with a group
for his sister who had run off into this direction,
into the folds of the mountains. The boy called out
in his small voice, loudly for the lost,
already dreading what he knew must be true and too late.
His mother, biting at her cold sore, seemed serene
at this same awful conclusion, holding one boot
belonging to his sister, strangely smaller,
like hope, like one blue flower in the snow-melt.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: The narrative of this poem moves inexorably forward, as cold, spare imagery fills out the emotional devastation of the narrator, a child too young/old for lies.

On the Movements of Bodies by Rosemary Badcoe

On the Movements of Bodies

About the time that Newton wrote Principia
and every spinning object settled down
to orbit in its newly designated way

the dodo died. Some pig or dog or crab-eating
macaque scoffed the last surviving egg.
The hatchling would have waddled up to watch

had Isaac shown with diagrams and pantomime
how its sternum lacked the strength to let it nest
above the scrub, that gravity would grasp its bones

and dislocate the stubby wings, suck
the last remaining bulbous beak into the swamp
where motion’s laws hold evolution, paused.

by Rosemary Badcoe

Editor’s Note: This poem marries science with art, leading to one of the inescapable truths of life—death (extinction) happens.

Losing the Art of Love (2017) by Ralph La Rosa

Losing the Art of Love (2017)

There was a time when poets sang of love
without embarrassment, when versifiers
happy at their trade were gracious liars
in measured sonnets. They’d imitate a dove,
an owl, perhaps a dawn-drawn bird above,
who sighting human beauty soon desires
to mate his heavenly might with earthly fires
of passion: begets a paradox of love.

But tapping keys that text or tweet romantic
notes is so archaic, old-school, stilted
that songs of love, once tender or ecstatic,
are elegies about the lost or jilted.
Raving in rhyme about a love that’s new?
Postmodern ironies evaded you.

by Ralph La Rosa

Editor’s Note: This delightful sonnet pokes fun at all of us.

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

Vintage verse – Sonnet 105 by William Shakespeare

Let not my love be called idolatry,
Nor my beloved as an idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.
Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore my verse to constancy confin’d,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference.
Fair, kind, and true, is all my argument,
Fair, kind, and true, varying to other words;
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.
Fair, kind, and true, have often liv’d alone,
Which three, till now, never kept seat in one.

by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)