From the archives – Thinned Larch — Michael Goodfellow

Thinned Larch, or
What If a Body Lost Its Leaves

Needles storm weak,
wind bent, sky turned,

it lost everything
again, barked spire,

stone pinched,
roots a plate

chalky with want.
It nearly wasn’t,

just a rock lip
where the wind caught

part of the world,
thin enough

to hand cut, arm
to trunk. Bone soft,

it broke clean
again and again—

by Michael Goodfellow, from Naturalism, An Annotated Bibliography, Gaspereau Press, 2022

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, January 5, 2012

Another Day After by Lane Henson

Another Day After
—May 25th, 2022

I’m looking at nothing
out the window trying to remember
the last time it wasn’t raining
when our kindergartner’s voice rings out
clear as forked lightning
through a mouthful of Cheerios:

my safe spot is under the teacher’s desk
only four of us can fit

I try to stop the next thought
before it clouds grey in my mind
distilled and terrible as a storm in the casing
of my skull.

Her older sister, a fifth-grader not to be outdone
recites her pledge:
my country ‘tis of thee
Alert
Lockdown
Inform
Counter
Evacuate
sweet land of liberty…

Oh America
you cling to your violence
tighter than a security blanket, don’t you?
dragging its tatters behind you
long after you should’ve outgrown it.
Your newsfeed is engorged
on blood like a spring tick.
You offer only prayers
as empty as air
in the brief silence
between this flood of bullets
and the next.

The rivers are rising in the downpour.
They are shrugging off the vulnerable
shale of their banks.

———

When we drop our girls off at school this morning
we take them right up to the door
open the door for them
fold their umbrellas
watch them walk through and away
until there is nothing left in the closing glass
but our own faces wet in the endless rain.

by Lane Henson

Editor’s Note: This lament demonstrates the only way poetry and art can grapple with absolute tragedy—stuttering, shocked, inadequate.

Passing by Ed Hack

Passing

The mournful early morning rain-soaked train
call softened by the sodden air calls through
the woods then vanishes like midnight rain
that pounded down so we don’t miss what’s true—
we’re tethered by a fine silk thread that’s strong
as life but snaps when fate decrees and we
go to the dark where we began. Our song
now sung, if song it was, we are set free
and disappear from light and day and night
from voices that we love, from coffee’s smell,
from everything we are and sense, the sight
of sky and bird and grass, the witch’s spell
of life. Today, a mother, wife, and friend
will pass into that dark that has no end.

by Ed Hack

Editor’s Note: This sonnet speaks of grief, and the sudden, shocking realization that life is short.

Gooseberry Island at Sunset by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Gooseberry Island at Sunset

There isn’t a beach, just rocks the size of small
regrets. They’re flat and long enough for two.
The water’s deep, and swimming, as we knew,
would be a danger. Instead, we stumble, crawl
along and find our spot. Like snakes, we ball
together, gather warmth amidst a slew
of crying gulls, and watch the sun fall through
its day to meet the ocean near the seawall.
This is our quiet place. We’re not too old
or stubborn to repent for our misdeeds.
We’re not afraid of words, the bitter or harsh.
Our fangs have dulled, and we’ve made tiny toeholds
on the slipperiest of rocks. Our needs
are simple. We’ll sit here until it’s dark.

by Marybeth Rua-Larsen, first published in Crannóg

Editor’s Note: The first sentence of this sonnet grabs the reader’s attention and doesn’t let go.

Sunburn by Ciaran Parkes

Sunburn

Remember sunburn. Your whole skin
turning red and peeling
off in delicious layers

after the pain had gone.
No sunblock to be found anywhere, using
anything you could find

instead. Baby oil maybe, beauty cream.
Remember checking
the slow tide lines of tan, pressing

arms and legs together
for comparison. Remember freckles
spreading out across your face

like raindrops and how you couldn’t sleep
all night, sheets burning
against your heated skin. Remember

the cool plunge of swimming,
how good it felt and looking down
to see your legs, pale and distorted

by the wavering water, and maybe
a crab, scuttling sideways, reaching
up its delicate claws towards you.

by Ciaran Parkes

Editor’s Note: This poem’s imagery centers on nostalgia with a myriad of scents and touch and sights, holding childhood closer to the surface than one would expect.

An Ode to Poison by Irena Pasvinter


An Ode to Poison

In shadow depths of wild woods
A flower grows amongst the trees,
So marvelous the blossom looks —
Delicious food for hungry bees.
Don’t stop to breathe its magic smell
Or touch its lovely petals. Go!
Or, stricken by its deadly spell,
On mossy carpet you shall fall.

On crumbling leaves of dusty books
A poem flows amongst the prose,
So marvelous it sounds and looks —
Delicious food for hungry souls.
Don’t stop to savor it but leave.
Don’t read, don’t listen, but depart,
Or, stricken by its fragrant grief,
Forever changed shall be your heart.

by Irena Pasvinter

Editor’s Note: The clever near repetition of the first stanza primes the reader for the second, but then the last line unexpectedly cuts open the heart with truth.

From the archives – Undoing — Laura Levesque

Undoing

The storm burst with summer heat that had been building since noon.
Perched in the treehouse with glass windows high in an ancient
oak, I felt little fear. The only light came in through wavy rain beating
against the panes, placed by the farm’s previous owner, a father
more doting than the ones you and I could claim. The other children
had raced up the hill in time to wait it out in the main house, staining
their tongues day-glo with bright popsicles, riding out the storm
in the cool basement gloom. It was the first time we were alone.

Your shoes scratched across the plywood floor. I looked down at the
dirt on my own shins and feet, skin brown from playing hours and hours
in summer fields. You touched me with no trepidation, fingertips so light
with sweetness, I came to you as fearlessly as the calf whose leg had snapped
in Sully’s field, whose mother had left it for dead. Somehow she knew you
would help her. Somehow I knew the same was true for me. I tasted
your scent when you kissed me, holding on in grey fragmented
light like this was the last moment it would ever come so easily
to either of us, that it would end with the sudden force
of the rain as quickly as it had begun.

by Laura Levesque

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 18, July 2010

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

OBIT [Teaching] by Dana Kinsey

OBIT [Teaching]
—after Victoria Chang

Teaching — dies repeatedly from gunshots
ricocheting off NRA stickers on bumpers
of trucks driven by pro-life people on the
way to church services. Not funerals for
school children, but ordinary Sunday
services where the preacher gives out
thoughts and prayers like communion,
cardboard on tongues, recycled from
cereal boxes bearing Chex a student
hurriedly gulped, washed down with
orange juice/no pulp so he could catch
the bus on time to be murdered before
shaping pottery from clay for Father’s Day,
before enjoying chicken tenders, before
writing 1,000,000 as an exponent in the
upper corner of senseless, before sighing
for poems from Keats who died young too,
before learning that Beethoven, when he
was almost deaf, composed an unsent love
letter to an unknown “Immortal Beloved,”
before learning that the text he wrote
to the cute girl with a K-Pop phone case
and the really white Converse in the front
row was almost like the one Beethoven
wrote, only he is the immortal one now.

By Dana Kinsey

Twitter: @wordsbyDK
Instagram: @dana.kinsey

Editor’s note: This elegy controls the fractured pain of grief via line breaks and imagery until the last line breaks the reader’s heart. 

For my Mother, Who Was Never Really Raped by Kelli Allen

For my Mother, Who Was Never Really Raped

They held her down, face in the loose dirt near home plate, a few hours after
dusk, and took turns, first one boy, then the second, until she was sufficiently
split, and they spent, quickly as boys inherently are. She had bruises, of course,
and there was blood, and she remembers crying enough to create a mud paste
where she kept her cheek imprinted until certain she was alone. Alone
in a way new to her, apart even, from the heaviness between her legs
to the lead of her hair, matted, losing its soft wave to damp dust and growing dark.

She told me this story, with no variation in tone or length, from the time my own
first bleeding announced itself, to four days before my wedding. Offered as warning
of a man’s need/evil/hatred/desire/greed, any of the words most demonic,
and, for her, most base. There was nothing eloquent about my mother.

Believing stories carries us down the quickest waters into one pool after another
of calm , of stations resembling rest, sometimes clarity. Hers was the truest myth—
the kind wherein there is no happy resolution, just a lesson to move forward
or submit to slow burning, fading, erasure. Truth comes later, after the ever-after
has expired into crumbs, too stale to consume, too fine to walk over with soft feet.

As with all myth, my mother’s story, a woman’s story, held only a richly imagined
disaster. The betrayal was never in the telling, rather in the final admission
that her belief in this swirl of detail was vaporous, a landscape unseen, weirdly
desired, needed for her to feel whole, rooted. This is the gift given to her daughter:
Faith in what is repeated, recognition that branches break from weight we offer

by Kelli Allen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kelliallen1

Editor’s note: This poem tackles the complicated pain of inter-generational trauma (via internalized patriarchy) with a richly described narrative.

Florence by Rachel Marie Patterson

Florence

In Pennsylvania, the grass by the highway snaps
in the wind. Driving west, one exit from my childhood
home, where radio towers and pyramids of road
salt should be familiar, my mind goes blank.
This morning, my mother seemed better: scarlet
color in her face and neck, posture renewed.
She tied the strings at the back of her napkin-paper
gown and asked a nurse for breakfast. I drove
back to her house, elated, and took a shower.
Mom who gave us permanents in the bathtub,
who fed us scalding bulbs of garlic from the pan.
Mom in her perfectly-pressed suits, who decorated
her kitchen with seventy porcelain cows.
I was toweling off when she called, her voice so weak
it snapped. I’m afraid, she said over and over.
She was gone before I got back, the space
around her heart filled to bursting with blood.
Someday I will die, and my own daughter will not
be able to find her way home in the dark.

by Rachel Marie Patterson, first published in Rust + Moth

Editor’s note: This poem describes with exquisite detail the stunning loss of a parent and subsequent disorientation—always unexpected, even when expected.