Nocturne by Daniel Patrick Sheehan

Nocturne

Into the darkening woods we followed
Tommy Lynch, whose blonde head dipped and darted
At the front of the pack like a hay bale
Lashed to a broomstick. It was big and square
Like that, perched indelicately atop
Sloping shoulders and spindle arms that led
To vessel-webbed hands chapped as a codger’s.

He’d promised to show us where the devil’s own
Rose after dark in a circle of pines,
Under the wolf moon, the blood moon, or no
Moon at all, which was especially dire.
We all knew better than to buy it, yes,
But went along, for what boy wouldn’t love
To hear a buried rumble, soft at first,

Then see the carpet of needles stir
And the putrescent, peagreen dead erupt
To snatch at our fleeing backs with claws
Like Nosferatu’s? Tommy Lynch, you come
To memory now, your eyes bulging white,
With stories hypnotic as the firelight
That flickers in the pines and can’t go out.

by Daniel Patrick Sheehan

Twitter: @ByDanSheehan

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem uses imagery and alliteration to spin a tale of boys and their ghost adventure that will delight even the most imperturbable reader.

Herd Mentality by Zoé Robles

Herd Mentality

We run until the heart feels like giving out,
because the half hour after lunch is not enough
to make it there and back. We gallop like wildebeest
in Buster Brown Mary Janes and gabardine navy blue
skirts that no one is scolding us to keep down, until
we come to a sudden stop at the sight of something-is-wrong.
None of the music and excitement we expected fills the air.
Only the monotonous hammering of men putting down the stakes
for the big top. The yelling back and forth of orders to make workers
go faster. No pretty acrobat lady around, not a single elephant
or roaring tiger in sight, not even someone practicing their juggling act.
Just men, an incredibly large army of men setting up the event for the night.
The trinkets to be sold are sprawled out on the ground
and look less interesting, less colorful under the full midday sun.
A man with a python wrapped around his body comes by
and gives us a golden toothed smile. Our hearts leap in
unison and we start running to make it back on time for science class.

by Zoé Robles

Editor’s Note: The first line of this delightful poem immediately pulls the reader back into childhood. For those of us who have forgotten (or never had this joy), this is what it feels like to be young and free (and yet there is still that title and its attendant reality niggling at the back of the mind).

The Weight of Him by Laura Foley

The Weight of Him

In the dental chair, my heart banging
against my ribs like a prisoner
in a burning jail, I remember
how cold Dad was, in cashmere coat,
well-shined leather shoes, shivering
as we walked from East End to York,
each step he took, among his last on Earth.

I imagine gravity dragging at his weight,
the heavy slowness of his gait.
If each of us cannot be anywhere
other than where we are, please explain
how I connect with the dead like this,
whenever the dental dam goes in,
whenever they say to me, be still.

by Laura Foley, first Published in One, Jacar Press

Editor’s Note: The imagery of this poem is startling and sharp as it layers multiple narratives atop each other.

Last Things by Ciaran Parkes

Last Things

Mid-fifties London, the world outside is spinning
from ration books to free love, rock and roll.
The condemned prisoner, not long out of school,
is listening to a radio show and winning

another game of cards. He never loses,
indulged as some sick child who’ll never mend,
no lost games or angry words offend
his last unraveling days. He chooses

tomorrow’s meal. The chaplain comes to call
and softly talk his sins away. He walks
one final time across the withered stalks
of winter grass, beneath the high stone wall,

hearing the city going by outside. He sleeps
one last time, or tries to sleep, and must
have drifted off somehow because a burst
of voices wake him. The hurried breakfast creeps

with dreadful slowness. Calming words are spoken
by the guards. A door he never knew
about slips open. The hangman and his two
assistants come in on silent feet. He’s taken

by the elbows, half lifted off the ground,
and glided backwards through the waiting door,
a hood pushed on his head, and up the four
steps to the wooden platform. He hears the sound

of birds begin to wake, feels something lop
soft round his neck, then hears a muffled prayer
go speeding past his face, then the rush of air
as breath leaves him behind, the final drop.

by Ciaran Parkes

Editor’s Note: This poem is both shocking and beautifully written. The rhyme and meter unobtrusively hold the narrative together until the ending creeps up and stuns the reader at the very end.

Articles Extinction by Irena Pasvinter

Articles Extinction

On this tragic night when articles died
Few people noticed and nobody cried,
But as morning slowly got on its way,
Linguistic skies turned depressingly grey.

Words stuck in throats, sentences stumbled,
Grammar growled at syntax, idioms grumbled,
So that by time of evening floss
Mouths got sour with taste of loss.

“Oh, never mind,” polyglots said.
“Who cares if article creatures are dead.
Latin or Russian don’t deal with this scum.
Let’s conjure declensions — it’s gonna be fun.”

They started declining, but linguists prevailed,
“We’ve still got word order. You should be ashamed!”
Yet some shady writers were openly thrilled,
“No articles? Fine — less darlings to kill.”

As tensions grew higher, police intervened.
Declension leftovers were urgently cleaned.
Emergency measures strongly advised
To use “one” and “this” from strategic supplies.

And so life continued, largely unblemished.
Only scientists wondered why articles vanished.
Theories flourished, brilliant and lame,
But somehow nothing was ever quite same.

by Irena Pasvinter, first published in Slink Chunk Press

Editor’s Note: This delightful poem employs personification, meter, and rhyme to convey a clever story about grammar and linguistics. Writers find this sort of thing highly amusing.

From the archives – Who are you? by Mary Meriam

Who are you?

I am the unlocked door to the cellar
The cement floor and the flooded washer
The man who said I see everything
The mollusk in the seagull’s beak

The cement floor and the flooded washer
The lost mutt in a ghetto
The mollusk in the seagull’s beak
The wild unweeded garden bed

The lost mutt in a ghetto
The beach towel spread on hot sand
The wild unweeded garden bed
The long fresh nightgown slipping on

The beach towel spread on hot sand
The forest and the fiddlehead fern
The long fresh nightgown slipping on
And though you may not see me

The forest and the fiddlehead fern
Orlando and Paradise Lost
And though you may not see me
I will always wonder who you are

Orlando and Paradise Lost
The man who said I see everything
I will always wonder who you are
I am the unlocked door to the cellar

by Mary Meriam

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, February 9, 2015

Photograph by Christine Klocek-Lim

Champ Speaks by Christine Potter

Champ Speaks

I’m old, but I was glad to move my den.
My humans made my bed next to the fire—
a comfort on these winter mornings when
The South Lawn doesn’t beckon, and the choir

of shutter-clicks and shouted questions wear
me down. These days I run my best in dreams;
let Major ’s woofing end up on the air.
This good boy understands that all regimes

begin and then they end. You humans choose
your dogs and cats and Presidents, and put
them in this house to charm the world—or snooze,
like me, the dog who didn’t break Joe’s foot.

Real wisdom’s seldom something loud and fleet.
An old dog knows the fireside is sweet.

by Christine Potter

Christine on Facebook

Amazon Author Page

Editor’s Note: Doggie wisdom is always more intelligible than the blather humans tell each other.

Communication 101 by Kevin Ahern

Communication 101
Sometimes when you don’t know an answer
It pays to just admit it
This happened to me recently
And I’m so glad I did it
I was taking a communications class
And had an oral exam
The instructor said there was just one question
And I thought to myself “DAMN!”
The question was if I could illustrate communication
And I didn’t know what to say
So I just shrugged my shoulders
And she gave me an ‘A’

Sometimes when you don’t know an answer
It pays to just admit it
This happened to me recently
And I’m so glad I did it

I was taking a communications class
And had an oral exam
The instructor said there was just one question
And I thought to myself “DAMN!”

The question was if I could illustrate communication
And I didn’t know what to say
So I just shrugged my shoulders
And she gave me an ‘A’

by Kevin Ahern

Kevin on Facebook

Twitter: @ahernk1

Editor’s note: The philosophical question of communication is at the heart of poetry, but rarely is it so succinctly demonstrated via narrative verse.

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

The Transfer by Greg Watson

The Transfer

One of the earliest tricks to master
in parenting is what is generally referred to
as the transfer, that most delicate
operation of moving a sleeping child
from car seat, sofa, or lap
to the soft reassurance of the bed,
and somehow not startling them awake.
The wrong creak of the floorboards,
tilt of neck, or simple, dry cough
can induce wails of panic
and agitation, thick droplets of tears,
the whole body in sudden protest.
This is not right, scream the lungs.
This is not the place we started from,
kick the legs in exclamation.
So we learn this sleight of hand,
the language of mime, monk, assassin,
learn to slow our bodies and breath,
and to silence the world that holds them.
We learn to move without moving,
and to let that which we love most alone,
sleeping just out of reach.
Perhaps this is what we all long for
in the end — one tender hand
cradling our sweat-dampened head,
the other lifting us, as though
the entirety of our lives weighed
nothing at all, holding us so very gently
that we hardly notice moving
from one room to the next.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: This poem describes a nearly universal feat of parental skill, but it’s the last few lines that elevate the narrative from an ordinary action to thoughtful delight.