Sonnet: Disquieting by Martin Willitts Jr.

Sonnet: Disquieting

This present moment — is gone, gone
like sparrows into the disquieting sky. Gone
white as sycamore branches before memory
releases their leaves. Gone as flattering light.
Gone as bliss and recognition of bliss. Gone,
taken away, the way rivers take silt,
depositing elsewhere. Moments are dissonant
and gorgeous, then — gone.

The pristine rains never last. It cannot rain
metaphorically everywhere with consistency.
Gravity cannot hold wind, even if wind
kisses our faces, even if it sheds sycamore leaves,
even if light folded, even if sound was shaken,
even if we clutched every moment to our chests.

by Martin Willitts Jr.

Martin on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem’s lack of meter and rhyme contradict its title while also emphasizing the meaning of it. This poem is an uneasy testament to the power of words used to describe difficulty.

All Lovers Entitled by Patricia Wallace Jones

All Lovers Entitled

Upon learning of your illness
the sky dimmed.
By morning, fog woman arrived
riding bare, low on the back of a heron.
She was followed by high tide, the sea
fiercely dressed in blue-black moiré,
her best autumn combers.

They are primed, ready to fight
alongside your wife and me
and your muse, since the cradle,
the resolute moon—
with all of us this coming rain.

By early evening I had handpicked
and planted ninety new bulbs,
all of them tulips, Sissinghurst white—
fifty plus eight for your party come May,
the balance for us all to crow on.

by Patricia Wallace Jones, first published in The Flea.

Patricia on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This poem’s use of gorgeous imagery underscores the frantic difficulty of loving someone who has fallen ill.

The Snare Drummer’s Plight by Martin J. Elster

The Snare Drummer’s Plight

The highlight of the evening is Bolero.
The snare drummer begins the famous beat,
the marrow of the land of the torero.

The players, who have sprayed themselves with Deet,
ignore the insects swarming in the light
or lighting on the scores. The music’s bite
and lyric passion build each bar, with singing
strings, winds, and brass — while buzzing bugs seek meat.
One gently touches down and starts to eat
blood from the snare drum player’s nose. The stinging
clings like a picador’s sharp lance of worry.

How can he stop to scratch? His part must never
cut out. Time’s poky arrow will not hurry.
Bolero! May it live — not last — forever.

by Martin J. Elster, first published in Verse Wisconsin.

Editor’s Note: The poet included the name of the form for this poem, Stefanile triadic sonnet, and it is quite complex. This poem’s lighthearted narrative is an excellent example of how the best formal poems transcend their form, and speak to the reader despite the strictness of meter and rhyme.

Airport Pigeon by George Longenecker

Airport Pigeon

A pigeon picks for scraps of burritos,
chips and hamburger buns on the carpet
near Gate 73—white with black feathers
on her wings and head— she ekes out a living
trapped inside Newark International Airport
hopping around the feet of weary passengers.

She thinks she came here willingly, perhaps
through an open passenger gate, but now she’s
trapped like us, eating what she can find.
She can fly miles inside the terminal,
up over Hudson Books and Vino Volo,
but she can never reach the sky.
Meanwhile we’ll escape, board
our jets and— for a few hours—
soar for miles over mountains and tiny towns,
thinking we’re free as birds.

by George Longenecker, first published in Santa Fe Literary Review

Editor’s Note: This poem is a perfect demonstration that verse can encompass the most ordinary of things with brilliant emotional insight.

Good by Laura Foley

Good

I call the old soldier,
who knew my late father in the war.
Oh yes, he says, when he finally picks up,
your dad operated on me, saved my life
in the prison camp, China, 1943.
Today I’m ninety-five,
you’ve caught me in the car,
on my way to a gambling day,
playing craps with friends.
Good for the adrenaline,
as your good dad would say.
After we hang up, I see adrenaline
and nitroglycerine, the vials he kept
in his black leather bag, worn thin
at the sides. I smell the slight
antiseptic tang, and his laugh
comes through too: tight,
forced as his gripping hands.
Good, he was a doctor,
and not a Kamikaze, good he saved lives,
though he lost me, like Gretel,
looking for crumbs in a dark forest,
looking for the good in him, the good
everyone else seems to see.

by Laura Foley, from WTF, CW Books.

Editor’s Note: This narrative poem uses the title to introduce the reader to the narrator’s imperfect knowledge of her father, with all its emotional difficulties.

From the archives – Idiot Hearts by Emily Laubham

Idiot Hearts

I rest on jagged pillows, rock beds by a dirty river.
I’m inclined to sleep through footsteps from the floor below.
A canary beats its wings bloody on a ribbed cage.
Still half awake, your fingers fall like crazy rain.
A telephone pole gets struck so hard it screams.
Light splits and crackles underneath my eyes.
Your spider-lashes crawl up my neck, catching freckle-flies.
A whisper climbs from your mouth and tiptoes in my ear
Latching to left and right hemispheres,
Laying eggs that won’t hatch for days.

I get caught in your undertow, a slave to the current.
I melt into the ocean and get thrashed against the shore,
somehow more solid than before.
You are sand in my teeth.
You are sand in my eyes.
But suddenly,
your face is tired and fair.
Out of your throat, a sigh.
I settle into your crooked stick of a body.
Like moss or mold, I grow there.
And they’re beautiful,
These idiot hearts.

from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, July 26, 2016 — by Emily Laubham

photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Vintage verse – Celia by Lola Ridge

Celia

Cherry, cherry,
glowing on the hearth,
bright red cherry…
When you try to pick up cherry
Celia’s shriek
sticks in you like a pin.

: :

When God throws hailstones
you cuddle in Celia’s shawl
and press your feet on her belly
high up like a stool.
When Celia makes umbrella of her hand.
Rain falls through
big pink spokes of her fingers.
When wind blows Celia’s gown up off her legs
she runs under pillars of the bank—
great round pillars of the bank
have on white stockings too.

: :

Celia says my father
will bring me a golden bowl.
When I think of my father
I cannot see him
for the big yellow bowl
like the moon with two handles
he carries in front of him.

: :

Grandpa, grandpa…
(Light all about you…
ginger…pouring out of green jars…)
You don’t believe he has gone away and left his great coat…
so you pretend…you see his face up in the ceiling.
When you clap your hands and cry, grandpa, grandpa, grandpa,
Celia crosses herself.

: :

It isn’t a dream…
It comes again and again…
You hear ivy crying on steeples
the flames haven’t caught yet
and images screaming
when they see red light on the lilies
on the stained glass window of St. Joseph.
The girl with the black eyes holds you tight,
and you run…and run
past the wild, wild towers…
and trees in the gardens tugging at their feet
and little frightened dolls
shut up in the shops
crying…and crying…because no one stops…
you spin like a penny thrown out in the street.
Then the man clutches her by the hair…
He always clutches her by the hair…
His eyes stick out like spears.
You see her pulled-back face
and her black, black eyes
lit up by the glare…
Then everything goes out.
Please God, don’t let me dream any more
of the girl with the black, black eyes.

: :

Celia’s shadow rocks and rocks…
and mama’s eyes stare out of the pillow
as though she had gone away
and the night had come in her place
as it comes in empty rooms…
you can’t bear it—
the night threshing about
and lashing its tail on its sides
as bold as a wolf that isn’t afraid—and you scream at her face, that is white as a stone on a grave
and pull it around to the light,
till the night draws backward…the night that walks alone
and goes away without end.
Mama says, I am cold, Betty, and shivers.
Celia tucks the quilt about her feet,
but I run for my little red cloak
because red is hot like fire.

: :

I wish Celia
could see the sea climb up on the sky
and slide off again…
…Celia saying
I’d beg the world with you…
Celia…holding on to the cab…
hands wrenched away…
wind in the masts…like Celia crying…
Celia never minded if you slapped her
when the comb made your hairs ache,
but though you rub your cheek against mama’s hand
she has not said darling since…
Now I will slap her again…
I will bite her hand till it bleeds.

It is cool by the port hole.
The wet rags of the wind
flap in your face.

by Lola Ridge (1873-1941)

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim.