Musee des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
by W. H. Auden (1907-1973)
Painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Cousin Susie changed her name to Winnipeg
back in the crazy Sixties, full name Winnipeg Canada,
don’t ask why, just call her Winnie.
Married a Jamaican fella named Omari,
a steelworker when Bethlehem made steel
before they stole his pension.
Now he fixes cars.
Winnie raises goats in the back yard,
it’s a big yard for Baltimore but people complain.
Sells goat milk to the Greeks and Italians.
Three goats are pregnant.
Omari raised a pig from zero to 425 pounds.
That hog slept under the house, followed them around,
friendly like a dog and really smart.
Omari wanted to do the slaughter himself.
Winnie knew she’d be cleaning up
the blood and refused to allow it
which nearly caused a divorce.
Omari was so mad, he was cussing in Jamaican,
nobody knew exactly what he was saying
until he called the butcher. That’s love.
Winnie didn’t think she could eat it
but she could. That’s survival.
I like to visit. She voted Trump but
wishes she hadn’t. I mean, Canada?
Anybody want a ham sandwich?
by Joe Cottonwood
Editor’s Note: In this poem, narrative is king.
The mystery of water underground,
the dark stream where the dead kneel
cupping their pale hands,
splashing the stillness from their eyes.
I drop a stone in ours to hear
if there’s water for the children’s bath.
And if it’s dry, no sound—the pebble
a star, falling through the night.
Here, a rope once hung, a bucket
on its noose. Here, the cattle gathered
summer evenings at the trough,
their dull heads bowed.
No one fishes this hole, or ever did,
though in the cold, moonless pools
fins move through the dark, deep
in the ground, where spawning begins.
by Bruce Guernsey, from From Rain: Poems, 1970-2010.
Editor’s Note: The detailed imagery of this poem creates a narrative space where the reader can imagine a story that extends beyond a simple well, and a simple sound.
The sound of morning
steps down a mountain,
not really a noise,
more the eyes explain
the sun walks
to the other senses.
If it is Saturday
I sit in a chair that rocks
and overlooks the role
of the river,
how it holds a heron
in place by the ankles
until its long neck
forms the bones
at the end of hush
to let loose
such a wingspan
no amount of highway
to know which direction
the day is going
by Charles Carr
Editor’s Note: The imagery and personification in this poem remind the reader that poetry is an art, not simply communication.
The Body, Before
Notice the geography of freedom–
this open prairie made of flesh, the slow
swoop of the back’s small, curvature of skull,
the belly’s subtle knoll. The mirror shows
this vista of my body and I gaze,
try to commit this scene to memory
like a valley filled with bluebonnets
in April, touch this land of milk and honey
before the fall, my exile from myself.
The cold ink on my skin. The thick black mark.
He draws a border on my body, says:
This is where I’ll cut you.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .But I hear:
separate skin from skin, flesh from flesh,
bone from bone. Even with the bridge
of sutures, healing skin, the growth of vessels
carrying my blood across this border,
this scar defines the woman I am now.
by Katie Hoerth
Editor’s Note: Blank verse gives this poem a subtle rhythm that reinforces the carefully constructed lines.
The Miles Before Sleep
inspired by the title of a Martin Willitts Jr. poem
Country singers say they go by truck wheels,
rubber tumbling, lost in Patsy Cline,
and poets, with debated metaphor, and rhyme,
get lost in snow and near forget their horse.
The rest of us walk crosswalks, train tracks, asphalt
between the lot and daycare, food store, work.
Unlike the lyrics, sneakers leave no footprint,
except on melting days we’d just as soon forget,
indeed all roads are laid with just that goal:
to go on without notice of the ones
who go on them, whose tread, tires or tired
feet the only thing which keeps the count:
miles to go before I sleep
recorded one by one in bones, in cracks,
invisible—and numberless as breath.
from Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY, May 16, 2017 — by Mary Alexandra Agner
photo by Christine Klocek-Lim
common Welsh flowers caw
from choir loft hedges
the magic dead sleep upright
on tavern tables.
the meanwhile of similarity
seems unique as ever
in the dew
the drama of young women
anew anew anew.
by Bill Jansen
Editor’s Note: This poem’s nod to Poe offers an unexpected amusement for the mind.