When asked, he’d write a poem. She gave him silk,
a small white piece. Her name was Butterfly,
and what she wanted was her name in ink,
deep black on white, her small life glorified
by Basho’s brush. It was a small tea house
deep in the woods and Towards the end of day.
He writes about the beauty Time allows–
eternities of now that fly away:
a butterfly on orchid’s leaf, its wings
alit with incense burning sweetly in
the sun. That’s all that Basho writes. Black sings
on white, simplicity a perfect hymn.
And that’s the gift that he gave Butterfly,
alive, again, though long ago both died.
by Ed Hack
Editor’s Note: This sonnet elegantly merges several different forms of art into one 14 line poem—a fitting tribute to Basho’s words and imagery.
Philosophers of the Dump Run
—For my daughter India
Remember those Saturday mornings when
We drove the week’s garbage to the landfill
In the clunker you called Funky Chicken,
Big old Pontiac, valiant stench-mobile,
Perfume of rotting fruit and coffee grinds
Hanging in the air throughout the day?
And how the odor barely crossed our minds
As we puzzled out, laughing all the way,
What if the sky was green instead of blue?
Why can’t a rhinoceros blow its horn?
Wouldn’t you like to swim in a drop of dew?
Can a pantheist find God in a can of corn?
Oh to be back in that stinky car again
When all the world was magic and you were ten.
by Tad Tuleja
Editor’s Note: Any sonnet that rhymes “landfill” with “mobile” and uses the term “Funky Chicken” deserves airtime.
—Simon Pearce Glass, Quechee, Vermont
for Jane, Kate, Maureen, and Sally
Five women watched as one man’s breath inflated
the molten glass, one man spun it in flame,
one trimmed and shaped it. Expertly translated
by patient craftsmen, ash and sand became
a useful vessel and a work of art,
exhaled and fired and molded into being.
Each piece required each man to do his part,
a deft alliance nurturing and freeing
both elegance and strength. Each woman bought
a finished bowl that caught the autumn light
and scattered it—a slow-baked prize, well-wrought,
like their decades-long bond. With eyes as bright
as autumn sun and just as sure to fade,
they savored all that breath and warmth had made.
by Jean L. Kreiling
Editor’s Note: Every artist knows that the act of creation is a work of hope, and this sonnet’s narrative breathes life into what happens after the work has found its way home.
Can the little baize box of the sonnet bear such cargo?
The sonnet can bear anything. It bears
the anguish of the heart, the need of soul
to understand the why of why Love tears
shy hope to shreds that wanted to feel whole.
It bears the weather from the dawn to dark,
the ocean’s vast indifference, the grave-
yard of its crushing depths, the silver sparks
of sun on leaves, the miracle of days.
It bears our history of savagery,
the art we’ve left that shows our spirits’ needs,
our efforts, through myopia, to see
the deeper, simpler truths beyond our greed.
It is the scrap you find that wind has brought,
a map of lands you’d no idea you sought.
by Ed Hack
Editor’s Note: This sonnet perfectly encapsulates the purpose of a poem.
Things fall. You forgot what they do. The knife
off of the paper plate. The tool from your
cramped hand. And once, foot of the stairs, your wife.
Years later now, you still look at the floor
and wonder what or who is next. You used
to say that’s one thing floors are for. A joke,
an irony, you thought, then got the news
about how life just flies away, and hope,
like crumbs, like fat, like bones is what remains,
the ash of things, the penny that you find.
What’s left of rain is stuck in screens, and pain’s
your new best friend. The second hand’s design
is fall from 12 to 6 then climb from 5
to 12. Things fall, and you are still alive.
by Ed Hack
Editor’s Note: This heart-wrenching sonnet begins with deceptive imagery before turning to absolute grief at the end.
I’ve come here where the water flows to see—
to see the world flow by, the sky inside
and upside-down, the shadow-world that’s free
of any trace of human mind—denied
in water’s innocence, the mirror that
it is, the Alice-world where things are real
because they are a child’s truth, the facts
imagination sees—the adults’ spiels
revealed in their grotesqueries, the whole
charade of lunatic authority
whose goal is murdering the human soul
so it obeys, yet feels that it is free.
But knows, disguised in its unquiet sleep,
where slithy toves are murdering the sheep.
by Ed Hack
Editor’s Note: This sonnet immediately upends the reader’s idea of reality, only to find at the end that the truth is possibly more ridiculous than the lies we tell ourselves (hat tip to Carroll’s Jabberwocky in the final line).
Late summer sun sifts through a screen of trees
Still dripping from my swim, I see her taking flight
Completely naked, tiny feet tucked up to knees
Her fingers with her father’s locked in tight.
If we could just return to that one place
where we were all their world, our parents’ goal
to keep us safe from harm, and one day face
our restless lives with hearts intact and whole
The scene plays out before my tear-wet eyes
A joyful spirit swung into the air, delighted cries
And as her father steps away from shore
she weeps, “Again. Again. I want some more.”
He gently calms her tears. “No need to cry.
Just tell me. Say the words, ‘I want to fly.’”
by Carole Greenfield
Editor’s Note: This delightful sonnet delivers joy with each rhymed line. Sometimes we need this reminder.
Sonnet for Olivia
Your voice was crystal—vintage, not too polished;
it traveled like a current to my heart,
and sometimes left me smiling and astonished,
or fighting tears. Yours was a special art—
a marriage of simplicity and emotion,
that conveyed your love for every living thing;
it filtered through the vastness of the ocean
as a promise we would hear the dolphins sing.
You declared that optimism was a choice,
then you chose it. And so every time you spoke,
your courage was the high note in your voice
that dispensed the gifts of fortitude and hope.
You held on to the end, as you intended;
your time on Earth was nothing short of splendid.
by Diane Elayne Dees
Editor’s Note: This lovely sonnet is a beautiful elegy for hope in the midst of loss.
What We See
Amazing what we see—Here’s life again,
the morning says in light, so shadows too.
For things are what they are and what they seem
and what they’re not, and all three views are true.
Our past is shadows cast that do not fade
away. They’re in our children’s DNA,
and thus their children’s too. So what we are
is river flowing by and bottom we
can’t see or even guess. I say a word
that echoes through the story that I am
passed on to me by those I do not know.
A vessel that’s a self, part of a flow
I cannot name but know has brought me here,
to 8:15 and all that I hold dear.
by Ed Hack
Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s title fools the reader into thinking that what we see is the point, yet the poem encompasses everything else.
Work Until Rain
It rained as soft as loving hands at ease
as afterwards, as sapphire wings that glide
the light-filled air in summer’s sweet release
that offers stricken hearts a gentle guide.
I’d worked until the sky turned dirty gray,
the forecast was correct, then air turned spice,
perfume of heat, macadam, rain—the day
a brew I deeply sniffed, a sudden prize
as unexpected, calming, as loved eyes.
I put my tools away, vac’d saw dust from
the floor, then sat in the garage, surprised
in part the way what is at bottom stuns,
and watched, breathed in the honeyed scent of rain,
and tired and satisfied, I was sustained.
by Ed Hack
Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s unexpected pivot from stately philosophy to concrete images mirrors the emotion the speaker feels when one suddenly swims up from work to find the world perfectly beautiful.