A calm, fixed mind
I know the friends and cousins cannot stand my ways—
my cleaning gears and baseboards no one will inspect.
They call my love of order a crimp upon my days,
seeing my routines as relics of a sect,
of Christian tyranny—cannot fathom how
anyone of passion could willingly submit
to reins and regulations. “There is no time but now”
the motto of new rebels. No Top 40 hit
will celebrate my kind—our plodding path
does not contain the arcs that make hearts beat faster
but martyrs don’t live past The Ends. I’d rather do the math
and live on in the flesh than immortalized in plaster.
My tending of minutiae leads to what I crave—
my saved-up shekels equal license to be brave.
by Peg Duthie
Editor’s Note: This sonnet is a delight for those of us addicted to order.
Lost, fluorescing with the ferry’s glow
across the pleasure sea from San Francisco,
tripping lightly into Sausalito,
I found myself inside a stranger’s yacht
and joined him waxing floorboards. Then his smile
burst like sun through dangling seaweed—our eyes,
deep underwater lips, entangling, blurred.
The gravity of ties now in my hold,
I think of consequence, the darkening wake
where love has sunk—how to care so deep
and yet retain what hums, what radiates
a raw blue edge on every passing thing
as neon burns above the ocean freight,
to buzz the midnight air like wasps in heat.
by Siham Karami
Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s imagery is almost surreal, leading one to believe that the story told is a dream, but the final lines are all too real.
For the Death of My Ex-Husband
The first four stages of grief
have been accomplished, in random order,
a few repeated, with no clear border,
denial more like disbelief,
but the fifth – acceptance – almost
there on a sunny day, and then
refusing its place on the list again,
elusive as the five-word ghost
of your voice our daughter now
plays on her cell-phone over and over,
her finger in its endless hover,
passing the stop-square, pressing the arrow.
by Elise Hempel
Editor’s Note: This poem uses enjambment to great effect, highlighting the narrator’s sorrow (over her loss—so complicated, and her daughter’s—so easy to understand).
A light I stop for paints the asphalt red
and shows a possum isn’t playing dead;
a bump upon a country road, a white
and grayish remonstration of the night.
Feasting on the cricket and the tick,
unprepared and neither fierce nor quick,
a fuddy duddy relic, now run over,
who muddled through the thickets and the clover;
who had a dozen children in the spring
but now’s a flattened, matted, bloody thing
the vultures will descend on in the day,
and, like myself, has little else to say,
for sorrow like the headlights of a car
illumines for a moment what we are
till night returns and mathematics yields
half a dozen possums in the fields.
by Ed Shacklee
Ed on Facebook
Editor’s Note: It is always difficult to write a poem about roadkill—there is the grim subject matter, and the inevitable comparison to Stafford’s poem. However, this poem’s formal meter frames the situation within a philosophical context, without losing the emotional resonance of the experience.
A Tufted Titmouse Braves a Cold Spell
Peter-peter-peter cries my voice
echoing through the trees. Flakes fall to test
my stamina and patience. It is cold.
Tomorrow will be chillier still, fresh rime
glazing flower and fence. My whistles chime
like piccolos to pierce the stale and old
that clings as lichen to a larch. I rest
in a nest in a lifeless oak. I have no choice
but to sing and to hole up in this secondhand
woodpecker’s dimple, no alternative
but to twitter to my better half, to live
in my feathered fashion. Oh, but it is grand
and it is hard and it’s both work and play
and — peter-peter — it is cold today.
by Martin J. Elster
Editor’s Note: This sonnet is a delight to read, and one any birder would love.
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim
Falling Into Theory
I have not yet assigned a cause to gravity. —Isaac Newton
Medieval physicists thought gravity
was love. They catalogued it attraction.
Gravitational attraction. That every entity,
man and thing, man-thing, just drafty fractions
and, loosed, would seek the earth their own.
Oh, how the spoon rushes into the arms
Of the beloved when fumbled. All seeking home.
All fall down. Hold us, great mass, from every harm.
A step, a stumble, down, ow, a knee,
an elbow, pow, a pop, a ligament,
a slippery staircase of concrete and steel,
unforgiving as an old lover’s heart
that you busted up pretty good, yeah you.
And now you’re gravity’s fool falling for true.
by John Calvin Hughes
John on Facebook
Editor’s Note: This sonnet’s complex repetitions lull the reader into its mysteries.
for Suzanne and Ed
A flash of black and white across the green
of six a.m. Maine meadow—flying fur,
a mighty heart, a nose for prey unseen,
an eye for playthings tossed—Finn’s always sure
to catch the disc that sails across his lawn,
to catch the sunlight in his glossy coat,
to catch and so to share whatever dawn
might promise, in his flight the antidote
to vague human complaints. He runs a race
he always wins, past drifts of Russian sage,
beyond the trellised grapes; he owns the place,
and us as well, demanding we engage
with earth and atmosphere and things that fly.
Our hearts rise with his, happy to comply.
by Jean L. Kreiling
Editor’s Note: As always, this poet’s easy grasp of the sonnet form supports the central theme—Finn. This poem explains why we love our pets.
Not on Her Original To-Do List
These chores so nearly weren’t hers—this drill
of clean up, pick up, cheer up, save the day,
read Dr. Seuss although she’s had her fill,
make chocolate milk, make monsters go away,
sing bunny songs, play hide-and-seek, explain
why everything, learn how to fix toy trucks
and choo-choo trains and how to toilet-train,
teach that a cow moos and a chicken clucks,
and kiss skinned knees. So when she has a few
free moments to converse with grownups, read
a grownup book, and eat as grownups do—
from toddler’s tyranny fleetingly freed—
she’s startled by her dread as it occurs
to her: this life so nearly wasn’t hers.
by Jean L. Kreiling
Editor’s Note: This sonnet describes the tediousness of parenting, yet by the end, the joy of it is much more strongly felt than the frustration.
Sonnet to negotiate peace with your dementia
You’re dozing in your rocker, feet planted.
You clutch the chair’s arms, appearing prepared
for the shock of bad news, your neck slanted
head jutting forward. Oh my dear gray scared
bird, while invisible worms still burrow
you stop searching for a table to hold
your reading glasses. And then you furrow
your forehead, begin to snore. You turn old.
The unread want ads lie on your stomach.
They rise and fall between us as we breathe.
Will I tell you? No, I’d rather mimic
you now, observe in silence all that seethes.
I thought I might explain why we’re broken.
But sleep. This, too, will remain unspoken.
by Tracy Lee Karner
Tracy on Facebook
Editor’s Note: This poem delicately offers a glimpse into the slow loss of a person. It’s all the more poignant because the narrator’s emotions are strong, but kept in check by love.
Over the Edge
The wind was strong and at our back all day
So we sped merrily across a sea
Awash with floating patches of debris,
Mostly planks and oars and castaway
Crates and sea chests, and sometimes a stray
Capsized lifeboat, thudding sluggishly
Against our hull with tiresome frequency
And spinning and foundering on the ricochet.
The boats they sent to stop us have turned back
And there are no birds trailing in our wake;
We sail beyond the maps and charts alone.
And now the waters swirl and skies grow black
And in the distance vast waves rise and break
And we are doomed. If only we had known.
by David Stephenson
Editor’s Note: This sonnet offers the reader a bleak situation. It isn’t until the closing lines that the metaphor becomes real.