20 December, 2009

Water and Words
      With thanks to Emily Dickinson

The only thing my mother feared of death
was the pain she wasn't sure
a woman her age should have to take

who was too old in her stooping years
to be afraid of God, needles, enemas,
or children's nagging tongues.

We tried to mother her the way grown sons
think they have the right, the supporting arm
around the folded wings, the voice straight

out of Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda.
I'd never use that voice with my own kids,
they'd laugh me out of the neighborhood.

I know enough I'd never try such guddle
with my history classes of oldfaced high-
schoolers chewing on the lessons of the past

with certain smirks before they rested their fore-
heads on the kidneyed desks they'd about outgrown.
But with a mother I never understood would die

I used forgive me life the sickly touch of sons
when all she wanted was a cool glass of spring
water to wash away the fog in her throat,
water that had been someplace holy, that

and a couple answers to a crossword puzzle,
just a couple hints so she could finish off
the Sunday Times for once, for good and all,
and guess that it and all things else were right.

~ ~ Martin Galvin

Published in Poetry Magazine (March, 2000).
My pines look both cruel and wise in winter's soundless drone

~~ Grant Hackett

He was tall on Sundays,
his white shirt crisp,
his hazel eyes shaded
by the patio awning.

Heat from the grill
gave his stillness movement,
making him a reflection on water cut

by the ripple of a gentle current.

I imagine him steeped
in the smell of molten metal
and his own blood,

his youth left dead
under the hooves of a spirited horse.

The Sicilian field must have undulated
like an ocean wave, lured its prey,
snapped like a rug being shook clean
of dust and crumbs.

Maybe his brother
fell hard, with organs
bursting like flowers
blooming in a time-

lapsed film. Colors exploding
from leaves clasped
in prayer.

I picture his brother a leaf floating
in slow motion, back and forth on the gentle

breeze and resting
with blades of grass
tapping his face gently to see if he’d wake.

In that moment a mother lost two sons

when he was swallowed
by the ship, leaves of metal
clasped in prayer, cutting waves

that pushed against him, waves
that spoke in tongues
camouflaging him.

He had always been cut
by the ripple,
even before those Sundays,

cut in half
two brothers in one.

~ ~ Cristina Trapani-Scott

First published in Public Republic (January, 2009).
in the shop
a moth and I selecting
a wool sweater

~ ~ Djurdja Vukelic-Rozic
Often I Wish I Were

Often I wish I were

a potato.
Eyes opened
in all directions.
of the cold earth.
The difference
between life and death
for somebody.

~ ~ Katerina Stoykova-Klemer

14 December, 2009


The fire burns and I paint snowflakes
Into the picture for her, white flames
In her twists of hair, smouldering in auburn.
Something wrong with the canvas or brush
Or my artistry leaves her eyes empty
And her skin stroked cold. I finish
With something Rubenesque, yet Dali-ish,
Staring at a palimpsest of all she never was,
And all the things we might have been.

~~ Rob Radcliffe
Secret Machines

God is a secret.
You are a secret.

The man who lived with grizzly bears
got ate up.

He became like a bear;
smelled like a bear,
danced like a bear.
His eyes though
got bright not
dull like a bear with the long sleep.

He screamed.

In each of us
is a secret machine
and a secret animal.

-- JL Williams
The Conversation

Rain-soaked, the mottled bark
of the flowering pear darkened
past its texture’s vanishing.
My confessions always provoke
someone else’s confessions.
Why do you stand in the kitchen

if you don’t want to talk?
The changing light of morning
goes back and forth
as if it had already been
one whole mixed-up day.
Pear leaves tracked in

and out. The conversation
continues between windows.
Pear leaves shed around the house.
I thought by earning the world
I might have myself.
I thought you were listening.

Growth for this one tree meant
staying still. Still means
what it did then. Hardened
into a random texture
from the inside out and as we speak.
As if I could speak my heart.

~ ~ Katie Peterson

This poem originally appeared in New Issues (Western Michigan University Press, 2006), and is reprinted here with the permission of the publisher.

09 December, 2009

Winter Fire

is deep
around the lean-to.

The fire stick
a bright eye
out of cedar,
a red coal
which breathes
with my breath,

flows smoke
then lifts
up into flame.

Small sticks
begin to remember
an ancient tongue,
the language
of burning,
bright words
borrowed from
the sun.

Heat melts
the snow into a circle

I lean
into its warmth
my hands
held out
like those
of a priest

But this sacrament,
this winter blessing
of life
Is one
which I receive.

~ ~ Joseph Bruchac
Where She Walks Doves

Where she walks doves
coo and bauble about her feet.
Grey feathers puff like dust,
rise as if from pillows,
fill the air like winter inhabits a home.

She feeds them seeds of grain
from her bare hand, sings
to them of mountain burns and fog.

Her eyes are grey. Her hair
is white as steam that comes off ice.
She has never seen the sea and
it frightens her,
the thought of all that water.

~ ~ JL Williams
Due North

I should have my hood on--
Already there are rumors of darkness.
I should see the stones set before me,
Giving passage towards a place
Of complex nostalgias. And now
Should see the scree falling

Endlessly from the mountain's summit,
Falling on the recessive plain.
It is a private place, a wilderness
In practice. I am told that I should look
For a roof in rain, for a river
Split down to tongues of ice.

I shall start all together. As hollow
As a drum, the ground sounds--
It summons, repeats beneath me.
It is as intact and unchangeable
As the seven stars spun into position
When the day, which takes hours to fade,

Has dropped away in its small mist.

~ ~ Joan Kane

05 December, 2009

Hello Songs

I’ve crooned these hello songs to so many, so often.
And after all the second guessing, handcuffed sentiments,

and self-sabotaging behavior, I slice open my surface
like an errant razor across the cheek. Sometimes a woman’s

touch is a compass, sometimes a tire iron to the skull.
It dismantles common sense and whole days go missing.

These curvy ladies with honeyed tongues and stilettos.
With their whispered discontent and ransom notes

penned in the finest cursive. They climb inside me
with flashlights – seek the voice box, the sweet talk

that’s been jailed in my throat for years, the words I stash away
for later enjoyment like a well-rolled joint. All the hello songs

that need to be composed already have, their memorized lyrics
now my reflection: each adjective extraneous, every verb imperfect.

~~ Adrian Potter

First published in The Poet’s Touchstone, Fall 2008
Four Poems

Each step into simplicity :: undoes the weave

Published in Lilliput Review #170 this year.

                    ~ ~ ~

Who can discover
why the smile remains
when they no longer see the child

                   ~ ~ ~

Because silence is not a conversation :: the nothing I had to say, I said

                  ~ ~ ~

The way I write :: there I live

 ~~ Grant Hackett
I Hate Poetry

I hate poetry.
It doesn't pioneer unexplored territory
or stand upon dangerous ground.

I hate poetry
because it's crafted with shoddy quality,
like a t-shirt sold at a swap meet.
It's all foreplay, no passion.
It speaks of romance without defining anything new,
ignoring how the mention of sex
clings like sweet mango to the roof of your mouth,
how a kiss can push whiskey breath
onto unsuspecting lips,
how regret glistens like sweat beads
on a sleeping lover’s body.

I hate poetry. 
It believes it can crawl
through the broken glass of the past
without bleeding and still
manufacture timeless literature.

Remember:  advice is just advice,
but never let words stand in the way of writing. 
Instead, twist them – as if they are nipples
and your ideas are the index and thumb,
applying torque until the words
become what you desire,
what you fear,
or both.

Show me what I do not know,
how to cheat to survive,
why hope hovers in the chest of men
despite the bell-shaped curve of misfortune
that governs our existence.
Show me these things instead.
Show me these things so I can love poetry again.

~~ Adrian Potter