by Joan McNerney
A cup of coffee
warm fat pancakes bubbling up
my haiku breakfast.
Try to catch the wind.
Count the ripples in the sea.
Become a child again.
Shy autumnal bird
did you brush against the moon
to get that pale down?
Winds sway maple trees
leaves drop like butterflies
falling to the warm earth.
What discus player
threw a tangerine moon on
top of Fourteenth Street?
Listen to: Autumn Poetry by Joan McNerney
by Michal Mahgerefteh
The infinite vastness
of words flew in tiny particles,
and with a single stroke
swallowed me whole.
by Paul Hostovsky
Everybody called him Toby,
though his real name was October,
though nobody knew that except the teacher
who assured him his secret was safe with her
that first day in September, when he came in
early, before any of the other kids
and introduced himself to her,
and told her about his hippie parents
who had named him October
because they loved October
and because they got married in October
and so a year later in October
he was born October. She said
she thought it was a lovely name and a lovely
story. But he said it was an affliction.
He told her how the kids in his old school
called him Ock. Or else they called him Brr.
They made fun of him in cruel ways, like rubbing
their arms and stamping their feet when he passed,
saying: “Brr, it’s cold in here.” They teased him
about June, the bookish girl with the thick glasses,
saying lewd things like: “It feels like October
in June.” It got so bad he had to move away
and start his life over. His hippie father
put in for a transfer. His mother who did macrame
could do macrame anywhere, so they moved
here. And he started anew, with a new name,
a new identity. It was not unlike
the federal witness protection program,
except his parents felt guilty as hell
and were never prosecuted.
Spring rose clean as birches
during my last leap year home.
For the past ten years, I spent winter
afternoons on this lake. Soon I’d
be the first to graduate, but this evening
I skated with my hockey stick and some
primitive rhythm composed for blade
and tin. I shot the puck, an old tuna can,
away from the bridge’s thin ice. Landing
on edge it rolled, skirting the shore’s marshes.
My blades cut into ice, and speed
was skate-plowed snow dusting my feet.
Catching my puck, I drew a bead
on the pile of ice a fisherman made
to mark his site.
Slapping my stick against the ice, I whirled,
and my breathing followed the customs of its being.
I knew little about manhood coming as quick as spring,
or how to interpret these signs: chuckholes rimmed
with mud, icicles hung on Thunder Bridge;
a dog’s nose tight to the ground on an island beach.
Maybe, they were designed to mean little
because nothing happened. The wind continued
to lie between winter and spring. As I skated,
I thought about how good it was that the islands –
like the ice — were full of cracking sounds.
Removing my cap, I raced the darkness.
On the bank I paused to catch my breath
before sprinting on the tips of my blades
to the basement. As I entered the house,
nothing could contain the joy of my youth;
except, the gust of wind, blowing mist
off the snow, capped fence.
by Joseph Milosch
Waking in a cabin built for a John Wayne
western, I listen to the wind blowing through
the westerly window. I think of the beauty
nature has passed from century to century.
Walking past the movie cabins, I buy
coffee and hike the Lake Shore trail.
Nothing appears in the westerly sky. Yet, I
feel Ive been given an elusive gift of clear air.
Sitting on a log, I watch elk and deer approach
the waters edge as geese swim into a line.
A woman wades into the lake and begins to fish.
A trout leaps to take her fly then fights her line.
[click to continue…]
by Diane Payne
People ducking beneath wet umbrellas,
avoiding the woman’s hand reaching
out from the window ledge. “Spare
change?” she asks to no one in particular.
“Spare rain?” a man laughs running to his car,
giving the woman one last look before crawling
into the driver’s seat, while the woman remains
crouched, filling her hand with spare rain.
by Dretta Grace White
For a time
Like a promise broken
An outstretched hand
At the wrist
It wasn’t true
by Joseph Milosch
My twin planet is Saturn. As we follow our orbits,
we are enclosed by rings of historic debris.
A cartoonist would portray us walking in a dust cloud
like Shultz depicted Pig Pen.
Saturn’s rings are composed from random collisions
of asteroids. My debris comes from random encounters
with comrades like Smitty, who replaced me
at the overseas station to Nam.
My twin moon is in Aquarius when I fly like a lost
albatross through the dark spaces of Virgo.
Centuries have passed since our separation from
the soil of our mother planet.
I grieve our separation but not as much as I grieve
the loss of Smitty. How to forget his mother reading
his name tag as she looked at his body bag. Who
could tell her the truth.
I will not admit kinship with the sun. This is the reason
I wear cheap sun glasses and will not enter a room
until the shades are drawn. When the dead are involved,
silence affects the eyes.
It was not his body. Another soldier’s bag was used.
Told it was against regulations to view her son. Told he
was not recognizable. Told anything to convince her
that he inhabited the grave under her red carnations.
by Howie Good
Because day by day I am less real
Because the cemetery half-listens
Because the mirror mutters too
Because stranded here for now
Because the sky is everyone’s
Because though poorly patched in places
and attracted to the form of a mountain
Because like an accidental gunshot
Because she says it isn’t raining
Because later it might
By Neal Whitman, Poetry Prof
In March and April, we turned to two poems by Robinson Jeffers, “To the Stone-Cutters” and “Hands” and found the lesson that nothing we do as individuals or collectively will last forever. But, we left off with the thought that perhaps that does not mean we should not put all we have into what we do. By example, this was how Jeffers lived his life. He signals his intention to live every day to the hilt with an inscription he painted over the closet door in the guest bedroom. It is in French: Bien faire et laissez dire. For those of you whose high school French is rusty, let me give you its rough translation:
Do well and let them talk.
Robinson Jeffers did not get sidetracked by what others had to say about him or his poetry. Instead, each day he put one foot in front of another. I mean that, not only in how he lived day by day, but also in how he wrote line after line of poetry. A poetical foot, of course, is a unit of measure in the meter of a poem and literally he put or wrote one poetical foot after poetical foot even when he did not have a publisher. Each morning, after breakfast, he climbed the steps to the attic room in Tor House and worked on his poems – his back to the ocean. Often Una was handling paperwork at her sea captain desk in an alcove below him. When Robin had a good idea, he would pace, and, it is said, that if she could not hear his footsteps over her head, she would rap the ceiling with a broomstick. The marks can be seen above her desk.
The point was that Robinson Jeffers knew he was a poet and he lived every day as a poet. He did not seek fame, but it came to him in 1925 when three editors fell in love with this unknown poet’s submission to their anthology. In particular, they admired his poem, “Continent’s End.” They used the title of his poem as the title of the book and put his poem in front. They recommended his work to the same publishers who earlier had rejected him. They now competed to get his signature on a contract. And, that got him going as a published poet. Still, he knew that nothing lasts forever!
I built her a tower when I was young –
Sometime she will die –
I built it with my hands I hung
Stones in the sky …
Never weep, never weep.
Never be astonished, dear.
Excerpts from “For Una”
By Joseph Milosch
As a young man in the seminary, Father Martin asked
us to meditate on this question, What does a man do
when he’s alone with his aloneness?
At seventeen I felt so alone I was embarrassed to say:
Because I can’t sleep, I walked through the maples
every morning between 3:30 and 5. I touched the moss,
growing on the damp side of trees. I watched the sun
lightening the sky by outlining clouds, and hoped
for a sudden appearance of thunderheads.
At seventeen my loneliness followed me
wearing its veil of blades. The gardener,
who I passed on the way to class, seemed
content as he nurtured the pruned plants
and vines until they became immersed
in their colors. I thought of him as
a sentry standing on the rim of rebirth.
One time a storm came from different bearings
at once. Hail flew from the four cardinal
directions, and the storm thrust the edges
of its wind against my eyes.
In the chapel I read the Sacred Mysteries
of Our Lord’s Passion and Death. I tried
not to think or believe — those who die faithless
would be left without sanctified graves, without keepers,
and their bones would be swept by the wind.
Now during my morning meditations,
I enjoy the smell of my garden and lawn.
When I harvest my tomatoes or weed,
I’m tempted to taste the soil, keeping fresh
my memory of feeling afraid of myself.
A fear generated during the time my body
wouldn’t let my mind rest or enjoy the vocaling
of canticles or psalms. My only choice was to lay
among the green candles, burning in the grass
and eavesdrop on the distant laughter of others
on their way to prayers; as I listened,
I never lost sight of what occurred in the hours
of shadows and cold air, when an owl pruned,
called out, and tossed bone pellets made inside itself.
by Dretta Grace White
And home is gone
And the smooth
We walked along
To offend and blend into
Darkest blackest shade
As if the light we shared
Were never made
by Joseph Milosch
The clues were indiscernible:
the coffee pot sprung a leak
after forty years:
someone placed a half
of a chicken’s egg shell
under the bottle bush:
Someone saw a crow steel it:
a squirrel took a bite out
of a fallen guava:
the wind blew litter into
the curb, and a California poppy
[click to continue…]
by Joseph Milosch
One spring my dad found his hammer in the mud by our fence. He had me clean it with steel wool and light oil. I remembered the day he taught me to miter bridging for floor joists. We spoke of his days as a musician. One Thanksgiving it was so cold the reed in his mouthpiece split. He worried his lips would freeze to his clarinet.
I dream of him as a lamplight silhouette sucking his reed. He looks into the bell of his clarinet like an ebony chalice. He closes his eyes, takes one deep breath, gathers himself, and tucks his elbows to his ribs. He plays sharps and flats that rise up and in like a wind in silk curtains. A wind writing a history of canaries, finches pulsing in red tops, in yellow beaks, and the white feathers found in the curve of a bird’s neck.
Today, I hammered hubs in a road’s sub grade on a job site overlooking the Pacific. A west wind rose off the waves, off the beach, cliffs, rocks, trees, and seagulls rode it in circling flock. I pried with a screwdriver the small rocks caught in my hammer’s claw that curved like the mouthpiece of dad’s clarinet.
I remember his lips pressed tight in the center, the corners limp, as if he forced his mouth to imagine the route his breath would take through his horn. I watched him work into each note his memories.
[click to continue…]
by John Dutterer
In from the window: fallen
leaf looks like a
decaying sturgeon sinking
in the clear
lake of the air