Archives for posts with tag: Poems

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fall break
Maine
by Jonathan Chan

at dusk the eyes begin to glaze, hemmed in by
the dense shroud of an unlit highway, no glimmer
in the mirrors left, right, or rear, faltering in the
stubborn stream of light and the passing flit of
strip after strip, brilliant flash of orange and red
fading in the last high beam of an endless road,
across the signs of stolen presence announcing

Bangor, Belfast, and Brighton, every leaf and rock,
each rising tide leaving only dregs of foam announcing
this form, processual and inchoate, seen at the cusp
of daybreak, a single mom-and-pop for miles and
miles, the tip of a lighthouse announcing a fortitude
closest to old worlds, and a riding back on the winds,
hands over metal bars stapled into stoic rock, hands

over each crag, photographs making known the
touristry of conquest, expanse of mountain and
forest held in ocular weight, the breath of something
old, something new, exhalations of awe so many
times over before the streaming from a beehive, or
another trail, where the land’s bones are never out
of joint and its heart is never frigid like wax.

PAINTING: Lighthouse and Buildings, Portland Head, Cape Elizabeth, Maine by Edward Hopper (1927).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In October 2021, while in graduate school, several of my friends and I decided to take a road trip from New Haven, Connecticut, up to Acadia National Park in Maine. The colours of fall were just beginning to descend upon New England and we shared the desire to behold the grand swathes of orange, red, and yellow along the highways and from the peaks of mountains. None of us had been to Acadia and we relished the opportunity to pass through Massachusetts and New Hampshire on our way up. The trip up involved the longest continuous periods I’d ever had to drive and pay attention to the road. I remember noticing the names of the smaller towns in Maine with some curiosity, each reflecting the name of somewhere else in the United Kingdom. The poem begins with our time on the road, moves through our time in Portland and Penobscot, and culminates with the grandeur we witnessed at Acadia. The trip provided a distinctive and singular memory, a time of wonder and relief from the pressures of school, one that I continue to hold close when I think back to my time as a graduate student.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonathan Chan is a writer and editor of poems and essays. Born in New York to a Malaysian father and South Korean mother, he was raised in Singapore and educated at Cambridge and Yale Universities. He is the author of the poetry collection going home (Landmark, 2022). He has recently been moved by the work of Kevin Young, R. F. Kuang, and Alfian Sa’at. More of his writing can be found at jonbcy@wordpress.com and on Instagram at @fivefoundings.

HOWARTH1
Points of Happy Memory
by Stephen Howarth

Waiting in my allotted place, I was alert
with anticipation for the planned
presentation of my latest book,
an industrial history, to my Queen.

She approached with her husband.
The chairman introduced me and at once
HM and I were studying together,
turning the pages seemingly for minutes,

so engaged that I forgot the vital timetable
until the chairman gently intervened:
“You may not know, but Her Majesty
has already read the book.”

Forgetting protocol, I simply said to her,
wide-eyed, “Have you really?”
No “Ma’am” or “Your Majesty,” but just as if
I were speaking to you with happy surprise.

“Oh yes,” she said, with that heart-stopping smile,
“It was very interesting.” The chairman added:
“That’s why she was able to ask so many
good questions when she was meeting the staff.”

She smiled again. They moved on together,
and I followed, thrilled. Several moments passed
before I became aware of someone behind me —
her husband the Duke… And I was in his way.

I stood aside to let him pass. “I’m sorry, sir —
didn’t realise you were there. I was just
entranced by Her Majesty.” He grinned.

“Don’t worry,” he answered. “So was I.”

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: This is a photo of a framed photo under glass, and so its quality is low. I can’t give a credit because I have no knowledge of the photographer. This meeting occurred on 11 November 1997, Remembrance Day in the U.K. I don’t have the time in my diary but it was clearly afternoon, since the Queen and the Duke would both have been involved in commemorations nearby at The Cenotaph at 1100. And even though I’m a veteran myself (Navy), clearly for once I didn’t attend a ceremony, having this instead.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: From the moment Queen Elizabeth II died on 8 September 2022, her heir and eldest son Prince Charles automatically became King. The official “Proclamation” declaring his succession was made by Garter King of Arms (head of the College of Heralds) David Vines White, from the balcony of St James’s Palace, in a short ceremony starting at 1100 hours on Saturday, 10 September 2022. The coronation will follow in due course. During the Proclamation, Garter King of Arms referred to “the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory,” reminding me of the meeting accurately described here. I found Her Majesty quite frankly adorable, and there was a bonus: the Duke’s quick-witted reply to me, a charming spontaneous memory of their first meeting many years before.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Howarth, a full-time independent author of history all his working life, also served in Britain’s Royal Naval Reserves for 12.5 years. After reluctant retirement from the Service as part of the “Peace Dividend” following the end of the Cold War, he was commissioned to write the official centenary of the RNR and was appointed an honorary Commander RNR by HM the Queen.

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Under the Ironing Machine
by Robbi Nester

All morning, my mother sits
before this rectangular monstrosity,
feeding it sheets damp from the washer.
I squat underneath, skinny knees
hugging my sides. The warm cotton
billows, becomes a tent where I sit
with my books and sketch pad,
singing to myself. The sun finds me,
and I feel all this will last forever,
even after the smooth sheets lie folded
into squares in the basket, and my mother
stands at the counter, kneading raw egg
into hamburger, offering me a bit
on the tip of one finger. Even after
the sun sags beneath the sill and
the moon opens her round silver eye.

This poem appears in the author’s collection Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019).

PAINTING: Woman Ironing by Edgar Degas (1869).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Most people have probably never seen the kind of enormous industrial pressing machine I am describing here. To my knowledge, they weren’t even that common, at the time, in the late 50s/early 60s, but this machine took up a sizable portion of the kitchen in the Philadelphia rowhouse where I grew up. My mother used it to iron large objects, like sheets, as well as shirts and slacks. It made an ideal playhouse.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and moved to Southern California in 1980 for graduate school. She has been here ever since. The author of four published books of poetry and as many as-yet-unpublished ones, she is an elected member of the Academy of American Poets, editor of three anthologies, and curator of two poetry series. Her poetry and reviews have appeared widely.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo, taken by my friend Jane Rosenberg LaForge, records a summer memory from last year–eating Italian ice in Southern California, a rare finding.

hawaii tree
The Nth Wonder of the World,
North Shore of Oahu
by Rafaella Del Bourgo

On our way,
we collect the red cone-like flowers
of shampoo ginger
to squeeze onto our hair
during tonight’s bath in the forest.
Rose apples,
fruit-sweet and flower-scented,
are devoured as we pick them.
The ruby avocadoes
we save for lunch.

At The First Resting Spot,
pillowed with soft pine needles,
we lie on our backs
and peer through the branches
at birds, some as bright as gemstones,
and, above them,
at clouds racing toward Kauai.
We sip herbal tea
and savor its gentle bite.

The pathway becomes muddy.
Bushes, pushed aside,
snap back and grab our clothes.
But finally, there it is,
The Nth Wonder of the World,
a tree trunk the size of a giant’s right arm
growing horizontally across the ravine;
brown fingers of roots on one side
and burrowing branches on the other
keep the land
from splitting apart.

We carefully walk along
the massive trunk to midway,
sit, dangle our legs,
and share lunch.
The air is soft and moist
as if the creek below
were breathing on us.

PHOTO: Crooked Palm Tree at Sunset Beach, Oahu, Hawaii by Vince Lim.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Many of my happiest memories involve being out in nature – warm nature, benevolent nature. The five years I spent living and sailing in Hawaii provide several of these.  With our friends Kim and Brent, we often started from their North Shore home and hiked to The Nth Wonder of the World. It was always just us, the birds, the plants and trees. It was quiet and serene, magical really.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rafaella Del Bourgo’s writing has appeared in journals such as Nimrod, The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, The Adroit Journal, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Caveat Lector, Puerto Del Sol, Rattle, Oberon, Spillway, and The Bitter Oleander. She has won many awards, including the Lullwater Prize for Poetry in 2003, and, in 2006, the Helen Pappas Prize in Poetry and the New River Poets Award. In 2007, 2008, and 2013, she won first place in the Maggi Meyer Poetry Competition. The League of Minnesota Poets awarded her first place in 2009. In 2010, she won the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and the Grandmother Earth Poetry Prize. She was awarded the Paumanok Prize for Poetry in 2012, and then won first place in the 2013 Northern Colorado Writers’ Poetry Contest. Finally, she won the Mudfish Poetry Prize for 2017 and was nominated for a third time for the Pushcart Prize. Her chapbook, Inexplicable Business: Poems Domestic and Wild, was published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press. In 2012, she was one of 10 poets included in the anthology Chapter & Verse: Poems of Jewish Identity.  Her first book, I Am Not Kissing You, was published by Small Poetry Press. She has traveled the world and lived in Tasmania and Hawaii. She recently retired from teaching college-level English classes, and resides in Berkeley, California, with her husband.

PHOTO: The author at Makapu’u on Oahu, looking toward Turtle Island (1989).

Delfina-And-Dimas
Goddess
by Patrick T. Reardon

The Mexican goddess enfleshed in
McDonald’s with a wide smile under
her wide mountain nose and her
children, all girls under eight, alert
to the kiosk choices, and her thin
husband, studying the receipt and,
for no reason, remembering when
he was thinner, younger, and stood
waiting for work through the sun arc
and got an hour’s worth at the end
and was paid a day’s worth and
never got a chance to go back, and
he shows his vaccination card on his
phone to the McDonald’s woman,
masked, who asks in Spanish, and so
does his oldest daughter on her own
phone, the other two too young to
need it, but the Buddha goddess
smiles, shy, and shakes her head no,
and the McDonald’s woman gives her
a pass, seeing that it’s nine degrees
outside and let’s hope no city
inspector is around, not that guy
there writing notes on his receipt
about the thick stone idol, his mother,
weighing more than all the planets,
yet only a much-notched shell around
a constant dread hurricane that
electricked through the soil and up,
like a dishonest bloom, into the
tendons of her many daughters and
sons, and the Quetzalcoatl goddess
heads outside to the car, holding,
with one hand, her coat half-closed
against the wind and, with the other,
her little daughter’s hand and winter
cap with a cartoon animal face, the
sum of all joys and sorrows, and the
guy making notes, for no reason,
remembers the sun’s morning shadows
across seminary fields when, younger,
thinner, he knew himself adrift on an
essential river moving away from
the interior and out to the mouth
of the boundless perplexing sea.

PAINTING: Delfina and Dimas by Diego Rivera (1935).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a poem about a moment of grace in a McDonald’s where I was having breakfast and saw this Mexican goddess and her family, and the sweet blind-eye the McDonald’s woman turned to the goddess’s lack of a vaccination card, and the mother the goddess seemed to be warm and nurturing, and the backstory I envisioned for the husband, and the how it dovetailed with my real story, and the recognition that we’re all — me, you, the goddess — “moving away from/ the interior and out to the mouth/ of the boundless perplexing sea.”

Patrick T. Reardon

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, has authored 11 books, including the poetry collections Requiem for David (Silver Birch Press), Darkness on the Face of the Deep (Kelsay Books), and The Lost Tribes (Grey Book). Forthcoming is his memoir in prose poems Puddin’: The Autobiography of a Baby (Third World). His poetry has appeared in Rhino, Main Street Rag, America, Autumn Sky, Burningword Literary Journal, and many others. His poem “The archangel Michael” was a finalist for the 2022 Mary Blinn Poetry Prize. Visit him at patricktreardon.com.

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Revelation in Retail
by Andrea Potos

They told me to leave the register;
I wandered gladly to the ribbon aisle,
to replenish all the spools where I could.
At my feet, a box of overstock.
I stood there, struck
by all the hues, announcing
their presence—
red like the pith of each rose
in Queen Mary’s garden,
silver sheened like etched
lightning in late summer.
And the green—oh the green—
the forest I once dream-walked
through and thought I had lost.
And then the ivory, gleaming
like the insides of a shell, or the pearlescent
sky on that morning my daughter
first arrived in this world.

“Revelation in Retail” appears in the author’s collection Marrow of Summer (Kelsay Books, 2021).

Photo by Valeie. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem celebrates one moment in an otherwise tiring and rather monotonous day working as a temporary employee during the holiday season one year. Suddenly I was surrounded by color and beauty, and I felt myself enlivened and refreshed by beauty.

Potos

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Marrow of Summer (Kelsay Books), Mothershell (Kelsay Books), A Stone to Carry Home (Salmon Poetry, Ireland) and An Ink Like Early Twilight (Salmon Poetry, Ireland).  Her poems can be found widely in print and online.  A new collection, entitled Her Joy Becomes, is forthcoming from Fernwood Press in fall 2022.

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Inga Stinkfinger
by Julie Standig

He told the child that was its name,
and the girl looked at him
with ginormous disappointment.

It was a far cry from what she wanted,
plus it smelled, a musty, moldy—plastic
odor that invaded her nostrils.

Inga was a first edition troll doll,
another Dam doll from Denmark,
a 60s thing. The original original troll.

The child didn’t care—wanted a baby doll,
cuddly and soft with pink rosy cheeks,
pouty-mouthed, maybe a touch of blonde hair.

This doll, not only stunk, she was seriously
ugly—all 7 inches of her—with wild, black
untamed, pigtailed hair

tied up with a Kelly green felt fabric
that matched her skirt, and suspenders.
Even the buttons were made of felt.

The eyes were bulging brown, with laugh
wrinkles, that matched the deep lines
surrounding a broad smile and puffed cheeks.

Her feet were squat, fat moveable legs,
hands large and fingers outspread
all four of them, to match the four fat toes.

The gifter looked hard at his daughter:
no one wanted to take her since she is so ugly,
but I knew you would love her in spite of that.

And the girl was never one to disappoint.

PHOTO: DAM Troll Doll, circa 1960s, available at etsy.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Recently I had come across a photograph of an original DAM troll doll and it struck a chord. I had kept one my father gave me for many, many years and during one of my last moves decided to toss it because it was moldy and it seemed time. But I was wrong. Nothing I could do to get it back and buying an old expensive replacement wouldn’t help. So I wrote this poem and for me that did the trick.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A lifetime New Yorker, Julie Standig now writes with two amazing poetry groups, Marie Kane’s KT and the Stalwart Poets. She has been published in Alehouse Press, Sadie Girl Press, After Happy Hour Review, Schuylkill Journal Review, US1 Poets/Del Val, Gyroscope Review, as well as online journals. Her first chapbook, Memsahib Memoir, was released by Plan B Press in 2017, and an upcoming collection, The Forsaken Little Black Book, will be released Fall 2022 by Kelsay Books. She lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with her husband and their springer spaniel.

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Second Cutting
by Amy Nemecek

My dad surveys the south field
from the seat of his Farmall C.
With one eye he watches the west,
where a fist-sized pewter scruff
threatens rain. With the other eye
he gauges a row of cut, crimped
stalks crisping in the heat and rakes
them into sage-gold windrows. The
sun is setting as he hitches the rusty
baler to begin a steady sweep-push-
sweep-push-sweep-push-knot, and
prickly slick squares slide from its
chute to land on dusky stubble. I drive
our smoke-blue Ferguson in low gear
with an empty wagon jouncing behind.

My brothers walk to either side,
heft bales by the twine and pitch
them onto the weathered flatbed.
After each row I depress the clutch,
pausing so they can climb aboard
and order the jumble into solidity.
Chaff coats their tanned torsos,
bootcut Levi’s, and tousled hair,
but above red bandanas that shield
mouth and nose, their itchy eyes
glimmer youth. A sweaty scent
mingles with clean alfalfa, tractor
exhaust, and an August moon that
rises amid cicadas’ crescendo
to silver our lives with its smile.

Photo by Felix Mittermeier. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is a snapshot of a summer evening from my childhood, which I spent roaming every acre of our family’s small hobby farm. Summers were spent either in the vegetable garden growing food for ourselves or in the hayfields growing food for our small menagerie of cows and horses and goats. It was hard work, but it was work we did together, and it gave us all a sense of satisfaction and delight. Those summer nights spent in the fields with my dad and brothers are some of my fondest memories, and being able to convey that joy through these lines brings me joy.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Amy Nemecek was awarded the 2021 Paraclete Poetry Prize for her forthcoming book The Language of the Birds (Paraclete Press, 2022). Her poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Presence, Relief Journal, St. Katherine Review, and Whale Road Review. Amy lives in West Michigan and works as a book editor. When she isn’t crafting words, she enjoys taking long walks in nature and spending time with her husband and son.

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Hair Color
by Nancy Lubarsky

I never knew my father dyed my mother’s
hair. It happened at night, after I went to sleep.
Onetime their muffled voices woke me. They
didn’t know I was there. I sat in our small

apartment’s dark living room, peered around
the corner. They were in the kitchen, her back
to him, covered with old sheets, a few more
spread underneath. At first, I wasn’t sure—

there was just a sour smell. She leaned back
against his chest, her eyes closed, his thick
arms above her head. He rubbed her temples,
then one plastic-gloved hand picked up the

narrow brush, dipped it in the mixture. Slowly,
he parted her hair, dabbed at the white roots.
There was a swish sound as he stroked back
and forth, lifting layer after layer of hair. They

hardly spoke except when he whispered, tilt
your head. I saw him catch a drip with his finger
before it reached her chin. He wiped her cheek
with a cloth. I dozed off for a while, until I heard

her chair scrape the floor. There they were, in
the same position—her forehead and temples
now framed with what seemed like mud.
They were both so still. Just waiting.

PAINTING: Woman with red hair by Amedeo Modigliani (1917)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mother always prided herself on being a “redhead” and my sister and I had no reason to disbelieve her. She used to go to the beauty salon weekly but stopped when my father became ill and had to cut back on his hours. I guess he did her hair as a way to save money, but they didn’t want us to know. Perhaps keeping this a secret was their way of protecting us. When I saw them that night, I thought I had discovered some deep, dark secret they had been hiding from us.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nancy Lubarsky writes from Cranford, New Jersey. An educator for over 35 years, she retired as a superintendent. Nancy has been published in various journals, including Exit 13, Lips, Tiferet, Poetic, Stillwater Review, and Paterson Literary Review. Her work received honorable mention in the 2014 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards, and again in 2016 and 2018. She is the author of two collections: Tattoos (Finishing Line Press) and The Only Proof (Kelsay Press, a Division of Aldrich Books). She received honorable mention in The Anna Davidson Rosenberg Poetry Contest (2018), and has received three Pushcart Prize nominations.

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Communion
When I Was on Chemo
by Andrea Jones Walker

She called my name
as she let herself in the back door.
Sluggish, I sat up in bed
pulled a knit cap onto my cold head
went into the kitchen.
How are you feeling, she asked.
From her bag, she unpacked
three little iron skillets
turned on my oven
chattered as I watched from
my seat at the table.
Tired?
She poured oil in the skillets
set them in the oven to heat
mixed cornmeal, flour, milk, eggs.
The oil sizzled when
she poured in the batter.
We sipped coffee
while the bread baked
filling the kitchen with warmth, aroma
she set out small plates and the butter dish
took the bread out when it was done.
slathered on thick pats of butter
we watched melt into the hot bread.
So long ago, that communion,
I wonder if it really happened.

Photo by Mypointofview. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Although this event happened in 2005, the sanctity of those moments has remained with me over the years. I penned the first draft during the pandemic. It took about six months of sitting with it, mulling over it, and revising to reach a point as near to satisfaction as it may ever get.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrea Jones Walker is a retired English teacher and longtime member of Emerald Coast Writers who thrills to the occasional adventure of parasailing and polar bear plunging. Her work has been published in the Emerald Coast Review, Pensacola News Journal, Pen Women Magazine, Of Poets and Poetry, and Oddball Magazine. She co-edits Panoply, which can be found at panoplyzine.com. A member of the National League of American Pen Women, she was appointed poet laureate for the Pensacola Branch in 2022, an honor that took her by surprise. Her books are available on Amazon.