Archives for posts with tag: Poems

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Falling from the Hay Wagon
by Laura Grace Weldon

I stand on square bales piled 10 feet high,
pushing them to the edge for others to stack
as July sun shoves between barn boards
in hot dust-ridden stripes.
All of us weary, chaff stuck to sweat
after a long day of haying
in heat dry as the cracked creek bed.
A Benadryl haze makes my limbs
feel like pudding, so wobbly I’m sillier
than usual as I wade to the edge,
still chortling as I trip, tip over,
fall to the barn’s dirt floor,
landing hard between wagon and post,
jeans somehow intact
against a pitchfork’s rusty tines.
I’m jolted into silence
until I find I’m fine,
me, the worrier
who never sees what’s coming.
My family leans over me, aghast
while I lie in the dust laughing
at all the good fortune we have sown.

Previously published in Portals (Middle Creek Publishing, 2021).

Photo by Friderike on Unsplash

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There are no longer cattle on our pasture, the hayfields lie fallow, but memories as physical as haying stay with me all the way to the cellular level.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Grace Weldon lives on a small ramshackle farm, where she works as a book editor, teaches writing workshops, and maxes out her library card each week. Laura served as Ohio’s 2019 Poet of the Year and is the author of four books. Visit her at lauragraceweldon.com, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Last Chance Melody
by Maryann Hurtt

two days before he gets up
and leaves
after eighty plus earthbound years
my grandpa tells me
Get out my ol’ mouth harp

it sits in a nest
of worn Kodaks
recording a now too-long life

I crank the sick bed
prop pillows
as his at one-time wife
mother of seven kin leans close
then sings old woman
cracked notes
to his wheezy harp tune breaths

a harmony of sorts
dances the air
hymns and tunes played back
in Depression time before
lead and zinc chewed lungs
and booze held sway

listen now
you might find yourself believing
for this little while anyway
in torn and tattered
stick around love

two doors down
Death waits patiently
hums along to a few hymns
knows not to disturb

Originally published in Anti-Heroin Chic.

Photo by wallpaperuse.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I went to see my grandpa two days before he died. His breathing was awful after years working in the mines and living a rough life. He wanted to play his harmonica again. I propped up his pillows and he was able to wheeze out a few tunes. I ran back to my grandma’s…they had long ago separated but maintained something still kind. She came back with me and I listened to her sing and him play. This will always be one of my favorite memories and gives me a sense of hope even in hard times.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Now retired after working 30 years as a hospice Registered Nurse, Maryann Hurtt listened to and savored a thousand stories. Her family members were all great storytellers, and she recorded in her sixth-grade diary that when she grew up, she wanted to be a “storyteller (a good one).” She lives in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine, where she hikes, bikes, reads, and writes almost daily. Since retirement and able to travel, she has had the energy to pursue researching Oklahoma’s Tar Creek environmental disaster. Her grandpa worked in the lead and zinc mines and her great grandmother and grandmother worked at the Quapaw Indian Agency, where the minerals were initially mined. Turning Plow Press published Once Upon a Tar Creek Mining for Voices in 2021. Her most recent poems have appeared or upcoming in Verse-Virtual, Gyroscope Review, Moss Piglet, Hiroshima Day Anthology, Oklahoma Humanities, and Writing In a Woman’s Voice. More can be found at maryannhurtt.com.

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South Shore
by Chuck Kramer

wrapped in a blanket of joy
that cold, February morning
when I was nineteen,
I roared through
the sun-sparkling cold
of Northern Indiana
grinning at the snow drifts
through the ice-veined window
of the South Shore train
hurtling into the heart of
Chicago, bringing me to

you!

your lips
your gentle, reassuring touch,
your arms that
enfolded me in a loving grasp
which left me gasping, rejoicing,
astounded by love,
amazed at the fresh,
clean landscape of my life
transformed by that night of kisses
and whispered admissions
which were the keys
opening the door
to a previously undiscovered world
of lush, dense ecstasy

PHOTO: Chicago skyline as seen from the tracks of the South Shore Line. Photo by Jesse Kunerth.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Love is a journey, and crossing cold, winter miles for the warmth of open arms is always irresistible.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chuck Kramer has an MA in Writing from DePaul University and taught writing in the Chicago Public Schools at the Communication Arts Center. His poems and short stories have appeared in many publications, both online and in print, most recently in The Raven’s Perch and The Good Men Project. Other published writing includes memoir work in Sobotka Literary Magazine and the Evening Street Review, and journalism in the Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times, and Reader.

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A Phone Call
by Anne Born

I remember the hushed phone call.
My study-abroad daughter calling me in New York
From Gallery 12 at the Prado Museum in Madrid.

Mom. There’s a tour guide here.
He’s very proud.
He’s telling people that this painting here
Is the greatest painting in the world,
By the greatest artist in the world.
Is it?

And that this museum is
The greatest museum on the world.
Is it?

I thought for a moment.
Yes.
That painting, Velázquez’s Las Meninas.
It is absolutely the greatest painting in the world.

What about the museum?
Am I in the greatest museum in the world?

I thought for a moment.
Yes.

I have been to the Louvre, the Met, the Art Institute,
All of the Smithsonian, the British Museum, the Uffizi.
Yes.
It is the greatest museum in the world.

Thanks, mom.
I love you.
I love you too.

My sweet girl had picked up and gone
To an art museum,
And she was standing in front of the greatest painting by the greatest artist in the greatest museum in the world
And she thought to call me.
That’s what I remember.

PAINTING:  Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez (1656), Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain.

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 NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Memory is a funny thing. Sometimes it’s the small details you think about and not the event itself. You should think about the time you went to Paris or Rome and saw cathedrals and cafes and galleries, but all you think about is that you ran out of toothpaste, got on the wrong train, or brought the wrong shoes. Here, the call did force me to assess what I knew about museums and paintings and artists, but the real story to me was that, in the moment, she wanted to know what I thought too. It’s a marvelous thing when your children experience the places you love.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I took this photo at the Prado — when the guard wasn’t looking. I love watching people take in the art. (Gallery 12, Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. Photo credit: Anne Born, August 17, 2022.)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anne Born is an award-winning author and photographer based in Michigan. A published poet, essayist, and travel writer, she is currently collaborating on a short documentary film about her book on one of the great cathedrals in Spain, If You Stand Here: A Pilgrim’s Tour of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Her photographs of the Camino de Santiago and views of New York are available on Redbubble (@nilesite), and her books can be ordered from Amazon, or your favorite independent bookseller.

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The Manatees
by Michele Cuomo

We stopped and watched the manatees
along the shore of Lake Monroe

The water was the palest blue at first,
                                      almost white

The sky had low clouds to meet it
then yellow
and pink

A fin lifted and lowered
indolently sliced waves

A sleek raised and rounded back
                                      sidled back down

a ring remained on the water

                                      nothing

then a snout
took a few gulps of air
like a dog sniffing in the snow

the water turned to ink

the streetlights came on
and still we stood
our bikes held on hips

I did not want to leave them
                         in the dark

@michelecuomo2022

PAINTING: Manatee mother and calf by VividSeaArt. Prints available at Etsy.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Seeing glimpses of manatees unexpectedly was a delightful moment—how glad I am we stopped and took it in.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michele Cuomo lives in Winter Springs, Florida.  Her poems have been seen in Raven’s Perch, Spillwords, and Silver Birch Press.

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I Reached Back
by Jeannie E. Roberts

Beneath the deck,
chunks of broken concrete punctuated the ground.
Convened in darkness,
scattered portions of the back steps
collected near my hands and knees.
Inching along the loose dirt,
gathering the breakage,
I noticed something pink—
a doll shoe.
When silver caught my eye—
a child-sized fork.
As I continued to sift through the earth,
a penny emerged; black rind obscured its year.
Hot, soapy water revealed its making: 1978,
the year before I graduated from college.
How many families inhabited this house,
I wonder?
Here, children’s handprints graced the sidewalk.
Relics of the first owners?
The tiny hands reached out. I reached back.

On my hands and knees,
inching along the loose dirt,
an ocean of love swelled beneath the deck.
In shining waves of work glove delight,
my new-old house—
built in 1952, painted in Ocean Swell Blue—
reached back,
echoed the memories of my childhood
and the sweetness of growing up in an age
that convened in technological darkness,
where our living room brightened with laughter
and family,
glowed
with a two-dial,
black and white TV.

PHOTO: Found objects beneath the deck: fork, penny, and doll shoe. Photo by the author. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Recently, I moved back to my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. My house is located near my son and other family members. After 22 years of living in another state, I’m rediscovering myself, so to speak. For a couple of months, I’ve been cleaning, fixing, organizing, and unearthing things, including memories and found objects like the penny, tiny fork, and doll shoe. I’ve thankfulness for a full life, where everything shines as an extraordinary contribution to my day.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR; Jeannie E. Roberts has authored seven books, five poetry collections, and two illustrated children’s books. Her most recent collection, As If Labyrinth – Pandemic Inspired Poems, was released in 2021 by Kelsay Books. Her eighth book, The Ethereal Effect – A Collection of Villanelles, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books (2023). Her work appears in numerous anthologies and publications. She’s an award-winning artist and poet, a Best of the Net nominee, and a poetry editor of the online literary magazine Halfway Down the Stairs. She finds peace outdoors, listening to birds, identifying plants, noticing Earth’s beauty while practicing gratitude along the way. For more, please visit: jrcreative.biz or Jeannie E. Roberts | Facebook.

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What We Beheld, Yosemite, 1963
by Mary Langer Thompson
                         For Camille

That summer morning we set out from the cabin
fresh from a night’s sleep in the top of the A-frame
after a long drive with my lovesick girlfriends in the back seat,
Camille’s parents in the front, her dad driving
most likely thinking never again as we chattered about our latest flames.

That afternoon we reached the summit
after our seven-mile hike and a stop along the dusty trail
to eat the lunch Camille’s mom had packed us.
Our legs were sore and the eyes of our hearts filled with granite peaks
and ancient stately Sequoias, Half-Dome in the distance.

Camille, with her Coloratura voice softly began to sing:
Oh Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder. . .
giving even strangers on that cathedral mountain more reason to pause.
By the time she reached the final How great thou art,
it wasn’t mist from Bridalveil Falls that sprayed our faces.

That evening at exactly 9:00 p.m., someone started the
    call-and-response:
“The fire is ready.” Then, “Let the fire fall!”
Hot embers spilled from Glacier Point’s cliff and a waterfall became a
    firefall
as the Indian Love Call made us hope to one day return
with that week’s love of our lives, or maybe, just each other.

Previously published in What I Beheld (Local Gems Poetry Press, 2021).

PHOTO: Yosemite National Park, California (July 5, 2019) by Mick Haupt on Unsplash.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “What We Beheld, Yosemite 1963” took place with my two best friends, Diane and Camille. Diane passed away in 1980 but Camille and I have remained good friends throughout the years. Camille still sings and has a beautiful coloratura voice.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Langer Thompson’s is a contributor to two poetry writing texts, The Working Poet (Autumn Press, 2009) and Women and Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching (McFarland, 2012). She was the 2012 Senior Poet Laureate of California, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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The Fortune Cookie
by Shelly Blankman

Caught in a storm as thick and dark
as the medical web that trapped me,
I took shelter at a Chinese buffet,

where no one could mistake my tears
for raindrops. I could sink my sorrow
in a nice, warm bowl of soup, and no one

would notice – except for Joy. Her elbow
bumped mine at the buffet bar. Oh, I’m sorry,
she said, startling me, flipping the mirror

I’d focused on myself. I hadn’t noticed her
until then. I hadn’t noticed anyone. That’s okay,
I mumbled. She was striking – a Black woman,

tall and lean, glittering in gold, from her giant
hoop earrings and jingling bangle bracelets to her
sleek ankle-length dress and stilettos. Her long,

gold fingernails pointed to her favorite dishes,
and as we filled our plates, she asked questions
about my life, as if trying to pry open a shell

I’d slammed shut a long time ago. As we parted
for our tables, she shook my hand. My name is Joy.
It was nice to meet you. She hugged me tightly,

whispered, It’s going to be okay, her faint fragrance
lingering as she disappeared into the crowd of diners
and I returned to my table – invisible once again.

Rain had begun to wane. Still imbued with the warmth
of Joy’s hug, I grabbed my coat. My fortune cookie,
safely wrapped in its tiny package, dropped to the floor.

I’d almost stepped on it, then almost tossed it. Instead
I opened it gingerly and in tiny print, the message read,
The hard times will begin to fade. Joy will take their place.

I scanned each room to find the woman in gold. Nothing.
Visited each table, asked servers carrying heavy trays,
approached hostesses and diners. No one had seen her.

I wonder even now if I had. I left that night feeling
defeated. Why hadn’t I told her how much it meant
to feel her hug, to see her smile, to feel her comfort?

Two years later, the fortune cookie message is still
displayed on my fridge. Dark times remain,
but Joy stays with me. I hope she knows that.

IMAGE: Fortune Cookies and Rice by Pamela Burger. Available at redbubble.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem practically wrote itself. My creative process was simply drawing on that one experience with Joy and to convey how it takes one act of love to break through despair.  How one stranger can affect another stranger’s life so profoundly without ever knowing it. How do you put such an intense experience in writing? The task was daunting. But the challenge was worth it.  Whether or not I was successful didn’t matter.  I just wanted somehow to pay tribute to Joy and to remember that on the darkest days, angels of light are present.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shelly Blankman lives in Columbia, Maryland, where she and her husband have filled their empty nest with three rescue cats and a foster dog. Their sons, Richard and Joshua, live in New York and Texas respectively. Following careers in journalism, public relations, and copy editing, Shelly now spends time writing poetry, scrapbooking, and making cards. Her poetry has appeared in the Ekphrastic Review, Poetry Super Highway, and Halfway Down the Stairs, among other publications. Richard and Joshua surprised her by publishing her first book of poetry, Pumpkinhead.

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The Circus
by Lorraine Caputo

Late summer one year
a circus came to the field near our house.
The large trucks filled with animals drove up,
painted like old-time circus wagons,
the forgotten name emblazoned on the sides.
Tents were thrown up in the din of shouting and laughter.
The excitement built as their temporary settlement built.

We’d walk down to the edge of that field,
not daring to step from gravel to grass,
sit and watch these strangers.

The first night, the first performance
we were there
watching the tightrope walkers,
wondering if they really did have holes cut
in the bottoms of their buckets.
The lions and tigers were paraded out,
horseback riders
and tricycle clowns.
We laughed and smiled.

For a week
we’d wander to the field,
walk about the tents,
watch the man make sky blue
and magenta cotton candy.
Barefoot, watching for elephant shit,
cautiously reach our hand out
to touch that dry, wrinkled skin.

Our mother scolded us for going down so often.
But that didn’t stop us
from peeking beneath the tents,
slipping into the secret slits
to watch for just one more time
the ringmaster lead the people
into his world of circus wonders.

For six years they came
to fill those last waning days of warmth.
Then one summer they did not come.
The field lay barren of the brightly colored tents,
the air was still in the absence of elephant trumpeting.
I’d walk through the grass,
feel it rub against my thighs,
feel the earth ooze between my toes.
I’d gaze longingly across that field
wishing that the circus would come back.

Photo by Benjamin Haas.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We lived in a nature reserve when I was a child. Our neighbors were one other family and the rangers. There was a large field down the hill from out houses. This memory plays like an old movie, over and over, the same summer scenes (year after year) … until the film breaks, and the circus comes no more …

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ABOUT THE  AUTHOR: Lorraine Caputo is a wandering troubadour whose poetry appears in over 300 journals on six continents, and 20 collections of poetry – including Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017), On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Caribbean Interludes (Origami Poems Project, 2022). She also authors travel narratives, articles, and guidebooks. Her writing has been honored by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2011) and nominated for the Best of the Net. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful knapsack Rocinante, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her adventures at on Facebook and latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com.

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Baseball Before the Apocalypse
by Leah Mueller

Cluster of bodies, soap
bubbles at a Cubs game:
1983, our bicycles shackled
to poles outside, entwined in

a steel snare. To saw through
tempered metal would
give thieves the pick of several.

We smuggled imported
beer in white bottles, eight
bucks a pack, and salads
in sturdy plastic containers
from the Bread Shop.

Bleacher seats three dollars,
nicknamed the “Animal Section.”
No one at the entry gate
ever checked for weapons.

We were good to go, unless
bottles protruded from the
sides of our backpacks,

or we spilled marijuana
on the sidewalk by mistake
as we entered Wrigley Field.
A friend once said,

“If you were one of the lucky
people who got to change
the scoreboard by hand, you’d
be so cool by default.”

We drank beer, passed
joints, ate salads, and
when the game was over,

we took our trash home
and disposed of it properly.
We were good citizens.

No one patted our thighs,
thrust their hands up our shirts,
groped under the waistbands of
our shorts, searching for explosives.
No one checked our health records

for evidence of compliance.
It was just a goddamned Cubs game,
a few 23-year-old kids,

and a summer that would end
like all the others after.

Previously appeared online in Rusty Truck magazine.

PHOTO: Wrigley Field (Chicago, Illinois, 2006).  Bleachers are under the green scoreboard. Photo by Wally Gobetz.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem depicts a fond memory from my youth, a time when memories tend to be hazy. When I was a 20-something Chicagoan, I enjoyed many lazy afternoons at Wrigley Field. The days were long, security was lax, and bleacher seats were dirt-cheap. So much has changed since then, but not for the better.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leah Mueller is the author of 10 prose and poetry books. Her story collection, The Destruction of Angels (Anxiety Press), was published in October 2022. Her work appears in Rattle, NonBinary Review, Midway Journal, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and others. She is a 2022 nonfiction nominee for Best of the Net. Her flash piece, “Land of Eternal Thirst” will appear in the 2022 edition of Sonder Press’ Best Small Fictions anthology. Visit her at leahmueller.org.