This is our busy season. In the land of coping and cold memories, we now enjoy good-weather time with friends, neighbors and each other. Local poets seem divided: observing closely the here and now while keeping an eye on larger themes. Past and present come together. Autumn — and what follows — appear far away.
Deadline for the next Southwest Journal poetry issue is Aug. 19. Send your best work to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Doug Wilhide is the poet laureate of Linden Hills and poetry editor for the Southwest Journal
26th and Bloomington
— Craig Planting
I’m on my way.
I’m driving down Bloomington Avenue
and I’m speeding because
I have to get to you before your phone rings.
I can’t quite make the light at 26th Street and have to stop.
This is your reprieve.
It gives you an extra three minutes of just another day shift
before everything changes.
The sky is pearl-gray and a man is smoking at the bus stop
and I’m sorry we couldn’t save your dad.
He was too smart and too sad
and now he’s on the other side.
But we’re still here
and you’re still here
and when you’re ready, you could be with us.
We could be your family now.
Where the Virtues Hang Out
— Melissa S. Anderson
Here in the hotel lounge,
Truth wanders among quiet conversations,
listening, smiling, feeling at home
amid unguarded talk about anxiety
Here in the grocery store,
Beauty walks softly
around the little girl and her grandfather
who are examining the pears
Here in the alley,
to watch the teenager,
his fat belly straining the buttons on his jacket,
as he resets his neighbor’s fallen garbage can
and scoops up the trash.
Three People on a Beach
— Scott Schudy
Here upon a moonlit night
As May winds lightly breeze
And lapping summer furls its waves
That roll and then reprise,
I see a couple holding hands
Who pause before they dart
Across the cooled sand that feels
The joy that they impart.
These two who stumble on until
They end their lover’s race,
Now stop beside the lakeland sounds
To share a love’s embrace.
Their soaring love is all too blind
As they walk down this beach
Ignoring those whom they approach,
Like me who is in reach…
And as they cross my single path
And lift their feet to dip them
The moonlit night is calling me
To pause and gently trip them.
— John O’Connor
Dung beetles dance and study the stars.
Linda reads tabloids and cruises the bars.
Leonard considers and renovates cars.
The dung beetle could have dated,
And Linda could have renovated,
And Leonard quite possibly could have star-gated.
Alternate destinies seem to show
The great importance of who you know,
And what you learn, and how you go.
Dancing with my Grandson
— Doug Wilhide
When his parents come to get him
he runs up to my study to hide,
closes the door, flicks off the light,
grabs the flashlight and a stuffed bunny
and claims some quality Grandpa time.
We listen to the radio
(“where are the voices coming from?”)
and when the music picks up we start to dance.
He moves — arrhythmically —
thin, 4-year-old shoulders shaking,
skinny legs stepping back and forth
and sometimes sideways
head nodding, always looking away.
I move — ponderously —
imagining I’m a lot smoother than I am,
avoiding reflective surfaces:
neither of us possess a Fred Astaire gene.
I would never have tried to dance with my grandfather:
The Reverend Dr. of Divinity was a serious guy,
widely admired, hard of hearing,
better at raising funds than consoling sinners,
an upright Man of God
(notwithstanding the long affair with the church secretary).
My grandson tries to wiggle his butt
and I do the same — different orders of mass
displacing space and time to different beats.
He will forget all this once his parents take him home:
He has the future.
But I have the past: incentive to remember the present.
For now we do our separate dances together
as the music carries us on
to the end of a Saturday afternoon.
I Am a Dreamer
— Gina Jarvi
I am a dreamer, a reveilleur.
A loner among wolves.
The deer that stalks the gun.
The gun that stalks the sky.
I cast many shadows upon the places of fear.
I agree with you
in order that you may agree with yourself.
I ramble on about things
that bear no connection to what is being said,
but always with a purpose.
In the crevices of our conversation I say things
Not always heard.
Elegy for Anthracite
— James Lenfestey
My father sold coal for a living. As a boy
I climbed his glistening black mountains,
loved the rattle down the chute
to the octopus furnace in the dark,
its mouth glowing gold as we shoveled,
keeping the family warm.
Lumps of you littered the coal floor,
food of diamonds,
failure marked then as now
by a black rock in a stocking.
I cheered like a boy the day
President Obama ended forever
coal-fired power burning up the earth.
I fought three decades for this.
But I remember my father’s happy
two-door Dodge shrouded with the dust
of coal, the excitement of another
Great Lakes freighter, guts filled
with the anthracite heart
of broken Pennsylvania
pulling into the bay.
— Adam Overland
Sunlight falls through the window of my room onto dust
Each particle a world undiscovered
Each a windblown leaf, floating fast on furious gusts
Each a planet, reflecting what light is scattered among the great darkness.
Do they have relationships?
What are they?
The dust of what?
Are they offspring?
The dust of whom?
Each once part of some whole, unknown
Each still part of the whole unknown
Each now dancing happily to be reflected
And now, for a moment:
Each a mirror
Each a window
Each a butterfly
Each the crust of some stale breadcrumb that took flight from the kitchen counter.
And seconds later at the slightest shift of sunlight,
gone like Houdini,
struggling somewhere underwater with his chains.
Might as well be dust,
Might as well be a world,
Might as well be you,
Might as well be me,
Might as well be gone…
But for now, dancing happily along
Casting no shadow
Each a world
Reflected in the light.
— Philip Dacey
My sister winked at me before she died.
“Don’t take this death of mine so seriously,”
she seemed to say as I sat by her side.
Or maybe, “We have our secret, you and I.”
Her wink a final gift, a link, what made
a siblings’ inside joke out of goodbye.
I want to make these lines wink as she did.
My new aesthetic now is to wink and die.
At the Bach Recital
I’d not have minded so much that the man
In front of me kept chewing gum —
He made no sound — if he had only done
So keeping — lento! — the Master’s time.
His father, mother, brother, sister gone,
he notes that when he dies he will again
complete the family, he the baby, the last
to arrive years ago, the baby still, though past
his prime, for now he’ll be the last to leave —
and this time make four permanently five.
— Annette Gagliardi
Tell me when I’ll die,
then I can just go ahead
and do the deed,
or choose to live
at any speed.
Tell me if it’s so bad
that the days I’ve had
will no longer be —
That this will be the end of me.
Or, will I suffer, throw a fit
and make a drama queen of it;
then be on my way,
living life another way?
Just tell me:
will I stay or will I go?
That is all I want to know.
Today Is a Day for a Poem
— Lisa Calame Berg
The garden rests under soft, persistent rain.
The laundry is in the washer.
The dog sighs and rests his head
against my knee, ready for
his afternoon snooze.
A week ago, there was too much to do.
Yesterday it seemed that a life survived
was simply a series of small miracles.
Today it seems more like a broken succession
of quiet moments like the fall of rain.
Decades ago today we married.
The careers began, the children came and
grew and didn’t notice the sodden silence
that swelled between us. It was a miracle
that we stayed together.
Today I watch the rain and write this poem.
We both love these children, this house,
this sleepy, hairy dog. And each other,
still — our not-so-small miracle —
that we love each other still.