Wow! The response to our first poetry spread was amazing! Poets popped up in every corner of the Southwest area and poems arrived in glorious abundance. I’m delighted to find so many folks are out there writing poetry — and how good some of it is!
Our summer selection includes a garden party of poetic treats: poems about the bittersweet joy of kids, home repair and summers past, reflections on being young and getting old, a little political satire, and — as always — love poems.
We plan to post these and other poems online at www.swjournal.com. Log on to read more from your favorites as well as poets we didn’t have room to print. Want more? You can still get “Between the Lakes: The Poets of Linden Hills” at local shops or by contacting me at the e-mail address below.
We’re awarding cash money to a few of the poets we publish. It’s not much — pays for a good bottle of wine or a nice lunch — but it’s another way to thank all the poets who submitted work. The next deadline is Sept. 7, for the Sept. 24 publication. If you create poetry, send your best to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you enjoy poetry, read on. Keep writing.
Keep writing. — Doug Wilhide, contributing poetry editor and Linden Hills Poet Laureate
I’m a little startled when I see her.
I often am.
I expect her to be younger, rounder, smaller.
This time when she sees us
She doesn’t come running
Just gives us a little wave from her seat.
She wears black and pink glasses now
Which do nothing to detract
From her perfect face.
She walks on stage. Tall, slender
Dressed in black, long green scarf
Her curly hair restrained.
She takes her seat, sits straight
Her clarinet in the proper position
Across her lap.
Once she’s on stage
She no longer searches
For our faces.
She plays her piece, focused
With strong measured breaths
While I hold mine.
is looking into your eyes
and in them read love.
To have your smiles
printed in my heart,
your hand-made cards,
to see you
buy me an orchid
with your allowance
that even though
it is all you have,
you want to spend it
Howard Arthur Osborn
Let me hear again
the whisper of the bees.
Let me watch the waggle-dance
that tells just where and when
to go for that sweet nectar
held there yet for me.
Let me savor and caress,
sense again that iridescent
whose wave-length no one can guess.
Strum for me, and stretch
the vibrant tension of that moment
till it soars from sweet expectancy
Reprise the entire melody
subsumed in buried memory
and hum again
that harmony for two.
THIS OLD HOUSE
The cupboards squeal, the floorboards groan,
The stair steps pop and squeak.
The racket is enough to catch
A sneak thief in mid-sneak.
But nowadays such noise annoys,
You’re asked to do without it.
You sand and shim and pound and plane
(And glue, while you’re about it.)
Then in the silence of the night
Bereft of creaks and squawks,
You realize that all that din
Is how an old house talks.
The message of the creaking hinge,
And all that other clatter,
Is “Come on in, you’re home at last.”
It’s all that really matters.
If you could live your life backwards,
And find yourself younger each day,
You’d start out dead, then rise from the grave,
And get the worst part out of the way.
You’d wake up in a Home or a hospice,
Feeling better as each year goes by.
You’d get kicked out for being too healthy,
While the staff remarked you’re too spry.
You’d go to collect on your pension
And live on retirement pay.
And when you got young enough to work,
You’d get your gold watch the first day.
You’d work 40 years, till the job got old,
But you were still in your prime.
You’d drop out of the work force, and go to school
To booze and have a good time
You’d take all of your classes without any
And with no need to study—just play.
You’d have no concerns about getting good grades:
See, you got your diploma first day.
Then you’d play in the sandbox with all of your toys,
And not have a care on this earth.
You’d go back to the breast, and your mother’s arms,
Up until the day of your birth.
You’d return to the womb, getting smaller,
And be reduced to mere protoplasm;
Then become an egg in a fallopian tube,
And finish off as a hearty orgasm.
TOWARD MY HEART
What has a heart to give?
Words flow out of you
words flow out of me
while there is distance between our eyes
there are miles between our hands
there is a wall of voices dividing our voices
there is a wish offered to the wind
for what hasn’t yet become you and I
for the story we are not.
What has a heart to do,
when all that it could give
is wasted in the silence that surrounds it?
Find the answer with me
search deeper and further away
look where you haven’t looked before
go where your feet have not carried you
toward the point in which I am standing,
toward this heart of mine that is waiting,
waiting for us
He was just a bow-legged
all denim and moustache
little bitty boots
and big hands.
He looked like he’d spent
his formative years
in the saddle.
But it was just
rickets in Minneapolis
and him playing the cards
he was dealt
and going out to Laramie
once a year
Michael John Kennedy
A hot July morning: the sun rising later
as I step out to get the newspaper.
I stand still while breathing the early morning,
Knowing this will pass and autumn will bring
the cold – always faster than I remember —
I pause to hold the heat a moment longer.
Across the street, within your home, you’re awake.
Years have passed without even a handshake.
In kitchen light your silhouette makes coffee.
My eyes look down, guilty for what they see.
I go inside, sit, and open the paper.
I read, forgetting you, the warmth, the weather,
lost in the urgency of tabloid lives.
Comics, more known than the color of your eyes.
The street grows brighter, your image fades
Soon winter will come and shorten the days.
TALKING ABOUT MY GENERATION
“ We are always the same age inside.”
— Gertrude Stein
So how did we suddenly become
graybeard sages from the 60s?
damn near as old as we look?
We have buried friends, buried parents,
some of us have buried children.
We have put bread on the table
put up with institutions
changed lovers, jobs, dreams and hair.
We have ridden life’s little roller coaster,
hands in the air.
We have traveled widely
experienced cultures and eaten well
drunk too much too often
and had almost enough sex.
We’ve been stupid, wise, funny, boring
careless and caring.
We have been both selfish and sharing.
We have raised children and dogs (and cats)
and seen them leave us.
We have discussed, debated and worried over
everything from redecorating to Republicans.
We have biked, skated, swum and run and called it fun.
We have survived.
And now, every morning, we must face the mirror
and lie to ourselves —
or, to tell the truth, maybe not.
At this stage in life we must be fair:
Look closer: isn’t that you in there?
AN EVENING ON RUSH LAKE WITH GRANDPA EDDY
It had been a while since I had gone fishing.
We walked down to the Lund,
punished and squeaking with every wave.
The swells were like tsunamis to a five year old.
Flickering milfoil salad sauntered through each crest
That galloped under the dock.
Horses were jumping like bass.
The Evinrude sat quiet, flooded with angst.
Finally Grandpa pulled the cord,
A piece of flannel scorned.
The waves and the horses took cover beneath the roar
Grandpa was the captain now
He smiled at me as he always did,
Told jokes and took off fish
Holding that smile.
I was a little boy with a Snoopy lifejacket
But I felt like a man at sea.
TO HIS COY SECRETARY — The revenge of Andrew Marvell
Had we but world enough, and time,
Diplomacy, dear Condi, were no crime.
But let’s throw darts to find which way
To send our armies into new frays;
Thou by oil rich Euphrates side
Shouldst weapons find; I by the tide
Of crusaders would ne’er complain. I would
Quote you in the press and should
You un-Americanly demur or confuse,
I’ll claim you’ve abandoned the Jews.
My scionic mind doth grow
With dreams of empire – I feel a glow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Cheney’s lies, and on his hubris gaze;
Two hundred to adore Perle’s dreams
But thirty thousand for dark Wolfowitz’s schemes;
An age at least to find your heart.
‘Midst other camp followers seeking a start.
For lady, you encamped in State,
Wield deceit at awesome rate.
But at my back I always hear
TIME’s news reporters hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Quotes and proofs and facts – oh my!
Thy beauty shall no more confound
Nor at State’s marbled halls shall sound
Powell’s off-key song; and hand picked
generals shall no longer try
Marching and shouting the next big lie
While our quaint honor turns to dust
And into ashes nations’ trust.
Show grave and finely elitist grace
While none, I think, our plans embrace.
Now therefore while a thoughtful hue
Sits on our acts with Elmer’s glue,
And while thy willing soul exhausts
All diplomats at little cost
Now let us sport a carefree mien
And so like raptor birds careen,
Rather at once whole worlds devour
Before Ahmadinajad’s Islamic power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our pride – let’s have a ball;
Seven come eleven, and lightning twice
Strike all we deem to be not nice.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will have had our fun.
Sunny Saturday afternoon
I’m sitting on the deck
Trying to find that place where there are no worries.
He is nine years old
Hunched over the pond by the side of the house
He looks up to ask a question
That shows he’s figuring out how the world works.
I look into his eyes and see
the beginning of the universe.
As he turns away I catch a glimpse
of the end of the universe
And for a brief moment I understand
Please stop growing.
I can’t bear the thought
of you leaving
THE LOYAL ELM
He marks you with an orange “X”
for hidden beetles he expects
will multiply in you, and spread.
So, for your cousins standing near,
for us who love an elmish cheer,
for all this greater good,…be dead.
Our bodies’ cells, when we are able,
we kill to keep a cancer stable.
Alone among all things alive,
we humans kill so others thrive.
My heart feels
Like I have to be careful
Not to think
Or it will just fall
From the steel wire cage
Where it is housed
Within view but safe from touch
And right below my heart
Under my sternum
I can feel that too
And sometimes I feel giddy; energized
I want to laugh and be silly
And I start to laugh and suddenly
The shakes turn into sobs
And I am crying
I can hear and feel the ache
When I speak
My voice strained
Stretching to fill the gap
Between what my heart has to say
And what my throat is able to express.
SOMETHING WILD IN THE BACK YARD
Something wild is here
rustling in the daylilies
in this early morning.
My senses go on alert.
I want to see what it is.
It must be small to hide so easily.
What can I expect in my backyard?
Probably a squirrel.
Or something wilder
like a chipmunk, perhaps?
No, not in the city.
Now I’m too close.
It’s a small cottontail and will have
nothing to do with me.
Bounds across the alley.
It’s gone now
but something wild was here.
I GOT ONE
Five lakes to wonder
One Creek to explore
Seven species to pursue
One city full of excitement
Two kids, rods, reels, bags, bikes, and dreams
Minds full of knowledge collected
through numerous sweaty Midwest summers
Piles of lures, plastic, wood, metal and everything in between.
One trip to a favorite lake.
One spot on Harriet for the past years
Twenty paces from the bandshell
A plastic bait and a hook
One bite, sharp and chock-full of fight
A tug, a leap, a glorious battle
A Largemouth Bass, the much heralded quarry
Into the milfoil it runs, wedging itself stuck
in the thick green mats of weeds.
One wet child swimming toward his prized catch.
One set of wet clothes
A gigantic smile as 19 inches of shimmering fish
emerges from the green gloom
Three pounds of bass, five of weeds,
one hundred and fifty pounds of dripping happiness
One sizzling hot dog directly from the bandshell for a reward
One city, One trip
One lake, One fish
One great summer day.
As I sat and pondered endlessly,
Temptation grew inside of me.
I seized the moment and held it there
Then suddenly I was aware.
I heard a sound within a sound,
Like a song within a song.
I held a precious stone,
And felt vibrations from it’s home.
I saw until tomorrow,
And then of yesterday.
I sensed that all of time
Was with me here today.
As I breathed, I felt my life
Connected to the air
Then I knew the life inside of me
Was also everywhere.
TO ONE SEEKING PERFECT FRIENDS
Odds on finding perfection are slim.
And, if found, results can be grim.
Only one, long ago,
Was born to be so;
And just look at what happened to Him.
So, when looking for social connections,
You reduce the chance of rejections,
By looking for friends
With whom there are blends
Of your and their imperfections.
The mighty gray beast
Stomps his feet,
Shaking the ground
His large ears flap in the wind
Like a runaway kite
His long trunk
Wrinkly and old
Slowly curves up
And trumpets a noise,
A long, loud noise
Sweet and bitter
Kind and longing,
full of unspoken memories.
It seems to last forever.
His eyes shift from side to side
Like a clock
He walks farther
Placing each foot down
Like a fragile teacup
But the noise is like a drum.
Is amazingly powerful
He is so big,
He blocks the sun
But each elephant
Shines a light of his own
ALREADY THERE, AS IF
Michael John O’Connor
You walk as if you were the cat,
which, shedding hair here and there
and leaving paw prints on the windowsill,
creeps up from behind
in a silent plea for love.
You talk as if it were that last conversation
that left you uninspired,
not knowing that it was really
something someone said
when you were five.
You ask me how I see you —
and I am honest when I tell you —
a certain shade of grace,
a certain muted beauty —
much like that vase that sits there
all alone and empty.
Yes, there you are —
in this quiet apartment all by yourself,
following a sliver of sun
that snakes across the floor
promising a bite of warmth.
Still not ready to speak,
yet willing to listen,
you wait for someone
with words to appear.
A someone who
and brings you flowers,
and loves you,
and speaks to you,
no matter how you feel.
Someone, you insist, who is on his way,
Yet — let’s face it —
before he arrives is now here,
folded within as a gentle presence,
a fragrance rising
from among forgotten petals.
AND NO ONE ELSE
She sat there still, by the box shaped, cold electric heater
Her bones too cold to drink chamomile tea.
The yellow grain fell from her lips
as her tea bag lay asleep on the electric heater
spilling stale scent quietly.
Kindling smoldered in the fire keeping her wintered house warm.
She withers closer to the broken electric heater
She didn’t see the sun yesterday.
She hasn’t felt the heat for a week.
The logs are still burning
reflecting off the bearskin rug,
silent beneath trophy deer heads
succumbing to nothing, like shed antlers between birch trees
The fire keeps lifting higher
taxidermy horns foxtrot on the mantle
by framed pictures dusty from no love.
The electric heater has no sense of day or night
And she sits tranquilly. It warms her.
She feels comfort from an unplugged heater
but nothing from a cordial house.
Michael John Kennedy
It slices the layers
in a thick juicy slash
glowing brighter as it enters
blinding retinas in baths
of yellow, blue and purple
before pure whiteout.
Two — three second at the most.
letting the light say it all.
not focusing on watching eyes or frozen gasps.
Surprised as everyone else
that the eons ended in cremation
on a moonless Tuesday
at 1:37 in the morning.
Age twenty then, in Berkeley.
Sixty now, in Minneapolis,
where it’s warm
in a Berkeley way today.
Mulberry air though
where jasmine would be.
I could be on my way down the hill
to Telegraph Avenue
and Café Mediterraneum.
Walking in the sun with books in my arms
takes me back to that summer
of loving you.
You came out of war into the coffeehouse,
and found me missing Minnesota
In your attic room with cantaloupe shells
and photos of your girl back home,
we talked of everything
Then one day you said,
“Very hard time for mixed children.”
You were wrong.
You were right.
I had the baby I imagined and then another
whose struggle you foretold.
You would be sixty-six now.
I hear you say, “Imagine.”
I imagine us at ninety,
living across the alley from each other
in Minnesota summertime.
From a distance we look alike.
We sit in soft tan pants
and identical plaid shortsleeved shirts,
Our whitegrey heads
together over poetry or our microscope.
You make that sound you always made
just before you laughed.
Now our San Francisco children
make that same sound
on the phone with me over the miles.
Our teeth are in my head
with the college education you made me finish:
“We need a degree between us,” you said,
“and I don’t have the time.”