Winter Southwest Poetry Project

Happy Holidays! However you celebrate them I hope you’ll take some time to include poetry. You may be surprised how satisfying it can be. Sit down and read the King James Version of the Gospel of St. Luke, for instance, and be revitalized by the glories of the language.

Or read out loud Clement Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and remind yourself how good it is, how the scenes come alive with the narrative rhythm that echoes the hoofbeats of reindeer on your roof.

Or take a few minutes to read through this collection. You’ll find a wide variety of poetic perspectives — humor and satire, love and fear, insights into the season and even a little Italian. We offer it as a reminder of the joys of working with words, whatever it is you hold in your heart and want to express.

This is the fourth installment of the Southwest Poetry Project, and it’s been a privilege to help get it going. Last month, our Poetry Slam at Java Jack’s attracted dozens of people and a dozen poets who ranged in age from under 10 to over 80. Next year, we hope to build on the momentum and enthusiasm for poetry and hold other poetry slams.

The deadline is March 31 for the next poetry issue, which will appear in the April 21 edition of the Journal. Send submissions to

— Doug Wilhide, contributing poetry editor and Linden Hills Poet Laureate

Gary Melom

‘Twas the day after Christmas and throughout Linden Hills
people were recovering from seasonal thrills.
The aroma of coffee beans hung in the air
while the reading room offered surcease from all care.

The children had rumpassed and fllumpassed their books
while their backpacks hung tamely from ace hardware hooks.
The butchers had chopped up a fresh balsam tree
to garnish an offering of new heifer knees.
The bakery announced it surmounted all hurdles
to make bread as crusty as Galapogos turtles.
The ice cream merchant got his annual ribbing
from the joint on the corner where people were slipping
‘cross the street where their tastes had been slyly co-opted
by yogurt and flax seed and soup with egg dropped in it.

The neighborhood ambience seemed all atilt
like stitches were pulled from its old crazy quilt
and the pieces set drifting apart from each other —
the neighbors seemed over the edge and abother.
While sweet music of friendship will falter, will hide,
the deep bonds of community, it’s true will abide.

So when the minstrel came dancing down 43rd Street,
Linden Hills folk began moving their feet,
then their hands, then their hearts in most poetic ways
and even some stuffed shirts threw off collar stays
to savor the joys of this town in the city
and compete to be known as “He Who Is Witty”.

The neighborhood echoed with the sounds of new pleasure,
the laureate had called up its most precious treasure —
the simple joy in each other and the power of poems
to bring us together in hospitable homes.
And to show the soul shines with a post-Christmas might
the gardeners hung lanterns full of human delight.

Maria Campo

I looked into your eyes and found the wind,
the one that comes when we are done loving
and sweeps away all that remains,
like the traces of our scent
or the feelings we held inside
or a day when you and I
had more than superficial words,
more than empty glances
to share.

I looked into your eyes of dark wood
warm and solid,
searching for the light,
the intensity and softness of brown leather,
the tenderness I had found in you,
in your embraces,
the ones that you have forgotten
and I am trying to forget
while I miss you,
while I wish
I could shut close the window
that allowed your heart
to empty itself
of my name.

Kevin Zepper

Yes, she did save her grandmother,
but what happened after
was quite a different story.

It was Red Riding Hood, not the woodsman,
who killed the cross-dressing wolf.
As the woodsman paused,
Miss Hood took the grand axe
and pummeled the wolf into furry pulp.

Surprised, the woodsman
scolded the young girl.
A fatal swipe with the ax
was Riding Hood’s response.
Her grandmother says nothing
about either incident.
In fact, she rarely says anything
these days about Miss Hood.

Now, the red-hooded girl is known
as Red-Righting Hood, Storybook Vigilante.
Her smile forever shaped like a wary brow,
she waits at the edge of the wood — waits –
with her hatchet nestled in her basket.

Maren Hinderlie

Bundled bodies bent, shoveled and swept
A couple thousand paper cups tossed
By marathon runners:
A voice said, "It’s their community service."

The day lay out along the lake:
Bright, promising, gold, blue and cold.
Crisp, dry, white clouds spun their secrets
Above our heads,

Trees and houses gave shadows leverage.
In the angled sunbeams we walked
Through gold-roofed tunnels
Toward the end of the year.

Chuck Boe

Praying for the Magician,
we flip over the Devil.
Dreaming that we create our own reality,
we find we are bound by desire and fear.
Hoping for the Priestess,
the Tower comes.
Our powerful intuitions are
Overcome by chaos.
Believing in the Star,
the Moon outshines it.
Hope and optimism give way
to stronger energies that pull us.
With fingers crossed
peeking, wishfully, through half shut eyes,
desperately wanting to see the
enlightenment of the World,
we realize we’re the Fool.

G. Scott

A young girl was out in here back yard,
Digging a rather large pit.
The neighbor lady leaned over the fence,
And asked the reason for it.

"I’m burying my goldfish," the girl explained.
"It died early this morning."
The woman said, "It’s a terrible shame
"That your fish should die without warning."

"But why are you digging such a large hole?
"No goldfish is as large as that."
The girl replied, "I need a big hole.
"My fish died inside of your cat."

Kevin Zepper

…now listen closely, listen good.
I’ve kidnapped your poem
and if you don’t do what you’re told,
you won’t see your poem again — ever!
I’m not going to hang on this cell long,
so don’t pull anything tricky.

Sounds like you got the little present I sent you.
Yeah, I cut a line off your precious poem
to prove I mean business.
Yeah, yeah, call me what you want
but I’ve got your little verse tucked away
and I’m calling the shots.

Here are my demands:
I want a complete, unabridged set
of the Oxford English Dictionary, the index, too.
No CD-ROM crap either. The real deal.
Meet me behind the Noble Barn at midnight.
Go to the second dumpster where they ditch
the tear covers and romance returns.
Stuff the OED in a big green lawn bag, two-ply,
and put it on top of the dumpster lid.
I’ll set the poem in its place
after I know no one’s followed me.

Let me be clear on this,
if you’ve dragged the English Department in on this
I’ll have to cut your poem a little more
and a little more and a little more…

Be a smart poet and don’t try anything heroic.
I have a degree in American Lit
and I’m not afraid to use it.
Remember; no funny business…

Phil Calvit

It is a famous sculpture,
surely you have seen it;
a man stands oddly erect
at the bottom of the basement stairs
as if drawn up suddenly by a string,
brow scrunched, eyes narrowed, wondering
What’d I come down here for?

G. Scott

The fifth grade teacher gave out an assignment:
Each student must have, by the next session,
A story that had, in its context,
A moral or life-changing lesson.
When the next class got together,
She asked Billy what he had to relate.
“It’s a story my Dad told me one day.
It’s about his young sister, Aunt Kate.”

Aunt Kate was a jet fighter pilot
When she served her time in Iraq.
On one of her scheduled missions,
Her flight came under attack.
Her plane got shot down in the battle.
As she jumped from her plane, she took stock:
She felt for what she had with her:
Some whisky, her knife, and her Glock.

Beneath her, she saw twenty soldiers
With Iraqi uniforms on.
To fortify herself for the landing,
She drank the whisky ‘til it was gone.
Descending, she shot fifteen soldiers,
And knifed four more when she landed.
Her survival knife broke in the fourth one,
So she strangled the last one bare-handed.

“What’s the moral of this story?” asked the teacher.
And wondered what the boy’s father was thinking.
The boy said his dad learned this lesson:
‘Don’t mess with Aunt Kate when she’s drinking.’”

Gayle Mohrbacker

It is a struggling store —
You think twice about going in,
About getting their hopes up
When you doubt you’ll buy.

There in the window,
A red glass dish, flame-shaped,
Rests restlessly,
Flickering on Lyndale.

Its aggressive gleam chills me
As I walk past in the early evening.
Suddenly I’m speculating
About that girl who carried death
Into the crowded Haifa restaurant.

Dangerous girl, large-eyed
In a deep blue scarf perhaps,
And lipstick for the first
And only time in her life.

Her jacket in the warm evening
Alarms the young military policeman.
But his seasoned superior signals:
No, she’s alright.

Lipstick and nervousness
Mean what they always do:
She sees her future
With a boy who’s here tonight.

Abdi Farah

Went through struggles that were never experienced

Went through struggles that were never experienced
Abide where the bloody humans lay
War in Somalia known as aesthetic violence.
Use to be sunny, now we are in the dark ages
Hearts exploding with fear.
Went through struggles that were never experienced

Guns are blamed for penitentiary offense
Same color, same nationality
Humans with no sense
Love is a crime, Justice is blind.
They say “Time is Money,” but here
Killing is Pride.
Went through struggles never experienced

Confused between love and hate
In AKs we perish because life is cheap.
Loyalty we inherit, and patience is weak
Destroyed consciousness causes us to retaliate
Want to gain independence from each other
so we can be free
and gain love and power to get
where we want to be
Went through struggles never experienced

Maria Campo

Buona notte alle stelle nel cielo,
Good night to the stars in the sky,
buona notte alla neve bianca
goodnight to the white snow,
al coniglio che ora dorme
to the bunny that now sleeps
ma che domani tornera` sotto l’altalena…
but tomorrow will be back under the swing-set.

Buona notte ai tuoi occhi stanchi,
Goodnight to your tired eyes,
al sorriso sul tuo viso,
to the smile on your face,
alla dolcezza della tua voce
to the sweetness of your voice,
quando mi hai detto ti voglio bene…
when you said I love you…

Buona notte all’aria fredda la fuori,
Goodnight to the cold air outside,
ai sogni che ti aspettano,
to the dreams that await you,
e nei sogni tuoi scrivo un messaggio,
and in your dreams I write a message,
un messaggio
a message
che in un sussurro e con un sorriso ti dice
that in a whisper and with a smile says
ti voglio bene.
I love you.
Buona notte angelo mio.
Goodnight my angel.

Patricia Stutts

Google is great!
Google is good!
But does Google do
What it really should?

We type in Google
And Keyword a word,
And what comes up
Is excessive and absurd!

The first two choices
Might exactly be,
Exactly what you
Actually wanted to see!

But what about the rest
Of this extremely long list?
That causes you to shudder
Though you must persist!

The choices you have
Are 500 thousand and 53!
And to journey that search
Borders on In-san-i-ty!

But you start your search
Like a Sherlock Holmes Case,
Opening one clue at a time
With such patience and grace.

Then suddenly you realize
You’ve spent an hour or more!
And you’ve already forgotten
What you were looking for!

So you return to Keyword
To type in more words
When you think to yourself,
This is for the birds!

Oh, take me back to
Library Reference Desk days,
When life was less stressful
Before the Technology Craze!

Doug Wilhide

Wrapped in such beautiful skin,
they withold delight
like a tango dancer tempting a partner.
These are sun-mimes,
silent globes performing in a glass bowl
by a window with snowdrifts outside.

These are Spanish fruit, sensual as summer.
You undress them tenderly, slowly — thumbs spreading apart their sections
(still lightly clad in intimate undress)
as they spatter droplets into the sunlight.

Half moon, half sun, the clementine
slides into your mouth as easily as a kiss
and explodes into a taste like love
bittersweet, bitter and sweet,
tangy as the ocean air, pleasing as a sea breeze.

This Christmas I am hungry
and want to devour everything:
the sun, the sea, the past, the present,
what I know, what I have forgotten
summer, winter, all of life…

I wonder which is better:
to have loved more than you have been loved,
or to have been loved more than you have loved?
I imagine these Spanish clementines —
small, perfect, summer winter fruits —
Hold the answer but keep the secret.

So in this time of winter dark and longing,
remembering light and lightness,
I choose one, and offer it — a gift,
a Christmas present for you:
oh my darling, oh my darling,
oh my darling……

Phil Calvit

My advantage over the moon is that
every month or so, as he remakes his face,
at the completion of my haircut
a young woman lays down her shears,
picks up a black-lacquer-handled mirror,
and I get to see the back of my head.

Joe Alfano

The ice sheet,
a water drum with a tight skin,
sings the songs of whales —
deep, low tones,
that change
as the wind blows.

Drawn by this music
I step out and walk.
Below my feet
ice is thick and clear.
Half way across, I stop and look.
The ribbon of shoreline
is full of walkers.

I have belonged to this motion
for 20 years.
If the path were straight
I’d be halfway around the world,
but instead
my path is a smaller circle
that once in a while
leads me to the center.

Deborah Malmo

The sound of new snow,
fills my ears with a soft, white
Footsteps shatter silence as
I make my way home slowly,
keeping time to clamorous

The bus was late,
The streets have shrunk,
And my neat, small house
has lost its corners.
It sits on high,
expectant and glowing,
landscaped with tufts of

A shadow crosses a frosted window,
a kid whoops
as I open the door.
A swirl of snow lands on my face,
and the warm air rushes to greet me:
scent of roast beef, soap,
and you.