Spring poetry project

Spring in Minnesota is as much a change of heart as a change of season. After dreading the threat of winter’s long, dark nights and short, bitter days we experience the real thing and discover — it’s not so bad, then. But the holidays end, January and February linger, March does go on. In these challenging times it takes special character to keep energy high, keep hope alive and keep writing poems.
Area poets have stuck to their task, at least enough to provide a worthy welcome to April: National Poetry Month. This review includes farewells to winter, a bit of bitterness and a lot of love — in its many variations. You can find these and more online at southwestjournal.com.
Our next Poetry Project spread will appear in the June 29 issue. Deadline is June 8. Send your best work to wilhide@skypoint.com. And if you’re looking for a way to participate in the economic stimulus, why not buy a book of poetry? Keep writing.

— Doug Wilhide is the Poet Laureate of Linden Hills and contributing poetry editor for the Southwest Journal.

Winter’s Ex-girlfriend    
Raymond Luczak

Spring is a girl who’s cried all night
only to find that morning easily forgives
the coldness of him having left her
stranded among the thicket of evergreens,
where rabbits dart and deer forage.

With a kiss of sun each day, she will gather up
all her strength, blessing the stiff soil
with the thawing of frozen tears seeping
as she sleeps, and make true her dream of
the day when her fingers are no longer numb.

The one who left her will become a puddle
when she rises to her full height and looks ahead.
Summer, her true love, will soon fall for her,
and she will one day die in his giddy arms.
But shh.  Don’t tell her.  She’s got a poor heart.


Cristopher Anderson

The frozen-over lakes are booming.
They’re a Minnesota species.
Walk onto their ice sheet teeth and
suddenly feel the fractured vibration whacks
as they converse in the deep-throated
boom–whine–ping–groan of giants,
chasing quick lines of gooseflesh up my
arms, making me worry if they’re still
It’s so fun being afraid!
And right.


Cathy Cato

Sometimes when his hands
hold me tight and he breathes
like someone else — my fur
gets wet from his face.  I sit
patiently as he caresses my ears;
one he calls nubby the other,
soft.  Although if you asked him
he would say the soft one
is the result of rubbing nubby
to smooth.

He doesn’t seem to mind
I’ve lost my nose several times.
The button is fine and I can’t
smell anyway.  

A lot has changed — I used
to be bigger with longer
tail — shrunk to one third my size.
There are places where my tan
and white fur are threadbare
I was taken everywhere
as a talisman
as a friend.

And then —
I stopped going places.
Spent more time in his room
with Goodnight Moon.  
It’s a comfortable secure life, he
smiles for me each night
when he goes to bed.  

And sometimes —  
He picks me up with gentle giant hands
who hold me throughout the night.


LJ Oeltjenbruns

I pause at the crosswalk
while a small compact Toyota
cruises through a red light
in the center lane.  
A young female driver
on a cell phone
barely tracking the conversation that distracts her
or the light that should stop her.

She speeds past the pedestrians
Who look on as she intrudes
on their walk time
precious and limited.  

They will have to wait
For another round of green
Because of her oblivion.
She doesn’t see the lights
or the people she puts out  
as she cruises
through the red  
in the center lane.        
The Writing Life
Deoborah Morse-Kahn (for John)

Sitting, writing, not the way they
say its done, no, not with quill
or fountain pen, or vellum. No, nor
foolscap, rice, or handmade
skein of paper. No, the keyboard writes  
the poems, the stories,
a word, a word, another word.

The poem writes me, I live to serve.
A nightgown, bare feet, single lamp
(not by a stream, not under a willow,
in flowered skirts, hair tied with ribbons,
flowing pen in brocade journals,
tea and chocolates, soft music playing,
my beloved untying my bodice), no
its not like that, but late at night and at my desk,
tapping, writing out the poem,
the essay, story, words are streaming,
flowing it out and letting it run,
soft jazz, cats and mugs of coffee,
street lamps, cool winds sighing off  the lake in
nighttime, springtime, lovely dark.

Cats sleep in the open windows, ruffled fur…


CC Me On All Your Emails
Sam Wilhide

It is important to be personable,
and hard-working, relaxed and confident,
intelligent and dedicated,
to be passionate and to use best practices,
and to first of all do no harm.

It is better to love your job
than to be a workaholic,
because how can you be addicted
to something you love?

I drink-in every moment of your body,
and then I fling myself again
at the ghost that turns its back.


A Love, a Memory
Maria Campo
I can’t remember the last time
we loved each other.
It just occurred to me while making coffee.
I remembered some of us
while, with the palms of my hands,
I caressed the wool rug
that saw us embraced.
I can’t remember the day!
I remember well the first time,
but not the last…
So soon… you are going so soon…
Taking along the words you spoke to me,
the voice I loved…
What’s worst?
The ending of a love or the end of a memory?
I close my eyes and see your face.
I know it by heart, but I can’t,
I can’t remember
when we made love last…


Doug Wilhide

The first romance I can remember
was that Howdy Doody hottie,
Princess Summerfallwinterspring.
Oh those braids and ponytails!  
That swaying buckskin!
What was a boy to do?
Dulled by the long school day, too young to fantasize,
I dropped into the fantasy played out before me.

Those after school afternoons in front
of a black and white TV are precious still —
the indecipherable mysteries:
was she all her seasons, all at once,
or something like Summerfall Winter Spring?
Was she related to Wintergreen, the chewing gum?
Were she and Howdy just best friends
or had a threshold been crossed
that could be crossed again?

I learned recently that Ms. Winterspring
(or, actually, the actress who played her)
died tragically young in a car accident.
How sad!  Was Buffalo Bob crushed?
Did Clarabel weep? I never noticed a difference,
having moved on to the adolescent delights
of Annette, Darlene and other Mouseketeers
in their stretched sweaters.

In a much-changed world
the original puppets — I understand —  
are worth millions and displayed in museums.
Now it’s the memory of beauty
that keeps pulling the strings.


Coffee House Blues        
Rebecca Surmont

Mr. Lonely Heart had a conscience.
It was conscious only of his lonely love.
But not enough — cuz he would
linger too long beside her or above
His stale, cold-coffee-Pepsodent smile
and an itch unscratchable-
With a nervous twitch,
He achieved a rather personal style.

Lonely Heart a roamin
Lonely Heart a wishin
Lonely Heart not knowin
Her love ain’t his for kissin.

Cream and sugar pitches
break like ancient dishes
and alcohol doesn’t sell at all
with striking, confident bitches
like the one at the corner table, watching
and laughing into her cup, to herself.

Lonely Heart keeps guessin
Lonely Love keeps pressin
Lonely Hope addressin
what can only be depressin

Desiging innuendo has a fateful decrescendo
His words fall — thump — and out of synch
Like lines from movies she know she’s heard
and the babe is up and out.. thinking

Lonely Heart a roamin
Lonely Heart a yearnin
Lonely Heart a dyin
To be free from loveless burnin.


Dangling Participle
Diana Lundell
A verb is considered dangling when it
doesn’t agree with the subject of the sentence.

We don’t say,
Flying with love, the marriage is blessed.
We say,
Flying with love, we’re blessed with a happy marriage.
And it helps that you fell in love with me because I have all
the characteristics of a good wife and participle:  
present, active and imperfect.

We don’t say,
Discouraged by another pointless conversation, the marriage ended.
We say,
Buoyed by good communication, they fulfilled each other.
But naturally, there will be days when our stars won’t
be properly aligned, and words said, later regretted.    

We don’t say,
Cleaning out the marriage closets, many cobwebs were found.
We say,
Cleaning out the marriage closets, we found no cobwebs.
But there will be times we’ll keep things from each other,
because they hurt, or because we’re still trying to work out
their meaning.  And days when we’ll keep private a concern
to think on it for a while, but only for a while.

We don’t say,
Tired of the politics of marriage, a resignation was turned in by him.
We say,
Impressed with her talents, he offered her a scholarship for 10 more years.
Marriage is like a sentence — no, not the criminal kind, but each
grammatical element making sense together in order to form
a complete meaning — to be like roots, like bones, so bound
and deep that one no longer knows which is mine, which yours.
So when you’re out of town too long for work, missing you
is like losing myself.     

We don’t say,
Ignoring his wife, the phone call from
the other woman was answered by him.
We say,
Engrossed in each other,
neither had need of an affair.
We don’t say,
Working day and night at his job,
the marriage fell apart.
We say,
Driven by the desire to be the best of spouses,
they made the Olympic team.
We say,
In loving each other,
they earned top grade.


Cathy Cato

Curled like question marks
on the satin brocade cushions…

The black and white one
raises one forepaw to shield the light,
the other is tucked under his warm fur,
lightly covering a hint of pink skinned belly.  

The other, with a coat of black spots
on a ruddy background sleeps languidly
with her tail coiled around her slim body.

Once — when I snuck into the room
well after dark and laid an open palm
on each belly, they didn’t stir —

but their purrings rose
as if my hands had turned up
the volume.


Dance Your Stance        
Howard Arthur Osborn

You’ve been walking your talk
putting your money where your mouth is
taking a stand.
You’ve walked for peace,for a dollar a mile —
for frustration — and just for the hell of it.

You’ve had your children walk through fire
Jack be nimble Jack be quick
Jack jump over the candlestick
You’ve made them jump through hoops
thread the needle — and even
learn to stay within the lines
while walking flat mazes

If the next generation fails
it won’t be your fault.

But then — what do you stand for?
and against?

If the only thing certain is change
there’s no way to say
or stay which way it will go?
where it will stop? or when?
— sometimes you fall one way
sometimes the other.

Like dancing
change only stops to catch its breath
to catch the rhythms of the next piece
and for exhaustion
and by then it’s too late — so

Dance your stance.
Put joy in this exhausting life
add your own clamor to life’s worries and woes
reflect on the best
in your rear-view mirror
things are closer than you think
don’t back up to the brink!

relax at country fairs —
watch cows ruminate
pow wows extravagate
get the beat then add you feet
dance lines and squares
integrate   syncopate   improvise!

Old tunes find new rhythms
old limbs    young limbs
squares  gays  and straights
mold old rhymes into the new.

Yes! dance your stance!
be nimble be quick avoid the candlestick
Just you wait ‘enry ‘iggins
we’ll find Matilda waltzing
in Tennessee
wearing her bling.

Then ‘fair lady’  don’t you fret
we won’t forget  
we’ll get you to the church on time.


Karen Barstad

Forgiveness wears slippers
She tip-toes in the side door
As quiet as fog
A hint of vanilla on her breath
Her linen skirt feathering her ankles
She settles onto the worn ottoman by the sofa
And waits
She is as patient as time
As persistent and durable as the dust beneath my bed
When I wonder
If I will hear her knock
If she will arrive on time
Perhaps that is when I’ll discover
That she has been there the entire time
Wearing slippers.


Karen Barstad

Forgiveness wears slippers
She tip-toes in the side door
As quiet as fog
A hint of vanilla on her breath
Her linen skirt feathering her ankles
She settles onto the worn ottoman by the sofa
And waits
She is as patient as time
As persistent and durable as the dust beneath my bed
When I wonder
If I will hear her knock
If she will arrive on time
Perhaps that is when I’ll discover
That she has been there the entire time
Wearing slippers.