Summer Poetry Project

Summer is a special season in Minnesota — from the early days of May to the final days of the State Fair we put aside thoughts of winter and revel in the soft deception of a compatible climate.  

Area poets are playing with summer’s subtleties in all kinds of ways. There is more story telling and there are strong currents below the surface. I got a lot of poems about sex, job loss, complicated relationships, travel (near and far, real and imagined), fantasies and tragedies.  Must have something to do with the times.

The selection this time is particularly diverse, with poets representing at least eight different Southwest neighborhoods. Our oldest poet is in his 80s. Our youngest (and this may be a record) just turned 4.

Our next poetry issue is scheduled for September with a deadline of Aug. 31. Thanks to all contributors (published or not). If you write poetry, send your best work to me via Keep writing!

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


Rebecca Surmont

Oh, I’m a Six Sigma Black Belt (handy with karate chops)
Human Resource Strategist–Marketing–Account–Exec
Programmer and Brand Expert–Engineer–Receptionist–
Data Entry Architect
Lab technician, what the heck!
Point of purchase, biz to biz, I don’t care what job it is,
I’ll be your anything.

They say you need more training
And then you’ve got too much.
Your Facebook isn’t up to date
And you’re not linked enough.
Computer skills are slacking,
Experience is lacking
You’re six months into your new job
And then they send you packing!
I’ll be your anything.

Tracking and analysis (guarantee for paralysis)
Implement and ideate (sounds too good to hesitate)
Design! Direct! Create! Consult!
Survey says: “Generate, Gestalt!”

They tell me I need to learn about social media
But I’m beginning to feel like an encyclopedia!

I admit I feel a Twitter and all tubed up,
Mind is a racing like it’s been lubed up.
No conversation necessary —  
I’m just a click away and
You can view my profiles any time of day.
My network is extensive — from here to Mexico —
You can check my website for what you want to know.
Or ask a friend on Facebook — though they don’t know me well
But at least we’re friends forever
And there’s nothing they won’t tell!

I am Innovation!
I am Transformation!
There’s just one caveat
Regarding my situation —
I have no transportation.

But I’ll be your anything!!!

Anne Zager

Bitter ends,
Rhubarb stalks and foot bridges
Where bicycles stop
And bare legs step on.

Behold from a wicker love seat,
The warmest night since September:
Spring reclined in summer’s hammock,
Men and women loving again
As if in Paris with black coffee
And nothing to do all day.

When you arrive,
We will pick a short story from the latest collection.
I will pay attention for a page or two,
Nod away with hums from the open window,
Drawing a string of drool on your forearm
And my 600 thread count sheets.

Stay, you whisper
Over the fan’s hypnotic churn,
As if we weren’t already in my own bed.
Still, I will dream I didn’t hear.
If you ask,
I was asleep long ago.

MILE MARKER 19        
Sandra Nelson    

As strains of Wagner weep from the dashboard,
your eyes hypnotize me in the rearview mirror
like two young boys licking their lips
over a sexual fantasy.

Hunkered down in the back seat,
I hug the musty blanket we shared last night
as your rage gnaws at my throat
like a bitter aspirin refusing to go down.

Barely breaking the rhythm of the road,
the wheels suddenly bite gravel, then lift off.
Tumbling airborne in slow motion,
the air between us is finally clear.

Will one of us survive to blame the six-point buck?

$100 BEAR
Diana Lundell                           

i.   Dad takes me, just me, to the State Fair,  
     asks twice if I’m hungry.
     Because I’m afraid to give the wrong answer,
     the first time I say, I don’t know.     
     He says, what do you mean you don’t know?
     you’re either hungry or not.
     I should say, you can be in-between,
     but I know the value of staying silent,
     and wait for the swat that doesn’t come.
     The second time he asks, I say, no,
     because he’s a mystery to me
     and I’m afraid of costing him good money.

ii.  What in the hell’s wrong with you?
     he says, because I’m dancing in my pants.
     I’ve waited too long to tell him
     that I have to go to the bathroom,
     and I know I’ve gotten it wrong again
     when he asks, why didn’t you tell me earlier?
     I am a mystery to him.    

 iii. When he admits his appetite,     
      it’ll be safe to admit mine, I tell myself.
      At the corn dog stand he finally gives in
      and asks if I want one too. I just nod,
      which of course is a perfect answer   
      that I don’t have to speak.

iv.  In the Midway Dad uses up his money,
      trying to win me the biggest prize:
      a stuffed, brown teddy bear  
      with shiny plastic eyes and a stitched nose.
      I was a goddammed marksman in the army,
      I ought to be able to, he kept saying.
      And at the Battle of the Bulge, he’d sure
      killed his share of Krauts. I don’t tell him
      I’m too old for stuffed animals.
      I don’t tell him anything.

v.    Without my knowledge, later that day,
       because he feels he’s disappointed me,
       he pays Tommy Phillips, the boy next door
       who has a proven knack
       for triumphing at Midway games,
       a hundred dollars to go and win me that bear.
       But even Tommy can’t do it, and instead,
       brings over the medium sized one
       with the crappy vinyl eyes
       and the already fraying pink ribbon.
vi.   Before bed, Dad calls me downstairs,
       and looking sheepish, he presents
       me with the cheaply made bear.
       Whatever he expects from me, I don’t do it.
       Too afraid of saying the wrong thing,
       I say nothing more than thank you.
       Later, Mother tells me the price he paid for it,
       and because I’m embarrassed for him,
       I put the bear away, where not long afterwards,
       it disappears into the land of lost and neglected toys,
       never to be found again. Sometimes things choose
       you perfectly, and you still get it wrong.

Barbara Tuttle

Framed in my window: the monochrome park
and Lake Calhoun with frozen waves.
I’ve been on ice these months.
The phone rings. My daughter’s voice
from Down Under. So clear,
that she and the honking taxis,
the humming crowds of Melbourne
could be across the street. I reel her in
on the filament of voice
I see blue and green, aqua and golden,
An Australian beach.
Twenty years ago
She swam in my womb, my daughter Kate,
her curly eyebrows already knit.
What a swimmer she was even then.
The nurse could not grab a heartbeat
before she’d swim to the other side of my belly,
over and over,
out of reach.

“Stella,” we called her — a star in the dark.
As a toddler, before bed in summer,
she’d signal the time for an evening walk
By standing, arms outstretched,
turning in a circle, saying, “Mooooon.” At five,
she rode the gyroscope at a local fair
Spinning, upside down, fearless, eyes sparkling.
Now she has flown across the globe to the other side
of seasons and stars, sees the wedge-tailed eagle
and platypi, the Southern Cross in the summer sky.

Here above, the Canada geese
stream past my window through northern air
and I hold her under my heart.


Doug Wilhide

There was no reason the two young people
began dancing there beside the road
no reason to their well-executed twists and turns;
a radio on their motorcycle was playing music —
samba — and so they danced.

A friend of mine hid happily behind her sunglasses
at a back table in front of the Deux Maggots  
watching the tourists and the traffic pass by.
She had ordered a second glass of white wine
and it sat there, comforting, catching the sunlight.

She felt fine. She was dying. She knew this.
The docs had said it had spread and outlined her options.
She turned them down and went to Paris
to see the art, to walk around the city once more.
She had — weeks? months? Maybe into September?
She felt fine now, and had time to sip sancerre at her leisure

The young man and the young woman twisted
hips arms torsos together — a fine rhythm overtaking them
Samba! They danced before the afternoon sunlight,
shadows held up against the future.

Cristopher Anderson

Taking down the Christmas lights
from the front yard tree in May,
I see a strand that got clipped by the lawn mower —
no wonder it stopped working.

This, and browned needles from winter burn,
patchy grass, and — oh, face it! —
my unhappiness tells me that
I haven’t yet arrived in Jerusalem.

The old horsemen knew they were never
to get to the mountain, but having traveled toward,
then stopping short, lovesick,
they sang her songs.

What did I think I would find
along these concrete and asphalt streets,
where trees have been trained
to grow in straight lines?

The woman I love is curvy,
moody, and —
even after all these years —  

Would I tell you about
what happened last night
as I played my fiddle —
even if I could?

SHORELINE AUDIENCE                         
Sandy Burwell

The lake is a satin sheet.
The boat scissors through,
Splits the fabric open and frays it into ripples
Then mends smooth again.

The wake chuckles under the dock
Like Grandpa Duck out to scold the young,
“Get home before dark.”
Clouds pull open a curtain
To let the sun set in a pink closing
To the first act.
Now it’s quiet enough to hear the crickets
In the tall grasses around the dock.
Cabin doors slam way off down the shore.
A boat putters by, using spotlights;
Drawing a thread-like line on the now black satin.
It glides so slowly that it takes minutes
To pass behind the deck awning
For the end of the second act.

A speedboat roars through the black silence.
“You guys, help me rock that boat.”
Laughter at the effort echoes back to shore.
The small boat putters even more slowly in response.

Mosquitoes join the show,
Their place in the food chain temporarily deserted.
Why are the boaters still out?
Maybe the new little actors can’t fly that far.
One last cabin door applauds the closing act.
Leaving the theater,
We scheme to acquire real estate
On Boardwalk and Park Place.

Howard Arthur Osborn

One swallow won’t make a summer
though it does pose a challenge
to the worldly-wise —
find me a synonym for swallow
find me a word for the sound
made when swallowing.

It is a sound in the throat —
where language began
back of the tongue —
deeper than the larynx.

It is even an empty gesture of emotion
without passage of matter
a very significant, an almost constant action —
where else is there an action so elemental
so laden with meaning and variety
and yet so ill portrayed in language?
The act of swallowing —
we have only the verb —
a swallow of water is an amount
not an act.

Gourmets alert!
it’s what you do after you degust
Poets beware!
If you have to eat your words
you may find this hard to swallow
but deglutination
is your only option.

Deglutination: to swallow, to pass the glottis,
the sound of swallowing. gulp, glut\gasp.

Jean Greenwood

Wind blows the hair
from my forehead
while I sit on the edge of my deck,
this Saturday morning,
legs dangling,

submerging my marshmallow
in hot chocolate
until it stops breathing
or dissolves —
a perverse gesture.

I wonder,
when did I learn to hold my breath,
to suspend life for a moment,
until I felt safe
to keep going?

Victoria Raphael

The Queen sits by the window in her pajamas
regally eating shredded wheat
with the silver spoon that came from the drawer
instead of her mouth.

She views her kingdom from an upper window,
counting the minutes until she must descend
to street level and hold court on a crowded bus.

Until then she will do the things
that no longer matter to most people:
color coordinate her ensemble,
match purse and shoes,
then apply lips and eyes
before going out amongst her public.
The ear plugs beneath her hair
will make it easy to tune them out
when they use unintelligible slang, poor grammar,
or obscenities within earshot.

The wind is blowing.
“I guess I shall leave my tiara at home today,” says she,
telling the Cat to guard it well
as she will wear it later when she watches the telly.
She then departs for her office —
no longer a queen, but a corporate drone in disguise.

In the evening she returns to her high rise palace,
then changes into a silken dressing gown
and a pair of Chinese slippers
before sipping a glass of port.
Eager to unruffled her peacock feathers
she turns up the symphony,
feeds the Cat from  a crystal goblet,
then presents leftovers to herself on a Wedgewood plate.

At midnight the Queen retires to her chambers,
takes a bubble bath,
then covers her eyes with a satin sleep mask.
She  dreams of imaginary places
where there are no busses, cell phones, nor Ipods…
a world where men shave and tuck in their shirts,  
children are polite, and  cubicles are closets
and not places where people work,
where  doing one thing at a time is still good,
and no one uses the words   “cool” or “awesome”  
unless they are referring to sherbet
or a range of mountains.

Sarah Planting

My wish is to love everybody.

To love everybody
who comes to my house
and to love everybody
who doesn’t come to my house.

To love everybody I see
and to love everybody
who I don’t see.

My wish is to love everybody
who is in this world
and to love everybody
who is out of this world.