Ah, summer! I never liked it much until I moved here. But something about Minnesota winters makes Minnesota summers so much sweeter. You can sit, dripping, on a muggy afternoon and still be glad to be exactly where you are.
This collection is heavy on lightness. We got a lot of good poems but I went for the more whimsical ones — toads and yogis, ducks talking to boats, dancing and day dreaming, bedtime stories and some reflections on kids and parents.
An announcement: We’re putting together a collection of the best of our first three years. Working title is “SEASONS: Poems from the Southwest Journal Poetry Project.” About 100 poems and some of the fine illustrations that accompanied them. Look for it in the fall!
The deadline for fall poetry is Sept. 9. Send your best work to firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep writing!
— Doug Wilhide is contributing poetry editor of the Southwest Journal and the Poet Laureate of Linden Hills.
To Mountain Lake
Two canoes floating in white fog.
My daughter leads us past granite cliffs
To a new lake.
How straight she sits
While her paddle writes poems
That linger on black water.
Alexander J. Theoharides
In the forest near my home, evergreens parade
in fixed lines. They carry neither twigs nor pine
cones; and on the ground, where I walk, their
needles don’t spring.
Most of the trees are good soldiers: When there’s
sun, they stand-up straight. When there’s wind,
they lean against it. When it’s cold, they lend bark for
kindling. And when I ask them what they’re fighting for,
their creaks warn the others not to tell.
Although, the forest floor is too dark for flowers
to grow, last April I found a sprig of edelweiss
nestled on the ground. “How’d it get here? Where’s it from?”
I asked, holding the sprig into the air, as I knelt
beside a tall spruce.
“It’s mine,” he said, reaching down an etiolated branch
to take the sprig from me. “I left it there for you.”
Sharon R. Spartz
Red and white, pink and yellow tulips
debuted early this spring
backyard bunny snapped two blooms
after April’s rain washed away
the spray of Liquid Fence.
I’ll chop and dice some garlic bulbs
to sprinkle around the bell-shaped tubers —
kills bacteria, retards heart disease,
even reduces cholesterol —
I hope its hearty aroma reduces rabbits.
No Do Haiku
Haiku class cancelled
E-mail says too few signed up
Short stuff can’t cut it
In the Mirror
A grey and aging man stares back at me.
We locked eyes, letting our minds reinvent
a body thirty pounds lighter and a
chin that can cast a sharp and true shadow.
We remove our shoes and socks avoiding
eye contact. The two of us rise to get
a pail of water for the young and dry tree.
If we’re lucky we’ll live to see it cast
shadows stretching through the entire yard
at the extremes of both sunrise and dusk.
Only when I’ve filled the bucket and turned
off the water do I remember I’m alone.
Painting the Town
I saw them there … all five at the ice cream shop,
middle-aged ladies on a Saturday night,
laughing like the girls they were 30 years before
when they had the same conversation
of dreams, futures and finding love
with real men instead of boys.
Beneath their seats are overstuffed suitcases
which no one acknowledges,
designer baggage, some of it made
before bags had wheels.
They know they should discard it
along with the torches they carry for men
who threw away their phone numbers years ago.
Maybe another sundae will give them the courage.
Finished but not satisfied,
they egg each other on for one more round.
It’s date night and the wickedest thing
going on in this neighborhood,
is a shop full of oldsters overindulging
in whipped cream and chocolate
… but only over their ice cream.
Not sure if they are confusing morality with loneliness
they dip their spoons hungrily
knowing this is the sweetest thing
that will touch their lips this Saturday night.
Homage to a Heat Wave: A Dialectic
I sit like a yogi— or a toad—
inert and invisible among garden greens.
Hot today. High humidity.
Water rises to my surface, stays
for lack of breeze, and I grow soggy, brain-damp:
“The silkworm in his cocoon grows a hair-shirt,” says the yogi.
“I relish the wings of flies,” says the toad.
“The emerald gleams in the darkest cave,” says the yogi.
“I catch flies with my tongue. ” says toad.
“The Holy speak in tongues.”
“Flies toes are tasty, too.”
“You are hopeless student.” yogi says, raising hand,
Toad dies. Toad’s spirit rises out of mud, looks at yogi.
“I think I heard a fly buzz when I died!”
Hot today. High humidity.
Love Swan for My Song
(by a cross-eyed duck)
Based on a true story. A duck mistook a swan-boat for his mate.
Of course she didn’t respond to his amorous advances.
But then again, she didn’t complain either!
Quiet, my swan, my beautiful wonder.
Understand, though they laugh at my blunder.
Although you’re quite large, I waddle nearby.
Crying my song just to catch your eye.
Kisses I send. You’re so stately and serene!
Queen of mine, my heart’s run amuck!
Unending love for you … from me … a mere duck!
Adoring you, I’d hug if had I arms.
Charms so sweet! It’s on your love I dote!
Knowing not you are just a swan boat!
The rhythms pulsed but no one seemed in charge
of its affect on the neighborhood
adjacent to the alley-way from where it arrived
Trumpet trios livened the night like
No one greeted it but stared through summer screens
in envy of the Mexicali meeting;
headdresses, fringed shorts, leather bands
accentuating earthen wheat-toned skin.
Men, women, and children.
Three times I took out the garbage.
I wanted to dance.
We had the Polka,
chicken dance, hokey pokey,
I had ballet class
and cheap prom dances.
My dresses were pink and fluffy and thought
I had to like them.
I wore pearls the size of marbles.
We laughed in spite of ourselves.
We knew explorers chartered new territories
south of the border but they never brought this
back into our neighborhood.
This wasn’t the sound of pink.
Long into the night past the bed-times of crickets
drums were the energy of dreams
and I, wrested from sleep by their lure,
hoped no one would call the police.
Rainland Ballroom, MN
Somewhere someone is doing a rain dance
And doesn’t know when to stop.
Bucket-sized raindrops carry spicy fragrances
from Tigris and Euphrates, smoke from Cuban cigars,
dust from the Parthenon,
smells of sheep’s wool and cow dung from Scotland,
pollen from Amazonian flowers, and
I can almost see
thin strands of coconut hair falling,
and soft hair from a thousand women combing.
This rain carries bright beach pebbles
smaller than grains of sand,
dew from the grassy plains of the Andes,
tiny iridescent worms and conch-shaped,
spiraled snails from all the seas,
and drops of sweat from workers everywhere.
The rain lays all of this
in huge armfuls on my doorstep
accompanied by drums, clanging symbols
How could I be luckier than to live in the land of Minnehaha,
where the high-spirited dancers get lost in the dance?
When UPS Delivered
I heard the front door open and close
and the thud of a package left —
no signature required. “Finally,” I thought,
“now where am I going to put them?”
It began, as these things do, with a conversation
about art and perhaps more than a couple glasses
of wine: What if we had money?
Lots of money. Even more than that?
I’d go back in time — say the early 1890s —
and buy what passed then for contemporary art.
I’d be constrained and responsible
so as not to upset any time/space continuums
or markets or art history majors,
No more than a dozen Monets, I said. The man painted
like a machine — turned out hundreds of canvases
that embrace the light and also the whimsy,
the youth in all of us, and the air.
Still. One dozen.
I’d make friends with the little guy, Toulouse-Lautrec,
and buy the oils, the chalk-on-cardboard sketches,
and maybe some of the ads for the Moulin Rouge.
A few Van Goghs: the flowers, I think: irises, poppies
and the sunflowers. Half a dozen Cezannes: still lifes
and those sun-filled scenes from the south of France.
Six Picassos: I like the early Blue and Rose period
when he was still figuring out if he was as good as
the cracked mirror told him he was.
Several Renoirs: boating scenes, parties, Parisian streets.
And a few of those Degas ballerinas, just to keep
the collection honest.
This was coming together nicely. I had plans
for the gallery where my collection would be displayed:
wide rooms, with real light playing on the pictures
so they looked different every day,
and well-polished, wood floors that creaked
just a little to prove they were as alive to the art
as you were.
We were about to go in search of more wine
when, out of nowhere, I asked,
“Can I have a few Vermeers, too?”
That classic light, that constraint and passion,
That mystery and refinement. That technique!
We agreed: they were mine.
So now they sit there, on the front porch,
Three canvases (or was it four?), and I’m slow
to go down and get them.
Brilliant they may be
but they don’t fit in my gallery
and I’ll have to call the architect to set up
a separate place to show them.
Living with Mother, Again
I wasn’t quite so sure
What it would be like
To have my mother move in
Now, I know
This is a piece of my life
I will always cherish
Like a falling star or an
Unforgettable New Year’s Eve
She has brought me closer to myself
With laughter and love
Spouting surprises and knowledge
Like a fountain overflowing
She has reminded me of how
Truly lucky I am,
How Fate’s face sometimes smiles
And how God is,
Oh, so wise.
When Daddy Had Wings
Lisa Taylor Lake
It’s nighttime, storytime.
Daddy sits on our beds
and unfurls his Navy adventures,
his life in the wartime sky
before we arrived, we three translucent sisters.
He carries his stories to us
to our tiny bedroom in that first apartment.
He’s alone in the air one night
cut off from the others.
Disoriented, searching the black for light, a horizon.
“I looked to the right of me,” he says.
“I looked to the left of me,
and there was nothing there.”
We know our familiar Daddy, but
we’re just now meeting that new young pilot
alone in his cockpit in the dark
just before he discovered the grace
of a farmer’s field.
He flew higher than the Pacific then,
but not as high as his young man’s dreams
not as high as the soldiers
killed before his eyes.
He flew back home, descended,
now the handsome bridegroom in his trim uniform,
now a kind husband, storytelling father.
He folds his adventures
like wings into his lieutenant’s cap.
At night before we sleep
he lifts them out again
fits them gently onto our pink shoulders
so we can fly with his blessings
up to our own uncharted