Now that we’ve weathered the winter that wasn’t, how will we welcome the promise of spring? With poetry, of course (and a little alliteration). This time we received far more good poems than we have space to run. Poems arrived from all over town, about people and places all over the planet and from poets ranging in age from age 6 to 86. The final cuts were awfully difficult.
Our spring collection includes a trip to Disneyland, a moment in the Bronx and an evening in Saigon. There are tales about an accident, a head cold, a cat, a Mom and a fixer-upper. And, as always, poems that map the landscape of love.
Thanks to all who sent their work; I’ll hold some for next time. Deadline for the summer issue is June 15. Send your best work to email@example.com. Keep writing!
Doug Wilhide is the poet laureate of Linden Hills and contributing poetry editor of the Southwest Journal.
My wool sweater with wide, loose cuffs
caught the pot handle,
upturning the boiling liquid.
The pain pulses
an unwanted heart beat.
My foot and lower leg
branded pink with my mistake.
I never wanted a tattoo;
my body is not a canvas.
Later I had phantom itching,
like a missing limb.
Bugs crawling on my shin, trying to get in;
telling me I shouldn’t cook again.
So I get take-out
and have gained five pounds.
That may also be the nightly bowl of ice cream.
When the summer comes I will need
SPF 50 or above, my doctor advises.
I am not to sun bathe
or otherwise spend prolonged time outside.
That’s okay, because by then
my bikini won’t fit any way.
… if I remember
the note I sent
decades ago. He
still holds it.
if he should move
to a river or a lake –
his sole companion.
He does not ask
to be exonerated.
He gives advice
I didn’t request.
And at the end of his conversation
the content into three
concise, exacting packages
like a minister feeding rules
to a hungry flock
who have no choice
but to follow.
High atop the Hotel Majestic,
the sultry night and inky sky
ablaze with mortars
usher in, not war,
but happiness and joy,
the year of the dragon,
the lunar new year.
Below, two dragon boats
emboldened by neon,
spar like petulant teenagers
preening for attention
on the serpentine river
as they vie for space
at the deserted dock.
Inside, apricot wine,
ancestral rice cakes
and three dan bau players
fortify weak-kneed men
who court would-be wives,
very discreetly, of course,
as is the custom.
the promising occasion.
Not a small faux pas.
Not her playing hard to get.
Not the sullen waiters.
Not even that fortuneteller
who murmurs —
she’s not the one.
The Immigration Problem
Not quite like the brazen giant of Germany
With concrete limbs dividing land from land,
Here at our sun-washed desert gates shall stand
Fence and wire electrified to scorch — to tame
in the imprisoned — liberty; her name:
Mother of Dementia, forgotten history.
She thinks she is an old white man
from whose arthritic hand glints steel
and behind her eyes of red and white
and withered blue a memory locked in a cage
commands from the safe place of fear.
“Keep back, keep back the wretched refuse,
push them back!”
Send them home, lest they like a tempest
toss what is not ours but mine.
It is my golden lamp on the desert floor.
And I snuff it out and lock the door.
The White Screen & the Buzzing Computer
I resort to thinking that I do miss you now and then,
when life feels lonelier than usual.
I have locked myself in a limbo that carries your name
which I curse but then go back to when convenient.
Maybe the truth is I do not want to get out of the limbo
because unknowingly, you keep my heart from shriveling
into monotony and apathy.
You my dear are both the edge of the crevice
and the water in the desert.
All of it, you, and the me in it, a fable created to feed silence,
the white screen and the buzzing computer,
the keys and the sound they make when I tap them…
The metallic echo of my limbo,
a fraying life-line for my heart.
Mickey Kissed Me
Mickey kissed me on the cheek.
Walked up to my power scooter.
No sound was heard, no little squeak.
Adorable, but even cuter,
The look of joy on Emma’s face.
She witnessed this amazing kiss
In Disney World, The Magic Place.
This showmanship of artifice.
Say I’m old, and metal jointed.
Say maturity has missed me.
I believe myself to be anointed.
I was thrilled when Mickey kissed me.
Thanks to Leigh Hunt, “Jenny Kissed Me”
Grab A Life: A Love Story
Hey! Want to grab a beer?
Grab a cup of coffee sometime?
Let’s grab lunch soon.
Grab a workout,
Grab a class, grab a degree,
We should grab a couple minutes to talk.
Want to grab a date?
Set a date?
Grab a church and preacher.
Grab a night to ourselves,
Have a kid
Grab a cab, grab an interview
Grab that promotion and run with it.
Let’s quit renting and grab a house.
Grab a vacation, take the kids.
Grab some life insurance,
Grab a car
Let’s grab our Social Security
Read the books we haven’t read.
Sell the house, grab a condo,
Grab a cruise,
Spend the money, grab the gusto,
Grab a grave
Ode to a Code in my Node
Nothing makes me feel as old
As suffering with a nasty cold
Coughing fits that leave me weak
My runny nose – an endless leak
Aches that settle in each bone
My voice? Sounds like I’m a crone
Crumpled tissues everywhere
Sinuses plugged up to there
Now my nose becomes a geyser
Hands are parched by sanitizer
Lips are cracked and sore and flakey
Eyes are red with corners cakey
Nose is raw inside and out
I start to hack — here’s one more bout!
I snort, I sniff, I groan, I wheeze
Pass the tissues, would you please?
Breathing through my mouth at night
My snoring likely is a fright
Subduing coughs becomes an issue
Excuse me while I grab a tissue
I write this poem to help endure
But someone — please — find a cure!
Mr. Vito Guliamo, undertaker, florist and Mafia Don,
arranged a spectacular funeral for a brother veteran.
More flowers than God. It really stunk.
Much conversation: time to ask for favors.
Mom asked for a little assistance
with a problem I had. See:
a Catholic boy in a blue shirt, blue tie and blue pants
a target for public school boys
always had to take the shortcut
around the public school.
Got caught sometimes; tore my shirt.
Mr. G sent two associates with me to school
(we called them four-by-fours)
No problem since: still owe a favor.
The Crazy Cat Lady
They are all each other has in the world:
two beings, crone and cat,
co-dependents beginning to look alike,
all whiskers and sharp claws,
Neighborhood children call her the crazy cat lady.
Throwing stones at the window they run
waiting for her to open the pane and
shriek at them in a quavering voice.
Unable to understand what it’s like to be the last one left,
they’ll never know that once she was beautiful
dancing with her love until the wee hours,
that she used to laugh, walk in the rain,
and kiss her children tenderly before singing them to sleep.
Poor soul, she still imagines arms around her
as she goes to hug the cat,
the only creature who warms her bed now,
her last friend.
She shudders to think that one day his tiny,
beating heart will stop,
probably before hers,
then she turns toward the cupboard,
opens the last can of tuna and divides it in half.
We come to claim our children.
Our clothes are dusted with flour,
splattered with paint,
We carry the scent of butter and sugar,
grass and the lake wind,
infants and sleep,
We arrive with hands marked by grease and ink,
(like my friend’s husband,
who cut their baby’s umbilical cord
with fingers stained orange by cheez doodles).
Impressions of pencils and strings still bruise our fingers.
Desitin, dirt, and dough reveal
Lyrics linger on our lips
and melodies fade from the tips
of our tongues.
Poems, stories, and equations
continue to arrange themselves in our heads,
words and numbers sliding and then settling into place.
Details of deals,
fill our minds.
We were in the middle of something,
as we were
when we first looked for their faces
as we do now.