SWJ Poetry Project: Spring poetry

Southwest Journal Poetry Project

At last spring!

One April day a couple hundred years ago William Wordsworth was wandering around his own lake district and came across a remarkable stand of “10,000 daffodils dancing in the breeze.” He was charmed, entranced, and wrote his most famous poem. In darker times he would recall the moment, “And then my heart with pleasure fills/And dances with the daffodils.”

After this long, hard winter we are sorely in need of flowers, spring and anything else that fills our hearts with pleasure. Local poets have been working hard to provide it. This collection includes reflections on winter, spring and seasonal transitions. There are tales of tennis matches and model trains, a call to dance and a few of the many haikus we received.  Enjoy! 

This issue marks the beginning of our eighth year doing the Poetry Project. The deadline for the Summer issue is May 9. Please send your best work to [email protected].  Keep writing!

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



March 21. First Day of Spring 

Linda Bergh 

for Kirsten Bergh, 1979-1996


A drop on the tip of my nose, 

then I catch one on my tongue 

walking in spring rain  

defying the wish for comfort and warm

it was then that you began to draw near 

it was then that your love for spring 

            began to fill me 


A few blocks later, 

the rain thickened  

the umbrella went up 

my thoughts on other things 


thunder clapped, 

your voice –  the poet – alerted me   

            wake up


Then I felt you

in the water rushing down to meet the drain, 

            gushing and bubbling

                        as the rain pelted my umbrella


This is life    and   I am with you 

            messy and wet and noisy and slushy

                        beautiful and promising and wild 


You were like that  –  sweet girl – 

and in that moment, 

walking up the street in the rain

you gave it back to me 

            and I was wild and promising too.



Waiting in Cold Places         

Christine Fraser


We who wait in cold places know best how to shovel,

to lift heavy burdens above our heads

then toss them away,

piling them high even where there is no room for any more.


Shoveling, we picture the man who dances

solo in front of the summer bandshell

in Hawaiian shirt, straw hat, sandals;

how he shuffles






and shimmies.


We imagine him as we work in the early dark,

whirling in his brightly lit square of kitchen

with a shadow partner,

a dervish of joyful abandon.

We wait for the long light and hope again

to sit in the grass and watch the man dance.


Potted Wildflowers

Michael Kennedy


They have been uprooted from their fields

Wrapped inside wet newspaper

Then brought into the house to be replanted

Inside black soil and tiny flowerpots


Sitting in the sun by the window

We give them water and hope for sunshine

We go on with our lives knowing they’re safe

Hoping we don’t overwater them


Assuming they’re content to watch the world

Assuming seasons pass and they don’t mind

Assuming we can leave and they’ll be fine

Careful not to knock them on the floor


Their roots dig deep and push against the walls

Eat the dirt and twist around each other

They look at one another in the pots

Trying to make sense of what has happened.


>> Haiku 


Cruel, cold, old man

Slowing, snowing ceaselessly

No spring in your step

— Helene Mogosanu



Rabbit watches me  

While munching dried hydrangea

From stem to flower

— Jen Chilstrom



Squirrel, you stay warm

Come out again, let us play

I made you mittens

(…and also a little hat.)

— Adam Overland


Watching the Canadian Beat the Serb

at the Australian Open

James P. Lenfestey


This can’t be happening.   She hits harder too,

her blond braid thick as a horse’s tail,

literally unflappable, while the Serb,

dark with cheekbones, in royal blue,

so used to the domination of her people

by others — the Turks, the Russians, Genghis

Khan — she crushes

the ball with a thousand quiet curses.


But the Canadian, a child really, healthy,

cared for her whole life by her state,

solid as her banks, squarish,  

skirt oddly high on her belly,  nothing

to drive her but power, passion, calm,

and beauty too.  Did I fail to say beauty?

How hard it strikes.


Dance With Me         

Laurie Savran


Dance with me all night and drink spirits

And eat sushi at dawn


We don’t care what others think

We don’t even think.


Heaven has gotten in our way

And there is no turning back.

The moon is big and full

And there is no sleep.



Model Trains

Doug Wilhide


While we know the world is round

sometimes it isn’t,

like when the world is flat, a piece of plywood

with tacked-down tracks on raised cork berms,

plastic crossing signs, paper pine trees,

a station missing some pieces,

six people, six cows, five trucks,

ten railroad cars in various states of repair.

one engine that works (and two that don’t).


Everywhere there are these memory basements

handed down from father to son to son

with partly landscaped flat worlds

unplugged power packs, tunnels without mountains,

trestles to nowhere, a conductor missing his flag.


The worlds that matter are the ones we make up

more biography than geography

more idea than realization

more plan than actualization:

getting there has always been more than half the fun.


Meanwhile, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe

runs the Super Chief through mesas and canyons

as California guys in high-waisted pants

drink in sky-domed observation cars

heading for sun-kissed misses in orange groves

who have whispered “don’t be late.”


The City of New Orleans races into the deep South

on its way to magnolia aromas,

gumbo, history, jazz and the blues.


The Empire Builder glides easily up the Mississippi,

through the high bluffs of immigrant dreams

heading for St. Paul and all points west.


And — in the darkening night — the Twentieth Century Limited

crosses the Hudson in the moonlight,

as people sip martinis in the club car,

silhouettes on the windows

that flash by like heartbeats in our dreams.



Whistle: An Elegy     

Philip Dacey


My father whistled

to himself as he went about

his daily routine.

I don’t whistle much.

A genetic deterioration, no doubt.


Or maybe these lines are

a kind of whistling — if so,

there’s still no denying

a genetic deterioration:

where’s the clean, clear


rush of air from between

the lips of that man so peaceful

you’d think Buddha himself,

in an improbably absentminded

moment, was whistling?


Now when I surprise myself

by doing it I have to wonder:

could it be that my father’s

whistling through me?

And did his father whistle?


Maybe, if the whistler is

my father, he’s trying

to get my attention.

Calling me to him.  Saying,

“Hey, Phil.  Over here.  This way.”



Season’s Doorway    

Daniel Shaw


Close the bin

on Winter’s boots.


Gather them up

   bulky socks

   bereft of shape or purpose


   the cardigan sweater

   once swollen

   by layers of warmth-hoarding wool

   drooping from the wing chair.


Enter the season of easy love.

Smiles blossom unbidden

on faces glazed

by willful Winter’s chill.


A gentle breeze teases

hair on head and arms

recklessly exposed

from the zealous embrace

of the North Face, Land’s End.


At sunrise my heart swells


at the constraints of rib and muscle


casts its net

beyond the windows of dawn

seeking the source of Spring’s rising.



Springtime on a Farm in Minnesota

Lee Pederson


Aged woman prods her aged husband

to venture out into the world as she,

who has prodded him for so many years,

cooks and cleans, washes the dishes and schemes

while he puts on his buckle overshoes,

then goes out the door as he always does.


Winter has broken and the air is full

of rotting leaves returning to the soil,

of new green sprouts growing from the black ground,

of water standing in earthworm puddles.


The man returns from his assigned mission,

sits in the kitchen and makes his report.

The woman nods, smiling, knowing and proud:

There will shortly be fresh asparagus.