Summer poetry

Illustrations by WACSO

This is our busy season. In the land of coping and cold memories, we now enjoy good-weather time with friends, neighbors and each other. Local poets seem divided: observing closely the here and now while keeping an eye on larger themes. Past and present come together. Autumn — and what follows — appear far away.

Deadline for the next Southwest Journal poetry issue is Aug. 19. Send your best work to

— Doug Wilhide is the poet laureate of Linden Hills and poetry editor for the Southwest Journal


26th and Bloomington

— Craig Planting

I’m on my way.

I’m driving down Bloomington Avenue

and I’m speeding because

I have to get to you before your phone rings.

I can’t quite make the light at 26th Street and have to stop.

This is your reprieve.

It gives you an extra three minutes of just another day shift

before everything changes.


The sky is pearl-gray and a man is smoking at the bus stop

and I’m sorry we couldn’t save your dad.

He was too smart and too sad

and now he’s on the other side.

But we’re still here

and you’re still here

and when you’re ready, you could be with us.

We could be your family now.


Where the Virtues Hang Out

— Melissa S. Anderson

Here in the hotel lounge,

Truth wanders among quiet conversations,

listening, smiling, feeling at home

amid unguarded talk about anxiety

and regret.


Here in the grocery store,

Beauty walks softly

around the little girl and her grandfather

who are examining the pears

and mangoes.


Here in the alley,

Love pauses

to watch the teenager,

his fat belly straining the buttons on his jacket,

as he resets his neighbor’s fallen garbage can

and scoops up the trash.


Three People on a Beach

— Scott Schudy

three people on the beach-01

Here upon a moonlit night

As May winds lightly breeze

And lapping summer furls its waves

That roll and then reprise,

I see a couple holding hands

Who pause before they dart

Across the cooled sand that feels

The joy that they impart.


These two who stumble on until

They end their lover’s race,

Now stop beside the lakeland sounds

To share a love’s embrace.

Their soaring love is all too blind

As they walk down this beach

Ignoring those whom they approach,

Like me who is in reach…


And as they cross my single path

And lift their feet to dip them

The moonlit night is calling me

To pause and gently trip them.




— John O’Connor


Dung beetles dance and study the stars.

Linda reads tabloids and cruises the bars.

Leonard considers and renovates cars.


The dung beetle could have dated,

And Linda could have renovated,

And Leonard quite possibly could have star-gated.


Alternate destinies seem to show

The great importance of who you know,

And what you learn, and how you go.


Dancing with my Grandson

— Doug Wilhide

dancing with my grandson-01

When his parents come to get him

he runs up to my study to hide,

closes the door, flicks off the light,

grabs the flashlight and a stuffed bunny

and claims some quality Grandpa time.


We listen to the radio

(“where are the voices coming from?”)

and when the music picks up we start to dance.


He moves — arrhythmically —

thin, 4-year-old shoulders shaking,

skinny legs stepping back and forth

and sometimes sideways

head nodding, always looking away.

I move — ponderously —

imagining I’m a lot smoother than I am,

avoiding reflective surfaces:

neither of us possess a Fred Astaire gene.


I would never have tried to dance with my grandfather:

The Reverend Dr. of Divinity was a serious guy,

widely admired, hard of hearing,

better at raising funds than consoling sinners,

an upright Man of God

(notwithstanding the long affair with the church secretary).


My grandson tries to wiggle his butt

and I do the same — different orders of mass

displacing space and time to different beats.

He will forget all this once his parents take him home:

He has the future.


But I have the past: incentive to remember the present.

For now we do our separate dances together

as the music carries us on

to the end of a Saturday afternoon.


I Am a Dreamer

— Gina Jarvi

I am a dreamer,         a reveilleur.

A loner among wolves.

The deer        that stalks the gun.

The gun          that stalks the sky.


I cast many shadows upon the places of fear.

I agree with you

in order that you may agree with yourself.

I ramble on about things

that bear no connection to what is being said,

but always with a purpose.


In the crevices of our conversation I say things

Not always heard.


Elegy for Anthracite

— James Lenfestey


My father sold coal for a living. As a boy

I climbed his glistening black mountains,

loved the rattle down the chute

to the octopus furnace in the dark,

its mouth glowing gold as we shoveled,

keeping the family warm.


Lumps of you littered the coal floor,

food of diamonds,

failure marked then as now

by a black rock in a stocking.


I cheered like a boy the day

President Obama ended forever

coal-fired power burning up the earth.

I fought three decades for this.


But I remember my father’s happy

two-door Dodge shrouded with the dust

of coal, the excitement of another

Great Lakes freighter, guts filled

with the anthracite heart

of broken Pennsylvania

pulling into the bay.


— Adam Overland


Sunlight falls through the window of my room onto dust

Each particle a world undiscovered

Each a windblown leaf, floating fast on furious gusts

Each a planet, reflecting what light is scattered among the great darkness.


Do they have relationships?

What are they?

The dust of what?

Are they offspring?

The dust of whom?


Each once part of some whole, unknown

Each still part of the whole unknown

Each now dancing happily to be reflected


And now, for a moment:

Each a mirror

Each a window

Each a butterfly

Each the crust of some stale breadcrumb that took flight from the kitchen counter.


And seconds later at the slightest shift of sunlight,

gone like Houdini,

struggling somewhere underwater with his chains.


Might as well be dust,

Might as well be a world,

Might as well be you,

Might as well be me,

Might as well be gone…


But for now, dancing happily along

Casting no shadow

Each a world

Reflected in the light.



— Philip Dacey



My sister winked at me before she died.

“Don’t take this death of mine so seriously,”

she seemed to say as I sat by her side.

Or maybe, “We have our secret, you and I.”

Her wink a final gift, a link, what made

a siblings’ inside joke out of goodbye.

I want to make these lines wink as she did.

My new aesthetic now is to wink and die.


At the Bach Recital

I’d not have minded so much that the man

In front of me kept chewing gum —

He made no sound — if he had only done

So keeping — lento! — the Master’s time.



His father, mother, brother, sister gone,

he notes that when he dies he will again

complete the family, he the baby, the last

to arrive years ago, the baby still, though past

his prime, for now he’ll be the last to leave —

and this time make four permanently five.


The Diagnosis

— Annette Gagliardi


Tell me when I’ll die,

then I can just go ahead

and do the deed,

or choose to live

at any speed.


Tell me if it’s so bad

that the days I’ve had

will no longer be —

That this will be the end of me.


Or, will I suffer, throw a fit

and make a drama queen of it;

then be on my way,

living life another way?
Just tell me:

will I stay or will I go?

That is all I want to know.


Today Is a Day for a Poem

for David

— Lisa Calame Berg

today is a day for a poem-01

The garden rests under soft, persistent rain.

The laundry is in the washer.

The dog sighs and rests his head

against my knee, ready for

his afternoon snooze.


A week ago, there was too much to do.

Yesterday it seemed that a life survived

was simply a series of small miracles.

Today it seems more like a broken succession

of quiet moments like the fall of rain.


Decades ago today we married.

The careers began, the children came and

grew and didn’t notice the sodden silence

that swelled between us. It was a miracle

that we stayed together.


Today I watch the rain and write this poem.

We both love these children, this house,

this sleepy, hairy dog. And each other,

still — our not-so-small miracle —

that we love each other still.