Fall poetry

What is this?! Hurricanes batter the Southeast from Houston to Key West while fires and smoke engulf the Northwest from Seattle to North Dakota. Did we do something wrong? Fortunately local poets are still engaging our finest transitional season with wide-ranging insights. This collection includes poems about autumn, can openers, Italy, Michigan, Tarzan and ducks. It also includes poems about poetry and (as always) love. Enjoy!

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


Tarzan In High Heels

John O’Connor


Tarzan in high heels

Appeared to me one morning

Without a word of warning,

And he had this to say:


“Try it and see how it feels.

Dude, you are too uptight.

You are – dare I say it – too white.

Pretend you’re funny – or gay.”


Startled and slightly scared,

And totally unprepared,

I did my best to respond to his crazy views:


“Most guys will not go out the door

Until they put on something more

Than a pair of women’s shoes.”


Autumn Encounter

Elizabeth Weir


I weed between the sugar water

and a hummingbird’s fierce desire.


A mere breath of feathers,

he sweeps in great pendulum arcs,


each time, hovering

for a still second, before my face.


Wings thrumming,

he pelts me with curses,


scarlet throat

flashing wicked iridescence.


I withdraw, no match

for his massive irritation.


Ode to Oxo      

Peggy Reinhardt


Oh, to open a jar of pickles!

I search for you, handy helper of mine.

There you are in a drawer not de-cluttered.

You twist and turn and make me feel able:

My strength in this everlasting age.


Oh, to thinly slice a carrot!

My fingers fear a slippery knife.

Now I hold you, sweet mandolin,

Sliding and gliding cukes and zucchinis

Each slice a sweet sound of vegetables played.


Oh, to blend, stir, and mix a cake batter!

You are the bowl that really matters

A handle, a lip, and a firm bottom grip.

Gentle whisk, spatula and cake tester

You hold a special place in my cupboard.


Oh, to take a salad for a spin!

You sit near my sink awaiting

Water to wash spring greens.

You’ve released me from that dreaded chore

What ever did I do before you came in to my kitchen?


Oh, to open a drawer of desire!

No longer junk but a collection of tools.

My fingers feel faint and caress —

Can opener, corkscrew, tongs, and more.

You’ve thought of me and what I need

Your simple grip really has a hold on me.


The Symphony of Ordinary Movement

James P. Lenfestey


Reach for a glass in the cupboard.

Twist the faucet.

Work the knife on the plate

against thin-skinned tomatoes.


The swivel of soup spoons.

The tongue playing across the silk

of the upper lip.

Feet crossed one over the other

in an X of relaxation.


Nod of the head into yes, into no.

Sway of the neck into way and no way.

Cock of the ear listening, not listening.

Drum of fingertips, snare of one nail

snapped against another.


The smooth edge of plates.

The circular swirl of washing and drying.

Place the glass back in the cupboard.


More with Less

Laurie Lykken


Short poems

are best

requiring more

be done with less

to avoid, one hopes,

an overwritten mess.


Much like packing

a small suitcase

when we decide

to fly someplace

cheaply. A case

that must fit

beneath the seat

where once we sought

to keep our feet.


This case will not

hold everything

that we think

we need to bring

requiring that

we make do with less…

like fewer socks

and one less dress.



Liz Loney


Autumn stalks the edge

Hovering, watching

Home plate…the bat cracks…fly ball!



Lucille Gudmestad


Pulling dead grass out of my hair

Thinking that people always say

Keep faith

Think big

And leave room for miracles.

They just might happen.



Pieta Cunningham



oww butterfly!

come pass by

my window

fly on my finger

and give me a kiss



Annette Gagliardi


I wanted to put some earth

in my journey —

get down to the soil,

dig up the loam,

and till it some —

plow and plant a little

in the earth of my life

to see what grows —

I wanted to sow a new

seed in the turf —

to see if a better person

could walk this earth.



Miriam Moore-Keish


The one time I went to Michigan, it was Detroit

and I could see Canada from my hotel window.


I drove along the shore until the road turned

and Canada stepped into my rearview mirror,

where she and I saw the big-porched houses,

saggy and dilapidated and bedraggled and other

fourth grade spelling bee words that mean

growing closer to gravity, listening to its

whispers saying, “down. down. down.”


Now when I think of Michigan I think of you and

how you left Detroit,

crowded so many places in your rearview mirror

that Detroit could not fit.


I do not think of the gravity Canada and I met

when we thought about sitting on big porches

like the one where I met you years later.

No, I think of the gravity that clawed “down” into

your skull until you gravitated toward the south

and the mountains and the big porches

where I sat on rocking chairs

and waited for you

to come home.


Morning Swim in Lake Michigan

Doug Wilhide


It is a cliche to talk about sunlight on the water

as a million diamonds

between here and the horizon

sparkling, dancing, instantly vanishing.


But — now — throw your body into the lake

and be fully, instantly, aware

of the cold:


thin almost as air,

an uncaring world that envelops you…

and suddenly diamonds on the water

look feel taste even sound and smell,

absolutely new, absolutely true.


Cliches have their place,

too familiar to matter,

but with their own kind of reality, condensed,

like coal under pressure.


I can tell you — in that moment —

in the big lake —

I saw silver, light-flashing diamonds

all around me,

signaling the sun

and staking their claim:

no horizon is ever the same.



Melissa S. Anderson        


Standing in line at the hotel registration desk,

I watch a man on the muted television over the bar,

gesturing at a map.


This being North Carolina,

he is focused on the mid-Atlantic region.

I think he is reassuring us

that the states here are stable,

still fitting together in their puzzle-pieces way.


He’s more concerned, though,

about Pennsylvania and New York,

which, it seems, might be loose in their sockets

and in danger of slipping out of place.

Florida and Georgia are apparently

also showing signs of drift.


I hope that my Minnesota is still securely snuggled up

against Wisconsin and the rest.

I wouldn’t want the pilot on the flight home

to have to figure out where it had popped to.


I’m writing about the map, instead of you,

because I can’t arrange into words

my astonishment

that you have stepped into my life.


sleep habits of two loring park ducks

pam christian


at rest beneath a low-limbed tree

heads tucked into paunches

so tight

it looks like

two speckled bellies

have bills of their own


he wears his cap

shiny and proud

loses no sleep

to movement while

she dresses down

enjoys nonstop repartee

in reverie


or is she sleep-eating?

nabbing unsuspecting

winged things

as they pass between

her hard, flat lips.


Writers Block

John O’Connor


A poet who lived in Pawtucket

Was totally tempted to chuck it.

“I put in the time,

But I can’t find the rhyme.

There’s nothing that sounds like Nantucket.”