Summer Poetry

washing the dog
Washing the Dog illustration

Our extended winter and fast-forward spring led to an outpouring of interesting poems for summer. There was love (of course), remembered and ongoing. Kids and dogs. Plants. Poems about poetry. And lots of animals — otters, chameleons and kingifishers (oh my). This collection should offer something for everyone. Enjoy!

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


PC Wickland

He walked in
with seeds of love in his hair
who knows for how long
lain dormant there

He shook his head
and scattered them
upon the ground
where she walked

They must have
taken root beneath her,
grown up into her
through her heart
and into her mind

Before she realized
they were in bloom everywhere

He could see
her rose blush
but did not know
he’d planted it there.



Doug Wilhide

There are moments of love and memory
and transition
when the past stands right up
against the future
and makes its case:
you are not who you were,
the one I loved back then;
you are who you are,
the one I love now.

I miss the you and me and us
when we were like both sides of a prayer,
heart to heart, thought to thought,
tuned like an orchestra or a harp:
we could tell each other anything,
and had no need to.

It is hard to keep the past in its place,
but harder not to embrace …
this new day —
another beginning…
this hope —
that morning will again deliver
its familiar kind of grace.

Ben the Whistler

Ben the Whistler

Stuart Klipper

The morning’s parade down Xerxes —
The kiddos strolling (some striding) to school.
They pass by in bevies.

But then there is Ben, who ambles solo.

As I sit on my stoop in the morning sun,
with my tea and a read,
his onset is heralded by a tune.

Ben is a whistler!

Who walks and whistles any more?
And melodiously at that?

He always will stop and
pass a few amiable words.
He’s an avid conversationalist to boot.

I believe he must be a time-traveler,
who has happily hopped out of the 1940s,
someone from out of something
Norman Rockwell just painted.


Grateful Like She…

Linda Bergh

First in spring, gap-toothed and gangly
She came with her mother to collect the first blue flowers
Growing in abandon in my yard – and not so much in hers.
Clutching them tightly I saw her leave,
that glimmer of joy in her eyes.

A few weeks later, the blue bells took her eye,
and then her hand, wishing for them too
to be magically appearing in her yard
just blocks – but a kingdom – away.

But then, toward solstice,
even though the peonies had interested her,
and the roses took her glance,
By then the summer had swallowed her whole
and biking and swimming and
laying looking at clouds was
the order of the day.

The flowers didn’t mind, even when they went home with her
the daisies and the coneflowers,
more out of habit now than passion,

For they too had given themselves up to summer heat
grateful like she
for the blazing days of joy.


A Grandmother’s Complaint

Carolyn Light Bell

A faint little cough,
a viral fist pushing away the dropper
of coconut water offered
by a worried mother.
Every day her tiny body diminishing,
lingering quietly in her stroller,
unmoving, expressionless…

Until I remember not all popsicles
are just sugar and dye.
Some amount to actual fruit
and might measure up to the vegan parents’
initiative to create a more perfect world
for their small child.

Off to market I soar after seeking permission
and texting photos of ingredients for
approval. I unwrap the fruit pop,
joyfully offer it to this aching, frail-looking
toddler. The first bite brings a glimmer of smile;
second bite, and her chin turns red with the smear
of corruption.
Daily, she improves—
while I, alas, now cough on a much grander scale.



Miriam Moore-Keish

She saw the ocean for the first time
after she re-remembered how
to sing and laugh
and she asked
has this been happening my whole life?
then maybe the world is alright

Like the way farmers think
the thistle is a weed
but no
the thistle is a survivor
of the street and the gutter
and the corners
where earth remembers
rain long gone
and even through drought
the thistle remembers
and flowers.

Washing the Dog

Laurie Llyken

There, you think,
I have washed the dog.
But it’s spring.
The world’s alive
with mud and puddles
and all things
a dog might love
more than being clean
or even you.

The truth is this:
nothing lasts;
everything must be done
again and again.
And when you start to realize
all you have been doing
with such earnest resolve
has come undone
yet again…
you might also realize
life itself is slipping
ever so slowly away.

You’ll feel the pull of Pluto
on your soul then
but you may find
you don’t even mind
all that much.

morning walkMorning Walk with Cosmo

Joe Alfano

Two males,
we make our way
around the lake

My thoughts dwell on sky,
horizon — jagged
branches I can’t see,
words in my mind,
unraveled threads
that wait for my fingers to rewind.

Cosmo, close to the ground,
scans, sniffs and studies,
stops often
to closely interpret
the stories recorded.
A scholar of scents
and in the moment,
he reads
in a vocabulary rich
with intent and purpose,
his whole body
drawn to comprehend.

Once understood,
he shakes himself,
and with a flair,
leaves his addition
to the narrative.

His pull on the leash
tells me it’s time
to move on.


Robert Delahunty

Your life depends
On not being noticed.
For you, survival
Is a vanishing act.

Quick-change artist,
Opportunist of color,
You are all things to all things,
Surrendering to surroundings,
To a leaf, a leaf,
Obligingly green to green,
Companionably red to red.

Why should we condemn you,
Tiny arbitrageur?
Living off your wits, decoying death,
Making ambiguity
A matter of principle?

Who are you then, enigma?
Are you simply a clever twig,
The sheen on a surface, a flash
In the pan of existence,
Insubstantial as a blush,
A chromatic spasm?

Or are you Joseph,
Glory of Israel,
Master of Egypt,
Wise as the serpent,
Arrayed in his coat
Of many colors?



Bob Swanby

At first I wasn’t sure
The calmer pool a diversion under the bridge
From the wild overflowing river
Then the tiny wake appeared again
His slick brown head and shining eyes rose out of the water
Before he quickly submerged

In a flash he re-emerged
Slithered onto the small rock pile
Washed in swirling water

He brought himself straight up with his front legs
Stood on his hind legs and stared at me
Dove back into the pool like
A high diver righting his body in mid-air
Before bending for the perfect entry

His wake reappeared in the pool
His head popped up in my direction
He smiled at me in the twilight
With his broad-toothed grin saying
“Come on in, the water’s fine”



Elizabeth Weir

A great blue heron stabs
into pond weed and catches
a twisting fish crosswise
in its dagger bill.

Fish glints silver.
Bird tosses it, shakes it,
dibbles it in water,
flips it again,

until it lands head
towards gullet, scales
slanting the right way,
and swallows,

as I catch an idea,
flick it and worry it,
swill it in syllables,
iambs snagging,

until words slip
into rhythm,
every trochee,
sliding smoothly.



Chuck Kausalik-Boe

In a book I’m reading, the author asks me to choose an object,
This will become a sign for me.
When I see this object, it will let me know
that I am in alignment with the universe.
I am following my calling,
living my destiny.
Do not choose an object that I
know I will see everyday,
instead, be brave, select something that inspires.

I chose a pig and a mermaid,
yes, a pig and a mermaid.
I couldn’t decide between the two,
so I chose both.
This should double my chances.
That was five months ago.
So far, all I’ve seen are a book with
a pig character, and a journal with a mermaid
on the cover.
Alignment?  Following my calling?
Maybe I should write more.

Weed, Weed

John O’Connor

Weed! Weed!
Cries the drug dealer on the corner.
I have no interest – no real need –
But I must look like a customer.

I imagine his Buddhist counterpart,
A yelling vendor in an orange robe –
Mind! Mind! Bliss! Bliss! Heart! Heart! –
Trying to change my frontal lobe.

Do things improve when they repeat?
Is repetition always pretty?
I could stand on the street
Shouting Poetry! Poetry!

But the three of us, with screams like those,
Would make you sober atheist readers of prose.

Thinking Minnesotan

Ray Dull

Walking home from the co-op,
a neighbor woman chanced to say,
“What nice weather for a walk.”

I smiled and replied,
“It’s a wonderful day.”

And felt compelled to add,
“But we’ll pay for it!”

But I bit my tongue instead.

To Metro Mobility

Fran Nelson

A fierce old bus is Metro Mo,
He rattles, bumps and grinds.
He doesn’t bite but shakes his prey
Who nearly lose their minds.

He starts and stops, his jaws do drop
To take you on your way.
You show your name and play the game
Since serpents have their way.

You’re in his grasp as on you speed
To find another soul.
And when he thinks you’ve had enough,
He drops you at your goal.

Editor’s note: Frances Nelson, a lifelong resident of Southwest, began taking creative writing courses at age 90. Her friend, Karla Forsyth, sent us some of Fran’s poetry for this issue and informed us that Fran died on May 29 at the age of 96.