It was a difficult winter/spring for some of us and summer has been too long coming. We received a lot of serious poetry this time; lightheartedness was in short supply. Still, this collection offers glimmers of hope, with poems about trees and birds, wasps and cats, baseball and bus rides, odd encounters — and some of the many ways love works out (or doesn’t). Enjoy!
Doug Wilhide is the poet laureate of Linden Hills and poetry editor of the Southwest Journal.
I am hiding,
and slid into the seat
like a transit co-conspirator,
one row ahead to the left,
at the empty big box stop.
It’s beautiful if you look,
You are beautiful too,
Don’t tell anyone,
it’s a secret
(as if I misunderstood).
So I powered a gaze
through his whiskered disguise
to the aisle space behind.
I’m hiding as well, deep down,
And see what you mean –
but he bowed his head
and disappeared from the knowing.
Sometimes still waters do run deep,
Other times they’re only shallows.
Some dreams end only when you sleep,
Or when swinging from the gallows.
Sometimes a rope is just a rope,
Until it’s fashioned in a noose.
Standing on love’s slippery slope,
Fear of falling is no excuse.
When is a dream only a dream?
Do we, on waking, know it ends?
Nightmares of falling make us scream,
At what mortality portends.
She stood in the open doorway,
A dream suspended where time stopped.
As she said gently, “I can’t stay.”
The trapdoor opened, and I dropped.
Melissa S. Anderson
We are in love.
He’s over three-hundred years old
and I’m not,
but the age difference doesn’t bother us.
We usually – well, always –
meet at his place.
I can see him waving happily to me
from two blocks away.
When I get there,
he whispers sweet nothings to me,
especially when there’s a wind,
which seems to inspire him.
He’s very well grounded,
and he’s always there for me.
I can lean on him
whenever I need some support.
He’s so kind to the little animals in the neighborhood,
letting them climb all over him.
I’ve never heard him complain
Yes, we are in love,
and my husband doesn’t mind at all.
I ticked on the stove’s burner
To boil my morning meal.
A blue gas flame licked the metal rack,
hissing and anxious
to meet the still-cool pot.
Suddenly — though — I sensed a low vibration near.
I searched the flame
and heard it close,
and there — next to an unlit burner — an exhausted wasp
struggled, its long, truncated body,
and angled, hair-thin legs
ratcheting the slippery curve
of the grease-specked surface.
“How did I get here?” it buzzed quietly.
“How do I depart?”
I snatched a postcard off the fridge,
a painting by Bonnard, called “Lunch.”
Sweet daubs of pink/orange flowers,
a soft-gazed woman at a table set for tea,
and with it — nudged my tired guest into a glass.
We whirred together down the steps
And into the backyard
And there we chose the one
Reaching, burning bright,
As the drop-off spot.
Here’s the flame
dear wasp was looking for.
Down from the sky,
something flashing — black lightning.
Rare this far south,
even more so in the city,
twice the size of a crow,
it lands —
too large for the world
of the birdbath,
almost toppling it.
It dips in its fortified beak
that carries a piece of sky.
Cracked open, the robin’s egg shell
a shard, a feather, a foot.
Will I weep for these
discarded pieces of baby robin?
Or will I rejoice that the raven
for her own young?
Oh, who will I be
when the terrible grace of those black wings
leaves me behind
Three Flickers Feeding
James P. Lenfestey
In raked dawn light, a flicker
father feeds a flicker child
leaving flicker shadows on the
flicker lawn, his tongue a light
while mother flicker laughs
and laughs and laughs.
As robin, puffing out her breast,
a deacon of this church,
drops in, as stirrings of
the morning breeze attest.
As overhead, the red eyes
of the vireo repeat, repeat, repeat
the lilt of lifting morning quilt.
I too now feed, an egg,
and praise the hunger
of the young, the
laughter of the old,
the light that wakes us,
insists we sing.
A Place to Begin
Not all of the corn plants make it.
Some immigrants settled on swampland.
Grandfather really wasn’t a farmer.
So the bride’s parents feel uneasy about the groom.
Mother’s frown might drown a whole city.
Are all of the words in the books domesticated?
I keep wondering if they knew all this at
Wounded Knee. Did they think,
Oh, here come the sad people with their guns?
Can I talk about immigrants
and not mention this other story of ours?
Everyone in the old photo looks unhappy.
Do you think I’m being unfair?
Even now, don’t we turn our heads away from
what we know is happening on the frontiers?
Aren’t we sitting in the little white church,
keeping our eyes on Zion,
listening to our stomachs rumbling?
A chance encounter at the grocery store
with my laughing, believing friend —
she has lines in her face.
She’s not pretending that she doesn’t weep —
and I start unbending and
coming back to temper.
Pink folders for poems, purple for prose
Legal-sized folders for cartoons, jokes
and hidden beach destinations
A manila folder chock-a-block with embellished resumès
Blue folders bulging with rejection letters
A hanging army green folder with stories about
misdiagnosed illnesses, spontaneous remissions
and Over-Packers Anonymous meetings
Red folders with important notes on scraps
of ashy white paper, wrinkled, faded and forgotten
A gray folder containing great ideas never realized
A “Happiness” folder tagged with a little yellow sticky-note:
Always smile when looking into a mirror
A folder, smelling like bacon grease, containing secret recipes:
Mrs. Theiland’s Rhubarb Surprise, Puffed Olive Balls,
Crock-Pot Creamed Squirrel with Pearl Onions
and Oatmeal For One
Folders for filing information
on vintage stringed musical instruments, fiddle festivals,
Boundary Waters canoe outfitters,
antique car parts and Wisconsin AYCE Friday fish fry dinners
A “Misc” folder for heteronyms, homonyms, palindromes
and valid 2 and 3 letter Scrabble words
The beige folder with information
on the local chapter of the Dull Men’s Support Group
A folder labeled “Gem” holding
a wonderful idea, so spontaneous, so immediate,
it had to be quickly scribbled
on the back of a clear plastic sauce pouch
An empty folder waiting to unfold like a calla lily,
ready for newspaper clippings about the stitched-up boy
who survives the attack of a tiger
Back home in Kansas, I met Clark Kent.
It was a strange event.
Long story short, he slugged me.
I saw the massive jaw,
The super-hero build,
The steely resolute pose.
And I was filled with awe.
The dude lives up to how he’s billed —
Including spandex clothes.
And this is what caused the problem:
On weighing all the evidence —
Which I do slowly because I’m dense —
I finally asked him:
“Are you a friend of Dorothy?”
We hosted the Old Poets’ Summer Party last week:
And it was quite the affair —
Liz and Bob Browning were there
He seeing if his reach would exceed his grasp
She still counting the ways she loved him.
Larry Ferlinghetti flew in from the coast
His mind on Coney Island
And Tom Elliott arrived
When the evening was spread out against the sky.
Will Shakespeare stopped by
Representing the Middle English Department
While Walt Whitman strolled around barefoot
Enjoying the leaves of grass.
Emily D. showed up in an Uber coach driven by Death,
and e.e. cummings (in his lower case way)
told her he carried her heart in his heart.
Wally Stevens was carrying on about ideas of order
With Jimmy Buffett, whose flip flop had popped,
And Langston Hughes mused with Paul Simon
About counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Al Tennyson couldn’t make it, what with Brexit and all,
But Hank Wordsworth canoed in from Minnehaha Creek
And Nikki Giovanni bicycled in from Virginia
Connecting with Rita Dove, who was ballroom dancing
With hubby in the back yard.
Even God appeared, passing out Psalms
And quoting from Ecclesiastes.
Many local poets joined in the fun
Seeking selfies and signatures
And enjoying being younger.
I had babysitting duties
So I wandered around with Rosie,
Our riveting, adorable granddaughter,
Who is a living poem unto herself —
She calls water “wine” (I think she got that from me)
And has recently learned how to say “mar-tini.”
Dear Cat Goddess, bless us
with the spirit of adventure and fun.
May we enjoy the simple pleasures
of resting in the sun.
May we enjoy treats without
concern of weight and health.
Fill us with the desire to hunt
for our dreams and pounce
on them with all our might.
Give us the strength to feel our worth
and the gift to share our love.
Dear Lady Bast, help us to see
in the dark parts of our spirits
and not be afraid.
Bless us on our journey and fill
us with the sun and the moon
and all the joy that goes with it.
One Balmy Evening
The sinking sun slides low
over the western edge
of the stadium & glints
in and out of rafters.
Food vendors bawl their tune
in time with the pitch —
a swing and a miss!
Waiting for the next pitch
the noise of the crowd fades,
time stands still
as you doze, then dream some …
until the bat’s crack
brings you back.
The evening balmy and fair,
you and your spouse — a pair
of fans in matching hats and smiles,
similar sentiments that require little effort
to share as you stare.
And your returning dream
comes true, as you enjoy
the evening, the crowd, the play —
It doesn’t matter if your team loses
Shortwinded Love Song
You are the bubble in my soda.
You are the tannin in my tea.
You are the smirk on my barista.
You belong to me.
You are the smugness of my Volvo.
You are my Zen tranquility.
You are my tofu, kale and Merlot.
You belong to me.