Fall Poetry

a natural

OUR FAVORITE SEASON begins with all the hope and promise of back-to-school and then slips (so to speak) into winter.  This collection begins sort of the same way — with a splash — and includes tales of houses, food, golf, morning routines, dogs … and trolls.  You’ll find some new voices and some familiar ones. Enjoy!

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

Alice in Lake Superior

Betsy Johnson

The blackening sky rolls in, churning the seas.
A storm threatens, opportunities open.
The silhouette of a girl, poised at the edge,
dives recklessly into the cresting curl.
Surfacing with a quick shout of joy released,
she gains her balance, straightens tall to scout out
the next wave promising to match her excitement.

She hurls her narrow body, arms wide to receive
the smack, downward drift, then toss of the next.
Now floating on her back, a turtle upended,
happy just to be there,
where time and thoughts are suspended.

paint chips

Paint Chips

Caroline Bassett

Based on Benjamin Moore paint chips
from Settergren’s hardware store

I’d paint my bathroom “Snugglepuss” maybe,
just to be contrary.

I want the bedroom to be “Old Pickup Blue.”
That would be great.
It would carry me away
in a rickety way,
to places I’d like to go.

Painting “Love Song” beside “Careless Whispers”
makes me a bit nervous.
Whose song?  And who is carelessly
whispering about it?
Even if I am “Drop Dead Gorgeous,”
maybe there’s a threat there,
and I will drop

How about some “Fresh Butter”
in “King Arthur’s Court”?
Or better, a “Glimmer”
of “Crushed Berries”
in the “Mauve Bauhaus”?

I’m afraid I don’t feel like “Silken Pine” or “Soft Fern.”
I’m more into the “Barren Plain…”

But I hear the “Angel’s Trumpet.”


Sounds Around the House

Stuart D. Klipper

Incidental domestic sounds,
some pleasant, some less so:

The splat of a spent tea bag
tossed over to the stainless surface of the sink.

The last gasp of the water’s slosh
of the flushed toilet when it is gulped up as it goes down.

The kicked-in whir of the upstairs a/c
as its thermostat sees fit to fire it up.

The clunk, not quite clank, in the winter,
of the bedroom radiator at, plus or minus, four in the AM.

Upstairs, when I’m at work, and it rains hard,
the tumult on the roof a few feet overhead.

The one split step of the wooden stairs,
which creaks when trod on going down or up.

My brass ship’s clock, when wound up,
dinging out the watch hours, reminding me of my times at sea.

The intermittent metallic rattle of overlooked pocket change
orbiting in the drier drum amongst the clothes and the linen.

But apart from these, and that low thrumming
of the alternate tempos of time,
all else here is essentially silent.


What Was Going Through Your Mind?

David Banks

The vanquished golfer said it best
when he simply said: “I don’t know.”
I don’t know how I lost that three-stroke lead;
I don’t know why I always choke.
I don’t know what I did to deserve to lose
to this ham-handed bloke —
and I surely don’t know how it felt to be booed
trudging up to that final hole.

On the other hand, he could have said,
“Well, Jim, I felt like the Medicis.
I flourished over protracted times
but faded eventually.
Yet I presided over a gilded age,
amassed art that’s still on display …
All in all, my old friend Jim,
I feel pretty good today.”

Or he could have said nothing in too many words:
“I hung tough,” just to name three.
“The others were great;
they got all the breaks;
I missed opportunities.
I thank the good lord, and the fans (and TV)
for drumming up money for me,
and when all my cliches are cashed in and cleaned,
the runner’s-up pot is still pretty sweet.”

He could have said almost anything,
but he stuck with: “I don’t know.”
It’s only a game, man, after all:
both winner and loser go home.

mac and cheese

How to Mac and Cheese

Rusty Debris

On the box of Mac and Cheese,
Ignore “Best if Used By” date
Peruse cooking instructions
Discard empty box into recycling bin
Boil macaroni longer than the box recipe recommends
Drain macaroni noodles.

Retrieve Mac and Cheese box
from recycling bin to determine
amounts of milk and butter needed
for the cheese sauce mixture
Mix the 21 mysterious, brightly colored
powdered ingredients into the melted butter and milk
along with the overcooked macaroni.

Plate up a sufficient portion
of steaming Mac and Cheese. Eat.

Have a second helping because
sufficient portion was insufficient
Ponder, what will you request
for your last meal if you’re on Death Row?

One Mac and Cheese sauce mix pouch, thank you
Dip your longest finger into
the opened cheese sauce mix packet
From the comfort of the electric chair
slowly lick the bright orange cheese powder off your finger
Repeat, rinse and repeat

Those for-profit prison officials will go bonkers.
Justice will be served.

A Natural

Melissa S. Anderson

I take my book and breakfast
to a table outside the cafe.
The air is cool, the leaves brilliant,
and I am content.

A couple takes the table next to mine.
He says:
tax implications, mortgage, upscale,
notarized will, IRA, brokerage fees,
safe deposit box, retirement income,
health-care-reimbursement account,
early-withdrawal penalty, financial security,
social security, investment yield,
supplementary employment, expense profile
and some other words.

She murmurs from time to time,
and he keeps on talking.
Frankly, I don’t think he can help himself.

I focus on my book, as best I can,
but a truck rumbling by catches my attention
with its big, blue sign: Natural Gas.

curls around hurting head

She Curls Around Your Hurting Head

Kathleen Kimball-Baker

For ever-vigilant Shale, a Hedlund husky,
who cured a post-concussion headache
when all the medicines failed

Just when your colors, music, and words skulk
away, life places a bright lake and a puppy by you.

Lying on the warm rocks together, she curls around your head,
and soon you join the slow rise and fall of her breathing.

You can feel her dark eyes, tender and sleepy, watching you.
And there, tucked up to the puppy’s fleece and the warmth
of her plump, pink belly

the clanging in your skull begins
to quiet, then, mercifully, goes silent. This is the moment
that life lets you know that you can walk through the coming
maybe (because you now realize anything is possible)
more puppies will arrive
when you need them—
and when you don’t.

reading the paper

Reading the Paper

Doug Wilhide

At a certain age
you start scanning the obituaries —
warily at first, casually,
after breakfast,
then with growing interest.

People as old as I am now are dying
with increasing frequency —
an alarming tendency
expected to continue.

Some have lived long lives —
died at 90-something,
or 80, or late 70s,
sometimes “peacefully”
sometimes “after courageous struggles.”

These people were young
when I was young,
lived their hours and days and weekends,
were bashful, beguiling and bold,
and now they have gone beyond
getting old.

The old question:
who would want to live to be 100?
has its old answer: someone who is 99.
A joke, maybe, though I find it
less funny than it used to be.

I take the sports page with my coffee,
browse the news, study the comics,
check the weather —
cold or warm, dry or wet…
and happily note:
I haven’t appeared in the obits. Yet.

county fair fare

County Fair Fare

Annette Gagliardi

She picked the berries, grapes and all
the fruit that summer offered.

She cooked and canned those fruits
of summer — all the apples coffered.

Then followed line by line the rules
the Fair folks said were needed.

She wiped the jars to squeaky clean
and labeled as instructed,

then drove the miles to get
her work into the judges’ hands.

The wait was long and arduous
but she was strong and straight.

’Til finally the day was here
to learn her contest fate.

She paid the State Fair entry fee
then walked with feelings anxious.

And there behind the window
on the jelly entries shelf sat

her contest entry sporting
a new blue ribbon hat.


Chuck Kausalik-Boe

Can I share a moment of intimacy with you?
Could we be naked together without
expectation, guilt or shame?
I’d like to feel valued and cherished,
something other than a trick
or recollection of a cheap adult movie.
If we could just be naked together,
and look into each other’s eyes
and gently caress
maybe, just maybe, we could heal one another.
We could send the grief and pain
of broken dreams out —
into the universe —
to be transformed into love.
If we could share a moment of intimacy,
we could feel enough.

scandinavian troll

Monologue by a Scandinavian Troll

John O’Connor

To live is to battle with trolls.

— Ibsen

We are left-wing socialists, of course —
We like stones, not bread.
And we compete to get ahead
Only in the study of Old Norse.

We can, indeed, be killed by the sun,
But that’s no problem here.
We can live safely in Stockholm,
Or in Duluth, for most of the year.

We used to be stupid in the head,
But now we have Intel inside.
Our silicon high IQ, it is said,
Is a source of quiet pride —

But bragging is not Scandinavian.
We’re trolls, but we ain’t misbehavian.

willy and i

Willy and I

Scott Mitchell

Hobble, hobble out of morning bed,
So stiff from seven decades toll.
My whatever aches and sparks my wince lines.

The sun rises on my morning walk with Willy
Who shares my longevity as we
Twist turn, jog, bend and scoop

Moving, moving, keep moving
We subtract ten years and back home
Willy barks at the door

And devours his every day breakfast
Passionately, without regret and
With no mind to consequence.