Formal Poetry

The Flesh Remembers

This afternoon the old man’s fitful sleep

is haunted by the breath of new-mown lawn

that whispers, like a spirit on the deep,

of waking in a long-ago pre-dawn:

His father’s rumble shakes the bedroom wall,

“In heaven there’ll be time enough to rest,

in this world we’ve got hay to bale and haul.”

He hears the swallows flutter from their nest

beneath the eaves, as if they understand

that work comes first and last in this dark place.

He stirs and wakes and holds his calloused hand

against the sun that slants across his face.

There where sixty years of work are shown

he reads his father’s words made flesh and bone.

From the upcoming collection Terminal Park..

Richard Wakefield’s publications include East of Early Winters (winner of the Richard Wilbur Award) and A Vertical Mile (short-listed for the Poets’ Prize). His new collection, Terminal Park, is due for publication this year.

Between Two Worlds

(For Matthew Arnold)

 

The ash-and-ember colored cedar trees

were mountain born, and picked at by the wind

like cuticles on upthrust fingers: skin

crusted above, but pink and sore beneath

like anxious people’s hands; they made me wince.

 

But in the basin nobody looked up,

for it was occupied by midget ducks

who scooted in and out oblivious

of grand horizons, blissfully convinced

that only water mattered.

 

                                         As for us,

we craved the smug oblivion of ducks.

But there were austere temples in our past

balanced on precipices so remote

not even god could reach them. So although

 

our noisy splashing scandalized the ducks,

and we were far too busy to look up,

we couldn’t quite forget the cedar trees

who silently reproached us —

Kathryn Jacobs is a poet, professor emerita, and editor of The Road Not Taken. Her fifth book, Wedged Elephant, was published by Kelsay Press.

On tour, arriving at the next theatre

Enter. The sounds of silence wrap us round,

Welcome us in. This stage. This place of dreams . . .

‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on.’ . . . Crowned

Kings, murdered lawyers, fools chasing moonbeams,

Jack-the-giant-killers. We’re to strut and fret

Here on these boards a couple of hours a night

For two months, then be heard no more . . . And yet,

Because this stage pulses with ancient ghosts —

Not of people but of performances —

We may live on too, like smudges, almost

Forgotten, till, from one chance audience’s

Mind-store, one gasp at one scene in one show

Pops up like Jack-in-a-box with love’s red rose.

Leo Aylen was born in KwaZulu, South Africa, has lived in London, New York, LA, and Johannesburg. He has published nine collections, the latest being The Day The Grass Came (“a triumph,” Melvyn Bragg; “Stupendous,” Simon Callow). He has also published hundreds of poems.

Dream in November

I dreamed a little icon of a bed.

“Click here to start,” the words beneath it said.

End of the Spring Semester

after Frost’s “The Span of Life”

 

The graying, staid professor who walks past

once lay in her bikini on the grass.

Hope Coulter, author of The Wheel of Light, directs the Hendrix-Murphy Foundation Programs in Literature and Language at Hendrix College. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Hardware Store By-Laws

This isn’t something a table saw can parse.

No power drill can poke a hole in it

To show us through. The brass and stainless steel

Doorknobs in aisle six will never fit

 

And, even if they do, will never turn.

Weed killer’s useless where the weed is doubt.

The mowers just remind us flesh is grass,

Darkness sealing the stars in place like grout.

 

We carry unmatchable washers in our pockets,

Cold coins to lay on the eyes of the dead.

Do it yourself, say thumbless master builders

Who did the work themselves and bled.

 

When you have to build a law from raw materials,

One footfall, and the hardwood flooring fails it.

Destruction: Now there’s a weekend project.

How smashingly the hammer nails it.

Amit Majmudar is the author of four poetry collections: What He Did in Solitary, Dothead, Heaven and Earth, and 0˚, 0˚, four novels: Sitayana, Partitions, The Abundance, and Soar, and Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, with Commentary.

A Hundred Hankies

Inside the wooden box my mother left,

I found a hundred hankies neatly kept,

folded and scented with two small sachets,

embroidered tokens of the poise and grace

 

of ladies who once used them. I cannot.

Who’d spoil them sopping at a runny nose

or pressed against a bloody paper cut?

These hankies hold a whiff of temps perdu,

 

of stifling Sunday mornings in a pew,

of hymns and prayers and having to sit still

enforced upon a restless, wayward will.

Where is the pretty faith that I outgrew?

Barbara Loots is a frequent contributor to The Lyric, Light Poetry Magazine, The I-70 Review, and Better Than Starbucks.

The Box

I have a box they say is you.

My God my love, if that were true

I’d talk to the box and show it things

to make you laugh. I wish you knew

that I have a box that fills my heart

with ice and tells me you have gone.

Away from the box I sometimes start

to run to you to carry on

our sweet discourse that made us glow

but then I stop before I fall

into the chasm that has no

humanity or love at all.

Janet Kenny was born in New Zealand, sang professionally in Britain, then moved to Australia where she was active in the anti-nuclear-war movement. She has published two collections of poetry. She was married to her husband for 66 years.

with Vera Ignatowitsch

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Listen

Is there a sound that the snow makes?

          Can it be known

Through the fall and sigh of the flakes,

          or the harsh moan

 

Of the wind? Or is it a gift

          that might be found

In what comes to rest in each drift,

          each long white mound?

 

Not what is said, but what is heard,

          if one should ask

Of the snow, what is it, what word

          from your pale mask?

Jared Carter’s seventh book of poems, The Land Itself, with an introduction by B. J. Omanson, is from Monongahela Books in West Virginia. Carter lives in Indiana.

Tunnels

A snowy field — sun sparkles on the ice —

Devoid of life to those who do not know

That underneath a furtive swarm of mice

Live out their lives in tunnels through the snow.

My dog, who finds them out by smell or sound,

Runs snorting through the snow in wriggling glee.

Then back and forth ecstatically he’ll bound

Until some mouse has nowhere left to flee.

For so it goes with mice as well as men,

Those tunnels where we run turn into traps

When forces that are far beyond our ken

Play out their game until our ways collapse.

Do waiting mice envision what impends?

That somewhere up above a canine snout —

Deus ex machina to mice — descends

To pierce the snow and pull those trapped mice out?

Few things in life will make that dog as glad.

The mouse may not rejoice — its life is through.

But whether killing mice is good or bad

Depends completely on your point of view.

Bruce McGuffin’s poetry has appeared in Light, Lighten Up Online, and other journals. He divides his time between Lexington, Massachusetts, where he has a job, and Antrim, New Hampshire, where he fritters away his time writing poetry and admiring the view.

Self-reflection

Y’know — it ain’t a lot of fun

negotiating one-on-one

with the person in the mirror who

is staring blankly back at you

with hollow, soporific eyes —

 

but you penetrate his deep disguise,

and then it is you realize

 

that you’re in for loads of gloom and doom

cooped up within this little room

all by your empty, woeful self,

all, all alone, with no one else —

and the guileful guy you’re talking to

isn’t talking back at you —

’cause he knows there’s nothing left to say.

 

But the sonvabitch won’t go away.

Oliver Butterfield is a retired former criminal lawyer living in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. He writes short stories and personal essays as a hobby, some of which have been awarded prizes and/or been published. He is a newcomer to writing poetry.

Instructions for My Prayer Card

Use the picture of me plumed in feathers

dyed scarlet red. Nude beneath sequins

and satin, beaded bikini, pasties, fringe

and showgirl headdress. My quads in that shot,

flexed and steeled, hover above sleek high heels.

Knees bent so low that I could sex the floor.

Crop out the loin-clothed dancer behind me,

synchronized in squat and glittery garb.

His hand will stay glued just below my ribs.

Don’t share the dignified matronly me,

bosomed by family, laureled by colleagues.

Use the me baptized in samba and sweat.

Let our grandkids squirm, acquaintances gasp.

My love, please do me this one last favor.

Anita Cabrera’s poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in The New Guard, Brain,Child Magazine, Colere, Acentos Review, RavensPerch, Best Travelers’ Tales 2021 Anthology, The Deronda Review, and other journals.

Black Hole

Darkness Visible, Finally: Astronomers Capture First Ever

Image of a Black Hole  (The New York Times, 10 April 2019)

 

We’ve finally seen the great abyss,

and now it’s looking back at us.

 

From far away, through time and space,

a single eye that lacks a face,

 

extinction’s portal, black on black,

is looking back, is looking back.

 

Above the jumbled cosmic hiss

it seems to say, There’s only this!

Within my flaming oval ring

I am the end of everything!

 

We gape at it and hope to see

the bottom of its mystery.

 

We peer into the light year haze

and it returns a darker gaze . . .

 

that eye, a black unblinking hole

without a mind, or heart, or soul.

Richard Meyer, recipient of the 2012 Robert Frost Farm Prize, lives in Mankato, Minnesota. His book of poetry, Orbital Paths, was a silver medalist winner in the 2016 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards.

A Tufted Titmouse Braves a Cold Spell

Peter-peter-peter cries my voice

echoing through the trees. Flakes fall to test

my stamina and patience. It is cold.

Tomorrow will be chillier still, fresh rime

glazing flower and fence. My whistles chime

like piccolos to pierce the stale and old

that clings as lichen to a larch. I rest

in a nest in a lifeless oak. I have no choice

but to sing and to hole up in this secondhand

woodpecker’s dimple, no alternative

but to twitter to my better half, to live

in my feathered fashion. Oh, but it is grand

and it is hard and it’s both work and play

and — peter-peter — it is cold today.

 

First published in Autumn Sky Poetry Daily.

Martin Elster, who never misses a beat, is a percussionist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra. He finds contentment in long walks in the woods or the city and writing poetry, often alluding to the creatures and plants he encounters.

luke-palmer-openbook-unsplash.jpg

Luke Palmer on Unsplash.

Lighthearted Verse

Jingle Tills, Jingle Tills

With the annual arrival of Yule.

The world becomes all slop and drool.

    Like that song with the sleigh

    They incessantly play

The points I award it are nul.

 

Turkey-slaughter is callous and cruel

While the weather turns vile as a rule.

     It is cold, wet, and grey,

     Life becomes pay-pay-pay,

And the thought makes me blanch, puke and mewl.

 

Who requires the great brain of George Boole

To find lands needing no winter fuel

    And spend Christmas away

    Where the sun shines all day

Sipping drinks beneath palms by a pool?

Jerome Betts edits Lighten Up Online in Devon, England. His verse appears in Amsterdam Quarterly, Light, The Asses of Parnassus, The New Verse News, The Hypertexts, Snakeskin, and various anthologies.

The New Sportswriter

His flowery language gets in the way

of what in the hell he’s trying to say.

Damian Balassone is an Australian poet. His work has appeared in a variety of publications including The New York Times, The Australian, First Things, and Asses of Parnassus. His most recent collection of poems is Strange Game in a Strange Land.

On a Hopeless Romantic

Like Jesus, she felt God-forsaken,

like Joan of Arc, wanted a stake in

          a life full of meaning,

          a life undemeaning —

like Jung, she was simply myth-taken

 

First published in Light.

Robin Helweg-Larsen’s poems have been published in Better Than Starbucks and other magazines in several countries. He is Series Editor for Sampson Low’s “Potcake Chapbooks,” and blogs at formalverse.com from his hometown of Governor’s Harbour in the Bahamas.