Empty Cup

The haibun originally served as the poetic log of a journey Basho took in the late 17th century. Robert Okaji is documenting a journey here too, the words as tightly held as his grief.

O at the Edges

Empty Cup

I set down my cup, pour
tea and think this day, too,
may never end.

With what do we quantify love? How does grief measure us? Nine days ago I wrote “My father is dying and I’m sipping a beer.” More words followed, but I did not write them, choosing instead to let them gather where they would – among the darkening fringe at light’s edge, in that space between the shakuhachi’s notes, in the fragrance of spices toasting in the skillet. In unwept tears. Everywhere. Nowhere.

Seven days ago I wrote “My father is dead.” Again, I chose to let the unwritten words gather and linger, allowing them to spread in their own time, attaching themselves to one another, long chains of emptiness dragging through the days.

If experience reflects truth, sorrow’s scroll will unravel slowly for me, and will never stop. I feel it beginning to…

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Near Jack’s Cabin

     “deer… like skeletons.”
                                    —Dorothy Wordsworth

Yes. Like skeletons this winter,
stealing silage meant for cattle
though it starves them.
They look wistful at the forest’s edge.
I want to coax them to my fire
before the wind tonight and snow,
more snow.

Some will fawn in spring if they survive.
We shall shrug off matted coats,
graze among the daffodils.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Eclectica
Photo Source
For dVerse 

Night Garden Journal

My friend Sandy Benitez, editor of Flutter Poetry Press and Poppy Road Review, has started a new journal — Night Garden Journal — that will take the place of Black Poppy Review.  Here’s what the “About” page says:

“Night Garden Journal is a literary arts journal featuring free verse poetry, flash fiction, and mini-chapbook collections (chaplets), of a darker nature. All is not as it seems in the Night Garden. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Find the key. Unlock the creaky gate on rusted hinges. Explore the dilapidated, mossy grounds. Discover hidden paths and nooks which lead to words that linger and haunt—poems of abandonment, discovery, enchantment, flora & fauna, ghosts, isolation, memories, nature, weathering, wonder, and the otherwise forgotten.

* We are partial to poems about ancient gardens, abandoned manors, and dark forests.”

Come on over and join the fun of ghostly poetry!

 

Observations: “Truth” & Poetry

Excellent thoughts on “truth” in poetry. I attended this conference too. Very worthwhile for a hands-on poetry experience.

Put Words Together. Make Meaning.

Being on writing retreat for three days at the Winter Poetry and Prose Getaway last weekend left me recharged, rejuvenated, and refocused on what words and poems and community can mean, left me ready to be present in the “spoiled and radiant now,” a line from a new poem by Stephen Dunn, one of the special guests who read on Sunday evening. I wrote several viable, interesting drafts and spent time with like-minded people serious about writing. I got to see some beloved friends who live on the East Coast. These are good things. But there are also some questions floating around in my head, especially about workshopping poems.

The Getaway is a unique community and a welcoming one where anything can happen. For example, this weekend, I was honored to stand for someone saying the Kaddish, a moving moment. One year, I had a rousing afternoon of competitive…

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Fred Harris – American Small Town Barber

Last year about this time, poets from State College, PA were invited to interview residents of Juniper Village, an assisted living and memory care center and to feature them in a poem.  Here’s my poem about Mr. Fred Harris.

Fred’s blue eyes twinkle,
his lank frame curls into the chair.
He smiles, lost in reverie —
a toddler’s first big boy cut,
the mother picking up a tendril
fine as milkweed silk, to keep…
the mingled scent of Brill Cream,
lather, Bay Rum, Old Spice…
the high school football hero,
proud and sheepish at congratulations
from the men… the rhythmic sound
of straight razor against leather strop…
the businessmen in suits and ties —
just a little off the sides, they’d say,
and Fred obliged.

In the 50’s, it was crew cuts and flat tops,
in the 60’s, duck tails and pompadours.
Then the 70s, when grim-faced dads
dragged in their sons,
and shoulder-length tangles
were made presentable.
“Got another one,” he’d grin.

Fred knew the pulse of Huntingdon,
and if clients sighed a weary sigh,
Fred gave their shoulder an extra pat,
and they’d smile a little, meet his eyes
in the mirror. No music in the shop —
“It runs the batteries down,” he’d say,
but he tuned in to hear the obits read
every day in case a regular died,
so he could pay respects.

After Fred swept the floor at night,
straightened the well-thumbed Argosy’s
and Field and Stream’s, turned the sign
to “Closed” and locked the door,
he drove home to the farm, made dinner
for the kids and Cassie — Mama Cass
he called her — saw to it chores were done,
saddled up Prince for a ride at sunset.
He saw Niagara Falls once,
went to Florida for a couple days,
but that was travel enough.
He had his barber shop, his farm,
people who loved him.
He was useful. He smiles,
remembering.

– Sarah Russell
For Poets United Poetry Pantry
Photo Source

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It Feels Just Like Starting Over

Being a poet is mostly a lonely business. But I found a post by Donna Vorreyer about this group reblogged by Trish Hopkinson. A great way to start 2018 — reading some poems and making some friends.

Put Words Together. Make Meaning.

*UPDATED LIST AS OF JANUARY 3 –  If you leave a comment after today, please be patient about being added.

It’s been a while, readers. It’s almost 2018, and I haven’t posted in over a year here. Which I miss. And I’m hoping you’re still there.

If you are, then stick around for what I hope you will consider good news. Many writers like myself found their first poetry communities online. By reading posts like this one and participating in forums (like ReadWritePoem), we built relationships and learned from one another. Since I do not have an MFA and have been primarily an autodidact when it comes to poetry, this was very important for me.  And, although I now use social media to connect with a large literary community, many of us have been mourning (for lack of a better word), the opportunity to have access to each other’s extended…

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Maintenance

Loose roof shingles —
a couple on the ground
after last night’s wind
when the trees creaked
and rubbed themselves
like old men. Can’t put off
the mending. I loved once,
before I knew how love
works, how roofs leak
when it rains.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Poetry Breakfast
Photo source
For Poets United Poetry Pantry

Christmas Card

My third Christmas,
Dad pulled the armchair
in front of the tree.
I sat on Mother’s lap
with my favorite book.
Her gold crepe dressing gown
had fake leopard lapels.
I wore a nightie with flounces
and ribbons. Dad set up
the tripod and flood lights,
focused the Argus C-3.
Mother began to read.
I nestled so close
I could hear her heartbeat.
She got to the part,
“More rapid than eagles
his coursers they came,…”
Dad had his shot,
turned the flood lights off.
Mother shut the book,
nudged me off her lap.

– Sarah Russell
First published in Vita Brevis
Photo Source