I’m lucky — not wise, or circumspect, or chaste — just lucky that I have not had an abortion. Thank you, Ann Kestner, for this poem.
Category: Poems I Admire
Ryan Stone paints a bleak picture of drought in this outstanding poem. Ryan blogs at https://daysofstone.wordpress.com. Photo source.
This is the summer of red dust. Everything
sucked dry—hollow as cicada husks, wedged
under eaves and porch stairs—waiting
for a wind change. On the road out of town,
empty grain silos loom, perched like headstones
over wheat-field graves. Harvesters sag, tyres
cracked like the asphalt. Rotting carcasses
litter riverless beds—tongues swollen,
flyblown, unslaked. First, a wheeze,
then my pickup spews steam. It dies in a ditch
under a burnt-orange sun. Tiger snake chunks
graffiti the hood’s underside, one blind eye bulging
from the torn head. It must have sought shade
or wiper water—sliding up from the parched earth
miles back. Now it’s just one more dead thing
in a land of dead things. This is the summer
of red dust. It swirls and the road ahead blurs.
Ryan Stone writes after midnight in Melbourne, Australia. He lives beside Sherbrooke Forest with his wife, two young sons, a German shepherd…
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This poem by Billy Collins is my favorite tribute to mothers and the children who give them things.
By Billy Collins
The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room
bouncing from typewriter to piano
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the ‘L’ section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word, Lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past.
A past where I sat at a workbench
at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips into a lanyard.
A gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard.
Or wear one, if that’s what you did with them.
But that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy, red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold facecloths on my forehead
then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim and I in turn presented her with a lanyard.
‘Here are thousands of meals’ she said,
‘and here is clothing and a good education.’
‘And here is your lanyard,’ I replied,
‘which I made with a little help from a counselor.’
‘Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth and two clear eyes to read the world.’ she whispered.
‘And here,’ I said, ‘is the lanyard I made at camp.’
‘And here,’ I wish to say to her now,
‘is a smaller gift. Not the archaic truth,
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took the two-toned lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless worthless thing I wove out of boredom
would be enough to make us even.’
My friend and fellow State College Poetry Workshop colleague Steve Deutsch received a 2018 Pushcart nomination for this incredible poem recalling a friend and the Vietnam War. Please visit Steve’s blog Stevieslaw to leave a comment.
I found your first book today
in a second hand store at the Harrisburg Station.
Dingy and age-tanned,
it retained its dustcover,
with a photo of you at 22,
wearing a threadbare corduroy coat
I’m sure is still in your closet,
and what might pass for a smile.
It’s a rare first print from ‘69.
You kept to your poetry
like you kept to the old neighborhood,
both mired in bottonless poverty—
an endless scraping by.
Yet, just last year, The Times called you
the Bashful Bard of Brooklyn.
We will lay you out tomorrow
in a sandy plot
in one of those many cemeteries
that dot the flat, emptiness of the mid-island plains.
Bury you next to Mary
your common-law wife of fifty three years
and your only treasure.
I never told you what I felt
when I first held a copy of your book.
I was outside my tent,
less than a mile from the wreckage of Ben Tre.
The package had been waiting for me
while we took that city down.
Not even the rats and the roaches
could have survived our fury.
”That should be me,” I thought,
and tossed that splendid book
on the residue of war.
Your flame flickers briefly—
a parting whisper.
Some trick of the river
mimics your laughter.
We stand apart at sunset
lost in natsukashii,
come together in darkness
to watch the dead pass on.
Your light has fallen now
beneath the bridge.
By Ryan Stone
First published by Napalm and Novocain
Republished by PoetryNook
One of my favorite Christmas poems. Happy Holidays, Everyone!
by e.e. Cummings
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower
who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly
i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid
look the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,
put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy
then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud
and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
A beautiful, wintry vignette by Bronwen Griffiths.
She wanders the fields where the elms once stood. Nothing stands there now, only the winter grass and a cold wind barreling down the hill to the broken willow. Close to the edge of the stream, she dives into her coat pocket for the seeds and crumbs she keeps. She will wait for them to arrive; their fluttering wings matching the fluttering in her heart. No one knows she comes down here, day after day. Especially when the snows come, especially then. She won’t worry. Her feet have trodden these paths for eighty years — they belong to her now. Like the fox that passes each evening, they inhabit her dreams.
Originally published in Worthing Flash
Bronwen Griffiths is the author of, A Bird in the House, 2104, Not Here, Not Us – stories of Syria, 2016, and Here Casts No Shadow, 2018. Her flash fiction, short stories and poems have been widely published. When writing this piece, Bird Woman, she was thinking of the walks she did as a child and a teenager growing up in North Worcestershire. She now lives on the East Sussex – Kent border.
The Dying of the Light
My friend Steve Deutsch has a fine new poem in Borfski Press Magazine. Please visit his blog and leave comments for him there.
We found my mother
on the third floor
of a hospital
that should have been shuttered
in the 80’s.
The lights were dim
and the walls and halls
so covered in filth
it seemed they
had absorbed the misery
of the past 30 years
and the anguish would no longer
It wasn’t hard to find mom.
She screamed “Help me”
every couple of minutes.
We heard her from the elevator
above the endless beeping
and the garbled sounds
from the PA system.
The fact that we
were now with her
did not alleviate her need to scream.
Nor did reasoning.
She had fallen again
and broken her tailbone.
She was 95 and failing
and I was the good son—
the one who answered the call
at 2 AM,
booked the 1000 mile trips
and tried to find a place
where she could end her days
It was rewarding in an exhausting way.
I was the one to be counted on.
there is just so much
we can do for one another.
There are limits to prerogatives
We practice love,
in a moment of lucidity
she stared at my face—
a face she had known
my whole life,
I was again
as the infant
she had held
to her breast.
– Steven Deutsch
First published in Borfski Press Magazine
Who hoards rain clouds in the desert?
Another wonderful poem by my friend Rajani Radhakrishnan. Instead of reblogging it from her website, I put it here so you could read it uninterrupted. Please leave comments on her site and look around while you’re there. She writes beautiful poetry.
Who hoards rain clouds in the desert?
There the universe stores vats of virgin happiness, doling
it out like a grim faced Scrooge, while we wait, bowl in
hand, wanting more. Always wanting more. We are made
of longing and hunger. And everywhere we look, is a giant
supermarket feeding that emptiness. Everything in excess,
marked down, on luscious display, the seed of the first apple
feverishly multiplying on every shelf of every aisle and our
hands reaching constantly to fill the ever growing void. Except
for happiness. For that, there is a line and a quota and a price.
We pretend not to see each other. Who will admit to such
privation? We study the signs from a distance. Perhaps, it
is another sorrow, another wound, another word that brings
you here. Does my skin turn transparent as I stand? Do you know
the scars inside? You will not turn your head. I will not call. How
much longer? Who hoards rain clouds in the desert? No one
warned me to save my smile. To save the light in your eyes.
The Beach at Lighthouse Point
A beautiful villanelle I found today by Michael Flynn Ragland.
But she had told me even stranger things.
I shook my head and gazed off down the shore,
the cirrus twilight filled with seagulls’ wings.
A hallway of insistent mutterings
still echoed with the four-inch heels she wore.
(And she had told me even stranger things.)
A beauty, dressed in black among the strings,
she played such passages as soon would score
our cirrus twilights filled with seagulls’ wings.
A man who once had brought her jewels and rings
had left her sprawled, her head gashed, on the floor.
Yet she had told me even stranger things.
Had I loved her? Another autumn brings
her ghost. In dreams she murmurs from the door.
In cirrus twilights filled with seagulls’ wings
her hand takes mine: “A lonely mermaid sings.”
She kisses me. “Hear, through the breakers’ roar?”
But she had told me even stranger things,
those cirrus twilights filled with seagulls’ wings.
– Michael Flynn Ragland
Bio: As a kid in the Ozarks, I lived in an old, stone house atop a cliff; as a teenager, by a stage road along which had been fought the last major battle won by the Confederacy. After an aimless decade in college and graduate school, I lived on a barrier island. I’ve taught English in high schools and universities, worked as a photographer for an advertising firm, and kept the books at a medical clinic. Writing that appeals to me is introspective and steeped in atmosphere.