Poet

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.

Poet

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.

My war.
Your deferment.
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.

Old friend,
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.

Steven Deutsch
First published in Eclectica
Photo Source

Tōrō Nagashi

Congratulations to my friend Ryan Stone, who recently received a Pushcart nomination from Poetry Nook for this beautiful poem of sorrow. Please send comments to Ryan at his blog, Days of Stone.

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
to shadow
beneath the bridge.

By Ryan Stone
First published by Napalm and Novocain
Republished by PoetryNook
photo source

little tree

One of my favorite Christmas poems. Happy Holidays, Everyone!

little tree
by e.e. Cummings

little tree
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
“Noel Noel”

Image source

Bird Woman

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
Photo source

 

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
wash away.

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
in comfort.
It was rewarding in an exhausting way.
Finding, unexpectedly,
I was the one to be counted on.

But, listen,
there is just so much
we can do for one another.
There are limits to prerogatives
of blood.
We practice love,
not magic
and when,
in a moment of lucidity
she stared at my face—
a face she had known
my whole life,
and said,
“I’m dying,”
“Save me.”
I was again
as helpless
as the infant
she had held
to her breast.

– Steven Deutsch
First published in Borfski Press Magazine 
Photo source

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.

– Rajani Radhakrishnan
Rajani’s website
Photo source

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
Photo Source

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.

In my Yard

A beautiful poem by Kelly Jo Letky.  Be sure to visit her site and comment if you like it.

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the trees are dying.

okay, only two out of seven
but they’re my favorite two and
when i walk outside
to listen to whispers

i hear the sounds of mourning.

.

already
i feel time slipping through bent fingers

already
i’ve picked a place to bury sun-bleached bones

already
i’m learning the words
to a song i’d prefer not to sing

.

that’s not to say
i don’t watch the sunset

that’s not to say
i don’t smile when the moon
knocks on my window

that’s not to say
i don’t sing with the robin at sunrise

it’s just to say
i notice.

the trees are dying.

– Kelly Jo Letky

The Boatman

A haunting poem today by Carolyn Forché that highlights the refugee crisis. Poetry Foundation published it this week, but I didn’t see a way to reblog, so here it is in its entirety.

We were thirty-one souls all, he said, on the gray-sick of sea
in a cold rubber boat, rising and falling in our filth.
By morning this didn’t matter, no land was in sight,
all were soaked to the bone, living and dead.
We could still float, we said, from war to war.
What lay behind us but ruins of stone piled on ruins of stone?
City called “mother of the poor” surrounded by fields
of cotton and millet, city of jewelers and cloak-makers,
with the oldest church in Christendom and the Sword of Allah.
If anyone remains there now, he assures, they would be utterly alone.
There is a hotel named for it in Rome two hundred meters
from the Piazza di Spagna, where you can have breakfast under
the portraits of film stars. There the staff cannot do enough for you.
But I am talking nonsense again, as I have since that night
we fetched a child, not ours, from the sea, drifting face-
down in a life vest, its eyes taken by fish or the birds above us.
After that, Aleppo went up in smoke, and Raqqa came under a rain
of leaflets warning everyone to go. Leave, yes, but go where?
We lived through the Americans and Russians, through Americans
again, many nights of death from the clouds, mornings surprised
to be waking from the sleep of death, still unburied and alive
but with no safe place. Leave, yes, we obey the leaflets, but go where?
To the sea to be eaten, to the shores of Europe to be caged?
To camp misery and camp remain here. I ask you then, where?
You tell me you are a poet. If so, our destination is the same.
I find myself now the boatman, driving a taxi at the end of the world.
I will see that you arrive safely, my friend, I will get you there.

Poem by Carolyn Forché
Photo source