Light from a Dead Star

Nikki Velletri is a young poet to watch. Another of her poems can be found here.

 

Eunoia Review

after Donna Tartt

If there was ever a night to forgive
clumsy feet and hands reaching for
the unutterable,

we had reached it. Before leaving,
you had kissed your mother, even
your father,

both of whom would outlive you. This
is not the way the world should end,
fifty miles from home, earth reaching
up to take back

what it created long ago. Try as we may
to avoid it, lives dwindle. Try as we may to
avoid it, we are left with

blood-stained clothes and love, so much
love and no containers to fill it with.
Your mother sentenced

to collect dead children like stamps or
dust in corners. Your mother fumbling
against the darkest edge

of the universe from which all light must
reflect again, which is to say there is
a version of this life

where everything we’ve lost has already
been returned to us. I loved…

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Stevieslaw: New York City, 1968

My friend Steve Deutsch’s tour de force “NYC, 1968” has just been published by Misfit Magazine. I’m linking to Steve’s blog, but be sure to visit Misfit’s current issue too — more great poems there! http://misfitmagazine.net/current.html

Stevie's Law

My poem, NYC-1968 just appeared in issue 23 of Misfit Magazine.  Here is the poem:

New York City, 1968

I
When last we met
we sat on a stone bench
in Central Park.
Frost had put paid to summer
and the big trees shivered
in the tepid sun.
We fed a squirrel
the remains of your lunch.
You said the draftees
had left
from Grand Central Station
that morning–
your fallen face
the color of the gunmetal sky.
That winter the water main
broke on the avenue
that ran along the park.
For months, we had to take
the long way home.

II
When last we met
we were in an apartment
in the East Village–
above the shop
that advertised “Fresh Produce.”
You said the Weathermen
had blown out all the windows.
We sat on the floor
in the hellish heat
and the stench of overripe melon.
A cloud…

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First Husband

“Poetry is . . . emotion recollected in tranquility.”
― William Wordsworth

I found his obit on Google,
hadn’t seen him, barely thought
of him in forty years
since the day he loaded his car
with half of everything – blankets, pillows,
dishes, albums (we fought over
who’d get “The Graduate” poster of Hoffman
and Anne Bancroft’s leg) – and drove off
to I-didn’t-care-where.

Once, 20 years later I learned where he was
from his buddy John and called.
He still taught drama and directed
summer stock in a small midwestern town.
We laughed together, comfortable,
finally, in our separate skins.

Now an obit with pictures and two columns
in the paper. A well-loved, prominent citizen,
it read, wife, three kids, grandkids. He wrote
a children’s book and “left the town
with memories of comedy and drama
that enriched our lives.”

Our marriage wasn’t mentioned. No need,
I suppose – a youthful take off
and crash landing best forgotten. But I wish
I had a chance to say goodbye.

– Sarah Russell
First published by Silver Birch
Photo Source
for dVerse Poetics

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!

 

Editors’ Choice, January 19-25, “A New Hope for a New Zion,” by Charles McCaskill

Wow! What incredible power and exultation this poem has.

A New Hope for a New Zion
By Charles McCaskill
Reblogged from Panoply Magazine

for the black worshipers
who have yet to find some translation of
hosanna
or ashe or amen
to be worthy of God’s grace
in the eyes of God’s graceless

to the mortally wounded coughing up
their last ruby dripping hallelujah
into pavement or grass,
God willing,
let the ants talk to the sparrows
let the sparrows tell God they tried

to those dying and needing mercy the most
pleading out any prayer that lips can’t form
into the face of an officer
who can’t risk first aid
because a man who can’t breathe
to pray for his mother,
or whisper the name of the woman he loves,
or forgive his transgressor
while they are still transgressing,
that man can still attack,
right?

I pray for a new Zion
a land that does not see hubris
in our personal divinity
that does not shame you
for the divine that your great great grandmother
tucked away in her left cheek
and each time her children kissed her there
she called them miracle

you are miracle
your new home will be by the river
where the waters wash away
everything that ever wished you ill
and bring only
milk and honey
grace and mercy
your father’s strength
your mother’s compassion

your legs will never tire from running
not from necessity
but from joy

and your god,
my god
our gods
will have your face
will be shaped in our image
will welcome you home

Charles McCaskillCharles McCaskill is a poet. He hosts a semi-monthly open mic poetry event in Pensacola, FL.

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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