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

Reunion

For fifty years
she wrote to Yolanda
in foreign prose,
sharing secrets as she once did
walking home from school –
Argentina and girlhood
a lifetime ago.
Reality: three kids, then grandkids,
a troubled husband, an aging mother,
an Arkansas farm.
Yet every letter promised
that someday she’d return.

Now they are on the tarmac
in Mendoza,
stooped, with the uncertain step of age.
Words catch in their throats
as their hands caress the other’s cheeks,
wipe away the other’s tears,
and their eyes see only
the girls they were –
their secrets safe.

– Sarah Russell
For Poets United prompt “reunions
  Photo by Grace Robertson

Note:  In 1993, my husband and I took his mother to Argentina where she had spent her childhood.  This was perhaps my favorite memory of our trip.

Dorothy’s Grave

“They haven’t dug the grave yet.”

Mom insisted on coming to the cemetery
after her best friend Dorothy’s viewing.
“The funeral’s not ’til 2 tomorrow,” I said.
“They’ll dig it in the morning.”

“They should have it dug,” she fussed.

Mom is a farm woman, used to death.
She turned ninety in the fall,
and Dorothy was her last good friend
in the tiny delta town where children leave
for jobs or school or just to escape the soy
and cotton. Her church has only twenty members
now — old women who show off corsages
on Mother’s Day and sometimes cajole their men
to come in overalls and slicked-back hair.

Dorothy and Mom taught Bible study, went to Eastern Star
and bingo, traded recipes and gossip.
Mom killed a rabid skunk in Dorothy’s yard
with the double barrel she keeps under the bed,
and Dorothy came to quilt on Wednesdays –
just the two of them since the other three passed on.

“Why’s it important to see the empty grave?” I asked.

“I need to know she’ll be comfortable,” Mom said.
“I know she’d do the same for me.”

– Sarah Russell
First published in On the Veranda
For Poetry Pantry on Poets United
Photo courtesy of Paul Marshuk

Things to Believe in

“. . .the generosity of apples.”

A hopeful poem for Easter and Passover, by Patricia Monaghan, an activist in the women’s spirituality movement.  You can read more about her life and her impressive list of publications here.

trees, in general; oaks, especially;
burr oaks that survive fire, in particular;
and the generosity of apples

seeds, all of them: carrots like dust,
winged maple, doubled beet, peach kernel;
the inevitability of change

frogsong in spring; cattle
lowing on the farm across the hill;
the melodies of sad old songs

comfort of savory soup;
sweet iced fruit; the aroma of yeast;
a friend’s voice; hard work

seasons; bedrock; lilacs;
moonshadows under the ash grove;
something breaking through

– Patricia Monaghan
First published in Grace of Ancient Land