Poets’ Brew – September


LeAnne Ries

CALM

it always involves slipping
away 

to a room with no walls
a place nested inside wherever you are 

now an unfurnished room
the lamps, beds, chairs, coffee pot, your coat
all slide down some bottomless well

don’t worry, they will return
saying they never left

for now, you are inside
your childhood blankets, the womb,
under skies or flying buttresses,
temple roofs
grand and sparse houses

you’ve been here before
rushing waters of your own veins
hallways leading forward from your third eye
you wonder about the doors that are still closed
behind some, lives you would remember
those you have loved, and loved again

you slip every lock to come here


Terry E. Lockett

“Birds, at Least Must Know”
          from “Acceptance” by Robert Frost


Inside, the news nudges me every five minutes
lest I forget for a moment that there’s a pandemic
and trust in the air my nostrils have suckled since birth.

But outside—outside, autumn celebrates without us.
Fields and trees across the valley a fiesta of color
saffron, turmeric, curry and nutmeg.

Slaphappy quail scatter across the lawn
sparrows squabble past dark in the evergreens.
On daily walks blackbird’s flash neon red in flight.

Last summer, volleys of swallows
shot out from under bridges
nosedived and turned in the nick of time

to skim through clouds of gnats above the pond.
And last spring the newspapers brought word
of deer reclaiming city streets in Nara, Japan,

dolphins pirouetting off the shores of Crete,
seabirds cruising Venice’s now sparkling canals.
Even now in Somerset– people still gather in the gloom

to watch starlings fill the sky with murmurations
etching auguries for us to decipher
or perhaps, having wings–

they are paying reverence to air
knowing that when they touch down
the sky carries on without them.


Brad Hatfield

The Tulip Festival

If time is motion (and I move that it is)
my toddler stops time with a pensive pose
in the yellow tulips, in the rippling breeze.

Flowers are his shoulder-high devotees;
openhearted acolytes in endless rows.
If time is motion, it shimmers like these.

Veiled by wind-breaking poplar trees,
the farmer naps in a paternal doze,
dreams of tulips, in a temperate breeze;

his rearing is done until spring’s reprise.
But my vigil has no season, no close,
for time is motion and hastens by degrees.

I go to my boy; drop to my knees,
hug tight, so the day won’t decompose
like loosened petals in the riddling breeze.

I long for some God I can appease.
But the serpents of entropy interpose
when time is motion; I hear them squeeze
through tulip stems. The hiss. The breeze.


Leon Petty

Quiescence


Let us speak in pillowed dreams
where sun cannot burn

Let us bury our eyes in darks flat emptiness
bereft of intrigue, intent

Rejoice miasma
with nothing harmed or lost or redeemed

Timeless
welcome home
everything that has not arrived
into depths void deep


K.J. Finley

Ode To The Doggie Treat

I laid within the tall blades of grass, gnawing at my paw,
My head snapping up in alarm with every movement that I saw.
I glanced over at my owner’s silent house, letting out a huff,
Having had no idea that my life would be so rough.
For even though it was a bright and sunny day,
My owner would just not come out and play.
I placed my head on top of my clean paws, knowing that my life was a total bore,
My eyes drifting shut as I soon began to snore.
But, suddenly, I jerked awake as I caught an unusual whiff,
My ears perking up with every single sniff.
At first, I thought it was the odd man that delivered the mail,
But then I caught sight of a creature with a bushy tail.
I sprang forward with a loud bark, immediately giving chase,
The wind whipping my long ears around, smacking me in the face.
To my dismay, the brown tailed intruder zipped up a tree,
Hiding in the branches just where I could see.
I glared up at the creature, a deep growl rising in my throat,
The hackles lifting up along my black and white coat.
I let loose several barks, growling with an impressive snap,
Completely ignoring the neighbor when he yelled at me to turn down the yap.
My irritation grew as several others shouted at me to calm down,
Did they not understand that I needed to deal with this trespassing clown?
I could not believe that this annoying creature would not go away,
Determined more than ever to make him pay.
But, all of a sudden, my heart began to soar,
For I had just heard, the opening of a door.
And, squirrel forgotten, I raced towards my owner who was so sweet,
For she had brought me a frisbee and a doggie treat.


Lowell Murphree

“O Merciful”


For we who tumble over river rocks
tremble among turning leaves
splinter and submerge,
hover over us, thrashing
waters. Whisper “Quiet.”
Pronounce “Peace.”


Paula McMinn

WILD HEART

Heartaches by the number, I’ve had some few
but a fragile heart, unable to bear much,
or more scars across the wrist,
more needle marks under my tongue,
down my arms, all the way to my toes.
Life does not say to me
“come, come, there’s so much more.”
Yet boulders and trees have loved me,
ocean waves that tumbled me
with more love than any man I’ve known.
I am a closed book on a dusty shelf,
seeing and not seeing
what I am not supposed to of Empire,
of beauty transformed to smoke and ashes.


Grant Jones

Keep Calm with a Shaman’s Song


Sagebrush and bitterbrush, water birch and Saskatoon,
Give us our grip to stay put
And keep from sliding.

Dogwoods and chokecherries, currents and willows,
Give us our tendons to twine
Not break.

Quaking aspen and western sumac,
Give us our flashing smiles and a passion
To show our colors.

Old ponderosas on cliffs and tamaracks in swales,
Give us steadiness to survive and
Stand up tall.

The black cottonwoods by the river pump floods to the sky,
Make clouds for our dreams,
Year after year.

The highlands hold back snow and rain,
Pump up sweet springs to swell
Our hearts each year.

Of course, the animals are all smarter than me
And give me whatever humility I possess,
With their wisdom, calm and grace.

When it’s all over Mariposa lilies will jolt me each spring.


Marie Marchand

You Wouldn’t Think These Cruel Words

“Calm down,” he said
when I was having
an asthma attack
words sounded like a sword
ignorant sword

“Calm down,” he said
as if that was even remotely possible
when life was being squeezed
from my lungs

“Calm down,” he said
his new refrain, edict
his eyes full of fear
I first mistook as concern

I peeled my weak body
from the chair
opened the door
and on his heels
shut it


Susan Blair

On A Wooded Trail


When you walk this shaded path
hold your head up,

but do not let the light
dazzle you back
into blindness.

There is beauty in the answer
as well as in the asking
of the question.

The canopy is fed
by the dirt beneath your feet:
love both.

Know that as you spread
the limbs of your desire
toward a wise and waiting sky,

what never dies
is hope.


Chuck Forster

ODE TO AN OLD, OLD TREE

Bravo!
Well done determined one.
Rooted on a rock precipice atop the valley
‘neath Wallowa’s granite peaks.

Buffeted by winter’s wind-whipped snow,
summer’s dogged swelter.
Yet straight you rise,
clinging clumps of vivid lichen
the only green on your wizened bows.
What remains of your skin lies fragmented at your feet.

Revealed.
Meaty fold encircles your ankle like a thickened grandma
with stockings rolled down.
Torso – wavy sinews braided
in cinnamon, rust and chocolate.

At your side a once stout comrade now fallen and
softened in loamy decay.
Host to myriad crawling and wormish things –
delight of porcupine and opossum, badger and bruin.

We pause in wonder.
Oh stubborn one!
Oh joy to behold!
Would that any bit of life may thus root and rise and rest!


Dotty Armstrong

Ode to Birkenstocks 
 
              “Did the wide straps across the instep 
               come from a straightjacket?”
                                              Coco Chanel

I met you first in ‘68
and though I’m not a fashion plate
lost on me was your appeal
unflattering toe, homely heel.
Clunk, clunk, clunk.

You made a small foot look quite big
No trace of grace was evident.
A shoe for women who don’t care
about their clothes, about their hair.
Clunk, clunk, clunk.

I saw you again in 2010.
A little more interested in comfort then,
I thought perhaps I should give you a try.
A lot of women love you, I don’t wanna be shy.
Clunk, clunk, clunk.

So here I am, sliding my feet
onto cork soles that feel like a treat.
Trouble with toes, all kaput.
Feet feel cradled, socks or not.
Clunk, clunk, clunk.

I never knew how good you would feel
how your cork sole would cushion my heel.
So now when I slide my foot into you,
love is easy, our bond is true.
Clunk, clunk, clunk.


Claire Carpenter

Sweat and Shovels

In the quiet afternoon
our dog curls up on the couch
or stretches out full-length upon the carpet.
If she sees me change my clothes,
put on running shoes,
she will rise, tail wagging, to meet me at the door.
And dirt roads at the end of long drives
or chipmunks that run across a trail
can stir her to canine exuberance.
But in these, her middle years,
she is often content to doze at home
and dream of squirrels.

Like her, I too have likely passed the halfway mark—
more time behind us than ahead, now….
But I’ve not learned her knack for napping.
I’m restless, always,
wound tight with unsettled energy
that only work can ease–
Hard work, body work,
work that calls for sweat and shovels
or miles of empty road.

I might have been a wandering minstrel
(if I could carry a tune)
or a trader on the old Silk Road.
Riders of the Pony Express
pound out the miles like a metronome
and sleep content.
But I’ve four walls, two kids, and a steady job,
so my psyche makes up the miles
by rattling around my soul
unless hard work, body work,
the kind that calls for sweat and shovels
can calm me down.


Kathleen Smith

Calm Down

To float in oceans of mercy,
first stop thrashing. Your world
will buoy you up like the warm
Sea of Cortez or Dexter’s
liquid saxophone.

No need to backstroke, even.
You can’t swim this on your own.
So just lie back and let joy flow over
your skin. Sing out: Al Rahman, Most
Merciful, First of the ninety-nine beautiful names.


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