Monday, January 26, 2015

Caught

I am not alone here.
Fragments of unwritten poems
drift before me,
ghosts begging for language
to give them form.

Some try on tattered clich├ęs,
parade by me like orphans
in worn out hand-me-downs,
hoping for pity.

This task seems
harder than clothing smoke,
tethering clouds to trees
or giving the evening breeze a face.

I should refuse,
tell them to haunt someone else,
these waifs who taunt me
like hungry cats.
Too late. I am caught in their familiar trap.

They believe I can conjure breath from stone,
can weave gold thread from milkweed fluff,
see the moon in my left eye,
the sun in my right,
hold fire in my bare hands
if the stars allow.
They compel me to dress them
in words spun from imagination and luck.

Finally, I have to let go,
trust that I have given enough.
They are, after all, wild spirits
who, century after century,
find poets who will weave words
into any form they desire.


© Jean Sampson

Milkweed fluff
Photo by Tony Russell

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

So Old

I lie beside her on the sand,
Watching her breathe--- 
In ... and ... out. In ... and ... out.
And I try to match her rhythm,
To be in sync with her. 
We are alike in many ways.
Our bodies catch the light
And glisten in the sun. 
We both have wrinkled skin.
It makes me feel so old. 
I wonder just how old she is.
She has a right to be wrinkled,
For she is old, so old. 
The sea. 


© Joyce M. Broughton, 1997

Sea waves striking a breakwall
Photo from Wikimedia Commons





Monday, January 12, 2015

Is This Synesthesia?

Cassidy’s ears, skillfully lovely yet not quite of Earth,
Swivel like the most advanced satellite dishes
To hear the good ghosts that rustle in the night,
As if cloaked in fine-spun gold.
He sniffs the delicate delight of their healing perfume.
O he sees the benevolence of the thoughts of the good ghosts
That haunt our room and clumsily try to extend help to us
Through the bewildering knots and knots of dimensions
That distance us from these spirits reluctant to deceive.
He sniffs fear and love in the room like aromatic candles.
He hears and inhales good and evil
Though no evil comes from the fumbling ghosts, our friends,
Who haunt us and whom we haunt.
Cassidy attempts to instruct us all 
At least to read lips, seen or unseen, spirit or human.
But even for Cassidy this teaching is not easy,
He who hears, sees, smells so well
And always knows where float the glow and perfume
Of benevolence, in whatever world we are in or believe we are in.
He can hear and smell clouds in their joy swelling
To fill all skies.
He can hear their tenderness blossom like mountains.
He hears more modest clouds move through blueness as if they
Were simultaneously foam, boat, wave, and sail.
Even upon cessation of the rain,
Cassidy hears grass continue to swooningly sip
While worms shape alphabets through the moistened soil
In their invigorated wiggling.
Cassidy hears birds become alert with the knowledge
Of their fulfillment.
The muzzles of daffodils blare out for my cat
The rejoicing gold of their glow!
But Cassidy in quietude will hear dawn yawning
Like an abyss that blesses;
And he will always hear twilight just begin
To feel the sensitive swell and dip
Of the horizon.
He can hear me smile.
He sniffs my fingertips to get perfect knowledge of my heart.
He hears my footsteps approaching his goodness
Down the slightly painful miles of cement.
When I see him in the dignity of his duty
Peering at supposedly unpopulated air
And hearing salubrious sounds unheard by me
I know he is haunting the good-hearted
But imperfectly-skilled ghosts who are trying to help, trying to help,
And whom my admirable animal
Is trying to guide, trying to guide.        


© Stephen Margulies, 2015

Green-eyed Abyssinian
Photo by Petekurt
from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, January 5, 2015

Sit Quietly and Take It In

When you sit quietly and allow yourself to hear your heart
Then your soul can come forth to comfort you
When you sit quietly and listen to the wind and feel the flowers
Then your soul takes on the contentment it begs for
When you sit quietly and view the vastness of the mountains
Then your soul can feel the presence of the Divine Creator
When you sit quietly and view the tiny creatures of the earth
Then your soul can feel deep into the soil of life
When you sit quietly and feel the flow of the wings above
Then your soul can step out and fly with a joy
When you sit quietly and feel the mist of the waves
Then your soul can be washed clean with a pureness
When you sit quietly and watch a deer slide gracefully in your path
Then  your soul can feel the gentle love of your Higher Power
When you sit quietly and feel the earth under your feet
Then your soul can plant itself solid in your temple
And you can write and write and write
To seek the contentment of your soul
And you can write and write and write
To find the answers that rumble inside to come out
And you can write and write and write
To know the joy of exploring what surrounds you
And you can write and write and write
To feel yourself on a healing path
That brings you to write and write and write
To know you are right with the world
And So It Is

© Hilda Ward, 2015

Photo by Tony Russell

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Day in the Workhouse

Note:  Normally the poems on our blog are by our members and friends.  This seasonal poem, however, was written by George R. Sims, an English journalist and poet, back in 1879.  Sims was a social reformer, and this Christmas poem--which has some of the appeal of a vintage melodrama--dramatizes the plight of the poor in Victorian England.


It is Christmas Day in the workhouse,
And the cold, bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
And the place is a pleasant sight;
For with clean-washed hands and faces,
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the table,
For this is the hour they dine.
And the guardians and their ladies,
Although the wind is east,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
To watch their charges feast;
To smile and be condescending,
Put pudding on pauper plates.
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
They've paid for — with the rates.
Oh, the paupers are meek and lowly
With their "Thank'ee kindly, mum's!'"
So long as they fill their stomachs,
What matter it whence it comes!
But one of the old men mutters,
And pushes his plate aside:
"Great God!" he cries, "but it chokes me!
For this is the day she died!"
The guardians gazed in horror,
The master's face went white;
"Did a pauper refuse the pudding?"
"Could their ears believe aright?"
Then the ladies clutched their husbands,
Thinking the man would die,
Struck by a bolt, or something,
By the outraged One on high.
But the pauper sat for a moment,
Then rose 'mid silence grim,
For the others had ceased to chatter
And trembled in every limb.
He looked at the guardians' ladies,
Then, eyeing their lords, he said,
"I eat not the food of villains
Whose hands are foul and red:
"Whose victims cry for vengeance
From their dark, unhallowed graves."
"He's drunk!" said the workhouse master,
"Or else he's mad and raves."
"Not drunk or mad," cried the pauper,
"But only a haunted beast,
Who, torn by the hounds and mangled,
Declines the vulture's feast.
"I care not a curse for the guardians,
And I won't be dragged away;
Just let me have the fit out,
It's only on Christmas Day
That the black past comes to goad me,
And prey on my burning brain;
I'll tell you the rest in a whisper —
I swear I won't shout again.
"Keep your hands off me, curse you!
Hear me right out to the end.
You come here to see how paupers
The season of Christmas spend;.
You come here to watch us feeding,
As they watched the captured beast.
Here's why a penniless pauper
Spits on your paltry feast.
"Do you think I will take your bounty,
And let you smile and think
You're doing a noble action
With the parish's meat and drink?
Where is my wife, you traitors —
The poor old wife you slew?
Yes, by the God above me,
My Nance was killed by you!
'Last winter my wife lay dying,
Starved in a filthy den;
I had never been to the parish —
I came to the parish then.
I swallowed my pride in coming,
For ere the ruin came,
I held up my head as a trader,
And I bore a spotless name.
"I came to the parish, craving
Bread for a starving wife,
Bread for the woman who'd loved me
Through fifty years of life;
And what do you think they told me,
Mocking my awful grief,
That 'the House' was open to us,
But they wouldn't give 'out relief'.
"I slunk to the filthy alley —
'Twas a cold, raw Christmas Eve —
And the bakers' shops were open,
Tempting a man to thieve;
But I clenched my fists together,
Holding my head awry,
So I came to her empty-handed
And mournfully told her why.
"Then I told her the house was open;
She had heard of the ways of that,
For her bloodless cheeks went crimson,
and up in her rags she sat,
Crying, 'Bide the Christmas here, John,
We've never had one apart;
I think I can bear the hunger —
The other would break my heart.'
"All through that eve I watched her,
Holding her hand in mine,
Praying the Lord and weeping,
Till my lips were salt as brine;
I asked her once if she hungered,
And as she answered 'No' ,
The moon shone in at the window,
Set in a wreath of snow.
"Then the room was bathed in glory,
And I saw in my darling's eyes
The faraway look of wonder
That comes when the spirit flies;
And her lips were parched and parted,
And her reason came and went.
For she raved of our home in Devon,
Where our happiest years were spent.
"And the accents, long forgotten,
Came back to the tongue once more.
For she talked like the country lassie
I woo'd by the Devon shore;
Then she rose to her feet and trembled,
And fell on the rags and moaned,
And, 'Give me a crust — I'm famished —
For the love of God!' she groaned.
"I rushed from the room like a madman
And flew to the workhouse gate,
Crying, 'Food for a dying woman!'
And the answer came, 'Too late.'
They drove me away with curses;
Then I fought with a dog in the street
And tore from the mongrel's clutches
A crust he was trying to eat.
"Back through the filthy byways!
Back through the trampled slush!
Up to the crazy garret,
Wrapped in an awful hush;
My heart sank down at the threshold,
And I paused with a sudden thrill.
For there, in the silv'ry moonlight,
My Nance lay, cold and still.
"Up to the blackened ceiling,
The sunken eyes were cast —
I knew on those lips, all bloodless,
My name had been the last;
She called for her absent husband —
O God! had I but known! —
Had called in vain, and, in anguish,
Had died in that den — alone.
"Yes, there, in a land of plenty,
Lay a loving woman dead,
Cruelly starved and murdered
for a loaf of the parish bread;
At yonder gate, last Christmas,
I craved for a human life,
You, who would feed us paupers,
What of my murdered wife!"
'There, get ye gone to your dinners,
Don't mind me in the least,
Think of the happy paupers
Eating your Christmas feast;
And when you recount their blessings
In your smug parochial way,
Say what you did for me, too,
Only last Christmas Day."

"Winter in the Workhouse: The Penalty of London's Greatness"
from "The Graphic," December 21, 1907
Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 1, 2014

Fifties Gal

In high heels and dresses that floated on the waves of her crinoline,
She'd saunter down Manhattan streets
As "fellas" whistled from around her
Because she decorated their views.

In skirts expanded by petticoats
Swirling her colors,
She'd dance the lindy 'cross party floors
As hopeful beaus
Stood in line waiting for a chance to partner her.

Fifties gals in flipped hair styles,
Their hair held back by colored bands—
Her mind remembers as she studies the mirror
For signs of a person left behind.

Still standing straight on her 70th birthday,
Hair blonde as it once was, 
Only a few gray streaks and lines
Telling the world she's no longer fifteen.


© Shelly Sitzer, 2014

"Women's fashion in the 1950s"
from "Fashion Pictures
Vintage fashion galleries from 1955-58"

Monday, November 3, 2014

Hands

Hands

You clench fists,
gripping us tightly,
dry and cracked,
in need of tlc.
You fling us around
wildly as you speak.
We spend days nurturing others,
nights making meals,
and you have never even dressed us in pretty jewels
(well maybe that occasional ring).
Our tips press letters and numbers
that keep us connected with loved ones 
in places far away.
Our enamel is never polished bright;
you tried it once 
and said it felt as though it were numb.
We feel the pins and needles
when the weight of you
becomes too much to bear
and you fall asleep
with us tucked under your head.
We remember that time in traffic
when you white-knuckled 
the steering wheel
for fear the other cars were too close.
We feel the aches as you hold tight the brush, 
struggling to get the knots 
out of your daughter’s hair.
You rarely thank us.
You hide us in pockets 
standing on sidewalks.
We could have been used
to create masterpieces of music,
years of guitar and piano lessons
stretching us,
but you chose an alternative,
giving the blood that flows to our ends 
to others.
We hold scars 
from moments 
that are too painful to speak of,
and we've never once complained.


© Suzanne Saxon, 2014

"A Woman's Arm," by Adolph Tidemand, Google Art Project
from Wikimedia