Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rivanna River South of Town

Upstream the surface begins flat, mirror shine. 
Cool current flows under two kayaks 
glowing red and green. 

Noise of trains, trucks, cars gone.  Hands 
grip the paddle pole, arms stretch, drop, pull, 
blade rises falls, left, right. Trickle of drops.

Sun falls warm on the shoulders. Blue blossoms 
of figworts float by the hundreds like babies 
asleep in baskets on this June afternoon.  

Dark ovals dot the length of a log until 
claws and legs poke out, push, and 
drop into the stream.  

Ahead the river whispers, speaks, then shouts 
its rushing tones. Earth falls, river follows 
making eddies, bubbles, splash, flash -- which way to go? 

We are carried -- rising, falling, dashing, daring, 
rounding rocks, scraping rocks, tipping, untamed, 
sliding through foam, arriving to calm.  

High above, wing sweep, flashes of white, 
two Bald Eagles ride rivers of air, one wheels up, 
looks down and spots the colors we ride. 

Steering under Ironwoods, I climb out into water, 
give my body to its movement.  Head, feet, arms, 
hair gathered up in the river’s peace.


© Marti Snell, 2016

Rocks in the Rivanna
Photo by Tony Russell

Monday, May 16, 2016

For the King of Candy Land: My Son Kai, May 2016

“Candy Land, Life, Monopoly,” my son replied 
when I asked “Do you remember us playing marathon tournaments
of board games when you were a kid?”
This, on the way to the airport
where he will fly to California,
back to his home  and his work.

He is vexed by my asking such a trivial question 
while his thoughts swirl around his travel plans, the work that awaits him,
the transition from his visit with me to his life on the West Coast....
Yet, on his face, I see the boy who loved to play, 
who kept his Monopoly money in neat piles, color-coded 
and at the ready to buy another house or hotel; who outwitted
me at Checkers, making kings that jumped up and over 
and trapped me in the back row; and I, the Queen of Ping Pong,
falling in defeat to the child who outwitted me with speed and stamina.

Later that night, after he called to tell me he’d arrived safely,
I thought about all the years I read to him, lying on the bed
with Babar the Elephant and Conan the Barbarian.  
After he learned to read, I remember thinking, “I’ve lost my job,” 
but no, he brought home “The Hound of the Baskervilles,
and we took turns reading to each  other.

We know our children for so long as children
that when they grow up, we relate to what we know best 
about them. It seems unfair to them, yet inevitable to us.
We look for some overlap, something familiar to connect
the past to the present.  What in the man is still like the boy?
And I remember:  whenever he visits, we talk about books
and he reads to me.  And, though he doesn’t call to me from the next room, 
he calls.


© Evie Safran, 2016

Mother and her child reading scripture
Photo by Dr. Avishai Teiher
Pikiwiki Israel
from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 2, 2016

Corrupted Innocence



In the deadening stillness of cease-fire, Abdul 
looks for his toys in the rubble. Basira digs 

for simple trinkets coveted in a box under her 
bed in nameless bits and pieces called home.

Yasmin, 6, in Gaza City, has endured three wars 
in her lifetime.  She wonders, without emotion, 

where she will lay tonight. Awake or asleep, she 
lives the fear of wolfish wounds, nowhere safe.

These children are lucky to be the living dead, 
always in war, cooped chickens who can’t escape, 

ignorant of fresh air. Four cousins playing near 
the harbor, two brothers in a taxi with grandma, 

one four-year-old and his eight-year-old brother 
inside their house, a three-year-old playing with dad 

in the family garden, and a boy and father going 
to mosque – all dead before this brief pause 

in the war as if snuffed between cigarettes. Young 
global nomads bicycle bombed-out streets, kick 

rag balls outside makeshift medical tents, feed 
beat-up dolls with pretend food to play out their fate.        


© Patsy Asuncion, 2016


Destruction of Gaza
Photo by gloucester2gaza
from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, April 11, 2016

The River Doesn’t Stop on a Humid Afternoon

THE RIVER DOESN’T STOP
ON A HUMID AFTERNOON--BUT I DO

WATER AND AIR ARE MINGLED, AND
ALL THE SOUNDS I HEAR--
HUMAN, ANIMAL, ELEMENTAL--
ARE THICK WITH THE SUBSTANCE OF LIFE
ON THIS WATER PLANET

IT MAKES ME GLAD--
THIS IS MUCH MORE THAN I HAD A MOMENT AGO,
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD.

I HOPE THAT I SHALL ALWAYS HAVE
A RIVER TO STOP BESIDE,
TO REMIND, MORE THAN THE SEA, THAT
I AM ON A JOURNEY INTO ME

THAT I DO NOT AND CANNOT BELONG TO ANY CREED,
THAT I’M A WITNESS AND A CONSORT OF TRUTH,
SO HOW CAN I BELIEVE ?

SUNDOWN LOW SPILLS GOLD INTO THE STREAM,
I JUST RELAX AND GET QUIET,
KNOWING WHAT IT MEANS--

WATER IS SPEAKING IN THE LANGUAGE OF LIGHT,
AND IF I LISTEN JUST RIGHT
I GET THE PROOF--

I CANNOT HEAR
ANYTHING BUT TRUTH

I CANNOT HEAR ANYTHING
BUT TRUTH

I CANNOT HEAR ANYTHING BUT TRUTH


© Gerry Sackett, 2016

Stopping by the River
Photo by Tony Russell

Monday, April 4, 2016

How to Draw an Elephant: A Chestertonian Inspiration




Your muse has sung in siren tongue 
A beguiling incantation.
Your inspired mind no shackle can bind, 
No qualm deter its vocation.

Artistry pent, pause you resent;
All scruple you christen defeat. 
Your aim, I see: originality
Suffers no orthodox conceit.

Promptly then, your opus begin, 
Unleash that rapacious vision. 
With each stroke defy, make each shape deny 
The tyranny of convention.

Prepare your page, your pen engage,
Your subject (let me now confirm)
Is that splendid beast, that atheistic feast, 
The tusked and truck├Ęd pachyderm.

Stylus grip, press its inky tip
To field of pale obscurity.  
Why stand dismayed? Dare you invade
Its utopian purity?


No pretense is artistic sense
That reveres an unsullied space.
But reluctance to its neutrality hew
Conflates passivity with grace.

Yield not to fear, sketch first an ear
With a broad, elephantine curve.
Now neatly impose a prehensile nose
By a dexterous manual swerve.

How you protest! Do I suggest
So insipid a rendering?
Can I advise such a trite exercise
In artistic surrendering?

Drolly antique—hardly unique—
Is the hackneyed, serpentine snout.
I sense your distress, how can you express
Yourself by so public a route? 

Art must be bold (or so I’m told),
So cowering custom displace.
Why not a square, or else nothing but air
To hang from his singular face?  

Next his leg—your pardon I beg, 
You find its girth too confining?
Then cinch it a bit, or freely submit 
To less inspired designing.

Onward we tack to his broad back;
His bulk let us immortalise.
Never! Cry you, every feeling eschews
The banality of an elephant’s size.

Your pen strays near his unshaped rear
Tracing a concise, playful trail.
How dogmatic, how undemocratic— 
But how sublimely like a tail.

Why do you cringe? Does it impinge
On your avant-garde proclivity
That a form so concrete should now complete
Your surge of creativity?

Bar then, rules of outmoded schools
From your audacious abstraction.
But if I may be plain, while they restrain,
They merit no blithe rejection. 

Though indeed, your subject you’ve freed
From the rigid form that bound him,
In that cage he was free simply to be
An elephant, as you found him.

Corporally shrunk, loosed of his truck.
Can you him an elephant name?
The freedom you prize in willingness lies 
To be restricted by a frame.

Pure license no insight attends, 
But like that fool’s tale does it ring
With the full fury of blind anarchy:
A scene that signifies nothing.

Heed then, friend, lest your daring rend
Image from imagination.
Rejoice that each line from all else defines; 
For true art is limitation.

© Elise Matich, 2012

An elephant, drawn by Rembrandt van Rijn
Chalk on paper, 1637
from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, March 14, 2016

Endings and Beginnings

Scatter my ashes
where osprey fly,
calling to each other 
above the rippling marsh grass
and the tides
that breathe and murmur 
in the cove.

Lay a stone
in the old graveyard
across the bay,
where wind and sun
and seasons
come and go.
On it a terse inscription:
“Proceed as way opens.”

That will suffice.


        © Peg Latham, 2016

Tidal creek flowing into a salt marsh
Photo by Brian Bill, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, March 7, 2016

Everything Has Legs

Not only animals can lope about!
Everything has legs,
useful, but often concealed;
static, but still capable of rapid movement;
unthinking, yet able to plan and execute.
For instance:

Cellphones

Never turn your back on a cellphone. 
Such a gesture will quickly be detected,
triggering unseen limbs to instant action.
Electronic sensors will seek out places of hiding
known only to the device.
Without being observed,
the malevolent little creature will hide in a nearby collection 
of computer-driven devices,
or seek out the darkest corner of your current location.
If autonomous features are available to this silicone snake-in-the-grass,
it will modify its own settings to make itself totally unresponsive,
and leave you utterly abandoned, 
perhaps in an unknown neighborhood, 
without fuel for your car, 
surrounded by unfamiliar structures
and unknown inhabitants who themselves
have been abandoned by their disloyal communicators. 


Yet another instance of uncooperative technology:

The Coat Hanger.

Surprisingly strong, ubiquitous, a denizen of every household,
an ancient form of “helper” device,
embodying no electronic content at all,
yet capable of causing wholly unexpected and endless frustration.
They normally live in closet spaces, some holding clothing, others bare and apparently available. 
Somehow these circuitless, detectorless, 
brainless creatures from our distant past know when they are needed, 
and respond in most unpleasant ways.
Having been observed in an available state, 
they deploy hitherto unseen appendages and move silently,
quickly to other more distant locations.  
They are also known to burrow into piles of clothing, 
and, if left alone on a large flat surface such as a bed, 
organize themselves into hideous tangles 
which can reach the complexity of the legendary Gordian Knot. 
It is said that Alexander the Great himself, 
upon encountering such a mess of metal and plastic,
refused to attempt its disentanglement.
Reduced to mumbling impotence,
he was heard by bystanders to observe in his frustration “…but they haven’t even been invented yet!”   
Shortly thereafter he died after tripping on a hanger 
left on the floor of his command tent by a careless servant.

There are many more amazing facts unknown 
to even the best-informed scientists.
Next time we bring you unprovable facts about 
computer detection of user identity and 
how machines  determine 
which problem is most disturbing to the person at the keyboard 
and how they then implement these problems….

And for your own safety, remember –
Everything has legs!

© George Phillips, 2016

Decorative lamp shaped from old wire coat hangers
Photo from Wikimedia Commons