Monday, January 15, 2018

Oz Dreams

Oz is the land
we dream of
on nights when giants stalk
the gloomy woods,
and wicked witches wait
beyond the curve of the yellow brick road.
Dorothy, sturdy and ever cheerful,
braves the terrors lurking there,
giving courage
to orphans everywhere.

© Peg Latham,  2016

Haitian orphans after the 2010 earthquake
Photo by Marcello Casal Jr, for AgĂȘncia Brasil, a public Brazilian news agency
from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, January 8, 2018

To My Father on His 100th Birthday

The bent wood of the empty highchair
Darkens each year, even though the caning
Holds up against the long-departed weight
Of your tiny body crying out for its first
Solid foods, even as the influenza raged
Around you and the bodies piled up.

My sister posts a photograph I’ve never seen,
You in your grandfather Lucius’s arms, 
Grandmother Frances stiffly looking on 
In her dark full length dress, the wood
Paneling dark and your father’s darkness
Not yet revealed in his downward loving gaze.

Your eyes alone look outward their innocence
Unfocused on any of the hammers fated later
To fall, your father’s becoming a stockbroker
In 1928, your wife’s madness, your daughter’s
Crib death, the corporate world’s finding
That you were another expendable engineer.

The wondrous light in your eyes appears now
To forgive it all in advance, under your father’s
Eyes saying silently I have made something good
Even though twelve years later he would put
His head in the oven, and thereafter would smoke
Himself to death while you sailed sea and sky.

The walls you built left a shadow so far behind
The scrim of unwanted memory that it is only
Now that I can see him, standing there at thirty
In bright tie and rounded collar tips his gaze
And his father’s gaze on you and your eyes
Only now, in a century’s blink, are my eyes.

© Bill Prindle, 2018

van Campen family portrait in a landscape
by Frans Hals, with the baby lower left
added by Salomon de Bray
Toledo Museum of Art
from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, January 1, 2018


Now we are a tear in the shape of a person—
a tear that screams.
Or maybe we are a blood-drop who is a person—
blood that wails
and walks or rather stumbles
upon our planet formed
to be a blood-drop, a teardrop,
and the entire planet is screaming.
The planet and we, made for one another,
are pain moving upon pain.
The planet floats, reels
upon a foundation
that is not a noble elephant,
a patiently pleasant turtle,
or the dependable shoulders of Atlas.
The planet floats, reels
upon perhaps sounder foundation—
whole horror.

Now we know that there are Believers
who adore horror.
Those Believers may rejoice
when joy is destroyed,
supposedly convinced
that the only purity is pollution,
cruelty the sole permissible cult,
death the one true faith.
So the soul, like the Earth,
attains the purity of worshipped pollution.
Terror thus may compose reality,
and a screaming tear, a drop that is a person,
will not be heard.
Who among gods in the depths of height
can concoct help, healing, wellness?
Has hope been conceived yet,
a mirror in the void to answer
our own agonized shining?

And yet, despite terror, we do shine at times,
a shape, a drop trained by love,
that survives by shining
for the sake of shining.
The curve of a tear may be defined therefore
as a smile, a smiling blood-drop.
Are we brave enough to re-invent fun
as wellness inconceivable
by its well-trained killers?
Is killing the same as believing?
Somewhere, Someone has conceived of purity
that is fun, which is not pollution.
“Those Believers want to destroy
the things worth living for—
food, wine, friends.” 

© Stephen Margulies, 2017

Christmas Illumination Champs-Elysées, Paris
Photo by Didier Boy de la Tour;
Koert Vermeulen principal lighting designer & Marcos Vinals Bassols artistic director
from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas in My Heart

for Scott Coskie, a talented theater director who 
loved Christmas and everything Disney

Defying December winds
one blustery day,
we happily strung Christmas lights
across your front yard.

Dressed in Disney ornaments
your tree, glistening through the window
as inside, tinseled shelves of snowy cotton
set a stage for village life.

Within my mind, there still exists
a dancing Pinocchio,
the gift your heart couldn't help but crave
one Christmas long ago.

Watercolor memories,
abstracted and blurred,
melding Christmas past into Christmas present,
alive and aglow,
bringing you back each year 
as angelic characters fill my ears
and Christmas comes to my heart!

© Shelly Sitzer, 2017

Pinocchio and Cantinflas marionettes
at the National Puppet Museum
in Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico
by Alejandro Linares Garcia
from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 11, 2017

Understanding Fiction

A two-year-old calls out “Ring, Ring!” and hands us
a play phone, and we take it and say “Hello.”
We carry on a full conversation
if need be, and chances are we need to,
smiles and all. 
                         Does it matter if the child
doesn’t follow all that we say? We could
speak of Charlie Parker and Dave Brubeck
or pray for our long-dead Uncle Hutchins,
so long as the illusion is strong.

Chances are the child plays another game
while you talk, stacking bright rings on a peg,
perhaps, or painting her nails with a toothbrush
and the dog’s water bowl.  
                                            When she grows up,
she’ll not remember much more than the phone.
Uncle Hutchins remains just a name
on a list in the family Bible,
and the giants of jazz are just as dead
as he to this child who recalls nothing
but the faded pink phone we held, our voice,
our presence. 
           It’s a time of worthy deceit,
don’t you think? And this poem a parable
that says fiction can carry a good truth,
and  that we who write know the lessons
of irony better than most; we can conjoin
the two ends of this lie about a phone
into something strong enough to outlast
this moment and carry her on somewhere
we don’t now know, but which, if we are lucky,
we’ll live to write about some day.

            © David Black, 2017

Corbin Fleming, brother of 2011 March of Dimes National Ambassador
Lauren Fleming, plays with United States President Barack Obama's telephone
during his family's visit to the Oval Office on 7 February 2012.
Photo by Pete Souza, posted to White House Flickr Account.
From Wikimedia Commons 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Pegasus Dream

A wild Pegasus grazes
next to Star B Stables in Virginia,
ready to spread his lacy wings
and rise above the weepy clouds.
But the preverbal horse
relies on the words of a fickle poet
to make him fly.

If only there were just a Pegasus problem,
an idle poet could solve it.
If only there was just one lie,
a word could make it right —
to awake the dreamer,
to raise the dead.
The brilliance of words brings confusion —
they were mighty, now they are useless.
A peek at a stranger’s grocery list
tells me more than a hundred poems.

Pegasus glimpses the leafy forest,
the steep road to a grassy field,
lusts after the weepy clouds.
But the pathetic horse cannot wing his way
without the words of the fickle poet.

On the wooden porch stands
an abandoned broken rocker.
Pegasus and poet left
to wring out a few more lines
from memories of the leafy forest,
the steep road to a grassy field,
the weepy clouds.

The sunken, colorless eyes of Pegasus —
the defeat sprang from euphoria.

© Helen Kanevsky, 2017

Four Muses and Pegasus on Parnassus
Painting by Caesar van Everdingen, c. 1650
The Hague, The Netherlands
from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, November 27, 2017

How to Lie to Your Mother

Talk about your cats. You’re worried
the calico is getting too thin, but she
won’t eat any of the food you bought,
not even the organic one. Mention
you’re redecorating your bedroom.
You don’t have a favorite color
at the moment, so you picked blue.
You’ve spray-painted some wall hangings
and you found this paisley print sheet
at Thrift USA. You’re going to make
curtains. Everything is blue.
Say you can’t wait to visit her.

Insist on a trip to IKEA. It’s so close
and you need shelves. You don’t want 
your new roommate to think 
you’re a slob. Dodge the question 
about group therapy. Ask her 
about her health. She always
has a lot to say about it.
Try to remember which medications
have changed. There’s a list
in her purse, but still, someone should
know what she’s taking. Dad doesn’t.
Has it been thirty minutes yet?

You can’t talk for less or she’ll feel 
shut out. Ask about the animals
at the shelter. Are there any new kittens?
Try to stay focused on the details
when she describes them. Make it
into a game. See how much 
you remember later. Check the clock 
again. Wait for her to lose 
her train of thought. Pretend 
you’ve just realized what time it is. 
Tell her you need to get ready for work. 
Say I love you. Say goodbye. 

             Ellie White, 2016

(First published by The Academy of American Poets, 2016)
Young woman posed with a telephone, circa 1915
from the Library of Congress's Prints & Photographs division
via Wikimedia Commons