Linda Wallin

The Hardest Part
 

The box comes in the mail.
Eagerly you open it.
I roll my eyes in skepticism
as you unpack the cheap plastic incubator
and one quailís egg.

The hours pass.
You check and recheck.
I try to prepare you for the disappointment
of its stillbirth.

A tiny beak begins to poke through.
Hour after hour it struggles to break free.
Finally, exhausted, it is born.
You hold it near your glowing face
as I snap a picture of the proud papa.
I can not believe you brought it life.
I am thrilled with your success.

Within hours it dies.
Your heart is broken.

I know at this moment that the hardest part
is not teaching discipline.
It is watching you suffer.

 

1996 Linda Wallin

Jenene Ravesloot

Sardines
 

Fresh sardines, heads, tails, and guts still intact.
Speared sardines stuck in the blond sand of La
Malagueta Beach. Salted sardines that roast on
skewers. Sardines crackling in sand-filled boats
that have been turned into barbeques. Sardines
piled on plates by the dozen, rubbed with more
oil and sea salt. We smell it, the scent of oil,
salt, smoke and sea as we hold each flaking
sardine by both ends, begin to eat the pungent
flesh. We discard heads, tails, viscera and bones
onto this imported sand from the Sahara desert,
then wipe our hands on our arms and legs before
we plunge into the Mediterranean while the sun
spins and glistens like a net of caught fish.

Jenene Ravesloot

Wilda Morris

Fog

 Beginning with a line by Ellen Watson*
 
I am the age of my daughter who still loves fog,
but it is sun on the wooden porch I love,
the way heat pushes through my skirt into skin.
It is the rough bark of the apple tree scratching
my calf as I climb to a higher branch I love,
evening-damp grass as I roll down a hill,
cocoa hot enough to singe my tongue.
 
Fog is a curtain I cannot feel.
 
Wilda Morris
 
The first line is from the poem, “Glen Cove, 1957,” by Ellen Watson. "Fog" was first published by The Avocet.

Jill Angel Langlois

I Have Never Cut My Hair

(For David Crosby)

I have never cut my hair.
The tip of the tail is made of birth hair
still wet from the womb.
Farther up is the blonde of toddlerhood,
the golden trusses of childhood,
a bird’s nest growing in the matted part.
The light brown of the teen years,
the treasures stolen from the cute boy,
embedded into safe keeping.
The brown of young aduthood,
flipped to and fro as if I didn’ care.
The dark brown of marriage.
My hair was longer than my train,
flowing over rock and pebble.
The brunette trails had to be rolled up like a tape measure
so the baby wouldn’t get tangled in them.
The pepper and salt of middle age,
the salt and pepper of the advancing years,
the salt and dry split ends of old age.
My newest hair is brittle and white.
I have never cut my hair;
now I am ready to die.
My hair will grow even after I am dead.
It will be my death hair, still living,
attached to the end of my birth hair.
At my funeral
they will see photos of me:
Dragging my hair through sand from the sandbox,
sporting a ribbon, a crown, a veil, a hat, a bathing cap, a tiara.
Sun shining through it,
painting a dry stone wet with the tip.
Birds taking refuge there.
Braids of young lovers coming together.
Lengthy hair in tie-dyed colors,
dangling over the Grand Canyon,
trailing through the Bad Lands,
rushing over Niagara Falls.
Many people across the land had to assist in its washing,
the long strands being brushed daily
and put on top of my head,
a bun as big as an elephant
weighing me down.
Then the adventure of its unraveling.
The enormous blanket of comfort surrounding me.
The mass of children twirling and jumping rope;
mustaches they crafted and laughed behind.
The clothesline to dry their clothes in the summer.
The dog’s leash.
A tug of war.
Hair flowing over the Sierra Mountains,
then dipping into the sea.
In a meadow, dancing with white daisies
atop my head as a crown.
A feather duster used on Fridays.
I felt it growing year by year,
slowly forming cell by cell,
as cells divided and produced new,
older looking, hair.
I made a hammock to sleep in,
and I rocked myself, singing peacefully.
I pulled my woven blanket again around me,
the colors blending into each other.
It was my turban when I became ill
with the advancement of life.
The last photo:
My hair lining my coffin
and the dress I wear to present myself.

Jill Angel Langlois

Caroline Johnson

Maple Lake: A Sestina
 

Walking on frosted landscape, we hike alone.
The crisp January air melts our bones
as we make our descent to Maple Lake
with sunshine and tracks in the snow.
Slowly we reach the river of ice
now covering a home of native fish.

Even in winter men search here for fish.
Despite storms, they are not alone,
drilling holes and auguring through ice,
huddling in small shacks to warm their bones.
They sit and smoke and watch the snow
softly stroke its print onto the lake.

I follow you out onto the lake,
thinking of how young boys catch fish
here in May and June, and how the snow
keeps falling, each flake wet and alone.
I wonder if bluegill have cold bones
as they swim below the ice.

I take a step onto the ice
now covering frozen Maple Lake;
the wind seeps through my bones.
I think of what happens to the fish
when winter comes and water alone
is not enough to fight the snow.

You begin to skate on top of the snow
and leave your skid marks on the ice.
I turn north and leave you alone,
looking out upon the frozen lake,
a deserted moonscape except for the fish
which turn inward, embracing their bones.

Who knows how deeply it goes to the bones,
when skin starts to wrinkle and hair to snow,
and men grow wisdom as they begin to fish,
balancing each moment on bright skim ice,
hovering between reality and myth, the lake
a reminder of each lifetime alone.

Yet we are not alone; nature calls our bones
back from the lake; we listen to the snow
and petrified ice.  Beneath us swim the fish.

 

This poem won 1st place in the 2012 Chicago Tribune Printers Row Poetry Contest and was published in the Chicago Tribune. It also won 3rd place in the Formal Category in the 2008 Chicagoland Poets and Patrons Contest.

 
Caroline Johnson

Gail Denham

Summer Slips Into Fall
 

Burning leaves and crackle piles
for diving kids – a part of our past.
Now it’s black leaf bags with pumpkin
faces, lined up for trash collectors.

Still, a touch of autumn memories
remain. Aspen leaves clap rattled
songs. A forgotten drift of cast-off foliage
fills my desire to shuffle and crunch.

A different color paints the air,
lunch pails clank against small bodies,
school buses hold up traffic
and mothers do grateful dances.

 

Squash
 

found poem
 
Dressed in oranges, red, light
and dark greens, pale cream, with warty
skins, squash stands in for pasta,
and manicotti, with hazelnut mole.
 
Is it any wonder we grab corn ears
to celebrate the end of summer? Steam
corn, team it with a college-educated
cabbage or potato head; there’s a meal
real people can understand.
 
Not warty, pal, or smooth yellow
string squash that someone tossed
in your open car window on Sunday
while you sat patient in church.

Charlotte DiGregorio

At The Museum of Contemporary Art

 

Seeking quietude on a foggy day,
I visit the Museum to drift and dream,
with watercolors, collages, montages, and tapestries.
I happen upon worn scraps of metal, wire,
bits of broken glass, and splintered plastic.
Perhaps they are castaways culled from a hidden dumpster
in a deserted Chicago alley.

I visualize a sculptor in his cramped studio with a large window.
Under skies donning infinite grayness,
he watches languishing birds in autumn’s breath.
Brittle poplar branches wave in whispering wind.
His eye glimpses fluttering scarlet and gold.
Inspired hands bend, chip, and polish refuse into delicate,
shining pieces, with soothing shades.

With agile fingers, his drab finds, a reflection of our gritty lives,
become graceful art, as if by metamorphosis.
He realizes sculptures of oddly-shaped people
and animals, almost unidentifiable,
yet bearing equilibrium and harmony.
In solitude, he finds lyricism
in trifles surrounding him.

 

This poem was awarded First Place in Poets & Patrons 54th Annual Chicagoland Poetry Contest, 2010. Category: “The City of Chicago.”

Later, it was a Pushcart Prize Nominee.

Tom Roby

Peacetime Casualty, 1940
 

My first father was all preparations
for the well-timed world war he failed to fight.
Why did he leave me no decorations?

He punched out his playmates, made reputations
with touchdown heroics, the cheerleaders’ knight,
joined after-school clubs for more preparations,

Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts, his justifications
for Midshipman, Ensign, a future so bright,
left me diplomas for wall decorations,

then made out quite well at cohabitations,
chance father by day, in the night sybarite,
his proud blues parading great preparations,

a drunken car wreck that stopped assignations,
his martinet father left on the drill site,
a closed coffin funeral, no decorations.

Death in the war would have left compensations
of medals, citations, a hero upright,
full realizations of armed preparations.
Why did he leave me no decorations?

Tom Roby IV

Joe Glaser

Complexity
 

Lioness adopts a fawn
licks and protects it for days into weeks
until her odd love ends in dinner or desertion.

Is the praying mantis religious?
What does she feel when eating her mate
right after copulating - instead of having a smoke?

Competing instincts in living things
coexist and clash and confound us
as we strain our big brains
in search of bold insights

I watch in dismay as a live turtle is cooked for lunch
and served up with a $2,000 bottle of wine
at a proud Shanghai restaurant.

As a sensitive animal lover
I am disgusted by such casual culinary cruelty,
and yet I relish aged steaks and tender young lamb chops.

In myth and art the god Saturn ate his children,
and I ponder how higher instincts can reduce to love, hate, yum.

Even at peace in my hi-tech haven,
eyes casually surfing old TVs and new computers,
I can feel my mind inexorably drawn to scenes of violence.

And once again I crash into the complexity of the human condition.

            
© Joe Glaser, Dec 2009, rev. 2012, 2016

 

Japanese Garden Rumination
 

There’s something about the Japanese,
    forever striving for beauty
    and perfection.
Stretching minds beyond the natural.

They carefully prune and primp and prop a tree,
    supporting its exploring arms
    across generations.
Taking years, decades, centuries even.

Coaxing limbs in new directions,
    growing surreal shapes
    of gremlins dancing.
In a fantasy of strange contortions.

We wonder at a tree transcendent,
    unbound from self,
    imbued with art.
Evoking old dreams and new reflections.

And we must struggle to remember that this magic is created
    by the same people who fought us
    in wide deep war.
With ferocity that knew few bounds.

These engaging people so perfectly polite to visitors,
    thoughtful and friendly and helpful
    beyond expectations.
Now picnicking peacefully under cascades of cherry blossoms.

And lovingly preserved at the Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots
    hang winsome portraits of brave young men
    with their poetic letters.
Sensitively bidding family a last farewell.


© Joe Glaser, April 2008

Published in 2008/9 Vol. 17 of “The Journal” of Northwestern University’s OLLI program.

Mark Hudson

National Poetry Day
 

National Poetry Day was founded by the British,
but all day long I felt a bit skittish.
Anxiety about things I cannot control,
No time for poetry, no Ole King Cole.
What type of message of poems can I convey?
The truth is I have not much to say.
In England, they think poetry no reason for shame,
I suppose that they’re reading it out by the Thames.
But in America, our verse can get worse,
our politicians cause people to curse!
We frown at our freedom, because it is fleeting,
some upbeat poetry is what we are needing.
In England, the country we once broke off from,
is where they read poetry, and sit on their bum.
There is always tomorrow, to do just that thing,
or is possible, death still does sting?

Mark Hudson
October 6, 2016

 

Construction Site Quatrains
 

There were blessing that came from above,
when the bricks fell from the sky with love.
The crew had been stalled, and ran out of dough,
construction site of chaos, progress was slow.

Every vice and virtue shared among the men,
they sat around and drank and drank it all again.
A fire had caused their reparations sour,
and down came the building like a falling tower.

The construction of the workers was put to an end,
it was a relationship the boss could not mend.
The building that was only half built lay in debris,
the workers had no confidence, nor no modesty.

The place was in ruins, the building was in smolders,
all the workers packed up, and moved away to Boulder.
It was the skyscraper that never was to flourish,
but some townsfolk found a way to take it and nourish.

Eventually, a fence surrounded the whole lot,
a playground was built, and people just forgot
the building that had once been there to rot
now a playground, safe for many a tot.

So bring your children to the park outside,
let them slide on the fireman’s slide.
Future firemen play tag on the once failed site,
and kids will do construction one day, do it right.

A playground is a launching pad for dreams,
a towering inferno a harbor full of screams.
Without the pain of failure, we’d have no success,
so please parents and teachers, give the kids recess!


(c) Mark Hudson 2016