Touching Eternity

I know an enchanted place
where bouquets of words
grow wild and profuse.
I can choose as many as I like
in any color or fragrance
even some that do not really exist.
The collecting is effortless
as if done for me;
All I have to do is think myself there
a self-hypnosis
that takes me nowhere
and everywhere…
It might be the same place
where Keats heard “unheard melodies”
or El Greco had a vision of Toledo…
Reflection causes my feet to tremble
at the garden’s gate
I feel as blind and awestruck
as Paul on the way to Damascus


The True Joy of Happiness

The crown prince of acquisitions,
More sought after than
Rubies and pearls
Gold and platinum
Park Place and Boardwalk
Diamonds, a girl’s best friend…

An elusive being,
Slipping in and out of captivity
A high stakes game of peek-a-boo
Someday, somewhere, that special someone
Never quite matching the job description…

The stuff of dreams come true,
Among the stars and in the tea leaves
Over the rainbow and through looking glass
Greener grass and better homes and gardens
Beauty without the beast…

Is everybody happy?
Therapists and self-help books
Make someone happy, perhaps even yourself
Pills and booze for all occasions
A grand obsession, grand illusion
The popular Harvard course. Happiness 101

A whisper, a soft evening breeze
Radiant love and undulating peace
Connected to the Universe, inside and out
A steady smile and quiet optimism
A resident from birth, ready to serve
A constant companion, wherever happiness might be or not.

David Nekimken,  June 2006

My Routine

I wake to loose threads
dangling in my head.
From the bay window,

barely visible limbs of
a solitary poplar fan the air.
A train rumbles through the blur.

In my prairie town,
coffee percolates
black and white moments.

I walk out into the chill
stumbling through twigs
and crusty leaves.

Through the maze of day,
I touch shoulders with tall shadows,
hear invisible robins.

With the maple leaves,
street lights change from
green to yellow to red.

Home at night,
I destroy pesky cobwebs
with my feather duster,

settle into my armchair.
Beating time in waning lamplight
to folk songs playing

in my childhood,
I drift into another dawn.

Published in After Hours Journal, Winter 2017

Nine Holes Near Krakow

Nine holes near Krakow,
laid out in the countryside
like soft pieces of cloth,
far away from the hustle & bustle of
the Rynek Glowny,
a quiet gift of barely rustling
grass, trees and sunlight,
filled with no-one but
the sleepy golf-pro and
the talkative young cab driver
who drove you to this
Nirvana-like place
in the little village of Ochmanow,
nine holes of the sweetest
solitude as you trudge from
shot to shot, up steep hills
and down the backsides of
others, following the swoops
and curves like a map of your life,
contemplating each shot
like a poem, or a lover’s sigh,
surrounded by gorgeous
farmland, red-tile roofed houses,
and occasional distant puffs of
chimney smoke, you swing
and feel in harmony with
the earth and the birds cawin
“dzien dobry” (good morning)
overhead, while the groundskeeper
mows the fairway grass at a steady
humming pace, you look at
the clouds and the horizon
and think of your family
and wish you could share this
magnificent inner moment
when time stands still
and it’s just you and the ball
in a manicured Garden of Eden,
thankful for all you have
and hoping you can pass on
this passion for a sport
and the outdoors to your
sons, so they, too, can
feel the joy of one-ness
in places like this,
where Kings once hunted
and deer roam free, baffled
by the man who smiles
and stares at the ever-lightening sky.


You have to walk the property
to get a feel for the shape of it,
a trapezoid filled with dozens
of trees.  Along one sloping side
rises a low ridge.  A two-lane
macadam fronts the longest side.
A farm field edges the shortest.

I dress in old clothes to mow
because the Yazoo is dirty
and greasy, its red paint faded
and peeling, the deck piled
with musty dried grass cuttings.

Filling gas tanks that look like
two saddlebags, I check the oil.
Then swing a leg over the center
post as I start up the engine,
which turns over with a snort
of smoke and an uncertain shudder
before settling into a mechanical roar.

Engaging the blades, I mindfully
settle into the task ahead of me,
starting a circuit of the property that
follows the bordering perimeter.
At each tree encountered, I swing
around its circumference, outside
leg hung out for balance as the
zero-turning-radius mower
makes its tight circle.

Daring the length of the slope,
I lean into its height as I travel
 the angling hillside.  I follow
the edge of each mowed swath
pass-by-pass as I continue to circle
the perimeter, slowly arcing inward.
Pass after pass.  Round and round I
mow, letting my mind wander as I go.

Voices Silenced at Birth

"thank you for your submission, unfortunately, we will not be using any of your poems at
wrote the editor, gagging on his own laughter---
knowing the discouraged poet will feel like
slitting his tedious throat, or blowing up his cacophonous computer
(riotous sounds of stonewalled words)

the power of the rejection,
like a discounted advance
asking to dance and getting a coldly polite
"no thank you"
(you're too short, not Robert Redford enough or
dressed well enough to indicate status)
and your words as well, poor panhandling prosy pitiful and plain Jane

"We read your submission carefully"  ( ha ha, yes, he will believe this---)
"we get so many poems, it is impossible to publish all of them"
(chortling, as the editor thinks "i love slamming doors in their pesky little
faces---)  "oh do please submit in future, we would love to read more of your
work" (even though we didn't actually read these, we just pretended)
and now your poetic ego is upended

and Sylvia Plath has company---she is wherever she is now, still trying to get accepted into
Frank O'Conner's short story, writing class---her embarrassed kids grown up without a mother, one of them
unliving in the same dimension where she found her peace, at last---"Good God Almighty,
peace at last"
a damsel of tragically unfinished business----

editors have the power to elate and the power to deflate----

and some writers undevelop
as if lacking fortuitous film
they are a photo finished
in flux

critics weigh in so heavily they smother the druthers
to poem.
to live
to poem

suicide syllables
put their mouths into ego's sheet
and no morning comes,

while others gloat over their dawn coffee
never sleeping,
just keeping
would be wordsmiths

from ever becoming.


Moon Dust

For years he [the Nantucketer] knows not the land; so that when he comes to it at last,
it smells like another world, more strangely than the moon would be to an Earthsman.

                                                                         Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 14

Moon dust has no salty scent,
no fishy smell, no reminder
of brine or earthly shoreline.

It does not smell like Kansas soil
awakening in spring,
or windblown Sahara sand.

Moon dust, the dust of broken molecules
smashed by eons of meteorite collisions
left with unsatisfied electron bonds

seeking partners, has no smell at all
when left in place as it was
for billions of years, dry and destitute,

but comes alive when touched by moisture
in a lunar lander or the mucus membrane
of an astronaut’s nose.

It smells something like fireplace ashes
sprinkled with water or the Indianapolis 500,
something like spent gunpowder

but unlike the smell of land or sea
on earth, our home. We only know
from the word of astronauts

who kicked up dust, who picked up dust
on space suits, helmets and boots,
who bottled dust and brought it back

to answer questions of the curious,
their fellow sailors on this little speck
in the vast sea of space.

~ Wilda Morris

[Originally published in Journal of Modern Poetry]



I Walked to the Lake Tonight

I walked to the lake tonight,
casting the first footprints in the snow.
Out of breath from the cold,
and from my grief,
I sit on the bench and gaze at the lake,
now frozen, like my heart.
You are not here to comfort me.
The cold wind laps around my face,
and I am a tiny boat tossed about in the sea.
I welcome the cold.
It is sobering.
I know death is forever,
but you never died before.
How do I fill this massive void?
I wear your red coat and it warms me
as the bitter wind whispers your name,
and calls me back to an emptier home.
I must go now.
Trudging back home I think of God.
I do not blame Him.
Death is hardest on those still living.

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.


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

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

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


 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.


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

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

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.

Charlotte DiGregorio

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.


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.

Gail Denham


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.

Gail Denham



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