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

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

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.


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

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