3rd Wednesday Monthly
The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it.
The Can – I Am
There is in Man a Spirit can, a container for the spirit of life. It's kind of like the force of life that causes a man to take a wife.
But more, much more, than just a force. It is the essence of God, of course. The can holds this essence together tight, the essence of Be, the essence of right.
The Spirit can of God in man; oh what a complex mystery. The simple proof of this is found all throughout Man's history.
The "I am ..." of Man says, "I can ... I can ...", a mighty force of will to Be. Who can stop such awesomeness? Not they ... not you ... not me.
Halloween 2018 (or 19 days to midterms)
Witches and goblins and ghosts, Oh, My! It's Halloween time, all right. But never mind vampires, mummies and such, there's things that go "Trump" in the night.
We go to bed listening to Rachel and Wolf, Gloria Erin and Chris. Andrea, Lawrence, Jimmy, Nicolle, Brian & Stephen don't miss.
The news they deliver's not scary at all compared to the imminent plight. We awaken in horror to blood-chilling Tweets--those things that go "Trump" in the night.
The Naked Queen
The people below thought their old queen
stood naked in the high tower window looking out to be seen.
They laughed at her weathered breasts.
“What a fool!” they cried. “Who wants to see those?” “No wonder she weeps.”
But the Naked Queen stood rapt in the high tower window looking out to see--all the mountains in their wintering beauty.
John R. Haws
There are these sounds within my head that long to be expressed somehow. There are these rhythms in my blood. They move, they flow, with each breath now.
Some harmonies, some melodies, some transitory phrases, little bits of this and that as I live through various phases.
I don't know why they are in me. I only know they are to Be.
They come. They go. They hang around. They seem to mellow more with age.They strike the very heart of me with a mild, contented sort of rage.
It's poetry, pure poetry, this must do music thing that vibrates through time and space and makes my soul to sing.
Ode to an Insect in Autumn
What is this ball, looking like Halloween in black and orange-brown fuzz? Of course, the defended, coiled woolly bear a child tried to pet.
Not your teddy, Winnie, grizzly, your one of three, Smokey, fuzzy-wuzzy with some hair—but, yes, your Lepidoptera.
If you, my larva friend, were on an edible list as a dainty dish, would you taste like wool, your bristles brush teeth or tickle a throat?
O Renown-throughout-the land Caterpillar; Harbinger of Winter; O Provoker of Festivals (where you race up string in North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, New York); O Predictor of Weather (wide brown band, mild winter); Hibernator (protected from cold death by your personally produced anti-freeze); O Reminder of Metamorphosis Possibilities; Cocoon Creator; O Would-be Moth called Isabella (name meaning devoted to God); Light Seeker (as moth who circles lamps at night); O Joyous-Tragic Mystery!
How you scurry, ripple, wrinkle, bumble, shamble working your 13 segments (symbol for winter’s 13 weeks) in a hurry to find a hibernal home under a boulder, a cozy bark crevice, or covered corner.
Your locomotion sometimes like a train with locomotive pulling your body parts, little rail cars, but with muscle to rear up as a real horse might--the better to locate where to go. No tracks for you.
Just a drive to survive, transform to moth, mate, then die within a week or two.
How the seasons roll and change. Nothing stays the same except perhaps, the cycle game.
Her doctor said, Sorry. Less than a month left. Not the diagnosed one, I think dying in fall doesn’t seem all bad: maybe somewhat like you, O Woolly Bear, we’ll enter winter’s white quiescence, resurrect in green spring, become Isabella with angel wings, and fly into an eternal summer.
What mirthless crone removed my plaque, too small to be offensive,
mounted so low that only the dedicated with time to kill would kneel, read, and learn that this utility was, in fact, the A. Wesley Jones Wall Outlet of Electrical Excellence?
Why not vandalize the larger tokens of boastful pride adorning centers of business, learning, podiatry, or veterinary care? Is it not a privilege to live in a world where even the most unlikely can, for a sufficient fee according to a sliding scale of grandeur, be made excellent in the eyes of all?
Was my contribution perhaps too small even for an outlet?
I made the plaque myself to save expense. Was it that my check did not arrive on time, though it was last Tuesday already in the hands of those we praise for excellence in the swift completion of their appointed rounds?
Or are there people who, despite the limitless number of opportunities in this world, must tear down others rather than seek the prize themselves?
The Magic of Saints
If contagion may flow in, belief is: it may also be drawn out again,
that a glimpse of the holy, contact with a habit’s hem, the cuff of a sackcloth shirt, may – if only your leprous soul can knit anew enough of itself to receive the grace – draw forth corruption from your flesh and mind as a blotting cloth, freshly laundered, sucks ink from carpet, lessening the stain.
And this aura, emanating from the body of the saint, imbuing the garment like sweat perfuming the close air of the hut, is thought to linger in diminished form even after death.
Thus: to gaze upon some dusty, blood-stained threads of gauze, place a hand only inches from a handless, gold-bound chicken bone, might, it is claimed, allow the blind to scent direction of the sun, or the halt, slung from a single crutch, to throw the crutch away and limp.
But I place no faith in the magic of saints, the power of holy ones to heal. If any good at all be done by these it is only the loving touch, the recognition of one hurt soul by another just as sick but going out without regard for itself.
(daughter of OPN member Gail Ramsey Wharton, with permission)
Whisper-thin and weightless, it floats and glides embracing her gray folds and sliding unnoticed into the fiery synapses.
It leaves untouched for now the corridors holding faded snapshots
of the hills and valleys of a life touched by love, pain, loss, and growth
snow angels in the park the handsy boss at her after-school job
the breathless sangria-soaked first kiss on that balmy August night.
It rolls and dances through it all, gray matter and white hiding in the hollows that guard her fortunes and aches
And then it lays claim to her presence her here and now
threading itself in and around her words her where and her why.
Barely perceptible at first like the flash of a shooting star a quick stutter-step and course correction without interrupting her rhythm or revealing the bewildering chaos lurking beneath the surface.
Its tacky web thickens and expands reaching out to grasp once-protected relics lovers and friends meet her again, for the first time vestiges from bygone days are dusted off and presented as new once familiar journeys become a revolving kaleidoscope leaving her transfixed in time and space.
It continues on its determined path hop-scotching now through young and old allowing an occasional respite from its solemn crusade to offer her a glimpse into the in-folding devastation before returning to its merciless task billowing into the open spaces and nooks and crannies of her beautiful mind blunting the sharp edges and dimming the radiant light that once glowed like the sun.
The Pebble Mine
"We have to win every time. They only have to win once."
- Jon Broderick, founder, The FisherPoets Gathering
first published in National Fisherman magazine, April, 2018
We make our choices: The Grand Coulee built for irrigation of drought-burdened farmland, killed the salmon running the Columbia. June Hogs, 100 pound plus Chinook salmon swam for centuries fed the first peoples created culture and religion gone, spawning grounds locked forever behind concrete.
Dams killed sockeye, coho, humpback and Chinook throughout Washington. Salmon fishing now a ghost of what it was. Phantom fish don’t need to spawn. Each dam was a choice.
Be a fish. Wander seas tour a blue planet until chemicals mix produce hormones, influence instinct (a clock ticks) and tides send you home.
Belly fattens and swells as you ride currents back the way you came years ago, over canyons mountains, around islands, through valleys.
Millions swim with you, ahead, beside, beneath, above, behind.
Until, what is it, a scent? reaches out from the river you knew, grasps you by the part that remembers, and pulls, quickens the pace, tightens the urge, and you all arrive together, frenzied, leap up a stream to lay, fertilize and die.
Only the river is gone. Instead toxic waste oozes from a hole where your
birthplace used to be.
You didn’t know your corpse is the last, your species added to the litany of all those gone, gone before.
We knew, each decision was a choice.
Mine, not Yours
This is about greed. A copper mine at the headwaters of the last epic salmon run in the world? A copper mine with an earthen dam holding a poison lake in a geologically active environment. What could go wrong?
Ask the fish–ask Fraser River salmon caught in the toxic slurry that rolled down the watershed when a copper mine tailing dam failed and flooded salmon grounds.
Each mine is a choice.
John R. Haws
Ever wonder about your life? Ever ask your beautiful wife, “What am I doing? What’s the point?” “Why am I here and not in the joint?”
Strange, is it not, that we ask these things with so many conditions and so many strings. Yet, never and answer and never a clue of what life is or why we do.
I guess it’s always been that way, no hope for an answer, no way to stay. Life comes. Life goes – too quickly too; in vain we think we’re not yet through.
An even though we long to live another day with more to give, just simply put, it cannot be. The end’s the end. The Spirit’s free.
John R. Haws
Along the Way
The course is coarse, the crowd is bland as we journey on this lonely path. How grand we stand in all the land. It figuresit figures. Just do the math.
Each one stands and each one stares into the face of eternity; and everyone fans and everyone shares the flames and blames of destiny.
The road is rough, the path is tough as air we breath inside a lung; then sigh, then cry, and say, "Enough!" as we turn the sediment back to dung.
But something happens along the way that changes all our energies. It's love we share for just a day with laughter, fun and memories beyond our wildest thoughts and dreams to last forever -- or so it seems.
earth to earth
There are the dead and bloated ones, littering the sidewalk, waving serenely in puddles. The half-dried ones valiantly trying to cross the road. The great, writhing ball of them devouring an apple core, an empire built on refuse.
There is the mass grave of them accidentally flooded, not even able to scream. Now they can resurrect as chard, a phoenix from meat slurry.
There was my childhood power to find ugly baby birds, nestless. Our oak half-barrel teamed with earthworms. Mom pureed them with oatmeal, shoved them down gullets. Dad could not abide by killing, especially the tiny and helpless creatures, but this was acceptable, becoming food.
The fog clung to needles and although the sky did not open and the field was drop-less the forest rained
Magnolia blossom what the hell are you thinking trying to bloom in October? Your sisters performed their duty -- erupt, open, receive, drop, transform into a seed phallus.
Like my first-born, who had to be prodded into this world in sticky September. Even the hippy midwives agreed she must be ejected. Bags packed for the morning hospital cocktail to force her out, me in the living room chugging a vanilla ice cream shake spiked with raw egg and castor oil, bouncing her on a green ball inside me.
But you, bud, are too late. It is drippy October and you dare announce your glory too late. You live on a farm, for God’s sake. Can’t you see that the beds have been tilled, planted, tended, stripped, and laid fallow?
Like my first-conceived, that had to be opening inside me. I secretly named her snowflake, for her uniqueness and predicted arrival in December. She, too, failed coming too soon.
The magnolia tree holds no anger. Her many children make many seeds. She is griefless as her last remaining bud opens the petals creamy on the outside revealing at their core only rot.
The Stone Masons
Not out of faith, but stone. Two men, atheists both, built the town’s church. Rock rivered to the smoothness of loaves. Heft and sweat. The mortar.
This was no cathedral. No tower for bells. No crimson or indigo windows. In those hard times they toiled for food alone and a place to sleep where silence breathed its deep calm. They seldom spoke, yet there was always communion between them. July sun called the house of god upwards though neither of them believed; the war had been too hard.
They married sisters. Lived in the city. And after one of them lost his mind, the other sat daily at the bedside, accepting, while the women prayed. He recalled then some remnant of Bible lore from childhood when Christ, fasting, was tempted by the Devil to turn rocks into bread.And he had refused. Let stones be stones, indifferent to weather, worship, what breaks a man and what builds him.
From “The Fates” Bright Hill Press, 2017. Originally published in The Baltimore Review, First Prize Contest Winner
When you sort it out alone you become weightless, at the mercy of whatever mean wind rustles the corn.
You spend the time holding your breath.
I drag out brittle photos, beaten journals, bad poetry,
words frown from decades past, surge at me out of a dark I turned a long shoulder to, so I thought.
I fill with water that rises to a boil.
Of course. Long nights under the bed with dust-ball spiders; behind a locked door – flies buzzing the window; scramble to a basement corner – dirt floors and crumbled masonry, where a shadow walks past the crack at the top of the stairs.
"History Lesson" first appeared in the Raven Chronicles Journal, Vol. 24
Best African shop name I’ve ever seen: "A Place of Comfort in Desolation" … and, funny enough, the shop was smack in the middle of desolation. No idea what they sell. - Beth Pratt, Zambia, 2010
In a Place Called Desolation
In Desolation you want some comfort Even if it is gum to moisten your lips Even if it is salt-packed chips: barbecue or chive and onion. Still, it’s the name of the place that really drives you down.
Never mind that Desolation is its own comfort, like biting down on that aching tooth and feeling the sharp, sharp pain. We all want to stay in this place, at least for awhile, gnawing away at what brought us here, hoping the final comfort is hope itself.
But the shop owner knows you can’t see past misery unless You find your way. He suggests melted chocolate bars, or too sweet chai. All you want to know right now is if the road leads somewhere else, to something better. Call it home, or just call it a destination, you think someone will be waiting for you at your next stop.
That’s when the shop owner says, “Buy this bottle of water,” pats your hand, like an old uncle. “It will quench your needs.” And it does, and
you drive out of this town, a quick rest stop, to a town you no longer need to name because it’s beyond desolation and head for that distant oasis chewing on Beechnut and guzzling warm water.
"In a Place Called Desolation" first appeared in Godiva Speaks, an Anthology of Women Poets, 2011, Vol. 1.
Godiva’s Second Thought
If she could have a do-over, would Lady Godiva nix the horse and still strip naked, streak through that shuttered town of Coventry, just to prove her point?
She was, after all, a good Christian woman, giving away her husband’s money to the Virgin Mother and all those God-fearing monks. Perhaps if she’d given less to the abbey,
paid less attention to her coiffure and more to her husband, he would not have been compelled to raise taxes in the first place.
If she’d had a podium or a quill and a bottle of ink, Godiva could have saved herself. But what would’ve been the fun in that?
On second thought, she might have taken a slow stroll, wickedly sashayed through the market without a stitch, shown off her curves, her long, thick tresses to more than just her peeping tailor.
After all, that old saddle blanket must’ve given her a powerful itch.
"Godiva's Second Thought" first appeared in Godiva Speaks II
Carrie Beth Born
Sidewalks backtalk the boardwalk of catwalks, while cross talk and fast talk to marsh hawk.
Moonwalk a nighthawk can skywalk with small talk; a spacewalk of sweet talk and trash talk.
While My Grandfather Is Dying
a jeweled spider, glistening, pearl-headed and banded gold on black legs scuttles down the dried, gray boards.
And I get up and walk to the end of the dock thinking about jumping in, about how I used to love that when I was younger, the water folding over and sealing me in dark, airless cold and then how, without effort, I began to rise and broke surface and was alive again.
My son’s buoyant body scarcely questions the tenuous surface. But I stand a long time considering the inlaid strands of sunlight, the murkiness they gild, before I turn and slowly wade in.
We walked along the waterfront and mused about what it must be like to be among the ones who live there treading in these parts breathing in the sea air from a window inside the room of a luxury home overlooking the view of the shore with the islands near. If you had asked us more of what we had beheld you would have detected we had no knowing beyond the reveries that they who lived with such contrivances were met upon by visits from faraway men in orange vests equipped with air monitors and soil sensors digging mounds of earth from the yard replacing it anew cautioning residents against growing kale and lettuce below ground aiming always to sow in the beds and to never walk indoors with the shoes on lest the specks of arsenic like confetti shine and soar around you. Whats more it did not occur to us to ask if on a windy day one presses the ear to the ground does one hear the mercury and cadmium echo?
"Arsenic Dreams" first appeared in Dark Matter, Spring 2017
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