Saturday, March 28, 2015

Adventures in American Poetry 101

artwork: ralph murre

Adventures in American Poetry 101
by Mike Orlock

When my students needed him most,
Walt Whitman was nowhere to be found.
He’d resided for the longest time
in the section on “Post-Civil War Literature,”
tucked comfortably between selected poems
of Emily Dickinson and three excerpts from
the vast literary canon of Mark Twain
(carefully expurgated to reflect racial sensitivities
in these troubled times); but when students were asked
to turn to him for an example of vernacular
free verse, all they found was space
empty as the American plains in those days
where Whitman, shaggy as any buffalo, roamed.

Perhaps he’d tired of loafing and lazing
his legacy away. After all, a man in his boots,
so used to wandering, had to feel impatient
that a new world so alive with song
had relegated him to the silence of stuffy libraries
and textbooks thick as headstones.
There was grass out there to be contemplated
and hawks aloft to admire. Still,
when I directed my students to the designated page,
where together I intended to Sing the Body
Electric with them, eleventh graders
already juiced on cafeteria junk food,
I never expected Whitman would have ditched my class
(along with two chronic truants whom I hadn’t seen
in weeks) by abandoning the hallowed space
that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt had reserved especially for him.

“Where’s Whitman?” I asked aloud in disbelief.
What does one do when an American poet goes missing?
Especially one as unpredictable and iconoclastic
as Walt Whitman? To be honest,
my students thought it was “kinda cool” that some long dead
dude had “booked” for parts unknown
in a text few of them had ever bothered to open.

It became a game of “Where’s Walto?” for the remainder
of the period: Was he “kickin’ it” with the Realists,
“chillin’” with the Naturalists, or “bangin’” with the Beats
some seventy years down that long literary highway from home?

In the end, it was “Spacey” Staci, the day-dreamer
at the back of the first row, who found him
just before the dismissal bell,
hiding among the Contemporaries.

He was sitting on a stone wall,
bathed in the gold light of a late afternoon,
examining an apple Robert Frost had just tossed him
from the second step of a ladder.

Both looked so comfortable in the other’s company
we left them there to their musings,
and, so as not to disturb them,
quietly closed our books.

~ first published on Your Daily Poem

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


artwork: ralph murre

by Susan Tepper

The veil has creased the morning
into aftershocks— an unmade bed
will stay unmade, wet towels
drape an uncertain future—
about this place, did you see

the garden turn crumbling gray
during the winter storms

It was a matter of privacy.

You rushed to set the stones
back where nature had upended
But, still—

~ previously published in The Green Door

Friday, March 20, 2015


dig. mod. from image by litlnemo

by Estelle Bruno

I have invaded your privacy—
the privacy of the dead.
So many books and files of your writings.
Impressive diplomas, framed letters from famous people—
Governors, actors, congressmen,
all displayed on your wall.
When I entered your writer’s sanctuary
my hand automatically reached for the light button.
I had no idea I would find such a treasure.
Perhaps you were writing a book on humanities.
I did not read your writings, only what was visible
to my eyes on your wall.
So, rest easy Isabelle.

We moved your books from another place
and brought them into your space.
You must have been suspicious of me.
I left your dusty place knowing full well
I would have to come back.
I did.
This time you were ready for me.
I searched everywhere for the light button.
It had disappeared.
Yes, you were ready for me this time.

~ first published in Poesia (2006)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


detail: artwork: marc chagall

by Ronald Baatz

The empty
Lancers wine bottle,
product of Portugal,
serve chilled, has
pussy willows in it now,
standing in the sun,
Sunday morning. 
I guess Eva put them there
so I'd see them
when I woke.
how such a thin creature,
exposed to all the
deteriorative elements of
nature and the chaotic
nature of man,
can blossom such
round silk beauty.
So beautiful,
and so thoughtful
too as to
leave pussy willows
in the empty wine bottle
next to my bed.

~ first published in Kansas Quarterly (1972)

Sunday, March 15, 2015


photo: ralph murre

by David Scheler

He watches her fade
on the other side
of the glass

between them,
kept so clean,
even the evidence
of fingerprints
is absent

and he beckons her
to slip back
from a place
he’s already gone
before she vanishes

~ previously published in Reed Magazine

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hot Flash

artwork: sharon auberle

Hot Flash
by Sylvia Cavanaugh

To forge weapons
with fire
is a sign that we are civilized
but the taste of knowledge
had its price
dealt in a currency
of fertility
in calendar clicks of counted days
a real blood bargain
paid periodically
paid in labor pains and
in pre-menstrual syndromes

but now I wield
my own damned fire
to cauterize the wound
the first sin settled up
my womb
now sweated caustic clean
Adam’s bones are mine
and he is scorched
turning on these embers
he re-arranges and adjusts
looks at me
across his stiff
cold shoulder
and winks

~ first published in Red Cedar 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


photoart: ralph murre

by Charlie Rossiter

Some mornings it’s so cold
the car won’t start on the first try,
or the second, or the third.
In youth, that made me
hit the dashboard.
Now I simply sigh
go back inside,
take out a book,
get on with my life.

~ previously published in Winter Poems

   (FootHills Publishing)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ice Storm Woman

photo: ralph murre

Ice Storm Woman
by DyAnne Korda

When winter isn’t cold enough, you collect this natural loss in bits—like you might pocket specks of light from oak caskets.  You remember frozen caves lined with dried pine needles and mauve crystals drifting…where water is stone, and stone is your companion, the reflection of your translucent bones pulled down by the pulse of forest roots.  Rest now, for soon you will search for another home, like an ordinary woman who takes fond leave of her old lover.  I offer you sienna ribbons of prairie cord grass alongside this ice water creek.  Let the winds deliver themselves.

~ first published in Wisconsin Academy Review

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


maple-leaf ironwork design: r. murre - execution: big horn forge - photoart: r. murre

by Joan Wiese Johannes

It is syrup time,
and Tom tramps, taps, and talks
about the bear who took ten buckets
and left tracks around his camp.
He shakes his head and says
he hopes the fire
keeps it away when he boils down,
tells me he applied for a permit
as he mimes the pull of a trigger.

But I like his bear
will follow the trail of white buckets,
drink sap clear as streams.
I plan to walk circles around spring
before the big boil-down turns me
dark as bear fur thick as blood.

~ first published in Peninsula Pulse

Monday, March 2, 2015

Organ Grinder

photo: ralph murre

Organ Grinder
by Ed Werstein
            One donor can save up to eight lives.
                                    -Donate Life Website

But who except an organ grinder
would want these?

Sixty-five year old eyes
cataracted, full of floaters,

Who would want a graft
of this old skin
easily bruised

Dry, pocked joints
without cushion
that grind and pop
ache and bind.

Ears ringing with bells
that aren’t there.

Brittle brain.

Heart long past its warranty.

~ first published in Red Cedar