Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Poems I Admire #4

Easy as Ever
Jed Myers

Winter's over and a girl's rowed out
on the lake to fish with her father.

Easy as ever, though he's been dead
nearly fifty years – the boat's a gray feather

afloat near the shore. It's her morning walk,
and she's the mother of two grown men.

Dad's letting her pull the oars
while he again sets a worm on each hook.

Once more, he's going to tell her,
in that soft rumble like an echo of itself,

how too much pull can tear a good set
right through the creature's lip; too little

and it's off the hook, in spite of the barb.
She lets the memory into her body

afresh, the way we let wind or morning light
in through our skin – she lets it settle

the nerves and tendons of wrist and hand,
where firm and gently have lived

since the first time, his palms
enclosing her fingers on reel and cork grip,

transmitting the feel of allowing
the trout its last dance as it splashes

and tires, slack's taken up
as it flashes like a sliver of dawn

closer to gunnel and net, till it can't
writhe any longer against being gone

from this world. The feather skids up
and shivers against the black gravel edge

of the earth where a woman knows she loses
her men. Even before

it began, with her father's great arms
around her as they let a life run

on its shining final line – even then,
the oars at ease in their cradling locks,

the company of a few gulls bobbing
on the mild chaos of crisscross ripples,

in the lightest dusting of breeze,
out in the water's middle, a warm spring

morning, she was a little afraid,
knowing, how, easy as ever,

the seasons, gentle and firm, one morning
after another, would reel them all in.

First appeared in Off the Coast – Summer 2013

Jed Myers was born in Philadelphia in 1952 to parents of Eastern European Jewish heritage. He studied Creative Writing with an emphasis in poetry at Tufts University, graduating in 1974, and went on, after medical training, to pursue a career in psychiatry. He settled in Seattle, where he and his wife raised three children. He kept writing poems, but did not begin to seek publication until the events of September 11th, 2001. Since that time, his work has been widely published, and for several years now he hosts the popular music-and-poetry open-mic cabaret NorthEndForum (now part of the Easy Speak Seattle alliance).

He maintains a solo therapy practice and teaches at the University of Washington.

He Is Six and She Is Three

when they’re sent to spend what’s left
of their innocence with their aunt,
the older sister of their now dead mother –

beaten to death with the fists
of their now imprisoned father
who loved them both with a rage

so red his bare knuckles bled
into their screaming mother’s face
until there were no screams left

while the six-year-old brother held
his three year-old sister curled
all the way under the bottom bunk

as she sobbed until there was breath enough
to ask why their mommy just won’t be good
and why isn’t he crying, too.

Eunoia Review - April 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Lovely Emaciation

“because spring comes too soon and flesh with it” – Mike Hipson

No sooner does winter finish its lovely emaciation
of black and spindly branches, rigid fingers reaching

through the gauzy gray chill for whatever desperation
might serve as their very last resort, than the sulking sun

begins to linger along its daily arc, fleshing the planet out
of its thin melancholy ache and spoiling the brooding

contemplations of a man susceptible to frostbite’s ecstasy
and a thousand cold regrets.

Eclectica - Spring 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Poems I Admire #3

Birthday Present

The boy knows something of death:
if you put thumb and forefinger around a beetle,

if you squeeze until the crunch –
maybe God does that.

Behind the green couch in the boy’s house
a half-squashed mouse clacks

its wooden trap against the molding.
Last night the mouse ate a square of yellow cheese.

If the boy lifts the wire snapped down by a spring,
the back of the mouse will still be crushed

and its front claws scrabbling.
Sometimes the boy’s father gets mad.

He gets so mad.
You think I’m telling about a real little boy.

Really there was a girl whose mother was so scary,
she can’t even write about it,

so she makes up this story about a boy –
how the boy hides the mouse under extra pajamas,

how he leaves the drawer a little bit open
like breath holes in a box

until the smell stops.
On the day of the boy’s seventh birthday

he lifts out the trap.
Tiny leg bones spill into the drawer.

The patchy back of the mouse’s neck
feels soft on the boy’s cheek.

First appeared in Off the Coast and is included in her most recent poetry collection “How I Became an Historian.”

Penelope Scambly Schott  has published a novel, five chapbooks, and ten full-length poetry books.  Her verse biography "A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth" was awarded the Oregon Book Award for Poetry in 2008.  She grades papers, hikes, paints, and spoils her family.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Poems I Admire #2

In the Unlikely Event of a Water Landing
                                                US Airways Flight 1549

By Don Colburn

When the pilot told us to, I couldn’t
take my glasses off and put my head down
between my knees. I wanted to watch
to the last moment before smithereens.
Closing your eyes won’t help, not like in music.
The eerie part wasn’t death touching down early
but how quiet it was, how smooth. We were gliding,
the buzz and rumble of engines gone,
and I could hear everything –
the crying (less than you think), Hail Marys,
the man up front trying against the rules
to call home. An old woman many rows back
sang beautifully in Spanish, maybe to God,
I don’t speak that language. I wish I had known
they called the captain Sully and how Sully
was a glider pilot too. We had no idea
why it was happening, no inkling
of geese or gulls, but we were losing
altitude and the quiet sounded terribly wrong.

After we banked left, Sully brought us down
easy onto the river. The trick is
to ride the thickening air down slow
and plow into the water, head up like a duck,
not to nosedive, jackknife, cartwheel, burn.
When we didn’t die, some panicked.
Suddenly there was time, and ice water
sloshing at our ankles, our knees. How long
can a heavier-than-air machine float?
Someone named Josh knew to knock the door out
over the wing. I didn’t notice the guy carrying
his garment bag or the lady screaming for her shoes.
I just remember getting pushed toward a hole
in the side of the plane and tumbling out
into the cold gray blinding afternoon
which held me. I came to my feet
on the submerged wing with the others
and we walked on water.

from Because You Might Not Remember (Finishing Line: 2010)

 Don Colburn is a poet and retired newspaper reporter in Portland, Oregon. He has published four poetry collections, most recently a chapbook called Tomorrow Too: The Brenda Monologues. His poems have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, and won the Discovery/The Nation Award, the Finishing Line Press Prize and the Cider Press Review Book Award. During his newspaper career, he was a reporter for The Washington Post and The Oregonian, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Poems I Admire #1

FARMING One of the most dangerous occupations
by Joan Colby

Heaped with straw and manure steaming
In a January dawn, the spreader’s load
Is half frozen, half smoldering
In its compacted heart. Unquenchable
Self-immolation. The icy boards groan.

His dream, at ten, to farm like his forebears.
I can handle it. His mother pouring coffee nods.
His father still showering for the day job
That keeps the old place going.

She hears the tractor chugging along the ditch
To the field of stubble hauling its burden.
After awhile, the silence seizes her.
The glazed window framing a frieze:
Rising sun glancing off yellow steel
Stalled at the margin of battered corn.
Rags twisting in the wind.

His boots plunge periods in crusted snow.
His heart, though, a question mark.
He knows the answer before he gets there.
The shredded horror of his boy.
He wants to shout How many times
Have I told you. The old tractor
Hard to start. Just a moment to
Clear the blades. The cold. The wish
For the warm kitchen. The PTO churns
Implacably spitting bits of sinew and yarn.

She lies in the darkened bedroom unable to attend
Wake or funeral, imagining the blame
In the neighbors’ eyes. Only 10
What were they thinking. 20 below –
An exaggeration but one that befits
A story of parents luxuriating
Over oatmeal while the boy
Struggled with jammed iron.
Her heart jams each time she thinks
Of how he must have shouted.

Later, she gets to her feet. This farm
Must go on. It’s what the boy
Would want. His dream that was her dream.
She says He died doing what he loved.

He turns away. She wasn’t at that scene
Of impossible destruction. She didn’t have
To turn the key. To cradle
What was left. His footprints in the snow
So deeply implanted, he feels the freeze
Climb to his sternum and erupt
Like the spontaneous combustion of waste.

In that cold farmhouse,
A year later to the day
He sits down in his easy chair
The shotgun in his lap.
Now she’ll have something to discover.

Vintage tales of hardship and survival
Granddad crushed when the tractor toppled
On Brier Hill. How Uncle John lost his arm
To the picker. Samuel smothered
In the silo, lungs full of harvest.

She overlooks the acres
Awaiting disc and plow.
An early spring, she’ll turn
That dark earth over.

First appeared in Chiron Review

Joan Colby is the author of Selected Poems, Dead Horses, Properties of Matter, Bittersweet, The Wingback Chair, Ah Clio, and Pro Forma. She has published poems in many journals including Poetry, Atlanta Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, The New York Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Epoch, etc. She is the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards (one in 2008) and an IAC Literary Fellowship. She received honorable mention in the 2008 James Hearst Poetry Contest—North American Review and the 2009 Editor's Choice Contest—Margie, and was a finalist in the 2007 GSU (now New South) Poetry Contest, 2009 Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize, 2010 James Hearst Poetry Contest and Ernest J. Poetry Prize.