February 2017

Butedale Rite

          by Karla Lynn Merrifield

 

When the ice thaws & the first floes
leave for their long passage down channel
all the ghost salmon return in a spring

ritual to the site where white water
falls into the cove & shadow of commerce
in the red flesh of their brethren falls

on their ghostly silver bodies, on all
the hollow memories of their lost species.
It is a celebration of demise—

not theirs—but that of the hungriest ones,
those alien creatures with machinery,
tin cans, solder, steam, a greedy streak,

a killing instinct, shamelessness.
The ghost salmon return to the shambles
& the silence, to the clean scents

of rotting wood & rusting steel,
the long, slow fade of human sanctimony.
The ghost salmon return & return & return

until a new tide turns, bringing
again their living kind from the sea
to this native place, their place on earth.

 

            —from Godwit: Poems of Canada (FootHills Publishing)

 

Karla Linn Merrifield, a National Park Artist-in-Residence, has 12 books to her credit; the newest is Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada. She is assistant editor and book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye. Give her name a Google to read more and visit her at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com

 

January 2017

Alex Therien’s Chickadees

        by Charles Weld

 

Alek Therien said that they lit on his coat just like flies

when he stopped chopping wood to eat his lunch of cold potato

in the snow. One thing he had in common with his friend Thoreau—

at least, when describing chickadees—was penchant for hyperbole.

Talking large, my uncle called it in a letter he wrote that same decade.

After many, cold hours in the woods, during which Thoreau surveyed

the changes that a hard freeze had made, he wrote each chickadee

warmed him as a bright fire constantly burning. Thrice, not twice,

warmed would be his adage about wood’s heat. Chopping and

sawing heat first; burning, second; and, at times, these woodlot titmice

whose charity is unrehearsed. One advances, shies,

and advances again before picking a seed from my wife’s flat hand,

less bold than those that crossed Therien’s clearing to demand

supper from Thoreau as he cut across a neighbor’s cut-over land.

 

Charles Weld lives in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Pudding House published a chapbook of his poems, Country I Would Settle In in 2004. Kattywompus Press published a second chapbook, Who Cooks For You? in 2012. Charles Weld works as an administrator in a non-profit agency that supports youth with mental health needs.

 

December 2016

Pass Creek

          by Tom Sexton

 

The lamp we leave near the door to light

the cabin if we arrive after dark

hissed and flared before it caught.

When it did, I thought I saw blossoms

on the leafless tree outside the window.

I was both amazed and oddly comforted

to find that they were only moths

that had come to rest on the half-dead tree.

 

When was it that I first began to long

for the sound of Pass Creek beneath deep snow

and the endless blue of unobstructed glaciers,

for wind that bends me like a sapling

and for those few December days when light

touches its coat of many colors to the hills?

 

—from For the Sake of the Light (University of Alaska Press, 2009)

Tom Sexton served as Alaska's poet laureate from 1994 until 2000. He is the author of fourteen books of poetry. Tom now spends every other winter in Eastport, Maine, with his wife of fifty years, Sharyn, and their Irish Terrier, Murphy. 

November 2016

The Act of Sweeping

          by L. R. Berger

Clay Sculpture, Jane Kaufman

Clay Sculpture, Jane Kaufman

 

A woman is sweeping her porch

as if life depended on it,

 

dowsing for counsel

through the press

 

of an old broom, through

some small sure act

 

she can be certain

does no harm.

 

Wind rouses, loosening leaves

from even the stiffest branches,

 

and sets the tiny

green boat on the bay

 

rocking like our wavering

scales of justice.

 

She could be paddling

herself across. Wind

 

sweeps the porch. A crow

who walked the plank

 

bobs on one quivering

wrist of pine—

 

springs off, as if to dive,

but rises.

  

—from The Unexpected Aviary (Deerbrook Editions, 2003)

L.R.Berger’s collection of poems, The Unexpected Aviary, received the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry. She’s been the grateful recipient of fellowships and support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN New England Discovery Award, the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, the Blue Mountain Center, Wellspring, and The American Academy in Rome. With Kamal Boullatta, she assisted in the translation from the Arabic of “Beginnings” by Adonis (Pyramid Atlantic Press). She lives and writes in New Hampshire within earshot of the Contoocook River. 

October 2016

The Design of Autumn

          by Janisse Ray

 

Any day the hawks, circling

overhead, will be gone. Perhaps today

their last. The trees throw off

 

bushels of paper money, collecting

in the weeds. The leaves are loud

when the wind comes off the hill.

 

Who can lie down at the time of

ripe fruit, of decadence, before

blackness? No matter how rich

 

we become, or old, or unable,

won‘t some part of us desire to weave

a basket in which to forage

 

the last of the grapes? Or, start

moving toward the valleys of deer?

I go wandering greedily

 

amid all the falling-down.

 

—from A House of Branches (Wind Publications, 2010)

Janisse Ray lives in the coastal plains of southeast Georgia, where she farms, studies nature, and writes. She is the author of the poetry collection, A House of Branches, and three books of literary nonfiction, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home, and Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land

September 2016

Learning to Swim in the Millpond

          by Sarah Brownsberger

 

The surface is gold and slick

with algae, weightless

oil sallowing your skin;

you see it when water striders

leave tracks with their spider feet.

 

Underwater is silver

with sediment and weed rot,

metal shavings dancing

round the magnet of your hand,

round your ankles lily stems and

 

cold currents over hollows where

snapping turtles lurk,

your hair in slow motion

in shafts of sun

from a sky like old glass.

 

You perch on a stone, watching

bubblets rise from your gooseflesh arms,

dragonflies dart and shy, a crow

croaks from the elm and suddenly

you hear the rush in the sluiceway.

 

Once my brother and I sank a raft

in waterliles; a shout sounded

from the bank as we thrashed

to a rush-hidden island, a boulder,

where we waited to be rescued

 

like Moses in the basket,

waited very still because

aside us lay a coil of fresh dark stripes,

a snake that blinked but did not

budge, happy on warm granite.

 

Sarah Brownsberger’s poems have recently appeared in Poetry East, Commonweal, and WomenArts Quarterly and have previously appeared in The Hudson Review, Field, OnEarth, Salamander, Alaska Quarterly Review, and other journals. Her essay “Poetry, Hunger, and Electric Lights: Lessons from Iceland on Poetry and its Audience” appeared in the September, 2015, Cambridge Quarterly (UK). Her Icelandic-English translations include Sigfús Bjartmarsson’s bestiary Raptorhood (Uppheimar, 2007) and Harpa Árnadóttir’s artist’s diary June (Crymogea, 2011).

August 2016

When the Answer Is Touch

          by Terry House

 

The next time

You are stumped –

The four fingers

Of one hand held up,

Your waiting thumb

Slumped across your palm,

Unticked -

Consider then

The worrisome itch

And the rush of ferns

Against your shins;

Consider the wind-whipped slap,

The drenching splash, and

The sudden, summer storm

That stung you in its wrath.

Consider the constriction

Of your throat.

 

You won’t forget again.

 

When the Answer Is Touch” was created especially for the 2016 Plein Air Poetry Walk at Old Frog Pond Farm in response to the prompt: SPLASH!  Come to the farm to hear Terry House and 18 other poets read their original work in the settings in which they were composed on Sunday, September 11 2016 at 2 p.m..

 

Terry House is an educator, freelance arts reviewer, and Vice President of the Robert Creeley Foundation.

 

July 2016

Last Sunday in July

          by Lynne Viti

 

Sun, then not-sun, clouds

then not-clouds,

warm, then not-warm.

This slender land can’t

make up its mind.

Cool breezes,

fungi of every color erupt–

red, colonies of chocolate brown,

or white, something you might

find in your salad.

Not much to do save

listen to Bill Evans ply the piano,

wrestle with the crossword,

turn off the phone.

 

Lynne Viti is a senior lecturer in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Paterson Review, Mountain Gazette, The LongLeaf Pine, Amuse-Bouche, Silver Birch PressThese Fragile LilacsDamfino JournalIn-Flight Literary Magazine, Blognostics, A New Ulster, The Journal of Applied Poetics,   The Lost Country, Irish Literary Review, and in a curated exhibit at Boston City Hall. She won an Honorable Mention in the 2015 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest, and an award in the 2015 Summer Poetry Contest of The Song Is... She blogs at https://stillinschool.wordpress.com.

June 2016

Custody of the Eyes

Gerard Manley Hopkins

by Jeffrey Harrison

 

To look at the world
with devotion,
giving all of himself
to what was given,
sometimes gave him
so much pleasure
he thought it must be
a sin, distracting him
from his devotion
to God. Therefore
the eyes had to be

taken into custody
like a pair of criminals,
kept in the flesh-and-
bone cell of the head,
their gaze cast down
in penitence,
the eyes themselves
watched over
to prevent them from
looking at anything
more than was needed
to get through the day.
For weeks or months
at a time, and once
for half a year,
he denied himself
the beauty he knew
more acutely than others,
as if reducing each thing—
flower, stone, bird—
to a single word,
stripping it of the
singularity
he loved to describe
in rushing phrases
that spilled down
his journal’s pages.
But when the penance
ended, his sight
flew out
into the open sky
and over the fields,
innocently coming
to rest on each self-
expressing element
of creation
with such delight
and gratitude
he couldn’t keep
the words from
pouring out of him.
 

from Into Daylight, by Jeffrey Harrison, Tupelo Press, 2014

 

Jeffrey Harrison is the author of five books of poetry, including Incomplete Knowledge, runner-up for the Poets’ Prize in 2008, and Into Daylight, published by Tupelo Press in 2014 as the winner of the Dorset Prize and selected by the Massachusetts Center for the Book as a Must-Read Book for 2015. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA Fellowships, his poems have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies.

 

 

May 2016

How to Draw a Tree

by Pamela Starr

 

First, abandon your desk and go outside.

Stand under the spreading branches,

gazing through curling leaves,

 

then down at swaths of eyelet

like Swiss cheese, holes

of light surrounded by shadow.

 

As the breeze fans your bare arms,

turn your gaze upon the massive trunk

stretching into the sky, touch

 

the jagged bark and blotches of lichen

that stick to one side, true north. Rest

your head on bare brown roots

 

and imagine how they grip

the ground beneath. Smell

the loam that covers them,

 

breathe in its freshness before

you go back inside, charcoal in hand,

to trace it on the naked page.

 

Sketch the trunk quickly, then feathery

branches and a cloud of leaves,

stippling a few to show their texture.  

 

No brush stroke will capture

what rustles the leaves, or the squawk

of birds as they shout to one another

 

from branch to branch, or the peace

you feel lying flat on the ground

and looking up on a warm spring day,

 

when everything seems possible, the day

stretching endlessly in front of you,

dusk a dream far, far away.

 

Pamela Starr lives in Hudson, Massachusetts, and has worked as a textbook editor, technical writer, and project manager. Previous publications include an essay in Negative Capability as well as poems in Ballard Street Poetry Journal, GlassFire Magazine, Tilt-a-Whirl, and Currents Anthology VII.

April 2016

Emergence

by Barbara Lydecker Crane

 

    From specks of eggs inert a year

and forest floors gray-brown and seer,

            beetle legs creep.

 

    Past pebbles ground by sea to sand

and seaweed fronds by current fanned,

            silver scales leap.

 

    In winds that swell and buffet seas,

through April lace of branching trees,

            white wings sweep.

 

    The seasons, sun and sea are skeins

that weave new life from roots and veins

            and unseen sources deep.  

 

Zero Gravitas and ALPHABETRICKS are Barbara Lydecker Crane’s chapbooks, available on Amazon. She has published over 100 poems–humorous or serious (or sometimes both)– in poetry journals and anthologies, including recent or forthcoming work in Atlanta Review, First Things, Light and Parody

March 2016

Flores Woman

          by Tracy K. Smith

A species of tiny human has been discovered, which lived on the remote Indonesian island of Flores just 18,000 years ago. . . . Researchers have so far unearthed remains from eight individuals who were just one metre tall, with grapefruit-sized skulls. These astonishing little people . . . made tools, hunted tiny elephants and lived at the same time as modern humans who were colonizing the area.

—Nature, October 2004

Light: lifted, I stretch my brief body.
Color: blaze of day behind blank eyes.

Sound: birds stab greedy beaks
Into trunk and seed, spill husk

Onto the heap where my dreaming
And my loving live.

Every day I wake to this.

Tracks follow the heavy beasts
Back to where they huddle, herd.

Hunt: a dance against hunger.
Music: feast and fear.

This island becomes us.

Trees cap our sky. It rustles with delight
In a voice green as lust. Reptiles

Drag night from their tails,
Live by the dark. A rage of waves

Protects the horizon, which we would devour.
One day I want to dive in and drift,

Legs and arms wracked with danger.
Like a dark star. I want to last.

 

from Duende (Graywolf Press, 2007)

Tracy K. Smith is the 2016 winner of the Robert Creeley Award. The public is invited to see Ms. Smith receive her award and read from her work at the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School auditorium on March 29 at 7:30 p.m. Old Frog Pond Farm & Studio is a sponsor of this free community event. We hope to see you there!

 Ms. Smith is the author of Life on Mars (Graywolf Press), which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2011; the memoir Ordinary Light (Knopf, 2015); and two other award-winning books of poetry, Duende and The Body's Question (Graywolf, 2002). She teaches at Princeton University.