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.

 

 

 

February 2016

The Future of Apples

by Eve Linn

 

Remove spurs that do not fruit,

dry wood, water sprouts, or green

wood that crosses another branch.

One rubs another, bruises bark,

causes cankers, then rots.

 

In gloved hand, curved

shears, wait, oiled and ready.

Dive close. Cut slant and quick.

Sever the twig, still

sap-filled, clear, juice-sweet.

 

A clean cut with a sharp blade

is always best. Expose the wound

to sun. To dry, to harden, to callus.

The burn pile is full of twigs

cut for good reason.

 

Eve F.W. Linn received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing with a Poetry Concentration from Lesley University, Low-Residency Program and her B.A. cum laude in Studio Art from Smith College. She lives and writes west of Boston with her family. She enjoys fiber arts, photography, strong coffee, and dark chocolate, and dislikes small salty fish.

January 2016

Wassail Bowl

 a renga* in celebration of apples composed by Susan Edwards Richmond

 

the first icy snow

fell

like a flock of angry sparrows

 

now, branches steeled

against a steely sky

 

the orchard is asleep

all the sweetness of the berries

is driven deep in the ground

 

the farmers scan nursery lists

plotting spring

 

the list of apples

her father grew in their orchard

high on the shoulder of Mount Blue

 

the cool taste of promise

on her tongue-

                       

Green Crisp

Snowsweet

Maiden Blush

 

maybe Rhode Island Greening-

starting tart but aging sweet,

 

listen carefully

to what the trees tell us, saying

pay attention to the changes

 

the knowing

when to flower, when to fruit

 

toast with spiced cider

wassailing the trees,

the fairies, the nature sprites,

 

the scent of apples to come

animates the senses.

 

 

*A renga is a Japanese form of “linked poem," composed of alternating three- and two-line stanzas by poets working in pairs or small groups. This poem links lines excerpted from complete works from the following poets:  Polly Brown, Lila Linda Terry, Terry House, William Lenderking, Deborah Melone, Franny Osman, Cheryl Perreault, and Susan Edwards Richmond.

 

 

December 2015

To love a salt marsh in winter

by Dawn Paul

 

To love a salt marsh in winter

is to love the color brown

crumbling storm-ravaged creek banks

slick frozen mudflats

weathered rushes and reeds.

 

To love a salt marsh in winter

is to love the sound

of tide-jumbled ice chunks

in flooded creeks

surf thrashing the beach

beyond the huddled dunes.

 

To love a salt marsh in winter,

face the wind

watch the horizon long and low

as one lone harrier drops down

from the empty sky.

 

Dawn Paul teaches writing and interdisciplinary studies at Montserrat College of Art and has published two novels, The Country of Loneliness and Still River. Her poetry has been published most recently in the Naugatuck River Review and the Paterson Literary Review. She is also a frequent performer on the Improbable Places Poetry Tour and works with the Mass Poetry Festival.


November 2015

Asking the Great Meadows a Question

            by Louise Berliner  

 

Evening primrose went crisp

and caught the fuzz

off the bulrushes; yes,

 

they went pale and skeletal

while the asters merely fizzed,

and the explosion of the bulrush    

soldier hats—shocking.

 

Even milkweed joined the rampage,

launching parachutes

while the waters rose

on either side of the dyke,

the geese and ducks

once again in charge.

 

As I lay in bed,

I thought I walked among the herons,

 

escorted down avenues

of blooming goldenrod,

by buttonbush, horse lettuce,

blue vervain, meadowsweet;

 

saw the burr marigolds

shining in the shallow flats,

the lotus still late summer green

with her fabulous floating platters

clouds for the fish below.

 

Now those elephant ears

listen under water,

and their seedpods hang

their little Munchkin hat heads

like old-fashioned telephone receivers.

 

Hello? Hello?

Is anybody there?

 

A solo honk cuts the air,

bare stalks rustle in response.  

I may not speak Goose,

but I recognize November.

 

What surgery did the seasons perform,

while I lay recovering in my bed,

the green going all kinds of color,

before surrendering to brown?

 

 

Louise Berliner plays with words, herbs, fiber, and vine. She has a studio at the Umbrella in Concord, MA. Her poems, articles, and short fiction have appeared in VQR, The Mom Egg, Porter Gulch Review, Ibbetson Review, Sacred Fire magazine, and plein air chapbook collections from Old Frog Pond and Fruitlands. She is the author of Texas Guinan, Queen of the Night Clubs, and when she isn’t writing or weaving can be found walking at Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.