December 2017

The Shortest Day of the Year

       by Wendy Mnookin

 

Our doors blocked by a blizzard

the two of us climbed from a window

into a world made new—

 

mailboxes buried, signs disappeared.

We walked on the tops of bushes, 

dug until we found our car.

 

And dug some more.

We cleared the hood,

unburdened the windshield,

 

tunneled all the way to the tires.

Then what?

The roads were closed,

 

there was nowhere to go.

Sweating inside our layers,

we let ourselves fall

 

back into drift.

We had no ambition.

For minutes, or a year,

 

it was enough to lie there,

stunned with sun, with implacable white.

Our eyes glazed.

 

The frost of our breath happened.

And then we stood, clapping

our jackets free of snow,

 

suddenly shy

to see the imprint of wings,

so slight, it’s a wonder

 

we trusted ourselves at all.

 

From The Moon Makes Its Own Plea, BOA Editions, 2008

 

Wendy Mnookin’s most recent book is Dinner with Emerson (Tiger Bark Press, 2016.) The recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Writing, Wendy has taught poetry at Emerson College and Boston College. You can find out more about her writing at wendymnookin.com.

 

 

 

November 2017

NOT AS ONE who knows the ground

          by Joan Houlihan

 

NOT AS ONE who knows the ground

but woken to a standing,

Ay rose and held as bird would hold          

for want of weather, flight.                

Far, the hard light grew.                    

The us were down in sleep.

Fire blacked away.

None would know me

colding there. Ay stood and stept

as calf that has no mother-side,

as a weak thing made, then fell

and lay in a smaller place to wait.    

Where a noise had been

Ay let a quiet in.

 

From Ay, Tupelo Press, 2014

 

Joan Houlihan is the author of five books of poetry including Shadow-feast, forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2018. Her other books are: Ay (2014), The Us (2009), The Mending Worm, winner of the 2005 Green Rose Award from New Issues Press and Hand-Held Executions: Poems & Essays (2003). She has taught at Columbia University, Emerson College and Smith College and serves on the faculty of Lesley University’s Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is also Professor of Practice in Poetry at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. Houlihan founded and directs the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference.

 

October 2017

Harvest

          by Charles Pratt

 

The trees, I’m told, have stood here fifty years—

Bearers still. The motherly Cortlands, fat

As their dusky apples, cookers, firm in pies.

The Macs more upright, sparer, the apples—

This year, at least—scarcer, smaller, brighter,

Flecked with little lights. And the Wageners,

Bristling with apples from a thousand spurs,

The fruit a modest russet, turning as it ripens

To scarlet, apples from a Book of Hours.

Sweetness seethes from the press, foams

In the bucket; I turn with the handle

Under the mild October sun

That brings back summer, softened. Sun-yellow

Hornets, now, mellowed from when,

In August, the mower brought their stinging

Hubbub up from underground,

Nuzzle my sticky fingers, gentle as cows,

Swoon to that foaming sweetness where they drown.

Midnight, midwinter. Under the full moon

The trees, like twisting smoke, like rocks

Whorled by tides of air,

Stand stock-still in their shadows

On the new snow, precise and mysterious

As spiders on a linen tablecloth.

Arrested, I look out, investing

Them with the patient merit

And deliberate innocence I would learn of them.

 

From From the Box Marked Some Are Missing by Charles Pratt, Volume I of the Hobblebush Granite State Poetry Series, Hobblebush Books. Book available at http://www.hobblebush.com/product-page/from-the-box-marked-some-are-missing

Charles W. Pratt taught English for more than 25 years, mostly at Phillips Exeter Academy, before he and his wife, Joan, bought a small apple orchard in Brentwood, New Hampshire, and became apple-growers. In addition to From the Box Marked Some Are Missing, he has two previous collections, In the Orchard and Still Here.

September 2017

A Cricket Has Been Calling

            by Wendy Drexler

 

As I wash my cereal bowl,

my blue coffee cup,

as I fill the feeder, a cricket

has been calling. I listen

for some inflection, an iamb,

I am, I am, any pattern or meaning,

but there is none, or nearly none—

just the scrape of wings, emphatic,

vaguely duple-time, insistent, tireless.

Or else a pause, and I think, ah then,

something is settled, for once.

But the cricket resumes,

an engine unrequited, an equation

to be solved, growing large

as a sound can grow—and I think

of the woman crying at the bus stop

this morning, and her children,

grieving for their father,

who is never coming back,

and I wish I could find a place

for that cricket to rest,

a place to rest

for everyone who calls and shakes

and has not been consoled.

 

“A Cricket Has Been Calling” is from Before There Was Before, Wendy Drexler’s new collection of poetry published in March 2017 by Iris Press, www.irisbooks.com. The poem first appeared in the journal, Common Ground.

Wendy Drexler is also the author of Western Motel (Turning Point, 2012) and the chapbook Drive-Ins, Gas Stations, the Bright Motels (Pudding House, 2007). Her first children’s book, Buzz, Ruby, and Their City Chicks, coauthored with Joan Fleiss Kaplan, was published by Ziggy Owl Press in 2016. Her poems have appeared widely in such journals as Barrow Street, Ibbetson Street, Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Salamander, The Mid-American Review, The Hudson Review, The Worcester Review, and the Valparaiso Poetry Review; featured on Verse Daily and WBUR’s Cognoscenti; and in the anthologies Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust and Burning Bright: Passager Celebrates 21 Years.

Wendy Drexler will be reading with Susan Donnelly on Thursday, September 28, 2017, at the Cervena Barva Press Studio at The Arts for the Armory, Basement, Room B8, 191 Highland Avenue, Somerville, 7:30 p.m. For more information about readings and for poetry posts see Wendy’s website: wendydrexlerpoetry.com.

 

August 2017

Hiss, ping ping

            by Lucinda Bowen
 

Listen.

After a month of sun,
the sky holds itself close to the meadow
this morning, whispering, “sip, sip”
as a mother might minister to a child
whose face is flushed with fever.

The way the raindrops
line the spine
of each stalk and stem
makes me want to consider
the smallest small things.

I listen to the slip and drip,
watch the flower’s pink petals
fill like pitchers,
each no bigger than the pinkyslip
of a newborn’s fingernail.

This weather is but a gesture
to a field that has blossomed
despite seasons of thirst.
The morning’s mist
will only moisten, not quench.
Soon the cloudwisps will flounce off, distracted,
the sky behind them winking blue.

Even so, the stems shine green and golden
under the weight of this water
they have waited for.

I have skirted scarcity all my life
and yet I have never bloomed
as pink and pretty
as this thirsty flower.

I have never
bent grateful
as this blade of grass,
bearing the hiss, ping ping
sound of insufficient blessing
on my naked, needy back.
 

I wrote this poem early on a misty, rainy summer morning as I was walking past the orchard and the wild field next to it, near the Meditation Hut. I was struck by how the raindrops magnified every single blade of grass, each plant and flower lined in silver. And I was struck by the immense need and thirst of the field, and how meager this offering of rain would be, after so much drought.

—Lucinda Bowen

 

Included with Lucinda Bowen’s poem (above) is the note she wrote for Old Frog Pond Farm’s 2016 Plein Air Poetry Walk and chapbook, Splash!

 

Please mark your calendars for this year’s event on Sunday, September 17 at 2 p.m. at the farm. Over 20 regional poets, including Lucinda and other poets who have been featured in this blog, will read new site-specific work on the theme of Memoir. The Poetry Walk is free and open to the public. Chapbooks of the poems will also be available for purchase at the event. Hope to see you there! 

July 2017

Boating on South Lake with Elder Brother Yuan Liu

     by Wei Ying-wu (translated by Red Pine)

                       

Taking time off in the enervating heat

we drifted in a skiff along the city moat

a light wind blew open our robes

a flute echoed through the woods

thin clouds darkened the water

a fine rain cooled the lotus-scented air

rather than pour out our cares

we raised our cups to the flowers

 

"Boating on South Lake with Elder Brother Yuan Liu” is from In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu, translated by Red Pine, and published by Copper Canyon Press (Port Townsend, 2009).

 

Wei Ying-wu (737-791) was born into an aristocratic family in decline, and served in several government posts. He fashioned a poetic style counter to the mainstream: one of profound simplicity centered in the natural world. He is considered among the finest Tang dynasty masters, in the ranks of Tu Fu, Li Pai, and Wang Wei. Few of his poems have been translated into English.

 

Red Pine is one of the finest translators of Chinese poetry into English. He was the first to translate the classical anthology Poems of the Masters. He spent four years in a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan, and produced radio programs in Taiwan and Hong Kong about his travels in China. He is the author of Zen Baggage, an account of a pilgrimage to sites associated with the beginning of Zen in China. He lives with his family in Port Townsend, Washington.

June 2017

Wet Gravel

      by Fred Marchant

                       

Stone barrow on a point overlooking the sea,

a good place to take the last labored breath.

Quartz veins, shale, slate layers, the pressed

sandstone, thin lines we read the epochs in.

Rust and gray minerals down rivers in Zion.

A bit of brown miracle dirt from Chimayo.

The rock a boy threw at my head, the one

I pitched back at him. Mickeys we called them.

Cairns you see climbers build at the summit,

and mark the trail with on Kilauea caldera.

Glacial stones that migrate under the earth,

or sit as unmoved as the Buddha, hard enough

to break tines off a backhoe. Prayer-stones

we place with care and words atop the grave.

A white pebble at the bottom of Frost’s well.

O stone, wrote Nguyễn Duy, thinking of lives

lost hear Angkor. O bloodstones of Mycenae

that we sit on while we drink from our water.

The backyard stones a child will hammer open

to find the unequivocal silence inside of things.

Wet gravel paths we turn and face each other on.

 

"Wet Gravel" is from Said Not Said, Fred Marchant's new collection of poetry published by Graywolf Press in May 2017. It is used with permission of the publisher.

 

Fred Marchant is also the author of Tipping Point, Full Moon Boat, House on Water, House in Air, and The Looking House. He has co-translated (with Nguyen Ba Chung) From a Corner of My Yard, by Tran Dang Khoa, and Con Dau Prison Songs, by Vo Que, both published in Hanoi. He is the editor of Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford, also published by Graywolf Press. An Emeritus Professor of English, Fred Marchant is the founding director of the Suffolk University Poetry Center in Boston.

 

Fred Marchant will be reading in the First and Last Word Reading Series, Thursday June 20, 2017, Somerville Armory, 191 Highland Avenue, Somerville MA, 7 p.m. He will also read at the Grolier Poetry Bookshop on June 26, 6 Plympton Street, Cambridge, MA, 7 p.m. From June 26-June 30, he will be teaching and reading in the annual writers' conference sponsored by the William Joiner Institute for the Study of War and Social Consequences at UMass Boston. Link: https://www.umb.edu/joinerinstitute/writers_workshop/workshop_schedule. For more information about readings and workshops see Fred's website: Fredmarchant.com

May 2017

The Child in Wonder Falling on Grass

         by Donna Johnson

                       

Spring’s early heat turns you to dervish.

Your knees soiled green from tumbles,

with wild screams you protest mother’s firm grip.

Then, minutes later you sleep, curled in her lap.

Smells of coming rain, mud, and wild onion

surround you, while farther, only inches

in the great scheme, expands the black unbreathable,

which astronauts say smells like burning tungsten.

This year, the black drop of Venus will mar

the perfect sphere of our small dense star.

A middling yellow one among millions similar,

It warms your skin, the grass, the dirt below the grass,

as it absorbs the remnants of supernovas

bursting their whipped cores.

 

From Selvage by Donna Johnson (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon) 2013.

Donna Johnson is the author of Selvage published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Her poems and reviews have been published in Birmingham Poetry Review, Blue Unicorn, Cafe Review, Green Mountains Review, Perihelion, and other journals. She won Cutbank magazine’s annual poetry contest and was a finalist for the Patricia Dobler Award.   

 

April 2017

Homage, Orby Head

         by Susan Edwards Richmond

                       

When I can go no farther, and the maps are all

blue, I count the birds at the end of the world:

swooped down from their russet watch-towers, long,

low lines of silhouette stoop to the waves,

piebald buoys bob in the lea of rocks,

plump-bellied gourds with red waders on troll

the bricky stone. Arms clasp over pulled up

knees, salted by the wet perimeter

of light. Gathering in the past, shapes stream by,

great auk, Labrador duck, and Eskimo

curlew in venerated waves, all plucked,

bloodied, and damned. Shingles crack in the tide’s

ruddy contusions. We have everything

to lose, and have again and again.  

 

after Seamus Heaney

 

“Homage, Orby Head” appears in Susan Edwards Richmond’s new book, Before We Were Birds, published by Adastra Press.

 

Susan will be reading from Before We Were Birds at the 6 Bridges Gallery, 77 Main Street, Maynard, on Thursday, April 13, at 7:30 p.m. Come early and enjoy Gail Erwin’s show, Niche, Cyanotypes and Constructions, in the gallery, as well as the work of Jane McKinnon Johnstone. Hope to see you there!    

 

March 2017

The Snow Storm

     by Marie Howe

 

I walked down towards the river, and the deer had left tracks

deep as half my arm, that ended in a perfect hoof

and the shump shump sound my boots made walking made the silence loud.

 

And when I turned back towards the great house

I walked beside the deer tracks again.

And when I came near the feeder: little tracks of the birds on the surface

     of the snow I'd broken through.

 

Put your finger here, and see my hands, then bring your hand and put it in my side.

 

I put my hand down into the deer track

     and touched the bottom of an invisible hoof.

Then my finger in the little mark of the jay.

 

Reprinted from The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe. Copyright © 2008 by Marie Howe. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Marie Howe will be in Acton this month to receive the 17th Annual Robert Creeley Award! She will read from her work at a free public reading at 7:30 p.m. at the Acton-Boxborough Regional High School auditorium, 36 Charter Road, Acton. Old Frog Pond Farm & Studio is a sponsor of this event.

Marie Howe is the author of three books of poetry: The Kingdom of Ordinary Time, The Good Thief, and What the Living Do. She is also the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing From the AIDS Pandemic.  Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others. Find a full bio of Marie Howe at www.robertcreeleyfoundation.org

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.