Holly Day: In Closing

I imagine them finding her on the beach
blond hair spread out on the sand, skin pale and taut
the water pooling in a foamy halo around her head
eyes fixed unblinking on the early morning sun.
I don’t think about the crabs and seagulls
 
that must have surely found her before the first pair of joggers
stumbled across her in their morning run
and whatever other damage that must have occurred
from being battered about by the waves before being
hurled up on shore. I close my eyes
 
against the curt voice on the phone
methodically ticking off the contents of her pockets
the jewelry she was still wearing, the description of a tattoo
I never knew about
and instead, think of angels on Christmas trees, tiny wings spread
half-remembered psalms, shattered lectures of Heaven.

For more on Holly Day, please see our Authors page.

James Piatt: Stored Memories

In an old cardboard box in the attic… 
personal notes sent on cold mornings, 
rusted nails, 
paper clips, 
a gold high school graduation ring, 
pencil stubs, 
a chipped red checker piece, 
but mostly a collection of long-lost memories. 
The dusty box sits beside 
a cracked antique mirror, 
a single bed, 
a dented in trumpet from the 1930s, 
boxes of esoteric books, 
magazines, 
grocery sacks of old games: 
monopoly, 
chess, 
clue, 
and on the bottom,
an old picture album 
of known and unknown faces… 
unfinished: 
The forgotten memories inside, 
covered with countless years. 
The things glistened with newness 
a long time ago 
when those who lived 
in this old house 
still breathed, 
laughed 
and loved, 
now only an empty silence. 
Life, so brief, so taken for granted. 
Then, in a sudden moment, 
everything faded, 
and what was can only be found 
in old cardboard boxes in attics, 
and far less often, 
in the memories of those few 
who are still alive to remember.

For more on James Piatt, please see our Authors page.

Jim Wilson: New Life Sunrise

This beautiful morning delivers
through swirling pastel cloud wisps
a baby pink and blue sunrise.
 
The gentle view sets my tone for the day.
No complaining, even in thought—
I will have, exhibit, and enjoy
peace, patience, love and kindness.
 
I’ll start by not caring if the sunrise
is a boy or a girl.
I can’t decide it, but I can delight in it.
 
Tomorrow I am sure I will be back
to persistence, effort, and goal setting,
but today I am taking the day off
to play with the baby.

For more on Jim Wilson, please see our Authors page.

Jim Wilson: The Law of Natural Selection

All day at least all afternoon
on the porch outside my office window
a little, fledgling barn swallow sits.
 
Above in the corner nest, 4 swallow siblings
cram side by side in the one room mud stucco nest
obviously too small for 5 to mature to full flight.
Four sets of yellow lips gape for airborne lunch
 
Bud below is out of sight out of mind.
Odd man out gapes his yellow lips too.
Food deliveries are rare compared to nestlings’ fare
 
Groundling tries to fly, but wing and tail feathers unfinished.
Does he need one week, two weeks? How long to lift off?
His best flight 3” high and 18” long.
 
Wright brothers beginning
Downed Vietnam fighter pilot
Unlucky fledgling barn swallow
 
Do I catch, box, and bring inside?
Do I try to replace endangering the other four?
All afternoon agony
 
It’s dark now. He is out of sight under the porch shrubbery.
His siblings and I are secure. The snake, feral cat, or skunk
Could very well happen on a midnight snack.
 
Such is life or the end of it.
Letting nature take its course is crappy.
No, daylight shines and he is still on the porch.
The saga continues all week.
 
Day three and single grounded fledgling has a buddy.
Now on Sunday I see only two left in nest.
Then, by golly, two hours later there are 6 adults
flying kamikaze blue angel patterns through the porch.
 
And there is only one baby still in the nest.
Monday morning empty nest, empty porch
Arial circus thru the porch and around the front yard
Five new birds in the show.
 
Now I can get rid of that gosh awful ugly mud nest
in the corner of the porch ceiling and clean up
that pile of droppings on the cement below.
 
They’ll be back next spring for home construction
blessed events, and off to college in July.
I hope the next five are as lucky as these,
but I would like to suggest birth control, bigger nest, or
window curtains to ease my anxiety. 

For more on Jim Wilson, please see our Authors page.

Jim Wilson: Mature Life Magic

A twelve-zinnia bouquet five days cut still stands.
Two stems collapsed; blossoms face down now.
Others still smiling upright but dried, colors faded
frayed and crinkled around the edges.
I see continued dignity, beauty, and function.
 
The hundred years old sagging prairie barn flaunts
weathered paintless wood shades of decaying gray.
Rusty hinges still swing creaking groaning doors.
Role impaired but stored hay still dry
I see continued dignity, beauty, and function.
 
My 1970 college friends boldly gathered.
Little contact in 50 years all aging in their places.
After introductions, recognition, and reminiscence
the inner souls of character show polish by time.
I see continued dignity, beauty, and function.

For more on Jim Wilson, please see our Authors page.

Laurence Musgrove: Good Medicine

The clutch of fresh tortillas  
You bought at Mata’s Fruit Store 
Just north of the Stanton Street Bridge 
Paired perfectly with your green chile stew. 
 
Long ago, I stopped with my daughters 
For combo plates and salsa in Las Cruces 
And learned the baptism of hatch pepper 
As it rinsed the dust from my eyes. 
 
So, when I stood in your small kitchen, 
Cubes of pork and potatoes swimming 
In a deep stained cauldron of verde, 
I knew I was in for another scalding. 
 
After a spoon or two, my tongue lit up 
And beads of sweat pooled on my scalp. 
Next came tears and laughter, a drippy nose. 
Down my neck and back, ran a rivulet. 
 
The mistake, of course, is to lick your lips. 
But even that quick blistering subsided 
As I peeled back and folded another tortilla 
To sop up what remained of my remedy. 

For more on Laurence Musgrove, please see our Authors page.

Joshua Bridgwater Hamilton: Bird of Paradise

Six foot explosion of slender leaves
from a forest island of fleshy
swayed columns
prods thick air with lascivious intent
here where Gulf Coast vegetation
grows profligate, an obscene flourish
that devours domestic walls
and subdivided perimeters
beneath heady sun and heavy heat.
 
Dense green sphere draws in,
absorbs air, oxygen, our frivolous
obsession with presence, leaves
a lenticular procession of transparencies
layering vertically until
waxy green smell fills the nose
from 40, then 60, then 80
years ago –
 
my grand-uncle Allen
in Puerto Rico leaves the sugar
company office, brushes by the slow
eager bushes framing the entrance.
Flame-orange origami slices
the accumulation of humid
hours, sharpens evening
to a razor red bleed –
 
I touch the unfolded petals
and feel the cut purse
of mercantile profits
spill through hazy years
when the career bachelor
assuaged worry with balanced figures,
stock prices, careful retirement,
the fleeting seagulls
basking in exorbitant rays
that expire beyond
each day’s seashore.
 
Kate Greenaway’s compendium
lists lilies for humility, innocence,
majesty, and falsehood;
the red rose for bashful shame –
familiar in my own garden
and past –
but nothing on the bird
of paradise, which I can
only define
as calculating sensuality
that offers colonial memory
in the place
where guilt-free presence
spreads its lush fingers
and blooms.

For more on Joshua Bridgwater Hamilton, please see our Authors page.

William Blake Brown: Haying

Under a sky so blue it stops the heart,
low clouds as clean as kids ready for church,
they were haying in the narrow meadow
that stretched along the road that led to town.
In shade beside the road a pickup parked,
and an old man surveyed the scene.
A tall tractor pulled a bulky baler
that spat round bales, plastic wrapped, impervious
to rain; a man could make the crop alone.
In the rearview mirror that is memory
arose another meadow, another summer
An old tractor, older baling machine
chugging, tanned young men to hoist
the hay on the flatbed trailer
and stack it precariously high.
At the barn they packed the hay
into the loft up to the rafters,
and when the last load was done
they sat under the pin oak tree,
sweat painted tracks on dusty skin,
passing a gourd to dip into the keg,
feeling like they had won something,
and knowing how good tired felt.
The old man took a last look and pulled
onto the blacktop wondering whether
the driver cocooned in the tractor’s cab
would remember this as a perfect day.

For more on William Blake Brown, please see our Authors page.

William Blake Brown: At a Nursing Home Window During the Coronavirus Pandemic

He calls, and they wheel her to the window.
Drawn deep inside herself she sits, gazing
into a land only she can visit,
until he taps the glass to call her back.
The smile that charms him still lights up her face
and she returns to the present moment.
His nose almost touching the glass, he speaks
above the din of the busy highway.
It is his news report about the kids,
grandkids, and friends. Sometimes her face goes blank
and he sees someone eludes her memory.
It is not important; they let it pass.
Often, they lapse into a long silence
taking comfort in the other’s presence.
When she begins to drift away again,
he does not try to pull her back; instead
he blows a kiss and waves goodbye.
Only after he has turned away
does he allow the tears to streak his face.

For more on William Blake Brown, please see our Authors page.

Barbara Daniels: Venus Rising

for Sandy Parker

A tree by the roadside suddenly
dropped every leaf, shock
of orange twisting, settling.

It was a blessing, Sandy says.
Her radiation starts tomorrow
now that her breast has almost

healed. I slow my walk,
touch wet trees, check
their terminal buds. They rest

now, waiting for spring.
Last night I read that some buds
are naked, some protected

by stiff little scales. A pair
of scales looks like a miniature
hot dog bun or (some people

think) praying hands. I’ve never
noticed their hopeful compactness.
The sun glows through fog

and suddenly brightens—too
dazzling to see. Venus will rise
to the left of the moon tonight.

Clouds will hide it. But it will rise,
a planet like a squashed beach ball
rotating backwards but catching the light.

 

For more on Barbara Daniels, please see our Authors page.

Chuck Taylor: Group Hug

“Loving nothing on this earth.”
                          Nabokov

I am trying to bring to mind
all the things I did not love —
parties with loud smoke
and heavy drinking in the humid
crush of rooms, football games
full of raging shouts cheering
gladiators as in the Roman Coliseum,
shooting clay pigeons out of a
grey Chicago sky, soot speckled
snow piles on a corner blocking
parked cars wishing to join
the morning commute, freeway
traffic on central expressway
heading to do the numbers up
in an Dallas accounting office

yet newness could always lift
the heart learning a new trade. I have
also in mind how alcohol and drugs
were medicines to carry one
through what one did not love,
or to change perceptions
and somehow make the thing
unloved loveable, or at least
numbed pain and made one forget.
Many that I loved were addicts
in a world they could not love
and I will admit I am with them
in understanding if not in practice,

but then I turn and admire
the careful stitching of my winter
gloves in the curve between
the fingers, something that no
machine can do. I walk across
a rusted steel railroad trestle
crossing the Brazos River built
in 1919 and am in I wonder how
it supports the heavy engines
of all these long amazing years.
Last night a frog looked me
in the eye as I got out of my
car, before she darted under
our porch into the deep darkness,
and you, you came as you always do
to the door holding our puppy Coco
and we clutched in a tight group hug.

For more on Chuck Taylor, please see our Authors page.