The Poetry Porch presents

the sonnet scroll ix

Copyright © 2009 by Joyce Wilson


By Chris Wallace-Crabbe

    What sort of weather plays across the soul?
    Thought, in cold bedrooms, congeals again
    smudging the window-pane. Like paradox
    we wrestle with the what of what-is-not

    while early-woken hoons burn rubber
    up and down the dove-grey street outside.
    The colour of your thought has no clear name
    or else it had a name and you forgot—

    amethyst? mauve? lapis lazuli?—
    the nether mind can often be subversive,
    just like that low moving in with scattered showers.

    You battle on, take an umbrella, sing
    the sweet and corny songs of adolescence.
    Fortune tends to favour the south-west wind

    Copyright © 2009 by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

By Chris Wallace-Crabbe

    The bushfires rant around our draggled town
    Disintegrating some bloke in his house
    And broiling others, where sedans broke down
    Blindly. All blackened, from wombat to mouse.

    That moment screamed in, rumoured to be like
    Four Lockheeds or Rolls Royces in your head.
    If you still have a head, now. The melted bike
    Squats on the ash: one charger for the dead?

    Nature must lack the chivalry we could sniff
    As brotherly tribute: something has turned out worse
    With Plato’s cave become a blazing cliff;

    Pain is the knot-hole in our universe
    And yet the black calligraphy of trees
    Can make this long view elegantly Chinese.

    Copyright © 2009 by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

    By Paul Christian Stevens

    Ah Muse, you have inspired me rather too well
         To lines interrogating your dire absence,
    Analyses of separation’s hell,
         Laments for this unscalable dead silence—
    You’ve given me such good material
         For bleak pentameters of disconnection,
    For sonnets of abandonment, and all
         My Canzoniere’s amorous dejection.
    But really—how much trouble would it take
         To factor in some elegant variation?
    What if, Dear Muse, just say for argument’s sake,
         You switched the content of my inspiration
    Changing my tune from a dull, tedious ache
         To paeans of ecstatic consummation?

    Copyright © 2009 by Paul Christian Stevens

    By Paul Christian Stevens

         [T]he wolf and the wild dog that have come in to the fire
         find their gods in the living flesh, solid to the touch, occupying
    —Jack London, White Fang

    I crept in from the wilderness of wraiths
    To find my god a god of burning power,
    Flesh hot to taste, hands spinning living fire
    Consuming me with love: no act of faith
    Needed to love her mystery or her wrath;
    No effort of will could posit disbelief:
    Her presence palpable; her absence, grief;
    Her voice a paradise; her silence, death.
    An absent deity is silence. Ants
    Labour in myriad silence. The flower breaks
    In silence. Song is air sighing through she-oaks,
    My breath is love for her woven from silence.
         She is my Muse in presence or in absence,
         I am her poet always, singing the silence.

    Copyright © 2009 by Paul Christian Stevens

    By Paul Christian Stevens

    My mind, to prove you’re out of reach for me,
    Sets artful syllogisms, well-deployed:
    And yet an existential fallacy
    Renders sophisticated logic void
    In premising proximity’s required
    For validation of the colloquy
    Between two souls, who as one soul, inspired,
    Transmute brute absence into poetry:
    Thus logic transubstantiates to faith;
    Hard evidence, refuted, must resign—
    My trust in you is exigent as breath:
    For what’s my choice? To see you as benign
    Muse, or grim executor of grief?
    Which hurts me more: belief, or disbelief?

    Copyright © 2009 by Paul Christian Stevens

    By Paul Christian Stevens

         You give me miles and miles of mountains
        And I’ll ask for the sea.
    —Damien Rice

    What are you are to me then? What is it that
    I need of you? To me you are simply sky
    Opening away and away, impossibly high,
    So close, so far, so empty black, star-lit:
    Yet earth and heaven engage: no choice or doubt
    Unbalances their dance of depth and height.
    I am a wave that surges up, breaks, plunges
    Down, yearning for sky, crashing through time.
    Volcanoes are too brief: my slow tough granite
    Thrusts skyward massive folds of snow-freaked ranges,    
    Stark rock where gryphons yell from crags of scree.
    My miles of mountain-waves roll stonily;
    This pitching, yawing swell of earth-sea climbs
    And stretches to touch you, Sky, stretches endlessly.

    Copyright © 2009 by Paul Christian Stevens

    By Paul Christian Stevens

    For love, the pavement artist drew her face
    All over the sidewalk, dozens of different ways
    That caught each nuance of her mystery,
    In riffs of skill even untrained eyes could see,
    Though when the lady sauntered gaily by
    Chatting to friends, or gazing up at the sky,
    Or window-shopping, she walked unknowingly through
    The portraits he so intricately drew—
    Her feet lost in the myriad feet that race
    Foot after blind foot at a smartish pace
    With hectic antics quick-quick-stepping away
    Lickety-split across the city day
    Erasing her lineaments without a trace,
    Scuffing the pavement back to standard grey.

    Copyright © 2009 by Paul Christian Stevens

    By Anna Evans

    It’s not as if she sewed a stitch, the spoiled
    Empress, but her obelisks, though blunt,
    draw a thread through several continents
    of mine. Visiting London, as a child,
    I walked the Embankment for what felt like miles
    to where the sphinxes flanked the monument;
    at eighteen I did Paris sans argent,
    much later I toured Central Park in style.

    How we appropriate these ancient glories,
    standing in front of them for photographs,
    as if their hieroglyphics told our stories!
    Here’s one of me: I shade my eyes and laugh,
    as self-involved as any scheming Queen
    their silent testament has ever seen.

    Copyright © 2009 by Anna Evans

    By Anna Evans

    As humans we are prone to animate,
    to notice faces in the cloudy sky,
    and cities flickering in the fiery grate.
    The brain condones the whimsy of the eye.

    Then, when we search for something we have lost,
    we comb the same rooms over and over again,
    refuse the evidence, at any cost.
    The eye condones the whimsy of the brain.

    Perhaps these two are much like boyhood friends—
    sensible apart, together they
    inevitably come to foolish ends,
    egging each other on that childish way.

    Believe what you can touch. It seems to me
    naïve to trust a single thing we see.

    Copyright © 2009 by Anna Evans

    By Anna Evans

    While hundreds perish daily in Iraq,
    eruptions drive Columbians from the South,
    and in Wisconsin skaters fall through cracks,
    I should not be obsessed by how your mouth
    feels touching mine. Gas prices and pollution
    are up, unlike our exports or Free Trade.
    The White House chisels at the constitution
    and talks of overturning Roe v Wade.

    We know November ponds are treacherous
    till Winter hardens them in proper season,
    yet someone’s always falling through the ice
    while other things break down for no good reason.
    Turn off the TV; let the paper lie.
    Kiss me before we give up, or worse, die.

    Copyright © 2009 by Anna Evans

    By Anna Evans

    My heart is being opened and this kiss
    will not become a scar
    —so Jedi Knights
    admit they’re prone to love’s galactic heights
    and troughs, but look, although it’s corny, this
    is something we had once that I now miss.
    From forty on it seems we dropped our sights
    to screen romances, and gave up our rights
    to passion for their digital abyss.

    Yet why should I accept love losing color
    like old films do, when I’ve not stopped feeling
    anger in middle age? Nor has some healing
    visual opiate made pride grow duller.
    I’d slip into a bitter dotage, but
    I’m holding out for the Director’s cut.

    Copyright © 2009 by Anna Evans

    By David Castleman

    This was no madly blessed auld Keltic bard
    so pathologically alcoholic
    and frighteningly apart in his heart
    of hearts, denied love’s enlightening tonic.

    Neither was he a bard learned and sage
    nor a god-like boy with one golden voice,
    nor robbed his youth to fortify his age
    because his blood flowed cold and without noise.

    He wasn’t one of those randy blackguards
    conceived as lightning stung some leech-swum swamp,
    whose mystical affinity for words
    mantled a grim heroism in pomp.

    He was undemocratic and a poet
    and laughed with horror, and a droll wit.

    Copyright © 2009 by David Castleman

    By David Johnson

    Latin will become another Priam,
    Girding his shaky loins for one last fight,
    Awaiting the slaughter at the altar—
    By order of the AP College Board.

    Latin will be another sad poet
    Trapped in Tomi, where no one knows his tongue,
    Sending out gloomy messages unheard
    By the unfeeling AP College Board.

    You men and women of learning and light!
    Nunc est non bibendum! Time now to fight!
    Not arms, but give all the money you can.
    Don’t ever let them say: “Wasn’t there once
    A Latin AP? Ah, yes, but fuit
    Like Troy, it was set ablaze and then gone.”

    Copyright © 2009 by David Johnson

    By David Landrum

         —in remembrance of Loren Eiseley

    Next to the beach the wind climbed the cliff side
    and spawned spume wraiths that hovered then dissolved
    to pools of cold salt water. By the tide
    of breakers walked a figure who could solve
    old, indecipherable mysteries—
    death and the toss of evolution’s dice,
    the stars whose far pulsations are the keys
    to life cycles of emus, tigers, lice.
    His vision opened for me, long ago,
    the stark, chaotic realms lurking beneath
    the things that Science tells us we can know.
    We want to smother mystery in a sheath
    of reassurance—trade primal desire
    for certitude. He showed me the dark fire.

    Copyright © 2009 by David Landrum

    By David Landrum

    If any one of the above-named things seem to impossible or not feasible,
    I am most ready to make the experiment in whatever place may please
    your Excellency; to whom I commend myself with the utmost humility.

             —Leonard DaVinci, Letter to the Duke of Milan

    He never finished things, his critics say:
    his notebooks bulged with inventions never tried,
    projects that never saw the light of day.
    Biographers inform us how he cried,
    as death came, that he never cast The Horse
    but only drew the plans; he sketched cartoons
    for paintings never painted; the divorce
    of things dreamed and completed always looms
    about him. It may be he was unsure
    of how to transform concept into deed.
    His soaring visions dazzled their allure;
    work made imagination’s form recede.
    Even in lofty thinking failure lurks—
    like what Saint James had said of faith and works.

    Copyright © 2009 by David Landrum

    By David Landrum

    My wealth cannot remove the scars that say
    I am unclean. Though they’re not festering sores,
    the red splotches my hands and face display
    the priests call leprosy—and so the doors
    into the Temple and the synagogue
    are shut to me because of them. I shout,
    Unclean! Unclean!—my only dialogue
    with those I walk among when I go out.

    My guest, this teacher, has expected me
    to greet him with a kiss. Yet he must know
    the Law: if I but touch him he will be
    defiled and guilty of the marks I show.
    A man of learning, firm in his belief,
    should not carry my sin nor bear my grief.

    Copyright © 2009 by David Landrum

    By Shaune Bornholdt

    So sleek! I’d watch you preen, the inward curve
    beneath your rounded cheek an elegance
    like indrawn breath, parenthesis of chance
    encounter’s smile. You knew how you deserved
    men’s craving eyes. The mirror’s liquid swerve
    of light reflected on your ritual dance
    of making up. Those lips! That sidewise glance.
    I coveted your neck, your style, your nerve.

    Now slack, my softening flesh has lost the line
    of grace and coquetry I’d imitate,
    uninnocent, ambitious, in that place
    where envious loves collided to define
    the fear I now know, and would mitigate.
    Break through the mirror. Let me touch your face.

    Copyright © 2009 by Shaune Bornholdt

    By Shaune Bornholdt

    The fourth grade bullies made good use of Jack.
    Bulbous, witless, huge, three times retained,
    As heavy as a tractor, he could crack
    The whip-line of those kids and get them brained
    On rocks at recess. Last in line was worst.
    If head and middle held, the tail would fly
    Pell-mell downhill. Full stop! Then sudden burst
    Of force, the last child flung, the victors’ cry.
    One girl, the tail on every run, was bloodied
    Near daily, yet she never left the game.
    She lied about the bruises as she studied
    The rules of in and out. A new boy came.
    Jill made that pale asthmatic fool her friend,
    Joined hands and lined up, second from the end.

    Copyright © 2009 by Shaune Bornholdt

    By Nancy Bailey Miller

    We’ve lost the privacy of phone booths now:
    the cell phone rings in restaurants and subway
    stations. How I miss the closed glass door of pay
    phones, dread the interruptions as I vow
    no flip phone talk in Suburus. A second
    meddler in the year two thousand nine
    is omnipresent ear buds which incline
    us now to isolate ourselves. Reckon
    instead with mockingbirds on evening walks;
    listen as the breeze disturbs the willow. Hear
    green peepers trading news in swampy reeds.
    Turn off technology to notice hawks.
    Reboot your brain with silence—let it clear.
    Study the complexity of weeds.

    Copyright © 2009 by Nancy Bailey Miller

    By Nancy Bailey Miller

    Near Kamakura, noodle soup; I forgo
    tempura. A shrine invites me from the feast.
    I face the west on terraced steps, released
    to hospitality of silence. Buddhas know
    my need; there is in stone an echelon
    of Buddha faces—some wear knit red hats.
    My Tokyo hosts explain the custom: That’s
    A shrine to the unborn—aborted, gone.

    Too strong a verb for me—abort. Eyes fill,
    throat closes as I look to the Pacific.
    Last week my daughter lost her third, a gene
    responsible. But my abortion . . . Will
    it always be a cloudy loss? No quick
    decision ever, hats for those unseen.

    Copyright © 2009 by Nancy Bailey Miller

    By Nancy Bailey Miller

    I lost the view when rhododendron bushes
    grew for twenty years. First, children loose as
    little league teams in fall wound up like tiny
    tap shoes laced with curling grosgrain ribbon.
    Daisies hugged the mailbox, swirled with fox
    grape vine, and always full of heating bills
    and valentines. I lost the longer view as
    rhododendron grew, and I forgot to plant
    the old placentas near the wall. And then
    the children’s father made a swing, spar varnished,
    twisted hemp attached to maple branches—
    sheets of sunshine. Cartwheels, backyard ballet,
    ripe tomatoes tied to stakes. But muslin strips untie—
    they fall. And I forgot to plant placentas near the wall.

    Copyright © 2009 by Nancy Bailey Miller

    By Kathleen Kirk

    Spring without you.
                                      I am back inside
    my own heart.
                            Yesterday the children
    broke the blooming columbine. I brought
    one tall stem indoors to place in a black
    bottle, some forgotten wine. The doves
    are a dark red; gold, the inner star.

    I do not know if my blood is at peace,
    what my soul is, or if it is shining.
    Ask me about regret, whether I am
                 What can I tell you?

    Copyright © 2009 by Kathleen Kirk

    By Lee Evans

    “O how I dreamed of things impossible!”
    I know that I have read that line somewhere,
    But cannot cite the author, nor take care
    To do so. Since the sentiment is full
    Of contrarieties that I have willed,
    I have the right to make those words my own.

    The dream that lay as heavy as a stone
    Upon my breast all night lies flung, crumpled,
    Like bed clothes cast aside.
                                                 I am awake,
    Astonished at myself for the desire
    That blazed and raged within me for your sake—
    But no: ‘twas for myself that I aspired.
    And what you were to me, my God had made
    Out of my rib, that Love might be my slave.

    Copyright © 2009 by Lee Evans

    By Lee Evans

    To us the winter’s end is signified
    By hylas croaking from the budding trees,
    Their song like sleigh bells, after having climbed
    From hibernation underneath the leaves
    And broken branches toward the starry heights,
    With vocal sacs swelled up with evening air.
    Their chorus chants of those romantic nights
    That you and I remember, when our care
    Was for some secret garden and embrace,
    Where what we called our flesh and blood would mime
    The circuit of the Soul, and breathe a trace
    Of what we were once ere we pulsed through Time.
    We dream this in the ice of our repose,
    Our sleigh bells frozen underneath the snow.

    Copyright © 2009 by Lee Evans

    By Tracey Gratch

    Ninety-three hums near by with vitality
    As I rake leaves tossed from another’s elm,
    Observing, none grow here within my realm—
    A challenge to my hospitality.

    Each autumn brings the same formality:
    Above the concrete wall, a current weaves
    Soliloquies of cars and rushing leaves
    Into a commonplace banality.

    I take small comfort knowing I might share—
    With passers-by and neighbors as they walk
    Their dogs or kids for exercise or air—
    Odd trivialities, complaints, small talk.
    I’ll never rake another leaf; I swear;
    Then someone waves from half-way down the block.

    Copyright © 2009 by Tracey Gratch

    By Gail White

    The cat is mistress in a new mink stole.
    The dog, a clown who begs you for a drink.
    Freedom to chase the dream of being whole
    Is love, so Plato said. The dog might think
    That you and you alone complete his soul.
    The cagey cat will calculate the link
    With what she needs and what she can control.
    Cat writes her love with invisible ink.

    Dog love is meek, but feline love is tough.
    Cat thinks you’ll do, although she might look higher.
    Dog never thinks he’s being loved enough,
    His heart a quivering nodule of desire.

    How true it is that we need dogs, and that
    We’re beggars of affection from the cat.

    Copyright © 2009 by Gail White

    By Joyce Wilson

    This job was not the first request I sought
    But was an interview I sought to get.
    I climbed the stair and went up to the desk
    Where no one sat. I ducked into the back
    Hall chamber, taking off the ring for safe
    Keeping. I put it on the shelf. When I
    Returned, the woman at the desk said I
    Could start as a cashier without delay.

    The ring was gone, forgotten on the shelf,
    And no one brought it to the Lost-and-Found.
    The antique setting held an onyx stone,
    A polished darkness that I longed to know,
    A mystery, a promise I forsook
    All for a job I knew I would not keep.

    Copyright © 2009 by Joyce Wilson

    By Eleanor Cory

    I long to shout, “I love you most of all.”
    The rush of rivals censors me. I halt
    and lock my words inside, as I recall
    how praise for others triggers my assault.
    I gather models: lovers, mentors, friends,
    who sit before my easel, each discrete.
    The Mural of Encounters never ends.
    I start to paint strong colors, then retreat
    as competition’s black distorts the scheme
    shadowing the hues with ancient hurts.
    I turn. The colors surface and redeem
    the treasured contact which each face asserts.
    The mural clears, expands in breadth and length,
    as each re-enters loved at fullest strength.

    Copyright © 2009 by Eleanor Cory

    By Eleanor Cory

    When days unhook the garment of my powers
    exposing naked yearning for relief,
    I turn with hope to paintings of O’Keeffe
    to wrap me in the bodies of her flowers.
    I want her gliding hands and brush’s strokes
    to swirl me in their paintings like a dance.
    I ask for instant rescues in advance.
    Instead I’m poisoned, stuck in coughs and chokes.
    Pinks turn to blood, and pastel grays to caves.
    The stems, macabre genitals, unseal
    a closer look, as lines begin to feel
    like pounding thrusts of thunderous ocean waves.
    She takes my innocence with strokes of paint,
    then frees me from the shackles of restraint.

    Copyright © 2009 by Eleanor Cory

    By Eleanor Cory

    The harmony of music works with deft
    instructions from the ear. A chord is taught
    to bond with others on its right and left.
    Musicians choose connections, smooth or fraught
    with tension. Alone, a chord holds little weight;
    it needs fixed rules to mingle and contend
    with melody. Its placement can create
    a loss, great love or honor with its blend.
    I savor chords inside me when, alone,
    I move between two people who are close
    and seek to mix, connect to both. I own
    the music, but feel shy and can’t impose,
    until I choose the right chord, note by note,
    and find harmonic union once remote.

    Copyright © 2009 by Eleanor Cory