The Poetry Porch presents

the sonnet scroll xvi

Copyright © 2016 by Joyce Wilson


    By Bruce Bennett

    It’s true we were estranged, but it’s so sad.
    I saw him walking just the other day,
    and thought that there was something I might say
    but didn’t say it. Now I wish I had.
    We passed each other silent in the street.
    No nod. No nothing. Eyes fixed straight ahead.
    And now a few days afterwards he’s dead.
    No chance to make it up. If we could meet
    again, I’d make a joke. Hey, what’s the deal?
    Why not be friends? What was that all about?
    We’d have shook hands and hugged. Without a doubt
    that would have ended it. I really feel
    one word or gesture might have set things straight.
    I loved the guy! And now, it is too late.

    Copyright © 2016 by Bruce Bennett.

    By Bruce Bennett

    I used to worry you would find a man
    who would replace me. I would make a joke,
    and you would laugh at it. We often spoke
    about your “schemes,” as if you had a plan.
    You played along. It was a kind of game.
    Who would he be? What would he do? What sort
    of guy would make a play for you? The sport
    was dangerous. A dread I could not name
    would lash me on, and you were all too ready
    to follow-or to lead. I should have seen
    that there was something more behind your heady
    participation; guessed that that might mean
    something. Still, I’d persist, without a clue,
    and you’d join in, concealing what you knew.

    Copyright © 2016 by Bruce Bennett.

    By B. E. Stock

    My gutter has become your gold mine
    As you say where you are, where I have been —
    Afraid of mirrors, pieces of life and ourselves
    Crumbling away; hopes laid on a shelf.

    Our pictures are not of adorable kids
    Or the dog in the old neighborhood
    But our bodies, grossly distended,
    Or the gaunt face in a clinic to which that led.

    Our keepsakes might be a coin with a saying,
    A card with a prayer we keep on praying,
    A postcard of a retreat house looking
    Over mountains, where we discussed the cooking.

    So we assemble our portion of the sky,
    Clay breaking into colors when we die.

    Copyright © 2016 by B. E. Stock.

    By Elise Hempel

    How many times did we have to explain
    to someone just meeting us, yet again

    answering which kind of twins we were;
    how many times did we need to make clear

    that we were fraternal, saying that word,
    stressing the second syllable hard,

    making sure they knew we’d come
    from separate eggs, repeating that term

    we knew by heart, caring only it meant
    no matter our dresses, our bangs, we were different

    as any two sisters; how often did we
    roll our eyes alike and sigh

    in almost-matched voices, loudly pronounce
    ourselves two at once.

    Copyright © 2016 by Elise Hempel.

    The Costumer
    By Elise Hempel

    One Halloween, I decided to be King Arthur
    in tin-foil crown, waving a wooden sword
    while witches cackled and fairy-princesses glittered
    through the neighborhood. Then came the year
    I must have been obsessed with crows. My mother
    didn’t squawk but sat down at her machine and whirred
    a smooth black hood with eye-holes for my bird-
    vision, a black cape she made ragged with pinking shears.

    One daughter she’d imagined, dancing out
    the door, a ballerina, and one she could
    never have guessed, flapping down the street
    and cawing at each front step, trudging back
    home with a torn cape and blackened mood,
    holding a rain-limp construction-paper beak.

    Copyright © 2016 by Elise Hempel.

    The Twins
    By Elise Hempel

    For seven years we lived inside one name
    for the sake of brevity, our differences
    kept wrapped within a package that was us,
    we posed alike for pictures, wore the same
    straight bangs and pleated skirts, our presents came
    like twins themselves — two matching cats, two necklaces      
    with matching hearts; we wished with mingled breaths
    across the single cake, our souls a sum.

    And even now, as both of us turn fifty,
    the string long cut away, our two lives split
    by six hundred miles; even now, though every birthday
    the cards are addressed to me, I’m still trying to separate
    myself from that name, still blowing hard to see
    some proof of my breath as the candles all go out.

    Copyright © 2016 by Elise Hempel.

    By Elise Hempel

    When my smaller, unexpected cry arrived
    five minutes after yours, they had to give
    me half the name they’d meant for you alone,
    breaking it quickly like bread. In the random
    split you came away as Ann, the straight
    line of a single syllable, firm and definite,
    leaving me Elise, the tentative iamb
    forever pausing, fading, starting again.

    Just think if it had been the other way
    around, if by a moment’s chance they’d doled
    your half to me, and mine to you that day
    now fifty years ago, think how I
    would have found a certain path, some place to end,
    and you’d be here still circling, pen in hand.

    Copyright © 2016 by Elise Hempel.

    The Echo
    By Elise Hempel

    The second cry, six ounces too small, I stayed
    behind in the hospital while you went home
    to start your life, there in your crib, mine empty
    next to you in the cramped two-flat on Keystone.
    Two weeks I slept in my glass womb and gazed
    out at what I can’t remember of clean
    white walls and passing nurses, waiting to be
    ready for the world, complete. Ann,

    why don’t you ever ask me for advice?
    Why is it me always calling you?
    For the answer to some small problem, a decision I’ve
    almost made, but never quite trusting my voice?
    Forever needing yours to lead me to
    the right place, where you’ve always already arrived.

    Copyright © 2016 by Elise Hempel.

    By James B. Nicola

    If rolling up a boulder, let us ride
    down, then, as on a roller coaster. And
    why can’t we be a gardener instead
    of a stone mason? Wouldn’t that be grand —

    albeit equally repetitive,
    but bearing fruits, vegetables and flowers?
    That, after all, is how all of us live,
    passing the years, months, weeks, days, morning hours,

    with things and children? So. And we live some-
    thing like a life too, Sisyphus and I,
    though his an afterlife, as mine to come
    when as this parade’s passed over, by and by.

    The single, meanwhile, teach; the tone-deaf, sigh
    and march along, with tambourine and drum!

    Copyright © 2016 by James B. Nicola.

    By James B. Nicola

    Night changes everything, even becoming
    itself. Squeaks turn into an elfin race
    until they are sucked back into the case
    of an ancient refrigerator, humming.
    The stirrings of nocturnal transformations
    make Martians’ fingers, they reach down for me
    till I blink and descry an untrimmed tree.
    Then, from a light breeze’s rising gyrations,
    a cyclone is about to raze the house.
    So many dead souls come, the back room swells
    with bustle: a hinge creaks, an arrant mouse
    squeals. But forget the squeal and creak. O, Writer.
    Think of L. Frank Baum and H. G Wells.
    Full moon tonight. Imagine — an all-nighter.

    Copyright © 2016 by James B. Nicola.

    By Richard Aston

    When down to four white walls and a TV,
    I’ll make peace with a neighbor close to me.
    Look at, study, and describe the things nearby,
    peer out at them, then look within. ‘Though I
    remember what my wise old man once said:
    dying’s a bigger problem than being dead
    and going broke worse much than being there.
    Then I’d think about what I have to share,
    the products of my able hands and mind
    potentially as symbols of the divine.

    It’s the case that focused people who work
    starting at sunrise and going to dark
    can give your burdened body a surprise,
    a reflection of you, perhaps, in another’s eyes.

    Copyright © 2016 by Richard Aston.

    By Orla Fay

    It’s hard to believe the man is the boy,
    the graceful ten-year-old who liked to read,
    freckle-faced, green jumper and brown corduroy
    trousers, strawberry blonde hair mopping his head.
    It’s hard to see him walking the streets now,
    where has he been and where is he going?
    He could pass for obese, sweat on his brow
    sauntering down Canon Row, wandering.
    I think he had it tough when he was young,
    same old story, dad drank, alcoholic
    but whatever went on remained unsung,
    the child shares a Love Heart, gesture symbolic.
    Yes compassion should refill his cracked soul
    that fell to the floor, never since made whole.

    Copyright © 2016 by Orla Fay.

    By Orla Fay

          (After The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka)

    The New Year roses weep to seas so strange
    unfolded on the cold and salted waves
    trailing their drifting heads to the water,
    where fish come to nibble at current’s change,
    here many Ophelias find their graves.
    At noon the clouds hover, grimly pewter.
    The memory of past greenery dulls,
    another land, its soil and sand somewhere
    apart, but then the kindled desire, stoked
    by crying wind, by the lamenting gulls
    as cities burned in the withering fire
    and to ever go home is hell revoked.
    The exile’s tale is that of the breeze blown
    across the mountain where new seeds are sown.

    Copyright © 2016 by Orla Fay.

    By Michael Todd Steffen

         —depicted on an ancient Roman floor mosaic

    Light creatures stir. Within its nest a wren
    Unfolds. The peacock crouches in alarm.
    Even the trees and rocks are woken when
    His voice engages with the lyre’s thrum.
    Cheetah and tiger snarl to watch him sing
    Then with the bovine lie as in a trance.
    The poet is inspired, his eyes on something
    There, yet not there. It leads him in the dance
    Bringing his leg up, swinging wide his hand
    With fingers softly curled about the oblong
    Plectrum. Below, the serpent in the sand
    Buries its head, its length swayed to the song
    That’s captivated everything around.
    A tender plant crawls from the stony ground.

    Copyright © 2016 by Michael Todd Steffen.

    By Michael Todd Steffen

               . . . E blanc, I rouge . . . O bleue . . .
                                                    — Rimbaud

    Barns, snow, evening sky
    Filling with stars. Strawberries, piano fores,
    The glittering scales of little plump fish

    Twitching on our lines in the shallow lake.
    Stop sign, blind of eye, new Levis.
    Clay, fuzzy dandelions (in things

    Even this tenuous with their least
    Grip in the bend of ideas), grass of Kentucky.
    Wing of blackbird, cascade, full full moon.

    Copyright © 2016 by Michael Todd Steffen.

    By Joseph Dorazio

              for David & Suzanne

    What verdant hands plucked this gourd
         To furbish in froth and verdigris?
    The buds are ready to spring forth,
         Ah, contented daffodils that repose
    In faience — bliss! A vessel such as this
         Let no cucumber dare reproach
    Nor gardener contest; ’twas the potter’s wheel
         That spun this textured rind, this
    Kaolin dream, and gave rise to imitations
         Of nature’s art and William Grueby’s green.

    Copyright © 2016 by Joseph Dorazio.

    By Marcia Karp

                   Hurrah! Hurrah! Spring is here
                        Spring is here today
                   Hurrah! Hurrah! Let’s all clap hands
                        Spring is here to stay

              The privet early-leafed in sparrow
    The buoyancy of bees fresh out of spring’s corral
    The monarch will to equal gravity
    The blop in thrall to now upon
              The woman ready for the newly-gathered man

              He does not make his call, or sting, this week
              While life spreads wide its favors

    Copyright © 2016 by Marcia Karp.

    By Marcia Karp

    The way you have it,
    you’ve hobbled the rabbits,
    unshod the horses,
    pounded to pulp all wood,
    and steadied first stars.

    Ah if, dear friend, it really is luck
    that you command, we wish you might come with us,
    on hands, on knees, when it is summer again,
    into the lawn of impossible clover.

    Copyright © 2016 by Marcia Karp.

    By Dinah Smith

    Time, that old rag-and-bone man,
    Makes a cruel couturier,
    Compelling me to wear
    This wrinkled garment that you see.
    It isn’t me, my dear.

    Imagine, I could, like a snake,
    Divest it, as a slough of skin.
    Refashioned, I would reappear,
    All satin smooth and nude and new,
    Just for you, my dear.

    Copyright © 2016 by Dinah Smith.

    By Lee Nash

    Do not disturb the sleeping bees that swell
    a trunk the shape of an arthritic joint,
    cling like poison ivy to malignant
    bark. Hold your breath as honey-devils tell
    their nightmares not to take them into hell,
    past the colonnades of dark trees — they might
    wake. Fly up into a gust at a slight
    involuntary gesture. Be careful.

    Do not disturb the bees in me, soft mound
    of fragile wings, furled and breathing softly.
    Remember the hysterics, how they harm,
    the rising of the angry stings, the sound
    of bitter crying on the lawn — mostly
    tears of anger. The storm before the calm.

    Copyright © 2016 by Lee Nash.

    By Lee Nash

    To explain the Fibonacci series
    could take my love forever and a day —
    pure mathematics is not my forté.
    So I sit down among the white daisies
    while he brings a snail from the mixed border,
    its muculent frame on my outstretched hand,
    a tiny pinecone from the golden sand.
    He takes me to a field of sunflowers
    and leads me to a staircase winding down,
    finds a ripe pineapple to refresh us
    and breaks a piece of aloe for its juice.
    The shell pressed fast against my ear, a crown
    of wisdom gently unravels its thread
    as spiral galaxies wheel overhead.

    Copyright © 2016 by Lee Nash.

    By Heather Dubrow

    Flaunts its neon green necklace,
    as flashy as the hawkers whose corner it haunts.
    Its grey? The shade of slush, not of dusk.
    And strident stripings of rust intrude
    on whites that should be sent to the laundry.
    It sounds like a fire truck with a bad cold.
    As for its shambling, you would be crazy
    to trust it with the car keys without smelling its breath.

    Admire these pigeons? Give me a break.
    But pause just a second. Cool it when it coos.
    Is this the music of rundown cities,
    cracked violins played by those puddles and car fumes?
    Or might our orchestras of pigeons proffer
    song assuring and unassuming as comfort food?

    Copyright © 2016 by Heather Dubrow.

    By Jeff Holt

         (Year One with Twins)

    Stuck in a kitchen sink of obligations,
    he’s washing fast, but she keeps dropping more.
    The pacifiers, bottle parts, frustrations:
    the mounting bills, the wrist that’s always sore.

    The day’s routines: the babies must be fed,
    and washed, watched over, played with endlessly.
    He feels like yelling, but he smiles instead.
    He mustn’t scare the girls or let her see.

    She told him that she puts the babies first
    because somebody must. Who’s she become?
    She used to beam, and kiss him with a thirst.
    These days, her voice is sharp, her body numb.

    And what of him? He stabs himself with blame
    then sneaks away to bed to hide in shame.

    Copyright © 2016 by Jeff Holt.

    By Lee Evans

    A carpenter ant
    Clings to a green tennis ball
    In the foaming surf.

    Stirring through the hairs
    Of my chest, a big spider
    Bivouacs in my shirt.

    Did she call the cops
    When she saw me on the beach?
    The unknown neighbor.

    Sand castles crumbling,
    I crawled inside a seashell
    And shed humankind.

    Copyright © 2016 by Lee Evans.

    By Lee Evans

    The wintry desert of the howling beach
    Expanded all before me as I strode
    Towards the sleepless, shining, churning sea.
    My destination was a driftwood stump,
    The lower trunk and upper base exposed.
    The wind was at my back so I pressed on,
    Passing the small islands where the surf
    Exploded into geyser shafts of foam;
    At last I peered through the bleached latticework
    Of roots toward a lighthouse far away.
    But when I turned the pain was too intense,
    The way back was much farther than I thought.
    My footprints disappeared, swept with the tide
    That follows me no matter where I walk.

    Copyright © 2016 by Lee Evans.

    By Katherine E. Schneider

    Gloaming: when the trees are black, when
    the horizon glows purple, emerald, blue,
    I imagine that you are beckoning at the edge
    of the forest — a whisper I want to believe.

    I take it home with me, lay my head to pillow —
    more likely you will appear in dreams;
    leaving your dorm room and locking the door,
    or waving from a crawl space high up on the wall.

    I felt a resonant presence, a late warmth
    that hovered, a teasing comfort after you had died.
    It lingered — for years, for longer than I knew you —
    in a young man’s soft voice and brush of auburn hair.

    If nowhere else, I can still glimpse you there.

    Copyright © 2016 by Katherine E. Schneider.

    By Jac Shortland

    Membraiuntus is an ancient myth
    based on a strange phenomenon with trees.
    A tree responds when children climb and mingle
    limbs absorbing sap and energies
    and aromatic gels; exultant moods
    exuding oily suppleness with ease.
    So if, as children we spend time in woods,
    we’ll be less likely to get joint disease.

    Hence the cockney rhyme “elbows and knees.”
    You doubt me now. You’re right, I think you’ll find
    there is no Membraiuntus, no beliefs.
    A lie? Yes, all of it! The myth is mine.
    But let my trickery not mask my plea.
    We need to let our children climb a tree.

    Copyright © 2016 by Jac Shortland.