The Poetry Porch presents

the sonnet scroll i

Copyright © 1998, 1999 by Joyce Wilson

    The First Line Is the Hardest
    by Esther Cameron

    What’s new? I work a day-job, and compose
    a sonnet every weekday. It is not
    that difficult. There is a kind of spot
    your have to let the mind find, a pause
    where the gravities can come to equipoise,
    a wide white silence, a minute black dot
    which any number of elephants of thought
    can balance on. From there on in it flows,

    or at least the problem has been framed:
    mind’s journeymen then make the pieces fit.
    And what’s the good of all that? you may say.
    Call it something like a balance-sheet
    for soul’s accounts. A pastime for the condemned.
    It keeps the little men in white away.

    Copyright © 1999 by Esther Cameron

    by John Hildebidle

            (6 a.m.)

    Dawn, I’m not surprised to learn, doesn’t "crack." It seeps,
    the light almost audibly but gently rising, the birds
    half-berserk with the surprise of re-awaking:
    they must be utter Calvinists. Traffic hiss,
    this early, is nearly musical and keeps
    the cats entertained at several windows. Herds—
    is that the term for it?—of squirrels, scavenging
    the day's first groundstuff, dash about. None miss
    the grim winter days, or even the dark, sleepy hours
    just past. "A learning experience," as we used to call
    every unpleasantness, with a certain sneer—
    but that’s what this new early rising is, the sheer
    unexplainedness adding richly to the puzzle,
    and the fragile air just easing past the flowers.

    Copyright © 1999 by John Hildebidle

    Johnny Mudge
    by John Hildebidle

    He could make things work I didn’t even
    know had names. When winter moonlight made city
    roofs shiver, he’d be at the Sunoco, 
    sure, waiting, like some angel-messenger.

    One night my sister said she’d fallen for him.
    Silence owned the dinner table. She’d been 
    the one who planned on teaching. This was 
    her Elvis moment. But when blond, high-cheeked Alan

    strolled by, it was, "Goodnight, Johnny."
    —until she was sitting on the sofa, waiting
    for her prom date (after ten. Even I’d
    figured out the truth) and who was it who rang
    the doorbell? At the curb, somebody’s Chevy, 
    tuned to perfection, red as promises.

    Copyright © 1999 by John Hildebidle

    Roof Leak, Mima Calls 
    by Kathleen Kirk 

    All across the city the tyrant ice
    pries up the tar and flashing, disturbs the peace
    of shingles, their social order. It’s not the freeze
    but the thaw that ruins us, the sudden spies
    wiring the closet walls with new secrets,
    the trickle-down effect in our kitchens,
    cups and buckets competing for attention,
    disintegration: sheetrock into dust.

    The phone rings, your mother with the news.
    The ceiling shifts, sure it wants to open.
    Nothing falls,                  not even the sky.
    Your voice is like a level, its yellow tube
    tipping the bubble of air toward hope
    and back. Cancer—just another tyrant.

    Copyright © 1999 by Kathleen Kirk.

    Miami Sonnet 1
    by Kathleen Kirk 

    We sleep on her bed, and on the last night
    we sleep on the floor where she was found,
    her face pressed into the rough gray carpet
    so long it left a bruise under the powder.
    We forgot about the ants. Your brother took
    the bed with the piano. We laid us down
    on the same comforter she left heaped beside
    the dresser with two open drawers that said
    she wanted something.               It’s gone, too,
    in the U-Haul. We have this: walls, roof.
    That lipsticked look.
                                                            Are you
    asleep? When I close my eyes I see her
    eyebrows, carefully pencilled and severe.

    Copyright © 1999 by Kathleen Kirk.

    Miami Sonnet 2
    by Kathleen Kirk 

    The last letter I wrote her lies unopened
    on the table. The paper is Neptune Blue.
    Four pages and photos of the kids. You
    buy four mangoes from the truck, ripened
    for today, tomorrow, the next, and the next day.
    He knows his fruit. He came four years ago,
    Havana is dust, he tells you what you know.
    Time’s up, we have to give the fruit away.

    What’s left to say or do? Nothing. We’re numb.
    We’ll fly home: you’ll paint, I’ll write a poem.
    What colors will you give death’s too-ripe face?
    Too many to choose, to list. What awful grace
    will visit us at night, in separate rooms?
    We’ll welcome whatever it brings, when it comes.

    Copyright © 1999 by Kathleen Kirk.

    by Anthony Lombardy 

    We gather shells at dawn along the beach.
    Keeping the perfect ones, the others we cull,
    Critical of the condition and color of each,
    Till our backs ache and our hands are overfull,
    And then throw some away to gather more,
    But how we choose between them, who can say?
    Some dry and do not glisten as before.
    Then we get tired and throw them all away.

    Out of the sand, a crab’s claw pinches air,
    Then pulls as quickly backward, out of sight,
    As a breeze comes off the water and we shudder.
    Throwing them all back in the waves seemed right.
    It proves so silly to think, or, then, to care
    That one could be more lovely than another.

    Copyright © 1999 by Anthony Lombardy.

    by Anthony Lombardy 

    When he was two, my son would say goodbye
    To sentient things: his friends, his dog, grandma,
    and, then, in glee, to whatever it was he saw:
    he’d wave to rocks, to fence posts, to the sky.
    Those recognitions are the reasons we
    have reared our children with a little awe
    at their sublime indifference to the law
    that links all things by similarity.

    Years later, as the boy’s grandmother dies,
    I want, myself, to say something to those
    mute forms unshuttering their unlit eyes,
    to tell those trees and the dented car to close
    their cryptic mouths, hold their accustomed pose,
    let me keep disbelieving their goodbyes.

    Copyright © 1999 by Anthony Lombardy.

    For All You Know 
    by Anthony Lombardy 

    Beg someone to believe you always lie.
    He won’t believe, and may well start to love
    You for your candor and for all you know.
    If we advise him to seek the shadows of
    Another sadness, he will not want to go.
    For even lies, well told, can satisfy.
    From incompatible premises we pry
    Desired conclusions, and the longings overflow.

    And yet we know that we are lying now.
    We’re flattered that he’s so quick to disbelieve
    That all our wisdom is in knowing how
    To let self-referential truths deceive,
    We’re touched that what is darkness, paradox,
    He thinks he sees, and he alone unlocks.

    Copyright © 1999 by Anthony Lombardy.

    by César Vallejo
    Translated from the Spanish by Rebecca Seiferle

             Rumor of crepe, lyricism of winter,
    when already the hurried departure draws near;
    ominous voices of sad songs
    that late in the day, pray a farewell.

             Vision of the burial of my illusions
    in the very tomb of mortal hurt.
    Veronica-like* charity from unknown regions
    where, for the price of ether, life is lost.

             Near dawn, I will break away, crying;
    and while my years go on curving,
    my swift course will curve scythes.

             And before the cold holy oils of the dying moon,
    in the indolent earth with steel tones,
    the dogs will dig up, howling, a good-bye!

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle
    * Veronica was the woman who wiped Christ’s face with her handkerchief 
    as he carried the cross.

    by César Vallejo
    Translated from the Spanish by Rebecca Seiferle

             Absent! The morning when I go away
    farther than faraway, to the Mystery,
    as if following an inevitable ray, 
    your feet will slide into the cemetery.

             Absent! The morning when I go away
    like a lugubrious bird to the shore 
    of the dark sea and that silent empire, 
    the white family tomb, will be your captivity.

             It will act as night in your glances;
    and you’ll suffer and then you’ll possess
    the penitent, lacerated, whitenesses. 

             Absent! And in your own sufferings, 
    will cross, between a cry of bronzes, 
    a dog pack of remorse!

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle 
    * See "Ausente" in "Original Versions."

    Under the Poplars
    by César Vallejo
    Translated from the Spanish by Rebecca Seiferle

    —for Jose Garrido*

             Like priestly imprisoned poets, 
    the poplars of blood have gone to sleep. 
    At sunset, on the hills, the flocks 
    of Bethlehem chew arias of grass. 

             The ancient shepherd who shivers 
    at the last martyrdoms of light, 
    in his easter eyes has caught 
    a purebred flock of stars. 

             Formed in orphanhood, he descends now,
    at rumors of burial, to the praying field; 
    and the sheep bells are seasoned with shadow. 

             It survives, the blue welded 
    of iron, and on it, pupils shrouded,
    a dog draws its pastoral howl.

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle
    * José Eulogio Garrido, a writer and a friend of Vallejo’s; one of the "bohemians"
    of Trujillo. He founded the magazine Iris in 1914.

    from The Gallimaufry
    by Chris Wallace-Crabbe


    The curious thing is, well-tempered friends,
    That I’m utterly obsessed by darkness,
    Would rather be out there in ravishing moonlight
    Just mooning up at the brittle stars,
    Than share your comfy reservoir of light.
    Give me the dense, lapping ebony
    All over my bony head and shoulders
    Like a soft, cold wrap: some narcotic liquid.

    It is then, dear old mates, that I stir to life:
    Slowcoach, like a quaintly disturbed amphibian
    Revelling in the sea’s far-off drumroll,
    Late traffic tipsily grumbling along,
    Intuitions of undulating air
    And the swarthy, companionable map of sky.

    Copyright © 1999 by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

    from The Gallimaufry
    by Chris Wallace-Crabbe


    Captive to the genre created by
    Successive diaries, I strive and shove
    To make my prose do different pas-de-deux
    Come up with shiny slights-of-hand, maybe.

    Flicking open my stiff, lined pages now
    I feel compelled to stuff these plodding days
    With weather, chat from a zany wordsmith,
    Lorikeet, concerto, Cootamundra

    Wattle-blossom always golden early,
    Freesias, pleonasm, quick oxymoron
    And scores from a Test at the Gabba.

    Had I been Pascal or Father Freud,
    This would have been full of zigzag wonders,
    A trapdoor giving onto dark, swirling gods.

    Copyright © 1999 by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

    from The Gallimaufry
    by Chris Wallace-Crabbe


    Father Freud? No. I should have said old brother,
    That sixth of May we share across the seasons.
    Across the centuries, I might have said,
    And the weirdly wanton murder of your sisters
    By those who owned shares in modernity
    And had sheer power—had inherited the hooked
    Madness of some Aryan fantasy.
    Never again, doctor, never again!

    The curious thing is, that you surround us all
    Like Shakespeare, who filled your middle ground,
    And you misunderstood him most profoundly,
    Configuring the trace of Hamlet grandly
    As a Viennese hysteric fumbling around,
    Fearing that patricide was general.

    Copyright © 1999 by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

    from The Gallimaufry
    by Chris Wallace-Crabbe


    Or again, it is gusty
    Pollen-ridden spring
    When a message arrives

    And the envelope makes it plain
    That the letter you pick up
    Crinkling has come from Them.

    It is blank, of course,
    A folded sheet of paper
    With not a single mark.

    And you feel kind of important
    Because you have been noticed.
    At least they sent you a letter.

    You could make a paper hat:
    Empires are much like that.

    Copyright © 1999 by Chris Wallace-Crabbe

    The Elevator
    by Ellen Davis

    I dreamed that I was living in a German city:
    Glittering surfaces, everything new, complete.
    Its citizens—well heeled, exuberant, witty—
    Had nothing to hide, no past from which to retreat.
    Each day I’d rise, dress for work, ride the sleek train,
    Inhale clear air, chat and smoke, meet friends at five.
    We dance at neon discos, filled with disdain
    For anyone not currently alive
    And thriving in this cold, gleaming place.
    The next day in the dream, from a penthouse high-rise
    We fill the elevator. We fall. Through space,
    We fall. An unseen hand screams its goodbyes,
    Laughing. Just as we are about to die,
    It throws back the switch. My Germany’s a lie.

    Copyright © 1999 by Ellen Davis

    After "After Mayakovsky" by Denis Johnson
    by Ellen Davis

    Another night out with the universe.
    —And the stars—asleep in their paths—
    ring down their white tune. The moon
    is parked in her space. November. Air
    clear as chemicals. I watch the night
    my watch clicking seconds into tombs.
    You have gone. What else is there to say?
    The hour’s past when we can turn toward home,
    the world a shadow in our shadow’s place.
    Each move’s a station. My President sublime,
    no accident has taken you from me.
    You chose to go. You listen in your room
    its walls no barrier to sounds like this.
    Now hear what follows: my disappearing face.

    Copyright © 1999 by Ellen Davis

    In the Twentieth Century
    by Ellen Davis

    Try to go anywhere Saturdays in Brookline.
    From the corner mailbox, to the broken
    Parking meter, to the B. & D. deli, you’ll find
    Zealots—the faithful, earnest ones marching
    Placards in hand, chanting about how to live
    That born-again look in their eyes. At first
    It was just the rescuers you’d contrive
    To face down on Beacon Street; now, leftists rehearse
    Their own: "Anti-Woman, Anti-Gay—
    You Neo-Fascists, Go Away!" Seek peace
    In the noise of quick enemies; drop the Stones’ "Sway"
    Into your headset. But, later, break
    Down on the highway, you want to comprehend:
    Hot air balloons with their human cargo descend.

    Copyright © 1999 by Ellen Davis

    Your Oh So Traditional Childlike Face
    by Helen Degen Cohen

    Yes of course, and you are one whose face
    runs like a slow and often surprising
    narrative, like a child's, whose hungry eyes
    suddenly lift, caught on a zag of lightning,
    then follow a long curved line of laundry
    to the feet of a finch, or a questioning crow,
    then plunge smiling to instruct the as yet
    unmoved mouth—but where can this go,
    trying to sketch the makings of a plot
    behind the jellybean language of your face?
    Child of a weaverbird, hold to your mysteries,
    do what you are told and you turn into us.
    Keep your face agile. Let your shadow sister
    attend to our maladies, our fidget and fuss.

    Copyright © 1999 by Helen Degen Cohen

    Silent Love Unfolds
    by Miles Coon

    In knots I tied inside of me reside
    different silences, my edgeless places
    sometimes pink and thrumming the throaty bases
    of my longest strings. Is it here love hides?
    Or does the filling of this page provide
    its sole expression? Poems are traces,
    pocket-passions creased in secret spaces.
    Tongue-cleft I vibrate dumbstruck by her side.
    This fence of doubt, this wall of should I bricks
    imprisons me. Sentenced, these bars I hold
    within grow harder like tumescent sticks,
    tree trunks so full of shadow. I am old.
    I hear the chariot. I must be quick.
    I take her hand in mine as I unfold.

    Copyright © 1999 by Miles Coon

    A Broken Crown of Sonnets
                  for My Father’s Forehead
    by Rebecca Seiferle

           When your father’s ghost wants to embrace
    your infant son, one last time, to bear him
    in insubstantial arms, you may acquiesce
    and loan the feeling and reach of your limbs
    to his aery self, consent as his essence
    flows into your flesh, or is it a dream
    you dream in his chair, the baby coeval
    with your father’s sadness? He won’t wish
    to let him go, will begin to home with
    ghostly fingers at a spot above your heart.
    He’ll try to draw you out of your own
    fatherly life, like a string on a spool,
    a nucleic thread being wound back, all
    the way back to the loom of the fathers.

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle

           On the loom of the fathers, perhaps, the smell
    of ink made me love the words: my father—
    Arthur, Author, on his linotype—all
    I knew then, the plaid dresses my mother 
    sewed, the toy pistols, the paired dolls,
    always dark for me, blond for my sister,
    the new black and white saddle shoes, the small
    charred patties of hamburger began
    in that pungency. As I watched, line
    after line poured from the crucible
    of the machine, on fire like the Milky Way.
    But when my father rolled up his sleeves,
    I saw the cost, burnt in his skin, a galaxy
    of wounds that never formed into words.

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle

           Word—that avalanche season at Camp Hale
    that the ski troops would soon be sent to war—
    made my father immerse his feet in a pail
    of dry ice. He spent the rest of the war
    stumbling . . . the rest of his life, at the nail
    of his one remaining toe, pruning scar
    tissue. As the socket like an eye would fill
    with blood, not tears, I never knew if it
    was a way of feeling again a sense
    of extremity or just practicing numbness.
    They say that the nails of the dead go on
    growing. I pitied my father’s feet, so
    it hurts to think of them—only now, in
    a coffin—unworried, resplendent.

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle

           Resplendent with this week’s lesson,
    the self drowning in the lukewarm water
    splashed on a baby’s forehead, the deacon
    wonders at Christ’s struggle, that figure
    on the western wall, as if those hands were
    mere illustrations of an idea nailed.
    He means the final harrowing, the fear
    of coming to an end, not the passion
    to become, not the fury of the newborn
    crying himself awake, his limbs flailing
    as he spits up the curds of the undigested
    milk and honey. Birth? Death? What is
    the difference? The baby is fighting his
    way into the body; we agonize the way out.

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle

           Out of world and words, the chant of the monks
    seems wordless, one syllable of endless
    thread. Since his birth, my son’s heard those voices,
    male, emerging, low-pitched from their bowels
    and from the earth, the way his father sings
    along, knitting him to sleep, the sound of bees
    humming in a lion’s skull, making a sweetness
    out of death. That sound is the vein that weaves
    within the womb or unknits a dying ear.
    It takes forty-nine days to be reborn,
    death’s unraveling as embryonic
    as the process of birth. And as we pray,
    our only accompaniment, our only
    instruments are made of human bone.

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle

           Bone clicking beneath the skin, we paused
    a moment when our skulls met in a soft
    rap, warm, unwrinkled. When my father taught
    me, as a baby, to butt heads, our foreheads
    tapped together, our eyes sprang open or shut.
    One day as he slept on the couch, I ambushed
    him, sent crashing all my toddling weight
    into his dreaming head. Infuriated,
    he never again played, though we kept
    cracking heads for years in other, coldly
    determined, ways. Now that his forehead’s
    a chilled dome, I learn the lesson he meant
    to teach, tapping our skulls together gently,
    kid goats playing in the kingdom of death.

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle

           Not in the kingdom of death, in the jar
    of my childhood, a male seahorse floated
    like debris. Solo, thickening, in a tear
    of Morton salt and tap water, he snorkeled
    up pink clouds of shrimp, and from his labor,
    four children translucent as thought, swarmed
    round his head, fins like wings whirring in a bare
    and gelid world. Who was I to fathom such
    a creature, create an ocean in a jar?
    When I lifted the glass to look closely,
    the tide of my touch sent him crashing. He
    could only drift in the directionless ache,
    as his young vanished, one by one, his pouch
    filled with only the current itself.

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle

           The current itself, his whistling charmed
    my mother in the park, an ancient ballad
    bearing her away, a melody that called
    me into being. Nine months later, propelled
    into the light, I nursed to that warbled
    sole mio of lip and tongue. But later
    in the airless years, our mother would hush
    us before he came home. His lungs wheezing
    like a broken accordion, he would refuse
    to waste his breath on beauty. No wonder
    I was surprised this morning, bird song
    in the blue ash, wet with wonderful rain,
    to hear—so many days dead—my father again—
    O Dad, O Arthur—whistling, strolling away.

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle

           Away, the baby seems to slip away,
    as I ease him into the bath, his limbs
    rising to the surface drift uselessly,
    until he seems to remember the dim
    paddling, his legs all frog. Just days
    out, what does he remember of the womb?
    His limbs drum the waters, as if some joy
    knit his fetal dark and he could swim home
    in what drowns, still breathe the holy
    waters. As he’s lapped by these lukewarm
    waves, an earlier faith shines in his eyes.
    When bald with age, he lets go of this world,
    will it be like this moment—floating free,
    buoyed by a memory of deeper depths?

    Copyright © 1999 by Rebecca Seiferle

    The Letter
    by Matthew Sweeney

    Before he went to feed with owls and bats*
    he wrote a letter to his grandmother,
    asking who could stand this new stepfather
    whose first act had been to kill the pets
    he’d kept inside—the half-blind vole
    that lived in his schoolbag, the white moth
    he’d replaced once a week, the sloth
    his poor Dad had brought him from Brazil,
    the green Indian parrot that couldn’t speak,
    the hedgehog he’d saved, the scorpion
    he’d smuggled from Morocco on the plane—
    all dead, except the banded rattlesnake
    he told his gran was hidden in the shed
    waiting to be slipped into that bed.

    Copyright © 1999 by Matthew Sweeney
    *This first line is a Keats first line!

    Sonnet After a Line by Sue Standing 
    by Martha Collins

    Just once, I’d like to sleep the sleep of the self- 
    satisfied, she said, but we who knew 
    her knew she’d rather balance on the shelf 
    of sleep, awakened, as we are, by new 
    doubts each day, then driven through the day 
    by doubts of doubts. Although she had a point: 
    just once to wake and say, We won! To say, 
    How much they love me! knowing whom we meant, 
    knowing they were not just we disguised 
    by that self-satisfying mind machine 
    that gives us back ourselves, reformed, revised, 
    in each day’s least encounter, each night’s scene. 
    Yet lacking that, better to pay night’s dues 
    and wake at dawn and make each morning news.

    Copyright © 1998 by Martha Collins

    For William Stafford 
    by Susan Donnelly 

    You made it seem so easy. Raising one arm, 
    you pushed off with your feet into the tide. 
    Stroked in rhythm: four beats underwater, 
    then your shoulder, bead-draped, 
    forming an air-cave for your sucking mouth. 
    Half of you pull and muscle, the other half lazy, 
    fluttering kicks as though you hardly noticed. 
    You did this daily. Swimming across a bay 
    whose furthest shore was always someplace new. 
    From a public beach, with no great fanfare to it, 
    where anyone could watch, or join, or race you. 
    You won—or we won. In any case, 
    you took your time returning. On your back, 
    watching the diamonds scatter from your hands.

    Copyright © 1998 by Susan Donnelly 

    At a Dressing Room Mirror 
    by Susan Donnelly

    Here is a triple helping of despair. 
    Lit by fluorescent scrutiny I stand, 
    fish-pale and flabby, bulging everywhere, 
    haunted by all the exercise I’d planned. 
    Gods come in threes and wishes, too, I’ve learned. 
    But neither prayer nor magic helps me here 
    before this triplet conscience that I’ve earned 
    by loving chocolate and by drinking beer. 
    The wonder is how stores sell clothes at all 
    that must be tested in a light so bleak, 
    how women keep from running down the hall 
    to fling the rags back with defiant shriek. 
    But no, we meekly choose the likeliest cover, 
    grateful it’s only mirror and not lover.

    Copyright © 1998 by Susan Donnelly

    Report on the Cottage
    by Susan Donnelly

                —to the landlord

    I know you’ve worked on it, but nothing’s changed. 
    The terrace flagstones wait to twist an ankle; 
    one door can’t open since it’s lost a screen; 
    the stoopy bathroom with its spider rankles. 
    I fill the green jar with the usual wildflowers 
    and wonder why you don’t have cereal bowls. 
    We talk, my friends and I, nonstop for hours. 
    At midnight, stars light up the long dirt road. 
    Not much hot water. Is it five years, 
    six, I’ve rented here? Such tremulous reasons 
    then—all braced on loss and worry. 
    I’ve changed. And they. We talk of fears 
    and joys we hid in younger seasons, 
    as cedar waxwings tug at the red berries. 

    Copyright © 1998 by Susan Donnelly 

    The Optics of Speech 
    by Deborah Melone

    Intensity of light is luminance
    Chrominance, color information. 
    The way you speak, skin glowing, pupils bright, 
    adds candlepower to every conversation. 
    When the flush rises in your face, 
    your eyes onyx with something beyond sight, 
    I too am caught in the moment’s dominance.

    Everything matters so much. You leave no place 
    for slack attention, the half-meant word. 
    Your voice rushes on, each urgent phrase 
    tumbling over the last. Stirred, 
    you press forward, telling me—your glance 
    as you turn toward me, eager to be heard, 
    all luminance, all chrominance.

    Copyright © 1998 by Deborah Melone 

    The Lawn
    by Annie Finch

    To ease the land into flatness plotted clean, 
    we stroke grass into piles with the rake, 
    moving earth’s face into one docile green 
    blush on a field, for an unwatched seer’s sake. 
    This harrowing packs a paradise to loam 
    that we’ll never fall on till our bodies try 
    to root, finally, in cool walls of home 
    polished with silence. So why keep raking? Why 
    harvest a grain whose loss is to remain? 
    Why take the leaves and leave the crop unkept? 
    Why trudge for not one piece of corn or gain? 
    Is it that we won’t reap until we’ve swept 
    all our harvest away, and stand to see 
    the terror of an earth whose hands are empty?

    Copyright © 1998 by Annie Finch

    Wild Yeasts
    by Annie Finch

    Among the bubbles breaking in the kneaded bread, 
    soft-breathed yeasts get trapped by what they bore—
    this heavily-fleshed element—instead 
    of following their air-borne seeking core. 
    Clutching the peaked foam, trying to seed the light 
    stretched sinews, they fall with gasps under the arch 
    the stiffening dough concludes. They sing with tight 
    linked whistling stops of hot dark from the starch 
    till they quiet in the end, in a vaulting loaf. 
    Nurture still murmurs, a steady longing sound 
    that mimics the bright thin roar their freedom’s trace 
    followed and sank with under the heavy roof. 
    Their chambered voice is resonating, bound 
    in the raw domes of an uncathedraled space.

    Copyright © 1998 by Annie Finch

    To the Faxon House, Razed 
    by Harriet Malnate Bonish

    Pummeled, pounded, and balled out of shape 
    Twisted, tormented, and tortured to dust—
    O worthiest house of noble estate, 
    You are buried, and deeply, for bury they must.

    Bleeding from gables the Architect sketched 
    With a venerate pen in a statelier time, 
    Your contours of breeding are gasping for breath 
    As spoils of the battle with planners’ designs.

    You were lavender window, colonial brick, 
    Federal shingle, all pillars and posts,
    Clapboards and cornices, Yankee and Gothic,
    And naught has been left for the haunting of ghosts.

    O great empty plot soon to be parking lot! 
    I've a far better view of the moon rising up.

    Copyright © 1998 by Harriet Malnate Bonish

    Evening Drama
    by Philip Nikolayev

    Her mind, abruptly bent on running out 
    slamming the house door, as in some awkward play, 
    glared back in anger. Her crisp Chevrolet 
    spun out of the leafless driveway past all doubt 
    and faith. Few honking men remarked her slight 
    figure through car windows where on red she knew 
    she’d stop and weep and drive on. Raindropped light 
    glassed in the length of Commonwealth Avenue. 
    Loose constellations climbing up and down 
    the windscreen’s blank careening intellect 
    retraced no puzzle with their sudden zoom 
    where through the runny sky she saw profound 
    networks of association and effect 
    marqueed over night’s tall aquarium.

    Copyright © 1998 by Philip Nikolayev

    by Candace McClelland

    She planned on driving eighteen wheelers with 
    A monkey wearing overalls. The phones 
    On truck stop counters sit untouched. She’d drift 
    On open road or open sky alone. 
    She’d deftly place men’s drinks on lowered tray 
    Tables while earning her Delta wings. She’d sing 
    In Nashville, Tennessee to crowds and play 
    The tambourine with spotlights moving, dancing. 
    But on the road to the road she climbed onto 
    A motorcycle, wrapped her arms around 
    The man who picked her up. There were now two 
    Hands in front of her and zero feet on the ground. 
    She rode. The driver didn’t tell her much. 
    She had never expected her hands to clutch. 

    Copyright © 1998 by Candace McClelland

    On the Conviction of an English Teacher 
    for Child Molesting
    by X. J. Kennedy 

    The Monkey Man has stripped his mask away 
    And now must wear a steel cuff on each wrist. 
    They caught him handing little boys a list 
    Of things to do and how much he would pay.
    He used to read love sonnets in a way 
    That made awed preppies hang on every word, 
    But it was younger quarry he preferred. 
    He’s branded now, as with a scarlet A.

    Poor sensual man in an exclusive school, 
    What visions can have driven him to go 
    Skulk like a wraith through woods far from the Fool 
    And foolish king of Shakespeare’s wooden O— 
    To cast aside all that to play a role 
    More proudly mad than Lear or Prospero?

    Copyright © 1998 by X. J. Kennedy

    Reply by the Rhymes
    To a Sonnet by Martha Collins 
    by Julia Budenz

    I sleep and wake among the ghosts. The gulf 
    Between this ambient and that where Sue 
    And Martha sing elucidates a self 
    Making late music, audible to few

    Who breathe the breezes which we breathe today, 
    Or heard by none at all if all anoint 
    Stern ears against the bony siren’s way 
    Of uttering a florid counterpoint

    To soaring columns of a form surmised 
    In fragments dug from dust or floorage seen 
    Figured beneath the vestals’ tread. Surprised,
    I glimpse a Sue, a Martha, in between.

    I wake among the ghosts, for I must choose 
    This ruin which my sisters may refuse.

    Copyright © 1998 by Julia Budenz

    Sonetto della rimembranza 
    di Ernesto Livorni

         E tua sorella suona ancora il piano 
    e tuo nipote rincorre i tuoi passi 
    nella casa dove ho lasciato te 
    e il palpito ansioso del tempo andato.

         E tu per le stanze ogni giorno vivi 
    quel sogno che condividemmo e ancora 
    come un martello il chiodo mi tempesta 
    l’anima, il cuore, il petto, tutti i giorni.

         Senz’altro t’avrà sorpreso incontrarmi
    negli angoli di memoria, fiutando 
    persino l’atmosfera che avvolgeva.

         Forse riderai se ti dico 
    che subito cosí ora m’accade, 
    mentre ti penso, e chissà se lo sai.

    Copyright © 1997 by Ernesto Livorni 

    di Ernesto Livorni
         per Mario Moroni 

    accorro al suo grido spezzato 
    tronco nell’ansimare della pena 
    scusami vengo t’ho sentito appena 
    luteo liquame puzzo sfrenato 
    un pigolío sfinito di passero 
    passerà passerà gli dico chino 
    sul suo stesso dolore bambino 
    ti ricordi quell’estate sul cassero 
    scopri la ferita nella sporgenza 
    l’incastra nel suo rettangolo piano 
    piange frinisce davvero io io 
    mai l’avrei detto che la sofferenza 
    ruba il controllo del corpo all’umano 
    ti ascia il delirio del pio fio

    ( 26 settembre 1994 - 9 agosto 1997 )

    Copyright © 1997 by Ernesto Livorni 

    by Thomas O’Grady

    1. Georgia on My Mind 

    A measure of copper-wound wire stretched taut 
    across a soundboard by a tuner’s wrench. 
    My daughter with the nerves of steel, I thought, 
    well-tempered tension enveloping the bench. 
    Why not play it safe with a simple tune 
    (a song, a sonatina, some title 
    from the standard repertoire: Clair de Lune)—
    a piece cut out for a school recital? 
    But she selected Georgia on My Mind— 
    that ’thirties classic—for the music’s sake: 
    the built-in stress of jazzy chords behind 
    soft lines, hard pressure points of make or break. 
    Strip nerves to their core: pure passion remains. 
    I trembled when she stroked those first dark strains. 

    Copyright © 1998 by Thomas O’Grady

    2. Heredity

    Masking, Mendel termed it—the way that traits 
    in ordinary garden peas recede 
    then later reappear. The Good Book states: 
    "What we sow, we reap." His science half-agreed. 
    Darwin, too, sketched lines of inheritance 
    among flocks of Galápagos finches: 
    their beaks afforded rock-hard evidence— 
    kinship factored in fractions of inches. 
    Why not, then, trace a second daughter’s bent 
    along high-strung tracks—a violinist
    on one side, of Russian Jewish descent,
    and a rustic fiddler with an Irish twist
    Nature’s laws govern what will hatch or sprout: 
    what’s bred in the bone must always come out. 

    Copyright © 1998 by Thomas O’Grady

    3. Small Wonder

    Blood running truly thicker than water, 
    small wonder that, when given half a chance 
    to test her mettle, my youngest daughter 
    will buckle on "the tools of ignorance." 
    She has the whole routine down to an art: 
    the chest protector first, its tangled straps 
    enough to make a beleaguered coach lose heart; 
    then shin guards, thigh-high like a cowboy’s chaps. 
    One time, playing Yogi Berra barefaced 
    to my brother’s Whitey Ford, I took a fast- 
    ball for a bloody nose I still can taste. . . . 
    The helmeted mask, a steel cage, comes last. 
    Old diamond gods, let no foul pitch harm her— 
    my quixotic knight in homeplate armor. 

    Copyright © 1998 by Thomas O’Grady

    Chambered Nautilus
    by Joyce Heapes

    Does she feel a snugness 
    in her room one night and promise 
    that tomorrow she’ll begin another 
    and, in the darkness of an ocean morning, 
    begin to lay out new layers of pearliness 
    to fit the delicate curves of her body 
    or does some inner clock send the tic 
    of time to tell the architect to work again? 
    The inner wall shimmers in warm waters 
    as the side walls move toward completion 
    fitting with the smoothness of satin 
    her own contours better than a designer gown, 
    her shell a combination of Frank Lloyd Wright 
    and Lily Daché.

    Copyright © 1998 by Joyce Heapes