Who knew that Tom Sexton’s “On the Death of Seamus Heaney” would elicit such an outpouring of homage and lament? And that this flood of longing and loss would resonate with the outer world so fully?
We have lived through a torturous 18+ months of pandemic and borne witness to the convolutions of America’s political and emotional psyches. Fear, Denial, Conspiracy, our new bedfellows, Science and Reason on the ropes. In spite of, or because of this chaos, a common thread of death and loss persists. Fortunately for us, the artist Babette Barton shares a bright light within these pages which gives us a little more room to breathe and to bear what is.
Alongside Heaney, you will find the resonance of others beloved: Rilke and Dylan, Don James, Eva Dũrrenfeld, Susan Whearat, Alex Leavens, Wallace Stevens, Emily Dickinson, fathers (with special thanks to Jeff Burt), grandmothers (Karen Jones), sisters (Brigitte Goetze), and mothers (Ellen June Wright).
Also, places: Natalie Callum’s Wyoming where she understands “what it is to be close and far. . . In the distance dust rises like mist, like fog, like God.” Or back at “Ranch House Days” with Dale Cottingham because he’s “got to be on [his] own for once . . . find [his] way to the creek where water held underground springs into light.” Callista Markotich takes us to the sea where we are the “honed beach-log smoothed by turmoil.”
The journey continues to the Luckiamute with Marc Janssen, the Salmon River with Ash Good, to Maine, to Dublin, to the Outer Hebrides—no lack of longing for peace and beauty. No lack of praise.
Cacophony of cicadas, Corvids bearing witness, Amelia Díaz Ettinger’s Grackles with their “loose colony of familiar ancestry,” dogs, and the feline Mr. Mo. This well-populated world is speaking to us through the pens of poets. Pull up a chair and take a listen.
As always, if you like what you read, please share! Meanwhile, the turn of seasons makes its dramatic shift in this Pacific Northwest, just as we round the corner to the equinox. Some rhythms remain intact. I take heart in that.
Yours in poetry,
We have met from time to time,
passing casually, he tipping his hat
and smiling enigmatically, I nodding,
casually acknowledging. We never speak;
such is not the familiarity we, nor I
at least, seek, would not be seemly.
He knows me, though, knows when
and where I go, how close our routes
I passed a moment on a mountain’s edge
with him, ignored him while he waited
by my father’s bed.
Predictably, I drop by when the snow
piles on the driveway. I stand near enough
to listen to the cadence of his heart, the
blood-whisper through the valves. He knows
me well enough by now, a nodding acquaintance
once, the kind, you know, where I would wink
and smile at funerals, nudge him lightly
on the ice crust of a cliff’s edge. We are
bus-stop companions, those familiar faces, whose
presence, scarce acknowledged, would be missed.
Not a day goes by but our paths cross. I, on my
business, he looking away. Lately, though,
we are much closer; I wouldn’t go so far as
“friends”, but I follow him inside, sit near
and listen to his breathing, the way his pulse
jerks and sometimes dances off-rhythm. In
the systolic hiss, I murmur his father’s name.
Hugh Anderson lives on Vancouver Island which seems a pretty solid place in a world no longer certain of reality. Recent publications include Vallum, Cold Mountain Review, Sin Fronteras, The Poems in your Pocket collection, and Sea and Cedar. He has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.
Give and Take
Fishing spins a mystery under glass
where lips approach a rising lure. A flash
and tug then things go still…and wait,
a chance it might return again.
Hooks and barbs all dressed with plumes
and bait can wait all day. The water sleeps
and then explodes with awesome force.
The same with love, its ebb and flow –
the casting out and reeling in,
reflections hint upon the shine,
the waiting on the rocks for lips
to strike like drops of opportunity,
that moment of uncertainty
until the splash of energy.
Two hearts beat fast, the angle set.
The caudal dance of give and take begins.
Twist and Kiss
Picking an apple when ripe
is like a kiss. A little twist and it lets go,
I hear the whisper in my ear, so sweet,
detect a drop of moisture on the skin
and feel the dusty coat of wax about to shine.
I rub it on my sweater. It was time.
Some apples hang there nice and straight,
and others sit in tangled bunches.
Some fill out evenly as a globe,
others puff their chests like toads,
making wonderful earwig homes.
When I climb the ladder to pick my pomes
I reach the sky and touch the stars.
The branches crowd the higher I go
‘til I think they might just push me off my perch.
It’s twist and kiss and let them roll
so slowly off my fingers
into the canvas bag that rides my hip.
A rogue apple freed begins an avalanche
and fruit and leaves come tumbling down.
The apple glitter sneaks inside my shirt
and starts me itching, scratching there.
The thuds make bruises and cuts, enough
I must decide to keep or let them rot.
When resting in their wooden crates
I hear them kiss or do they twist?
A lovely sound, so full of promise,
these apples that I picked.
From tree to table, sauce or pie –
the kiss returns a million times.
Frank Babcock lives in Corvallis, Oregon and is a retired Albany middle school teacher and owner of a bamboo nursery. He writes poetry to share the strange thoughts that rattle around in his head and to get them off his mind. He started with an interest in the beatnik poets, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg. He has a long way to go and much to write before he sleeps. Poems published in the local Advocate, Willawaw Journal, and Panoplyzine.
Popping the Tires
the suspect sits in the interrogation
room and the only thing they say is
“can I get three orders of chicken
fries and extra sweet and sour sauce”
and I’m pretty sure Robinson’s about
to lose it. It’s been so long none of us
can remember what this kid got hauled
in for in the first place. Every time
the secretary suggests we call to see
if chicken fries have, in fact, returned
to the menu, that vein in Robinson’s
temple gets a little bit more prominent.
Robert Beveridge (he/him) makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in London Grip, Sage Cigarettes, and Sin Fronteras, among others.
—with Apologies to Rilke
How I marvel at the trash truck
on Mondays that arrives
between the turkeys’ promenade
and the vet who walks her Weimaraner.
I know Rilke would object,
but the truck is like an angel,
arriving with open arms like a father
who lifts and turns his child
upside down overhead in a rush
of terrified glee and then returns him to earth
with balance unstable, the ear’s gyroscope
struggling to lessen the joyous spin.
Who knew this appearance of a trash truck
would conclude with my father,
playful and tossing, me at the window
each Monday wanting to be dizzy once more?
He Was a Whisper
Dawn, slide-quiet of a drawer, dad awake,
a weak incandescence cracking the door to my room,
his bare feet walking their heavy steps, the crackle
of a humble lunch packed in a used bag of brown paper.
He woke in the dark, moved in silence through blackened rooms
by memory and one hand out to drag and search against a wall,
exercised, elongated where none would hear the push of exhalation,
showered in faint light, ate by the clock’s dim hour, buttoned, tied by feel.
When the dog began wagging her tail against the floor
I waited like a smooth stone in the water’s wash
patient to be sparked by a ray picked by his hand poking through pines.
He was a whisper, a secret I could not hear, a haze of sound,
not the thing itself, but the truth known by shadows on the wall.
What I wanted was enough light to see him without his turning away.
Who else knew this part of his life? Not brother, not wife.
How many shallow days did he survive before being brushed into the deep?
I heard his suffering in a sigh, his audible shortcomings, his thwarting,
his discontented breath, the grunts of frustration without pleasure,
then his final whispered goodbye to me a soft penetration of my cavernous room,
a blonde oil that seeped through wood and left a polished radiance,
a hydration of the desiccation of darkness that it might slide off
and soothed friction might generate a combustion of the day.
I dreamed of seals lying on the posts below the wharf
and risen from the water of sleep aware of whiskers and a cold nose
kissing my forehead, and in the morning found his voice
echoing in my ear, me lying on the floor by the cold front door.
Jeff Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, spending the seasons dodging fires, floods, earth-shaking, and all the other scrambling life-initiatives. He has contributed to Heartwood, Tiny Seeds Journal, Vita Poetica, and Willows Wept Review.