Son of a Farmer
The farm is not completely gone,
even if the bricks deny it,
and the sidewalks pave over
the feel of heavy shoes on deep soil.
sure they’re the ultimate naysayers,
and the busy airport
would have me believe
there’s only coasts and cities.
But there’s always my fingernails,
the country dirt beneath
that refuses to come clean,
like those death pills
spies secrete somewhere on their bodies.
If the noise, the smoke, get to be too much,
take one of these
and cows report to their stalls for milking,
and fields of yellow corn
two-step with the wind.
Even twenty skyscraper flights up,
I’m only the merest daydream away
from a September’s worth of silos,
bursting with gold dust grain.
The cube is a barn with the door wide open.
The in-tray is a tin mailbox
The company can work me
to the calcium deposits
in my elbows and my knees
but that won’t stop me
taking a moment here and there
to lie back in that porcelain tub,
watch, through skylight,
ravens preening on a high oak bough.
Yes, there’s a report to file
but there’s also eggs to be collected.
And for every backstabber on the job,
there’s a dozen snakes curled up in the woodpile.
Even the red scars of the leather belt stay with me.
The bar, the restaurant, my gorgeous lover,
can’t completely heal the welts.
And the decent raise, the bonus, are much too late
to pay my father’s bankers,
to soothe his anger, mollify his defeat.
So much movement in the city
but nothing can budge him from that last day,
a man with nothing left but grief to farm,
a “Sold” sign jabbed into his chest,
a whole life’s belongings
crumbling beneath the auctioneer’s hammer.
No, the farm is not completely gone
even if new ownership takes over.
The farm is not completely gone
even if it only has this city to show for it.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident of Providence RI , recently published in Penumbra, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, Leaves On Pages, and Memory Outside The Head, are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Lana Turner and Held.
How We Say Goodbye
–for Susan Whearat
Your voice on the phone
is quick with love and reckoning.
I close the office door
to enter your world.
Your voice fills my small office
with the scent of flowers.
You tell me you are writing notes
for your memorial,
trying to remember words to a song
we heard not so long ago:
whereas hope seems small sometimes….
I find the rest for you:
and peaceful words the work
of my remaining days.
You tell me you are not in pain.
Your daughter is with you.
When you say goodbye,
I set my phone gently on the table,
my hands dusted with rose pollen,
my body flushed with sweet perfume.
Italicized lines are from Kim Stafford’s poem “Be It Therefore Resolved,” commissioned in 2011 by The Congressional Chorus (Washington DC), set to music by Joan Szymko. Susan and I heard this piece together performed by Aurora Chorus in December 2014. Susan died from ovarian cancer on January 31, 2016 at age 76. She was a teacher and a poet, a parent and a grandparent. Kim Stafford’s poem and the memory of Aurora’s performance gave her great peace of mind in her last days.
Suzy Harris is a retired attorney who lives in Portland, OR. Her work has appeared most recently in Timberline Review.
Gone for Good
My sister has gone crazy
again. It is a place she goes
alone. When she is out there
she tries to stay in touch but she goes
so far out of range what she hears
from us is muffled by the distance.
And then she just gets confused.
When she leaves, no one knows she’s going
not even she knows she’s going,
so her doors are wide open and
her phone is ringing and her cats
and dogs are hungry are crying.
There are people who try to help
her find her way home, but the routes
are unmarked, are dark and dangerous
if you’re traveling alone–which
she always is.
And no one can be sure that she even
wants to come back–because in the static
of the distance she seems to be saying
she knows. She knows this place. And she can see
and hear us clearly. Is that what she’s saying?
We can’t be sure. It’s so far from here and
we have never been.
The first time she went she was so young. That
was ages ago and it was treacherous
trying to find her way back alone. But over
the years she’s grown accustomed to the journey.
Strange as it seems to us, she feels it is
important to go. She keeps going a
little further each time and even when
she finds her way back, she leaves something
of herself there. We worry that soon
more of her will be there than here.
When she is back here she doesn’t talk
about that place with us. She keeps it
private. She is protective. She doesn’t
want to share it. So we look away. By
then we’re happy to have her home. But
we know she’ll be going back. We know
someday she’ll be gone for good.
Because You Can’t Wait
for the Way To Say It
all winter the deer bedded
at the bottom of the hill where
the creek runs, their cold skies
laced with bare branches
suddenly green reached out
to the tips of every tree
and now grasses in the field are lit
and there’s so much more to say
how sweet that first hyacinth
up from the heaving leaf-meal
behind the wood pile
Robin Havenick is a retired community college literature teacher who writes for Street Roots in Portland, Oregon and whose writings have also appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Tahoma Literary Review, and Oregon Poetry Association’s Verseweavers.
Crows, they say, know more than we do
about what we’re like when we think
no one is watching. A gliding shadow
that barely registers on the rim of our consciousness,
they observe us from above
with passive, alien minds.
Unlike most birds, who are driven
to the sky as trees are reassembled
into houses, crows thrive off our presence.
They raid our trash cans and build
their nests on telephone poles. They love to watch
our heads through windows and mutter secrets
about the things we throw away.
At night, we sleep underneath the patter-scratch
of claws on rooftop shingles
as they supervise our dreams, as they catalog
all these imprints of a life
we don’t even know we’re making.
Chuck used to be a principal,
thinks I am his student. He folds
the daily newspaper in perfect
right angles. He squeezes my shoulder
and tells me I’ve done well today,
his voice steeped in certainty.
Flo is roaming in her wheelchair;
failing eyes blur as she halts
before each door, searching for one
that leads back to her summer beach house,
before the sea moved in. She turns to ask
if I know the way.
Jim’s weathered mouth lifts as he watches
young caregivers hurry from room to room.
He stands up tall as his mind takes him back
to days spent carousing in streetside brothels,
calls, Come and get me, ladies;
I’m ready, I’m waiting for you.
Celeste’s voice quavers through an empty doorway.
Help me, I’m sick. I’m sick. I don’t know
what to do. No long-dead parent
murmurs comfort at her bedside.
Bob peers from his room, clad in a nightshirt
tucked perfectly into his Depends. No wrinkles.
God bless you, his taut lips fumble
the familiar refrain. God bless you all;
God bless you and keep you in His mercy,
God bless you and goodnight.
Amanda Hiland grew up hiking through old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. She teaches Special Education by day and is a major astronomy enthusiast at night. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Passengers, Epiphany, Cathexis, New Plains Review, and Timberline Review. She can often be found sipping chai tea at the intersection of art and science, and her poetry reflects and embraces this duality.
A Memory of Dublin Upon Hearing
of the Death of Seamus Heaney
Heaney is dead
and the Irish will
write the epilogue as is
right and fitting for so
great a man.
Upon the news that I saw
in The Times today I
recalled a word or two
of his that brought me
back to the Dublin of one
long fall ago while first
walking up O’Connell Street,
then turning to the bank of
the downstream flow of
Seeing there the Monks,
brown Franciscans, they were
ladling the morning oats while
handing out their thick bread
along with the fantasy that is
eternity into the mouths of
the terribly poor.
Not the modern Ireland
then, there literally was a
tinker that morning exposing
her breast to me,
with a tiny one clinging
there, and begging alms
on St Stephens Green as I
thought they may have done on
Bloomsday or even on that far
more distant day when that bright
copy of the Book of Kells first
came to Trinity.
In 1972 it was still an ancient Catholic
place, without the charm of Rome,
and the rage was on then to kill,
in some quarters, a random English
soldier up north.
That drunken night,
in the hotel bar on
Denmark Street, around the
corner from the Sinn Fein,
I heard the rage and justification
for acts so foul that I lost
all illusions about the transcendent
beauty of their language and saw
everything there was to see of
their other side.
I heard the drum and smelled the
body paint of a primitive, most
Being Ireland of course
it wasn’t all
In the same bar
where the death
threats flew and my life
was seemingly at risk for
suggesting that bombing pubs
was criminal, was Bridget,
who tended bar but looked
too young to do so,
And lovely lady that she was, she
Told me that they were “Just Drunk”,
“Didn’t Mean It”, and would forget
all about it come morning.
Late, quite unexpectedly,
the very next night
when, after dealing with my
hangover, I closed the place
down yet again, she ever so
sweetly grabbed my hand and
walked me across the street to a
tiny top floor flat,
smiling broadly, whispering softly
as we went up those stairs,
“Now, you promise not to make
me pregnant now boy,
Heaney has died and the Liffey flows
as generations know that, in truth, that
the simplest word is sometimes best,
as the convolutions of one time
sire the next.
After a long hiatus and residence overseas, John Huey returned the United States and to writing in 2011. Since then, he has appeared in numerous online and print journals as well as three anthologies. A fourth anthologized piece will appear soon. His full-length collection, The Moscow Poetry File, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017. www.john-huey.com