On this page poems by Judith Skillman, Donna Bechar, Christopher Mulrooney, Nan Rush, Peter Branson, Patti Tana, Sylvia Ashby, Richard Fein, Mary Ellen Talley, Yakov Azriel, A.J. Huffman, Eli Ben-Joseph, Jennifer Lagier, Adelaide B. Shaw, Art Heifetz
The following works are copyright © 2015. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.
Judith Skillman is the author of fourteen books of poetry. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, FIELD, The Southern Review, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), The Iowa Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Northwest Review, Seneca Review, and other journals and anthologies. She has been Writer in Residence at the Centrum Foundation in Port Townsend, WA. She holds an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Maryland, and has done graduate work in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies at the University of Washington.
A writer, editor, and educator, Judith lives in Newcastle, Washington with her husband. Please see www.judithskillman.com for more information.
These are gifts Kafka’s mole left for Kafka’s father,
mounds full of stones and dirt. It’s a messy business—
like cow pies strung across a pasture.
Though there is only city now, a vacant lot
may be the place to find the pet favorited by Franz,
son of Hermann.
He is masculine, his strong arms
made for swimming underground.
When will Kafka’s father step in one of these piles?
When he walks home from working at the Jackdaw,
his meal will be waiting. He’ll be fed and warmed
even as he satirizes the boy.
You’ll find him cursing as he enters the rented flat,
two stories, hardly enough to pay the servant girl.
His wife’s standing over a pot large enough
to hold all the earth the mole has heaped up
in Prague. Instead of dirt, carrots, noodles
and strings of meat. Hermann, the father-monster
sits in his chair at the head of the table
drinking a mug of beer, nodding off
until, with a little prod from the skinny boy,
his mouth turns foul and blasphemous.
This is Kafka’s mole, my mole—
perhaps you remember in the fecund scent
an incident from childhood
long forgotten, that molds you
into the negative, carping, harpy you have become.
I pulled him up by the arms—
Him, almost a man,
sixteen-years old, weak and pale, sick and thin.
Lacking TV didn’t bother him.
He’d gone placid as a doll.
I thought of dolls as frilly,
not gangly or spindly.
His friends, his sisters, neighbors
who came to visit remarked upon his face:
emaciated. No one said the word
in front of him. Instead of the toilet
we made with the climber’s friend.
I sponged him down each evening,
letting the damp washcloth follow the line
of his body. Fifteen pounds
gone in three weeks, and still
the verdict was the same:
flu. The father away on business
called at intervals, remaining distant.
Guilt when I screamed for an IV.
The moon set in quilted clouds,
shining through bedroom shutters.
I pinned a blanket to the window.
Twenty-one days crossed off.
I was the fishwife, the failed nurse,
the one who called 911 four times in five days.
When the medics came, they joked with him.
Reduced me to a Medusa.
Finally febrile, wasted from not doing,
his legs, arms, and belly slivered inward—
a shell deserted by its creature.
After he got better, I got worse.
A woman gardens.
Her boot shoves
the spade into a root she wants gone.
This was the Gorgon I’d become,
the one who couldn’t sleep or eat.
Donna resides in Israel with her husband, and is a veteran member of Voices. Donna’s poems have appeared in numerous Voices anthologies, Cyclamens and Swords, Poesy, Ibbetson Press, Main Street Rag, Full Circle, Determinations 2, Voices from Israel, Firm Noncommital. She received second prize for her poem “Sneak Thief” in the 2003 Reuben Rose Competition, and has received honorable mentions. Donna’s other passions include handcrafting jewelry, pottery, crocheting and dancing.
It’s placed in a box, cramped and confined,
Or languidly spreads down a page,
The plan we make for each day.
Or not. A box or page left empty –
A joyful freedom or failure to commit,
By design or desolation?
A day goes by, a plan done, half-done,
A box crossed-off, a turn of the page.
We live from number to number,
Box to box, page to page.
Our lives run with the jot of a pen.
Our minutiae - connections and short circuits,
Aspirations and celebrations,
Joys and ills and worries,
Appointments and disappointments –
Ordered and listed, in order to empower
Our illusion of control.
Our day-before, week-before, month-before
Endeavors, condensed and compacted,
Are left behind like discarded compost,
Perhaps to look back on, but always
To advance to the next numbered box,
To the next clean page.
they all began, “Dear Diary”
on a creamy vellum page
tiny-key-locked inside serious or
seriously girly plastic covers
to be buried under the mundane
and exotic paraphernalia and
exigencies of teenage girlhood
in the dark and narrow caverns
of night table drawers or under
baby-dolled bastions of budding
femininity and away away away
from the dreaded hands and eyes
of prying mothers and younger siblings
they all began, “Dear Diary”
on one of many round-edged
leaves in dreamy pastel hues
hiding secret passions, frets
goals, wishes, embarrassments
excitements, longings, yearnings
daily doings, daring doings
missed opportunities, regrets
pinings, hurts as varied and usual
as their precarious owners
written in naïve, innocent, catty
confused, sweet, questioning,
rebellious, shy, flirtatious, belligerent
know-it-all, wallflower hands holding
Bics, Parkers, Papermates, Fountains
spouting fluent rivers of blue, red, green,
turquoise or purple inked thoughts
it was a best friend
one who would never betray a confidence
who would never pass unfavorable judgment
who would always understand and be fair
one who would carry us, more embraced
more cradled, and calmly into the next day
Christopher Mulrooney is the author of toy balloons (Another New Calligraphy), alarm (Shirt Pocket Press), Rimbaud (Finishing Line Press), and supergrooviness (Lost Angelene). His work has recently appeared in Poetry Ireland Review, Communion, Dink Mag, Coup d’Etat, Hot Tub Astronaut, Sidereal Journal, and Message in a Bottle.
the grandeur of a day moves slowly
so ponderous throwing off sparks like a vacuum cleaner on the fritz
and ready to go at any time in semiconscious inertia
down the slide and into the pool titanically
flooding the great Nile valley with luscious fruits
have my mind in mint condition on Tuesday
you tell the garage mechanics who keep it ticking and humming
breezing along lazily or hopping mad round the turns
roaring down the straightaway or hauling most laboriously
that’s the day which day Tuesday don’t start on me now
Nan Rush is a poet and musician who has been published in Rolling Stone, Poets On, Yet Another Small Magazine, Thirteen, Cyclamens and Swords and Nebo. In 2012, her poetry sequence “I Dress in Red” was published in the memoir anthology Impact. Her poem “Schoolgirl” was published in Fall 2012 in the Adrienne Rich Tribute Anthology. She has completed a short non-fiction book on her family, a fantasy novel, and is working on a memoir. She moved back to Seattle from Pennsylvania in February 2014, glad to escape the ice!
On opening my ice-etched door
one day in February,
I found myself in a natural
cemetery, Winter’s signature
covering the street
with glacial curlicues.
No wind, just the pounding
of solitary ice-picks
by those frozen out of
Sliding to the street,
my feet became skates
and as I floated by
the skeletonized trees.
My balancing arms
snapped off icicles,
frozen tears from the sky.
If It’s Not Played
If it’s not played,
does the guitar lose its natural sound?
If my body’s not played,
will it remember how to move,
how it feels to be strummed?
Have I forgotten the music of muscles
stretched and bent, or will they
resume their old intent
when touched by fingers
that know how to bring out
the sound that lies hidden within,
underneath the sensitive skin?
And will I hear it
when it comes,
the music played only for me,
on me? Or will I be deaf
to its plaintive melody,
ears too atrophied to hear?
Peter Branson is a traditional-style singer, poet and songwriter who has lived in South Cheshire for the last twenty four years. His poetry has been published by journals in Britain, the USA, Canada, Ireland, Australasia and South Africa, including Acumen, Agenda, Ambit, Anon, Envoi, The London Magazine, The North, Prole, The Warwick Review, Iota, The Frogmore Papers, The Interpreter’s House, Poetry Nottingham, SOUTH, The New Writer, Crannog, THE SHOp, Rattle, The Raintown Review, The Columbia Review, The Huston Poetry Review, Barnwood, Able Muse Review and Other Poetry. His latest book, Red Hill, Selected Poems, 2000-2012, by Lapwing, Ireland, came out in May 2013.
For my mother
Mid June, deep in the hills, wild hanging woods
of oak above, white-water rocking horse
below, this track winds up, a paint scrawp more
than one car wide, the noontide sky on fire.
This world has only just warmed up, the birds
stopped shivering, leaves opened out, like wings
on butterflies. Above a sparrow hawk
slow-screws into the haze, enough to stall,
headlong freefall to shallow dive, stage left
before my eyes. Almost on cue, a kite
drifts by. His muse the feathered edge, as though
his tail hangs by one silken thread, he plays
the buoyant air like sympathetic strings.
Recall my mother in a similar place
some years ago. She glances, turns away,
more interested in dowsing with the kids.
That day, not long before she leaves for good,
I tell her fondly how I wish she could
have known all this before. She reins me in -
“I’ve no regrets.” - her wounding voice my badge
of shame. Scene set, she loves it all again,
mean terraces, air raids, delight slow-cooked
to sizzle-dance upon the tongue, cheap cuts
like vintage wine, shared body warmth by night.
This autumn’s late, treescape and hedge dolled up
in party clothes. Dead wood’s been cleared, assailed
by snarling blade, teeth pulling torque and chain,
ploughed out, yet here’s an elm, its time well spent,
the sun-bleached corpus overlooked, as stark
as lightening tempered by a winter sky.
Like antlers, mast and gallants glow as white
as bone; some velvet bark clings on below.
Though dry as honeycomb in crumbling boards,
woodpecker holes beyond, like eyes in skulls,
the sculpted trunk’s a totem pole of lust.
Inside, where lichen feast and fungi dine,
vast confluence of creatures thrive, for, in
the wake of death, this constant wanton tide.
Patti Tana is Professor Emerita of English at Nassau Community College (SUNY) and the 2009 Walt Whitman Birthplace Poet of the Year. Her ninth book of poems was nominated for The Pushcart Prize: All I Can Gather & Give (JB Stillwater Publishing, 2014), and is available at Amazon.com. Of the seventy-five poems in this new book, eighteen were first published in Cyclamens and Swords and Voices Israel. Visit http://www.pattitana.com to listen to Patti read her poems.
Painted Buffalo on Clay Bowl
Your buffalo bowl
sits high on my kitchen shelf
holding garlic bulbs,
their pale tissue skin
bursting with muscular scent.
as I shake out the blankets
on the balcony outside my bedroom
wings flap across the pond and fly
the pond settles down
while the blankets keep fluttering
on the balcony rail
Sylvia Ashby started sending out poetry two years ago; she now has dozens of pieces out or coming out. Forthcoming work will appear in Rhino ’15, Muddy River, Pantheon, Silver Birch Press: I Am Waiting, Our World of Horror Anthology, Mezzo Cammin, etc. Before this poetry obsession, she wrote, acted in, and published plays - with thousands of productions.
When this gray world gives way, finally
to a rush of bud
and sprout and shoot and eager leaf,
when spring is poised on bended knee
Jack-in-the Box ready to leap -
I feel I may act recklessly.
May even cancel that weekly chat
with dusty Dr. Krox; while fishing
for my deep-water wishes, he keeps
a hand in his pocket, an eye
on the clock and occasionally sleeps.
And I won’t wear a hat.
Likewise about my coat -
good gray Krox, you failed me.
The trouble was with nature
who prescribes the pain before the cure.
Winter was what ailed me:
spring is an antidote.
What! No God - no Santa Claus -
not even a Mother Nature?
And true love fades, alas.
The sturdiest of civilizations dissolve
into enticing layers of rubble;
Shakespeare trusted only his sonnets
to withstand time’s descending glaciers;
idols tumble into bits of broken statuary.
Yet hope - insistent - illiterate - still vines out,
compulsive as kudzu. Go figure.
The Devil's Blessing
Richard Fein was a finalist in The 2004 New York Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition. A Chapbook of his poems was published by Parallel Press, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has been published in many web and print journals such as Cordite, Cortland Review, Reed, Southern Review, Roanoke Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Mississippi Review, Paris/atlantic, Canadian Dimension, Black Swan Review, Exquisite Corpse, Foliate Oak.
If I were blind since birth and then
through some divine or medical miracle could see,
how would I know without touching
that ears are attached to a face instead of the surrounding walls,
or indeed what ear, face, and wall actually look like?
With the glare of the sun now seen with squinting eyes
instead of its warmth felt through searching fingers
how would I navigate though the new rainbow world
instead of my old one of contours, textures
and disembodied sounds?
How hard would it be to actually see that the sky is green?
Or is it blue and the grass green?
Would the sight of nakedness arouse or repel me?
With the blind man's license to touch others revoked,
how would I harmonize the chaos
of their hair, nose, eyes, cheeks, and skin with
my new-found sight,
when my exploring hands are now subject to the
sighted world's rules of decorum?
Would my imagination within be disillusioned at
the sight of the world without?
Jesus gave a born-blind beggar a newborn vision,
but is that hosanna-and-the-blind-shall-see really the devil's blessing?
Brighton Beach Backyard Secret
On the back wall of an old commercial building facing the el
is a decades old sign which is now overshadowed
by latter-built six-story tenements.
"WORKERS, READ THE DAILY WORKER,"
is painted in fading but still bright red
on the back wall of what was once
the Communist party headquarters,
which then became a dance hall for lonely singles
who paired up for their first dances together,
then a wedding catering hall for lucky couples
who left those dances hand-in-hand,
followed by a bingo parlor for middle-age housewives
and is now a capitalist bank that faces the el
where underneath it refugee immigrants
walk freely in the dappled light,
without ever again having to give a furtive glance backwards.
That soot layered sign, only bored housewives and idle poets
looking out of dirty kitchen windows,
have the time to view the weather-worn but still
flaming red-painted words.
But if the tenants are evicted and their tenements
torn down to make way for luxury co-ops
and before those towers of the nouveau rich
once again hide that sign,
that trumpeting sign, that forlorn call to workers,
will briefly be visible all the way to the ocean
where bathers float on the tides.
Mary Ellen Talley
Mary Ellen Talley’s poems have most recently been published in Spillway, Poplorish, Floating Bridge Pontoon and forthcoming in Poems on Buses and Kaleidoscope. Her work has received a Pushcart nomination. Mary Ellen works with words and children as a speech-language pathologist (SLP) in the Seattle Public Schools.
Popcorn Assassin/Sense of Loss
No religion in a movie house –
floor of the homeless searching out a lost climax.
Keep adding salt for taste
until enough for a test drive in Utah.
Greasy fingers. Reach for a napkin.
Gumball under the seat cushion.
Wallet suffered a major loss
this past year. Losing streak.
No life is a lost cause
Use it or lose it
we are gathered here
counting down to the next loss.
Think you’ll find it on the floor of the Garland Cinema
if you’re still Lost in Translation?
So easy to lose one’s place,
The art of losing isn’t a disaster,
though it’s obviously a lose-lose proposition.
Book mark slips out –
phone rings –
lost cause or tenuous balance.
No great loss if you get lost in the crowd.
Stop. Make up for lost time
as long as you don’t lose
or expose your train of thought.
Avoid losing sanity
sitting through reruns
of Rosemary’s Baby.
Claw yourself out of the crib,
Night of the Living Dead,
Planet of the Apes. Thank God
For Oliver looking for love
underneath the willow tree.
Lost and found on the silver screen.
Maybe losing’s no disaster.
She found the lover,
mother’s watch, Tale of Two Cities –
kept dropping the ticket stub.
One could get lost in the crowd.
The Aspiring Tattoo Artist Twirls His Mother
Kafka at the doorway of the marriage ceremony,
eavesdropping at the unnecessary excess
of abundance and togetherness.
The receiving-line obligatory handshake
with his uncle and new wife.
Photographer and a DJ in scenic pursuit of remembrance
captured on a five-hour wedding cruise.
That morning he resigns himself
to motorcycle maintenance of family ties –
braces up a doorway with a James Dean glance,
tattoos instead of cigarettes, black western shirt
with white roses embroidered on his chest,
below Buddy Holly glasses. Relatives dance.
His mother notes the rockabilly music he favors,
walks up to him in her not-bad-for-fifty-five lime green attire.
They haven’t danced for years.
His ready yes is her surprise. The second shock
is his command at the small of her back –
guiding, twirling, retrieving – footwork East Coast Swing,
spinning her at a breathless pace.
He milks the shock of family gawking, aware his grasp
his mother’s only anchor. Both know she’ll drown
if he opens his hand to a quick release. Music slowing –
the tilt-a-whirlers skim the buoyant waters.
Yakov Azriel was born in New York and came to live in Israel after finishing his BA in English literature in Brooklyn College (summa cum laude). When he came to Israel, he studied at Mercaz HaRav Kook for two years, and later on, at Yeshivat Har-Etzion in Gush-Etzion. He also later completed an MA in Judaica, and in May 2004 he received his doctorate (on the stories of Rabbi Nachman of Braslav). He has taught in Israeli yeshivah-high schools, as well as in Bar-Ilan University, the Hebrew University, and Herzog College. Yakov is married and has seven children.
He has published four full-length books of poetry: Threads From A Coat Of Many Colors: Poems on Genesis (2005); In The Shadow Of A Burning Bush: Poems on Exodus (2008); Beads For The Messiah's Bride: Poems on Leviticus (2009); and Swimming In Moses' Well: Poems on Numbers (2011), all published by Time Being Books, a literary press that specializes in poetry.
Over 200 of his poems have been published in journals and magazines in the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel, and his poems have won eighteen different awards in international poetry competitions. In addition, Yakov has twice been awarded fellowships from the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture for his poetry.
His books of poetry are available on Amazon and other Internet bookstores, as well as the publisher's website: timebeing.com. Dr. Azriel can also be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You are afraid that if I tell you just
how much I care for you, the wall you made
from sheets of iron will collapse — afraid
that if I tell you I have placed my trust
and faith in you, a hurricane or gust
of wind you can't control will then invade
your fort and overthrow the barricade
you built to keep it sterile, free from rust.
Be careful now, be careful of the moon,
be careful of the stars, be careful of
the night, be careful of the autumn rain,
the winter sleet, the summer floods, for soon
you may be overwhelmed by spring, by love,
by water and desire, by life, by pain.
You closed the door and left without a word,
without "Forgive me," or "I'm sorry for
the avalanche I've caused." You closed the door
and left, as if no miracle occurred
when you revived the dead and disinterred
my corpse's bones, or when you pulled ashore
my drowning body from the ocean, or
when you restored my vision pain had blurred.
You closed the door without a second glance,
as if a pebble tumbled down a cliff,
as if our time together was bereft
of any meaning or significance.
As if I were a rock or stone. As if
you didn't care. You closed the door and left.
A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new full-length poetry collection, Another Blood Jet, is now available from Eldritch Press. She has another full-length poetry collection, A Few Bullets Short of Home, scheduled for release in Summer 2015, from mgv2>publishing. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and has published over 2000 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com
on a dare. Betting against fabled
fear of wart. Fingers slide
across amphibial waterproofing,
A second of secured grip crowns
me victor, pondering pushing
my luck for fairy-told kiss.
An Unsettling Precedent
My first real boyfriend was
“recovering.” A lifeguard, an addict
who damned me to Hell by cheating
on me with my friend and next
door neighbor. She was secretly
in love with his best friend, and I
used to sneak her out to see him.
I was seventeen and naïve
enough not to realize
just what kind of emotional mess
I was drowning inside.
When everything came out, I should have
jumped ship, joined a convent. Instead,
I started pursuing an aspiring model, seven
years my senior, all the while assuming
this disaster-in-the-making had all
the necessary elements needed for
a Happily Ever After.
Eli Ben-Joseph was born in Brooklyn in 1943. He studied classics and history at Brooklyn College. In 1974, he came to Israel where he met his wife, Marcelle. They raised their two children on Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra. He earned an M.A. in English and a doctorate in history at Haifa University. He headed the English Department at the Western Galilee College and also taught there in the Department of Historic Conservation. His poetry has appeared in Voices Israel Anthology, Cyclamens and Swords, The Deronda Review and the anthology Thinking Translation (2008). Now retired, his wife and he live in Nahariya.
Waves of Ages
Past weeks storm on storm has hit the shore,
and I comb northern strands for useful things
waves have tossed. Getting on in years,
I look for gnarled twists of driftwood
I hollow, sand and varnish to make planters.
I scan for planks the sea has left good
enough to cut and join to build a chair,
but mostly I seek small shells, shiny pebbles
and bits of sea-worn glass to fix on jars
once the pickles are gone. The storms create
cornucopia waves that I harvest.
I wonder about the shells, which once housed
living things, and about the bits of glass,
especially the multi-colored pieces
that perhaps an ancient glassblower shaped.
I will make things with things I find,
and then leave them behind.
Jennifer Lagier has published nine books of poetry as well as in a variety of literary magazines. Her latest book, Camille Vérité, was just published by FutureCycle Press and is available on Amazon.com. She taught with California Poets in the Schools and is now a retired college librarian/instructor, member of the Italian American Writers Association, co-edits the Homestead Review, maintains web sites for Homestead Review, Monterey Poetry Review, Ping Pong Literary Journal and misfitmagazine.com. She also helps coordinate monthly Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Visit her website at: http://jlagier.net
... and I plan to be there soon" ~ Mary Oliver
Cypress limbs gesture against distant blear of gold fog.
Sunrise oversleeps. Pink horizon illumes a bit later each day.
Benches are barely visible, morning surfers missing.
Dirt trail bends along bay curvature, dim above empty beach.
Sycamores are reduced to rags, shed ragged leaves.
Cast off foliage exudes spicy scent, transmutes to humus.
Holly berries - bright embers among damp evergreens.
Squirrels gather acorns, prepare for barren months to come.
One more year, nearly expired. We hunker down,
lick wounds, count our blessings, hibernate.
Just beyond floating kelp beds, whales spout,
blow misty umbrellas against azure horizon.
Here and there, black flukes slice distant waves,
scrape thin air as a giant blue breaches.
Pods of ecstatic dolphins perform a wild
aquacade in the foreground for appreciative walkers.
Two morning fisherman bob inside safe lagoon,
cast glittering monofilament from within their red kayak.
Waning season forgets its usual fog cover, paints
beach strand, stony shore, in burgeoning sunshine.
Adelaide B. Shaw
Adelaide B. Shaw lives in Millbrook, NY with her husband. Her stories have been published in many journals, both in print and on-line. A collection of her short stories, Potpourri Volume 1, is available on Amazon Kindle. She also writes haiku and other Japanese short form poetry, such as tanka, haibun, haiga and artanka and has been published widely. Adelaide's collection of haiku, An Unknown Road, which received a Mildred Kanterman Merit Book award in 2009, is also available on Amazon Kindle. Her blogs are:
It's an acceptance of failure,
failure to have a date for the prom.
An all girls' school provides little chance
to meet boys except at the monthly mixers.
Boys come from the boys' schools
to get acquainted and dance, to stand around
and look, to be part of the Meat Market, sizing
up girls and girls stand around and try
looking nonchalant, uninterested, yet interesting.
Customs are what they are, and boys ask girls
and girls wait…and wait, and some wait
all night blending in the shadows, becoming
invisible while hoping that the tall blond fellow
or the dark one next to him will feel my vibes
and ask me to dance. They don't
and I accept the offer from my best friend
to arrange a blind date.
Seventeen years old, looking only fourteen, he is short,
short in height, short in conversation, short on dancing.
He is the boy who always needs a blind date
and I am the girl.
Such evenings are best forgotten, but sixty years later
these memories appear like pieces of a puzzle
needing to find it's place to complete the picture
of my life. Just one small piece to which others attach,
each piece needing another, moving up and down and
sideways, creating the puzzle which has one corner
left to complete. The pieces remaining are blank, the picture side
hidden, but will be revealed one day at a time until
the last corner is connected.
Art Heifetz teaches ESL to refugees in Richmond, Va. He has had nearly 200 poems published in the UK, India, France, Argentina,the U.S., Canada, Israel, Spain, and Australia. More poems may be found at his website, polishedbrasspoems.com
Autumn Rain in Richmond
Propelled by last night's heavy rains,
the leaves pirouette to the ground,
blanketing the brown sere grass
in a quilt of many colors,
clogging the downspouts,
filling in the tunnels
the moles had dug out in the spring.
A hard winter lies ahead,
the farmer's almanach says.
He can hear the staccato bursts
of hickory nuts hitting the roof.
Already the first frost warning
has sent him scurrying
to move the potted plants indoors.
And now the leaves.
Their sheer quantity is overwhelming.
He could shovel them in his sleep
and still never be finished.
He starts by gathering them
in meticulous mounds
and shoving them into
black plastic bags
tied with red ribbons
like bundles of Christmas gifts.
Next he dispenses with the bags
and rakes them onto
a tattered blue tarp
which he hauls away
like Amundsen dragging his sledge
across the frozen waste.
he aims the blower
and sends them sailing away
into the woods,
hoping against hope
the wind won't turn on him
and send them back again.
Tidying up the yard, he thinks,
is a little like tidying up your life.
Things never stay put.
They're always spilling over.
Hopes, fears, desires
refusing to be pinned down,
waiting for the next big wind
to stir them up again.