Joan Sidney

N. Henry, Cottage
N. Henry, Cottage

THE CUCKOO CLOCK ON MY KITCHEN HUTCH

sits and ticks every minute

away as quickly as the big brown

fox jumps over the lazy dog.

To make time stop or at

least slow down on a whim

last night I stuck it out of sight.

But, cuckoo-cuckoo-cuckoo

snuck through the pine-

paneled door and up the

chestnut floor to heave

me out of bed.  I left the night-

lit room, my creepy shadow

sleeping spouse, slipped

down the spiral stairs

and headed straight to that

kitchen closet shelf

upon which set a Swiss

chalet complete with picket

fence, a grassy space and

two goats hitting horns

in tempo to that conscientious bird.  

 

Joan Seliger Sidney’s “Bereft and Blessed: Poems” was recently published by Antrim House;  “Body of Diminishing Motion: Poems and a Memoir”, an Eric Hoffer 2015 Finalist, by CavanKerry Press. She’s writer-in-residence at the University of Connecticut’s Center for Judaic Studies and Contemporary Jewish Life.  In addition, she facilitates “Writing for Your Life,” an adult workshop. Visitwww.joanseligersidney.org.

Dawn Potter

N. Henry, "Thin Ice"
N. Henry, “Thin Ice”

Commonplace

I sing the spell of your sentences,
whipping into sunlight, like clean sheets on a line.

Chunks of ice crowd the gutters,
and the snowmelt air trembles in a cloud
as sweet as the cataract in an old dog’s eye.

Oh, Age of Bronze, Age of Despair!
Let every comma cup our new breath.

N. Henry, "Winding Down"
N. Henry, “Winding Down”

The End of the Season

I drive into the dark.
The World Series sputters on the radio.
In the backseat my son weeps
and a girl holds his hand.

It is late autumn.
The eyes of cats glint along the roadside.
Jagged clouds frame the setting sun.
The sky is a riot of colors—lemon, salmon, plum—

and now soccer season is over.
The winners have taken their victory laps across the field.
Our losers have scattered into cars,
stunned and deflated.

Startled sparrows fly up from the grass
as my car rattles westward.
Chimney smoke threads from window-lit capes,
from tidy ranches and collapsing trailers.

Soon,
at the strike of a shovel,
the earth will ring like a tamped bell—
muffled, ironbound.

The season is over.
My son weeps in the backseat
and a girl,
dear tender apprentice of love,

quietly holds his hand.
Oh, the small tragedies.
In the moments we live them,
they are blacker than roads.

N. Henry, "Blue Eyes"
N. Henry, “Blue Eyes”

Granny Has a Vision

Against the bloodbeat, against the necrotic
pang, against the eyeless house,

you steady yourself.
The silverware in the drawer

speaks your language—
the only language you hear today

inside the glistening mirage
your distractions have concocted:

A bridge is wet with river water, wet with tears.
The cherries bend low to listen.

Their branches strain against the small
wind of your thoughts, the jumbled

meaningless words, the old scents and computations.
Once again, nothing known as love understands you—

you, the soiled puppet queen, reeking of sorrow,
flapping your royal nail-bitten hands

on an island of rats, on an island
where only the kitchen knives speak.

How cold it is in this place.
Dawn Potter directs the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching, held each summer at Robert Frost’s home in Franconia, New Hampshire. The author or editor of seven books of prose and poetry, she also sings and plays fiddle with the band Doughty Hill. She lives in Harmony, Maine. For more about Dawn, visit her blog.

Arnold Perrin

N. Henry, "Glosta"
N. Henry, “Glosta”

The Island

I’m a photographer. You might have seen some of my work in galleries around the midcoast. Or maybe you saw my book, Maine Cemeteries. I took photos in the soft afternoon light when the large trees cast their shadows over the old stones arrayed along a slope or broad lawn. Some cemeteries have interesting entrance archways like the Grove Cemetery in Belfast, or interesting stones like the one in the Union Cemetery in Lincolnville for one “William Eckley and His Consort,” or the stones in a Hope cemetery for several members of a Civil War Sharpshooter Regiment, mausoleums like Greek temples, old slate slabs.

One summer years ago I did a series on the Islands of Penobscot Bay. There are many uninhabited islands in the Bay and I got some great shots of sandy beaches or rocky shores with the dark of the spruces against the sky, sunrises and sunsets over the water. Some of the small islands have deer on them and I got some shots of them, also ducks and loons, puffins and seals and lots of other wild life.

I stocked my small sailboat with provisions and set out from Rockland to spend the summer camping on the various islands and photographing what caught my eye. The summer had ended along with my project, and fall was coming on, but I had been reluctant to bring the pleasant time to an end.

One day in September I could see a storm beating up behind me by Islesboro, so I put in to the closest island even though it had “Private Property. No Trespassing” signs posted every few feet around the shore. I surged onto the sandy beach in the high surf, pulled my twelve foot sailboat up above the tide mark and set up my tent just as the rain hit.

Before I entered my tent, right in the tumult of the storm, I saw the strangest sight I have ever seen in my life. She was like some female Robinson Crusoe with two round animal skins pulled over her feet and tied around her ankles, a yellow sou’wester with the wide brimmed yellow hat. “Didn’t you see the signs?” she demanded “You’re not welcome here.”

It was coming on dark. I apologized but told her I had no choice and that I couldn’t put off with the storm blowing right into shore. “Leave first thing in the morning.” she said and turned to make her way to the small cottage I could see at the edge of the clearing above the beach.

I fell asleep almost immediately in spite of the roar of the wind and the surf. The morning dawned bright and calm. I ate a hurried breakfast of a granola bar and some nuts, and started to pack my gear back into the boat when I heard a stifled cry coming from the rocks that bordered the sandy beach and covered most of the island’s shore.

I went to investigate. She had been dragging a piece of driftwood up over the rocks when the weight of the rather large piece had thrown her off balance, and she had fallen forward down over a large rock where she had landed trying to brace herself and broke both of her arms. “Is there anyone who can take you to the Pen Bay hospital in Rockport?” I asked. “No!” she replied through tears, I think from frustration rather than pain. “Do you have a motor boat so I can bring you in to Pen Bay?”

“No I burned that years ago. I’d be obliged if you would make splints for them. Under her direction, I cut some lengths of birch bark, packed moss around each arm, and secured the birch bark with some twine I had on my sailboat.

“I’d be obliged if you would stay on for a bit and help me. I’ll pay you” she said.

I’d been a loner all my life, had no place to go and nothing to do when I got there, so I agreed. I really felt responsible somehow and couldn’t in good conscience leave her to fend on her own without being able to use her arms even for light use for a month or so at best.

“My garden needs to be harvested, and I’ll need more wood for the winter, I helped her to the cottage which had just one small room”And the goat needs to be milked every day” she added.

“I never milked a goat.” I said.

“Did you ever milk a cow?” she asked “it’s the same thing. She’s the one with the big udder. Her kid is old enough to forage on his own now. The small flock was here when my family bought the island years ago. They browse for what feed they can find and usually come into the shed on their own at night. The milk goes into that glass jar and is stored down cellar.

“The root crops need to be dug up and you’ll find some bins down cellar filled with sun-dried sand. One for carrots, one for beets and one for turnips. Just push them under the sand. I’ve already saved out the seeds and dried them for next year.

” I’ve already pulled the roots of the pole beans which are dry now and they’ll need to be shelled out and stored in that burlap bag. The onions need to have the tops braided three together and hung from the nails on that rafter there. The potatoes need to be dug and arranged on the shelves down cellar with out touching each other. The same with the apples on that old tree. Pull the cabbage plants up by the roots and hang them upside down from the beams in the cellar. You’ll have to look for the hens eggs, they lay wherever it takes their fancy. There’s half a dozen or so chickens running wild that have survived the hawks.

“You’ll find a buck saw in the shed to cut up whatever drift wood you can find and dead spruce trees to add to whatever I already started. You can dig clams at low tide and haul the three lobster pots on the ends of the long ropes . Occasionally there is a lucky catch. When you clean a fish, use that to bait the lobster traps. There’s a surf casting pole in the shed with mackerel jigs and other lures, or you can dig blood worms for bait at low tide, you can probably find some anyway as you dig for clams down there.”

After her long instructional speech she fell asleep in the rocking chair she was sitting in and I began my new tasks.

 

Autumn Days

The days were filled with harvesting the garden, gathering apples from the ancient tree, and upland cranberries from the high land at the north end of the island, cutting wood, fishing, milking the goat, looking for eggs, and hauling water from the spring. I had to prepare meals under her direction, and we actually ate pretty well: steamed clams and lobster, fish chowder, stir fires, baked beans, a sort of smoothie from grated apples and cranberries mixed into the goat’s milk with a hand egg beater, and of course, eggs which we usually had for breakfast. Nights I returned to my tent pleasantly tired with this new mission in life.

After the first week everything fell into place and the routine became somewhat easier. She observed that the nights were becoming too cold to sleep in a tent and I brought my sleeping bag into the cabin and slept on the floor beside the antique wood stove.

When I asked about her life and how she had come to be on the island she said she didn’t want to talk about it, never wanted to go back to “so-called civilization” again, and would spend the rest of her life right on the island. I asked about the shelves full of books but she said that she didn’t read anymore ever since she had broken her glasses. “I’ve missed that terribly” she said, so after our evening meal I started to read to her: poetry, Shakespeare, the classics until it got too dark to read even by candlelight when she retired to the double bed in the corner of the room, and I to my sleeping bag.

Winter Wind

Winter came early. I had stowed my mast and sail and turned the boat upside down, and brought my few possessions to the cabin. We were snug enough with the season’s bounty gathered, and firewood stored. We fed the chickens and goats on whatever scraps were left over, but the goats still rambled out to rummage on milder days, although the chickens tended to stay in their shelter except on very mild days.

It had been a month since I had landed on the island and she was able to use her arms a little. After an afternoon of fishing one day I returned to the cabin to find a stranger there! She had taken off the animal skins from her bare feet, and the frayed jeans and worn shirt. Her fly-away, white hair was neatly groomed and tied back with a scarlet ribbon and she was wearing a white, silk gown with an embroidered red rose at the left breast. I was blown away at how beautiful she looked, standing there like a queen in a peasant hut with a tapestry of braided onions behind her. I was speechless. She smiled and said that she was tired of being grungy. The table was set and supper on the stove and we sat down and ate by candlelight.

“I want to tell you how much I have appreciated all that you have done for me, and how I have come to care for you” she said “And I wish we could go on like this forever, but I am dying, and I feel that I should tell you. I have no family left, I gave away everything I had when I was diagnosed and came to this island that my family purchased years ago. I wanted to spend my final days here rather than in some hospital in a drug induced daze.

“It is getting cold nights and we would be warmer sleeping together. No sex!” So we slept in her bed holding each other until we fell asleep. I had had a few relationships in the past, none of which worked out very well, but nothing as strange and, yet as wonderful as this.

Spring

And so the winter passed pleasantly yet sadly, and spring came to the island in all its varied beauty. One morning I awoke with her cold beside me. I dressed her in the white, silk gown and buried her on the high slope overlooking the cottage and the beach. I never asked her name and she never volunteered it. I always called her Robin from “Robinson Crusoe”, So with a cold chisel and a hammer from the shed I carved “Robin” on a flat stone and set it at the head of the grave.

Every April I go back to the Island for a day and think on the strangeness of it all. The cottage is now falling in on itself and will eventually go back to earth, but the chickens and goats still survive. Life goes on.

N. Henry "Tangledup'nblue"

Arnold Perrin served as Poetry Editor for the New England Sampler and was Editor-publisher of Wings Press of ME. He has been widely published in small press publications and literary journals for which he has won many prizes and awards. He lives in Union ME.

Jeanne DeLarm-Neri

Ravenswood park pollen
N. Henry , “Ravenswood Park Pollen”

Colebrook’s Cold Brook

The green shoots of skunk cabbage

pierced the matte of brown leaves,

the winter carpet, water-weighted layers.

I waited for the stripes of pungent animals.

Instead, bugs as light as air ran on water.

The touch of their feet flashed

as they strode through sun rays,

between shadows of limbs,

of ash and birch and poplar.

A slippery rock became my throne,

complete with mossy sponge.

The brook streamed to either side,

dampened my hand-sewn shorts,

numbed my feet. I forced my heels

to freeze while I read a rippled book

about the Byzantines who banged

their molten gold as thin as leaves.

Yellow maple hands fell from a higher

realm, a sunny meadow set above

the rotting tree-trunk hollow.

My father’s voice called my elfin name.

I scraped my naked feet free of ferns,

cleaned the wet debris from wrinkled skin,

said goodbye to magic bugs

and climbed the hard uphill.

 

Jeanne DeLarm-Neri grew up in Colebrook, CT, a town of 900 people, and learned to think about things at the side of a brook and under pine trees. Published in several journals and anthologies, nominated for a Pushcart Prize, she writes, sells antiques, and has stayed married for 32 years.

Judith Robbins

N. Henry, Lilies
N. Henry, Lilies

Corrida de toros

The blooming of the lilies

and the running of the bulls

are coincident this year in hot July.

Shouts of toro! fill the air

in Spain, while in my garden

the yellow smile of a day lily

is counterpoint to the red

in Spanish streets.

 

Judith Robbins lives in Whitefield, ME. She writes: “I have been writing poems all my life and have published in anthologies, magazines and journals. This year North Country Press will publish my first collection. I’m a semi-retired minister, mother of four and doting grandmother of two. I write in a small shingled house under the pines of our very rural property. “

Duane Robert Pierson

N. Henry, "Hidden Delights"
N. Henry, “Hidden Delights”

Hortus Arcanus

My garden lies hidden,

scattered through the wild

When the day is right,

and ripeness nigh

I venture to secret places

The old rail bed where

slender light green asparagus stalks

grow from the old cinder banks,

to an old worn field where

the wild strawberry thrives,

each a tiny flavor explosion

At the upper pasture’s edge

under a giant butternut tree

the sharp honed eye

spots the elusive morel

I hike up to the forest clearing,

hoping to beat the black bear

to blackberry laden bushes

Along a stone fence row I visit

lone hickory and walnut trees

In quiet gliding canoe to the bog

we shake frosted blueberries

like rain from overhanging bushes

Back to the crystal spring

where the watercress floats

and through the deep wood

where a homestead once stood

a sweet nostalgic perfume

attracts us to what remains,

laughing children

and wood smoke scent

now long gone,

glorious lilacs alone

persist through the years

 

N. Henry, "Walden Pond serpent"
N. Henry, “Walden Pond water snake”


The Black Snake

(Elaphe obsoleta)

Eight feet of you,

a rod of polished ebony,

lie in the midday sun

warming cold blood

upon a rock ledge

deep in the woodland

They call you rat snake,

more kindly the black snake

Cautiously I observe you,

not wanting to look on

if you are constricting prey

A flying hawk’s shadow

drifts across your rest

With stunned amazement

I witness kinetic magic

as you melt from the scene,

silent black lightening into the rocks

 

Duane Robert Pierson
Schooled in a one-room schoolhouse. Has  BA from the University of Alabama,  MS and PhD from Cornell University. Was an executive,  teacher and professor,  infantry officer, art gallery owner, stonemason, farmer, and photographer. Has published eight poetry books and the novel Annie and the Prince of Wales. 

Corey Cook

L.A. Dawson http://a-z-animals.com/media/animals/images/original/snapping_turtle4.jpg
L.A. Dawson http://a-z-animals.com/media/animals/images/original/snapping_turtle4.jpg

Morning Commute

snapping turtle –

punctuates a long line

of idling cars

 

Corey D. Cook’s poetry has recently appeared in After the Pause, the Aurorean, bear creek haiku, cattails, Columbia College Literary Review, Lummox, Poppy Road Review and Red River Review. He works at a hospital in New Hampshire and lives in Vermont.

Karie Friedman

 

N. Henry, "Junk"
N. Henry, “Junk”

Barn Sales

It’s not the Flow Blue china,
snatched up by dealers at 6:00 am,
the handmade rake shaped like a menorah,
or fabled roadster in its mantle of hay
that draw us out on weekends

to follow cardboard signs,
balloons jerking on strings,
to park where cars gather like ants
around a honey-barbecued wing.
And not entirely the allure

of vases, tools, wheel rims bringing us
to the sawhorse tables.  We browse
from sale to sale, a paseo on wheels,
greeting neighbors and strangers
with whom we share this game

and a use-it-up frugality,
banter as  if our sagging houses
with their ghosts, their pantries
full of Mason jars, their woodstoves
make us all of a kind.  Not so, of course,

but a comfortable conceit.  If some
are drunks or cranks, with a stash
of guns down cellar, we don’t want to know.
We pay cash, keep it light, don’t ask
or tell our secret spots for cutting

holiday spruce tips. fiddleheads, shrooms.
In barn sale country, we mingle just
enough to get along.  A certain lack
of focus helps. Benign myopia.  Flow Blue
rather than Blue Willow, you might say.

14727_10151264447188446_2071934577_n

Reflectors

They light up as I approach,

–blue, amber, red–salute

me on my night journey

up this dirt road through woods

where animal eyes turn

towards my headlights, shadowy

forms scuttle away.

Flat as melted lollipops,

plastic designed to capture

what Francis Bacon called

God’s first creation,

they tremble on stalks

beside a weedy drive or triple-stud

a mailbox post, headless now,

before an empty house.

I know their intended

use, to guide a blundering

snowplow, wink at guests

heading out after a few,

but also sense another,

a message they carry, like cairns

beside a trail or pyramids

the Pharaohs built that still surprise

travelers they couldn’t stay to meet.

Picture our landscape

in a future from which people

have deleted themselves.  Picture

reflectors waiting in darkness

for a gleam that never comes,

like faces of the lonely, ready

to glow, but only when

someone else provides the light.

 

Karie Friedman turned to writing poetry after many years as Assistant Editor of Reviews of Modern Physics.  Her poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, Barrow Street, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Naugatuck River Review, Off the Coast, and elsewhere.  A native of Los Angeles, she lives in Montville, Maine.

Ellen Taylor

Pat Butler, "Pilings"
Pat Butler, “Pilings”

Lessons from a fledgling gull feather

curling like a comma, pausing the air.
The spine narrows towards the tip,
downy wisps bend to a wave.
These fledglings, soon yearlings, juveniles,
adult gulls –  waken us, laugh with us,
lullaby us – They dream not of our grounded
bodies, though we may dream of their flight,
when we bed down at night as lovers, wrap
like feathers around each other’s spine,
turn our backs to the noise of day
the way a gull turns her back to the wind.
And when our skin radiates warmth,
we rest like a pair of gulls, nestling
our heads into each other’s necks,
closing our eyes to the  surf’s sound,
dreaming not, yet, just being where we are,
both unmoored and tethered,
liberated and bound.

614905_10151107883838446_783729736_o
N. Henry, “Me and my shadow”

 

Patricia Frisella
Patricia Frisella

Looking for Horn Worms

Like danger that’s always present
but not noticed until some trace
of destruction, horn worms now reveal
themselves — foliage gnawed from tips
of tomato plants, fruit cratered and scarred.

The worms disguise themselves under leaves
like thieves, then emerge, an army
in camouflage after months of larval
preparation. Now they are battle ready
to dash the hopes of tomato salads,
jars of simmered sauce to warm us
on winter nights when the garden
is four feet under snow and ice.

Tenacious engorged caterpillars, they put
up a fight. With my gloved hands I pull
them, kicking their five pairs of legs
from my Early Girl, finally ripening.
They protest all the way into the jar
of kerosene waiting for their demise.

I know I should feel something for these
creatures, visually arresting at least,
iridescent green bodies, thin symmetrical
stripes, red horns. But I can’t. Sometimes
one needs to be the victor, one needs to feel
the triumph of good over evil, to feel proud
of protecting the innocent fruits of an insect war.
Or so I rationalize it, as I hum to my cherry
tomatoes, new leaves bending towards the sun.

 

Pat Butler, "Pawcatuck Window Box"
Pat Butler, “Pawcatuck Window Box”

Hollyhocks

Proud stalks of summer –
This one, radiant magenta
ebbing to pink; her crown
of petals flutter like silk.

Ornament of summer kitchens,
picket fences, back door steps,
this tribe of blossoms share
a sturdy stem, a family of foliage.

I once heard a painter talk
of “hollyhocking,” a verb
meaning the license to add
or remove from the landscape

any compositional need or perceived flaw:
to add an anchor of hostas,
remove a listing bench, move a birdbath
to the left. What joy in design’s recreation –

But this hollyhock changes nothing;
She’s a statue welcoming all
to the shores of my door, saying
“I’ve been waiting for you, come in.”

 

Ellen M. Taylor is a professor of English at the University of Maine at Augusta, Maine. Her most recent collection of poetry, Compass Rose, was just published by Moon Pie Press. Taylor is now a Fulbright Scholar in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  In Maine, she makes her home in Appleton.

Lee Heffner

 

N. Henry, "Beached"
N. Henry, “Beached”

 

Spruce Head
The air is cool. The cool cured by wool rag socks.

The tide is out. The keel of a neighbor’s boat is cradled by riverbed ooze.

The sun is high. A white cottage reflects like a cathedral in pools of water resting in recumbent pockets of mud.

The tide is in. Water laps against the rocks like a litter of kittens lapping from a common bowl.

The sun is warm. It erases the last droplets of dew from sturdy white chairs, caresses my face, and denies winter is around the next point.

The sun drops. It falls behind the trees like a hot ash. The neighbor’s boat settles its keel and I put on my rag socks.

 

Lee Heffner, writer, writer’s coach and instructor, moved to midcoast Maine nine years ago after a visit to Spruce Head.  It was love at first sight.

Michael Keshigian

 

N. Henry, "Doggie in the window"
N. Henry, “Doggie in the window”

NEW ENGLAND SPRING

Between the yews,

the long face pant of a Doberman

and the chirping dead center of his paw,

a cricket,

while a black-eye cardinal whistles

a yellow beak phrase.

May, and suddenly again, ungodly winter.

Halfway through this house,

painting it, the Spring,

and well passed that point in my life,

I plead to heaven that this afternoon

no longer becomes the seven previous

afternoons bringing,

that wet, muddy brown muck

that doubtless forms a moat

about the foundation

to propagate the mosquitoes

who will fatten upon my skin

and torture the dog’s ears

to blood crusted outlines,

a few might even catch

my lover and me

as we frolic beneath the rumpled oak,

hidden amid saturated leaves,

unless somehow

the sun again peeks in fair blue

with long light,

rejoiced by birds

and the garrulous squirrels

atop their pine perches.

Let the dog lie prostrate

in the soothing rays

and let us all breathe softly

where the lick of warmth radiates.

N. Henry, "Wedding flowers"
N. Henry, “Wedding flowers”

LILAC FLOWERS

Every Spring

he appreciates

all the small things,

including the warm mist

of morning dreams,

the spongy red litter

under tall white pines.

Mid season, the lilacs

pierce the fog

and reach for

a crackling lick of sun

to turn their pointed heads

a lighter shade of mauve.

In their shadows,

he could see the lazy gaze

of time in a drowsy pose,

holding the universe in stasis,

a dark window

within the thickets

slightly open

so he might capture

the prized moment

and observe the blossoms,

how they open

with a breath of light,

how their indigo lungs

swell in the air

to blaze their radiance

amid the fire of the world,

how the pungent fragrance

pierces the wind

as the perfumed sprays

of pale purple haze engulf him.

 

Michael Keshigian’s tenth poetry collection, Beyond, was released May, 2015 by Black Poppy.  He has been widely published in numerous national and international journals most recently including Poesy, The Chiron Review, California Quarterly, and has appeared as feature writer in over a dozen publications with 5 Pushcart Prize and 2 Best Of The Net nominations. (michaelkeshigian.com)

Robin Merrill

N. Henry, "fiddleheads"
N. Henry, “fiddleheads”

First time fiddleheading without you,

I tried to stave off tears with one of your songs,

but I couldn’t remember the tune. 

I’ve forgotten most everything you

taught me, the Latin names of mushrooms,

the Bible verses every girl should know,

names of ancestors and all those proverbs.

I don’t remember how to clean a fish

or boil sap. Seeking those elusive

ferns, that manna, paupers’ nutrition, I prayed to you,

please don’t be disappointed, show me like you used to,

I’m sorry I didn’t listen, and I heard your voice,

Go where the water has been but isn’t anymore . . .

look for the skunk cabbage. I walked, surer,

and they appeared, and I knelt with my open empty

plastic grocery bag and began to pluck those

sweet jewels from their stalks, and my tears ran

into the mud, and when I went to wipe my eyes,

I smelled the earth on my fingers and was forgiven.

N. Henry, "Shrine, Franciscan Monastery, Kennebunkport"
N. Henry, “Shrine, Franciscan Monastery, Kennebunkport”

Why I Run Through the Cemetery

I like to imagine there are clouds of witnesses

born and died in times I can only see in sepia still frames.

There are bleachers full of them

on every side and even above, cheering me on

because they understand how much work it takes

to put one foot in front of the other, because they understand

in a way we yet can’t, the grinding of the gears

when spirit and flesh interlock and each tries

to steer the other. They have already run this race

and they know how it ends. When they beat the drums

that pump in my ears, they can already hear

my personal crescendo. Time is a vapor to them.

Where I see dates etched into stone, they see

a child’s crayoned attempts at metaphysics.

But for now, it is all I know, this language,

this pulse, and I nod to them as I pass.

I’ve memorized their names and roles.

I did not know Margaret Libby, but I know

she was mother, teacher, friend, and

she birthed a beloved son she never named.

I do know her neighbors, my grandmother’s

parents; they rest at the top of a hill,

so I haven’t the breath to speak at that point

but it’s not as if they need to hear me

to know me. They know me better than the living can.

The living see me through veils of selves,

they don’t look at me — they look at what I may

mean to them through a dirty windshield

at fifty miles per hour. Here,

there is no speed. No time. No agendas.

Here, there are only markers of a much greater journey.

And there are grandstands full of those who know this.

So each day, one step at a time, I labor through.

Wind at my back, I do not labor alone.

These are where I come from.

And this is where I’ll go.

Pat Butler, "Beachhouse"
Pat Butler, “Beachhouse”

Ant

I am an ant.

I am very small.

I could get stepped on.

But I’m so busy working,

I don’t have time to be afraid.

 

Robin Merrill is a writer/editor/poet from rural Maine. Her most recent book is the novella Grace Space: A Direct Sales Tale. Her first novel Shelter is forthcoming soon. She will represent Portland, Maine at the 2015 National Poetry Slam in Oakland, California. Visit her at robinmerrill.com.

Arnold Greenberg

 

 "Simmer"
Jack Nessen, “Simmer”

Darkness

In this darkness before dawn,

I cannot see the pond,

or the world,

but my reflection in the window,

hovering

like a ghost,

is all I see

when I look up from this chair

and take another breath

and feel my beating heart

swelling that I am here in this silence,

waking to another dawn

another day,

another chance to love

the light

coming through my window

from far away.

And sitting here,

with a lamp nearby

bringing me the light I need

to write these words,

I take a sip of coffee,

then looking up

see me sitting in the window

hovering above the pond,

smiling at myself

lifting my cup.

Arnold Greenberg
Arnold Greenberg, his cabin.

Thoughts on a Sunny Morning

On this sunny morning,

looking at this pristine pond—

clouds floating on its surface,

the blue sky shining on the water,

the air quiet after yesterday’s wild howling—

and sitting here in my glowing room,

remembering the news I saw last night

of wild fires burning miles of forests,

hundreds of houses swallowed by the flames,

while neighbors stand together

holding in their arms what they can,

their dogs and cats beside them,

and I close my eyes and look away.

I think about this pond, so clean and pure,

not like the dirty rivers or dying lakes

where dead fish float.

I think about the mountains being raped

for coal and smoke stacks

spitting soot and fumes.

I think about the storms and rising seas

and what will happen as the days get hotter

and the land is parched and nothing grows.

I think about my children and theirs

and the billions who will breathe the humid air,

and I remember how it was when I was young,

and could swim in ponds like this

and play without a care.

The party’s over,” someone said last night

before the commercial break

and now,

as I sit here in my chair,

watching the morning move across the pond,

I ache.

Pat Butler, "Between Seasons"
Pat Butler, “Between Seasons”

Thinking of Thoreau

I wonder what Thoreau would say

if he were sitting with me by this pond.

Would he say–

let this be your Walden,

let the silence be sweet madrigals

in the quiet air?

And would he say

travel wide and far

sitting in your chair.

Let each day be another destination.

Love where you are.

And I wonder would he smile at me

when there’s nothing more to say,

then look out at the pond,

remembering,

before he walks away?

 

Arnold Greenberg lives in Blue Hill, Maine in a tiny pentagon shaped cabin in the woods overlooking a trout pond where he writes every day beginning at 4 AM. He has written six novels and three collections of poetry. He has not published widely but hopes to.

Charlie Mitchell

N. Henry, "Field Walk"
N. Henry, “Field Walk”

The Fruits of Our Labor

I listen to Alejandra sing

She sings traditional Colombian folk ballads,

Sun sears my shoulders and old jeans,

My neck bends over seedlings of arugula

Sifting for tiny weeds with the blade of my hoe.

Out here, time is not a number,

Here conversation crawls with the lone strips of clouds

Across the rim of our massive late-afternoon sky

Where silence and solitude, more precious crops than golden beets

Grow higher than sunflowers and spread like pigweed.

My body roots in the earth and my mind sways,

A tomato vine groping skyward to endless nothing

Twined taut and even by the notes of Alej’s song.

Her lyrics melt into the passion of the language,

Something romantic glistens like the sweat on my forearms.

The sun massages our tired skin,

Whispers soft compliments in our ears.

I turn the key in the blue pickup

Wait for the time to show on the dashboard

Her brown eyes wait for my cue

I smile and start the truck.

We’re halfway out of the field

When Alejandra tells me to stop

I’m gonna get a melon,”

Then she’s back with a nice round one in her arms.

My elbow rests on the window frame,

Alej slices with the afternoon’s anticipation,

The taste is miles wide, days long,

Her eyes close. I bite again.

I concentrate on the deep orange and the warm nectar

I can only laugh and say “God damn this is so good”

Hijueputa,” Alejandra echoes through a smile

I thump my palm on the steering wheel,

Throw my head back against the headrest.

She hands me another chunk of melon.

We feast on our afternoon pleasure harvest,

Time suspended,

Silence painted with music,

Sweetness powerful and warm

Like the sun and soil to which we

Give ourselves, never do we feel

More free.

by Patricia Frisella
by Patricia Frisella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Mitchell is a sophomore at Middlbeury College from Beverly, MA. He loves mountains, vegetables, writing and running. He enjoys spending time with his friends and his guitar.

 

 

John Grey

 

Jack Nessen, Locals Only
Jack Nessen, “Locals Only”

THE LAST OF A TRIBE

You’ve been yoked to twenty acres

for fifty years,

twelve hours a day,

seven days a week,

ten years of school

but a lifetime of schooling,

making the rocky soil pay.

In the saddle of the tractor

or down in your dirt,

through drought and blizzard,

floods and cancers

on the back of your hand,

you’ve carved out a living

in the northern New Hampshire wilderness.

Your wife’s dead.

Your kids work in Boston.

You’re the last generation

to plant and harvest,

enlist the hardship in your cause.

When you go, it all goes.

The land provides.

The land buries you.

That’s not a coincidence.

Pat Butler, "In the Camellia House"
Pat Butler, “In the Camellia House”

 

OFF THE LAND

With Spring finally taking hold,

we walk across a field,

silent but for intermittent birdsong,

hair and jacket collars

ruffled gingerly by wind.

For every burst of pink round-lobed hepatica,

there’s a screed of pebbles,

the ultimate confession of the land around us –

sorry but this is all our soil has to offer.

So it’s no surprise to come upon

an old stone wall and, beyond it,

farmhouse remains,

hopes and dreams, a hundred years later

and clearly looking their age.

In the midst of such abandonment,

I recall my own family’s farming roots

how all it takes is one woman with too many

babies for the land to feed,

one man sloth lazy,

and that connection is lost forever.

I run my hands along

a rusty, half-buried tractor blade.

It’s cold.

It draws no blood.

20140513_081122
N. Henry, “Barn Tableau”

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, Big Muddy and Sanskrit with work upcoming in South Carolina Review, Gargoyle, Owen Wister Review and Louisiana Literature.

Nikki Carr

 

Backyard Quarterback

She heard noise
ringing from
shutters pushed
open and shut by
winds driven
from wayward
skies. Peering out from
her single glass pane window
unable to see into
the twilight hour
discerning
movements in her yard.
Until she noticed
his face from the dark shadows
as he stood,
a nocturnal leader with
sensory vision,
a bushy ringed tail,
wearing a black mask,
standing tall,
like a quarterback
poised and guiding
eleven members
onto the next play
to ravage
homes housing
unsuspecting piles
of fiber and carrion
decaying
in 50 gallon
cans in our backyards.

Praveen Raj, "A bountiful and joyful harvest"
Praveen Raj, “A bountiful and joyful harvest”

Life in the Meadow

The kestrel
adapted for
life in a meadow
once found completely underwater
now filled with flora, fauna
and grass
searching for water,
and as the meadow
dries, she remains
still in the olive
stalks of ruby blossoms
among hatching chicks,
insects in high grass
soon to be hammered
by the wind
while dandelions
fly free and
clouds of white flies dance
to a silent sonata.

 

NIKKI CARR is a poet whose work has appeared in Dual Coast Magazine, Jitter Press, 50 Word Stories, and Emerge Literary Journal. Her upcoming chapbook, Paige Inside Out, will be forthcoming in the Fall of 2015.  She is the recipient of a poetry award from the Lilian Osborn Memorial Foundation.

Creative Reflections of Rural New England