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.
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.
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.
at the strike of a shovel,
the earth will ring like a tamped bell—
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.
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. DawnPotter 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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 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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.