On this page: poems by Patti Tana, Elaine Frankonis, John B. Lee, Jim Bennet, David Fraser, A.D. Winans, Maude Larke, Rena Lee, Moshe Ganan, Richard Doiron, Norma Bursack, Iris Dan
The following works are copyright © 2011. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.
Patti Tana is Professor Emerita of English at Nassau Community College (SUNY). Her eighth collection of poems was published this spring: Any Given Day (Whittier Publications, Inc.). The Walt Whitman Birthplace selected her Long Island Poet of the Year 2009. She is the editor of the Songs of Seasoned Women poetry anthology, and associate editor of the Long Island Quarterly. To hear her read her poems, please visit http://www.pattitana.com
You, you who spread your wings
studded with stars nightly
across the wide world,
what becomes of your glory?
The many-limbed oak
framed by the hospital window
spreads wide to gather the sky ––
scatters seeds over the earth.
I lie here birthing and dying
in the serious business of blood
my body open to
all I can gather and give
The Summer Volunteer
climbs out the window box and in the window.
Thick vine sprouting large heart-shaped leaves,
fine tendrils coiling around anything.
Yellow blossoms pucker in the joints
where leaf-stalk joins the stem
becoming bulbous amber gourds in autumn.
No one planted magic beans, the vine just grew
with the petunias and sucked the sun until it sang
Store up sunshine ––
Soon the cold will close the window
Soon the wind blows leaves away
Lift O lift your face and store the sun!]
Romping with the Spirits
at night the spirits
of the living and the dead
rise from their bodies
in the ground and the bed
to dance in the air
dance in the air
last night the shade of a youth
stole into my room as I slept
and we romped like puppies
into the dawn
when I asked him
where did you go?
he laughingly waved
his arms in the air
and was gone
Elaine Frankonis, a long-time “elderblogger,” feminist, and poet, has a B.A. and M.A.in English from the State University of New York at Albany. She now lives and writes in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, having previously been her (now deceased) dementia-afflicted mother's caregiver for ten years, before which she had enjoyed a varied 30-year career that always involved persuasive writing of some kind. Over the decades, she has had poetry published in a variety of publications, including the Ballard Street Poetry Journal and the Berkshire Review.
Point of Order
His loyalty is to the horizontal,
to edgeless glacial plains,
oceans sacred to the seal.
His eyes return the call of gravity,
hold true to the long, linear view.
She prefers the root and cloud,
spirals with wind, intrudes upon stones.
her reach inspires the vertical,
hides in the rise of tress,
flies the moon with string.
Where they meet,
the earth unfolds its secrets,
Old Photo With Red Raincoat
You stopped me, solitary,
half-way across the rain-slick bridge
-- a moving figure locked
into strict planes of perspective.
My red raincoat ripped
into the dullness of
of that steep reach between us,
on my place in the picture --
the unavoidable point of it all.
Now, I see with your eye
those peculiarities of space,
deceiving in directness,
the final disturbance
of that sharp red breach
in the bridge.
Another noiseless night
and, again, the ambulance
waits below her window,
its strobe striping red
through the slats
of her closed blinds.
She listens for whispers
from the long hallway,
some hint of who it is
this time --
maybe the one who frowns,
as she drifts, slow in motion,
beside the grizzled shadow
of her three-legged dog;
maybe that sweet sad man
who wheels himself each day
into a patch of sun
near the swaying front door;
or maybe, soon, someone
faceless and frightened
who keeps silent vigil
by a shuttered window
each quiet night
at 3 A.M.
A chubby woodchuck
in the middle of an empty parking lot
stops to watch me walk in circles
around a June afternoon
awash in dandelion seeds
and gently dappled light.
He twitches his nose,
ambles a few more steps
sits on his haunches,
rests his paws on his full belly –
a curious and patient and satisfied
“The soul needs its burrow,”
the woodchuck says,
“a warren to wend a way
through the solitary earth,
some private ground to hog,
a place safe to spend
that deep season of wonder.”
And, with a fanciful last twitch,
Buddha leaves the spotlight,
his coat a slow and sensuous shimmer
along the grave pavement.
Without looking back,
he disappears into the grasses
between the shadowy sumac,
leaving me to wander
toward my own way
John B. Lee
John B. Lee's work has appeared internationally in over 500 publications. He has over 60 prestigious awards to his credit including being the only two-time winner of the People's Poetry Award and winner of the prestigious $10,000 Candian Literary Award for poetry (CBC Radio/Saturday Night Magazine). He has over 40 books in print. A recipient of letters of praise from both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, he was made Poet Laureate of Brantford in perpetuity in 2005.
Who Was Auntie McPhale
she lie in bed
legless and silent
her hair pillow-feather white
her flesh white, limed white
her lips, a slack pink gape
taking in breath, mouth alive with gulps of air
like the small black well-hole of the mind
something to fall into dream-walking
the slow old oxygenation of her fate
with the sad rise and fall
of the counterpane over the sheet
like the waves of the sea
bleach-white where her blue hand-backs
rested and her dark pulse drums
like bird blink
she was bone-weak and weary
wondering where went the girl of herself
where went the sister, the bride, the wife, the mother
the aunt—what youth imagines
of this regret is there
in the paling of painted stone
in the whitewashed windowless wall
when the barn on the grade, groans
with harvest and the hay burns
the thrust in hand and the smoke makes a ghost
of the nail heads
and time’s roof of midnight-blackened stars
falls to the floor
like red-watered rust in rain
Jim Bennett lives near Liverpool in the UK and is the author of 63 books, including books for children, books of poetry and many technical titles on transport and examinations. His poetry collections include; Drums at New Brighton (Lifestyle 1999),Down in Liverpool (CD) (Long Neck 2001),The Man Who Tried to Hug Clouds (Bluechrome 2004 reprinted 2006),Larkhill (Searle Publishing 2009). He has won many awards for his writing and performance including 3 DADAFest awards. He is also managing editor of www.poetrykit.org one of the worlds most successful internet sites for poets. Jim taught Creative Writing at the University of Liverpool and now tours throughout the year giving readings and performances of his work.
thanks to you
my shoes get in the way
block the lift doors
prevent them closing
get people annoyed
but it isn’t all bad
I can get pizza out of an oven
the hoop round the top of my
makes a useful carrying pouch
and my nose is handy
on a dark night
it’s a beacon to follow
back from the pub
in meandering circles
for this and for so much more
I am so pleased you
made a clown of me
pronouns and tenses
I who was we
am converted into pronouns
minutes and memos
and all the other legal
paraphernalia of the living
and in every one
written about typed and
in the past tense
of the first part
is wrapped in argument
comforted by condemnation
that she knows
can not be met
but then I
the husband of the second part
just want to be free
to get on
and be myself again
for a silly moment I thought
that was what she wanted too
David Fraser is the founder and editor of Ascent Aspirations Magazine since 1997 http://www.ascentaspirations.ca/. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in over 50 journals including Three Candles, Regina Weese, Ardent, Quills and Ygdrasil. Recently David has been accepted in Rocksalt, a new Anthology of Contemporary BC Poets to be launched in the fall of 2008. He has published a collection of his poetry, Going to the Well (2004), a collection of short fiction, The Dark Side of the Billboard (2006 ) and a second collection of poetry, Running Down the Wind that appeared in 2007 David is currently the Federation of BC Writers Regional Director for The Islands Region.
An Incomplete and Fragile Tale of the Tundra Oomingmak
In your land of rain each afternoon, awash in green, a canopy of steam,
that rises from your jungle floor, you’d know the slithering fellow on the tree,
the capybara’s nostrils at the water’s edge, the sloth’s hooked claws, the caiman’s eye,
but not the oomingmak, his shaggy beard, thick against the blasting winter wind,
not his home, his treeless tract, stark and cold where dark blood leaves soak in the sun,
and tint a wilderness of cushion plants, cotton grass, mosses, sedges, reeds, willow shrub.
Should I speak about the caribou, arctic hares, and snowy owls,
lemmings, polar bears, the arctic fox, snow bunting, crowberry?
Now you’d say these names are strange to you, but how do I tell about this oomingmak
without the tundra, muskeg, permafrost, each word deserving of another tale?
At the shoulder he is your height and weighs a massive four times your body weight,
grazes meager lichen, digs through snow with rounded hooves.
He is agile as a goat, sure and swift, with tangled hair, a forehead plate of bone,
horns like handle bars to break the ridged crusts of ice and snow.
Massive head, muzzle steaming breath and musk, his rutting bellow deep in roar,
he brings his herd together huddled close, facing out when packs of wolves arrive.
He charges out, protects calves and cows and never gives up the dead to predators.
At times he joins a chorus, sings a song of barren beauty, a land not often seen,
a song of how in summer he always sees the sun, of how in winter darkness howls.
He is so unlike the jungle creatures known to you, the reptile’s eye, the sleepy claws,
this soft gentle creature of a bitter land, this warm-coated oomingmak, oomingmak.
A Cougar’s Revenge
Behind the protective glass,
in a simulated home, his cave,
sheltered by desert creosote,
the cougar leaves his mark.
He lumbers, back and forth
with huge pawed-foot steps,
whiskers brush the barrier.
This cougar is muscled pressure, pent-up energy
since today and everyday he cannot hunt,
cannot voyage across a wide domain
but can only pace and suffer
crowds of gawkers who are in awe of him.
But today a short booger of a boy
presses his face to his side of the glass,
tracks the cougar, back and forth
growls, shows his teeth, torments the animal
until the cougar turns his head
grasps the reflection of the boy within his jaws,
eyes in a gleam of mischief,
as the boy drops to the floor
air sucked from his chest,
no blood, but a sudden flow of tears.
His father pulls the boy to his feet,
and he stands meek and terrorized,
shakes from the left leg of his shorts,
a small round piece of poop.
The boy does not realize what has happened yet,
but the cougar knows that boy has made his day.
For Patrick Lane at 72
Visceral, gut-wrenching with his lines
yet delicate as the moth wings fly.
A.D. Winans is a native San Francisco poet and writer. He is the author of 53 books and chapbooks of poetry and prose. His work has been translated into nine languages.. In 2002 a song poem of his was performed at Alice Tully Hall, NYC. In 2006 PEN National awarded him a Josephine Miles Award for excellence in literature. In 2009 he was given a PEN Oakland Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2010, BOS Press published a book of his Selected Poems, Drowning Like Li Po in a River of Red Wine.
Old Men Of Skid Row
these old men beat
their heads nightly against
the four walls
forced to listen to death's call
the pain so great that
a fifth of whiskey brings
men who envy those fortunate
enough to escape
men on the verge of suicide
men who wait with nothing
to look forward too
but an obituary column
so small it fits them
like a charm bracelet
Wasted Days Wasted Nights
these bars are all the same
the hours pass by
like a freight train
speeding through Fargo
with stick-shift mentality
between their legs
de-feminized women hawking
their wares, making that
long walk home
left feeling like a pirate
walking a gangplank
morning arriving like a blind man
rattling an empty tin cup
Tenderloin Cafeteria Poem 11
Busty TS crowds into
The line betrayed by
His Adam's apple
The old man in front
Adjusts his toupee with
Purple veined hands
Squints to see the wall
menu special of the day
Stares straight into
The unsmiling face
Of the counter woman
Arguing with the pimply
Faced bus boy being eyed
By the ageing homosexual
Stirring his coffee
At a corner table
A Jesus freak enters
Selling the new age God
But there are no takers
A poet sits at an empty table
Writing on napkins
Talking into his coffee cup
A hooker works a crossword puzzle
Waiting for the rain to let up
An old woman works her walker
Out the door
Trying to avoid a punk rocker
On roller skates
Who falls into the arms
Of the night priest
Looking Like a pallbearer
With 200 pounds of dead weight
Maude Larke lives in Dijon, France. She has come back to her own writing after working in the American, English and French university systems, analyzing others’ texts and films. She has also returned to the classical music world as an ardent amateur, after fifteen years of piano and voice in her youth. Recent publications include Barrier Islands Review, Vapid Kitten, Burnt Bridge, Pure Slush, Popshot, The Right Eyed Deer, 52|250, firstwriter.magazine, Boyne Berries, and Three Line Poetry.
my visitor has left a constellation
of ashes on the desk
on the side where she was sitting
I send them into orbit with
one of my sighs like mallets
and feel the atmosphere leave
it seems now that ennui is
a stiffness or a torpor
and the sighs are because
even the air dismisses me
with a disgusted huff
breaking a thought out of me tonight
is like breaking a sleigh
out of ice
it makes me wonder
just when I crossed the parallel
and whether I’ve reached my absolute
and if Kelvin would be proud of me –
but, with difficulty, I rise,
walking through that tiny gray galaxy
not to go, but just to put
the monotony in motion
already my feet
seek a treadmill
intimidating to face
most of a continent
as the page opens
exhausting to trace
cats-cradling the globe
to have kept train tickets
and tabled kilometers
if such had occurred
to dwell – far too long –
on the shortness
of my arms
in so wide a wake
Rena Lee, penname of Rena Kofman, is poet and writer, a retired Professor of Hebrew from the City University of New York, and the author of twelve books in Hebrew. Her work appeared (in both Hebrew and English) in many magazines, anthologies, scholarly journals, etc. Her chapbook “Captive of Jerusalem: Song of Shulamite” is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.
For more information please visit her internet site www.renalee.net
You may view them as two clauses in a sentence
that often lose their copulative conjunction.
Still, there always remains a certain nebulous connection.
It’s exceedingly hard to tell which one is the subordinate.
Long ago they pledged allegiance to matrimony:
One couple indivisible for better or worse.
Long ago it was better.
At times, when their bond approaches bondage,
they quickly embark on search for mitigating circumstances.
Theirs is a sentence with hard labor, non-stop nurturing,
on-going strife for meaning.
After all, it takes so little to mar a marriage, just a small step
from rapture to rupture.
They’ve stayed linked together in service of their
The thin thread of love and commitment still holds,
even though - as evident from knots in certain spots –
certain cuts occurred.
Yes, they’re still hanging in there, within the wedlock.
The key, it seems, is now forever lost.
What they possess may not be a lot,
but they’ve reconciled to their lot.
Besides, they’ve gotten so used to each other
and habit has its pros, like those worn-out comfortable
shoes of which one is reluctant to dispose.
Perhaps by now they’ve even forgotten what exactly
it was they were so keen to achieve.
They avoid looking at the growing want
preoccupied with their minor everyday needs.
And they’re very busy, indeed, with countless repairs,
for theirs is an old model of marriage, no spares.
By now, they appear content with the status quo.
Perhaps, they’ve learned to expect less of the more-or-less.
Perhaps, they believe that if you lower your goal,
there’s a better chance to score.
Perhaps, the lower you go, the lessened you become,
scoring itself too is less important.
At least there are no more of those bitter arguments,
nor ego’s fierce claim for domain.
At least, the full blast of lust is not upon them
and a low fire of desire still emanates warmth.
At least, there is forgiving, and tenderness,
a world of blessed tenderness, unsurpassed tenderness -
Oh, let it be!
Moshe Ganan is now 78 years old and feels he is born every day anew. He was born in Budapest, came to Israel 1947 (through Germany, U.N.R.RA. camps, Cyprus). Fought in the Palmach. He studied for his B.A at the English Department of the Hebrew University, where he took later also his degrees of M.A. (in Hebrew, Comparative and German Literature (1996-2006). He has two children, a boy (32) and a girl, (27). He has written ten books and publishes poetry, short stories, critiques in many Hebrew Literary newspapers.
What is a Song?
A song is a song
in the foliage,
When, in an unexpected flash of time
Spings suddenly to life in a strange, new hue…
Richard Doiron was born in 1947, published 41 years as a poet. He is a journalism graduate. and author of seventeen books. Richard is the winner of international awards. His work was read at the United Nations, among many places of note. He is o-editor of two ongoing poetry publications an a participant in national and international literary festivals. www.spiritsinpeace.com
No, I do not see the light
override the narrows of the night,
nor do I cling to a faint hope clause,
for the night, you see, has laws.
What I do see is the dark
override the sparkler and the spark,
and see it well for a mind that's made
to be clear and not afraid.
And the point I make is this,
overrides the magic that we miss
that spell we cast mounting on the pyre
that phantasm that steals our fire.
Norma Bursack and her husband made aliyah in 1951. She held English secretarial positions for major industries. In 1965 she returned with her two Israeli-born daughters to Connecticut retiring in 2000. Her five grandchildren inspired some of her rhyming children picture books and poems. She wrote and produced two rhyming plays of Biblical content. HerHow Isaac Met Rebekah was produced with puppeteer, Maureen Festi, as a Bat Mitzvah gift to granddaughter Rebekah. Purim in Rhyme is performed annually since 2004 by local Jewish organizations. Some of her poems have been published in local newspapers, in Voices of Israel, on the websites of Poetica Magazine and recently Cyclamens and Swords.
Mourning a Tree
It was diseased
The tree had to go.
to maintain its
health and beauty
performed the task.
Erased from sight
by those to
whom it gave joy.
its pitiful remains
to an ugly scar
from a fatal stabbing.
Those that nestled
in its branches
shared in its loss
as they sought new refuge.
Iris Dan was born in Bukowina, Romania, in a family of Holocaust survivors. She grew up bilingual (German and Romanian), then studied Romance languages at the University of Bucharest, graduating with an M.A. in linguistics. She has been living in Israel since 1980. She is married, has a grown daughter, and works (quite happily) as a translator from and into a number of languages. From her (existential and professional) Babel Tower she sees the Mediterranean. She has written poetry for as long as she can remember, never publishing any, in the last 15 or 20 years, in English only. Recently she has begun to send her poems on their own way and has been published or is forthcoming in the Voices Israel Anthology, Magnapoets, Poetic Portal, Subtletea, and Poetic Diversity.
Two Allegories of Truth Facing Each Other
Rococo Truth ("Time Saving Truth from Falsehood and Envy", François Lemoine, 1737)
a naked woman, decorously draped
on the shoulder of a muscular man
hair long and golden, in soft harmony
with the translucent pink of the skin
expression inconclusive: could be
a nymphette carried away by a satyr
or a Christian martyr; pudenda
neither covered not seen; a wavy sheet
placed as interface between the two figures
for decency, comfort or visual effect
The viewer (not innocent of falsehood and envy)
is ashamed. Worried also:
will time continue his run
with this by no means light-weight,
precariously positioned woman on his shoulder?
He might so easily drop her –
perhaps to save some other
Truth in distress.
Neoclassical Truth ("Truth", Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, 1870)
a woman too, also naked; yet no uniform,
no monastic habit could cover her better
than her rhomboid muscles; no corset
would her make seem more straight-laced
than the taut ligaments
the well-oiled bearings of her joints;
pubic triangle facing the viewer
as matter-of-factly as her eyes;
she wedges a lamp.
Again, the viewer
(like any viewer having something to hide)
is uncomfortable: at any moment
she may direct her lamp
to embarrassing secrets,
wrongful ways, flawed reasoning.
They face each other with obvious dislike.
Truth with the lamp accuses Truth with the sheet
of making herself dependent on the patriarchy
of being subservient to fashion
an object chosen by a figure in power
or worse, a professional victim
Truth with the sheet sniffles back
that one has to take one's time into account;
that there's more than one way
to catch flies; she also expresses some doubts
about her opponent's sexual identity.
They can never reach an agreement.
But you know that: opposite truth
is not a lie, but another truth;
and all around half-truths,
less-than-truths, hidden truths,
truths of the moment,
truths whose time hasn't come yet
You know, also:
knowledge is not truth;
insight is not truth;
revelation is not truth;
even love, even beauty
is not truth
And in this conundrum
you have to find your way.