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Poetry December 2011-4
Poetry December 2011-4
On this page: poems by Patrick Osada, Patti Tana, Neal Whitman, Johnmichael Simon, Lisa Aigen, P.S. Cottier, Rena Lee, Ruth Fogelman, Ruth Lacey, Rose Auslander, Violet Samir

The following works are copyright © 2011. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.

Patrick Osada

Patrick B. Osada is a retired Headteacher living in Warfield, Berkshire, England. He works as an editor, writes reviews of poetry for magazines and is a member of the Management Team for SOUTH Poetry Magazine.
His first collection, Close to the Edge was published in 1996 & won the prestigious Rosemary Arthur Award.
His second collection, Short Stories: Suburban Lives, and his last volume, Rough Music, have been published in England by Bluechrome.
His current collection, Choosing the Route, has been published in England by Indigo Dreams Publishing.
Patrick’s work has been widely published in magazines, anthologies and on the internet. His poetry has been broadcast on national & local radio and translated into several European languages.

Black Dog

We are not strangers now, black dog.
Others have known you too : slinking
From the shadows, snuffling and thin,
Persistent in your following.
Trotting along behind, biding
Your time, you are prepared to wait
To seize your opportunity –
Cleverly you ingratiate
Susceptible hearts, guileless minds.

Shouting never frightened you or
The hex sign. Closing eyes is fine
Until, opening them once more,
Finds you still here. Deep breathing calms
The mind, but then you sit and whine –
Nothing I do makes you disappear.

So finally the bottom line
Is knowing that you’re here to stay –
Best to ignore you, come what may.

Each cunning sidelong glance reveals
You resting, head on paws today,
Or idly sitting scratching fleas –
Each time you’re always watching me
With eyes half shut, never asleep :
Unwanted friend waits patiently.

Then sometimes, with the longer days,
You leave, abruptly disappear,
And I relax in summer’s sun
And savour this changed atmosphere.
Yet still I know it cannot last
‘Though I’ve escaped from time to time,
You’ll suddenly appear, black dog,
And nuzzle me as if you’re mine.

In autumn, with the falling leaves,
You come. When copper sun rests on
The trees I see you gliding through
The wood, knowing, with summer gone,
You’ll seek me out – it’s understood.


I look back through the years gone by
to find the Christmas you and I
discovered love that kept us warm,
providing comfort from the storm.
Despite the snow I felt no cold
as whistling down dark streets I’d go;
a callow youth of nineteen years
for whom dead winter held no fears.

Winter’s stark cold can numb the brain
but soon the snow will turn to rain,
the days will lengthen, fill with sun –
bright spring brings hope to everyone.
My mind has seen the seasons round,
but autumn has me trapped and bound.

The tyranny of winter’s cold
sees in the New Year, ends the old.
In budding springtime life contrives
to start afresh : revitalise.
The earth awakes as gentle showers
with vernal sun conspire for hours
to make the land a verdant scene,
from hills to hedgerow, hues of green.

High upon our native hills
we found that host of daffodils –
like harbingers for my green youth
as I begin life’s quest for truth.
My mind has seen the seasons round
but autumn has me trapped and bound.

Summer arrives out of the blue :
copper-gold sun and retinue
of tiny clouds, like feather down,
hover above the shimmering town.
The meadowlark spirals unseen
above a landscape caught between
the glimmering sea and burnished hills
where toiling man sun burns and grills.

The city’s heat is hard to bear –
no breeze to stir the thickening air,
the sticky summer brings me down
when trapped within this stifling town.
My mind has seen the seasons round
but autumn has me trapped and bound.

Look closely at the life we’ve seen,
the first snowdrops, air crisp and clean;
a myriad of sun-kissed days
when landscapes shimmer through the haze;
the biting cold of winter nights,
the sparkling snow and crystal light.
But autumn days can bring despair –
a chill of death hangs in the air.

Late autumn mist can quickly hide
all vestige of sun, moon and tide.
in leafless woods and barren fields
slowly the future disappears.
My mind has seen the seasons round
but autumn has me trapped and bound.

Patti Tana

Patti Tana is Professor Emerita of English at Nassau Community College (SUNY). In 2009, the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association selected her as Long Island Poet of the Year. She is the editor of the Songs of Seasoned Women poetry anthology and associate editor of the Long Island Quarterly. Her eighth collection of poems, Any Given Day, was published this year. To listen to Patti read her poems, visit

The forgetting

began as soon as I could remember, and yet
when I continue down the path
I come upon what I forgot was stored in the brain
at the service of the mind,
called up by the mind’s will to find what it seeks
in the brain’s intricate warehouse.

We speak of memories “fading” and they are
washed out in time, diminished, obscured by overload,
and need to be coaxed out of hiding like a shy dog,
the way my dog urges me to walk with her,
exercise, breathe deep, keep those wheels oiled.

It’s just that while everything is speeding up
I’m slowing down, and it takes time
to find the right word.

What a comfort to live in touch
with one who knows what I want to say
even when I remember
few bare words

Good Sleep 
I slept like a stone


            skipping across the water

on a moonlit sea

Neal Whitman

Neal Whitman lives in Pacific Grove, California. He loves to collaborate with his wife, Elaine, pairing his poetry with her photography in the Japanese haiga form and combining her Native American flute with his poetry in public recitals to raise money for not-for-profit organizations.

Mixing the Water of Science and the Oil of Art  

Dr. William Osler, Chairman of Penn’s Clinical Medicine,
receives a telegram from an old friend, Dr. Richard Bucke:
“Please see Walt and tell me how he is.”
Osler wires back,
“Who is Walt and where does he live?”
Bucke answers,
“Walt Whitman, 228 Mickle Street, Camden, New Jersey.”
Dr. Osler takes the ferry across the Delaware.
He finds his patient in reasonable health considering
past history of stroke.
That evening Osler opens a volume of Leaves of Grass.
“Whether the meat was too strong, or whether it was the style
of cooking, ’twas not for my pampered palate, accustomed as I was to the likes of Shelley and Keats.”

In time his taste would change.
War does that.
In 1917, Osler’s son, Revere, is killed on the Somme
The boy is only twenty-one.
Now, late at night, the father reads Whitman’s Civil War poetry.
The Good, Grey Poet nursed Union wounded in hospital wards
and knew of suffering:
“I saw the corpses, myriads of them…but they suffer’d not…
The living remain’d and suffer’d.”

Incantation for a Friend's Ulcerative Colitis
for A.A.

calling to you.
make strong the stride.
now pace the pride
of stepping stones
that dot the lake
for turtle sake.
Heal is my command.

Johnmichael Simon

Johnmichael Simon has lived in Israel since 1963. He has published three solo books of poems and two collaborations with partner Helen Bar-Lev. His poetry has been awarded numerous prizes and honorable mentions and is published widely in print and website collections. He is the chief editor of Cyclamens and Swords publishing and editor of Voices Israel group of poets in English anthology Johnmichael’s personal poetry website is

Ode to a Healthy Life

Freddy Ford was a fitness freak
worked out in gym four times a week
and on weekends took a ten mile hike
or climbed a hill trail on his bike

He ate only organic food
shunned cans and packs unless he viewed
each label, not purchasing ingredients
whose contents made him feel more tense

He swallowed every vitamin pill in sight
chomped carrots so he could see at night
drank only imported mineral water
in which he squeezed a lemon quarter

In his teens he became a vegan
and even ice cream didn’t weaken
his firm resolve never to ingest
things that failed his cholesterol test

He didn’t like chocolate, it spoiled his complexion
used sunscreen creams to give protection
against the cancerous solar glare
and used a mask to filter the air

He preferred being on his own
locked himself into his home
sprayed doors and windows every day
to keep offensive germs away

One day he got a bout of hiccups
went out for some medical checkups
while walking home a garbage truck
buried him under ten tons of muck

They put him in a pristine coffin
the cleanest box to send him off in
and on his tombstone they inscribed
“A Healthier Man Has Never Died”


can’t talk about things like
tuberculosis, halitosis or neurosis
strangler, jugular, cardiac arrest
acne makes me feel depressed

can’t stay awake, can’t fall asleep
malignant obsessions make me weep
leering executioner, cemetery plots
good evening Dr. Jekyll, thanks a lot

got to stop smoking, drinking, grass,
headaches, hangovers, sitting on my ass
cremate me wormless burn my groans
canine archeologists won’t find my bones

can’t talk about sanity, humanity’s doomed
Rosemary’s baby squirming in our womb
scribble in your notebook doctor dear
you’ll bungee into nothingness by next year

What to do with that music in your head

Swat at it like a fly
Pat your pockets for your phone
Look around for someone to complain at
Tap your foot and wait for the commercial
Look up ‘tinnitus’ on Google
Try to identify the composer
Wonder again if the station is terrestrial or celestial
Or whether Tchaikovsky preceded Beethoven
And who the hell wrote Fingal’s Cave
His ears full of spray and gulls
Looking around desperately for a pencil
While scratching scraps of melody in the sand
And then you’re flying again
With Debussy, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles
All buzzing around like a school of geese
And you, flapping away with them
From tune to tune
Quite oblivious of the cacophony of horns
And curses of irate drivers

Eine Kleine Hiatus Hernia

trumpets announce trouble
trombones tremble
there’s a hole in a pipe in my stomach
and I can’t plug it up with my finger
now I’m all leaking out
into sharps, flats, arpeggios
richard strauss, hoffnung,
reveille, clockwork musicals

I’ve got gas
kettle drum brewing
budweiser, bubblemania, bierfest
it’s like trying to play the flight
of the bumblebee on a tuba
my doctor prescribed warm baths
bottle brushes, fruit salts
I can’t get it right
the notes are written upside down
and my metronome’s got Alzheimer’s

In a little while I’m going
to take off: jet propulsion
squeaky balloon, bathroom pilot,
crop duster hanging on for life
I’m on a bombing raid,
watch out cockroaches
the day of retribution is on hand

I’m a symphonic variation
of a recycling plant
I’m a snare drum slowing to tinnitus
hallelujah I’m saved
clean as a piccolo
a perfect seaplane

let’s celebrate, pizzas for
everyone, burgers, fries
pickles, mayo

could we take that again
from line ten?
just the wind section please
one and two and…

Lisa Aigen

Been writing poetry. Plan to write more. Kids are more or less raised, off in their six different directions. They don’t mind that I am finally going in mine. I love my work as an art therapist, enjoy a quiet coffee with Steven, my spouse, my friend, every once in a read him what I write.

Our Vincent

Where were you
when he needed you,
inventing sorrow in the guise of sunflowers
sculpting passion
on his canvasses,
devising a new nature of desire,
hot and bright as the sun itself?
Where were you when he needed you?
Conceiving beauty with ardor
charcoal and despair
one generous pinch of his soul?
Where were you
when he hung his impasto stars
in your posh nights?
you a greedy voyeur
peeked into the cell where he slept
those days he was doing his holy work ?
Did you, like him, share despondent meals
of potato, sprouting onions?
Didn't you know
that like so many suffering a broken heart,
it would end badly?

P.S. Cottier

P.S. Cottier lives in Canberra, Australia, and writes poetry and short stories. She has been published extensively at home, in the US, Canada and the UK. This is her second contribution to Cyclamens and Swords. Her second book of poetry, The Cancellation of Clouds, has just been published by Ginninderra Press of South Australia. She blogs at and never ceases to be amazed at how people in a wealthy country like Australia love to complain about minor health problems. (Including herself. She has an extremely interesting cold at the moment. And perhaps even a stomach upset...)


The book yellowing into age,
pulled into replica sun.
The reptile lick of years
inserted between pages,
surer than any gecko grip.

Brown skin of the tanned
leathers into paisley splotch.
Too much lounging
by pool's bare oasis
causing the cells to slip

into tiny misread tomes.
Praising the orb that made them
they scuttle over thickened pelt.
Nebula on darkened beach,
nippy precursors prance.


Such things happen; such medieval things.
Bruegel could have dreamt this one,
a one-eyed snake wriggling through bowels,
controlled by a one-armed Satan.
Curl of guts projected onto screen,
their pink nest of privacy invaded,
in anxious search for polyp eggs
that could house flesh-eating crabs.
It's beyond spread-eagled, this photography,
so explicit; as far from erotic as can be.
Colon, opened book, tells its twisted tale,
from end to end to avid reading cyclops,
pushing through to final o! of surprise.
Unblinking auditor emerges into sweeter air,
that digital elephant's questing nose.

A Sonnet for the Minor Ailments

We are the quiet small complaints with no Foundations,
no charities, no celebrity revelations on gaping telly,
such as plantar fasciitis or mere rumbling in the belly,
which don't rate as disease, or have an efficacious lotion.
Dandruff may appall, but even if it's flurrying and snowing,
it's unlikely that this white plight will attract any attention
(unless it be a snicker or a quiet sarcastic mention).
Similarly a too frisky bladder so you're always always going;
kids just laugh and raise their eyes and shake despairing heads.
Where is the sympathy due for these little nasty niggles?
They deserve more than young contempt, bad jokes and giggles,
for there's annoyance in conditions that are technically sub-dead.
So I am forming a new Society for the Body Less Then Tops
where corns may be displayed and minor whinges never stop.

Rena Lee

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

Hospital Visit

On my last visit to the hospital - which at the time I didn’t know
would be the last – mother pointed at the wheelchair next to her bed
and said: “You have no idea how far I can go in this. Of course
I travel only in reverse, counting on the past to always be there,
for like me it has nowhere to go except retreat…Perhaps hoping
that if it backs-up far enough it may reach a sort of Past Perfect…”
And with that sardonic smile of hers, she added:
“Perfect’ indeed, who can spot an imperfection
from so far away?”
Then, still with that ghost of smile, she closed her eyes and set sail
to one of her ports-of-recall –

And I remained sitting on the stiff guest’s chair awaiting her return,
thinking how her days kept marching like troops in uniform,
each day an identical twin of the other; how tomorrow hung-in there
precarious and indecisive, and how, no matter what,
every tomorrow arrived dead on arrival.

I sat there breathing wafts of disinfectants from the corridor,
listening to sounds of footsteps muffled in the linoleum floor, and
the low background rustle, as of hidden fluttering –
Observing in the room the nurses come and go, not talking of
Michelangelo, but rather of an upcoming date, a new boyfriend,
or dress and shoes they just bought. Nurses so young and strong
that touching an old ailing body touches them not.

Mostly the door was closed, but I would remember that other unseen
partition, which stays forever open for quick transfer -

From the guest’s chair I watched the body mother left behind,
like a turtle’s shell, when she took off on her travel,
and I lingered there in painful expectation awaiting her return.

Even now, with her gone for many years,
I am still awaiting her return -

Ruth Fogelman

Ruth Fogelman, a long-time resident of Jerusalem’s Old City, is the winner of the Reuben Rose Poetry Competition, 2006. Her poetry received an honorable mention in the Lindberg Peace Foundation Poetry Contest 2010. Ruth’s first full poetry collection, Cradled in God’s Arms, was released in 2009, and her chapbook, Jerusalem Awaking, in 2010.
Ruth is author of Within the Walls of Jerusalem - A Personal Perspective. Her poems, articles, short stories and photography have appeared in anthologies and various publications in Israel and the USA, including Poetica, The Deronda Review, New Vilna Review, and International Literary Review. Ruth leads the Pri Hadash Women’s Writing Workshop in Jerusalem and holds a Masters Degree from the Creative Writing Program of Bar Ilan University.
Visit her website at


is when you awake
sweat rolling down your neck,
and you jump out of bed
to change that dash at the end of a line
to a colon.

You return to bed,
perchance to sleep, perchance to dream,
but again you awake as the muezzin
chants the night-call to prayer,
and bleary-eyed, weary-boned, you change
the colon to a semi-colon.

Back in bed, you turn over,
longing to sleep, adjusting the pillow,
yet, like a mosquito,
that semi-colon hounds you,
steals your slumber. Again you return
to your lines as thoughts race
through your mind;
you recall your friend’s words
and change the semi-colon to a period:
“semi-colons are unfashionable now.”

In the morning, upon waking —
but did you sleep at all —
you return to those lines, find the period
recently injected, (remembering, of course,
to apply thereafter a capital),
and you shake your head.
“No, no, this should be a colon.”

At the Clinic

No, no! I cried out, squirmed
and bolted from the clinic
when a nurse tried to insert
drops big as whales
into my eyes.

No! No! I thought while in line,
and disappeared from the school clinic
when the nurse held in her gnarled hand
a needle sharp as a viper’s fang
to inject a vaccine.

Vanishing – the only way
to stay healthy?

Ruth Lacey

Ruth Lacey was born in 1962 in Sydney where she grew up. She earned her Arts-Law degree from the University of Melbourne, and an M.Phil in writing from the University of Glamorgan in Wales, in 2006. Since moving to Israel in 1986, she has worked as a legal adviser, community manager, freelance journalist, magazine editor and copywriter. Her short stories have been published in literary journals in the US, UK, Australia and Israel, including The Best of Carve Anthology, Overland, and Verbsap. Ruth lives in the Galilee and is married with two teenagers.


The birds have moved on
from this broken place
trees singed, undergrowth gone.

The flames crept up to the edge of the picnic table
burnt a small hole
and then took another tack across the forest
revealing a single screw that wood had covered
the workings of a table
constructed to look effortless.

I listen harder
and their birdsong is hesitant at first
warblers, kingfishers, a woodpecker
each voice from a different direction
and me in the centre of it
life returned.

Rose Auslander

Rose Auslander's six-word memoir is "Mathematician's daughter -- has trouble counting."  She is Poetry Editor of Folded Word Press, and stays away from math.  Her great, great uncle, Joseph Auslander, was the first Poet Laureate of the United States, and she hopes to make him proud, wherever he may be. She received a Best of the Net nomination for her poem, “Oh My,” and is a Regular Contributor to Referential Magazine.  Her poem “From 2 Wall Street” was recently posted at

Orange Alert

If you hug your child and straighten her sweater when she
leaves the house,
she’ll come back, especially if you call or text,
preferably both, while she’s out “studying for her Japanese test,”
probably in a bar with male strangers twice as old as she is.
If you worry about your child, you don’t have to worry
about yourself.

Those bumps on your stomach are nothing,
mosquito bites, surely, even though they aren’t red and don’t itch, and seem to be shaped like Cuba which, anyway, is closer than we’d like to think, except oh, these days we worry about terrorists,
no need to worry about cigars --

fine carcinogens that, in fact, can save you years of fears
that an airplane will fly into your office, or
you’ll forget your boss’ name, or
no matter how often you brush and floss and gargle,
you’ll never lose the taste of the smoke
of gypsum, asbestos, glass fibers, calcium carbonate, cement, and lead
you breathed in like powdered Drano for nine months
after the twin towers collapsed a couple of blocks away.

Of course, you didn’t worry about the air. The government
said get serious, we’re on Orange Alert, put a flag on your car --
and you did, but now you’re afraid the stuff you swallowed is hardening into
a high rise inside of you, and the land mines around your waist are
waiting to blow it sky high, and when they do, no one will worry
what became of you.

Violet Samir

Violet Samir was born and educated in Scotland and England completing her first degree in English and French Literature in 1962. She then took graduate degrees in Social Work and worked in London where she met her Israeli husband. She has lived in Israel since 1970. Over the years Violet has written poetry but began to do so more intensively when she retired from social work. She does so for the specially deep joy that writing brings. She is only now beginning to take her poems out of "the drawer" and hope that they will find some readers who will enjoy them too.

Looking Forward

My husband pads around with one of those metal badges with a slogan
affixed to his shirt which reads," It is better to be over the hill
than under it."

I am ten years younger than he and haven't earned one,
since all I can claim, are two arthritic knees, two implanted teeth and a hysterectomy, back then when I was forty eight, while he has cancer, heart disease, diabetes and COPD.

This reminds me that when I was five, my older brother and
my younger sister had their tonsils removed on the kitchen table with anaesthetic, and ate ice-cream for a week, while I had wartime gourmet: rabbit on Wednesdays and no meat on Mondays. After the war had finished, the rabbits in England bought it again.

95% died of myxomatosis and the remaining 5% identified with my husband's button.

I attended a meeting of over seventies the other evening and when I sat down, I was inclined to believe that I was among the young people in the
room. Only one side of my face sags, and that morning I had counted one less wrinkle.

Staring vacuously at the grey and white heads around me, I found myself
wondering if I would have the walker or the silver-handled cane in ten years' time.