Sestina by John Macker

It is always thrilling to discover a poet through another poet…

Elements of Mystery and Surprise

Nicanor Parra said, “take back everything I said”
anti-poetry was his game and he took it to his grave
his vernacular Chilean love fest with language
permeated my life with hard-edged oblivious
soul and a militant wonder at everything that moves,
that is beautiful or sorcerous, everything a surprise.

That he died at 104 in January is no surprise,
he took his wild white hair with him to his grave
and for a moment I thought of my mother’s oblivious
end, and how silence is its own language
how it stalks and centers the mind, how it moves
through rooms on its own recognizance, left unsaid.

“In poetry everything is permissible,” or so he said.
You can’t improve the blank page from the grave.
I’ve always been attracted to sorcerers of language,
who braved elements, who watched winter’s blind moves
without flinching, who used words that enticed and surprised
who romanced each word with a knowing. Death to the oblivious.

Like those beautiful Chileans Bolaño and Neruda, oblivious
to the sorceries and machinations of fate, they stalked language
with the white hot passion of martyred saints, there ain’t no grave
worth its weight in silence that could still the bold surprise
of their words. Nothing left unspoken but everything left to be said:
winter drives us deeper in, the wind takes a breath but still moves.

Across landscapes wretched with drought, the ancients move
with the alacrity of wind, each track, each bone is a surprise
and if we dig deep enough, the words appear in a language
we don’t recognize but we do, where whispers of wind once said:
everything is permitted, nothing survives the ground, even the oblivious
can take root. Even then the world seemed cruel, its condition grave

its dancing black ghost horses stared at ghost borders on ghost graves.
I visit my mother’s grave and everything we said
is above the ground, in the wind, safe in a quiet house oblivious
the passages of time. I think of her, of Nicanor, how memory moves
us from one dimension to another. Every blank page a surprise.
Nicanor, your anti- is my anti-. I remind myself that snow is the language

of silence. Chile is a long way from Colorado, a different language.
A kid in winter is waiting for the bus in the wind, it moves
him to allow for the coming mysteries and the elements of surprise.

John Macker

Nicanor, young and old, from Wikipedia.

Poem for Basia Irland

I so admire Basia Irland’s eco art. And was honored to be asked to write a poem for a catalog of her work in a European show.



CONFLUENCE: On The Art of Basia Irland
by Miriam Sagan

The river
Flows with its currents
Of ice and time’s seeds;
Polar caps may melt, drawn
Into warming seas, winding
Into a lost geography.

Water might be a library, an archive, a graphology
Marking the globe with endless patterned rivers
And each direction gives birth to wind
As you try to stay current
As if you might draw,
In moist sand, a flower gone to seed.

Or maybe it is seed
Gone to flower—who can measure all the hydrography,
Aquatic maps, and constellations, drawn
With a stick in dirt, to mark an estuary, a river
Or the heart’s currents
As they wind and unwind.

A rise in the wind
Scatters seed
Across a current
Navigated by books of ice, a library
Dissolving in the river
Like converging lines drawn

Towards an infinite point. Drawing
Down the voices of the wind
That sculpt cliffs with the river;
Thoughts seeded
To create a story, biography,
In which the past remains current.

We ourselves must join the current.
Ice turns to water, mist draws
Moisture from the graphs
Of wind
Encircling the earth, seeding
A hope that can only be called river.

All rivers head for the sea, flow, debris, currents.
A seed is resurrection, you draw
A manuscript of earth which is everyone’s autobiography.

Three Poems by Mary Strong Jackson

She dusts the high desert from the gouged and pitted
years and layers of living drift before her eyes
bits of others sweep into her dusting cloth 
a word from another time and place comes to mind 
a place where the air was damp and dusting far between 
where an old man named Meryvn said the word “chiropody.” 
She says it aloud, chiropody, chiropody 
it seems like a dream sketched deep as the pitted wood 
yet far away in that time with the unswimmable pond
her dear ones and herself, when her eyes 
tried to see across an ocean, and an old man of eighty said, “Do you mind?”
And lifted her foot, removed her shoe, wiped it with a soft cloth,

then the other shoe, so gentle, she could have cried, and he wiped it with the cloth.
He held her foot for moments lost in thought. For sixty years his work was chiropody.
I like your accent he said, not harsh like some Americans. “Do you mind?”
he asked, as he felt her small toe, then picked up his tools made of wood
and her shoe, continued in the way of ritual, the way of work. He looked in her eyes
“I miss my wife beyond what words can tell.” Now the ocean of death lies between.
An ocean of death separates some, a living ocean roars between
her prairie family and herself. Mervyn wipes his eyes with the corner of his cloth.
“Beyond what words can tell is how much I miss my wife,” he says again. She wipes her eyes.
He plays his wife’s music box with meerkat figures on top. “Chiropody
gave us a good life. She fed me crumpets. Her love solid as ironwood,
soft as the skin on the top of your foot. I miss her hands. I miss her mind.”
Mervyn and five brothers, shoe repairers all, but only Mervyn minded
customers’ feet, the care of feet, the care of shoes, no difference between
the two in his gentle hands. He shaped shoes like an artisan shapes wood.
He shapes hearts like a chocolatier, wipes sweet or sad tears with the soft cloth
always in his pocket. Chiropody, care of the feet, Chiropody,
care of the soul is Mervyn’s work. He leans across his grief to see into her eyes.

He sees loneliness in waves, picks her foot up again, again his eyes
swim through sadness but he lets it wash away to focus, to mind
the store, to mind the feet, he picks up her other foot again. “Chiropody.”
Do you know the meaning of the word?” he asks between
caring for her feet and speaking of his dead wife, and again the soft cloth
to wipe his eyes, to wipe her eyes. If only we could turn to wood
and then be shined by a soft cloth to ease our single mindedness
where we could say the word chiropody as we close our eyes
and everything sad would fall between the cracks of dusty wood

              I Must Confide

I don’t know if stalagmites 
hang down or rise up
or how one thing seems like another
making metaphor the mother of all

I confide
I don’t know why sad settles in some
settles in shoulders, edges of eyes, soft corners of mouths
why it doesn’t rise like bread dough or elevators or angels
but hangs on heels, 
a sucking dredge fastening feet to floors

I must confide
I love and hate dichotomies
I don’t know how the morning’s kindness
weaves itself into the cushion of time

I don’t know the difference between the shapes of birds
and the stanzas of poems
the way red-winged blackbirds
connect like drops of ebony
in waves of rhythm and cadence
 to become silent poems
across prairies

I must confide


Longing for the Light

his brother sits in his room all day
their father says it was the war

the boy thinks of the bird’s eye 
wet with something and wonders if his brother
saw the eye of someone he killed
and if it was wet
and if the person looked at his brother
like the bird had looked at him

the brother says that America is in two wars without end
      Glory be to the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
      as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world 
      without end. Amen
Father Maximos says “without end” means there are no accidents 
there are no accidents his brother says
we have done this on purpose


Sestina and Villanelle by Doug Bootes

Beyond Winter

In order to write a Haiku about spring
Confine the paradigm to real time,
Plum blossoms, cherries and a humming bird
Nectar feeding intent of a flower,
Will seventeen syllables make enough words
In a brain thinking volumes and books?

Kerouac wrote about girls toting books
In short skirts, on sunlit Spanish steps of spring
Using unpunctuated flowing perfect words
In a manner transcending time,
Blowing memories into a roadside flower,
Flitting from thought in the chest of a bird.

Be careful not to crush a trembling bird,
One in the pocket is better than two on the books.
And to capture a moment, a wild flower,
Blooming, running melody, bubbling spring
Into a dew drop golden web spinning time
Might be too many words.

I question the assumption, stumble on with words,
Drunk with the dance of a caged bird,
Pacing the immeasurable floor, marking time
With colored pins on maps and hidden note books;
For now, I am ready, ready to spring,
To capture the moment, to apprehend the essence of a flower.

So why write poems about a flower?
Why articulate thoughts into words?
Why not lie down in the snow blossom spring,
Live life as a song, learning how from any bird,
Experience now what’s been written in books,
For no one’s a hero but time.

Put away memory, put away time
Hold in your mind my holographic flower
Meditate briefly on these three stacks of books
Feed them to your soul slowly, forgetting the words.
Time is the cage, our self is the bird
Fly away in the fall, return in the spring.

Spring time,
Song bird serenades flower,
Words fill up with books.


Ghost Flower
I remember what we were, wonder why
Fragile rain sun tears, beads on the sill
Lingering scents, orchids under night sky

Floating in lost, unable to fly
Quiet and luminous, fragrant and still
I remember what we were, wonder why

Thrashing in lust, pretend not to die
Succulent, voluminous empty to fill
Lingering scents, orchids under night sky

Never is enough, grasping at the sky
Loving like credit, screwing like the bill
I remember what we were, wonder why

Pull then apart, scream not to cry
Stars shrivel, mercurial balls on the sill
Lingering scents, orchids under night sky

Laundered for future, laying tears out to dry
Glide over the moon, fly past it until
I remember what we were, wonder why
Lingering scents, orchids under night sky.

End Words: A Sestina by Jeanne Simonoff

End Words

Father sits in his rocking chair,
pushes the floor with a force
drawn in my mother’s wail.
When he leaves, each year his yahrzeit
what was a duet is now silent-
Father and Mother gone, they become my benchmark.

When the cup is near empty, the last sip is their benchmark.
A father and now fatherless.
Our duet runs out of notes,
the silence in our conversation without force,
the electric candle burns a year later at his yahrzeit.
A litany of uterless signs, sounds puncturing silence, a wail.

After some time, a day, a year, how many, the wail
carries us forward, a benchmark.
Each year in May, his yahrzeit,
and my father, his words wander.
They force themselves into conversation:
a pun, a joke, one voice, to me a duet.

How many times can we both play a duet,
sounds replacing wails, a parabola
at the speed of light, that force
a benchmark, pervading my days.
A father. Two mothers.
Their yahrzeit candle often comes in to play.

They sit in my mind a yahrzeit torn from this life to play
no longer, their voice as symphony. The duet
buried with my father, but never a total quiet.
His wail followed by a corny joke.
His benchmark out in air.
A force to be reckoned with and

a force trailing my sleep in dream and
in May, his yortzeit lit in his honor.
My benchmark, the man, a joy
and with him a duet, my
mother’s wail hiding in her throat,
joined together in death, my father

My forceful mother, my gentle father,
Their wails in darkness, their flames in a yahrzeit
candle, on their anniversary, a duet, my benchmark.