Fall is a wonderful time, where the brilliance of summer is harvested, both literally and metaphorically, from our gardens—and our minds. In a poetic harvest of this kind there is, however, an opposite current, a force that carries with it the distinct weight of loss. Often the season of fall is a time of looking backward and forward—of making peace with what’s gone before, and reckoning oneself with the winter to come.
Which is perhaps my way of warning: some of the poems in this edition are heavy. They do not shy away from pain; in fact, they gravitate toward it. In doing so they make a cold beauty. A beauty that contains hope, which can carry us through the harshest of winters.
Happy fall, everyone,
That House on Berry Avenue
A young family has bought
the house behind mine,
the shroud of tangled foliage
that obscured the dwelling
hacked down and cleared away,
the drapes, always closed, now gone,
the naked structure revealed
in the throes of renovation.
I can see all the way through
the ground floor,
its windows squinting in the
its walls ripped down
to skeletal studs.
I wonder if they know
that this house was infested
the years she never left the house,
the walls absorbing
the toxins of her melancholy,
the decades of caring
for her paralyzed son,
the loss of a daughter,
and then the son.
Sorrow has permeated
the floor boards,
seeped into the foundation.
I imagine workers in hazmat suits
brought in to exorcise
the residue of heartache,
removing it like asbestos,
to bring the dwelling up to code.
Touch Is the Last to Go
I begin to tell her the doctor thinks
she is much closer now. After all
she has said about wanting to die,
I assume this news will comfort her.
But those eyes, that barely stay open
these days, widen and stare. I swear
I can hear the questions
swirling in her head – what’s wrong?
maybe a blood test? do I need surgery?
So I make light of what I’d begun to say
– he’s new, you’ll fool him! –
and quickly change the subject,
ask her about the past,
chat about my day.
She tires, shuts her eyes.
I brush her hair, stroke her forehead –
as if my fingers could discover
what she really wants.
Trying to Get It Right
Arranging photographs in order
from ceremony through celebration—
until the couple climbs
the staircase, turns
and waves good night.
Laying out the shots with proper
spacing in between,
the ones with edges of sky and stone
extending off the page.
And of course, words – my own,
and those of Cummings, Gilbert, Laux,
and on the last page, Dove’s poetic heart offer—
Here, it’s all yours.
Yet, for all my care and scrutiny,
this album is flawed
in ways perhaps only I would notice—
some photos left out, some
too close or far apart,
a phrase or two off center,
the top of one word’s letters cut off.
Perhaps I’ll try again. Or perhaps
I should accept that
this album will not be perfect.
And my son’s marriage
—like every marriage—
cannot be entirely
free of heartache and quarrel.
after a photograph by Andre Kertes
When it’s drab, it’s drab
and the rains will show you
the way. Or you’ll follow a sign
and be ghostherded
with a will all your own. Walk
between the lines. Hoist
your umbrella like a shield.
It will protect you from everything
but the streams shooting out
of your own body.
The Woman Who Was Not a Bear
Every winter morning, the mirror presented proof:
Blunt teeth. Bare skin. Hands.
But every day she lumbered in the cold,
Stumbling, ground unstable under two legs.
And every winter night, exhausted. Every night,
Craving the long sleep. Every night,
Excavating deep caverns under blankets. Every night,
Dreaming what the sleeping earth dreams—
Of bodies curled far below the frost, folded within stone
And fur. Adrift until they catch the smell of sun-warmed dirt.
Then their heavy heads shake and growl away the sleep. Then
She truly wakes. Haunches stretching. Back bristling.
Breath steaming the cool cave air. Senses alive
With scent, nose finally free to press against the flanks of friends
And lovers. Inhaling the musky smell of her mate. Huffing
Her desire. Entangling limbs. Roaring the return of spring,
Of life. Then roaming. Near-blind in the sunlight
Yet sure-footed. Rambling the earth’s roads—stream banks,
Rock cliffs, pine-needle paths. Sniffing her way and gorging herself
On tart berries, meats, every fruit of the dark earth.
Tasting it all, indulging her insatiable hunger until the end
When autumn falls away, and she groans with fullness.
She goes back to the earth-hollow, heavy with her fellow bears.
Then she sleeps again, safe, satisfied. Yet dreams
A winter morning, when she wakes. She is ice cold.
Naked-skinned, curled around herself for warmth.
And every winter morning, she is alone.
When they advised torching
My life’s dry brush
I never thought to find this –
Me up to me knees in the dead.
Acres of decay I have, and quick to kindle.
Embracing the flames, driving away everything
That could never be. Thirsty for the fire,
Was I. Hungry to let go.
So I burned the dead. And the choke of living weeds?
I burned those too. Burned wild morning glory, flowers
Tangling and strangling me. Burned the pennyroyal,
Mint-sweet poison, jealously uprooting all others.
Burned it all. The smoke passes soon,
Or so they tell me. The ash settles.
I’ll be able to grow something better
In stronger soil. And so I wait.
But until this desolation clears,
With every breath
I breathe in every mistake I ever made
Anthony Cappo’s poems have appeared in Connotation Press—An Online Artifact, Stone Highway Review, Pine Hills Review, Yes Poetry, The Boiler Journal, and other publications. His chapbook, “My Bedside Radio,” will be published by Deadly Chaps Press in 2016. He received his M.F.A in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Anthony lives in New York City, where he practices guitar and sings ‘70s pop songs to anyone who will listen.
Vicki Mandell-King’s poetry has been published in a variety of literary journals, such as Calyx, Aries, Slant, Main Street Rag, Plainsongs, and Illya’s Honey. Her first book is entitled Tenacity Of Lace, and her second, Shrinking Into Infinite Sky, is forthcoming from Future Cycle Press.
Lois Levinson is a member of the Poetry Book Project at Lighthouse Writers Workshop, where she is working on the manuscript of her first book. Her poems have appeared in Bird’s Thumb, Clementine Poetry Journal, The Corner Club Press and These Fragile Lilacs.
Amy Wray Irish lives in Colorado with her husband, her two children, and her overactive imagination. She is a member of the Lighthouse Writers for her poetry and the Rocky Mountain Women Writers for her fiction. Among her publications is Creation Stories, a chapbook of poems and art to read online at http://poetscoop.org/manuscrip/Creation_Stories.pdf.