Stage of Isolation: Stillness
after “Union Square, NYC“ by Gordon Gilbert
The sun, a white moon
in the scant trees where I’d like
to be sitting on one of the benches
book open, reading the light
on my page, significant shadows
reach out across the pavement.
The coded street lamps wait
for something to appear in
the sensor, but everything is still,
heads bowed legs crossed spaced apart
without a comma fault
in ones and twos, solos and duets
studying their parts
–> Michael Magee
I was hungry for a year. I ate small helpings when I remembered or felt like it.
But the hunger was always there, a constant companion. We became friends.
Hunger, reliable and present, insistent at times. Demanding. Healthy friendships
run both ways. I gave back stomach growls and smaller waistbands, though this
wasn’t about poundage. Mostly I gave it attention. Instead of heading for the pantry
I listened to my hunger. Instead of opening the freezer I opened to my hunger and
what it was saying. Slowly I began to understand. I couldn’t converse but I could
translate. Isn’t it interesting how meaning transcends language. The phalanx of desire
flew across the skyline of my mind. I admired its formation, its arrow shape against
the pale blue, its direction and unfathomable purpose. As I listened to the hunger
I felt it detach like a poem on the page that came from me … that I could see for
what it is, for what it was, its own instinct to survive and control filling the space
with desire disguised as need. And that is what my friend, my companion, my teacher
taught me. A year-long poem filled with its own seasons and forecasts, markers and
detours that showed me, guided me to this place where ink doesn’t go, where thoughts
and feelings flow, where hunger joined clouds and sensation no longer growled,
rumbled, or yearned but eased into a phalanx of its own and drifted across a sky I now
understood but could no longer see.
–> Guy Biederman
The Shadows are Engaged
I no longer claim to be writing a great American anything. I am not much.
I am a surveyor of a city I adopted in my thirties that consistently avoids me.
I don’t have reaching limbs like trees after rain or sun rays to shoot down the clouds. I’m alone.
On this hillside, I watch
a glittering tide move out but only
in my mind—the tidelines aren’t visible
from a vantage along the city shoulder, the tide
moves in stern winds. When I breathe
hard through this mask, the sweat
of previous pathways breathes
I just want to watch this sun retreat so I can drive away from a sure mirage.
That ochre pollution haze is unfortunate or maybe it is kinda pretty—the way it blurs it all
from this distance, I am okay with me—alone like this. I feel out of the eye here—a little free in this windless divide where the shadows are winning the reaching war.
And these days—
even the elements are all trying to get
what they do not have. They overtake some
sidewalk—a plush of grass
and they want sea
gulls, too. O they yearn for unknown reaches. They fatten
on whispers and I am almost voracious enough to accept
the offering the universe has handed me.
Since I am not writing anything
important these days, I observe.
I return to the foreground just in time to see a proposal
from the hillside. One shadow plows another to the grass
with an embrace that summons an orchestra of silhouette—
tears roll down my pandemic-fattened cheeks—
and my heart
fills with their strange, masked love.
–> Kari Flickinger
Return to Temperance River Sate Park
The setting of a former poem
where my daughter and I’d arranged
what she called a minnow museum
using pebbles and bits of wood
against the basaltic, waveworn shore.
To say, seven years later, that I sit in the shade
with my notebooks, brushing ants
from my legs as my family swims in the churn
of tepid river spilling into the frigid mouth
of Lake Superior is another vacation slant.
To say there’s another mother
who leaves her child with his grandma
to climb up past the railing and face away
while grandma chides the boy for throwing rocks.
To acknowledge the mother carrying towels
near the picnic tables, mutely watching her toddlers
gather button-sized pebbles.They cascade
from doll-sized fingers to clink against
the heavier stones below.
To say that my daughter sprinkles seeds
of lake across my pages as she leans to arrange
today’s clutch around the perimeter
of my waiting. She assembles a low cairn
to anchor my blanket’s edge
and offers a stone of speckled white.
I tell her I’ve gathered enough to last the trip,
then my hand reaches to palm the weight
as she turns to splash back in.
–> Micki Blenkush
Impossible Blooms—October 2020
Just once grant yourself this:
turn everything off. Everything, even
if only for an hour. Sweep off all the
acorns and twigs, left by diligent squirrels,
and sit outside on the old porch swing
you didn’t have time for all summer.
The forest’s brittle voice is restless.
Drying leaves, gilded and brass,
whisper in the aqua sky, their chorus
like ocean waves coming to sand.
Eavesdrop on the clever banter of crows.
Catch the dreamy purr of a distant plane.
Close your eyes. Allow a gentle sun
to fall on your thighs, knees, and face.
Let it kiss your eyelids. Open your eyes.
The pumpkin’s stealthy tendrils creep
across the stubborn grass, to revel in its
jubilant, impossible October blooms.
The essays waiting for your marks
will be there later. The news will not
get worse if you’re not watching it.
Exist. Just once, write something new
from your own mind, your own words.
Breathe a breath that’s yours.
–> Lisa Lutwyche
In the scramble you reach for your poem and discover how one misstep
will change your life.
The miracle of the everyday
lit clouds at sunset cat purring against your leg
for the time being is a broken record repeating itself until you get it. Or don’t.
Records are meant to be broken.
The difference between a groove and a rut becomes personal.
That virus lurking outside your door means to kill, means to survive that is, and in
the thriving will kill very well.
That piece of paper as blank as your face. That cup of coffee as good as drunk.
That life of yours, when it comes undone, when it comes to being done leaves no balance sheet, no poems, no paintings, no letters home undone.
Merely glimpses through the pane, you know.
Regret is but a figment.
A body of work cannot be buried. To be forgotten is an organic matter,
A task best left to those who someday will knock on your door.
And when they do answer it. Order lobster, sip scotch. In a moment of reflection
the duality of existence will pause for a moment
waiting for a tip I suppose
and the question of light coming through the cloud or reflecting off the front
becomes linear, though you are not— rhetorical, though you never were—
academic, though your days in school have long been over.
What’s green is green, what’s blue is blue
what counts is in the eye of the beholder
when reflections hover above and below
cloud in the water
cloud in the sky
the duality of existence is not so much frozen in time but
which is to say, a lifetime on the tip of your pen.
–> Guy Biederman
“Alone, and yet alive! Oh, sepulchre! My soul is still my body’s prisoner!“—The Mikado
I can almost sense those who are spending this morning in a huff, still in bed
but refusing, today, to imagine what they sometimes do upon waking—a body beside them,
staring back, in the place they’ve kept vacant as faithfully as any commitment.
Even if, as happens sometimes beyond their control–like they expect love to happen—
they had woken up from one of those perfect dreams where they were loved
by someone worthy of loving them, today it wouldn’t be enough;
they wouldn’t greet the day in a smiling stupor of their little secret;
they would, instead, play the cynic who knows the magician has tucked the card away,
bitter to know the taste in their mouth was only their own tongue, sour from the morning.
But I was glad to be alone, because it was only alone that I would’ve remembered
the year we had performed The Mikado in high school, an excuse for us all
to dye our hair black and white our faces, and make a project sewing simple kimonos,
congratulating ourselves on an authenticity that, true, was about as authentic
as Gilbert and Sullivan had envisioned it, who still called it “the Orient.”
But what did we know, still in school, most of us having never left the state?
Of all the authenticity we had replicated, we were most convinced by the lovers,
two eleventh graders, whose depiction of romance rang true to us; that,
and the honest performance of the old maid–there’s always an old maid—
played for laughs by a senior girl, who howls the saddest song in the show,
and who had drawn old lady lines on her white makeup, and a fat black mole,
because loneliness, we assumed, couldn’t touch anyone truly good at heart.
And like most teenage wisdom, it was true in pieces: the loneliness we couldn’t imagine
arrived eventually, but what the maid’s song didn’t address was how loneliness,
on mornings like this, could feel as spacious and warm as an empty bed in winter:
alone, and yet alive, with a crisp morning on the other side of the window,
and a rare feeling of contentment brought on by nothing but the expected;
alone, and yet alive enough to sit in a quiet room, writing this down,
one cup of coffee already gone, and an operetta with words that came back to me
playing through headphones; and I’ll have another cup of coffee,
and maybe open the window without worry of who, besides me, will decide it’s too cold,
and then I’ll do what only the alone can do today
and ignore the world, certain that I’ll be unbothered by those who have each other,
and write a lazy poem without rhyme for nobody at all in particular.
Alone, and happy to remember that last night I dreamed I was alone, even there,
walking through a garden at dawn, with carrots growing above the soil,
so real that, on waking up, I could almost smell the pasture I knew had been nearby.
–> Goddfrey Hammit
“The meaning doesn’t matter if it’s only idle chatter of a transcendental kind.”―
“Earthly and holy both. How can this be, but it is. Every day has something in it whose name is forever.”―Mary Oliver, Everything That Was Broken
What comes next?