Category Archives: POETRY

To Be Called   :   Testimony

by Elsa Johnson

I will speak now in other voices       :        whippoorwill        legend        saver of lost souls

haunting the wood’s edge in springtime                                calling the dusk moths home            

I will speak now in the voice of chipmunk              quicksilver             placer of sunflowers

seed-side-down                    offerings made                           for one more day’s safe grace

I will speak in the hawk’s voice         :        sharp-shinned huntress                          shrieker 

gifter of quick death         she of the ice-cold heart           the silent swift-moving shadow                         

and in the vulture’s voice          :          gleaner                  wing-rider                  wind-soarer                                                               whose presence is                                   the priesthood                                              of death

I will speak now in other voices       :       hummingbird chitter               high in the tops of

linear locust trees          :          small       writhen       ring-necked snakes                alarmed                               

loosened from sheltering stone          :         Yellow-jackets          that sting         and chase        

to sting again            and night-time horses                     bolting                       lightening

flares                         thunder-claps                            and   I will speak for the un-wild deer                 

quiet-eyed                at the yard’s edge                             browsing the bushes without fear                                                             

I would speak for what does not speak     :     the  cruel devouring mantis      the delicate

damselfly she sometimes hunts                     for bumblebees         butterflies          drunk 

in the milkweed         the goldenrod                      all that multitude of            tiny insects        

buzzing flowers         :           in red crocosmia         sprawling                        purple pungent

oregano                           yellow-eyed blue buddleia                          crystal-crusted daylilies             

star-burst filaments of    cimicifuga                                                            and bee-glad phlox                                                   

I   too    will stand to speak for the wood drake            and for the still water on which he             

rests in beauty       For the great heron            the night heron              the ‘fisher’ flashing    

low     over the water                for the geese        drifting      among the reeds       the lily

pads        and for the strong-jawed turtle         waiting                                       lurking below   

                  

I will learn and speak the language of lichen                                         of grey-green filigree

coating stone                hiding time                                      the language of the aging oaks

riddled by borer        riven with wilt                                     I will learn the codes of worms

of microscopic mycorrhizal fungi           leaf mulch             and leaf mold              decay       

the language of           the mysterious complexity of dirt             duff           ruffled rhubarb        

and all that driven             erotic              unfurling of spring                                     new risen                               

out of the driven        luminous         dying         of fall                            I will speak for them

and  this voice too    :    ocean   :     least knowable           greatest of all              her words

of hush and sibilance      of susurration      that mystic speech          that echoes        down

our own chambered seas       words        of the wet world         that tell us                we live     

not          as we think         on our own terms            but helplessly           :          Hear that            

internal roar             Feel the great wave’s pull                the irresistible draw of its wash                     

its tremble        tumble        its untranslatable speech made up of        songs            of all

the large and lesser creatures of Sea             I will speak for them        :          sharp tooth

and finned tail      tentacle and gill          I will speak for what cannot speak            even

for that vastest whale         wrecked        broken       on the broad beach            by plastic

I will speak in other voices                                                                                 to bear witness

  

                       

How the Orgy Begins

by Elsa Johnson

Honeyberry leafed out    last night                                           Her pale

tiny flower buds are straining                         ( wait!   wait!       There

are no pollinators yet! )                                                    The first grey-

green buddlea leaves    uncurl —                                      Poking amid

half-digested leaf mold                                                    fragile carcass

of insect           :          possibly bumblebee            :           and    there

a scant handful of                                                    ultra violet     irises

while here               the rhubarb                  in its red                 unfurl-

ing                      so      almost     obscene                     like a bright

vulva        aroused from dirt                                      Last year’s debris

shouts           take me!   ( away! )              while this year’s new life

claws   out of the ground                And the sparrows call    :   what? 

who?/ where?/ there!    Is it time? —  now! /now! / quick? / quick!            

Good Planets Are Hard To Find

by Elsa Johnson

the bumper sticker said            and here we are                                   stranded

in this black vacuum of space filled            beyond full          with cold pinpricks

of far    and farther     distant stars            We are no longer ignorant creatures

cowering     beating our ape chests in fear    in domination           We know we

are not the center of      the ever-expanding universe            We know the sun

does not revolve around us                                           but we are still the center

of   our  universe             in this sense the worlds still spin around      not our

planet              but            we who ride her              A fine point     but telling  :           

Good planets are hard to find

Where is the awe      commensurate to truth?     Out there amid the glittering

of infinitude          the ice-hot brilliant stars    in the blank of space            there

are surely other planets         blue         fragile        like ours                       Do we

imagine        we will find one          once we’ve fouled this one ?              Escape

to a place that               once we found a way to get there                    would

no longer   be   there                      Would be going               faster               faster                      

Perhaps ridden by its own                       brand                                            of doom                 

Thou

by Elsa Johnson

20100904141527-1

 

Thou —

                               are the granite                                               and         the cloud —

                               the eagle       and         the fly hatching in the flesh of the kill —

                               

                               the lily                                  and the dung in which it sprouted —

      

                               the ache in the crotch of the tree where the bough ripped off

          

                               and                                               the hot rushed flower of spring

           

                               You are the sun scion                    blinding the day-dark stars —

                               

                               both war-call and whisper

When the sky is turned on itself        When one lies over a barreled bench        like a sacrifice

on the face of the curved earth         with the sky found          in the bottom          of the bowl

under the grassed dome of heaven             You are the world made right         then wrong

then right again :   Life                       and the life it feeds                     and the life that feeds it

         

germ at the seed’s core                  the last shock of birth                      fresh love’s first stroke

the wound’s whimper                                                                                        a great glad belling        

20101008153553      

 

Note:

There is a bench in Forest Hill Park that is shaped like a barrel. If you sit on it and then lie back so that you are draped over it on your back, looking up at the sky with your head in an up-side-down position, looking down the length of the Great Meadow, a curious phenomena occurs: The world becomes a bowl. It is like being inside a snow globe, with the grass that was at your feet now overhead, and the trees reaching into the sky, but the sky now the bottom of a large bowl. The way the ground has directional slope disappears, homogenized by the strength of this bowl perception. I’ve asked various eye doctors why this perception of space as bowl – no one can give me an answer. It any of you, dear readers, have a clue why this might be, please tell us. 

At any rate I’ve tried to write poetry about this phenomena in the past, without success, but recently while writing a poem, I found the barrel bench and its effect creeping in. One of my poet friends calls it a psalm.

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Indications of Advent on LaDue Reservoir

by David Adams

My kayak glides into December

like a bright red blade in a landscape

faded grey and brown and green beneath

a sky that hovers like a single cloud

as edged and delicate as mica.

 

Yesterday I watched my mother slap

her palm against her heart and fix her eyes

hard into her mother’s century—

shawls billowing chenille and silk,

a row of glads lake acolytes

leaning from a breeze that cannot end.

 

Hoe strangely might the World insist…

There was a chord with someone’s name.

There was a vase that spilled its prayers;

they rolled like candles. They were stars.

 

A string of gleaming decoys spin and bob

unnaturally in the freshening wind.

All brands of hope float here in ways

so small you’d think that living any life

at all was just a matter of addition.

But the mergansers are not fooled

and cluster near the dam far out of range.

I can hear the whispered curses in the reeds,

and I remember that the reedy hours that wave

and ring us all our lives hold every

whisper ever heard or lost or dreamed….

In the middle of this water I just stop

 

and feel the drift to stillness nearly perfect

but for me, balanced on an edge so fragile

between acceptance and tomorrow

as the wind and waves ripple into agitation.

It can be too late for wonder.

Still, to feel blessed just now…who knows?

 

The paddle dips and pulls,

a breath of water tracing the parabola

towards the longer lights of winter,

towards home, wherever that is.

Villanelle for Garlic Mustard

by Don Abbot aka The Snarky Gardener

garlic_mustard_flowering
I fell in love with an uncommon weed

Garlic Mustard is the way she’s known by some

Though others name her an invasive breed

Immigrants concealed in their coats her seed

America bound via boats they’ve come.

I fell in love with their uncommon weed.

During spring I gather, harvest, and bleed,

Loading bags until my hands are numb.

And people dub her an invasive breed!

In times when skies are dry and there’s great need

Gardeners grow her without a green thumb

I fell in love with this uncommon weed

Abundance and charity are my creed

This strong herb fills many stomachs with yum,

Though experts term her an invasive breed

Prepare pesto with her bounty, I plead!

For us, many a meal she will become

I fell in love with my uncommon weed

Because they call her an invasive breed.

Demon Lover

by Elsa Johnson

When my demon lover comes to bed           he drapes

his black furred body across the pillow                above   

my head        He has issues around intimacy            No

matter how hard he tries               he cannot get close

enough           pushes his head into my head            o-

ver         and over           trying to make of us one head   

one breath        while I gently push him away       over

and over until    exasperation!                     I pitch his

body down to the far end of the bed         …ah sweet

sleep          Hours later my husband wakes to find my

demon lover between us         hunkered down on my

right shoulder                Head tucked close to my neck

fore-leg stretched across my  chest    he seems to say

Possession    nine tenths of the law   :     She’s mine

Prayer to the Green Tara

by Elsa Johnson

green tara image

Small rose     rosette    

rosetta of greening  on grey stone

celadon   jade    acid

green    apple   greening

frost fuzzed    felt adorned    

white furred    greening

Rose Of The Seed World     

little sunflower      seed side

down    green side up

aglow on grey stone.   

Not centered  but  placed 

precisely    inside a circle    

paler than the grey stone

on which it lies

signified thus :

Cornucopia of Seed Heaven

Who prays to you

Rosetta of Mice

and in what language?

Who offered you

Sacred Object of Chipmunks

Prayer Wheel of Squirrels

and in what manner?

Harvest of Birds         

who caws you?    Green Lotus

Celadon    jade    acid 

green     apple    greening    

on grey stone —

Who worships you ?

little sunflower     little rose

little green lotus     seed side

down            green side up

A Song of Gentle Extirpation (Chasmanthium)

by Elsa Johnson

Some plants that you invite to your garden                                       

can never over-stay ‘welcome’                                                    even

when they overstep                                   Sea oats aren’t like that : 

they spread      take up space      crowd      sprawl like their name

sprawls on a page                      and                            given a year or   

two            they inundate                drown out phlox                 lilies

agastache                   the plants we love                 that beacon

butterflies                    and all kinds of bees                        Our eyes

need spaces          to pause          to rest          to breathe            Air   

that seems to hold nothing                  holds our eyes            which       

land         dry off their wings                                    then fly on again                       

This grass              that works to bind beach dunes                stilling 

sand against the surge                         works wrongly in my garden   

  •   graceful though it be when the soft winds  stir

Poems: Sunset Song and Song after Drought

 Sunset Song

by Elsa Johnson

I too                               have woken in the dead of night

to the flicker of light                                   and the muted

booms   of a nearing storm                 and thrown on my

shoes to flee into the blackness                                along

the muddy lane                              brushing the hot wires

twice                         to race the storm to the far pasture

where the shod horses graze                       in the unsafe

night                           to bring them back home to safety                         

They bolt at the first strikes     the horses     plunge      

and fly down the narrow track                      by wind and

noise whipped on        by the crackling         the crashing

above                  and the fierce hard lash of the fast rain                   

For who can outrun the storm?         now         or ever —       

The deluge comes                passes                comes again 

Song after Drought

This time the deluge came           and went            quickly

washing the day’s heat away                             after night

had fallen                     silent              to the hot pavement    

                         There is no more racing the night track in

blackness                         bringing the horses safely home

                    that lie allowing me              to bolt like my

beasts                                    fully alive to the lashing skies               

Today is three weeks out from solstice                 They’re

long dead              all the beautiful horses                   and

I’ve grown old         Last night’s rain tapered down from

ungentleness                  to less than a deluge          soft –

soaking the parched skins of earth               Underneath

the streetlamps    small wet leaves sparkle          almost

imperceptibly                       the long summer days wane