From Goldfish Press
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Kelley Jean White --- three poems
There was thunder, and a mountain shattered, falling—
There was a single tree still standing in this city,
one tree beside a noisy street. (‘noise’ does not begin
to speak for all that sound.) And now that I have come back
even this last tree has fallen, unnoticed, with a silent swish
of still green leaves. Oddly, it struck no building, just
cobblestones and tar, trolley tracks, the cracked sidewalk
beneath its trunk and branches No lightning struck, no wind
sent it sprawling. It seems its roots simply released,
its little soil outgrown. It was my only tree here, and I
have left northern white mountains, racing rivers, torrents
of snow melt carving glacial caverns out of granite.
I had thought to see it, this one tree bloom into autumn, shade
into snow. Now there is nothing to see. But dirty glass and
crumbling buildings. Scars.
These are my woods
head past pumpkin plants
cross the brook onto the thick mat
of leaves and sticks and over
fallen trees. So many fallen trees.
There is the owl tree on the left,
empty of owls these past two years
below and above vernal pools
filled before dawn by last night’s rains
light slants through woods ahead
silence, broken for a moment
by what might have been a deer
not glimpsed, sensed; turn, look back
see the brilliant white birch trunks
let them draw your eye to peace
Tonglen practice, also known as “taking and sending,” reverses our usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure. In tonglen practice, we visualize taking in the pain of others with every in-breath and sending out whatever will benefit them on the out-breath.
How many years have we counted
each other’s breath? Tonight I have
barefoot tiptoed from bed to desk
from your curled back to a stone cold
floor. When I return you may wake
and roam the ticking quiet house.
But how many hours have we shared
with breath matched, dreams matched,
snores, sighs, stretches. Even the cats
stay attuned. Curved into the spaces
between us. The space made behind
our fitted knees, our pillowed necks.
Their purrs, their tiny sneezes. Their
paws. So I breathe in your pain as
my pain. Breathe out my hope for you,
breathe in your hope as mine. The cats?
Their dreams are soft and timeless.
Yours and mine? Carry a little fear.
COMING UPON A DEER
Her eyes are transfixed
on my intrusion.
Mine are drawn
to the morning air ruffle
through her brown flanks.
She’s appraising me.
What is this creature?
Why does it stare at me?
Does it mean me harm?
She doesn’t suspect
the true reason.
I don’t move,
speak in hushed tones
like a predator would never do.
“It’s okay. It’s okay”
I know the deer is fearful
but I need this moment.
No other presence
can come so close to holy.
the doe darts off into the thicket.
I remain there a while
but she doesn’t return.
That is all I’m going to get
My eyes are back on me for now.
ACCIDENTALLY DISTURBING A FINCH
fly away from me
to unnecessary safety
but with freedom
you so desperately
WHAT BEES DO
I get up close to the bees
that dart from one small yellow flower
to the next
though I know one
small buzzing critter
cold land on my bare arm at any moment,
deliver a jab of pain.
I envy a life
that small, so concentrated,
with one thing in mind
that’s not even a thought,
to fly in and out,
to feast on the buds,
pollinate, provide for the hive,
to not waste their lives,
watching what men do.
Goldfish Press poet Valeria Nollan will be reading internationally here:
Julie A. Dickson
Homage to Fear
Darkness descends, ebony blanketed sky
skeletal branches loom, arms outstretched
provoked terror mounts to crescendo,
perspiration soaked skin beneath hooded
jacket, eyes wildly searching path.
Rope swing sways, empty now.
Swimmer dropped into unknown depths,
awaits his brother, bubbles - breath
to break swirling water, clouded
with silt, no sign yet.
Voice of anger permeates silence,
cringe into the nearest retreat,
caustic cacophony, sadistic screeches rise
in volume while madness beckons
from every perceived safe corner.
Dog lurches against his chain,
pass by quietly, ignore barking,
jaws clenched watching foam appear,
strangled growls, front paws grapple
rough ground, walk away quickly.
Empty water bottle, lips cracked
parched swollen throat feels raw,
heavy leaden footsteps through sand,
dry desert floor, sparse saguaros,
phantom shadow feigns cool oasis.
Julie A. Dickson
In the woods
Leave yourself behind
Peaceful pines surround you
Julie A. Dickson
Hold on Tight
They told her she was barren,
her damaged womb felt as sad
as her empty heart, no baby
to love - until work from home;
quietly allowed fetus to implant, calling
to her, I will be born.
My father was replaced, with this
stranger, peering out through blank eyes,
not the volatile man he was,
firmly planted in an orthopedic wheelchair;
dementia stole my father, but I
admit I sometimes prefer this substitute.
A young tabby, alone in the city,
tail broken and flattened, thin, starving,
trapped, sent to a stark crowded garage;
she fears humans, but accepts food,
finally placed in a forever home,
languishes sated in a sunny window.
Dark blue eyes not open much
at first, so sleepy and hungry,
arms stretched out over his head,
emerged from my daughter, already loved,
held close to hearts, swaddled tight;
cannot stop touching his soft head.
A stroke left her weak, feeling
helpless, lonely. No more will she
create her lovely hand knitted sweaters,
we talk of Ireland; she smiles
at memories held, gardening and plants,
hand clasped softly in mine, remembering.
Julie A. Dickson
I shouldn’t have tried to look inside
The abandoned house boarded up
but for this single window
Dog and I approached to peek in,
disturbed hornet’s nest, sentries
reminded me of our lapse in decorum
Julie A. Dickson
Grab ahold tightly, don’t lose your grip.
It’s important to look beneath as the rope
swings left and then right.
Over dark veiled water, you cannot see anything;
could be rocks or soft sand below;
don’t let go too soon unless you feel safe
but if you sway with the rope, back up the hill,
there are surely rocks, boulders even;
you’ve hit your heels before and it hurts.
The gnarled rope shows signs of age, knots frayed
with the years, but its still strong enough to hold
your weight until you decide whether to jump in.
Julie A. Dickson
against the gray and purple
reflected on an indoor window
coming on the evening dusk
...a few days before Christmas
births its church choir
and its manger musk,
This is cold dark which breathes down deep!
This is the light which shines on us!
Daybreak Rises, by Mark Tulin
On the West Coast,
stars hang over
display a gentle tilt,
nights grow shorter,
tides move further
out to sea,
setting up its stakes
like the homeless
who line the dunes
with makeshift tents,
who fish for food
and bury their past
deep in the sand.
The Heartfelt Catatonic, by Mark Tulin
My client often lapsed into a fugue state
His eyes rolled to the back of his head,
body rigid in the distant past
where crimes go unnoticed
He could sit in one spot without moving,
labeled a waxy catatonic,
drooling dreams and memories
out of the corner of his mouth
Friends tried to break his stupor,
scolded him for acting like a child,
but he refused to shift his posture,
standing in one place for hours
My client had a heart the size of a mountain,
a soul that flowed downstream like a river,
and will always remain a captive,
loud on the inside and silent on the out.
Flower Power, by Mark Tulin
I walk in beautiful gardens
to feel the flower power,
to ride its pollen grains
to plants unknown,
to fly with the wind
and rest in green meadows
where the roses cluster,
to dream of my first yearning
where memories were sweet
and love bloomed
Truth’s Slippery Essence, by Mark Tulin
As a poet,
I search for the truth,
speak to what’s real
but I seldom do
Instead, I become one man
with two minds
and notions crossed
It’s not easy
being a sojourner
It’s downright hard
to be a rebel of honesty
when there’s a revolution
I reach out with good intentions
and grab truth’s slippery essence
with uncertain fingers
and watch my version of reality
slide from my grasp
into murky waters.
Bring the night I, the poet, did walk around that day living like I was actually alive. And the next day, I the poet lived rather like I wa...