Free Verse with Vera Ignatowitsch
Out Sailing Late in the Day
—i.m. Donald Hall, 1928–2018
South of the Potomac near the Virginia line
the salt smell of the Bay reappears
like a drop of iodine spreading in water.
In the northern Bay the air clears,
so many rivers pouring down from the mountains.
Southern oysters are saltier
but the hard faces of oystermen look the same.
Everywhere the hours are long,
their backs almost break.
Before it grows any later I want to go south
back to the mouth of the Rappahannock,
far far away from here
before the sun goes down in the dark.
Michael Salcman is former chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore; his fourth collection, Shades & Graces (Spuyten Duyvil, 2020), is the inaugural winner of the Daniel Hoffman Legacy Book Prize.
Vacuum Cleaner, 1950
My mother sang while she vacuumed,
O God, our help in ages past—
sucked it in with her breath,
as if not wanting to hear herself.
We heard her, her counterpoint
to the upright’s drone. We saw the bag
inflated, smelled the must-and-pepper mix
in the electric disturbance of our home.
The war was over, but the lyrics were not
self-instruction like the singing women do
at looms, where songs sing designs of weft and warp,
a count of color, flower and medallion,
a chanted mnemonic that becomes
the poem, then the Persian rug.
No. Our hope for years to come knew no possibility
of instruction or of art, as the machine gnawed
at wool knotted in Tabriz. My mother sang
no more than for refuge, hymnal domesticity,
deep within her fragile shelter from the stormy blast,
the cord, which she did not see as connection
to anything, always in the way of her feet.
Anne Harding Woodworth is the author of six books of poetry with a seventh, Trouble, appearing in late 2020. Her work is published widely in the US and abroad, in journals such as TriQuarterly, Poet Lore, Innisfree Poetry Journal, and Antiphon.
One more time
I just want to hug him
Teri cries into my shoulder,
holding me tightly,
Monday morning in the dark,
before waking Dan up for school.
he felt so solid, so there,
compared to my
wasted, dilapidated frame,
and he would hold me tightly,
on her way back to Poland
tells me, You hug like Ben.
I know, I know,
I say to my sobbing wife
Sam Norman is the author of Still Here. His works have appeared in Verse-Virtual, Amethyst Review, Down in the Dirt, Red Eft Review, Better Than Starbucks, and Praxis. Sam lives in Connecticut with his wife, their children, and their beloved dogs.
Instructions for Lovers
Touch as gently
as you can
as if you were
picking up one
and your fingers
the floor boards
and only then
Peter Waldor is the author of eight books of poetry. His new book, Unmade Friend, Elegies, is due out soon from Finishing Line Press. This poem is part of a series of love poems called “Something About the Way.”
This Perfect Day
in the white room
room for nothing but the one thing
you laid out the toast and eggs
the spiders in aspic
on the morning the shadows curled to make a fist
you counted the teeth in the auditorium,
leading the new lost
in an exhibition of mass cheer:
whatever happens never happens here.
Clay Waters has had poems published in Santa Clara Review, River Oak Review, Poet Lore, Literal Latte, and Roanoke Review. He lives outside Orlando, near the theme parks.
A Life Bespoke
Had there been a choice, would I have chosen
this arrangement of molecules, elements?
Why not a tree, a hunk of quartz,
or the tenacious barnacle clinging
in the tidal wrack? That would be a rhythmic
life—daily, nightly, the tides expected.
In between? Perhaps, ease.
Certainly not this constant waywardness,
nor the suspect step, nor the knowledge—
always in hindsight.
Who tailored this ill-fitting life, anyway?
Who thought these arms and legs would know
what to do? Or this awkward heart?
In the night damp I twitch
to push this, that way. To pull that, this way.
To untangle the thread of base elements.
To cry, here carbon atom! Meet nitrogen, or oxygen,
or some other sibling hiding in the seams.
Go! Go off together. Become something.
Something fine and simple. Something that fits.
First published in Stoneboat Literary Journal.
Shutta Crum’s poems have been published since the 1970s. Her chapbook When You Get Here has just been published. She is also the author of Thunder-Boomer! (Clarion/HMH), a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book and an American Library Association Notable Book. www.shutta.com.
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