Brent Bill

We Shall Be Released

by Joseph Stroud

Every afternoon that autumn
walking across campus
past the conservatory
I heard the soprano
practicing
her voice rising
making its way up the scale
straining to claim each note
weeks of work
of days
growing shorter
darker
storms slamming the campus
the semester staggering
to an end
everyone exhausted
drained
heading out and going home
the campus nearly deserted
but the soprano
still working the scales
when I passed under the trees
the liquidambars on fire
the clouds like great cities
sailing out to sea
and didn’t I ascend
with her
my own weariness
and sorrows
dropping away
didn’t we rise together
her voice straining
wavering
at the top of its range
almost reaching
almost claiming
that high
free-of-the-body
final note

Solitudes

by Margaret Gibson

For today, I will memorize
the two trees now in end-of-summer light

and the drifts of wood asters as the yard slopes away toward
the black pond, blue

dragonflies
in the clouds that shine and float there, as if risen

from the bottom, unbidden. Now, just over the fern—
quick—a glimpse of it,

the plume, a fox-tail’s copper, as the dog runs in ovals and eights,
chasing scent.

The yard is a waiting room. I have my chair. You, yours.

The hawk has its branch in the pine.

White petals ripple in the quiet light.

How to compose a successful critical commentary:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.

  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.

  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

August

by George Bilgere

Just when you’d begun to feel
You could rely on the summer,
That each morning would deliver
The same mourning dove singing
From his station on the phone pole,
The same smell of bacon frying 
Somewhere in the neighborhood,
The same sun burning off
The coastal fog by noon,
When you could reward yourself
For a good morning’s work
With lunch at the same little seaside cafe
With its shaded deck and iced tea,
The day’s routine finally down
Like an old song with minor variations,
There comes that morning when the light
Tilts ever so slightly on its track,
A cool gust out of nowhere
Whirlwinds a litter of dead grass
Across the sidewalk, the swimsuits
Are piled on the sale table,
And the back of your hand,
Which you thought you knew,
Has begun to look like an old leaf.
Or the back of someone else’s hand.

"August" by George Bilgere, from The Good Kiss. © Akron, 2002. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

To an Old Square Piano

 
Robinson Jeffers

Whose fingers wore your ivory keys
So thin—as tempest and tide-flow
Some pearly shell, the castaway
Of indefatigable seas
On a low shingle far away—
You will not tell, we cannot know.

Only, we know that you are come,
Full of strange ghosts melodious
The old years forget the echoes of,
From the ancient house into our home;
And you will sing of old-world love,
And of ours too, and live with us.

Sweet sounds will feed you here: our woods
Are vocal with the seawind’s breath;
Nor want they wing-borne choristers,
Nor the ocean’s organ-interludes.
—Be true beneath her hands, even hers
Who is more to me than life or death.

 
 
 
 

What the Window Washers Did

What the Window Washers Did

by Margaret Hasse

They arrived in a truck at 8 A.M.
Introduced themselves as Dave and Mike,
said no, they brought their own supplies
and equipment, said yes, pay in advance.
They circled the house, removing storms,
tugging at last year’s ivy that cast its spell
of thatch across the east windows.

I opened the door to Mike, watched
as he positioned water bucket” and rags.
Through grimed glass latticed with cobwebs,
Dave appeared on the outdoors side.
As if starting a fight, both lifted
their Windex bottles at the same time,
seemed to squirt each other in the face.

The men silent as mimes in a mirror
with big hands tracing one another
rubbed the surfaces of all the panes
until the glass squeaked and disappeared.
The sun, free to fly in, flung
a carpet of light on the floor.

"What the Window Washers Did" by Margaret Hasse, from Earth’s Appetite. © Nodin Press, 2013. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Survivor Guilt

Survivor Guilt

 
Ron Padgett

It’s very easy to get.
Just keep living and you’ll find yourself
getting more and more of it.
You can keep it or pass it on,
but it’s a good idea to keep a small portion
for those nights when you’re feeling so good
you forget you’re human. Then drudge it up
and float down from the ceiling
that is covered with stars that glow in the dark
for the sole purpose of being beautiful for you,
and as you sink their beauty dims and goes out—
I mean it flies out the nearest door or window,
its whoosh raising the hair on your forearms.
If only your arms were green, you could have two small lawns!
But your arms are just there and you are kaput.
It’s all your fault, anyway, and it always has been—
the kind word you thought of saying but didn’t,
the appalling decline of human decency, global warming,
thermonuclear nightmares, your own small cowardice,
your stupid idea that you would live forever—
all tua culpa. John Phillip Sousa
invented the sousaphone, which is also your fault.
Its notes resound like monstrous ricochets.

But when you wake up your body
seems to fit fairly well, like a tailored suit,
and you don’t look too bad in the mirror.
Hi there, feller! Old feller, young feller, who cares?
Whoever it was who felt guilty last night,
to hell with him. That was then.

 

Speaking Is

 

Speaking Is

 
Cara Benson

A trapezoid. Piano keys fill soup bowls.
The moon wreaks havoc on the dandy
in a field of proclamations.

A chamber pot. Walk-in closet rife
with used jackhammers. I find a helmet
by the washer-dryer for my free

free-speech call. The power dips
during dinner, sends every clock protesting.
I am reminded I do not declare

enough. Not customs—accounting.

The Summer Ends

The summer ends, and it is time
To face another way. Our theme
Reversed, we harvest the last row
To store against the cold, undo
The garden that will be undone.
We grieve under the weakened sun
To see all earth’s green fountains dried,
And fallen all the works of light.
You do not speak, and I regret
This downfall of the good we sought
As though the fault were mine. I bring
The plow to turn the shattering
Leaves and bent stems into the dark,
From which they may return. At work,
I see you leaving our bright land,
The last cut flowers in your hand.

"The Summer Ends" by Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir. © Counterpoint Press, 1999.  (buy now)

Take Love for Granted

by Jack Ridl

Assume it’s in the kitchen,
under the couch, high
in the pine tree out back,
behind the paint cans
in the garage. Don’t try
proving your love
is bigger than the Grand
Canyon, the Milky Way,
the urban sprawl of L.A.
Take it for granted. Take it
out with the garbage. Bring
it in with the takeout. Take
it for a walk with the dog.
Wake it every day, say,
"Good morning." Then
make the coffee. Warm
the cups. Don’t expect much
of the day. Be glad when
you make it back to bed.
Be glad he threw out that
box of old hats. Be glad
she leaves her shoes
in the hall. Snow will
come. Spring will show up.
Summer will be humid.
The leaves will fall
in the fall. That’s more
than you need. We can
love anybody, even
everybody. But you
can love the silence,
sighing and saying to
yourself, “That’ s her.”
"That’s him." Then to
each other, “I know!
Let’s go out for breakfast!”