The winter edition of the Poetry Letter, No. 4 of 2021 started with an editorial and "Rules for Happy Holy Days" by the editor, Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President.
It is a wonderful custom to wish everyone all the best for the coming year at least once a year. I also do it for Happy Birthdays. What’s the point of a one-day happiness? It is the whole year that must be blessed with joy, creativity, gratitude, generosity, health and all the good things one can dream of. With the wishes, I’m sharing with the Poetry Letters’ readers wonderful poems by Judy Barrat, Pamela Stone Singer, Dave Malone, Bruce Gallie, & Jeanie Greensfelder. Previously published, these poetic gems surely deserve to be read again. In one case, we are fixing our own error, with apologies to the poet: “I’m Sorry, Mr. Webster” was published in the California Quarterly 47:3 without its last line. Here it is in its entirety. Daniel E. Blackston whose work was included in the California Quarterly 47:2 analyzed a poem by Marilyn Robertson, “Low Tide,” published in the same issue. We reprinted his reflections in the emailed Poetry Letter, but for the online version, it is not necessary. Poetry is a conversation and this is an excellent example of poets talking to each other.
~ Maja Trochimczyk, Editor
Half of the issue was dedicated to book reviews, published on this blog on January 1, 2022, and the other half to poems by Judy Barrat, Pamela Stone Singer, Dave Mallone, Bruce Gallie, and Jeanie Greensfelder.
Poems by Judy Barrat
Judy Barrat has been a writer of poetry and fiction most of her life as a hobby and began presenting her work publicly in Los Angeles several years ago at open readings, as well as at music venues, sometimes with a vocalist weaving a song around one of her poems. She has been a featured poet at several Los Angeles poetry venues and has performed three very well reviewed one-woman shows of her poetry and stories, with musical accompaniment, at The Gardenia Club in Hollywood. Her work has been published in several anthologies, magazines and on-line journals. Her poem “I’m sorry, Mr. Webster…” was accidentally printed in CQ 47:3 without the last line ,so it is reprinted here in its entirety.
I’M SORRY, MR. WEBSTER . . .
but I must take issue with your
authority as to two words you
deem synonymous which, in my
view, are not as inter-changeable
as your famous book professes:
The words I refer to, if your please,
are “naked” and “nude. At the risk
of appearing argumentative sir, no
one visits art houses to view
It is the “Nudes” -- those entrancing
figures of women and men, unclothed,
baring their bodies that we seek.
So you see “Nude” is art -- in the proper
setting and in an improper setting
which I will leave to your imagination
“nude” may still be art though it may
simply be embarrassing or even criminal.
“Naked” on the other hand I think
is more synonymous with “exposed”
for “naked” is so much more than
baring the body. Naked is devoid
of the mythic mask one might wear
to hide the truth of oneself from
the world -- the pain, fear, shame
Oh, Mr. Webster, I have never seen
some of my friends unclothed and
may never, but I have seen them
naked, stripped of the armor and shield
which enable them through each day.
I have seen in their eyes unshed tears
which bespeak hearts that ache with
the pain of caring too much or, perhaps,
However, sir, I concede that in personal
relationships, nude is so much more
delightful when both parties are naked.
~ Judy Barrat
Published in the California Quarterly 47 No. 3, Autumn 2021,
with last line missing, here added.
The waves rise and fall
in undulating swirls.
I sit in the sand on this
familiar expanse of beach.
This sand knows all my secrets,
my past, my now.
I remember how, as children
we played, you and I;
Only this beach
does not change.
I see your blue eyes,
dimpled grin, wild dark hair,
muscles of your bronzed
body rippling in the sun,
as, unaware of your magnificence
you run into the sea.
The waves roar
they have taken you;
I shout to them:
“I’m here – Take me too”
as I walk to the water’s edge
and into the sea.
The sun is bright;
icy wetness bites
my ankles, legs, hips.
I dive deep into a wave.
In the turbulent darkness
I feel you near.
permeates the abyss:
It implores me
“Reach for the sun, for life”.
Tossed by the current,
I reach out in panic
and break the surface
gasping in the sun.
~ Judy Barrat
I left behind the street of childhood
to navigate the highway of life,
exchanged dirt of backyard and joy of
sandbox for dust of the open road.
In a haze of youthful exuberance, I
searched for adventure described in books.
I climbed mountains, crossed deserts,
sailed seas to cities and streets in lands
far and near; encountered life, both sweet
and simple, and also shockingly brutal and
barbaric and stood impotent, in my naivete
to do more than extend a hand. But some-
times, only sometimes, that was enough.
I found joy and generosity in places of dire
need and deprivation, sadness and
selfishness in the midst opulence and plenty.
No longer do I walk carefree, inhaling
nature’s bounty, but run, frantic, in an
endless quest for-- HOME, as I mourn
the death of innocence and damn the
dawn of disillusion.
On this narrow track of time every now
becomes then in the blur of contemplation
of tomorrow. And while each impediment
on this path may proclaim: this Road
Leads Nowhere, I find the fortune
I believed this trip would provide when
I or anyone extends a hand because
sometimes, that’s enough.
~ Judy Barrat
Once I was a cloud
afloat in the space
between there and here;
I faded into nothingness.
Once I was the earth,
a blue spec in the universe
orbiting an uncaring sun;
it lost its grip and let go.
And once I was snail on the
ocean shore, enticed into a
wave to ride the tides into
a thousand tomorrows.
Today I am drawn from forest’s
edge into its depths by whisper
of breeze through boughs,
a language of rippling grace.
The clean green scent of the air,
solitude of sunlight through
treetops, splendiferous silence,
speak karmically to my heart.
I am free simply to be;
we breathe life to one another,
the trees and me, and for these
moments, as never before
~ Judy Barrat
ME ME ME – A Poem By Pamela Stone Singer
ME ME ME
Tell the King; the fair wrought house has fallen.
No shelter has Apollo, nor sacred laurel leaves;
The fountains are now silent; the voice is stilled.
It is finished.
Oracle of Delphi, 393 A.D.*
rain outside the high school
where I teach students to write poetry
at 3:00 p.m. they pour out of the building as though it were ablaze texting
friends a few feet away, light years away, in a foreign country
some text over a hundred times a day
sleep with phones beside them as if the phones
were going to plant kisses on their lips
overhead, flocks of geese fly through downpours
a few students take pictures of the rainbow appearing
no one else notices
and there are 300 kids on smartphones, twitter, facebook, taking selfies
who rush from the building as though it were ablaze
i don’t understand this communication that negates
the soft enunciation of vowels, the closed sound
of consonants, the origins of I in our alphabet:
Phoenicians used a backwards z called yod, meaning hand.
Greeks used angular versions of I, changed its name to iota.
Medieval times i became a line with a curl.
Today I stands boldly on a page.
eye, window of clarity in bony sockets of skulls
omniscient, like the Pythia of Delphi
Selli at Dodona who spoke through rustling leaves
imagine life with words only on screens
not feeling pages of books
not reading ancient texts for clarity
when life comes alive with words
I becomes we, me becomes us
myself becomes the earth
* NOTE: In 389 A.D., under the reign of Theodosius I, Christian attacks against pagan temples continued. The Emperor ordered all pagan temples closed. Within 20 years the Western Roman Empire fell. For the first time in 800 years no oracular statements were given.
~ Pamela Stone Singer
Four Poems by Dave Malone
Dave Malone is a poet and filmmaker from the Missouri Ozarks. These poems are from his seventh volume, Tornado Drill, forthcoming from Aldrich Press in March and available for preorder. Dave can be found online in the usual haunts, particularly Instagram @davemalone.
WALK IN THE WOODS
At once whatever happened starts receding.
Last night I walked the woods
lit by the final moon of the month.
Days don’t count here
beneath the centuries-old pines
where my grandmother took her solace
on hard farm days, passing up
the washboard or jam-making
for the eternal whooshing
of the forest as much serenity
~ originally published in Spindrift
During my morning meditation, the neighbor
begins her leaf-blowing. She’s precise
the way she slides from side to side,
the way she forms right angles
as if acing high school math.
Her noise travels into the hollow
louder than semi-trucks howling
from the bypass. She blows
into blowing into blowing
until a vortex of leaves
half-eaten by mower and storm
form in the narrows.
Here is a full sound. Here is
the aum I must have been waiting for.
~ Dave Mallone,
originally published in Midwest Review
I startled the great blue heron
when my kayak scratched stones
in the river’s low summer water.
With little effort, like the way
one takes off shoes, the grand bird
flapped long arms, held steady,
until she found the shore opposite me
and slipped into the sycamores
below the bluff. She stayed there
a long time, longer than my life.
~ Dave Malone
originally published in Right Hand Pointing
It is the light I think
I recall. Was it church
or vacation Bible school,
the desks like pews,
when the sun’s morning rays
ached to rest on shoulders
while the teacher dimmed
at the front, barely perceptible
like God. I remember now
the gospel the instructor ignored—
how the cypress floor danced
with golden dust in its hair.
~ Dave Malone,
originally published in Right Hand Pointing
A Poem by Jeanie Greensfelder
Jeanie Greensfelder’s poems have been published at American Life in Poetry, Writer’s Almanac, and Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day; in anthologies: Paris, Etc., Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems; and in journals: Miramar, Thema, Askew, Persimmon Tree, and others. She served as the San Luis Obispo County poet laureate, 2017,18. Jeanie’s books are: Biting the Apple, Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith and I Got What I Came For. Website: jeaniegreensfelder.com
The sky solid blue, your gallery
disappoints. I await the next show.
Give me a full circle exhibit,
a different artist in each direction,
a cumulus haven where sun-lit gods
and harp-playing angels lounge.
Surprise me with a Mount Shasta mirage,
a Disney display of dragons and dinosaurs,
or the drama of an El Greco storm, one that
reduces me, puts me in my place.
Let me study the brush strokes and guess
artists from baroque to surreal.
Show me an orange, yellow, blood-red sunset,
invoking nature’s Edward Munch scream.
Bring on Georgia O’Keefe puffballs,
Van Gogh swirls over grassland,
even a Rothko mist, but please no grey washes,
those ho-hum shows that go on and on.
~ Jeanie Greensfelder
published in Birdland Journal 2019
Three Poems by Bruce Gallie
Bruce Gallie started writing poetry right after high school and has continued to do so with several long and short hiatus. He has been in the army, a cook, and an electrician throughout his career. He retired in 2010. He published many poems in the California Quarterly since its genesis.
Evergreen last seems long ago
been Christmas scent and scene -
Lucky, old sweetheart, old friend passed
the grains aligned well before the end
I knew what would be...
You softened the roar
salvaged the moods,
when lost in the woods
your timbre was with
~ Bruce Gallie
Ol' Sol will rule the roost
in his own steady way
he beams through the evening window
turns the wall gold from gray
the shadow line climbing
to a sepia toned portrait —
an old baby picture
hanging less than straight
the dresser in the corner
lost a knob, a trophy sits on top —
batter at the plate. There's a vase
with a paper daisy, a Baby Ben stopped
on a bed, a dusty quilt
and old magazines strewn
some Elvis 45's with worn jackets
there's the title: "Blue Moon"
as evening falls, the shadow
crosses that chromatic display
the child's flushed cheeks fade
to the background, hair to gray.
~ Bruce Gallie
From Ulysses’ Journey by Toti O’Brien, 2002. Totihan.net
LAST ROSE OF SUMMER
~ thanks to Sir Thomas Moore
"Tis the last rose of summer" Mom would sing to me
"all her lovely companions are left faded and gone"
when I was but five felt kindred to this song
as the years bore me up in a see saw sea.
With weakness and strength, full of folly and free
spent time in kinship if not more alone.
"Tis the last rose of summer" sing to me
"all her lovely companions are left faded and gone."
With the years wisdom waxed slowly
sure as time erodes the bone.
We fall alone but stand as one -
this is the law that lets us be.
"Tis the last rose of summer "-
sing, last rose, sing to me.
~ Bruce Gallie