where every soul is
gathered into a billowing
skirt of gloom—stricken faces
staring through the folds while the
tortured singer wails with emotion till
the wailing fills the hall and the lady of
woe disappears at the applause her heavy
skirt swishing helplessly across the stage
oh woe, oh woe, oh woe, oh woe,
THE CHESS PLAYERS
After The Chess Players by John Lavery, 1929
Deeply serious, the chess players sit :
opponents—one to the other—
in studied restraint.
The clock ticks softly on the muted wall.
The room shadows lengthen,
The sunlight lowers toward the window.
The sun-dust dances in the rays of the late sun.
The quiet clock ticks. The shadows continue
their rearrangements along the walls.
Still, the girls hold to their insouciance—like
sisters in a duel—and sisters they are—
and chess is their game.
And they stare at the chessboard on the floor
in the warm serenity of the parlor—
in this hushed decor of refinement and wait
for the other to move.
They wait with the guarded patience
of rivals—which they now are.
And the room breathes softly. And the quiet
shadows watch. The girls are at a stand-off.
And nothing gives . . . nothing . . . .
She was her own signature. Famous.
Everyone wanted her.
She kept lists. Souvenir soap.
Names—life after life.
She had proven herself to her mirror.
She kept words in a jar of dark.
She was no Pandora.
She wore colors like words.
Described everything. Every one.
Even the places she lived
had beautiful names.
Her mother’s lovers came to her
in dreams. She slept on dreams,
told them where to take her.
Her hair warmed her.
Would not name itself gray.
I walked beside you in the moody rain,
the wet streets shiny with reflected light
that fragmentized and glittered like the pain
your eyes protected—wrongs you could not right—
angers made of nothing you would share—
I talked and talked against those walls in vain.
They kept between—and I would learn to bear
those silences and storms that were your own—
like old lost loves you could not leave alone.
After Sunrise Song by Carol Hoy
We are two apart. Our night is ended.
Your eyes hold sunrise like a rival.
You, who murmured love, are silent now.
You lie on the floor and brood.
I hold you down with my foot.
You make no effort against me.
I curl myself into a pose of tender resistance.
Why do you want to leave me?
You cannot fly through me. The cage
is an open window. I have hidden your wings.
How can I release you?
You die, and I watch you.
I hold you with the sadness of my eyes,
waiting for your surrender.
Do not read your book, Love.
Do not let its page take your attention.
I would kiss you.
I would have you look at me.
Forget your book—
I have much to say.
Do not let your book become my rival.
It is how we open the dark.
It is how we justify the smallest anti-
suggestion as pathetic.
We are cruel now;
we are laid open to more harm than we can allow.
You reach beyond me with your jaggedness,
and I retort with a soft file of a smile,
I am now the enemy you wanted.
How will we end this?
Now we are over the worst of it.
The ink has dried on all our words.
Weariness comes at last to relieve us.
You stand so long at the window I think the flat view
has swallowed you.
I will not reach into that distance.
When you turn around it is dark.
I cannot see your face—nor you mine.
Thus we end our standoff,
not even turning on the light to wish goodnight.
My eyes scratch with loneliness. I gaze at nothing
and am quieted.
I watch a last bird fill the sky with its suddenness
and am brought back to you with a cry so deep
I thought I had lost it.
Your silence is enough. I know what to do with silence.
I pull the bird back with my eyes
and it responds—
changing into a dark moment, given back.
You miss the moment. Once more I accuse you.
THE OLD WARS
Do we forget
how cruel words can be,
our old war has begun again,
with our old threat—
and each becomes the enemy,
the one that war can never mend.
How could we let
love lead us into trickery:
You lose. I lose. Love will not bend.
THE RED CROW OF SUNSET
At dusk the red crow sits in the curve of the long
stretched wire between the house and the sunset.
It does not measure my amazement—my suspicious
movement—my listened sound.
I do not breathe. It startles at breathing. This is a
moment caught between us—slow and important, a
perfectly balanced thought, turning away from what
is real. It cannot hold.
The red crow shines with an ominous beauty. At
dusk the long wire sings and the crow is a distance
too isolate to be traveled. I stand in my doorway, a
target of thought, an enemy of red crow on singing
Perhaps I am red. The crow is not real, nor the red
horizon, nor I in my red doorway, watching time
vanish—only this word for it, which has its own
need—only this is real, though it cannot sustain the
ON WANT AND NEED
O, little woe, oh little woe—
to need you so,
I wish you’d go.
O little foe, oh little foe—
you love me so,
I cannot go.
* * *
to be so lonesome that
even an old enemy is
(first pub. in Brevities, 2018)
Many thanks to Joyce Odam for her symphony about our Seed of the Week, Enemies! And her heartbreakingly red roses, too! “The Old Wars” is in the form of a lisana: 3 stanzas of 2-8-8- syllables each. “Torments” is a Rainis Sonnet: abab (cbc or cac) and (aa or bb or cc). For more about the Rainis sonnet, see www.poetrymagnumopus.com/forums/topic/1074-rainis-sonnet/.
For 10 Short Poetry Forms to doodle on, go to www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/10-short-poetic-forms/. And hey—send some of ‘em my way! That’s firstname.lastname@example.org/.
Words are selected with care; lines delight as
One of our SnakePals, Jeanine Stevens of Sacramento, has a new book of poetry: Limberlost, from Future Cycle Press. See www.amazon.com.au/Limberlost-Jeanine-Stevens/dp/1942371713 for a copy; the book is also on Kindle. Congratulations, Jeanine!
Our new Seed of the Week is Mysteries. Books, UFOs, or where has love gone?—tell us about the mysteries in your life and send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to email@example.com. No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for plenty of others to choose from.
—Medusa, celebrating the dark, mysterious side of poetry!
For more about Irish painter John Lavery, go to
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