The Poetry Porch presents

the sonnet scroll xix

Copyright © 2019 by Joyce Wilson


    By John Philip Drury

    I fancied you the first night that we met,
    guests at a party. I walked you to your car,
    dying to ask you out for coffee, but
    we weren’t alone. Another bachelor
    escorted both of us and foiled my hopes,
    thwarting my shy desire to meet with you.
    Another Southerner—but more a Snopse,
    no gentleman—he spoiled our rendez-vous.

    That interference cost us many years.
    Still, you were married then, though separated,
    so we were forced to take the long way here,
    friends first. But I regret how long I waited
    to make a move and risk unwillingness.
    It kills me that you would have answered, “Yes.”

    Copyright © 2019 by John Philip Drury.

    By John Philip Drury

    The husband was a drunkard from Tow Law
    in County Durham. Once a redcoat, what
    did he do for a living? Drunkard. That’s it.
    The story doesn’t say. Snow coming down,
    thatched cottage growing cold, a cradle thrown
    into the stone hearth’s fire, but he had not
    noticed the baby. His wife yanked her out,
    grabbed their young son, walked through deep snow to town.     

    Mother and daughter died. The son survived
    a childhood of inebriated weather,
    changed his last name from Ingham to Williamson,
    shunned liquor, became a minister, arrived
    in Ohio’s countryside. His name was John,
    my grandmother’s quiet, dry, cold-hearted father.

    Copyright © 2019 by John Philip Drury.

    By John Philip Drury

    I can’t believe how much I hitch-hiked there—
    which means, of course, I had to wait for rides,
    and waiting was a privilege to bear
    by the ocean at Point Piños. Rip-tides
    made breakers scary. Sea lions basked on rocks
    and barked into rough winds. Gulls glided. Cars
    passed by, not slowing down to give me looks.
    The sun retired, but I was given stars.

    At night, I lay on the cold beach of Carmel.
    I hitch-hiked to Big Sur, stood on a bridge
    below the redwoods, hearing a creek’s trill,
    picked up by a blue school bus, seats unlodged.

    Instead of doing homework, I embraced
    cool pastorals of the Pacific coast.

    Copyright © 2019 by John Philip Drury.

    By John Philip Drury

    I think back when you curled, unconsciously,
    on the split sofa draped with a patchwork
    quilt stitched by a blind woman, and how sea
    lights lapped on the windowsill. In an ark
    of mottled lucky pieces, how you floated,
    buoyed by a cushion of foam and billows
    that moved whenever you moved, how you plaited
    your hair so absently, spun on the pillows.

    Then you looked up, and your unsettled face
    cleared beautifully as water when it pools
    in cupped hands over a spring so dark it’s hidden.
    Outside, the turf turned brown in patches, sodden
    by rain, sun-parched. We flowed to a spring’s curls,
    tracing, eyes closed, the twinings of a sluice.

    Copyright © 2019 by John Philip Drury.

    The Parish Didn’t Prepare My Mother
    By Paulette Demers Turco


    The oblong Maine potatoes we would peel,
    push through the grid to make them perfect fries—
    the fresh-caught cod we’d coat in unbleached flour,
    a touch of corn meal, sweet red pepper, salt—
    to toss in paper bags and gently drop
    in bubbling, sizzling, golden Crisco oil—
    the table we would set, the meal we’d serve
    for Mom and Dad who walked into the house
    armed with grocery bags—we, like most girls
    from St. Charles Parish, made our Friday supper.
    But then Vietnam, the pill, and scholarships
    for college stalled Mom’s dreams of husbands, babies.
    Why, once we left, she gave our clothes away,
    Mom never said. And we knew not to ask.

    Copyright © 2019 by Paulette Demers Turco.

    The Touch of Wood
    By Paulette Demers Turco

         A series of seven sonnets with “tags”

    He loved the whirring hum of table saws,
    his cave-like world of wood below his home,
    its sawdust-covered concrete floor. His father,
    a self-taught carpenter, died far too young,
    left him, his mom, and four young sisters home,
    four brothers in the army. Dad quit school,
    became a postal clerk to pay the bills.
    His number called, he wore the uniform
    and mailed his paychecks home. Though trained to fly,
    he missed the D-Day mission of his troop;
    an ear infection left him deaf, which kept
    him safe. His army discharge brought him home
    to marry Mom, and to his postal job,
    his work bench, wood-pile, cobweb hints of musk.

         Basswood, sanded smooth, 
              carved along its even grain—
                   whittled as a wren. 

    My father built a cottage in Pawtucket
    in St. Cecilia’s French-Canadian parish—
    neighbors with crêches, cousins in Quebec.
    His cellar workbench stretched across the floor.
    Tall shelves stored varnish, wrenches, screws, and nails.
    When we were old enough to play outside,
    he sawed his textured pine in planks to make
    our sandbox; next a birdhouse for the robins.
    Once pairs built nests, soon chicks would cry for food
    until their fledgling flight. Their nests were still
    as Mom’s ambrosial yellow roses bloomed
    along our pebbled drive. He kept the hedges
    neatly shaped, the lawn deep green and mowed,
    while we swung high with friends on home-made swings.

         Sparrows crowd the vine,
              hop to rain-filled, blue-glazed clay,
                   spread their wings and bathe.

    When he got home from work, he’d disappear,
    not to be disturbed. His hammer, drill, 
    electric sander echoed through the floor.
    He’d be refinishing a bureau, clock,
    sometimes repairing a TV or bike.
    He’d say he could make things as good as new,
    but had no skill beside the stove, appearing
    after meals were cooked and being served.
    No silly chatter during supper. Pass
    the butter, peas
    . He ate, then disappeared
    below: so many projects left to do.
    Sometimes exhausted, he would fall asleep
    beside us while we played Monopoly—
    our voices static in his hearing aid.

         Sawdust on his sleeves,
              measuring tape in every room—
                   grand-father clock chimes.

    Once we were teens, he showed us things he’d carved—
    his eagle, blue jay, titmouse, cardinal, loon—
    enough to fill five workshop shelves downstairs.
    He’d run his palm along the cherry table
    he’d finely sanded, walnut bureau top
    as smooth as glass and warmer than his hand,
    the lines of wood alive as if with breath.
    Expecting weddings after high school, he
    could not imagine daughters off to school—
    college paid by grants and summer jobs.
    He’d wait until his daughters wed. Out fishing,
    he looked at land for sale and bought a hill
    in Little Compton, Indian Acres—
    the ocean view clear out to Cuttyhunk.

         Herring gulls, least terns
              criss-cross each other’s sky paths—
                   coast, swoop, climb, high dive.

    My father taught my mother how to build.
    She set red cedar shingles in straight rows;
    she climbed the ladder, passed him bricks to shape
    the chimney. Dad staked claim to their garage,
    the basement, and the open space outside.
    Mom got the heated rooms inside—to cook,
    to knit, crochet or read; she got the bedroom
    where our families stayed. Now he, a “Pépère”
    for his new grand-kids, carved and sanded blocks
    and rocking swans, plus ornamental boots.
    When Mom and he played cribbage with new friends
    who boasted about travel by an Airstream,
    Dad found one to build almost from scratch
    then drove them both as far as famed Mount Rushmore.

         Passing jutting rocks,
              raging rivers, placid lakes—
                   canyons, cacti, stars.

    They moved to Travelers’ Rest, an Airstream village.
    They played bocci, golf, and shuffleboard.
    Alzheimers slowed down Mom; Dad helped with meals.
    Hurricane Andrew forced evacuations—
    ten years in. They drove for miles, checked-in,
    had dinner out. Dad claimed how Our hotel
    just disappeared!
    —and where they stayed was vague.
    Next day, he drove around for hours to find
    their luggage, meds. Mom begged, “Drive home. Give up!”
    He listened, wouldn’t ask someone for help.
    Next storm, the family flew them to Rhode Island.
    Dad didn’t know his son-in-law or grand-kids.
    Two local doctors diagnosed dementia:
    Dad could not drive, go home—his life undone.

         His circular saw, 
              carvings tossed across the floor,
                   wind-blown, broken, marred.

    Disaster tore them from their Naples home
    that spawned a budding mold they’d never see.
    Most of his carvings saved, he willed himself
    to sculpt, just table-sized, four presidents.
    His first carved heads, he got proportions right—
    their giant noses, deep set eyes, their foreheads,
    hair—before his progress slowed. His steel
    chisel, clumsy in his grip, he pummeled
    Jefferson’s face. He gouged up Lincoln’s cheek.
    Washington’s nose caved in. His model Rushmore
    disappeared, his chisels too: his hands,
    without them, empty, hollow, cold. His stare
    no longer focused on an icon’s scale;
    he’d no more feel the shape within the wood.

         Dakota granite—
              Alzheimer ward, chiseled wood—
                   sawdust residue.

    Copyright © 2019 by Paulette Demers Turco.

    By Joanne Joseph

    Thirty years ago on my block,
    the neighbors, speaking Spanish,
    called me their First American.

    Then, the church spire of gray bricks
    built by the bravest men centuries back,
    thrust nobly through the city skies.

    Having conquered all winds and
    weathers, it still stands eternal.
    People pause to cross themselves.

    To my eyes, this sculpted shaft
    piercing the clouds over my city
    is timeless art that I can worship.

    But the landlords have re-made this location
    for a non-Hispanic population.

    Copyright © 2019 by Joanne Joseph.

    By Melissa McEwen

    I would not want to be anywhere else.
    I love the Spanglish and the neighborhoods,
    the Harmonica Man who taught himself
    to play, bodegas that sell buenos goods.
    The gangs, the drugs, the shootings make the news:
    crack-cocaine laced with fentanyl kills five
    on Asylum Hill. Clay Arsenal, too.
    Gentrification won’t be televised.
    Then there’s downtown with the sorta rich folks
    and their yoga, and Great Danes, and high rents,
    and their lofts, their Porsches, and Diet Cokes,
    with stores and shops below their apartments.
    This is the city and its different views.
    City of Hartford—forever my muse.

    Copyright © 2019 by Melissa McEwen.

    By Dmitry Blizniuk
    Trans. from the Russian by Sergey Gerasimov

    Sunrays are beaming through rents in the clouds
    like someone’s searchlight aiming
    into the silky ash-gray ribs of a sky-asaurus.
    The autumn leaves smell of raw peanuts,
    and the wind licks the puddles with its scratchy tongue,
    like a Cheshire tomcat, before dissolving
    into the majestic folds of the autumn day.
    On the street with the Napoleon’s bicorn, a kiosk
    faces the side wall of a bleached bedlam.
    Partly dismantled, it looks like a Tetris game.
    Farther away, construction cranes hang out together
    over the concrete letters of a building site.
    The cranes are ready to leap into flight
    like humongous mechanical spiders.

    Like spiders caught in a humongous
    three-trillion-liter mason jar,
    the cranes jerk their black legs into life.
    I feel like an insignificant seedworm
    in an Eden built for some absentee giants,
    where each apple is as big as Luxembourg.
    The starry sky keeps me awake at night;
    it raises the veil of slumber with the tip
    of the moon rapier. I believe that, with the Milky Way,
    God tried to wash the darkness out of space
    in the centrifuge of the universe.
    But for this sinister misprint,
    the pinpricks of the consciousness,
    where would we be now
    in a world that wasn’t built for us?

    Copyright © 2019 by Dmitry Blizniuk.

    This Dark
    By Philip E. Burnham, Jr.

    My eyes have lost their view of sighted worlds,
    Their windows dark, their curtains shut to light,
    What lies within my room cannot be told
    Except by touch or sound that now is sight.
    What is to see is not to see, not now,
    The patterns on the rug, the printed word,
    Boxes of tea, its steamy amber flow
    Into china cups, a Côtes de Rhone poured
    Into crystal glasses, the smoke-gray hound
    Close by that lays her head across my thigh.
    Whatever was on view is here disowned,
    Familiar things become a mystery,
    The shadows of the night have come to stay
    Where light once shaped the contours of the day.

    Copyright © 2019 by Frannie Lindsay.

    By Philip E. Burnham, Jr.

    Imagine an iron gate, a short walk
    Of stone past planted ghostly impatiens
    To a granite wall, each niche a square block
    Cut deep and fine with those for remembrance.

    Then imagine me not as I am now
    Half blind, half deaf and surely sorely lame
    But underneath the garden’s shade of boughs
    And whole in body, searching out your name.

    Now imagine an alabaster rose
    Petals as tight as lovers embracing,
    A long green stem of days to hold it close
    With thorns of tenderness to grip the facing.

    And so I drink my tea, your cup of blue,
    Imagining I bring a rose to you.

    Copyright © 2019 by Frannie Lindsay.

    August Evenings
    By Philip E. Burnham, Jr.

    Warm August evenings bring a slow retreat
    Of light, clipping the edges of each day
    A little at a time, holding the heat
    Just close enough to hand to keep away
    Most thoughts of seasons gone or yet to come,
    Of shortest days and foliage unseen,
    Migrating birds, knowledge the garden’s done,
    Journeys not taken, but that might have been.
    We have spent days indoors though we would be
    Outside, emerging at dusk when the air
    Is feathered with an unexpected breeze
    As if it could be blowing in the stars
    Whose presence over us is statement clear
    Of where and when we are, still in the grasp
    Of summer, yet perhaps aware the year
    Is turning from what we had hoped might last.

    Copyright © 2019 by Frannie Lindsay.

    By Philip E. Burnham, Jr.

    When I go out, be sure to close the door
    Behind me; there are apples in a bowl
    To take, or books, or music, porcelain or
    Paintings, a gather of small knights, some owls,
    Old manuscripts of poems — but first taste
    May’s blossoms, summer’s heat, October’s tart
    Red fruit of sin once more redeemed as grace,
    Its seeds like little souls that scattered, start
    To grow beyond this cheek of circled time
    When we have kissed this whirling world adieu.
    Perhaps someday, someone will find this rhyme
    In a forgotten drawer, and reading through,
    Be moved to wonder who it might have been
    Who wrote these apples out and in again.

    Copyright © 2019 by Frannie Lindsay.