The Poetry Porch presents

the sonnet scroll xx

Copyright © 2020 by Joyce Wilson


    By Bruce Bennett

      I have often walked
      Down the street before,
      But the pavement always stayed
      Beneath my feet before . . . .

    I used to sing it as I walked along,
    and one time you did actually appear,
    out of the mist, emerging, real and clear,
    as if you had been conjured by the song.
    You were a Vision. I just stopped and stared.
    I could not think of anything to say.
    We walked together just a little way
    before we parted. I was not prepared
    to meet you then, embodied, on that street,
    the presence who so occupied my thought.
    I never once imagined we would meet
    in such a mundane manner. I was caught
    between two worlds, and forced to face the fact:
    I chose the world where I didn’t have to act.

    Copyright © 2020 by Bruce Bennett.

    By Bruce Bennett

    We thought that she was losing it for sure.
    The way she acted. We were quite upset.
    You know, those little signs you can’t ignore?
    Distraction. How you’re muddled when you get
    obsessed with something that you can’t express –
    or won’t – to anyone? That’s how she was,
    and we were worried, since we couldn’t guess
    the reason. Well, we now know it’s because
    they’d learned about his illness. She was sick
    with grief, but he’d forbidden her to tell,
    which was the way he was. So she was strick-
    en dumb and plunged into her private Hell.
    She fumbled and she bumbled, martyr to
    collusive silence, chained to what she knew.

    Copyright © 2020 by Bruce Bennett.

    By Bruce Bennett

    I give her lettuce. She can barely move,
    but manages to snatch it with her beak,
    as if she still has something left to prove,
    and wants that known, and lets her actions speak.
    I am alive, they say. Her eyes are clear.
    I’m what I always was, and I am strong.
    And she will hiss if she thinks I’m too near.
    Each time I’ve thought we’ve lost her I’ve been wrong.
    I’m glad to be, but don’t want her to suffer.
    And so I watch and wait, which suits us fine.
    I still have lots of lettuce left to offer,
    and sympathy, although it’s only mine.
    She doesn’t need it, gesture, thought, or word.
    She’ll take my lettuce though. A tough old bird.

    Copyright © 2020 by Bruce Bennett

    By Bruce Bennett

    My friend, a bookseller of high renown,
    Announces he loves books that “do not sell,”
    A situation those of us know well
    Who write such books, and fulminate and frown
    About the lack of readership for what
    Should be of such great interest crowds should flock
    And take their place in lines around the block
    To shake the hands of those who wrote them. But
    We know too well that such is not the case.
    We do not fool ourselves. Obscurity
    Is always there, and laughing in our face
    For being trusting fools enough to be
    Still hopeful that the thing we love to do
    Will mean a thing to any but a few.

    Copyright © 2020 by Bruce Bennett.

    By Michael Todd Steffen

    Listen. It’s a painting. Her unworldly
    eyes, they look as though they’ve been in
    the fine print of this book since it was written.
    The painter’s seen our infant Lord is hardly
    the word in the beginning, rather unlordly
    in his dismay. Although it’s not uncommon
    even today for mothers and their children
    to fall in with a book. The theme’s already
    lasting in the sense that it transcends
    the time of Botticelli. Surely he
    sat reading with his mother in her lap
    whose warmth nestled his body. In the mind’s
    the reach between us, though. Her fingers keep
    turning the pages. Look. Look there, she says. See?

    Copyright © 2020 by Michael Todd Steffen.

    by Owen Doyle

    Before our goodnight kiss, before the light
    in his room goes out, our son’s bed-side fan
    has to be on: its drone masking the night
    sounds that creak, knock, groan, and threaten
    shadowy harms beyond our explanation.
    A steady wind will cut across his blanket,
    repelling the ghouls of his imagination,
    and he will zip up his green down jacket
    all the way. “We’ll leave the light on here
    in the hall. Good night. Sleep well.”
    Shielded in green, he can rest his anxious head.
    Our kiss does not betray our own dim fear:
    a fear that won’t disturb our son until
    he puts a child of his own to bed.

    Copyright © 2020 by Owen Doyle.

    by Owen Doyle

    This lord proclaims his barnyard omnipotence
    in a hail of down and feathered meteors,
    his world beneath him as he crows, more
    cock sure, more contemptuous of fences

    than a condor, that empress of the air who keeps
    her distance, presuming dominion over all
    that she can see from far above, as she wheels
    in silent circles well removed from the heaps

    of stone, brick, steel and glass laid down
    by our poor wingless species: we who strive
    to lift our natures, to exalt ourselves,
    who flail, fail, fall, and rise again,

    with avid strokes, uneven, somewhere between
    cocky flapping and the soaring of our dreams.

    Copyright © 2020 by Owen Doyle.

    By Patricia Callan

            O! She doth teach the torches to burn bright.

    Day one of school they stood outside her door.
    Older sisters and brothers told how Brutus
    schemed with friends who hid knives inside their sleeves.
    Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the gods. . . .

    Yorick’s skull made tough boys want to vomit.
    Still, students begged her for a seat on the bus.
    A high school student, I was deemed too old
    to have a seat on the bus. Every year

    my sister and brother had a seat on that bus
    – reserved by the teacher who put her life on it,
    taught me how to write a sonnet – our mother.

    Now, in our home town, my sister meets
    people who say, “Your mom was my teacher.
    I got a seat on the bus.”

    Copyright © 2020 by Patricia Callan.

    By Paul Chandler

    Before she could say three cruel words, he leaves.
    He’s gone. She rehearses them, and she leaves.

    Spring was kind. It swept up the cold ice, and
    In warm green waves recreated tree leaves.

    Summer was too hot. Fall crept in nicely,
    Waved red-yellow hands to those who see leaves.

    The birds sought refuge from an ice cold air:
    “Trees for sale: Choirs, ruined, bare. Free leaves!”

    All too soon, Paul, winter’s coming to stay.
    Fall’s a migrant who, when forced to flee, leaves.

    Copyright © 2020 by Paul Chandler.

    by Jay Wickersham

    The TV and the papers gave us warning:
    today the moon would swallow up our sun. He’d
    stick in her throat, a too-large lump of candy,
    and be coughed back up. It didn’t seem alarming,
    to lose our sun. We talked of it while we sat,
    then settled to work. The phones rang. Visitors came
    for a meeting, stayed through lunch. The sky turned black
    and thundery, spattered the glass with rain.
    “What a storm,” we said. “So dark – it looks like nightfall.”    
    Headlights burrowed through the roadside gloom.
    So dark, so dark inside our narrow room.
    Only when light’s return made day less doubtful
    did we begin to wonder: was this sun
    still ours, or another, lesser sun?

    Copyright © 2020 by Jay Wickersham.

    By David Landon

    There’s history, and then there is this pond,
    deep with illusion, as if a glimpse of sky
    had fallen to infinity down there.

    The fish, a school of tiny orange ones,
    are darting through their bit of cosmic blue,
    among the fluent images of trees,

    their ludic bodies quick, then very still,
    then quick again, then quick and quick and quick,
    obedient to the impulse of their dance.

    Impulsively, I speak their magic name,
    with my whole body saying, “fish, fish, fish,”
    as if it were imperative for “live.”

    And now I’m swimming in the cosmos too,
    inscribing ludic phonemes in my brain.

    Copyright © 2020 by David Landon.

    By David Landon

           “For in that sleep of death,
              what dreams may come.”    Hamlet

    Today – or let’s pretend – we’re walking through
    the mystery of here, for instance, here,
    under November’s newly antlered trees,
    our feet pressing the earth, shuffling the leaves,
    their gold and copper specificities,
    their amber, lemon, mauve varieties
    their scattered, gnarling multiplicities,
    crisping and brilliant in the late day sun,
    the air so pure, this place so radiant,
    you’d almost think that history had lost
    its way, and left us here to find our own,
    pressing the earth with soft, attentive feet,
    and holding hands, mysteriously here,
    almost as if we’d died, and chose our dream.

    Copyright © 2020 by David Landon.

    By David Landon

    It’s late, Monet. I’m drinking Armagnac,
    and walking through the mist at Giverny.
    It’s on my desktop here, and like a ghost,
    I’m floating through the screen among these trees,
    trees weightless as their image in the Seine,
    silver, and mauve, and rose. I see your ghost,
    Monet, painting there by the lily pond,
    dissolving everything into your dream.
    If nature dreams, perhaps this is the world
    it wills to be, inhabited by ghosts
    with weightless souls, and nothing else to do
    but lose their way and softly disappear
    in all this swirl of rose, and mauve, and blue,
    becoming mist, suffused with silver light.

    Copyright © 2020 by David Landon.

    By David Landon

           “Let us look for him everywhere.” Montaigne
                               To Philosophize is to Learn to Die

    It’s Tuesday and I’m doing what you said,
    Montaigne, today and all the other days,
    keeping in mind the tricks of you know who.

    We know he’s somewhere out there now,
    disguised as Nature, whipping up a storm,
    softening hills, turning the world to mud;

    or he’s some harmless guy, limping along,
    clutching his cane, staring at everyone,
    his thoughts invisible, and razor swift.

    You’re right, Montaigne, he could be in this room,
    a shadow in the corner of the eye,
    gone when you turn to look, but still right there,

    lurking beyond the surfaces of touch,
    smiling, thinking, watching, biding his time.

    Copyright © 2020 by David Landon.

    by Terese Coe

    In Hungary, aunts and cousins disappeared.
    This kindled in her consciousness a fire
    that even living the wrongs, you may have no rights.
    A child has ears to hear. She’s not a cipher:
    children sense the depths that others suffer.
    The words she’d overheard became the nightmares
    besetting her through childhood with the terror
    that she was seeing day, but day was night.
    She grew to be a First Amendment lawyer,
    juxtaposing balances and stores
    of memory and fact, the law, the wars,
    laying out each injustice through the day,
    imposing logic, and seeing an ultimate order.
    As long as she could write, she found her way.  

    Copyright © 2020 by Terese Coe.

    by Terese Coe

    Now countermarch upon the backward road
    from hip-hop to Garcia to the ode,
    then on to the chant, the drum, the savage spew.
    Hark! It’s Capulet and Montague,
    convulsed by love, alienated, whipped,
    about to swallow poison in a crypt.

    Then hear the crash of fallen Xanadu,
    the wails of the young Elektra on the shore
    when Iphigenia sailed, and came no more.
    The Mysteries of soma and seduction,

    the massacre, the tribe, the fatal abduction,
    wobble back and forward, a meandering queue.
    Predators morph into tragic mountebanks
    as history devolves to ones and blanks.

    Copyright © 2020 by Terese Coe.

    by Terese Coe

    We stumbled upon them,
    the Hesperides apples,
    the Hippocrene foam,

    and sang of the pyramids’
    crawlspace for plunder,
    stele and obelisk
    open to thunder,

    plague of the bandits
    in battlement sand,
    canyon and carapace,
    the road to Samarkand.  

    Copyright © 2020 by Terese Coe.

    By Marcia Karp

    She knew it was love – the twitch of arrival,
    the twinge on departure, hours with his name
    on the flesh of her tongue. Nothing the same
    since she’d met him. Accepting no rival
    who’d love her, her new love’s survival
    was all occupation. She must stay aflame,
    for he had no part of it, never came
    to her dead lips for his own lips’ revival.

    So long she kept love for that time-marking man.
    Kept it so well that she mastered the art
    and dared to discount him. Then new love began –
    the twitches and twinges now messily real
    to a man who made room in his heart
    for a love that was sure to be far from ideal.

    Copyright © 2020 by Marcia Karp.

                   ONE-HALF THE EQUATION

    by James B. Nicola

    But soul to soul, we have no limitations –
    age, space, time, death, &c. Doesn’t “Soul”
    mean What Can’t Be Contained? These conversations
    (replete with syllogistic folderol)
    can serve this Soul (this Self, you see) to you
    in a limited, unlimited way,
    the major variables being two:
    not x, but u; + What I Want to Say –
    my v, mysterious albeit penned
    to be dispensed that 1 day u may know it
    in bits, when i am ash, or smithereens,
    through yellowed words and silences, opened
    like Pandora’s casket, or a can of beans,
    or gutted notes from a long gutted poet.

    Copyright © 2020 by James B. Nicola.

    by James B. Nicola

    You do not have to say I promise. Just
    say what you’re going to do and do it. Or
    don’t say, just do it. Words, once uttered, are
    as light and inconsequential as dust

    on a rising current. The deed’s the thing;
    the promise, vapor-scented, certainly,
    but transient, temporal. So call on me –
    Why not? Likewise, I might give you a ring

    one day. Might not. What do you mean, you want
    me to promise? Do you promise to answer,
    or return the call if I leave my number
    on your voicemail? I’m glad, but what’s the point
    of promises? Just – see you later. When?
    Don’t know yet. But (I promise) you’ll know then.

    Copyright © 2020 by James B. Nicola.

    by James B. Nicola

    I’ve blessed the lesser evil. Is it not
    Survival? Is this not what We all do,
    Then criticize the Other’s lesser blessings
    And kill for differences? So leave me now:
    What you call squalor, centuries have strived
    For. Let me be at peace with the content
    Of better less, and whole powerlessness,
    As far as what I can’t control’s concerned,
    To wallow, as you say, in the superiority
    Of little, the supremacy of nothing:
    So like the gods you cannot hear who shout
    – I read their faces with humility;
    So like true love, which should find happiness
    Even in a scraggly hermitage.

    Copyright © 2020 by James B. Nicola.

    GRAY 1
    by James B. Nicola

    If you could make a person of a gray
    day, firmly grasp her face and kiss away
    her gray, then you could make a balmy day
    out of a gray. Imagine, though, how brave
    you’d have to be trying this with a twister.
    You’d have to be part soldier and part knave,
    a strongman/roué, to make her behave.
    And you couldn’t really practice with your sister.

    Not that a day’s “female” – I’d never say
    that weather is a woman, or a day’s
    meant to be coddled, kissed, or tamed at all.

    But often, in a mask of thick gray haze
    or unforeseen hail, sleet, snow, or rainfall,
    I think of one, having one of her days.

    Copyright © 2020 by James B. Nicola.

    By B. E. Stock

    A whining machine chomped the tar off the road
    And a boy howled in the cellar;
    Someone kept knocking on a door somewhere,
    But no one answered, and finally it opened
    And slammed against the wall.
    A motor revved, then quieted, then revved again,
    And a big load poured down a chute again and again.

    I woke, and it was just a wind
    Such as I thought blew only on the tundra
    Somewhere in Siberia during the winter.
    Stormless, it raged against trees and houses,
    Banging on trash cans, tossing power lines,
    Keeping me awake with its restless breath,
    And I waited for a message, but heard none.

    Copyright © 2020 by B. E. Stock.

    By Kathleen Kirk

           Why this field of wind? —Verl
           Fall Back Down When I Die, by Joe Wilkins

    Somewhere I read that we cannot see
    landscapes out windows in dreams,

    but I looked out on layers of water,
    gray and dark blue, deep green,
    and a deeper gray. It might have been
    a field of wind, that’s true, not water,
    a landscape built from another phrase
    from a book, or it might have been
    layers of grass in Australia, or layers
    of paint in an imaginary country
    on the wall. But I’m sure I walked
    on that shore, and found it familiar,
    a place known but never seen before.

    Copyright © 2020 by Kathleen Kirk.

    By Kathleen Kirk

    It’s made of cedar, raw inside,
    polished outside. Hinged drawers
    hang from the opened lid, holding
    small things: silk scarves, lace doilies,
    linen napkins, handkerchiefs.
    Underneath are sweaters
    made of thick wool, folded,
    a lace tablecloth, stacked finery.

    Where is it now? This cedar chest?
    What’s happened to all this hope?

    Copyright © 2020 by Kathleen Kirk.

    by Joanne Joseph

    Not even twenty
    Young, green

    Fled the parent nest

    Right there he was
    In college writing class

    Brilliant, warm, funny,

    Me blind to brewing psychic ills

    Soon saving self in quick divorce  

    I did not, could not save him,

    Just myself

    Copyright © 2020 by Joanne Joseph.

    By CammyThomas

    For decades, I’ve vibrated to your banging,
            your arrhythmic tympani.
    Every day I worry.
                    (wishing will not make us well)

            My Greek cardiologist quotes Homer,
    commands me to live without fear,
                    then implants a monitor in my breast.

            I can’t see it, but I can feel it –
                            (wishing will not make us well)
                    a short metal warning under the skin,
    clocking each syncopated beat.

            My friend J. died in a moment, despite
                    his perfect EKGs and happy life.
    “Wait,” his wife heard him say –.

    Copyright © 2020 by Cammy Thomas.

    By Joyce Wilson

            In memory of our dearest friends

    1. The Date

    The calendar was hanging by the stair.
    They chose the date like other dates to mark
    The progress of their lives, with time to spare
    And space to celebrate, then disembark.

    She liked to be of use, and in control,
    Was happiest when busying about
    The centers and peripheries her role
    Assumed, although she now had cause for doubt.

    For now that he determined that his end
    Was near, and nothing more would come to pass,
    It seemed that time transformed, as if the bend
    In waves had loosed, and he would start the fast.

    The moments rose and carried them as they
    Reached up and threw the calendar away.

    2. The Place

    They reached and threw the calendar away.
    He chose the place, an unobstructed view
    Of azure sky and treetops on the bay.
    He lay down on the bed as if on cue,

    Regarding them, bemused through Atavan.
    And much as she had hoped he’d change his mind,
    She watched him fade as in a caravan
    Drawn over mountain paths he’d leave behind.

    The clock was not rewound. The chimes had rung.
    To ease the dryness inside mouth and cheek,
    The hospice nurses swabbed his mottled tongue.
    The morphine helped him rally through the week.

    And no one panicked when he died. She knew
    She would not cry, and hardly needed to.

    3. The Undressing

    She would not cry, and hardly needed to,
    As rushing breath-bleats ceased. She brought the cloth,
    The shallow bowl, and stirred the magic brew
    To salve the end, the stiffening of death.

    He was not warm. She took his slippers, socks,
    And pulled his shirt up over his shoulders
    And worked his trousers neatly down and off,
    And there he was, once more a lover to her.

    His body lay, naked, heavy with loss.
    She could not claim retrieval of his soul,
    Yet as she let his head rest on her breast,
    Her beating heart began to beat for all.

    Anxiety, the dancer set apart,
    Compelled the vision for a greater art.

    4. The Bath

    In need of vision for a greater art,
    She soaked the cloth and pressed the herbal dregs.
    Beginning with his face and neck, she’d start
    With head and torso, then his arms and legs.

    Was he her lover now? How odd to think
    About his hair and nails, that they would grow
    Despite the skin’s propensity to shrink.
    She smelled a lurking fear, decay’s shadow.

    She stood and took a last good look at him.
    His dull repose was more than she could bear.
    Part man, part thing, he was her prize possession.
    She could not let him go; she did not dare.

    She was his guard, through happiness and strife,
    Embracing this, the remnant of his life.

    5. The Stranger

    Embracing this, the remnant of his life,
    She held his ravaged limbs, the twisted band
    That failed him once, then twice, as if a knife
    Had severed efforts from their lone command.

    How he had needed her, and she had been
    So good, with the appointments, the respect,
    The hopes she raised, to see them fall again,
    While signs of the disease remained intact.

    How painful it had been to see him lose
    The lust for life that took him to Nepal,
    The classic melodies he brought to blues,
    The analytic phrase beyond recall.

    The humor that sustained the invalid
    Had flown. It seemed he was an alien.

    6. The Robe and the Rings

    Now that it seemed he was an alien,
    That he was gone, eternally his own,
    His body would return to dust. And then
    She’d do no more than love what she had known.

    She robed him in his favorite flannel shirt,
    Took off her wedding rings, and pressed them both
    In his breast pocket. I should sing, she thought,
    And took a breath but could not find the note.

    She had a task to do. Once finished, she
    Would join the others in the outer room.
    She should not stay where she would rather be
    While they were eager to make time resume.

    At last he was composed in the dignity
    That he had sought, a quiet victory.

    7. The Crown

    She let him go in quiet victory.
    His fear of dying without dignity
    Had flown. Although he seemed an alien
    Without the hope that blessed the invalid,
    She’d cleansed his body, remnant of his life,
    Had been his guard through happiness and strife.
    Compelled through vision for a greater art,
    She’d lost her fear that they’d be forced apart.
    She had not cried, and hardly needed to,
    For no one panicked when he died. She knew
    That time would rise and carry them as they
    Reached up and threw the calendar away,
    The one that mapped their passion and despair,
    That she’d retrieve and keep beneath the stair.

    Copyright © 2020 by Joyce Wilson.