The Poetry Porch presents

the sonnet scroll xxi

Copyright © 2021 by Joyce Wilson


    Covid Calendar, or, Dancing with Droplets
    By Heather Dubrow


    It’s February. Times outside. Back then, yet just before.
    It rests, not ruffled by its news, nothing to dismay.
    I doze past nine, and will doze past page twenty-four.
    News from somewhere . . . China? Spain? . . . all are far away.
    Neither paper nor readers will be blown away
    by wind – we’ll miss wind of – when we open our doors.
    I’ll read of fashion, baseball (Astros’ shady play),
    and learn how best to choose new rugs for these wood floors.
    Many of these trifling stories leave us yawning,
    and while I doze he fashions pancakes – what a prize.
    I’m roused neither by dawn nor by tomorrow’s dawning
    of midnights that will soon black out each day’s sunrise.
    In March new facts will knock loud on our porch’s door.
    Lead story: Covid-19 will shut down before.


    Covid-19 is shutting down before.
    For midnight crashed the old world as I dozed.
    The times and daily Times knock down locked doors.
    Our president? Mouth open, ears, eyes closed.
    Dark chocolate, peanut brittle, comfort food,
    and crosswords – reach out for these distractions.
    But hope is brittle, words now crossed and rude.
    Other leaders? Wilderness of factions.
    But wait – our chive plant turns towards us, so near,
    and grows new shoots. though they sing thin and low.
    Attend that music, poet. Do not hear
    brazen blares from ambulances below:
    Their tempting, taunting siren song: “Flee this disease?
    It gardens only death.” Yet chives still try to please.


    But can our chives still please us? Can deans’ thank yous cheer
    us? Zoom forward, profs, since smart techies teach us how
    to use tomorrow’s tools. But tomorrow’s what deans fear.
    Will enrollments plummet? Hear budgets crashing now.
    Students barred from dorm rooms: warnings from on high –
    leave all your plants and friends. Go home. You must take flight.
    One last kiss for your girlfriend? No – don’t even try.
    The virus wants to kiss her. So don’t risk its might.
    Remember when we caught some viruses by clicking
    onto a pfishing, feral, phony online link?
    Nowadays might dread viruses come from picking
    up mail or the wrong apple? Or from the dirty sink?
    Who feeds cats back on campus? Feral, yes, but dears.
    We read feral numbers that feed our wildest fears.


    Feral numbers feed wildest fears.
    Canned beans and canned comforts we hoard.
    Walk fast. He’s unmasked. And she nears.
    Death snuggles near metals. Cardboard?
    Is the park still safe to walk through?
    Expert 1 impugns Expert 3.
    So my shaking hand holds tight to
    what I learned at my father’s knee.
    “Squeeze each finger and rub your wrist.”
    Doctor Dad taught me how to scrub.
    But if I’m in disease’s fist,
    Dad’s too late. Father, there’s the rub.
    Practice his safety tips and hints.
    Yet Death’s father still winks and glints.


    Death’s father, a resurgence, winks and glints
    too near to our locked door. Too close to bear.
    And yet the five-room home inside by dint
    of play turns into castle in the air.
    Comic endings? safety, silver lining.
    First write ACT I: playwrights must pursue
    some conflict there? – no, write instead fine dining:
    we’ll turn foodie and learn to knead anew.
    ACT II: now some solaces to cheer us:
    thank God we have the funds to pay the rent,
    Sherlock Holmes waits on the table near us.
    What luck! these unread books seem heaven-sent.
    But do demons or saints pen Covid’s plot ?
    Dare we guess its closure? But dare we not?


    Dare we guess what end is coming? But dare we not?
    Still cling to this comfort: great lectures from my room –
    I’m star of screen and laptop! No look – someone has got
    into our program – sending porno – they’re bombing Zoom.
    A new solution: instead turn back for relief
    to my beloved partner’s pancakes. Yes, his care
    is priceless – he coughs again – a warning of grief?
    My well-baked fears rise like soufflés. But don’t go there.
    Third salve: our handsome objects. On that dining table
    lay my parents’ sterling. Now use it (but first dust),
    for what stays sterling in our tarnished fable,
    this world where even stainless steel will rust?
    Yet this stanza, this month might still close bright.
    Vaccines? A dawn of hopes in this sirened night.


    Vaccines. Cheerful news in this sirened night.
    But dare we cheer? New darknesses may dawn tomorrow.
    AstraZeneca’s statistics exposed: not right.
    And might this strain eclipse new hopes with sorrow?
    Christmas parties. Reckless hugging, so little masking.
    Grandson exposed to what he thought was flu.
    Is Grandma’s death stuffed in his backpack? Just asking.
    Like crown verse, might Corona’s endings start anew?
    No, revolt against those fears. And here turn
    to good tidings of safely protecting.
    Hospitals, drugstores can now, we learn,
    bestow shots to prevent our infecting.
    Wait – supplies? Lies shot down while deaths and hopes still soar.    
    January. Times outside. Not yet. Yet just before?

    Copyright © 2021 by Heather Dubrow.

    By Marge Piercy

    I live within a mile of the sea
    but haven’t entered it since
    a white shark ripped apart
    a young surfer. I stand above

    on the edge of the dune
    but even when I see a fin
    way out, I back away as if
    the great white could fly.

    The sea belongs to its own.
    We’re always trespassers,
    visitors who leave mounds
    of trash to pollute its waters.

    The ocean owes us nothing.
    It knows it will outlast us.

    Copyright © 2021 by Marge Piercy.

    Carrying On
    By Bruce Bennett

    I make a list of things I have to do,
    Then cross each off and feel a mild content.
    It does not matter when, or where, time went,
    So long as I replace the old with new,
    Telling myself each day that I got through,
    Accomplishing, subservient to intent,
    Each petty task, no matter what it meant.
    I’ve carried on, and my regrets are few.

    Though I do have regrets. I’m well aware
    When I review my lists, they don’t add up
    To much of anything, my daily fare,
    A little like a beggar with his cup
    Who’s grateful for some coins so he can say
    That he has made it through another day.

    Copyright © 2021 by Bruce Bennett.

    Coming Back from Lawrence Welk
    By Bruce Bennett

    My mother would get lost in Lawrence Welk.
    “I couldn’t get back from there,” she told us once.
    We laughed, but it was clear she was upset.
    She even worried she shouldn’t watch the program.
    She’d scrooch down in her chair and stare, entranced,
    transported. I would see the black and white;
    hear those lame jokes; that syncopated music.
    It seemed so hokey. But she was clearly there.

    Last night I happened on a rerun. Watched
    entranced, transported. My mother and I were there,
    caught in that place, that time, those jokes, that music,
    and all at once I recognized the magic.
    I finally saw why she so loved to go,
    and why, once there, she didn’t wish to come back.

    Copyright © 2021 by Bruce Bennett.

    Haunted by a Death
    By Bruce Bennett

    I’m haunted by a death. Not one that’s near me.
    Not one that touches anyone I know.
    I can’t reach out to someone who will hear me.
    It happened. It’s a fact now. It is so.
    So many years had passed with no connection.
    No contact. Really, what is there to say?
    It’s not a matter open to correction.
    Besides, why should it matter anyway?

    The problem is, it does. And that’s what haunts me.
    What might have been. Of course, that’s a cliché.
    But nonetheless, that hangs about and taunts me.
    We missed that chance to share our lives. Today
    I see that and I know that. Now the most
    I’ll ever keep of you is this vague ghost.

    Copyright © 2021 by Bruce Bennett.

    What Didn’t Happen
    By Bruce Bennett

    “The way it really happened does not matter.
    What matters is the way I tell the tale,”

    the storyteller lectured our small circle.

    “Stick close to mundane details, and you’ll fail.
    The accurate will sink you if it’s boring.
    The ‘truth’ does not reside in simple fact.
    Your simple duty’s to drive home the meaning.
    Your sole allegiance is to that one act
    of making real to others what is vivid.
    What you create will then live for them too . . . .”

    He finished, and we sat a while in silence.

    As always, I was thinking about you:

    How I would try to make you feel the way
    I felt by what I’d write and what I’d say.

    Copyright © 2021 by Bruce Bennett.

    Old Foes
    By James B. Nicola

    That You are there would not be problematic
    if you were satisfied with being you.
    But since you would upset the status quo
    we rub against each other, which brings static.

    Then I feel predisposed to being there
    as you have been dead set in being here.
    I don’t know why it’s so, but as you near,
    an unseen hand of Someone Else somewhere

    compels. But what if I refuse, with mind
    and heart, not merely instinct? Oh! Instead
    of furthering the curse of human kind
    by striking out until each face turns red,
    let’s shake each other’s hands, thus saving face,
    and let us only damn the lack of space.

    Copyright © 2021 by James B. Nicola.

    The Savagery Required
    By James B. Nicola

    The savagery required is like a hateful
    meanness I have tried not to give way to.
    If you are just like me, I should be grateful
    for having run into someone like you.
    Who then shall take the first step, who shall make
    the pass, and risk all; who shall be the an-
    imal, in spurts? To devolve is to take
    the first step in becoming all a man
    is, and can be, right? Without it, I’m half
    a man; with only love, the Puritan
    is the only victor. Look at me and laugh,
    why don’t you? I will too, and maybe we
    can laugh into each other, and maybe
    become a single thing, half meant to be.

    Copyright © 2021 by James B. Nicola.

    Poem for Mortalities
    By Stephan Delbos

    Rilke did not want to know
    the anonymous simplicity
    of leukemia;

    you must change your life
    alone into death.

    A dusty moth
    twitches in my right lung.

    At night I slide backward
    through stations of dream
    afraid yet unrepentant.

    Copyright © 2021 by Stephan Delbos.

    A Mote of Dust
    By Paula Bonnell

    speaks up. It says
    “Philosophy is a disease of the mind.

    One hornpipe is worth a thousand philosophies.”
    Then it adds, “The right name

    of what you call ‘Brownian movement’
    is ‘Dance of the Sunlight’.”

    As I contemplate these assertions,
    I feel they might fit

    in my essay, “Toward a
    Philosophy of the Dance.”

    Copyright © 2021 by Paula Bonnell.

    Again, Thankfully
    By Paula Bonnell

    And all the invisible topography of the air,
    its cloud mountains as mutable as its rivers of wind.
    Into its boundlessness the sleeper rises
    from the dark canyons and corridors of the night,
    hearing birds’ sallies to the sun and each other
    against the continuo of breeze or rainladen wind,
    as the white enlightenments of day
    erase the dreamworld’s phantasms.
    Before sentences, before answers, before
    questions, before gossip or denunciations,
    before the dental auguries or
    events which obliterate even the dental
    comes this interlude, this intermezzo,
              these variations

    Copyright © 2021 by Paula Bonnell.

    Election Day Evening 2020
    By Constance Hooker Koons

    Mars lords over the eastern sky as darkness falls in November.    

    A vigorous two-day wind has finally
    relented. It is bitter, January cold.
    I bundle up in winter gear and head
    out for my evening stamina-building
    slog – down steep, narrow Church
    Street and then a sharp left onto the long
    winding Main Street hill. I need a break
    from poll numbers, predictions, hand-
    wringing. On the hillside the setting sun
    washes the crowns of the oaks pink before
    the whole sky turns salmon with whisps
    of purple-gray clouds. As I turn down Mill
    Alley and head for home, I spot red Mars
    right where it is supposed to be.

    Copyright © 2021 by Constance Hooker Koons.

    In Polarized Times
    By Constance Hooker Koons

    An employee of the general store
    clips and hoists the American flag
    up the flagpole every morning
    just before eight. From my living
    room window I watch what appears
    to be a solemn task accomplished
    with respect, the unfolded flag
    never touching the ground. A chore
    rich with meaning and tradition.
    I want this, want to begin my day
    with a ritual, want to feel reverence,
    a moment of silent worship –
    for something. For the brilliant blue
    fall sky, golden leaves raining down.

    Copyright © 2021 by Constance Hooker Koons.

    Twilight – Third Day of Fall
    By Constance Hooker Koons

    Above the black silhouette of the pines
    the sky to the west is the color of orange
    sherbet interspersed with layers of pale
    blue. The air smells like grilled burgers
    and dying leaves. The crickets, not long
    for the world now, have lost their gusto.
    The solar lights flicker on. A gray catbird
    calls out in its raspy mew, then the plaintive
    cry of a loon. Soon the bats will appear.
    I dread closing windows, closing
    down, closing in, the silence of winter.
    Tonight is still full of hums, cheeps
    and trills. The loon, closer now, sounds
    her lonely cry again and again.

    Copyright © 2021 by Constance Hooker Koons.

    The Sifter Sound
    By Marcy Jarvis

    My mother’s flour sifter with the tin
    spring action handle and its red knobed crank
    delivered little snowstorms to the bank
    of that blue band bowl’s lake of porcelain.

    She sifted till it drifted to a mound
    of snow that matched the feathers Hulda shook
    from bedding in the clouds outside around
    the pleasant kitchen window where we’d look

    out as she baked the cookies and the bread,
    the Christmas cakes, the batter, the salt dough
    and rolled out crusts when up we sprang from bed
    while laughing nervously because we’d know

    she always turned the sifter upside down
    to spank it so’s to knock the sifter sound.

    Copyright © 2021 by Marcy Jarvis.

    Introduction to Bach
    By Jean L. Kreiling

    Some of them will listen, some will not.
    I’m sure of this before I see their faces,
    before I learn their names. I have a shot
    at opening their ears, and my pulse races
    with first-day nerves as usual. I know
    that this old music might adjust the beat
    of their young hearts, and what they hear below
    the shiny surface of a tune might meet
    what roils beneath their skin, might be a clue
    to their own secrets. Not that I can tell
    them that – no, I can only lead them through
    their listening, then let the music sell
    itself. I’m just the middleman, a guide
    who turns the music on and steps aside.

    I turn the music on and step aside,
    not three feet from an inky snake that coils
    along a front-row arm, fangs open wide
    around the young man’s thumb; a master’s oils
    could hardly render fierceness with more force.
    Behind the boy’s half-hooded eyes, within
    his muscled silence, does there lurk a source
    of warmer-blooded danger? On his chin
    grows just a hint of beard; his fingernails
    are clean, his neck well-scrubbed. He slouches like
    a kid prepared for boredom, one who fails
    a lot, but not like one prepared to strike.
    The hand that he won’t raise must bleed with ink.
    What will he hear in Bach? What will he think?

    What will the others hear? What will they think
    as parts are layered and beats subdivide?
    The woman by the window taps a pink
    iPhone, her rhythm skillful but not tied
    to Bach’s neat meter. When her eyes meet mine,
    she puts the phone away – I’ve got this glare
    that often works. She then strives to align
    her book and notebook; next she smooths her hair.
    She’s busy, and she wants to please someone –
    not me, I’m sure, but her intensity
    might be transferable. She’s just begun
    to make her life her own; the clarity
    of Bach may well appeal to her. This weave
    of well-timed notes may tempt her to believe.

    Though well-timed notes may tempt her to believe
    in Bach, or art, or beauty, there’s a guy
    slumped in the back – the one whose hat and sleeve    
    declare faith in the Red Sox – who may try
    my patience. Just two minutes into class,
    he’s nodding, just about into a nap.
    If that becomes a habit, he won’t pass,
    but I’m not sure he cares. Still, he may snap
    out of his lethargy if he just feels
    these vigorous vibrations – how they dance
    and run and leap, each phrase chasing the heels
    of yet another. He may have a chance,
    if Bach and I can keep him from his sleep.
    For him, the learning curve may well be steep.

    For many here, the learning curve is steep,
    but others find they’ve got an ear – a knack
    for noticing the details in a sweep
    of sound, the skill of following the track
    of Bach’s ideas. A young man with wild hair
    and rimless glasses, in a middle row,
    is perched right at the front edge of his chair
    as if to inhale an arpeggio
    or fall into a cadence. Will he take
    the time to learn what makes this so enthralling?
    And can I meet his challenge? Can I make
    his breathless interest last, and keep him falling?
    He barely blinks: he seems to see the meeting
    of sound and sense, he knows each note is fleeting.

    As sound and sense converge, my chance is fleeting:
    I’ll reach them in ten minutes or I won’t.
    It’s nearly noon, and they’d rather be eating;
    I understand, though they assume I don’t.
    Two students whisper – vital information,
    I’m sure – but will they even hear the Bach?
    Another focuses her concentration
    on ancient desk graffiti, then the clock.
    But there are six or eight or maybe nine
    already won by sounds they won’t forget;
    one doodles, but he seems to draw a line
    for each line of the Bach – he’s not lost yet.
    I’ll do my best – Herr Bach deserves no less –
    but I won’t have unqualified success.

    No, I won’t have unqualified success,
    and Bach won’t strike exactly the right chord
    in all these ears. I’m saddened, I confess,
    when Bach leaves some of them confused or bored.
    I want them all to hear what sings to me:
    the magic wed to mathematics, light
    and darkness deeply felt, vitality
    and cleverness that whet the appetite
    for more. As always, I will ask them first,
    So what do you think? – and I’ll try to learn
    from their replies. We’ll spend an hour immersed
    in melody and rhythm, trill and turn,
    bass line and beat. I’ll give it all I’ve got,
    but some of them will listen, some will not.

    Copyright © 2021 by Jean L. Kreiling.