Current Issue

Volume 63, 2018  Selected Poets and Poems

Elizabeth Danson – Nothing
Betty Bonham Lies – Cento of the Light
Lynn Hoffman – appetite-14
Mary Jo LoBello Jerome – Vreeland Avenue
John Smith – Chopping Wood
W.D. Ehrhart – Old Men Bodysurfing

Please see our Poets tab for home pages of poets, where available.


quill_smallNothing by Elizabeth Danson

this is a poem about nothing
the nothing of me before I was born
the nothing after my death

the nothing Cordelia inherited
out of her “Nothing”
except all her father’s love

the nothing a naughty child
has been up to
when a parent wants to know

the nothing I had on
under my jeans
when I answered the door at 7 a.m.

the nothing left of a father’s voice
of a mother’s curious glance
when you told her nothing

the nothing you can do
with the hundreds of family photos
four and five generations deep

the nothing you can remember
on the shopping list
you left in the kitchen

the nothing that makes sense
in the dark of your bed
when sleep defies your yearning

the nothing I said
sotto voce
when no one was supposed to hear

quill_smallCento of the Light by Betty Bonham Lies

Light splashed this morning
in the valley
making me breathless:

sunshine, ice in the shallows,
the spring on the hillside
and the fire inside the hills.

On a bright day like today
to slip into the needle’s eye,
to construct peace, to make love—

three oranges lying on the kitchen counter,
you talking to me across the table,
on the table, on the oilcloth, hope,

letting the light in,
giving me reason to believe—
and below, the rest of our lives.

I could live like that.
I could live forever.

quill_smallappetite-14 by Lynn Hoffman

Your hair smells
like lust.
Like the smoke
that drifts above
the table
just before
the feast.

quill_smallVreeland Avenue by Mary Jo LoBello Jerome

Summer’s end and nothing moved in that heat
except Uncle Tucky next door who was not
allowed in our yard. Just home from Saigon,
each day he fed trash to ashcan fires.

Mother yelled from the window: Move away
from that fence. Go play dolls with your sister.

He slouched on the stoop and tossed kindling bits
to the flames. I leaned so hard watching him

the chain link dented and cross-hatched my face.
I pressed my torso to the metal. Low smoke
burned my eyes. The cicadas’ crescendo
rose in the trees. He was lost in the haze.

Yet the slap fixed him to me fifty years on.
Stop crying. Just leave that poor boy alone.

quill_smallChopping Wood by John Smith

The night my daughter curled up on her bed like a cannonball
and exploded into a pool of tears was the night I decided
to teach her about chopping wood. Not just how to set the log
on end in the center of the tree-stump, plant her feet, grip the ax
with one hand at the base, steady it halfway up the shaft with the other,
take aim, and swing hard enough to drive the blade all the way through,
into the stump, but also that it is less about strength, than the speed
of confidence. Not to mention there is great venting to be had.
The next day, I placed a log on the chopping block and said,
This wood is you and him, and the axehead, all the reasons for the split.
You have to keep repeating it, keep slamming into the wood,
cleaving it in two, piece after piece, until there is relief in the rhythm
and reward when you see your efforts stack up. The evening fire,
a little brighter for all your hard work. We put the ax back in the shed
and loaded the wheelbarrow with firewood. As we headed to the house,
she asked how long it took for me to stop drinking. Every day of it,
I said.

quill_smallOld Men Bodysurfing by W.D. Ehrhart

for Joe & Dale & Me

You should have seen the three of them:
sixty-five, seventy, maybe older,
pot-bellied, gray-haired, wrinkled
like God had given them skin two sizes
too big, riding wave after wave after wave
all the way in to the surf line,
giving each other the thumbs up,
then doddering back into the ocean
to catch the next wave. Shameless
exhibitionists. Acting like kids.
One of them had a ponytail, for chrissake.