WILD GOOSE POETRY REVIEW
This is a big issue of Wild Goose Poetry Review. Big because it has more poems than I usually select. Big because of the remarkable essay on contemporary poetic theory by Paul Nelson. Big because of Harry Youtt’s equally remarkable critical essay on Seamus Heaney’s Nobel Prize lecture. And big because of the quality and range of the poetry it contains. As always, I have manipulated the order of the poems to create what I hope you will find to be some interesting juxtapositions. As always, the journal features a mix of new and familiar voices. And as always the reviews will broaden and deepen your experience of poetry. But I think I may have taken more chances this time than I typically do. I hope those chances, along with the essays and reviews, stimulate a broad and meaningful discussion of these poems and of poetry in general. I hope you’ll join the discussion by leaving meaningful comments for the authors and readers to consider and enjoy.
Kelly DeMaegd, Shaping the Universe
Kelly DeMaegd, Assonance
Ellae Lawton, Existential Crisis at Age Six
Ellae Lawton, For Malala, Elizabeth, Ashley, the Cleveland Three, and All the Other Gals Who Will Ascend to the Real Paradise Some Day
Herbert Woodward Martin, After the Shooting
Donna Engel, Conversations with Isaac
Donna Engel, Figures of Speech
Larry Schug, An Accordion, I Think
Larry Schug, A Speculation on Spiders
Mike James, My Father Could
Tim Peeler, Old Man Poems
Tim Peeler, Old Man Poems
Julianne Palumbo, Like Old Men in Musty Grey Overcoats
Douglas McHargue, Sugar
William Rayst, Designated Smoking Area
Russell Rowland, Newspaper Obituary
Russell Rowland, Asking Oral of Them
Alarie Tennille, Picasso’s Sister
Barbara Crooker, March
Barbara Crooker, Spring
Ronald Moran, Flying Over the Catskills
Ronald Moran, Early Summer
Kathy Nelson, Letter to Mother, August 2013
Mary Kratt, Where It Stands
Mary Kratt, In Praise Of
Helen Losse, Before Photoshop
Mary Ricketson, Wet Exit
Sandra Rokoff-Lizut, They Fell Like Rain
Ann Fox Chandonnet, Circle of Stones
Harry Youtt, How to Read a Seamus Heaney Poem
Essays and Reviews
Harry Youtt, Seamus Heaney’s 1995 Nobel Lecture
Paul Nelson, The Line Is Strong and the Escape Is Thin
Scott Owens, One Day in the Life of the Poet As One-Percenter: A Profile of Tim Peeler
Patricia Deaton, Review of Lisa Zerkle’s Heart of Light
Douglas McHargue, Review of Robert Lee Brewer’s Solving the World’s Problems
Helen Losse, Review of William Pitt Roots’ Strange Angels
Helen Losse, Review of Jenny Billings Beaver’s Ordinary Things
SHAPING THE UNIVERSE
In the beginning the creator
assembles his tools: pliers, hammer,
his own callused hands. Grunts an immense
sheet of tin onto his workbench,
begins to sketch. Genius of design,
all elements are related,
interdependent. Deft and sure,
the creator imagines order,
meaning, knows that if a connection
is broken, a tree burns, hills erode,
rivers flood, cattle drown, children starve.
Once the plan is complete, he cuts,
snips, folds until the universe
emerges, elaborate, fragile,
whimsical. Surveying his work,
the creator brushes dust to the ground,
bows his head, whispers a blessing,
bestows dominion. And it was so.
Author’s Comment: This is an ekphrastic poem inspired by the metal sculptures of Larry Heath. Heath sketches, cuts and folds a flat sheet of tin until an entire scene emerges. Viewing his work, I imagined a more universal Creation story.
You can wish in one hand, spit
in the other, see which one fills
up first. This was her stock reply,
usually in response to my brother’s
request for a tree house, speed boat,
snowmobile. Her eyes focused
on the page of a Perry Mason
mystery, cup of coffee in hand;
wisdom buried in cliché.
I listened closely to her voice;
loved the repetition of sound
in the words wish, spit, fills.
Author’s Comment: When I was a kid, I loved to hear people talk. I counted syllables, listened to the timing and rhythm of speech and admired words that rhymed. All this before I discovered my love of poetry!
Bio: Kelly DeMaegd is a Pushcart-nominated poet living in Sherrills Ford, NC. She has been published in Wild Goose Poetry Review, Vox Poetica and Your Daily Poem. She is also a regular contributor to Art of Poetry at the Hickory Museum of Art.
EXISTENTIAL CRISIS AT AGE SIX
When Mother double-parked in Waukegan
and went to renew her driver’s license
I could read the sign FISH down the hill
just before the dark blue of the Big Lake
stretched out farther than I could see.
I clutched the hanger strap of the gray
pre-war Plymouth as hard as I could,
hoping if I held tight it might not roll.
Watching the whitecaps churning in,
I wondered–if it rolled me down, down,
plunged me into the lake, would a big
fish come and swallow me like Jonah
in the story my grandmother told? Did
God want me to do something I hadn’t?
Did I forget to say prayers last night?
Forget to pick up my crayons and paper
dolls? Did He hear me call Sharry
a dummy? What if my mother came back
and the car was gone and me with it,
how would she get home? And
what would she tell my dog?
Ellae Lawton, For Malala, Elizabeth, Ashley, The Cleveland Three, and All the Other Gals Who Will Ascent to the Real Paradise Some Day
FOR MALALA, ELIZABETH, ASHLEY, THE CLEVELAND THREE, AND ALL THE OTHER GALS WHO WILL ASCEND TO THE REAL PARADISE SOME DAY
We’re told men who throw bombs,
wear bombs, blow God’s people
into agonizing pieces
believe they’ll go to a paradise
and enjoy a host of virgins.
It seems rather adolescent,
this equating paradise with sex,
reducing God’s high habitation
to a flat world of mattresses
like some frat-house basement.
Men with gun-courage who
want to subjugate women
can’t think above the waist.
They shot Malala in the head
to prevent her learning more
because she can. They want her
to be a dumb virgin in paradise.
At least they didn’t rape her
to gain their elysium. Rape’s
a less spectacular way
to shoot a female in the head;
just ask Elizabeth Smart
and a host of other ex-virgins
taken far from paradise.
A phoenix rising from her ashes
shines far brighter than a bomb,
ignites more people than a bomb
but with healing light, not harm–
Herbert Woodward Martin
AFTER THE SHOOTING
I am not sure where the conversation began, but I do know that a reporter for
a national news organization thoughtfully wrote: The grandfather began the
evening prayers with: We should remember the pain the killer’s family must
now live with. We all have absorbed some portion of their pain into our presence. It
was not a portion of the harvest we expected to gather today. But it is a part nevertheless.
Still we must hold steady to forgive because it what our Heavenly Father commanded and
what He would have us do. We must be innocent in our accepting of the pain others
perpetuate upon us. We must be cognizant of our own guilt, in this matter just as the Second
thief was in realizing his own failure. His words rolled steadily from his heart and
he uttered them from his mouth like the turning of the wheels on their buggy
as it was often to take them into town. He further said: We will not allow this
particular pain to deprive us of our dignity as we grieve this erasure.
We will meet this horror face to face and it will serve us as an honorable people.
He said all of this to the rapt attention of the children while his oldest daughter
made careful preparation with her tears. Her duty had brought her to this burial
point of saying farewell to her first and third daughters. She would wrap them
in white winding cloth as the community required. She would take a memento
of hair from each offspring. There would be no photographs left to testify that they
were ever alive. She would keep the hair in a locket around her neck. This would be
her only private remembrance. She would kiss each sterile face goodbye. Her husband
would make two graves as duty required even though the earth resisted each stroke
of his shovel. So grandfather , daughter, mother, father, husband and wife each
turned according to the wheels of duty. After the preparations were all accomplished, the
minutes, hours, days and months would turn themselves into years of snow. Nothing of this
day would be left the reporter wrote. An eradicating whiteness would infect even the
Bio: Herbert Woodward Martin’s newest collection is titled On The Flyleaf published by Bottom Dog Press in Huron Ohio. He has taught for three decades at The University of Dayton and was that institution’s Poet-In-Residence. He is retired now and spends his time writing, revising and giving readings of his work and that of Paul Laurence Dunbar. His selected poems is titled Inscribing My Name.
CONVERSATIONS WITH ISAAC
You see, I did understand –
it happens all the time. One day
a beautiful child disappears from camp
and no one says a word
until the rains come, and only then
will the women
let themselves weep.
When he told me “God
will provide the sacrifice,” I knew
the jig was up – it’s always somebody’s blood,
and he wouldn’t meet Mother’s eyes
when we left, fiddling with his belt
and dropping the firewood
And then the long hot questioning walk,
the binding and rough cloth blindfold,
terror whetting my lips, and yellow spit
gagging my throat, my heart already cut
by betrayal, ribs crushed by the long glimpse
into what remained of my empty future
clenching my jaw on the hard cold stone,
the only lover’s kiss I would ever know
lying there, waiting for death.
You know the rest of the story,
he being as surprised as I
by the shocking hand of deliverance –
and it should be happily-ever-after
except he cannot look me in the eyes
for the shame of what almost came to pass.
Now he disappears off to reverie
in the romantic clutches of a new god
who promised him generations and stars,
while I am left not knowing who I am,
truly saved or thoroughly damned –
a pivotal character
living on the dividing line
between old and new ways.
Here’s the secret: It is impossible
to love him anymore, god or no,
because he will forever be the hand
behind the knife, and I do not know
if he will heed the angel sent
to save me.
FIGURES OF SPEECH
The strength of my feeling
takes me aback – I soldier you
to the nines, marching
to the beat of a different
drummer, because money
doesn’t grow on trees, you know,
and I’ll take my apples
wherever I can lay my hands on them.
A penny saved
is one you’ll never have to earn
again, those golden coins of hours
where I linger, in mi casa su casa,
a miser’s hoard, Midas touch
turning my dross
into silver. Well hush
my mouth, cantankerous willful child
of tongue – don’t you know
you’re not supposed to speak
unless spoken to? And I
was supposed to be seen and not
heard, until I walked in beauty,
like the rose opening
under the raining
cats and dogs, the lush
cuddly waterfall of your
Bio: Donna Engel is a poet and pianist who lives in Jordan , Minnesota with her husband and two teenage children. She has a BA in English from the University of Minnesota . Her first publication appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Wild Goose Review.
AN ACCORDION, I THINK
(a poem of privilege on a good day)
I’ve got all the sunrise my eyes can gather.
Every time I need a breath of air,
and every time I need to exhale a stale breath
I just do it
and there’s a place for it to go.
When I am thirsty, there is water,
all manner and mixture of foods for when I hunger;
black-eyed susans, blue-eyed grass
swaying in a puff of wind
when nothing else will soothe me.
I hear you downstairs;
you don’t sing or shuffle your feet,
but I hear music,
an accordion, I think.
A SPECULATION ON SPIDERS
A great spider spins an invisible thread,
weaves an invisible web,
ties together every thing, every where, every when.
No one knows the entirety of this web,
where it hangs, what lies between its threads.
We perceive ourselves existing
in one time, in one place, on one strand,
but if we pay attention we feel a vibration,
music in the humming string to which we cling.
Some seek the spider,
some hide from her,
but no one can escape this web,
these shining, singing, silver strands.
MY FATHER COULD
but so funny
for a clear
the world was
is as difficult
off a rusty
Bio: Mike James was born and raised in rural South Carolina. After many years in various parts of the country, he now makes his home in Douglasville, GA, with his wife and five children. Mike’s work has been published in more than a hundred magazines throughout the country. His sixth book, Past Due Notices: Poems 1991-2011, was published last year by Main Street Rag. His next book, Elegy in Reverse, will be published next year by Kelsay Books.
OLD MAN POEMS
I was running a joint
When I was forty-five,
Sipping whiskey all evening,
Tending the bar
And talking to the drunks,
And what I said
Began to make sense to me
So that I soon thought that
My intelligence might be more
Than my job required,
That I might be too good
For what I was doing.
Next thing you know,
I started to resent
The time I spent
In the service of other drunks,
And I neglected them
Or talked down to them
Or only thought of them
As sounding boards
For my brilliant ideas
Till one night, a sailor
In town on leave
Had enough of my opinions
And punched me hard
In the face
And I crumpled like a spider
In the floor behind the bar.
When I was forty-five
I ran a joint
Out by the river.
It was the year that I got smart.
OLD MAN POEMS
I’d lay my pipe on the table beside the chair
And get on the exercise bike
That had belonged to one of the Clydes.
It was the best thing for the cancer,
The doctor told me. After a while
I could go five miles, sometimes
Twice in one day, and I’d watch
A Braves game while I pedaled
Or listen to music on the headphones
Cause otherwise my wife’d try to talk
And a man with cancer hasn’t got time
To talk while he’s riding a bicycle
That is taking him nowhere.
LIKE OLD MEN IN MUSTY GREY OVERCOATS
they shuffle across the road
in front of me.
But, when they reach
the snow-covered curb, they stop,
as if it isn’t what they expected,
as if it isn’t what they want it to be.
Now, they turn around and cross back over,
their double chins flapping,
their coats flittering,
their cataracts staring.
Who cares they came from snowy woods,
down a bank as deep as this one.
One geezer stands center, like a crossing guard,
flailing his wings and craning his neck
and honking at any car
that dares to move.
They try again,
But each time their skinny legs meet the snow,
they turn around, squawking about the way things were,
about the way things still should be.
Author’s Comment: I was driving on a back road near my home in Rhode Island when a small rafter of turkeys crossed in front of me. It was a winter day, and there was much snow on the ground. The turkeys had come through the snowy woods on one side of the road but appeared bewildered and angry when they tried to climb the snowy curb on the other. One turkey stood in the road, stopping the cars until the rest had made it over the curb. I sat for quite a few minutes feeling thankful for this skit from nature.
Bio: A writer of short stories, poetry, and young adult novels, Julianne Palumbo’s poetry and short stories have been published in The MacGuffin, The Listening Eye, Poetry East (forthcoming), Ibbetson Street Press, and others. Her poetry chapbook, Into Your Light, was recently released by Flutter Press.
Douglas Anne McHargue
I get in my car,
day after Christmas
but leaving Happy Dollar,
by the drink machine,
Do you have a dollar.
She’s not young,
the man beside her
old, in a suit
maybe can’t walk
so I go over
they need a soda
and do I have a cup.
I have no cup
but spare change
and desire to get
back on the road
go home, anywhere
and she asks
Do you have sugar.
Packets of sugar, you mean
I ask. Oh, no, your feet…
they looked swollen,
straps on my shoes
cutting into my arch
she said like her sister’s,
She got sugar.
Sugar, oldtimers’ for diabetes.
I say No, head for my car
She goes to the machine
wearing a dress and slow shoes,
through her veins,
DESIGNATED SMOKING AREA
It’s the scent of rebellion
wafting low across the concrete
slab outside Locker Room B
that draws them in
to puff and gawk
at the smokeless and hurried
conformists they’ll never become.
You smoke, or you don’t -
there’s no middle ground
for squatters at the
gates of nicotine Heaven
or the architects of lipstick-ringed
filters seeding the grass beneath
the butt caddy.
Take a breath that others forfeit,
feel it coat your plumbing like a blue flame shower.
And what doesn’t go in glides
through the labyrinth of fibers in your
shirt, your sweater, and your hair.
Your dues paid with a rosy pink lung,
you can stand or lean with the kool kids,
kin to the infamous, the ones
who never play sports, but kiss the tar-lined lips of the
very bad girl. Lips you’d kiss too, if you were kool.
Bio: William Rayst is a Columbus, Ohio writer who creates poetry, fiction, and practical non-fiction. He is an active member of the Columbus writing group, Creative Minds Collective, and transforms himself into a writing juggernaut each November for NaNoWriMo. His work has appeared on Smashwords and in Stepping Stones Magazine.
…died Saturday, surrounded by…
You had me surrounded. Oh my god:
no opening in the circle, no escape
back into health. For the death of me,
I’m not convinced that even a segment
of your lachrymose circumference
loved me as much as the obituary claims.
…after a brave battle with…
I did not battle, and I was not brave.
I submitted, in fear and trembling, to
all the incomprehensible, polysyllabic
diagnoses, the poisonings, irradiations.
You just assumed it was heroism—so
you wouldn’t need to be strong for me.
Fine word. The bastard beat me to it.
He left me without important papers,
without any chance to forgive and be
forgiven—left me bodily, having left
ages ago in spirit. His legacy includes
a dent in sofa cushions. A hair stain.
In lieu of flowers…
Don’t mock me with flowers. Give
to The Society for the Prevention of
Upstaging the Corpse. Flowers betrayed
me all my life into believing there is joy
forever, eternal renewal. Don’t you dare
contact the florist. Let me rot in peace.
Author’s Comment: The poem imagines a woman of strong character, reacting posthumously (and with bitterness) to the sugarcoated obituary her survivors have prepared.
ASKING ORAL OF THEM
A Yale seminarian was invited in
to tell us hormonal boys and girls
what our own pastor was too red
of face to say: “Never do anything
you’d be ashamed to do with Jesus
watching you.” Blusher’s morality.
But grace shames the Decalogue:
Ask, and it shall be given.
It shall be opened: Knock.
To the mouse’s-nest brunette,
it was the swallowing of a camel
after straining out a gnat.
To the corn-silk blonde, it was:
Let this pass me by; and yet
not my will be done, but his.
To her of many-colored hair,
it was a simple case of Taste
and see that my lord is good.
Offer bread to all. It’s worth
your while if only one receives.
To find one Lillith, ask ten Eves.
Author’s Comment: The perennial dichotomy between commandment and grace may be sensed in the poem. It is also to some extent about growing up, as we both reject and recycle our upbringing. Lillith was the mythological first wife of Adam, reputed to have a mind of her own.
Bio: New Hampshire poet Russell Rowland is widely published in small journals. A Best of the Net nominee and six-time Pushcart Prize nominee, he is a winner of the Plainsongs Award and Old Red Kimono’s Paris Lake Poetry Contest, and twice winner of Descant’s Baskerville Publishers Poetry Prize. Recent work appears in Rattle, Poem, and California Quarterly. His recent chapbook, “Train of All Cabooses,” is available from Finishing Line Press.
No matter how carefully I dress,
he will change me. Everything
serves the art Pablo tells me.
I own nothing like this blouse,
ice blue (a plaid!). See how
he sweeps my skirt
into the tobacco background,
turns me into a floating torso.
Why can’t he hurry?
My neck throbs, and guitar music
wafts through the window. I want
to run to the plaza and see
who is playing. And oh the smell
of paella, calling to me
from the kitchen!
But here I sit. Still. Time drags
while Pablo’s brush dances.
In this house we all serve Pablo
the genius. Any way, at only 18,
how could he afford a real model?
At least he’ll make me beautiful
and seductive, not like a sister.
He’ll make other men want me.
He hides one hard-to-paint hand
under a gauzy waterfall of scarf,
lets loose a tendril of hair. He
takes me apart, pieces me together.
Author’s Comment: Before I could write “see the cat,” I wanted to be an artist. I spent many happy hours with famous paintings in the encyclopedia. Not surprisingly, I love to write ekphrastic poems. Over the past year I’ve put together a workshop, “Art-Felt Words,” on using art as an inspiration. I wrote this poem to test the tips I was passing along to my class. The more I gazed at Lola, the more I became her and wanted to let her speak. Having a genius brother myself, I understand the mix of pride and jealousy she may have felt.
Bio: Alarie Tennille serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place in Kansas City, Missouri. Her poetry collection, Running Counterclockwise, will be published by Kelsay Books in summer 2014; her chapbook, Spiraling into Control, is currently available at Amazon.com.
lines 1 and 2 are quotes by Garrison Keillor
March, the month God designed to show those
who don’t drink what a hangover is like.
In my garden, the purple verb of crocus
shoulder their way up, despite the layer
of gravel thrown by the salt truck, despite
the thick mat of dried leaves— This is the
month that finds me talking to the dead,
whose numbers increase like corms
the older I grow. Here, in the bleakness
of March, the grass is thatchy, patched
burlap. Bare witchy trees. The body’s
slow decline. The right and the left
are at it again, jabber, jabber, jabber.
But into this month of drab, here comes
the crocus, sticking out its plum tongue,
inciting the woods to riot.