Featured Poem: Plant

Lorraine Walker Williams
Southwest Florida Branch

 

To place, slip seeds into moist soil,
shutter from light, incubate and wait.
To plant is the first lesson in patience.

 

Plant, as a particular phylum and
species, ornamental, cleansing air,
bringing outdoors in. For Feng Shui,
a plant is a lesson in placement.

 

Plant, as in yourself on the couch,
a park bench, or a bumpy bus.
An attempt to be rooted in time and
space, a lesson in belonging.

 

Plant, an implant, something foreign,
a replacement or enhancement,
as in tooth or breast. This teaches
impermanence.

 

Plant includes the word plan—
Making and revising,
following or ignoring a plan,
a lesson in flexibility.

 

Plant words flowing and growing
from the hand of a poet,
the lesson of jasmine and plums.

 

Featured Poem: Broken

Janet Fagal
Central New York Branch

 

She sees his face,
a picture etched
in memory.
Her child’s image.
Eyes dark,
piercing.
Nose strong.
Mouth full,
hints of smile.

 

She hears his voice.
The sounds: low wails,
whimpers.
Her son
frightened by bombs,
watches
through rubble
and smoke.

 

Again and again the
roar of war
sends them running.
New shelter.
Cramped hovel,
temporary.
The necessaries: food, water, hope,
too limited.

 

A hand,
rough, calloused
reaches out.
Safety,
come.
A gesture,
the truck readies.
Room for one.

 

She pushes her son,
up.
A mother’s heart
shatters.

 

Poet’s statement: Written for our branch’s 2018 Painted Sounds event, “Broken” was inspired by National Letters Chair Nancy A. Dafoe’s fable, “Naimah and Ajmal on Newton’s Mountain.” In Painted Sounds, which was created by the Atlanta Branch, Pen Women select another Pen Woman’s work in art, writing, or music in order to create a new piece. In Nancy’s piece, I was deeply moved by the idea of a mother’s long search for her missing child.

 

Featured Poem: Ruby-Throated

 

Barb Whitmarsh
Bayou City 2 Branch, Texas

 

Someone told me that it was easy
To write a bad poem but
I believe in the magnitude of words
Felt in the heart long
Before they are inscribed on paper
There are no unamazing flowers
Many under-embellished lakes and streams
A cloudless sky is as awe-inspiring
As any cluttered with cumuli
Sunrise and sunset are unfathomable
Beyond our appreciation for color
The sinister spider is by far
The most compelling weaver
The hawk soars effortlessly until the swoop
Snow is not fluffy nor is it white
Stars show in the present the dying of past light
And in green hills dense, their rocks moss-coated
Nest minuscule hummingbirds — ruby-throated

 

Featured Poem: In Turn… In Time

Susan Bassler Pickford
Member-at-large, Portland, Maine

 

Turn: Middle English; partly from Old English tyrnan and turnian to turn, from Medieval Latin tornare, from Latin, to turn on a lathe, from tornus lathe, from Greek tornos; partly from Anglo-French turner, tourner to turn 1100s

 

Fetus turned baby
In time
Baby turned child
In time
Child turned adolescent
In time
Teen turned nun
In time
Nun turned teacher
In time
Teacher turned wife
In time
Wife turned mother
In time
Mother turned grandmother
In time
Wife turned widow
In time
Grandmother turned poetic
In time

 

Featured Poem: The American Dream

Karen L. Kirshner
Long Island Branch, New York

 

We pay for the choices we made in youth,
actions stemming from a presumption of immortality,
which, once played become crimes that haunt us
when future merges with present.

 

Strategic windows open to newly gained control
are skillfully shut by the aggressive current of age
as it slips its claws around youthful fantasies.
Age likened to the many branches of a deceptive rose bush
Winding themselves around a long stake
Seeming to look for guidance,
Upon closer inspection…
the thorns tear through the loving caretaker, as readily
as through a hostile interloper.

 

Age has not befriended me,
Like a blind and hostile rose bush, I may have planted,
Pausing to admire its superficial beauty,
It turned on me and swiped this grown child’s last hopes,
Tearing them from the tapestry of optimism,
Like threads from the clothing of an intruder.

 

While I sit pondering my sad and singular existence,
Debt and hard labor through books takes a shadowy form,
An enigmatic monster bigger than a bad dream, taps me on the shoulder, asking me to turn towards the spectacle.
In horror, I turn to distant symbols I thought were within reach
Move further away, beyond my grasp,
Gradually facing, and sinking, tens of thousands of dollars,
A Mercedes-Benz country house, life partner, and 2.5 children,
All of it previously etched on a promised stake
Labeled “The American Dream” is lodged somewhere at the bottom
Of a mythical abyss, linking this world to another,
A Bermuda Triangle of childhood treasures lost
in the adventure of growing up.

 

I paid dearly to follow the dream.
Now I trespass on the edge of the abyss,
Tearfully grasping the nearest means of support,
The branches of a rose bush,
All thorns tearing into my palms
Wounded and bleeding, relentlessly
I search for the missing symbols.

 

“Kinetic,” (aka “Chaos”), by Karen L. Kirshner, 2017

 

Featured Poem: I Wonder

Scottie E. McDaniell
Member-at-large

 

Today as I walked through a parking lot
    I gazed at the people I passed, but not
one fixed his or her eyes upon me
    for each looked from hand-held technology
only to juggle some keys or a child,
    and I wondered if it’s like this in the wild.
Do bears and tigers and lions socialize
    with their own kind, do they bid “hello” and “good-bye”?
Do lizards and ants and squirrels stop to say
    as they pass hills and trees, “How are you today?”
Do roaches, in all their quick hurry-scurry
    take time to greet, and do all things furry
pause to show interest in one another,
    and do those in flight stop to hover?
Do swinging apes and crawling snakes
    give something equal to our handshakes?
Do those of the underworld and the fish of the sea
    burrow toward, wiggle over, or just let each other be?
Do they act neighborly, friendly if passing by chance
    or divert their attentions without even a glance?
I wanted to share a kind word and a smile
    even hesitate to talk for a while.
But people have times when not open to others,
    forgetting that we’re all sisters and brothers.
We may be annoyed when our thoughts are disturbed
    and our routes or our plans have to be deferred.
Maybe sometimes to be indifferent is human,
    absorbed, oblivious, now and then with no room in
days that are so full of things to do.
    I wonder if all God’s creatures are like that, too.

   

            

Featured Poem: Write in the Night

Bette J Lafferty
Tampa Branch

 

I write in the night
   without a light,
my pad
   on my stomach does lay.

 

With a finger I guide
   my thoughts as they slide,
from my mind to the paper
   like kids play.

 

 In the morning I discover
    I wrote on my cover
 so now my brain
    I must rack.

 

For the deadline has come,
   oh, please quiet that drum,
while I fight for the words
   to come back.

 

No napping today,
   no time to play,
I wish I would start
   on time.

 

But it’s simply my plight,
   as a poet I write,
when the words from my brain
   start to rhyme.

 

Featured Poem: Together, 1955

Janet Fagal
Central New York Branch

 

My grandparents’ summer place,
country kitchen with green cast iron cookstove.
Pantry room to right of sink unit.
A tableau to explore.

 

Plant in the window, metal tea-cart nearby.
We sit. Table topped in white and red enamel holds glasses.
Homemade and icy-sweet lemonade ready this July morning.
The pitcher, earthenware brown with tan bottom, brimming,
blends into a scene I cannot forget.

 

A second pitcher, deep brown ceramic, displayed atop
sink’s counterspace, waits its turn.
My aunts talk, plan the day: a walk to town,
pie-baking soon, before the day’s heat impedes desire.
Afternoon ride to the bay for dinner’s fresh fish.
Maybe some time for clamming, reading on the porch.

 

Happy laughter between sips and stories, as bright as lemons.
Tartness lost in the telling and sharing.
Strong vessels, these women. Essence of family:
the aunts, my grandmother, my mother and me.
Lives simple, but never uncomplicated.
Comfortable in this moment,
pouring out their lives.
Shaping mine without knowing.

 

“Together, 1955” was created for an ekphrastic event at the Auburn, New York’s Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center’s 2018 Made in NY Show. Skaneateles, New York, artist Gary Trento’s painting “Two Pots” brought me back to my grandparents’ kitchen in East Hampton, New York. The ceramic pitchers reminded me of those my family used long ago, leading to a reflection on the ordinary, yet wonderful times of family interaction that can affect a growing child. — Janet Fagal

Featured Poem: Lilacs in My Heart

Mary Patricia Canes
Alexandria Branch

 

Lilacs bloomed full purple
near Grandma’s open window
in her farmhouse kitchen
where she made strong tea
and apple pie.
Her lilting voice, singing, praying,
told of times gone by.

 

One lilac blooming day,
paved way for Grandma’s last.

 

Now lilacs by my window
so many later years
wait to grow and bloom.
Their greening leaves I see.
Memories loom —
of lilacs, love and tea — 
of Grandma.

 

Featured Poem: Wick

Laurel Jean Becker
Denver Branch

 

The burgundy candle supports you.
You run the length of its solid core,
extending out from one end,
dependent and vulnerable.
If you were not burning,
I could break you off
and rub you between my thumb
and index finger.
You would crumble into formless black ash,
soiling my hand, used up and spent.

 

Yet inside the flame you stand erect.
Tiny embers protruding from your stem
glow red with life —
as if they were the fire itself —
while you remain motionless,
bequeathing yourself to the light.
The flame reaches over the candle’s rim.
It speaks to my eyes, ignites my mind.
Wick, you are nothing, burned up, spent.
Yet, you nurture the light that fires
the imagination and settles on the page.