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On poetry, reading & etc.
A Parallel Uni-Verse
Poetry from Maine, and worlds elsewhere
Illustration by A.H. McLean
There are only a few of us here.
It's so quiet except for the sound
Of the silverware,
Hushed voices and Christmas music
There are white lights blinking
Off and on
In the big window out front.
We are all here for a reason.
Maybe you are new in town
Or your family is fighting
Over something so petty
You can't quite remember
What started it all
And you don't want to be there
Or maybe you didn't get invited at all.
Maybe your spouse died this past year.
Across from me sits a woman
With her little boy.
Whatever the reason
We are all here together
On this Christmas Eve
Eating chow mein, pork fried rice
At the all you can eat buffet
Before we head out
Into the cold and silent night.
Maureen Walsh lives in Bangor, Maine.
Christmas at the Chinese Buffet
By Maureen Walsh
"It seems to be"
By X.Z. Shao
It seems to be
a quarry of broken concrete
crooked steel beards
pointing out in disorder
you will live in time
in it, a mansion
echoing your soft whisper
and your gait
in every mirror.
X.Z. Shao is a poet, philosopher and
teacher of English language and
creative writing at Xiamen University in
Xiamen, China. His blog is A Poetic
Voice from China.
It’s no surprise they’ve gone,
emptied out of the skies
on this almost-to-the-equinox morning
when late summer sunlight
still penetrates the phlox, turning
rose and lavender petals incandescent.
No surprise they'd follow this light
while it lasts.
But all of them? None left
to answer the call of some lost soul
crying out in the darkness?
Or maybe that’s exactly where they are—
ministering wherever it’s impossible
to believe light can overcome dark.
Either way, it's upsetting
to think no one’s at home in heaven
and there's no way
to leave a call-back message.
Carolyn Locke lives in Troy, Maine. Her books are Not One Thing
and Always This Falling.
All the Angels Are Out
from a sign on Route 1
By Carolyn Locke
He sat down next to a
Merchant Marine Officer who
just spent the afternoon of his first day ashore in months
sodomizing and beating up a
fourteen year old girl hustler
off the Embarcadero, but now would
self-righteously gouge out
the eyes of anyone who tried
for his money up on the bar,
although were he suddenly yanked
to police station, with the chicken
pointing him out, he’d be begging
for compassion if not outright
insight comprehending him, you know
the type, goes around telling
everyone his name’s Tokyo, heavily
tattooed and seething restrained
danger. He rushes to sea when
he can’t keep it together on land.
Leo Connellan (1928-2001) grew up in Rockland, Maine, and went on
the become poet laureate of Connecticut. This poem is section IX of
Crossing America, excerpted from Poetry Scores website.
Crossing America IX
By Leo Connellan
To see in the sky
at the center of the self
two golden spirals
in motion entwined
end into opening
each into other
eternal and mortal
the end the beginning
and the hill in the distance
the form, the relief
and the god descending
to cool delight
and the two golden spirals
in motion entwined.
This was to be a poem about the expansion
of human knowledge,
the paradoxical ongoing pregnancy of it,
an amazement, not monstrous.
This was to be a poem about certainty of scale,
how it turns,
and the wobbly little species, ours,
the tiny human mind,
backward travels, shrinking.
This was to be a poem about decentering a species,
a paradoxical process in which a speck explodes.
Then came the golden spirals,
and the god descending,
the cool and unexpected delight, the cry of wonder.
Shirley Glubka lives in Prospect, Maine. Her recent book is End into
By Shirley Glubka
Living at one edge of my new homeland,
owning a shore of the Atlantic sea,
I rolled in waves across a space so grand
where Spain’s explorers set sail on command
because the queen was lured to find trade free,
living at the edge of a new homeland.
Indigenous folk, an unwary band,
greeted the sailors in their roaming spree
to live at the edge of a new homeland.
Mariners showed coins, glittering in hand,
shining sun-bright in exchange for a fee
to own certain the edge of new homelands.
Perhaps the sailors chose to see firsthand
and offered to make a convincing plea
to live at the edge of an island strand,
with no desire for any to disband
in the way adversaries tend to flee,
living at the edge of a new homeland
grasping a shore of the Atlantic sea.
George Chappell lives in Rockland, Maine. His collection of
poems is A Fresh Footpath.
Living at one edge
By George Chappell
By Thomas R. Moore
Locals don't eat mussels.
Scarcer soft-shell clams
are sweeter, have no hidden
pearls to snap a tooth. Cruising
sailors like them steamed
in wine and garlic in the ketch's
cabin with gin and stormy tales.
Maybe it's the simplicity
of gathering that makes mussels
valueless to some, like easy love.
Thomas R. Moore lives in Brooksville, Maine. His recent
collection is Chet Sawing, available, along with his first book
The Bolt-Cutters, through www.forthemlockpress.com.
By Tom Sexton
A friend about to leave for Paris calls
and says, “money is a kind of song.”
I take a few bills out of my wallet and
put them face up on the kitchen table.
Washington’s lips are thin and pursed.
Jefferson could be a sphinx in a wig.
I smooth a few creases from the bills
but nothing happens. I wait in silence.
Outside the window, a Stellers Jay
tilts its crested head to look at me
then begins to sing its raucous song.
Tom Sexton lives in Anchorage, Alaska, and was poet
laureate of that state from 1995 to 2003. He spends
every other winter in his house in Eastport, Maine. His
most recent collection of poems is I Think Again of Those
Ancient Chinese Poets published by University of Alaska
Cape Rosier. Land's end.
Numbing cold (goes without
saying). I'll be damned
if these winds (orchestral)
are not having their way
with the ocean. Waves surging
back and back (not in)
(against the tide I mean).
Never seen the likes of it, you?
This tidal pool shaking
under windflaws, one thing,
but waves rolling out
instead of forward what do you
make of it? As if, always there
for the shore, the sea today
is being loved in return.
Patricia Ranzoni lives in Bucksport, Maine. This
poem is from her collection Hibernaculum and
Other North-Natured Poems. Her most recent
book is Bedding Vows,
(Old Norse for windows, before glass)
By Patricia Ranzoni
By Kenneth Frost
Does the jay know
the fieldmouse jigs
in the cat's eye
when his voice drags
through the sun's cataract
to smolder leaves
in the Mongolia
of losing autumn?
Blue fingers float,
dragging their ghosts
on the hayfield
Kenneth Frost taught at Columbia University
and The New School, and lived in Wilton,
Maine. His new collection is Coring the Moon
published by Main Street Rag.
I was chattering about crop circles in cow pastures,
and in all seriousness she told me she’d seen a UFO
ten years ago in Maine’s dark sky. Odd, it took her so long
to tell me, sturdy sister that she is, who worries
about sunlight on her piano and listens to sheep sounds.
Born with a brown mark on her stomach,
she had radiation long before they knew about dosages,
but I think it’s possible she came from someplace else,
a place of glare and whiteness, one you couldn’t imagine
without closing your eyes. And she came with a language
that no one else spoke, and her rare and lovely words
worked their way into songs with the sounds of sky in her scores,
like geese flying south, a bellying on surfaces.
So to hear her say she’d seen a UFO, suggesting
that its roundness could create circles anywhere,
pinwheels in a field of oats in summertime Maine,
it was as if we were sisters after all. Aren’t we?
Anne Harding Woodworth lives in Washington, D.C. Her books include Herding,
from which this poem is taken, Unattached Male and Spare Parts: A Novella in
Verse, among others. She is a member of the Poetry Board at the Folger
Shakespeare Library in Washington.
By Anne Harding Woodworth
Here on the northern fringe, we welcome
warming trends. All summer we go basking in the nude,
happily reconciled, the wild-wood shores
a picture of harmonious play––reflective cloudscapes,
and the light so sweet––a mystery.
New kinds of birds are flocking to the islands—
along with new diseases, to be fair—
we watch and count. We listen
to migrations in the dead of night,
more likely to be avid than perturbed,
but now and then I train the lenses on the water
lapping at my doorstep.
Calamity can make us more vigorous,
alert, and compassionate. Or so they say.
Somewhere else the silvered fish,
who may not sin at all, are writhing
in the bright-bloodied water,
their fins cut off by men, for other men––
a heart-shock sure to prompt a moral outcry.
But eyes can easily be fooled. And acrid smells
may rise too slowly to be noticed––
the fish go belly-up, the bee hives slump,
and further complications rise, like water,
lapping at my doorstep.
If I were rich, I’d build a wall
around my place. Or move
up to the high-ground, the windy barrens,
good for flying kites. Summer is over,
and I wear boots day in day out.
I find myself staring at the roof line of my house.
On Sundays I try to make headway
with new techniques for relaxation.
It rains and rains. I’m reciting foreign prayers––
gibberish, my fears, much
like the swish of water
lapping at my doorstep.
Leonore Hildebrandt of Harrington, Maine, grew up in Germany. She is
an editor for Beloit Poetry Journal and a member of the Flat Bay artists
collective. Her new collection is The Next Unknown.
By Leonore Hildebrandt
Fort Lauderdale Beach
By Thomas Lequin
With a light smile on my face,
I walk the shores of Lauderdale
between the surf and beach.
The gulls screech at one another,
bullying for tidbits
Overhead, the pelicans patrol,
My slight smile turns to a full grin
as I see what is before me
and think of Maine’s
snow and cold.
Thomas Lequin lives in Starks, Maine.
CNN is on, but muted.
I’m listening again to a
Brahms violin concerto
and admiring the spines
of the books in my house.
I sip my beer, light another
cigarette, and lift my head
to see the spines of people
torn apart, torn like mediocre
poems and thrown in the trash.
I’m not sure, at first, if it’s
Gaza, Iraq, or Afghanistan,
and then I think of Vietnam
and the poem I shared about
a heron with today’s classes
and how it reminded me of
the boy who stood erect
on one leg in the minefield
outside my room in Saigon
thirty-four years ago as his
left foot danced in the dust.
A.H. McLean taught English for 36 years
at Orono High School.
By A.H. McLean
By Gus Peterson
Did you peddle your papers?
A smile. An unblemished apple
on the nightstand beside him,
gleaming like a star.
Every day a new one
warming the void where once
life orbited a heart greater
than the sum of its mass.
He asks again, lifts his hand.
I take it. Yes, mom answers softly,
he’s about to go. The skin is so dry,
like paper. But this paper
is full, overflowing with text,
the marginalia of a three quarter
century tale with no regrets.
Last words transmit across the space
between parched lips and a young ear,
and I will forever wear the gravity
of that middle word and appreciate
the vendors of little things,
the handmade, the homespun,
my own two syllable star
pushing its small cart
from town to town
in this vast churning universe,
selling this little relic of life to you now.
Gus Peterson lives in Randolph, Maine. He has read
his poems at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell and
appeared in August on the WERU Writers Forum.
By Arthur Haswell
Paintings in the Maritime Museum show this stretch of river
full of sailing ships coming in on the tide, sailors
jigging on deck at the sight of steeples, inns, blank
warehouses with doors waiting to close
on their cargo.
Looking up from the dockside I see descendents of clerks,
hornpipers, and porters gawping from French windows
where hoists once hung, at lancets cut to light
vaults for cotton, grain, palm oil,
A low estuary sun limes their faces, silhouettes the sea-grey
destroyer sliding downriver, sheet steel blind,
shipping no movement save where the ocean's bluster
leads her white ensign
in a tango.
Arthur Haswell lives in Northumberland, England. This poem containing
imagery from the Mersey River port on England’s west shore gives echoes of
Maine’s maritime past and ancestry.
I have mixed feelings about a string of propane cars
creeping along the tracks behind my house. I love the
rumble, the whistle, but don’t want the tanks to blow
up. The song, the warning call at the crossing on
my street with no lights or bell as the trains crawl
north on a line will change with the rerouting of
the Vermonter here next year, so soon we will get
lights, bells, and gates as trains pass by at seventy
miles per hour, but maybe without the warning
whistle, now too inconvenient, just annoying poetry.
James Smethurst is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine
and now teaches at the University of Massachusetts.
By James Smethurst