Guerilla Poetry WhoopGuerrilla poetry involves publishing poetry in unexpected and unconventional ways in unexpected and unconventional places. 

A group of gorillas is called a band or a troop (less common is a “whoop”of gorillas.)

So what is a Guerilla Poetry Whoop, you ask?

An unconventional group of poets and poetry enthusiasts here at Thomas Memorial Library who will be gathering regularly to share our favorite poems and poets with one another in a fun, relaxed atmosphere. In addition to reading and discussing poetry, we’ll also be brainstorming and collaborating on creative ways to put poetry out into the wider world for everyone to enjoy.  Would you like to join our whoop?

We’ll be meeting every second Wednesday of the month at 6:30pm via Zoom. Please register by filling out the form below so that we can send you the Zoom link to join. And please bring 2-3 favorite poems that you’d like to share with the group.

We look forward to seeing you!

 

April was National Poetry Month! In April 2020, the Local Buzz Reading Series collaborated with Thomas Memorial Library to present the poems of those Maine writers originally scheduled to read at the Local Buzz 2020 Series March event and the April All-Poetry group reading. Below are all the poems that appeared each day of the month. We hope the spirit of poetry will lift your spirits and help us all continue to get through difficult times with grace and patience.

 

April 30, 2020

O
By Marcia F. Brown

If the difference between God and good
is the matter of one more o, then
I will pray to that extra vowel.

I long ago abandoned the white, white-
bearded old man on a throne
who, with the flick of a finger, shifts
the tsunami’s path, triggers
the heart monitor’s drone.

Prayer became a vagary — letters
written to no one in particular.
“God does not leave us comfortless,”
Jane Kenyon wrote. No.
We do that on our own.
______

When the Twin Towers fell
we went to church as a family.
The minister read from The Book of Revelations
and we sang along with the sorrowing choir
Dona Nobis Pacem.

Outside a man I knew to be of the spirit
offered his hand in peace and such
words of consolation as were possible.

But where was God, I said to him,
when they were leaping into thin air,
fleeing in the stairwells?

God was running up the stairs, he said.

After that, I’ve prayed to Good
in all its forms. I ask it to find us
in the dark places and lead us
to light. I thank it in the name
of those who ran up.

Reprinted from In the Afternoon, Poems by Marcia F. Brown (Moon Pie Press 2019) by permission of the author.

Marcia F. Brown is the author of five books of poetry including In the Afternoon (Moon Pie Press 2019) and the essay collection Well Read, Well Fed ~ A Year of Great Reads and Simple Dishes for Book Groups. She served as Poet Laureate for the City of Portland from 2013-2015 and is the co-host of The Local Buzz Reading Series at Thomas Memorial Library.

 

April 29, 2020

Hunger Moon
by Karin Eberhardt

The night is a long and sticky tongue
the moon a starving pangolin
trapped, curled tight and terrified

scale-shot incubus
quarantine of keratin
pangolin revenge is thus:

a quilled virus
a spiked tongue
a corona, burning, rims the moon

a divided world disintegrates
sheds shards of DNA
the demented tyrant rages

status-hunger is not
stomach-hunger, is not
an excuse for being human

a zoonose snow moon cracks
sound like a fever
breaking

the ugliness of avarice
the wastefulness of ignorance
the animal hungry, in its cage

While the role of the pangolin as one of the wet-market coronavirus vectors has not been substantiated, the role of humans in the near extirpation of the once-abundant species is undisputed. Considered a potent medicinal, and price rising exponentially with rarity, the pangolin is often consumed as a calculated display of wealth.

After half a lifetime in Asia, Karin Eberhardt is slowly settling into central Maine. Like many others in the here and now, she is looking for work. In between, she is spinning a series of full moon poems for 2020.

 

April 28, 2020

A Beginning
by Gretchen Berg

Fridays after dinner we’d go to the library.
Freddy the Pig plus grown up looking
books for Lawrence. For me blue
biographies where nothing famous happened
to Nellie Bly or Swamp Fox
until the last chapter. Plus at least
one Enid Blyton Adventure book.
After ice cream cones we drove home
thirsty in the back seat
ready to read.

I’d already read the Narnia books
so I was clear on the ingredients:
treacle, torches, Turkish Delight
four kids on holiday saying, “Do, let’s!”
Occasionally a helpful adult
appeared but mostly grown-ups
were dangerous in The Island of Adventure,
The Castle of Adventure, the valley,
the sea, mountain, ship, circus, river
wherever.. of Adventure.

Here now in the Pandemic of Adventure
we four friends have not been sent to the country
to wait it out – no brusque cook lays out
our afternoon tea and gingerbread,
no kindly professor ignores us as we explore
long halls, enchanted woods and abandoned mines.
The wardrobe’s just a closet full of coats,
sleeping bags and old suitcases.
But when summer comes we’ll
build a raft and float to safety.

Gretchen Berg is a performance artist/educator who works in public schools to integrate theater, dance and classroom curriculum. She is the lead teaching artist for Portland-based arts organization Side x Side, works in rural schools through the Local Stories Project, and teaches performance courses at Bates College. She is one-third of Portland’s modern dance company Berg, Jones & Sarvis. And she writes poems.

 

April 27, 2020

Bedtime for Don
by Oliver Payne
after Berryman’s Dream Songs

Finally one day too many & much: bedtime
betimes for a rundown Don First the afterbath
of his grumbling hours: —Time to come clean, Mr.!
But Don can’t countenance his selfsome face sits in the
tub contemptulating his most humongous toe
his homunculus looking for his self in small, young

Don perchance to recall: this little piggy once had
a roast-beef pink now has none but a yaller-green pallor
a good lichenous of his brain its lobes & fissures,
Christ, scarbled by drink & dread of the Depression
and War-War he never lived through but through
his old man who unleashed the worry that dogs

Don to bed My life a high-wire act lacking
balance when into Don’s bed-REM walks
Philippe Petit whacks Don with his balance pole:
Onto the wire, monsieur, sans peur! sends
the worry dogs packing & Don’s dream ends sans
la chute habituelle & he awakens all brash & bollocksy.

Notes: Sans peur = without fear; sans la chute habituelle = without the usual fall

Oliver Payne is grateful to the fellow students and exceptional teacher-poets he has studied with over the past 15 years, including Suzanne E. Berger, David Rivard, Charles Simic and Betsy Sholl. He is the creative director for a local ad agency, serves on the Board of the Beloit Poetry Journal, and lives in Kennebunk.

 

April 26, 2020

Gaudy Dog
by Deborah Crimmins

It’s not enough that he’s spotted, no –
his spots have stripes on them
and one of his ears is striped,
but the other one’s spotted because
his eyepatch on that side slides
down his cheek just a little and
uncovers the ear, and the big spot
on his butt starts well below his
hipbones so it looks as if his
pants are falling off (I almost
called him Plumber) and his fur
is so fine all the freckles on his skin,
and there are a lot of them,
show through. And to set off all those
little polka dots, he has one sizeable
round spot on his shoulder,
striped, too, of course, as if he had
collided with a small pizza. But the
piece de resistance is on the opposite loin:
a perfect lip print, a big smoochie-oochie
in a color Revlon would die for: wild-striped russet,
the kiss of the Tiger Woman, a goddess
whose mouth is the size of my whole hand.
His racing name was Braska Aza and it says they
called him Barcelona, but no way, Jose – he is plainly
Gaudy.

Deborah Crimmins started writing poetry when she retired. She lives in South Portland with her husband, also retired, and a changing cast of retired racing greyhounds.

 

April 25, 2020

Strike Anywhere
by Douglas Milliken

“I once got lost in the woods when I was your age.” He shakes out the blue tip of his match. Like he has a million times before. “It was nighttime.” He drops it, still smoking, on the ground. “We lit fires to find our way out.”

“Strike Anywhere” originally appeared in Petite Hound. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Douglas W. Milliken is the author of the novels To Sleep as Animals and Our Shadows’ Voice, the collection Blue of the World, four chapbooks, and several multidisciplinary collaborations, most recently [STORAGE] with the Bare Portland theater cooperative. He lives with his domestic and creative partner, Genevieve Johnson, in the industrial riverscape of Saco, Maine. www.douglaswmilliken.com

 

Condition of the Air
by Jefferson Navicky

In the dream, she exclaimed, we’re having a baby! She waited for a reply, but there wasn’t one. The silence meant no.
I’m sitting in the office, alone, before class. Evening is coming down. I’m hungry and children’s voices break through the window from the school next door. Cars cruise by at speeds too fast for this small street. The dream was years ago, and still holds true. I turn the lights off, lock the door, and go to class.
A life without children is full of silence. Grief is like the old air conditioning unit that runs continuously in the back of the classroom. Is it blowing hot? Cold? I forget it’s even there.

“Condition of the Air” first appeared in The Beloit Poetry Journal. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Jefferson Navicky is the author of the poetic novella, The Book of Transparencies, and the story collection, The Paper Coast. He works as the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection, and teaches English at Southern Maine Community College.

 

April 24, 2020

The Way to Stu’s Workshop
by Betsy Whitman

Before I take to this morning’s spring road,
the neighborhood birds light up their talk show
so loud the whole street has to agree with their every ovulatory opinion.
Peter the neighbor walks by with his Saturday’s Tony’s donuts, swinging
the sack with a soft shoe shuffle, maybe he’s even singing

but I don’t catch it.
The night wind is not yet through rattling,
tangling up into the backyard trees, raking
their newly green tips. They shake awake,
everyone’s yawning,

but I am still rushed, still crammed
with something left from an old winter chill.
So fogged over I forget my blue rimmed glasses
and barely see by the road the black bear rumbling
about on a sunlit patch quilted with wintered squares
of Queen Anne’s lace and meadow rue, what wakes her,

as the vernal road and the defrosted rivers run
clear of ice, crisscrossing each other’s sun jammed paths
up the coast, to Belfast, the former egg capital of the world,
where, following the rivers’ and the road’s lead, armed with coffee
from Moody’s Diner, I cloudily plow my way into fields of spring-fed poems.

Betsy Whitman lives in Portland and has been a word collector and worker since early in her life.   She has read the American Heritage Dictionary all the way through.   During these times, she is glad to be a part of the wonderful poetry community of Maine and to take part in the National Poetry Month celebration. 

 

April 23, 2020

Finding Praise
By Eileen Griffin

Last days of summer, sun already low in the sky,
I meander an old country road as it winds through fields,
ripe with harvest. Nothing stirs. In the distance, the cawing
of crows and the lonesome sound of crickets.

The road begins to rise and there, at the top of the hill,
I see them: the little stone schoolhouse and, by its side,
an enormous oak, both 200 years old, standing as sentinels
over the land, the family farms – old friends these two.

I sit with them. They offer much and take nothing.
When young, I was instructed to praise God. 
Praise came in little prayer books for small hands to hold,
tender minds to memorize, prepared and packaged. 

Easy enough to do.
I only had to bow my head.

August moon creeps over the horizon; an evening breeze stirs.
I lift my head in praise.

Eileen Griffin fell in love with poetry when young. Mother Goose, William Blake , Kate Greenway, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter De La Mare, Edgar Allen Poe, Rose Fyleman, Langston Hughes, and all the fairy tales were her childhood companions and teachers. A retired educator and consultant, Eileen has wonderful time now to write poems and learn the craft of poetry. She is most grateful to the large and welcoming community of poets in Maine.

 

April 22, 2020


Missoula Montana on Halloween Day With My 23 Year Old Daughter
by Margaret Haberman

Sitting in the cafe on Front Street someone out back
is singing happy birthday. The man behind the counter
has a tin foil cap that could signify anything. Across 
the way, at the bar a guy in a suit has silver claws,
like Wolverine, that shoot past white sleeves and gold cufflinks.
Next to me, my daughter is on her phone, unimpressed
by costumes and personas, talking in hushed tones
to a man who will likely soon be an ex. I try not to listen,
but the length of her silences doesn’t bode well. 
She doesn’t have that kind of patience.

The snow that fell on Monday won’t melt even under the brightest
of western skies. Mornings too cold, valley too deep, mountains
too high. Too far out there. That could be said of all of us. 
The hills leading up to the high peaks are golden. Beyond, 
Ponderosa pines frost the tops of ridges, like candle pins pulling
us toward the summit as if it was easy to get there. To get anywhere. 
Deeper into the mountains the larch trees lose their golden
needles and carpet the trails. Down here in town, the wide streets
run in neat patterns of squares and rectangles, with crosswalks
that people pay attention to. I am remembering Halloweens
gone by. In kindergarten I convinced her to go as Georgia O’Keeffe,
with a basket full of wide flowers and bones. It was a mystery
to everyone. Even her. 

The woman at the register has on a Mardi Gras mask,
black with blue sequins. The basement window of the yellow brick
municipal building across the street shimmers with decals
of exaggerated bear claws, like the guy dressed as Wolverine, 
and the words Go Griz. It could be about something else, not football,
but it isn’t. My daughter’s roommate, who left Missoula to follow a man,
called last week to say it didn’t quite work out, she wants to come home.
She retreated to her sister’s in Bozeman, hiding from the humiliation
of having made another bad choice.

The overriding desire for something certain. For a spotless studio
apartment with hardwood floors and a yard. For the job that brings joy
and money. For the lover who won’t make you crazy with meanness,
or anxiety, or the basic dysfunction of not having registered his car 
for two years. I’m trying to be the wise mother. I argued in favor
of the boy from the midwest, who was better than the broken man
who seemed intent on breaking her, love masquerading as anger,
or anger masquerading as love, it doesn’t really matter which. Now,
I see the exhaustion in her face, the long phone calls debating whether
or not to go for a walk with the dog. It seems so simple, yes or no. 
So, I am no longer on the side of the boy from the midwest,
or any of them that cause her, or her friend, such harm, weariness.

I am in favor of taking the dog for a walk, of admiring the costumes
of young children and their fathers as they brace themselves 
against the chill wind bearing down, waiting patiently at the crosswalk
of Front Street and North Higgins, holding hands and swinging
their bright plastic pumpkins full of sweetness and joy. 

Margaret Haberman lives in Hope, Maine. She works full time as a sign language interpreter, and writes poetry in the spaces in between. 

 

April 21, 2020

Pink Moon
by Karin Eberhardt

In perigee tonight this supermoon
will come no closer, but still,
at a safe span of 221,856 miles,
it pulls:

alabaster hooks from loam-pressed bulbs
blind cave skinks from dripped stalagtite pools
glazed fish from algal depths of ice-pocked lakes
glowing ova through the bluebird’s most intimate tubes

and death over the planet, a pestilent blanket.
How can that which was never alive
bloom, like pink phlox, at the touch
of damp pink flesh?

This spring
This supermoon
This indelible time
This pink bloom

This world unspun
This colossal love, unfolding
These corpses, these corpses, this boulder
rolled back, these unquenched souls
released

Traditional names for the April moon include: Pink Moon, Egg Moon, Fish Moon, Grass Moon and Paschal Moon

After half a lifetime in Asia, Karin Eberhardt is slowly settling into central Maine. Like many others in the here and now, she is looking for work. In between, she is spinning a series of full moon poems for 2020.

 

April 20, 2020

Breakfast Wind
by Craig Sipe

Tin pig full

of himself

arrows into

the breakfast wind,

Rooster all a-crow,

preening in the rise

on his gambrel peak

in this doodle-doo

of a fine AM,

full of sizzle,

pop

and new.

Craig Sipe has never owned a Leisure Suit. He likes cats while they remain largely indifferent to him. His basic food groups are Ketchup, Peanut Butter, and Bacon, though together they make a terrible sandwich. In the winter, he likes to shovel the snow off his lawn. “It’s a lot of work,” he once said.

 

April 19, 2020

Boardwalk
by Betsy Sholl

I was sitting there thinking, this is how
the mystics argue: One cries like a nut,

“Listen to me, I’m crazy.” Another shouts,
“For the sake of God, the Real, gamble

yourselves away.” They’d say our hands,
this table, these beer mugs are nothing.

And what we buy in stores, insure, put on
resumes? Counterfeit, cheap tricks, kitsch,

amusement rides that tilt and whirl
along the water’s edge, then come to a stop–

mere distraction from the sea itself,
in which we are so small and gelatinous

there’s no telling where it ends and we begin–
or do we end where it begins?

Easy to panic, my friend, order another round,
say everything’s rigged. But what if there’s

really nothing to fear, if every time
we breathe out, what rushes in is crazily

in love with us, its one continuous body
of air oblivious to boundaries?

Neon, juke music, games of skill and chance,
high rolling waves, spray rising off the curl–

how silly wet suits and nose plugs seem
when standing here we’re already immersed.

Reprinted from LATE PSALM, Poems by Betsy Sholl (University of Wisconsin Press, 2004) by permission of the author.

Betsy Sholl served as Maine State Poet Laureate from 2006 to 2011. She is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Otherwise Unseeable (University of Wisconsin Press), Rough Cradle (Alice James Books), Late Psalm, Don’t Explain, and The Red Line. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and two Maine Individual Artists Grants. She currently teaches in the MFA Program of Vermont College of Fine Arts.

 

April 18, 2020

Rivulet Sonnet
by Michelle Lewis

What does asunder mean. When they want me to reveal you
I say you are a ruckus in the trees that bends my attention.
Sometimes I hoard your scattering in my eyes, sometimes every
joint heavens. What protects the knight? One says armor, one says
sword. I paid my debtors in sap, mealed with them unmetaled.
Rubbed raw, I was ready to let anyone. Passed around my palms
before undressing. Then my mouth became a passage to an
amber city that took some lack away. How did we live in so
many rooms, the hoariest of histories. Our past shingles itself
until at last it roofs me and here is the truth it shelters. Do you
want to see the heck of it? Do you want to see what my closet
looks like? I plan to live unfenestrated there. Tethered to its
dresses, I will be ready for the earth you’ve parted. To make
the ground’s furrowing my with. To be finally floored by it.

Michelle Lewis is the recipient of the 2018 Marystina Santiestevan First Book Prize chosen by Bob Hicok. She is the author of Animul/Flame from Conduit Books & Ephemera, and two chapbooks, Who Will Be Frenchy? (dancing girl press) and The Desire Line (Moon Pie Press). She was a Vermont Studio Center fellow this past February and a 2019 Monson Arts writing resident. Learn more about Michelle Lewis at whitechicken.com.

 

April 17, 2020

After Another Difficult Week
By Linda Aldrich

In French, pendant means hanging, like pomegranates,
like persimmons, like ideas you keep afloat for poems
that finally find their way to you. Like friends
waning to slivers of moon, then rounding
like the world again, dropping gifts in your lap.
This morning, a pair of bees in my mailbox—
a gold bee pendant from Crete—where she found it
in an alley shop. Two bees holding a drop of honey
between them, an amber bead kept from falling.
Outside my window, the second foot of snow is coming down.
I watched rhododendrons become mounds of white
sadness, like hasty graves. But now this.
How unexpected is summer’s sudden memory.
How easily it buzzes and brims over the morning.

Reprinted from March and Mad Women, Poems by Linda Aldrich (Cherry Grove Collections, 2012) by permission of the author.

Linda Aldrich received an MFA from Vermont College and has published two collections of poetry, Foothold and March and Mad Women. She is currently serving as Portland’s sixth poet laureate and co-hosts the Local Buzz Reading Series at Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth.

 

April 16, 2020

Ghazal for my lapsed cellist
by Phil Carlsen

How did it feel each day to face your cello
emerging from its hard-shell case—your cello?

I’d as soon forget the times you mindlessly—
in taxi’s trunk or ferry—misplaced your cello.

At children’s demonstration programs you
intoned its name in uppercase: your CELLO.

Your coloratura could soar above the crowd,
and yet, your heart’s true voice was bass: your cello.

After the Dubrovnik debacle you felt compelled
to put away—in deep disgrace—your cello.

Slowly I mold in clay smooth hips and shoulders.
My model for this voluptuous vase? Your cello.

Lean its body against your chest and think
of me. With well-toned arms embrace your cello.

Philip Carlsen, a former music professor at UMF, remains active as composer, cellist, and director of the Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival. His poetry has appeared in several journals and the Portland Press Herald’s “Deep Water” series.

 

April 15, 2020

Storage
by Oliver Payne

I lie half-awake worrying that I failed to put the ice cream back in the freezer,
that my computer’s new hum foretells a crash,
that mildew is devouring my books in the basement—

so much to lose to improper storage.

I fantasize a Storage Liberation Manifesto
but would settle for a General Theory of.

I try out formulae, searching for the logic of Need (N), Surplus (S), Uncertainty (U), my literalist mind picturing these as Italian dry sausages: salame as Need; cappicola, Surplus; sopressata, Uncertainty.

But only a certain hunger ensues.

I try to contextualize my theories among the progression of ages (which I suspect now obsolete):
Ice, Stone, Bronze, Iron, Imperial, Industrial, Information (or Anxiety) and now, the Storage Age (or, should it become a Brand, the StorAge).

Reflecting, with breath held around my heart, on the recent and coincident ages around our globe:
the Suicide-Bomber Age,
the AIDS-Orphaned Age,
the Tyrant-Restoration (or -Consolidation) Age
and the Accelerating-Income-Inequality Age.

With the Global-Warming Age hanging over all of us,
like an angry grandmother who knitted all her life for a philandering husband.
And the Age of Anxiety endures—we are so lucky if only about Storage.

I imagine the time when storage was mainly against the winter, after harvest:
root cellars, four-story hay barns, silos of grain, meats smoking in rafters
(and then woolens returned to a chest while the grains rose in the fields and the lambs fattened).

I suspect my ancestors came to this country with less than I take to visit my family at Christmas.
I think of my closet with the wool suits and city-polished shoes decades unworn;
in the garage, a backpack my knees can no long carry, a moldy sack of hockey gear,

all this kept owing to a confusion of things with pieces of myself:
backpack, with back, the back that carried all our food and the tent in which we made love under stars
shoes, with feet—or not so much feet as where they once echoed: the mosaic lobby of the Chrysler Building
hockey helmet, with head, giving it air on the river-ice playing shinny after Saturday morning class

my confusion heightened by the All-American Self-Storage on Route One—Look for our flags!—
do the desperate now store themselves in those windowless rooms?

I vow to avoid that fate myself, never to look for their flags,
no matter how well-lit and gated a community it may be—
but the next day call for prices at the Limington Storage and Redemption.

Oliver Payne is grateful to the fellow students and exceptional teacher-poets he has studied with over the past 15 years, including Suzanne E. Berger, David Rivard, Charles Simic and Betsy Sholl. He is the creative director for a local ad agency, serves on the Board of the Beloit Poetry Journal, and lives in Kennebunk.

 

April 14, 2020

20 Things Better Than Coffee
by Gretchen Berg

Vermeer and Tom Waits.
The nobility of the 4-H kids at the Fryeburg Fair dressed in their church clothes
each one standing beside a steer at the auction.
Secret tree forts.
A pump organ on the lawn.
Your joke about the guy who thinks he’s a moth.

Maps, birch bark and dice.
Uncle Glen delicately lighting the dynamite fuse with his Salem.
Judy Holiday.
Geodes.
Filling an inside straight.
The fuzz between your lower back and my lips.

Collective bargaining and seersucker.
Graveyards.
Tuning forks.
Counting the seconds
between lightning and thunder.
Hearing you climb the stairs carrying two steaming cups.

Gretchen Berg is a performance artist/educator who works in public schools to integrate theater, dance and classroom curriculum. She is the lead teaching artist for Portland-based arts organization Side x Side, works in rural schools through the Local Stories Project, and teaches performance courses at Bates College. She is one-third of Portland’s modern dance company Berg, Jones & Sarvis. And she writes poems.

 

April 13, 2020

Unexpected
by Deborah Crimmins

Alone at the dining room table, eight white candles,
node of light surrounded by the dark. Strange.
Strange day after a windstorm we knew would come, but
no one thought so much would fall. This morning,
no power. A neighbor wrestled with a branch whose tree
now rested on her house. Around the corner, yellow flash –
a dump truck convoy stuffed with limbs and leaves: maples
fallen on the road. The bakery was dark. On the beach,
two capsized sailboats, same helpless pitch as the post office
mural’s doomed merchantman, same idle onlookers. The dog,
wild to run, spun on his leash, then sprinted past waist-high
seaweed flung up by waves. The joy of running settled him.
We trudged home up the hill on wet leaves thick
as fish scales. Chainsaws blurted from tree-downed yards.
The wail of distant sirens. But now, all that is silent.
No radio, no on-line games, no robocalls. No news.
Candlelight only goes so far before it shades to black.
Soft black, soft yellow light, soft breathing of the sleeping dog.
Powerless and in the dark, I breathe surprising peace.

Deborah Crimmins started writing poetry when she retired. She lives in South Portland with her husband, also retired, and a changing cast  of retired racing greyhounds.

 

April 12, 2020

Morning Song
By Marcia F. Brown

Here, I place
a blue glazed cup
where the wood
is slightly whitened.
Here, I lay down
two bright spoons,
our breakfast saucers, napkins
white and smooth as milk.

I am stirring at the sink,
I am stirring
the amount of dew
you can gather in two hands,
folding it into the fragile
quiet of the house.

Before the eggs,
before the coffee
heaving like a warm cat,
I step out to the feeder –
one foot, then the other,
alive on wet blades.
Air lifts my gown – I might fly –

This thistle seed I pour
is for the tiny birds.
This ritual,
for all things frail
and imperiled.
Wings surround me, frothing
the air. I am struck
by what becomes holy.

A woman
who lost her teenage child
to an illness without mercy,
said that at the end, her daughter
sat up in her hospital bed
and asked:
What should I do?
What should I do?

Into a white enamel bath
I lower four brown eggs,
You fill the door frame,
warm and rumpled, kiss
the crown of my head.
I know how the topmost leaves
of dusty trees
feel at the advent
of the monsoon rains.

I carry the woman with the lost child
in my pocket, where she murmurs
her love song without end:
Just this, each day:
Bear yourself up on small wings
to receive what is given.
Feed one another
with such tenderness,
it could almost be an answer.

Reprinted from What on Earth, Poems by Marcia F. Brown (Moon Pie Press 2010) by permission of the author.

Marcia F. Brown is the author of five books of poetry including In the Afternoon (Moon Pie Press 2019) and the essay collection Well Read, Well Fed ~ A Year of Great Reads and Simple Dishes for Book Groups. She served as Poet Laureate for the City of Portland from 2013-2015 and is the co-host of The Local Buzz Reading Series at Thomas Memorial Library.

 

April 11, 2020

Before We Sheltered in Place 
by Margaret Haberman

In February we walked the icy half mile
down to the lake. Spikes on our boots, crust 
breaking beneath us. At the crest of the hill,
that high place where the pines stand apart,
the crowns of their regal selves bowed back, 
and revealed the full moon, borrowing glory 
and hope, making shadows of our six figures
as if daylight, while the puppy bounced joyous. 

The children, who are no longer children, walked
with the dog onto the ice, across to the little island
where in June the snapping turtle will emerge 
and lurch for shore to lay her eggs. Somewhere
down in the mud,  breath slowed to an even, 
imperceptible pace, she waits for what is next.

The puppy ran circles around the cold embers
of an ice fisherman’s fire, the remains of a fish
left to freeze into the opaque white. The moon,
with its illusion of light, and permanence, 
illuminated  only part of our world, and nothing
of what was to come. 

In June, the snapping turtle will emerge.
With luck, her little world will look the same:
Tiny island with its thick underbrush, flat rock
for sunning, weedy bottom of the lake for refuge,
shelter.  Now we are the ones lurching forward,
working hard to slow our breath, praying for spring. 

Margaret Haberman lives in Hope, Maine. She works full time as a sign language interpreter, and writes poetry in the spaces in between. 

 

April 10, 2020

Portrait of Anna K.
by Jefferson Navicky

Her upturned face almost looks happy, could’ve if you don’t take the time to look at her neck, which is an undoubtedly unhappy neck, as it belies a shrunkenness like invisible hands threatening to strangle all its neck life and now the rings and folds are like the cut tree whose rings show not its age, but its fragility. Her mouth opens slightly, not a smile, but an invitation towards speech or kiss or exhale. Her face is made up, her lips thin and glossy and red, her hair in golden ringlets, which all could connote a certain beauty of the 1950’s, but it’s the small, metal heart that hangs from a chain around her neck and down to her breast plate that betrays her. Inside that locket is a picture, not of a sweetheart or a beloved child, but of an abandoned dirt road, once paved to a slick sheen years ago in the post-war boom of betterment, a road with once so much potential, but the pavement has gone and cracked and potholed to a point that one’s vehicle sustains regular damage on every mounting pass, axel severed, suspension busted, alignment cranked, wheel rim cracked, so many costly repairs, and all because this road, this picture held at the locus of her heart, has become tired of being a road, and wishes only to be released from all obligations of travel, but of course, a road, once a road, must always be a road, even if her heart wants to disappear from all maps.

Jefferson Navicky is the author of the poetic novella, The Book of Transparencies, and the story collection, The Paper Coast. He works as the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection, and teaches English at Southern Maine Community College.

 

April 9, 2020

November
By Douglas Milliken

Stiff-legging upstream, he calls out to the geese, who come, who follow him to a low spot on the shore. He’s bringing them a bowl of Cheerios. Acorns pop underfoot. The female’s wing is broken, he says. She’s been trapped on the river for months. Falls rush white with foam above and below but in this stretch—this one-quarter mile—the water is mirror calm. Where once lumbermen floated logs to the mills, the swimming birds etch the surface in Vs. The male comes and goes, he says, but the female stays. She has to. You cannot set and splint a wild bird’s broken wing. Naked oak and hemlock right up to the water’s edge: he rattles the Cheerios inside the bowl, makes kissy sounds, rattles the bowl while against the current, necks bobbing, the geese kick faster for the shallows. They like to watch the sunset together. That’s something else he says. Every day, two birds facing west. But it’s easy to mistake coincidence for devotion. At the river’s muddy lip, he pours out some cereal, two piles, his and hers, and between shoreline rocks, at last: they are here. Sun dissolving behind the tree line. A promise of frost in the air. Pink clouds and purple sky. December will be here soon.

Reprinted from In the Mines created by Douglas Milliken with Scott Sell, by permission of Douglas Milliken

Douglas W. Milliken is the author of the novels To Sleep as Animals and Our Shadows’ Voice, the collection Blue of the World, four chapbooks, and several multidisciplinary collaborations, most recently [STORAGE] with the Bare Portland theater cooperative. His honors include prizes from the Pushcart Foundation, the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, Glimmer Train, and RA & Pin Drop Studios, among others. He lives with his domestic and creative partner, Genevieve Johnson, in the industrial riverscape of Saco, Maine. www.douglaswmilliken.com

 

April 8, 2020

Performing at the Fryeburg Fair
by Gretchen Berg

We did three shows a day.
Music. Jokes. Juggling. Old fashioned fun.
Nearby tents promised the WORLD’S LARGEST RAT,
the Duke of Windsor’s GOLD CADILLAC
and even more. I resisted for days, but finally
paid $3 to enter and see the REAL HIPPIE,
a lanky hair beaded guy meditating on
an Indian bedspread. Incense. Jefferson Airplane.
His dorm room diorama littered
with Just Say No to Drugs fliers.

This last fair of the season
starts hot (snow cones & lemonade)
ends cold (fried dough & gray coffee).
Snow was in the air between Thursday’s shows
as I went for a quick warm up walk
on the border between the RV’s and the side shows
where two bikini-clad dancers barely
swayed on a skinny stage in front of the GIRL SHOW tent.
The barker’s lackluster spiel and muffled boom box
drove their languid slow motion belied by icy hard nipples.

No takers. Then that kid I’d seen around the barns
open-faced, big ears, short jeans, huge boots, fifteen?
rode up on a steer.
He sat stock-still, close up
waist level with the listless dancers.
“You’re blocking the view. Come inside. $5.”
The kid pulled a rein back to head through the door,
but the steer’s horns slammed the shaky frame.
The barker pulled the kid down off the steer,
took his money and tied the steer to a power pole.
The shivering dancers climbed down and they all headed inside.

I hope they had a space heater.
I hope the kid loved what he saw.
I hope all of them are doing something else this October.

One night, I talked with a ride operator as we drank coffee
and smoked cigarettes at the Lions Club trailer.
I asked him what it’s like to travel around and run rides.
He said, “You know what they all say?”
One last drag, then he flicked his cigarette away.
“They all say: here we go.”

Gretchen Berg is a performance artist/educator who works in public schools to integrate theater, dance and classroom curriculum. She is the lead teaching artist for Portland-based arts organization Side x Side, works in rural schools through the Local Stories Project, and teaches performance courses at Bates College. She is one-third of Portland’s modern dance company Berg, Jones & Sarvis. And she writes poems.

 

April 7, 2020

Necessity of Crows
by Betsy Sholl

Some days, crowding the trees, it’s all crows,
rasping, irascible crows,

nothing other or beyond this world’s mess,
just the ragged clatter of crow after crow,

sharp skeptics about our human exceptionality,
our endless need to preen, to strive and crow.

They dumpster dive, forage at low tide
like immigrant widows dressed black as crows.

In the sunlit stubble of a mowed field they gather,
a convention, drinkers at a rowdy crow bar.

Like the poor, they’re called nuisance, opportunist.
But why not just hungry, just crows being crows?

The story goes, one drops pebbles in a glass
to raise the water for a drink, Aesop’s clever crow.

Year after year they swoop down on fields of corn
fooled once, not twice by the farmer’s scarecrow.

They don’t forget a face that’s done them harm,
and big to little, teach the young: be wary, caw, caw.

Yes, a flock’s called a murder, also a mob, a horde,
a muster, a hover, and best: a storytelling of crows,

as if like us they aren’t just one thing, good luck
or bad. In fact, there are forty kinds of crows.

One’s enough for me, when the world’s going to hell,
just one God-made, scoffing, irreverent crow.

Betsy Sholl served as Maine State Poet Laureate from 2006 to 2011. She is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Otherwise Unseeable (University of Wisconsin Press), Rough Cradle (Alice James Books), Late Psalm, Don’t Explain, and The Red Line. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and two Maine Individual Artists Grants. She currently teaches in the MFA Program of Vermont College of Fine Arts.

April 6, 2020

Second Sight (a sestina)
by Phil Carlsen

Open your eyes. If you see
something, don’t say it. Listen closely as you rub
your sleeve’s crow-black flannel, a faint sound
like sunset. Allow a skunk’s passing in the night
to lightly scent your bowl of strawberries. At any sign
of trouble, bite your tongue. Speak

softly, but carry on. No, don’t speak
at all. Use your eyes. If you see
a bleak future in a binding contract, sign
with lemon juice. Rub
it in. Nod good-night
to your tea roses. Sound

out their Latin names. Sound
them out slowly. Speak
like you mean it. When a dog barks in the night,
bark back. Howl. See
what it’s like to rub
your back against a street sign.

Be prepared. Watch for signs.
It won’t be angels sounding
sky-blue Hosannas while gold-robed
kings kneel down. Something else. Don’t speak
of it with words. Use your hands to see.
Bind your sight to fireflies in that sparkled night.

A barred owl suddenly fills your windshield at midnight,
lit from within, feathering an old Frost Heave sign
as it passes—surely that’s what you’ve been preparing to see.
It doesn’t make a sound.
Just there and gone. Don’t speak
of it yet. Only rub

your eyes. Touch your sleeve, rub
the fabric, crow-black as the night
around you. Turn off the car. Let it speak
its cooling clicks and sighs. A sign
glows by the curve, shimmering with a sound
of bent arrows. Go to it. Under the moon, see

how it feels to rub the sign
with hands that can see its yellow sounds,
the way they speak to the night.

Philip Carlsen, a former music professor at UMF, remains active as composer, cellist, and director of the Back Cove Contemporary Music Festival. His poetry has appeared in several journals and the Portland Press Herald’s “Deep Water” series.

 

April 5, 2020

Living under the Sign
by Linda Aldrich

Perched on the roof of the art gallery
like a grand marquee from the 50’s fallen
out of time and stranded there, it spells “hopeful”
in blue, yellow, green, red, the flourishing “p”
pointing straight to the heart of the city,
where staggering rents can be found,
and the many homeless standing around
on the street with signs of “broke and hungry”
or “anything will help” are obviously
not the way life should be. Nonetheless,
I like this neighborhood sign and walk by every
night with my dog to will its incandescent message
and shining challenge into me, in spite of me,
for all of us, this quiet neon pilgrimage.

Linda Aldrich received an MFA from Vermont College and has published two collections of poetry, Foothold and March and Mad Women. She is currently serving as Portland’s sixth poet laureate and co-hosts the Local Buzz Reading Series at Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth.

 

April 4, 2020

What I Do Not See
by Eileen Griffin

I
Fourth grade recess 
we pick teams
always she is the last one picked
always she looks around 
waiting to hear her name 
no one calls her name today 
no one at all
I look down
I do not want to see her
but I see her even now even now

II
Village post office
a man mutters a racial slur
to a lady waiting in line
she hears him 
her face pinched
she inhales his ugliness
I look away
still today
I see him and her face
as I looked away

III
Burning hot August day
a dirty heap of clothing
discarded on the sidewalk
I step over it   the heap stirs
two eyes stare
a mouth forms a word
I hurry on     back at home
gulping cold water
I see her   
asking me for water

IV
If eyes are caverns
they stretch way back into
our heads and out to the stars
each cavern has a gate keeper
what I do not want to see
I can dream and remember

Eileen Griffin fell in love with poetry when young. Mother Goose, William Blake, Kate Greenway, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walter De La Mare, Edgar Allen Poe, Rose Fyleman, Langston Hughes, and all the fairy tales were her childhood companions and teachers. A retired educator and consultant, Eileen has wonderful time now to write poems and learn the craft of poetry. She is most grateful to the large and welcoming community of poets in Maine.

 

 

April 3, 2020

The Call
by Michelle Lewis

A crumpled city
called, it wants its funneled
wind back.

Wants its throat of dust to unfurl,
fall like powder on its playing children.

A river beneath the Veteran’s Bridge
called, it wants its distance back.

Its troubled depth was not
for us to know.

Then the earth’s heart
dropped a dime, proposed to turn
its devastation in, sate
itself with new, wild soil.

It was some message.
We agreed to all the terms.

Wolves ate our various cancers.
You came to take your body back –
the barn coat you left on shore,

your cell, your weed,
the voice that said I’ve been poisoned
before you disappeared.

By a drink, an aching? We wouldn’t
know. Goats were sent to
clean the ground of thorns.

Michelle Lewis is the recipient of the 2018 Marystina Santiestevan First Book Prize chosen by Bob Hicok. She is the author of Animul/Flame from Conduit Books & Ephemera, and two chapbooks, Who Will Be Frenchy? (dancing girl press) and The Desire Line (Moon Pie Press). She was a Vermont Studio Center fellow this past February and a 2019 Monson Arts writing resident. Learn more about Michelle Lewis at whitechicken.com.

 

April 2, 2020

Piranha Tank
by Craig Sipe

I don’t remember much from 1962
being only six, but I can still
conjure the Cuban Missile Crisis
from the stool next

To my stepfather’s chair, his hand
on my back, reassuringly,
as we watched the young President
on our Magnavox console.


There were missiles and bases
and bombers just off the coast,
and I’ve read about them since,
listened with a grown-up ear
to Kennedy’s warnings,
only to return to the security
of the hand on my back.


Eleven months later, that young
president was murdered by a man
I later saw shot right in front of me
as the cameras rolled.


And the world was a funeral
pyre for a week after
as my mother hooked
a harvest rug in the dining room
and the dirges wailed on the screen.


I’ve later read theories, seen movies about
the assassination, none of which
take me far away from
that dining room and the calm
latching and looping of yarn
through stiff burlap backing.

That rug ended up
in my sister’s house
in a spare bedroom
patching the pocked floor in front
of her piranha tank,
where I slept, or tried to
when visiting;

Where that toothy,
vigilant little beastie–
only one among the disparate
and magical brood of life forms
that she hosted there—
would stare me down as if I were
a roast.

Craig Sipe has never owned a Leisure Suit.  He likes cats while they remain largely indifferent to him.  His basic food groups are Ketchup, Peanut Butter, and Bacon, though together they make a terrible sandwich.  In the winter, he likes to shovel the snow off his lawn. “It’s a lot of work,” he once said.

 

April 1, 2020

At Capisic Pond
by Marita O’Neill

Not much to do today again
but walk through evergreen and
pussy willow. Soft edges blaze 
like candles in the rain. Bird song
flashes, echoes, and a black-capped
chickadee––monk in hooded cowl––
dashes from branch to branch, hiding
inside a buttonbush, calling its hymn
for spring: dee-dee-dee-chica-dee-dee-dee.
From a safe distance, my friend spots
a male wood duck as it slips inside
marsh grass and collapsed cat tails.
They’re secretive birds, he calls, don’t like
to be exposed.

How like the inner life. How
it hides, disappears in a flash
just as we glimpse it. How it burrows
into solace of silence and dark.
When we’re lucky, we catch a blaze,
a brilliance: royal blue, red feather, gold
glint. A whisper of word, voice
that gives shape to, gives wing to,
gives flight from

Marita O’Neill lives in Portland and teaches English at Yarmouth High School when she is not doing yoga or walking on the beach. She has been published in The Portland Press Herald’s “Deep Water” series, The Cafe Review, the Aurorean, and The Maine Visual Arts online magazine. She has a Masters degree in education and received her poetry MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.