miller's pond

Winter, 2004
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Volume 7, Issue 1, Web Edition
Poets in the pond:
Barbara Crooker Sandra Morgan
Rachel Dacus Steve Orders
Thomas Reynolds

Penelope’s Patience

Perched on the edge of the world,
She grips the rail with slender fingers.
Hardly breathing, she scans the horizon
For some movement to end the waiting.
Humid breezes flirt beneath her dress,
Whispering that nothing hurts like hope.

Years slide away and still she hopes,
Despite the urgings of the rational world.
Each morning she anticipates his gaze while dressing – 
How he will explore her with shaking fingers
Hardened by months of waiting,
His mouth held tight as the horizon.

She wakes and sleeps enslaved to that horizon,
Each hour hollowed out and filled with hope.
Honeyed voices ask her why she waits, 
Forsaking pleasures of the living world;
Hardly discouraged by her banded finger,
They eye the fragile straps of her red dress.

She clings to his memory: their fervent undressing
In a secret bed, tangled and horizontal,
Nothing but limbs and lips and fingers,
Primal silence and the tension of hope.
This would be the man who changed her world.
The answer to her years of waiting.

She plunged into him, heedless of what might await,
No thought of all the wounds she’d have to dress,
All the months she’d spend breathless in a warrior’s world.
He left her with a kiss, seduced by distant horizons,
Drunk on wanderlust and hope,
Unable to satisfy his restless fingers.

Now she stands, still, caressing concrete with calloused fingers
Worn rough and numb by an oceanful of waiting,
Staving off advances from the hopeless.
She watches the sea, faithful in a fading dress,
As the moon echoes down the horizon
And spills its pallor on the world.

She hears no footsteps, lost to all the world,
But feels the sudden heat of familiar fingers,
And on her neck, a breath that burns with years of waiting.

-Steve Orders

Steve is a 7th Grade English teacher in Maryland.  He has been writing for most of his life, but has only recently begun submitting  work for publication.  He also sings for the Washington, DC band, Trystic.

The Hour of Peonies

The Buddha says, "Breathing in, I know I am here in my body. 
Breathing out, I smile to my body," and here I am, mid-span,
a full-figured woman who could have posed for Renoir. 
When I die, I want you to plant peonies for me, so each May,
my body will resurrect itself in these opulent blooms, one of les Baigneuses
sunlight stippling their luminous breasts, rosy nipples, full bellies,
an amplitude of flesh, luxe, calme et volupté.  And so are these flowers, 
an exuberance of cream, pink, raspberry, not a shrinking violet among them.
They splurge, they don't hold back, they spend it all.
When Renoir was painting at the end, he was confined to a wheelchair
with paintbrushes strapped to his arthritic hands.  Still he said, 
the limpidity of the flesh, one wants to caress it.  Even after the petals
have fallen, the lawn is full of snow, the last act in Swan Lake 
where the corps de ballet, in their feathered tutus, 
kneel and kiss the ground, cover it in light.

-Barbara Crooker

This poem appeared in print in Poetry International and was on the web on Poetry Life & Times in April 2003.

The author of more than 1100 poems published in over 100 anthologies and prestigious magazines, Barbara Crooker is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, including three Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships, nine residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a prize from the NEA.  A seventeen-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, she was nominated for the  1997 Grammy Awards for her part in the audio version of the popular anthology, Grow Old Along With Me--The Best is Yet to Be (Papier Mache Press).  Greatest Hits 1980-2000 (Pudding House Press) is her most recent book.

Barbara Crooker,

Morning Mnemonic

From a twig in the vast candelabra oak
the hummingbird's castanet ticks off time 
by inches. It paces my feet as I climb
past grounded doves that huff and squeak
into flight, trailing handkerchief wings. 
I slip through a slur of slowing cars, weave 
a list of duties through brain's chatter, but leave
routine behind as the jazzy morning rings,
telegraphing something I once knew:
how to pot-stir, sage up an inner brew. 
I bend to the impulse to run away and see 
poppies' wild alleluias on chartreuse hills.
To hear a dither of voices as water spills
down a ladder of monotone symmetry.
Recall if I can this one forgotten thing: 
to rock grass water under sheer sun - and sing!

-Rachel Dacus

Gifts of the Dead

 for Joe
Dream of someone dead, they say,
and you've had a visitation.
I ran down last night's dream halls, 
yellow passages in sooty ruins
and I wasn't surprised to find you – 
even forgot you were dead as you raced 
with me in hide-and-seek. Your smile
held something back. I suspected a can 
of black-eyed peas to make a new year 
I can believe in. You always keep stories 
in your pockets, dust your fingers with them 
as we talk, your Texas drawl lazy roping a laugh. 

Gifts of the dead are their closed circles,
the possibilities they raise that no unfinished 
story can. Lives with no end-
point stay in their owners' closets,
but yours are there for our taking
to the park, to sit on a bench and chat.
You often feel the dead just behind 
your shoulder saying, Go ahead.
That's how they are – always ready
to wrap a tissue of remembrance
around afternoon's solemn light. 
Odd, how you rise today in smoke,
in the violet scent of dead leaves 
piled on dark earth.

-Rachel Dacus

**This poem first appeared in Comstock Review..

In That Rustle

 -- for my poetry group
The poem falls into a harmony of silences,
Deep in the ears, words scatter into tribes.

Because each of us has dipped his pen
and found it filling with manna,

Because each has wrestled the ladder angel 
all night for a few phrases

we listen in concert
to notes that feather the wings 

Of the eagle that lofts the world.
In that rustle we compose 

the symphony no one writes alone.
Rafting on lion waves,

We steer for the sun.
And if the skiff crashes on a high wave,

Rain's dark silk will build 
for another ride.

-Rachel Dacus

**This poem first appeared in Midwest Quarterly.

Earth Lessons, Rachel Dacus' first poetry collection, was published by Bellowing Ark Press in 1998. Her work has been featured in print magazines that include The Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Comstock Review, Many Mountains Moving, Poet Lore and Rattapallax, and online  in The Alsop Review, Conspire, Melic Review, Stirring. She resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, with her architect husband and silky terriers Keegan and Nissa.  Look for new work from Rachel Dacus in Boulevard, Prairie Schooner and North American Review..

Rachel Dacus,


Chadwell, Miller, and Pitts

Northfield, Minnesota. 1876.

The three sit stiffly like penitent schoolboys.
Facing the photographer, they accept their fates,
and if possible, would petition only for shirts
to cover their wounds, or help fend off the cold.

Chadwell sheepishly keeps hands crossed on his lap,
balled into fists as if dumbly gripping the air,
or perhaps, in his shame, still fingering the gun.
Chin raised slightly, he concentrates on the wall,
and will not be deterred, no matter how many stare.

Miller remains the most intractable, weakening
minute by minute, but still struggling with pride.
(Encouraging him, the photographer lowers his head,
crosses his bony hands, and nearly closes his eyes.)
At the next look, Miller's had a change of heart,
still playing the tough guy but convincing no one,
eyes bloodshot and swollen and already welling up.

Pitts' smartly combed hair, mustache, and beard,
his resolute jaw, the chiseled bones on his face,
seem to indicate quality, a distinct gentleman
incapable of the wrongs for which he was expelled.
Head inclined forward, glazed eyes staring ahead.
On impulse, the photographer downturns his mouth,
providing enough remorse even for the Methodists,
and before anyone backslides, snaps the picture.

-Thomas Reynolds

**This poem first appeared in American Western Magazine,

Tom Reynolds currently teaches at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. He has published poems in a variety of journals, including Midwest Poetry Review, New Delta Review, The Cape Rock, Alabama Literary Review, The MacGuffin, Potpourri, Capper's, and Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature.

  Thomas Reynolds, 

Two Sijo 

    Remember that September day so long ago, o, maple?
    The lover's knife plunged deep within a heart with two initials
    Your sap ran free to wash the wound the seasons helped the healing.

    Leaves of autumn red and gold spill across the mountain range
    beginning yet another season - how we've waited for this change.
     Across September's sky two planes forever color Fall.

-Sandra Morgan

   **The first sijo was originally published in Sijo West.

Sandra Morgan was paid a dollar for the first poem she had published in a Sunday newspaper when she was ten years old. With this encouragement, she continued to write and be published through the years while raising her four children. Her two books of poems, Maine Street and Between You and Me, are now out of print. Her poetry has been published in Grit, True Story, The Friendly Way, Sijo West, Canadian Writer’s Journal and several small press poetry magazines. Her sijo has been featured on the web in Elizabeth St Jacques’s Sijo Blossoms and Larry Gross’s WordShop.  Her non-fiction has been published in Yankee Magazine, Bittersweet, Maine Life, Farm Journal, Woman’s Household, Woman’s Circle and several of the Tower Press family of magazines. Recently retired from her job as Computer lab aide in the technology department of a middle school, Sandy is once more concentrating on her writing.

Sandra Morgan,

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