Poetry Corner

Unsureness

From the May 8, 2020 Swarthmorean: The Swarthmore Farmers Market was snowed out again. They have now decided to restart on Saturday, June 6.

First
our memories will change
as normal changes
to meet up with what is
now normal
Who remembers Spring Planting
It was always summer, wasn’t it
Community Greenhouses were always there
not just sprung up

Note: Please look under notices in the Swarthmorean for share information for the new Community Greenhouses.

Maybe new memories are in the process
of being implanted
and we just haven’t been told about it
just like a latest relationship
replaces the previous one
a new dog the memory of the old one

Notice: The Swarthmore Swim Club will close any days when the temperature goes below 80 degrees starting December 10. It will, as usual, be closed during the Christmas holidays.

Where was yesterday
when there were seasons four
or is that just a musical fiction
by Vivaldi someone

— Bob Small

Bob Small is a long time resident of Swarthmore living with his wife, Paula Bronstein, and their cats, dogs, and chickens. He has retired from any and all activism, but is focusing on writing Letters to the Editor, Poetry, Polemics, Plays, etc., some of which can be seen at his web address robertthesmall on wordpress.

Oregon Beach

Broken tongues
Of basalt flows
Break the lowly mist
And basement to
The smoky haze
Smooth shiny plains
Interrogate between
The surf and grassy bench.
We name these beaches
But walking in the mist
With the early sun
Alight the raptured waves
An ancient chord resounds
And I become lost in time
A four dimensioned one
And life becomes
The washing of the waves
And the order of the grains
On these obscure and mystic plains.

Figures in the mist
Well by
Tortured and
Buried half in sand
They too sing
But with the voice
Of inland spirits gone astray
Reach up
Weathered arms!
Catch the strands of fog
Thy brothers stand
The headlands sentinel
And point the wind
With knotty arthritic hands

The waves tumble in
And the order is destroyed
Each grain
Jumping to the flow of tide
The plains are gone
The graven arms rock
In a milk of chaos
Cold black rocks
Roar green wet songs
And spouting caves
Breathe and sneeze
Their foaming spittle

Soon the mist is gone
And with the falling tide
A new order will arise
The cross-washed sand
Has made smooth plains
The sun bursts forth
The sandpiper runs
Along the tongues of foam
And cries
Life, life!
Life will abide again!

— Christopher Ray

“As a native of Westport, Conn., and Long Island Sound, I had never seen such beaches!”

Lawn Boys

I swear it’s the mayhem that gets them going,
revving those little motors without the first
shred of a permit. This latest one runs through
two gas cans easy, just tanking around, rearing
the housing up on its hind wheels, toeing its nose
smack down into the borders, throttling, choking –
yes, a carte blanche invitation to destroy.

Whatever gets them off the couch, it’s not the lawn
itself. These guys aren’t gardeners, can’t read the line
dividing sod from shrub, grassplot from seedbed.
They’ll put the parrot-tulips to the blade, slice
right through violets and fern brakes, yet leave untouched
a pride of thistles, a bristle of dandelions –
“so pretty.” And nor is it the money, else

they’d be here more often. First of spring, I call
and call, while the grass thickens to pasture, then
to wildwood, then to spinney. This latest one
has set his phone to seem he’s answered: “Wait a sec!
My battery’s low! I’ll just grab the extension – “
then a long pause, then some well-recorded fumbling, then
more mutters just before the razzy beep. I leave him

long detailed messages I know he won’t play through.
That’s why – must be – that rise by the front walk’s
razed raw again, why the side-yard’s gone to briars.
“Take care,” I’ll tell the phone; “there’s deadwood fallen,”
but that won’t slow him: he won’t pick up sticks, grinds through
whatever’s in his way, shredding plastic bags and paper,
shattering branches – once even a brick

to see its splinters scatter and fly. My daddy mowed
sedately, sober as a farmer guiding the plow
behind the plodding mule, methodical,
meticulous. These guys are rough-riders,
lathering their broncs up San Juan Hill, and I
must like that better. Mayhem. What else
do I get? What else do I pay them for?

— Nathalie Anderson

Rough

After the sightings, the sea got rough,
got rough on us, shale fallen to scarp and
shoving down, shunting against itself,
scathing and carping, flints striking flakes
off each other, sparking white, black, white.

Did I say sightings? I meant to say biting.
Nobody in beyond the ankle but
still that slash to the ankle bone, the sea
a sussurus of open-jawed serration,
strange voice at your ear.

Whatever we glimpsed out there hid itself
in potentia, flexing its muscle
under the water’s skin. Head of a hawk,
head of a rottweiler. And the seals
in their slickers, black-backed, menaced

as we were, too doggish to know it. Her husband
lost like that, no longer the man she’d married,
but when were we ever? Nail head. Hammer head.
When will you admit you didn’t know your own mother?
Strange mouth at your ear. Strange hand on your arm.

And did I say spiky? I meant to say spiny.
We could feel it under foot, every step
from the shoreline to the car. The sand
rough on us, the mind rougher.
Cross-cut saw. Shredder.

— Nathalie Anderson

Nathalie Anderson of Rutledge has authored four books: Following Fred Astaire (The Word Works, 1998); Crawlers (Ashland Poetry Press, 2005); Quiver (Penstroke, 2011); and Stain, (The Word Works, 2017), as well as the chapbook Held and Firmly Bound (Muddy Ford, 2017). Anderson directs the Program in Creative Writing at Swarthmore College. 

The Big Girls

Surging through the hall
Lips red with gossip and laughter
DAs bobbing in time,
They carry on their hips
Books unopened since the fall.

Then out the door
They cross the street
To their big beautiful Buicks
(Reaching 3rdbefore mid-block)
Leaving us behind
Yearning to be born
           Before—

— Louise Coffin

How I Grew Up

My mother wore stockings with seams,
A garter belt, “step-ins,”
Brassieres of cotton,
And lacy-bodiced slips.

Each day, pearls
Given her by her father
When she turned 16.
He died before I was born.

My mother’s pale ashes
Lie in a nearby cemetery;
The pearls rest in a velvet case,
And white is just another color.

— Louise Coffin

Diary Entry

What I wrote
Just yesterday,
Filtered through my memory,
Vain effort to capture what has been.

Wasis not in my vocabulary
(That finite ending, no recourse).
But this ephemera is just that:
The gossamer moment,

The dress I wore or the smile,
And your words
Out on the air
To float away—

Delicate points too frail to abide
only
for me
The bequeathing of promises dimmed by hope.

— Louise Coffin

Paper Dolls

Cut-outs we were
Tacked to the walls
All smiles and red cheeks, nimble-fingered
Simulacra of the living.

— Louise Coffin

Louise Coffin, a former high school English teacher in Atlanta, revels in her Swarthmore retirement.

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