Poetry Corner

2018 Swarthmore Spring

The brittle sticks of April, broken, prolific, scattered,
The ground, cold beneath exposing sparse green sprouts.
We walk around assessing debris,
Above, tall trees still bereft stand profiled.
Against the gray their branches ungreened
Appear as nerve endings gone awry.
Patterns, revealing no promise of spring. 

Remembering childhood’s carefree game,
Pick up sticks, a delicate retrieval of rainbows,
Carefully separated, slender colors extracted then
Dropped singularly for points.

Unlike our point, to rush, raking to collect in heaps
Before another untimely April blizzard
Arrives, covering what lies beneath.
These sticks, irregular, ungainly,
Differing shades of unpleasant brown.
Their clumped, clinging wetness webbed with leaves
Finally piled at the curb.

Nearby, the tender limbed bushes
Just a hint of green on their brittle branches.
We wonder, worry what ability to bend, to endure
Tonight’s wintry mix, to resist becoming brittle sticks.

The next day, cans of sticks emptied,
Just the street’s clutter to sweep.
In the sunshine my neighbor’s cherry tree
“Loveliest of trees” shares its glowing blossoms
Above a smattering of soft snow.
The light green grass underneath thankful
For last night’s flaked watering, more blessing than blizzard.

— Ann Foster

Ann Foster is a recent arrival to Swarthmore, coming from Florida via Bucks County. A retired high school English teacher, she has been more a reader of poetry than a poet, but says that “With my family now grown, I can indulge in and practice more writing.”


Threading the trail through spruce forest
Then hand over hand up a wooden ladder
Sweating, seeking foot holds
in the gray boulder face blooming with green lichen.
A chipmunk skitters into a crevice split by winter’s ice
at forty below

Muscles burning, we scramble over stone steps heaved
up by giants’ thunder breath.
A weasel slips between the silver birches

Breaking out onto the mountain top
We loll on sun warmed ledges
on the hawk fierce profile of
the mountain,
sentinel of
the glacial lake below

Two monarchs, then three
orange and black kaleidoscopes
wing, float and rise on thermal air
brushing by my shoulder

It’s the vroom. The roar.
The charge across the grass,
blades flashing.
The grinding gears and breaking sticks.
The first lawn cut of spring
enchants his toddler heart. 

— Elizabeth Fletcher

Elizabeth Fletcher is a medical and technical writer and editor, and a published poet and essayist. She has lived in Swarthmore with her husband Fred Tinter and sons Alex and Evan for 30 years.

Fire Horn

This morning while out walking
that old fire horn startled me
(the way it always does)
like a newborn’s cry in the night

I cannot help but think of you when I hear it
so braided is the sound into my memory
like the everyday clatter of clearing plates 

I picture its howl rushing through high branches
of heroic oak and trembling ash to find me
to help me find you

We play Mastermind on the dusty oriental rug in the living room
sail around the world in creaking wicker baskets
eat Cheerios dry in the playhouse

I creep into mother and daddy’s room like a feral cat
strain to reach deep into the top of the highboy
scoop out quarters with my fingertips

I take you to Eddie’s market to buy Tootsie Rolls and Swedish Fish
make you hold my hand when we cross Yale Avenue
and promise not to tell that I got smokes instead of candy

We climb to the high part of the roof
lay back on the warm, feathering slate
we hoot and shout into the clouds

With each blare and pause of the fire horn
my mind clicks through our stockpile of scenes
A steady, visceral hum of connection

Until the siren quits and the hum returns to crackle

I hope one day you will just come home
maybe then the horn will sound but I won’t even hear it
or maybe it won’t sound, and I will not even notice it is gone

— Liz Morris Orye

Liz Orye is a Swarthmore native who now lives and writes in Wallingford. In between then and now, she lived for a decade in Virginia. She owns a petit floral design studio called Bough & Blossom.

El Capitan

The Captain of the Guadalupes
Stood on the desert plain
And sighted ‘cross
The Delawares
In hope of tropic rain

But to his wish
Came burning sun
And whispers
Parched and dry
From oceans drained
And forests dropped
Beneath the hard blue sky

My Captain, my Captain
Can not you hear the waves?
You used to be a massive reef
That stood out in the sea
Where urchins spawned with
Snails and worms and great
Sharks sported free?

Oh Captain, El Capitan
Your ship has gone aground
Where crabs and fish and
Tiny shrimp did once so much abound
Where now the yucca blossoms
And the ocotillo nods its head
Where lizards scamper in the sun
And horny toads make their bed

My Captain waits for rising tides
To bring the sea again
And sure enough, it will come
Though not this year or next
But in time’s long awaited pulse
The earth will sink, the ice caps melt
The planet will convulse

And silently the knife sharp waters
Will creep upon the land
Then will silver fish and octopi parade
For the Captain on revue
Where herds of elk now browse
The bushes of the heights
Still wet with morning dew.

— Christopher Ray

“El Capitan is a massive fossil coral reef that stands above a desert valley in far west Texas, south of Carlsbad Caverns. Not to be confused with El Capitan of Yosemite Park.”

The Vulture

The vulture cuts his silent turn
A carbon in the blue
His watchful rheumy eyes collect
The denizens in view
He spots some morsel
In the glade
On evolution’s wake
He comes behind the Reaper
As the rake.

— Christopher Ray

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