Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Garden of Verse: Years Ago I Sent a Very Short Story to "The Dawntreader" -- Now This Journal Is Publishing My Poem

A long time ago I sent a short prose piece about a man who encounters an owl in the woods to a then-new journal called "The Dawntreader." It was an excerpt really, an out-take from a draft of a novel... I sent it to this magazine because it was seeking work on "landscape, myth, nature, legend, spirituality and love / concern for the environment." Well, I thought, I'm all for that. 

A year ago I came across a mention of the journal, and its publisher Indigo Dreams, on a list of publications and saw that the journal was still interested in publishing nature poems. Well, I thought, I have some of those. 

"The Dawntreader" published one of my poems in July and now, in its latest issue, it has published another poem. This one is  titled "Deer Uprising." 

Because the journal publishes on paper, but not online, I cannot include a link to the poem here. Instead, I am posting it on this blog. 

Deer Uprising


From the weedland of the fence line brush

where she has waited,

how many hours?

without betrayal to human eyes,

she flows across a strip of ground-tight wintry grass

-- exposed for mere heartbeats

during which non-predatory eyes,

the world's voyeur, happen to be staring,

(this of all moments!) --

to the old wire fence

belonging, we suspect,

to the sheep farmer neighbor,

leaps over, as if lifted by the nimble strings

of the Showman Behind the Scenes,

all laws of gravity suspended for this signature performance

-- a weightless flight that lingers in the eye --

lands, already streaming, bounding, sky-walking --

the eye cannot follow --

across the winter-dried yellow-grass,

a tone just lighter than fawn,

of that sheep-less field,

becoming one with the unpeopled land,

the weathered grass, product of countless generations,

leaves of flesh, and fleshly leavings,

as which of us shall not?

P.S. Here is some of what The Dawntreader has to say about itself (quoted from the publisher's website:


All submissions should follow The Dawntreader theme of the mystic,

landscape, myth, nature, legend, spirituality and love / concern for the

environment. Poetry / Prose / Articles / Legend welcomed...

Submissions should preferably be made by email using

typeface as above to avoid distortion. Short comments on previous

issue contents are very welcome.

The Dawntreader does not receive any grant or financial support from

outside sources and is solely dependent on subscriptions and donations

from well-wishers. Please spread the word.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Garden of Verse: "Traveling to Winter" in the Scissortail Quarterly



The Scissortail Quarterly, a new attractively produced English poetry journal, has three of my poems in its August issue. This is their issue No. 4. Editor Brian Fuchs also published three poems of mine in his previous issue back in March. This is getting to be a habit! 

Because the journal publishes in paper, but not online, I cannot include a link to the poems here. Instead, I am posting one of the poems in the latest issue, "Traveling to Winter," here. It may be a little early to start worrying about winter, but, hey, like everything else it will be here sooner than you think. Here's the poem:

Traveling to Winter


So much darkness to contend with

Though lights appear in the lengthening night,

still the winds blow like the trumpet of a distant foe

And the ice makes for a scrabble

Not even the trashcan stands upright

I rescue it in the morning:

A half-drowned swimmer, gasping on its side

Are we all not merely a strong blow away

from some permanent stranding?


We watch weak vessels beat out to sea

Familiar figures disappear, like road signs gagged by snow

We look to the hungry ocean

Can we even wave goodbye?

Too late!

“Farewell!” we shout, “Good luck on the further shore!”

but we know they can’t hear us.

We turn about. Count heads. Anyone else missing?


We clutch each hour to our breasts

We are made of minutes

We dress in our heaviest apparel

Geer up, check provisions – call ahead

Trace the route on the map

Walk about the sled slowly, checking the tires

Did the roadmen cheat us,

their features oiled by Turner and time

The dogs howl

The clouds make faces

Babies cry behind doors closed to us

I would check for ammunition,

but my firepower is in my mouth

I ask the dentist to pull out all my teeth,

but she is wise to my folly and refuses


A lengthy journey cannot be undertaken

without acknowledgment of suffering

Birds will lose a feather or two

No further elders go before me in my father’s line

I watch the smoke signals for rumors of births,

but no announcements come

Take care, mon frere, to remain on the trail

We walk it together, my shadow and I 

To learn more about the Scissortail Quarterly, or purchase an issue, see their website at Scissortail Quarterly

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The Garden of Verse: Verse-Virtual's September Shopping Bag Holds Mrs. P's Groceries And Many Other Treats


So many fine poems in Verse-Virtual’s September issue. Here are my comments on a few that I particularly enjoyed... 

I have read with admiration previous offerings from the mind of 

Robert Wexelbatt’s worldly, cynical, sharp-eyed Mrs. Podolski. Here 

in “Helping Mrs. Podolski Put Away Her Groceries,” Mrs. P. reflects on the pedestrian appetites of her late husband in a voice as unromantic, perceptive, and real-world as ever: 

He preferred beef to chicken or pork and

spit out my one attempt at tofu. 

Well, in fairness, so did I.  No take-out

but his precious pepperoni pizzas. 

Would you wash off those potatoes, dear—and 

just set them on the drainboard?

From her husband’s throw-back diet, Mrs. P. moves on to universal

considerations, revealing a capacity for suave and learned citations

On skin treatments she offers Nietzsche:

The earth has a skin,/ and that skin has diseases; 

one of its/ diseases is called man.


Poetic voice is what we admire in Sylvia Cavanaugh’s lovely poem 

“Gift Shoes from Philadelphia,” as in these lines:

As a child I had no idea

shoes even came in green,

or that love could take the form

of gift shoes from Philadelphia.

The implicit nostalgia for an early awakening, invented or not, 

flowers fantastically in the verses to come:

Someday, a left-handed gentleman

may offer you an oyster on the half shell

in the bright afternoon

and you could become Venus…

Read on in this delightfully lyrical fantasy as those ‘gift shoes’ find

other feet.


It’s the voice again that attracts me in Arlene Gay Levine’s poem 

“The Journey.” The poem begins with the existential pronouncement 

of a contingent universe: “A day begins; there are no promises.” 

But then we leave the known world behind:

One day we will slip from our bodies

and slide into the Light; this we know.

 Perhaps to rouse from sleep and put aside

the fear that hunts our hearts…

The poem takes off from here to pronounce what else “we know,” continuing 

to treat us to an elegant use of the elevated tone.


               Jefferson Carter’s “Hot Tub” flat out makes me laugh, 
from the first lines:
I confess.  We own
a hot tub.  Nothing 
               This confession is required, we learn, because the tub’s 
presumed ‘luxury’ consumption of hot water is politically incorrect 
in the opinion of the poet’s “tree-hugger friends.” I hug as many trees 
as the next guy, but I don’t think we have to go after hot tubs until 
we all agree to stop getting on jet airplanes. The poet contemplates 
his friends’ scolds, the poem tells us, until we arrive at this lovely 
and only slightly barbed image: 

as my hands flower open,

as the steam rises like smoke

through the branches

of our invasive olive tree.


               The spare, sharp-tooled voice in Jim Lewis’s “gemstone” captivates 
me as well. Its opening lines hammer away, carefully, precisely, 
at the object of the speaker’s terse observations: 
you are hard she said
hard headed
hard hearted
hard won
               The poem strikes me as an object lesson in the uses of 
economy and repetition. Bereft of punctuation and qualifiers, 
its strokes work efficiently toward the second-person speaker’s 
half-surprising conclusion. 
you see yourself
as common stone
but you will be 
the center jewel
in my crown
               There’s a final twist at the end; I won’t spoil it here. 

          Equally enjoyable in a different, conversational vein is David Graham’s

 “Lament for Kmart,” a knowingly tongue-in-cheek encomium for a low-end 

marketer I also confess to missing. How can anyone resist a poem

 that begins: “

How I used to relish wandering those broad glossy aisles/

with Walt Whitman at my side!”

What’s not to embrace under the store’s “dozen fluorescent suns”? 

The down-market big box store was a simple celebration of 

indiscriminate American bounty: 

We grinned at T shirts/ in hefty sizes, work shirts unsullied 

by designer tags.

And it concludes with another glance at Whitman’s universal embrace 

of his country, as rows of unplugged TV monitors reflect the faces 

of passing shoppers who become momentary screen stars:

just American faces leaning and loafing at our ease,

in vain the speeding or shyness as we starred in one

TV program after another, our show brief as a sunbeam

glinting on a passing windshield.


So many excellent poems in September’s Verse-Virtual. Find them here:

The link Verse-Virtual Sept. 2021


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The Garden of Verse: Wildlife in the Driveway in September's New Poems

I’m offering three occasional poems in the September 2021 issue of Verse-Virtual. The first of these recounts a rare occasion -- at least I hope it proves rare -- of a wildlife visit to our summer cottage in Berkshire County, Mass. 

The two other poems, "When You Are Lost" and "As Times Change" address the sort of things that happen, one way or another on our personal journeys through time and space, rather more often.

Here's the poem about the bear: 

The Bear at the Bottom of the Driveway

Not actually the bottom,
but where the blacktop swerves, 
     almost at a right angle
on its leafy way to Mahkeenac Road,
that pleasant artery named for the people replaced 
     by those who built the road
The trashcan belonging to the house
     at the driveway’s bend is empty now,
and perhaps our black bear has failed to make 
     its acquaintance 
in its more fetchingly odorous state,
as no debris is visible,
but the creature, larger now than when last 
     I made his acquaintance
at this very swerve in life’s path,
many moons before,
is snorffling contentedly in a wallow of wild roughage
not far from the hard, man-thing container
And wholly visible from the back-end of my car 
which I am about to load with inedibles, clothing,
     his and her laptop computers and –
how could I forget? –
some garbage of our own,    
in preparation for imminent departure
Well, old man – or, ‘young fellow’ – we meet again!
We exchange a look,
then each goes back to his business,
mine the popping of the trunk 
and the loading of luggage happily not too fragrant
The visitor moves his feeding station a few steps, 
     to the other side of some thinly-leafed brush,
agreeing to disagree with my disaffection 
     for his presence,
but not doing anything truly about it
Two minutes later, as I bear a second load 
     for the trunk,
a car rolls up the drive and parks in front 
     of the trashcan house, 
a mere few feet from the bear, still unambiguously 
the car blocking my view of the scavenger
When the driver emerges, I call what I believe 
     to be a salient observation:
“There’s a bear on the other side of your car.”
He responds, “I know.”
Not knowing what else he might know 
     or not know
(is he the house’s owner or a short-term renter?)
I attempt a pitched-voice dialogue 
     at uneasy distance –
the man too far for talking, the bear 
     too close for comfort –
unwilling to take a single step toward to our visitor,
while not entirely clear on the nature 
     of our relations.
To my neighbor I draw attention to the trash can,
implying a preference for its removal.
The other’s replies are brief and unapologetic, 
as if waiting for me to advance a quarrel,
a thing I do not easily do, 
     whether an interested bear 
     is listening or not…
Minutes later, the car loaded for the long trip home,
we roll down the drive to the swerve
and glance up as the man, a woman, and a little girl
lean on the railing of the house’s abbreviated deck,
gazing down in wonder at the bear,
in what appears to be the rapture of the innocents,
as if they have utterly no inkling
     that they’re the creatures in our zoo.

 To see the other two September poems, see Verse-Virtual

Monday, August 16, 2021

Garden of the Seasons: The Abundance That Is Mid-Summer


Songs of Home

Songbirds, but also talk-birds

Jays, Cardinals, Finches, Sparrows, Robins,

they pay their morning visits,

late morning by the time I attend


Discussing the weather in

the long, leafy days of July,

best days of the year,

proclaiming – who knows?

Work done. Eggs laid.

Spouse stuck home in the nest,

time for a stroll around the neighborhood

I'm here. I'm cool.

Are you cool?

Thinking of the Future

 You pull them up,

trim them, cut them short,

rip them from the roots

knowing they will be back again next year,

the ill-placed evergreen expanding its wings to block the sun

 The eagerly green perennial oat grass

expanding its borders into whatever's next door

The familiar creature spins its little hope

   of a flower, a seed to secure tomorrow-land

The undesired, eagerly fertile, always expansive

big-talker with no sex appeal?

He's everywhere,

demanding to know what you plan to do with his earth

that's any better than he is


Still you keep going

You're finding hope around the next bend –

you have to find it somewhere:

The future.

Did you plant any of that?

And if you did,

is it very, very strong?       

Monday, August 2, 2021

The Garden of Verse: My Covid Time Poem "News of the Departed" and More New Poems in the August Issue of Verse-Virtual


  My Covid Year poem "News of the Departed" is up on the August issue of the journal "Better Than Starbucks" -- I don't know if that's a big phrase for the general (or poetry-reading) public, but from now on it works for me. The issue includes work by 105 contributors in a host of categories such as free verse, haikus, formal, experimental and many others.

"News of the Departed" was my attempt to say something about the sorrows and losses so many were suffering during the Covid pandemic (which apparently is not over, so pardon the past tense). It was written during the spring of 2020 when 'life' in nature was returning strongly, as if to reassure us that the Earth was healthy and life would once again continue for us as before. But it would not go on for all of us.

Here's the link

News of the Departed

I have new work in the August issue of Verse-Virtual as well. My thanks to editor Jim Lewis for including 3 poems of mine in an issue he describes as featuring "more new voices, and some old familiar ones whose work never fails to impress."

Here's the beginning of my poem

Calendar Days

August feels a little late 
You’d thought that by this latter date 
You’d surely have more done 
The bees are in the asters
The butterflies are rare 
The twilights have a sharper tone 
But still more time for fun 
September’s songs are mellow 
You’re not going back to school 
Marigolds are yellow 
And resolution is the rule 

And the first lines of my poem 

My Mother Lost Two Houses

My mother lost two houses 
It wasn’t hard to do 
Two fathers passed away as well
A story sad but likewise true
A story she would later tell 
when things – or so it seemed to us –
were mostly going swell 

To read these poems in full and check out the rest of the issue, 
here's the link  Verse-Virtual August 2021

A few more mid-summer garden pics below:

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Garden of Verse: Three Poems in an English Journal... It's Like Seeing the Sun in an English Garden


I just received my contributor's copies of the Scissortail Quarterly, which features three of my poems. This issue was actually published in March, in England, but I think my copy got lost in the Covid time mails. My thanks to editor Brian Fuchs for publishing my poems., and then sending more copies. Because this journal publishes on paper but not online, I'm posting one of these poems, a praise song to Spring, below. 

You can learn more about the Scissortail Quarterly here.

Here's the poem:

The Earth Is Like

     “It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart” -- Rilke, The Songs of  Orpheus, No. 21


The earth is like a younger brother,

who follows his sun around,

copying his ways, rising from the ground each day

who returns from his eternal defeat

to eternal recurrence

Like the child

who refuses to take a nap

when his cankered eyelids are weighted down

with the heavy visors of fatigue

It’s spring again

The earth tu-lips his favorite rhymes

The earth demands to stay up late

to be feted with sweetmeats

and Sugar Pops

The earth is a child who stays home from school

who endlessly sings his favorite ads

who speaks truth to raindrops

who steals cigarettes from sleeping uncles

who plays silly songs from twenty years ago

    on devices of his own devising

that only indulgent babysitters know


who hides brother Winter’s favorite toys

and refuses to give them back until Christmas


A child who demands a pet

to stay up late

to eat dandelions and green berries for supper

who demands to know a secret

and hear a brand new story every night

who demands to be heard


In spring the earth demands to be President

that his team always win

that the wind blow only at his back


In spring, the earth is born yesterday

and will live forever

that green berries turn blue, or red,

as required

That old songs will be sat upon his knee

to sing old men back from tired labors

to scrounge among barbs and brambles

and smell only of lilac in May