(no subject)

Late October Camping in the Sawtooths
by Gary Snyder

Sunlight climbs the snowpeak
glowing pale red
Cold sinks into the gorge
shadows merge.
Building a fire of pine twigs
at the foot of a cliff,
Drinking hot tea from a tin cup
in the chill air—
Pull on sweater and roll a smoke.
a leaf
beyond fire
Sparkles with nightfall frost.

(no subject)

Clara: In the Post Office
by Linda Hasselstrom

I keep telling you, I’m not a feminist.
I grew up an only child on a ranch,
so I drove tractors, learned to ride.
When the truck wouldn’t start, I went to town
for parts. The man behind the counter
told me I couldn’t rebuild a carburetor.
I could: every carburetor on the place. That’s
necessity, not feminism.
I learned to do the books
after my husband left me and the debts
and the children. I shoveled snow and pitched hay
when the hired man didn’t come to work.
I learned how to pull a calf
when the vet was too busy. As I thought,
the cow did most of it herself; they’ve been
birthing alone for ten thousand years. Does
that make them feminists?
It’s not
that I don’t like men; I love them—when I can.
But I’ve stopped counting on them
to change my flats or open my doors.
That’s not feminism; that’s just good sense.

(no subject)

September
by Linda Pastan

it rained in my sleep
and in the morning the fields were wet

I dreamed of artillery
of the thunder of horses

in the morning the fields were strewn
with twigs and leaves

as if after a battle
or a sudden journey

I went to sleep in the summer
I dreamed of rain

in the morning the fields were wet
and it was autumn

(no subject)

Love at First Sight
by Jennifer Maier

You always hear about it—
a waitress serves a man two eggs
over easy and she says to the cashier,
That is the man I’m going to marry,
and she does. Or a man spies a woman
at a baseball game; she is blond
and wearing a blue headband,
and, being a man, he doesn’t say this
or even think it, but his heart is a homing bird
winging to her perch, and next thing you know
they’re building birdhouses in the garage.
How do they know, these auspicious lovers?
They are like passengers on a yellow
bus painted with the dreams
of innumerable lifetimes, a packet
of sepia postcards in their pocket.
And who’s to say they haven’t traveled
backward for centuries through borderless
lands, only to arrive at this roadside attraction
where Chance meets Necessity and says,
What time do you get off?

(no subject)

Future Plans
by Kate Barnes


When I am an old, old woman I may very well be
living all alone like many another before me
and I rather look forward to the day when I shall have
a tumbledown house on a hill top and behave
just as I wish to. No more need to be proud—
at the tag end of life one is at last allowed
to be answerable to no one. Then I shall wear
a shapeless felt hat clapped on over my white hair,
sneakers with holes for the toes, and a ragged dress.
My house shall be always in a deep-drifted mess,
my overgrown garden a jungle. I shall keep a crew
of cats and dogs, with perhaps a goat or two
for my agate-eyed familiars. And what delight
I shall take in the vagaries of day and night,
in the wind in the branches, in the rain on the roof!
I shall toss like an old leaf, weather-mad, without reproof.
I’ll wake when I please, and when I please I shall doze;
whatever I think, I shall say; and I suppose
that with such a habit of speech I’ll be let well alone
to mumble plain truth like an old dog with a bare bone.

(no subject)

Portrait of Viola
by William Reichard

They lived without electricity.
Their water came from a hand pump
at the base of the windmill.
A Nebraska farm, 1935.
She said, you can’t miss what you
never had.
Drugstore goldfish
in the water tank turned into
giant orange and white carp,
Koi prized in another country,
another class. Her father threw them
out into the prairie claiming
they’d poison the cattle.
Rattlesnakes, a way of life,
careful checking before eggs
were gathered from the darkness
of nesting boxes. Everywhere, heat.
Gone with the Wind
in 1939. She was fourteen.
During the war, she looked like
one of the Andrews Sisters.
First child at twenty, last at thirty-nine.
All survived save one, gone
at thirty. The death of her daughter
turned her hair white.
Eighty-four and she’s lived alone
for longer than she was married,
her husband a man with a wild imagination
but a weak mind. He was born
the year the Titanic sank.
That should have told me something.
Now, central air for the worst
of the heat. In her lifetime:
organ transplants, space flight,
television, artificial hearts.
On still nights she sleeps with
just a sheet, the window open wide,
summer’s heat hard and dry.

(no subject)

Canning
by Joyce Sutphen

It’s what she does and what her mother did.
It’s what I’d do if I were anything
like her mother’s mother—or if the times
demanded that I work in my garden,
planting rows of beans and carrots, weeding
the pickles and potatoes, picking worms
off the cabbages.

Today she's canning
tomatoes, which means there are baskets
of red Jubilees waiting on the porch
and she’s been in the cellar looking for jars.
There’s a box of lids and a heap of gold
rings on the counter. She gets the spices
out; she revs the engine of the old stove.

Now I declare her Master of Preserves!
I say that if there were degrees in canning
she would be summa cum laude—God knows
she’s spent as many hours at the sink peeling
the skins off hot tomatoes as I have
bent over a difficult text. I see
her at the window, filling up the jar,
packing a glass suitcase for the winter.

(no subject)

Cruising with the Beach Boys
by Dana Gioia

So strange to hear that song again tonight
Traveling on business in a rented car
Miles from anywhere I’ve been before.
And now a tune I haven’t heard for years
Probably not since it last left the charts
Back in L.A. in 1969.
I can’t believe I know the words by heart
And can’t think of a girl to blame them on.

Every lovesick summer has its song,
And this one I pretended to despise,
But if I was alone when it came on,
I turned it up full-blast to sing along —
A primal scream in croaky baritone,
The notes all flat, the lyrics mostly slurred.
No wonder I spent so much time alone
Making the rounds in Dad’s old Thunderbird.

Some nights I drove down to the beach to park
And walk along the railings of the pier.
The water down below was cold and dark,
The waves monotonous against the shore.
The darkness and the mist, the midnight sea,
The flickering lights reflected from the city —
A perfect setting for a boy like me,
The Cecil B. DeMille of my self-pity.

I thought by now I’d left those nights behind,
Lost like the girls that I could never get,
Gone with the years, junked with the old T-Bird.
But one old song, a stretch of empty road,
Can open up a door and let them fall
Tumbling like boxes from a dusty shelf,
Tightening my throat for no reason at all,
Bringing on tears shed only for myself.

(no subject)

How to Take a Walk
by Leo Dangel

This is farming country.
The neighbors will believe
you are crazy
if you take a walk
just to think and be alone.
So carry a shotgun
and walk the fence line.
Pretend you are hunting
and your walking will not
arouse suspicion.
But don’t forget
to load the shotgun.
They will know
if your gun is empty.
Stop occasionally.
Cock your head and listen
to the doves you never see.
Part the tall weeds
with your hand and inspect
the ground.
Sniff the air as a hunter would.
(That wonderful smell
of sweet clover is a bonus.)
Soon you will forget
the gun in your hands,
but remember, someone
may be watching.
If you hear beating wings
and see the bronze flash
of something flying up,
you will have to shoot it.

(no subject)

Cinderella's Diary
by Ron Koertge

I miss my stepmother. What a thing to say,
but it’s true. The prince is so boring: four
hours to dress and then the cheering throngs.
Again. The page who holds the door is cute
enough to eat. Where is he once Mr. Charming
kisses my forehead goodnight?

Every morning I gaze out a casement window
at the hunters, dark men with blood on their
boots who joke and mount, their black trousers
straining, rough beards, calloused hands, selfish,
abrupt…

Oh, dear diary—I am lost in ever after:
those insufferable birds, someone in every
room with a lute, the queen calling me to look
at another painting of her son, this time
holding the transparent slipper I wish
I’d never seen.