Impressions en Plein Air by Andrena Zawinski


Impressions en Plein Air
(From Flight 2199, regarding Monet)
by Andrena Zawinski

Far above the street scene graffiti of Paris,
I think of you, Monet, from the air up here
flying this sea foam sky, a shelf of waves
against a floor of mist breaking open
in patches of blue and white.

And I, like some devotee of impending
collisions in texture and transparency, dapple
words as Giverny expatriates might have once
on palettes a harvest of light, cultivating
a poetry of space en plein air.

I have looked, Monet, into the mirror into which
you must have many times glanced or long gazed,
your Orient prints awash in blue flirting the glass
with the constant movement of the sea
in which little else has changed.

You grew big bellied with age, tousle of hair thick
with gray, sight on the wane, canvases growing,
you padding through the long yawn of rooms
painted blue as lichen, yellow as sunflowers,
reflecting lilies afloat between the sky and the water.

But in your garden, beyond the rose blanketed fence,
those flowers brown now in a wilted July. I have looked,
Monet, into the mirror into which you must have
glanced or long gazed recollecting those lilies for me,
yet another tourist here.

They tell me the best part of your life was inhabiting
these gardens. And as the light fades, I cannot help
but wonder where it is next that I will go, and of my words,
what will they become stretching there
en plein air.

First appeared at Adirondack Review and in the author’s collection, Something About.

PHOTO: Water garden at Claude Monet’s home and garden in Giverny, France, by Gilles Bizet.

monet painting

PAINTING: Claude Monet, Water Lilies and Japanese Bridge, 1899, Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey.

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NOTE: Giverny is located on the right bank”of the river Seine at its confluence with the river Epte. Situated 50 miles west-northwest of Paris, in the province of Normandy, the village is best known as the location of Claude Monet‘s garden and home. In 1883, Monet and his family rented a house and gardens in Giverny. In 1890, he had enough money to buy the house and land outright and set out to create the magnificent gardens he wanted to paint. Monet lived and painted in Giverny from 1883 to his death, at age 86, in 1926.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Giverny, a lovely train ride from Paris, is a favorite destination for many to see Monet’s home and gardens as it was for me. To walk where he walked during the most satisfying part of his life was to witness not only his Impressionism on canvas, but to imagine his everyday life “en plein air.” This poem was written on the plane ride home leaving Paris, incorporating qualities of the painting style through color and texture of words.

PHOTO: Claude Monet with some of his water lily paintings. Source: History in Color by Dana Keller


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Andrena Zawinski’s poetry has received numerous awards for lyricism, form, spirituality, and social concern, several of them Pushcart Prize nominations. Her latest book is Landings from Kelsay Books; others are Something About from Blue Light Press (a PEN Oakland Award) and Traveling in Reflected Light from Pig Iron Press (a Kenneth Patchen Prize), along with several chapbooks. Her poetry has previously appeared on Poetry and Places. 

Gjirokastër Stroll by Norma Wightman


Gjirokastër Stroll
by Norma Wightman

Workmen hammer the limestone chunks,
fitting them tightly into a new walkway.
Wheelbarrows of stone and sand stand
helter-skelter among workmen as they
bend to their labors. They scarcely take
notice as tourists weave around the
construction to reach shops beckoning
with carpets, crochet work, and carvings.

I watch the men sculpting the stones
to fit snugly against each other; admire
their deft handling of the weighty rocks.
I ask our guide how much these men might
earn each month—the answer comes first in
Lekes, then Euros. The amount would barely
pay for the smallest carving a nearby tourist
just decided to buy.

PHOTO: Gjirokastër, Albania. Photo by Ervin Gjata.

map al

NOTE: Gjirokastër is a city and in southern Albania, in a valley between the Gjerë mountains and the Drino River. Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, described as “a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate.”


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I toured Albania in 2019, Gjirokastër struck me as the most picturesque of Ottoman-era cities carved from stone. Stone masonry is a major craft in the city, but the pay is poor and many masons travel to Greece to ply their skill for better pay.

PHOTO: Tourist shops and stone streets in Gjirokastër, Albania. Photo by Ervin Gjata.

norma w

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Norma Wightman is a retired teacher who has lived on the California Central Coast for 30 years. She travels widely with her husband, but when at home leads interpretive walks for California State Parks.  No surprise that her favorite poetry themes are related to nature. Her poems have been published in Echoes Poetry Journal, Your Daily Poem (online), and in chat books.

The German Hotel by Charles Bukowski

andernach, germany

The German Hotel
by Charles Bukowski

the German hotel was very strange and expensive and had
double doors to the rooms, very thick doors, and it over—
looked the park and the vasser tern and in the mornings
it was usually too late for breakfast and the maids
would be everywhere changing sheets and bringing in
towels, but you never saw any hotel guests, only the
maids and the desk man and the day desk man was all
right because we were sober during the day but we had
trouble with the night man who was some sort of snob
and not very good with getting the corkscrews and ice
and wine glasses up to us and he was always phoning to
say the other guests objected to our noise.
what other guests?
I always told him that everything was very quiet,
nothing was going on, that somebody must be crazy, so
will you please stop ringing?
but he kept ringing, he became almost like a
companion to us through the night.
but the day man was very nice, he always had little
messages of importance that either meant money, or a
good friend coming to see us, or both.
we stayed at the hotel twice during our trip to
Europe and each time we checked out the day clerk
bowed ever so slightly, he was tall and well-dressed
and pleasant and he said each time: “it was nice to
have you with us. please come here again if you return.”

“thank you,” we said, “thank you.”

it’s our favorite hotel and if I ever get rich I am
going to buy it and fire the night clerk and there will
be enough ice cubes and corkscrews for everybody.

NOTE: Charles Bukowski wrote “The German Hotel” in 1979, the year following his first trip to his birthplace, Andernach, Germany.  The poem appeared in Wormwood Review, No. 81, 1981.

PHOTO: Andernach, Germany. Photo by Yakari-Travel.



NOTE: Andernach is a town with a current population of about 30,000 in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.  Located on the banks of the Rhine River, it is one of the oldest towns in Germany, tracing its origins to a Roman settlement in 12 B.C.

PHOTO: Birthplace of Charles Bukowski, Aktienstraße 12, 56626 Andernach, Germany. Photo by Smalltown Boy.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Quintessential Los Angeles poet and novelist Charles Bukowski was born on August 16, 1920 in Andernach, Germany, where his parents met a few years before. Bukowski’s German-American father Henry was a sergeant in the United States Army serving in Germany after the country’s 1918 defeat during WWI.  Henry had an affair with Katharina Fett, a German friend’s sister, and she became pregnant. Charles Bukowski claimed to have been born out of wedlock, but Andernach marital records show that his parents married one month before his birth. On April 23, 1923, the family sailed from Bremerhaven, Germany, to Baltimore, Maryland, where they settled. In 1930 the family moved to Los Angeles, where Bukowski lived most of his life. He died of leukemia in the Los Angeles community of San Pedro on March 9, 1994. 

At Ease in Tarragona by Margaret Koger


At Ease in Tarragona
by Margaret Koger

I’m barefoot, standing on wet sand as waves froth white at my ankles.
I tug my strapless a little higher as others exult au naturel in the sun.
I wait for the Med to lift me. The man I’ve come lately to love shed
his fear of naked flesh soon after our Idaho childhoods. He swims
as old Sol and his salty sister re-source us.

How did I child in Central Cove, Idaho and adult on the Platja Savinosa?
Whence the Sant Jordi Hotel? (Saint George ready slay Spanish dragons?)
I see myself at three or five or seven crossing a black asphalt border
to hear stories—Helen’s hurricanes, her romance with Danny the Basque
how the old country suffers, money so scarce, sons sent away.

Is this where my wanderlust began? Or were Robert Louis Stevenson’s rhymes
“At the Sea-Side,” and “Away all Boats” in a garden of verses already my future?
“The Land of Nod” and a “Pirate Story”? Yes! Derring-do, swashbuckling me
Kidnapped with David Balfour and Ransome washing up on Treasure Island
perchance to roam the Cévennes in France with a donkey carrying my bags.

My mind a puzzle map of distant shores, not just a country girl forever
harboring sea dreams, dreams held at bay by family anchors until finally
once, twice, and then again to Barcelona, to ramble along the Ramblas
canaries in cages, scented flower stalls, buskers’ weddings, Picasso prints,
beer, and men harmonizing in the Barri Gòtic.

So, the map. Why not try Tarragona? Where Roman ships harbored in Tarraco
Hispania Tarraconensis, one of the most important cities of the empire
where the amphitheater roared with lions as crowds of citizens howled for blood
Augustus meanwhile reclining in a lavish villa; a time-travel view of antiquity
so easily accessible by rail. Yes, why not?

Oh Tarragona! Why so comforting? Mornings at the Sant Jordi, old Domingo’s
forty years of service, shuffling now, baskets of sticky croissants and butter,
café con leche? Yes, and orange juice—before we watch rabbits and goats
scamper across the scrub hillside below. Tarragona, where Sol and his sister
sea renew us, for the sea is fecund, enlivening even when wind whips

the waves into twisted breakers and the surf swells, stealing sweetness
from the beach. Then we stroll the Rambla Nova, eye ships waiting
roadstead to enter the crowded harbor, step down into the amphitheater
photograph the monumental ombú tree, and rest beside the hippodrome,
imagining chariot races, dramas, circuses, and 30,000 roaring Romans.
By sunset we hunger for Sant Jordi’s calm, to gaze out to sea, hoping
to return next year, hoping to hear summer singing its universal song.

PHOTO: Tarragona, Spain. Photo by Pau Sayrol on Unsplash.



NOTE: Tarragona is a port city located in northeast Spain on the Costa Daurada by the Mediterranean Sea. Founded before the 5th century BC, it is the capital of the Province of Tarragona. The city has a population of 201,199 (2014). The city’s Roman ruins have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. A number of beaches, some awarded a Blue Flag designation, line the Mediterranean coast near the city.

PHOTO: Roman Amphitheater, 2nd Century A.D., on the Mediterranean Sea, Tarragona, Spain. Photo by Marc Pascual.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margaret Koger is a Lascaux Prize finalist and an experienced writing instructor from Boise, Idaho. Her poetry characterizes the problems facing our society and the need to make room for nature. Her poetry has been archived by the City of Boise and has appeared in numerous journals including Amsterdam Quarterly, Forbidden Peak Press, Collective Unrest, Chaffey College Review, Thimble, Inez, Headway, Burning House, Voice of Eve, Tiny Seeds Literary Journal, Ponder Savant, and The Limberlost Review.

One Place in New England by David P.Miller

ati 3

One Place in New England
by David P. Miller

to Charles Ives and his symphonic cataclysm

The trumpets and drums of “Putnam’s Camp”
topple over each other in a race toward high-
steppin’ small-town holiday promenade
and its irresistible brass detonation.
“The Housatonic at Stockbridge”: an immersed
orchestral mass, recollected river swelling
from flow and eddy, to inundate, climax
and fall back. A sigh before silence.

Two of Ives’ Three Places in New England
rise a quarter mile in present sound,
reach my black iron table and chair
on a Lenox inn porch. Out of the arched throat
of the Shed at Tanglewood, past the highway
skirting a margin of Stockbridge, uphill
through the apple trees. Music, filtered
by landscape, diffused into roofless sky.
An inchoate tonal pile, I follow this with water
hinting at the corners of my eyes,
because I know these contrary harmonies
from the vinyl I spun at age twelve,
gazing through the living room window
at our own home mountain vision.

Mr. Ives, if only you could hear this
with me, tangled with the traffic below,
the clatter of breakfast gathered
from metal tables by summer workers,
Chairs scraped back into place
across the vintage painted wood
braided with soprano confidences
regarding some kitchen contretemps.
The glory of your all-of-it-at-once,
Charles, that divine discord.

Originally published in The Poetry Porch, 2020

PHOTO: The Apple Tree Inn, Lennox, Massachusetts.

NOTE: Apple Tree Inn is located in the heart of the Berkshires in Lenox, Massachusetts. The property is host to an 1885 Victorian-style manor situated on 22 acres of rolling hills facing Stockbridge Bowl (Lake Mahkeenac).

Appletree Inn - Lenox Mass

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written at Apple Tree Inn, Lenox, Massachusetts, in August 2019. I was sitting on the breakfast porch, and sounds from the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s morning rehearsal filtered uphill. The music itself described the part of the world where I sat.

PHOTO:  The author at Apple Tree Inn, Lennox, Massachusetts (2019).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David P. Miller’s collection, Sprawled Asleep, was published by Nixes Mate Books in 2019. His chapbook, The Afterimages, was published by Červená Barva Press in 2014. His poems have recently appeared in Meat for Tea, Hawaii Pacific Review, Seneca Review, Denver Quarterly, Turtle Island Quarterly, Halfway Down the Stairs, Constellations, The American Journal of Poetry, Lily Poetry Review, Nixes Mate Review, Unlost, and Northampton (UK) Review. His poem “Add One Father to Earth” was awarded an Honorable Mention by Robert Pinsky for the New England Poetry Club’s 2019 Samuel Washington Allen Prize competition. With a background in experimental theater before turning to poetry, David was a member of the multidisciplinary Mobius Artists Group of Boston for 25 years. He was a librarian at Curry College in Massachusetts, from which he retired in June 2018.

Remembering to Ask by Carolyn Chilton Casas

spain makoshark2

Remembering to Ask
by Carolyn Chilton Casas

Returning to Arcos de la Frontera,
after driving through white hill towns
of southern Spain—
Ubrique, Grazalema, silent for siesta
Zahara de la Sierra,
it is dusk as we enter the city gates.

Winding streets coil back and forth
around the city’s hillside.
Most barely allow one-way passage,
with ancient stone walls on either side,
and arches so narrow we must pull in
the mirrors on our tiny rental car.

When we arrived the first day,
the GPS steered us straight
to the center. Now,
it cannot locate our hotel,
commands us to turn
into oncoming traffic, leads us
two times around the outskirts
and back to where we started.

My young son is driving.
Soon it will be dark. I am anxious,
then remember to ask the angels,
who await our pleas for help.

Under my breath, I ask.
At that exact second,
when my petition has just slipped
from my lips,
the system reroutes itself,
guides us directly to the plaza
and our hotel on top of the hill.

PHOTO: Street of the Casco Antiguo, Arcos de la Frontera, Andalucia, Spain. Photo by Makoshark2.

spain rivas

arcos de la frontera 1

NOTE: Arcos de la Frontera is a town and municipality in Andalusia, Spain. It is located on the northern, western, and southern banks of the Guadalete River, which flows around three sides of the city under towering vertical cliffs. The town offers a commanding vista atop a sandstone ridge, from which the peak of San Cristóbal and the Guadalete Valley can be seen. The town gained its name for its role as the frontier of Spain’s 13th-century battle with the Moors.

PHOTO: View of Arcos de la Frontera, Andalusia, Spain. Photo by Alvaro Trabazo Rivas. 

photo 1

PHOTO: The author and her son outside their hotel in Arcos de la Frontera, Spain.

casas 1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carolyn Chilton Casas is a Reiki Master and teacher, a student of metaphysics and philosophy. Her favorite themes for writing are healing, wellness, awareness, and the spiritual journey. Carolyn’s stories and poems have appeared in EnergyJourney of the HeartOdyssey, Reiki News Magazine, Snapdragon, The Art of Healing, as well as other publications. You can read more of Carolyn’s work on Instagram at mindfulpoet. On February 16, 2021, her first collection of poetry, Our Shared Breath, was released.

Setia by James Penha

borneo rafal chicawa

by James Penha

Somewhere between Melak and Tanjung Isuy
along Borneo’s Mahakam River
we entered the house of an old fisherman.
He led us into a sitting room
divided by a short board fence
protecting a shallow pool of water where,
against the wall,
beneath a crucifix of black ironwood,
steeped a crocodile,
peacefully alert, sure
we dare not disturb
the little girl asleep on its back,
her sweet snores
as zephyrs to its nape.

      “My granddaughter and crocodile
are friends. Take picture yes.
You touch beast?”

      He roused the child so Ferdy and I waded
to tap out fingers lightly on the scales
for our camera
entrusted to our host.
We shared the pictures
with the crocodile’s groggy playmate
who rubbed her eyes
to see Polaroid magic.

      Ferdy interpreted the old man’s Indonesian for me:
“Eight year ago, I fish River
and catch baby crocodile in my net.
We eat not crocodile
when the fish are many,
so I throw it back in water,
but I hear cry like baby orang,
human baby.
I fish more, and again net bring crocodile
to my boat,
and again I hold its tail to throw in River,
when I see it cry. And then of course I know
crocodile is twin, is person.”

      Ferdy explained for me:
“Country people drown second girl
when twins are born,
because twins are bad luck, even in Sumatra
with my Batak tribe still,
but sometimes baby fight to live
and gods help.
They turn baby into animal. The old man he say:
      “‘So I take her home. We feed her
as we feed my granddaughter
who has same age.
She eat not food of crocodile,
only food of my granddaughter.’”
      The old man laughed,
said to me in English,
“She is person. They are as sisters now yes.

      “We call her Setia.” Faithfulness,
Ferdy translated. “And she thank my family
with luck and fortune.”

      We left a gift of rupiah.
Aboard our boat again, I asked Ferdy
if he believes.

      “The people believe,” he said.

      “But you? You wear a university ring on your finger,
you are no animist. What do you

      “I believe what I see.
You not?”

      I laughed, pressed him for logic, reason
beyond reasons.

      “‘That is my opinion,’ in Indonesia we say, ‘You have yours.’”

      And Ferdy bore me deeper down the Mahakam,
into the Borneo jungle.

PHOTO: Village on the Mahakam River, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, Borneo. Photo by Rafal Cichawa.

Regional_map_of_SE_Asia_with_Borneo_Highlighted.svg copy

NOTE: Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. It is located north of Java, west of Sulawesi, and east of Sumatra. The island is politically divided among three countries: Malaysia and Brunei in the north, and Indonesia to the south. It is the only island in the world to be politically administered by three countries at once. Approximately 73% of the island is Indonesian territory. In the north, the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak make up about 26% of the island. The sovereign state of Brunei, located on the north coast, comprises about 1% of Borneo’s land area. A little more than half of the island is in the Northern Hemisphere, including Brunei and the Malaysian portion, while the Indonesian portion spans the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

MAP: Location of Borneo in Southeast Asia.

setia_Ferdy_guide copy

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: One of the best trips my partner Ferdy and I ever took in Indonesia was a week’s journey on a motorboat, with pilot, guide, and cook, down the Mahakam River in Kalimantan, Indonesia’s piece of Borneo. I narrate exactly what I saw and heard at the most intriguing of our stops along the shore in the poem “Setia,” originally published in Pacific International 30 years ago!

PHOTO: Setia with visitors (from left) Ferdy and river guide, along with the little girl she lives with.

penha river sumatra

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work has lately appeared in several anthologies: The View From Olympia (Half Moon Books, UK), Queers Who Don’t Quit (Queer Pack, EU), What We Talk About It When We Talk About It, (Darkhouse Books), Headcase, (Oxford UP), Lovejets (Squares and Rebels), and What Remains (Gelles-Cole). His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Twitter: @JamesPenha

A Perfect Summer Day by Milton P. Ehrlich

canada prince edward rixie

A Perfect Summer Day
by Milton P. Ehrlich

A perfect day begins the night before.
A mackerel net is set in a fireball of a setting sun.
Up at dawn before marauding seals
have cleaned off the catch,
I fillet them on the shore tossing bloody entrails
to screeching gulls hovering overhead
I deliver a feed to my neighbors and friends.
I’m awed by the grandeur of pristine air
and sun-flooded clouds as white as a linen wedding dress.
In a sky lit from behind by a quintessential blueness,
I gather wild strawberries for breakfast.
I munch on June Ellen’s homemade granola
and one of her gargantuan cowboy-cookies.
I cruise across St Mary’s Bay in a Boston Whaler
to snorkel off Wheeler’s Bar at low tide for the mother lode
of bar-clams and maybe even poach a lobster or a bushel
of hefty crabs.
While mackerel and beer-soaked corn are on the grill,
I’ll down a few Mooseheads, before sauntering along
the shore eyeballing red foxes, who sit like Cheshire cats
in front of an old lobster box.
It was used as a table when they were fed by Leonard,
who is now propped up on a throne of pillows.
His glazed eyes still search the horizon for his nemesis,
the seal, his shotgun at the ready, only now, it’s just a cane.
I’m reassured to still see herons, sentinels of the bay,
standing on one leg, hunting for morsels of the sea.
A bevy of piping plovers and terns tiptoe on the sandy shore
in a flurry of white feathers nattering with ospreys, gulls
and cormorant cronies.
Scattering crows, squawking chanticleers cackle,
caw-cawing ahead of me.
I see apparitions of driftwood jungle-creatures,
a gallery of sculptures even Rodin and Giacometti might envy:
A horse head with knots for chestnut eyes, a gnarled octopus
curled around cattail punks reaching for the sky, an elephant
with a broken tusk plunked in plush maidenhair marsh-fern
as if it were a grove where elephants go to die.
A gaunt giraffe feeds on fluttering green leaves
high up in an aspen’s branches, a reindeer’s
bleached white antlers protrude in rust-colored clay
and verdant kelp.
A unicorn dips his horn into the swirling Gasperaux,
sweetening the gushing freshet flow
so smelt can leave the estuary and breed in the sea.
A slow walk in the labyrinthine shallow water
empties my mind into quietness.
monitor the underwater show:
under lucent plankton, schools of silver minnows flash by.
Barnacle-covered fiddler crabs careen sideways
like inebriated pals, a pair of small red fish
stealthily lumber along resembling twin submarines.
I step over cracked carapaces, steamers
and chipped blue mussels
revealing an opalescent inner layer.

Suddenly, I’m dazzled by a four-foot eel darting away
into emerald green eel grass,
reminding me of how Leonard once trapped a slew
of squirming eels, nailing them to a bench, skinning
and smoking them for shipment to a Bavarian Rathskeller.
On the way back I see my father’s profile in a passing cloud
and feel an ache of regret that such an avid fisherman
never got to visit my paradisial bay.
Observing my shadow I reflect on how ephemeral
and transient we are, and how elusive moments
of perfect happiness can be. I also wonder
how come my shadow is so much taller than me.

My perfect day ends slumbering in an old iron bed
with creaking springs that once cranked out
a progeny of eighteen They made do with a hand pump
and a two-seat outhouse, still standing next to the barn
listing to the side like a slowly sinking ship.

PHOTO: Cormorants perched on pier pilings, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Photo by Rixie. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There is no more beautiful destination than Prince Edward Island, Canada. This poem recounts a day in the life on the island.


NOTE: Prince Edward Island is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, west of Cape Breton Island, north of the Nova Scotia peninsula, and east of New Brunswick. Its southern shore bounds the Northumberland Strait. The island has two urban areas, and in total, is the most densely populated province in Canada. The island’s landscape is pastoral, with wooded areas and rolling hills. The coastline has a combination of long beaches, dunes, red sandstone cliffs, salt water marshes, and numerous bays and harbors. 

MAP: Prince Edward Island circled in red. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Milton P. Ehrlich Ph.D. is an 89-year-old psychologist and a veteran of the Korean War. He has published poems in Poetry Review, The Antigonish Review, London Grip, Arc Poetry Magazine, Descant Literary Magazine, Wisconsin Review, Red Wheelbarrow, and The New York Times.

In the Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy by Wilda Morris

italy runoman

In the Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy
by Wilda Morris

On this cool November night, I sit at an outside café
surrounded on two sides by five-foot glass walls.
From here, I can see the Baptistery, a corner
of the Giotto’s bell tower. Beyond the Duomo
with its red-orange dome, my view is obscured
by chocolates reflected from a store window.

The piazza is alive with parents pushing strollers,
tourists from a dozen nations dragging suitcases,
snapping selfies on cell phones. Photographers
focus Nikons and Canons. A police car backs out.
Bicycles weave between pedestrians. A toddler
clinging to a big red balloon rides her father’s shoulder.

Leashed black labs sniff each other; the owners
laugh, say ciao. and begin to chat.
The young donna in short skirt twirls
toward the suave young man as his dog
licks his leg. They compare canine companions.
He grins as he tells her a tale about his.

She waves goodbye and starts to go, pulling
on her leash. He calls her back. After more talk,
she puts his number in her cell phone, he puts hers
in his. My lasagna went cold as I watched
something warm between them.

PHOTO:  Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy (2017). Photo by Runoman.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: On my first trip to Italy, I had to choose between Florence and Venice, and picked Venice. It hurt my heart when the train went past Florence, though, and I didn’t get to experience any of that wonderful city. When I had an opportunity to attend a writing workshop in Orvieto, I added several days in Florence to my itinerary. Early one evening, I ordered dinner at a sidewalk cafe in the Piazza del Duomo. Before I went back to the hostel where I was staying, I drafted this poem about my experience there. It is different from my poems about the cathedral, the art galleries, and the Arno River, but it records a fond memory.

Wilda - on the Duomo roof overlooking Florence

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wilda Morris, Workshop Chair, Poets and Patrons of Chicago, and past President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, enjoys traveling as much as writing. She has published over 650 poems in anthologies, webzines, and print publications. She has won awards for formal and free verse and haiku. Her most recent collection is Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick (Kelsay Books, 2019) Her poetry blog at wildamorris.blogspot features a monthly poetry contest.

PHOTO: The author on the roof of the cathedral in Florence, Italy, a few years ago.

Home of the Desert Rat by Robert Coats


Home of the Desert Rat
by Robert Coats

…I shall give myself
to the desert again—that I, in its golden dust
may be blown from a barren peak,
broadcast over the sun-lands…
                                   —Maynard Dixon, 1935

Three arms of a cloud fuse to form an arrow
pointing at the summit of Picacho Peak,
its flanks of red-orange rock
riven by deep arroyos.

The shack of the Desert Rat is darkened
by a cliff’s shadow thrown across the terrace.
Behind the shack, the steep bank of a desert wash
and nearby, a Model T,
a copse of scraggly cottonwood.

What wound would drive
a man to live here in solitude?
Perhaps at Belleau Wood
he saw comrades blown to bits.
Or returned home from work to find
his house in flames, his young wife
and baby trapped inside.

In the late afternoon light
he walks across the boulder-strewn terrace
to watch the mountain’s purple shadows
drawing long.

At night he steps out to gaze
at the Milky Way’s long shawl
the vast and silent sky.

PAINTING: Home of the Desert Rat by Maynard Dixon (1944-1945), Phoenix Art Museum.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  This is an ekphrastic poem; that is, a poem about a painting or photograph. Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) was a well-known painter who lived and worked in the American Southwest, painting the landscapes and people of the region, including many Native Americans.  During the last years of his life, he and his third wife (Edith Hamlin) divided their time between Mount Carmel, Utah, and Tucson, Arizona. By the time of this painting, Dixon was struggling with emphysema, and his mobility was reduced. ¶ The exact location where Dixon set up his easel is unknown, but the available evidence—the chevron pattern on the side of the mountain, the shape of the summit, and the deep arroyo at its base—indicates that the mountain is Picacho Peak, 40 miles northwest of Tucson. But, curiously, the red-orange color (typical of Utah sandstone) and lack of vegetation on the mountain do not match what is shown in the image on Google Earth. Picacho Peak is basalt, a black volcanic rock, and its vegetation is typical of the Sonoran Desert.  We know that Dixon was very fond of the red sandstone landscapes, so it seems likely that his choice of color made use of his well-earned artistic license.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robert Coats has been writing poetry for more than 40 years. Aside from four poems previously published by Poetry and Places, his poems have appeared on the Canary Website, in Orion, Zone 3, Windfall, Song of the San Joaquin, in two anthologies (Fresh Water: Poems from the Rivers, Lakes and Streams and Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California), in the hand-printed and bound book Gathering Black Walnuts from Cedar Fence Press, and in his book The Harsh Green World, published by Sugartown Publishing.  He is a Research Hydrologist with the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.