Letter from Shuyak Island, Alaska by Helena Minton

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Letter from Shuyak Island, Alaska
by Helena Minton
     To my grandmother

I liked to sit at your dressing table.
Whiskey-colored perfumes smelled of dust.
The photograph beside the mirror showed
a serious face, a man in pince-nez
who died the year I was born.

Nights, lying on the fold-out couch,
I was surrounded: mahogany, Chinese lamps,
and paintings of forests
boxed in by big gold frames.
Nature felt confining,
closing in as you grew old.

This summer I sleep on a barge,
stare at spruce and sky
as I walk on this island which hasn’t changed
since our Celtic ancestors invaded Ireland.

1909 you were twenty-two
I picture you in Boston
practicing piano scales
the day Mount Augustine—the volcano
I see from the beach—spilled lava into the sea.

Perhaps you saw it in the paper, perhaps
not, concerned with music or men or money,
gold-rimmed plates and goblets of your future.
If you thought of any other world
it was Europe, Strauss waltzes,
a honeymoon tour before the war.

PHOTO: The 2006 eruption of Augustine Volcano, which forms Augustine Island in south central coastal Alaska, 174 miles southwest of Anchorage. Photo by Cyrus Read Geophysicist USGS, Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Hokusai in Iowa by Dan Campion

          I no longer remember I am here
     there being no mountain
and I at its foot

          reading the sea-level poems about me
    to Grant Wood whose denim bib
rustles like a skiff’s sail

          perhaps waves in dirt and tassels
     really are like waves of the sea
so long as we do not think about

          whose prairie if I may be forgiven
     a figure of speech furrowing
at the least disturbance

          craft can always prevail
     provided spokes stick out
from the crucial nubs

          and the eye composes this space
     with composure sun setting
or sun rising

          close to the ground
     nothing fancy, you know
simple beyond comprehension

          austere without being witless
     here folk over there scholars
keeping droll actors’ suspicions

          drawing themselves out
     into schoolhouse murals
and innkeepers’ commissions

          as if after lofty effort
     earth-rubbing lines
fashioned a style

IMAGE: Iowa farm (left) by David Mark, used by permission; The Great Wave Off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai (c. 1830). 

Indian Summer by Diane Glancy

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Indian Summer
by Diane Glancy

There’s a farm auction up the road.
Wind has its bid in for the leaves.
Already bugs flurry the headlights
between cornfields at night.
If this world were permanent,
I could dance full as the squaw dress
on the clothesline.
I would not see winter
in the square of white yard-light on the wall.
But something tugs at me.
The world is at a loss and I am part of it
migrating daily.
Everything is up for grabs
like a box of farm tools broken open.
I hear the spirits often in the garden
and along the shore of corn.
I know this place is not mine.
I hear them up the road again.
This world is a horizon, an open sea.
Behind the house, the white iceberg of the barn.

PHOTO: White barn by Michael Vines, used by permission.

Indian River by Wallace Stevens

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Indian River
by Wallace Stevens

The trade-wind jingles the rings in the nets around racks by the docks on Indian River.
It is the same jingle of the water among roots under the banks of the palmettoes,
It is the same jingle of the red-bird breasting the orange-trees out of the cedars.
Yet there is no spring in Florida, neither in boskage perdu, nor on the nunnery beaches.

PHOTO: Indian River Lagoon (Florida). Photo by Florida Institute of Technology. Check out their research and work on the site here.

NOTE: The Indian River Lagoon is a grouping of three lagoons on the Atlantic Coast of Florida. During the last glacial period, which ended 15,000 years ago, the ocean receded. The area that is now the lagoon was grassland, 30 miles from the shore. When the glacier melted, the sea rose, and the lagoon remained as captured water. Indian River Lagoon is one of the most biodiverse estuaries in the Northern Hemisphere, and is home to more than 4,300 species of plants and animals.

A Postcard from Greece by A.E. Stallings

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A Postcard from Greece
by A.E. Stallings

Hatched from sleep, as we slipped out of orbit
Round a clothespin curve new-watered with the rain,
I saw the sea, the sky, as bright as pain,
That outer space through which we were to plummet.
No guardrails hemmed the road, no way to stop it,
The only warning, here and there, a shrine:
Some tended still, some antique and forgotten,
Empty of oil, but all were consecrated
To those who lost their wild race with the road
And sliced the tedious sea once, like a knife.
Somehow we struck an olive tree instead.
Our car stopped on the cliff’s brow. Suddenly safe,
We clung together, shade to pagan shade,
Surprised by sunlight, air, this afterlife.

PHOTO: Village in Greece by Antonios Ntoumas, used by permission. 

Jim’s All-Night Diner by James Tate

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Jim’s All-Night Diner
by James Tate

Solemnity around the samovar
warms the old interlopers:

grief is momentarily rinsed
away. They wait as if for
a certain invitation.

The voices outside are
a panoply of scorn.

These yellow thumbs haul up
the hot liquid, but when
the cup’s drunk it is more

like an orphanage.
The dead letter department,
the salvation army,

the animal rescue league—
these are the only destinations.
One desires to touch

their lowly shoulders
with a plastic spoon

and change them into green rabbits
on a white Alpine mountain
their gauzy faces exhilarated.

Photo by John Matychuk on Unsplash

Return to Florence by Geoffrey Grigson

Florence Cathedral at Night in Florence - Italy

Return to Florence
by Geoffrey Grigson

A theatre-sky, of navy blue, at night:
traffic of the night, it darts, it screams,
it is straight swifts of night with lighted
eyes: upwards I read on a new building’s

Face, Here P.B. Shelley wrote
Ode to the West Wind. Your poet, no. Nor
mine, yet saw wind as he will or wind,
oh, I say willkommen, welcome, ben-

Venuto, oh, bienvenu; and I—I am
here again, after fourteen years: I-you.
I-you shall in a minute see the Duomo’s
domino sides enormous up into the night,

I-you shall past our latteria stroll—there,
that corner ship where, look–for your
sake—the kind man scented my hair. Soon
must Il Bianco come into view,

The Loggia lighted, Dante again in the night,
reading, on walls. I-you. Sleeping. To swifts
of morning tomorrow waking. Dead and to come,
oh, welcome, willkommen, benvenuti, oh, bienvenus!

PHOTO: Florence, Italy, by pitinan, used by permission. 

A Single Night in the City of Gold by Debora Greger

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A Single Night in the City of Gold
by Debora Greger

In the lost city of gold that was Oroville,
the golden age had come and gone.
I was the only person in the vast movie house.
What was showing that winter night
thirty years ago? The Gold Rush, of course,
as if it had arrived in 1925 and never left.

Gilt dripped from the ceiling.
Stains mapped their worthless claims.
And there I was, still in that cheap coat
the color of slush. Who was beside me?
Not you, Love; you were on the other side
of the country, so it was the cold

that threw an icy arm around my shoulders.
A heater coughed, not meaning to intrude.
The projector rattled to life and, down a mineshaft
of dusty light, a blizzard swirled
toward the blank screen of my past.
O silent film of my life, unwind!

It wasn’t the wind but the silence that howled,
ecstatic in the emptiness at the heart of the West.
But Chaplin had a mystic’s hunger
for the finer things: he boiled his boot.
He wound a shoelace on a fork.
He tasted shame for me, and found it sweet.

IMAGE: Theatrical poster for The Gold Rush, a 1925 film starring Charlie Chaplin. 

Helsinki Window by Robert Creeley

finland licensed rsfotography

Helsinki Window
by Robert Creeley
     for Anselm Hollo

Go out into brightened
space out there the fainter
yellowish place it
makes for eye to enter out
to greyed penumbra all the
way to thoughtful searching
sight of all beyond that
solid red both brick and seeming
metal roof or higher black
beyond the genial slope I
look at daily house top on
my own way up to heaven.
*
Same roof, light’s gone
down back of it, behind
the crying end of day, “I
need something to do,” it’s
been again those other
things, what’s out there,
sodden edge of sea’s
bay, city’s graveyard, park
deserted, flattened aspect,
leaves gone colored fall
to sidewalk, street, the end
of all these days but
still this regal light.
*
Trees stripped, rather shed
of leaves, the black solid trunks up
to fibrous mesh of smaller
branches, it is weather’s window,
weather’s particular echo, here
as if this place had been once,
now vacant, a door that had had
hinges swung in air’s peculiar
emptiness, greyed, slumped elsewhere,
asphalt blank of sidewalks, line of
linearly absolute black metal fence.
*
Old sky freshened with cloud bulk
slides over frame of window the
shadings of softened greys a light
of air up out of this dense high
structured enclosure of buildings
top or pushed up flat of bricked roof
frame I love I love the safety of
small world this door frame back
of me the panes of simple glass yet
airy up sweep of birch trees sit in
flat below all designation declaration
here as clouds move so simply away.
*
Windows now lit close out the
upper dark the night’s a face
three eyes far fainter than
the day all faced with light
inside the room makes eye re-
flective see the common world
as one again no outside coming
in no more than walls and post-
card pictures place faces across
that cautious dark the tree no
longer seen more than black edge
close branches somehow still between.
*
He was at the edge of this
reflective echo the words blown
back in air a bubble of suddenly
apparent person who walked to
sit down by the familiar brook and
thought about his fading life
all “fading life” in tremulous airy
perspect saw it hover in the surface
of that moving darkness at the edge
of sun’s passing water’s sudden depth
his own hands’ knotted surface the
sounding in himself of some other.
*
One forty five afternoon red
car parked left hand side
of street no distinguishing
feature still wet day a bicycle
across the way a green door-
way with arched upper window
a backyard edge of back wall
to enclosed alley low down small
windows and two other cars green
and blue parked too and miles
and more miles still to go.
*
This early still sunless morning when a chair’s
creak translates to cat’s cry a blackness still
out the window might be apparent night when the
house still sleeping behind me seems a bag of
immense empty silence and I feel the children
still breathing still shifting their dreams an
enigma will soon arrive here and the loved one
centers all in her heavy sleeping arm out the
leg pushed down bedclothes this body unseen un-
known placed out there in night I can feel all
about me still sitting in this small spare pool of
light watching the letters the words try to speak.
*
Classic emptiness it
sits out there edge of
hierarchic roof top it
marks with acid fine edge
of apparent difference it
is there here here that
sky so up and out and where
it wants to be no birds no
other thing can for a
moment distract it be
beyond its simple space.

PHOTO: Helsinki, Finland, cityscape with Baltic Sea in background by Rsfotography, used by permission.