Four Poems by Grant Clauser

Fireline Trail

This trail, marked in yellow blazes
for the mapless and lost, where lookouts
once kept eyes awake for smoke and fire,
begins in white pines, the edges
needlesoft and quiet, then blends
into proud old chestnut oaks standing
straight a hundred feet in a kind
of wisdom. At the top, where paper birch
lean toward the gorge, unwrapping
in the almost noonness of the sun,
a meadow filled with low blueberry
bushes stretches until the mountain
bends to the river. I pick my fill
of ripe ones, miles from highway
traffic and the river now dying
from mine acid. Here, so much free sweetness
within easy reach the world must be
playing a trick. Maybe it’s not
that life is hard. Just our expectations
too high. Eyes bigger than your stomach
my mother used to warn. I’ll leave most
of the berries here for birds. Begin
the switchback down to the car, back
through those oaks, the dark quiet
of pines, the day’s haze that leads
toward home, the taste of blueberries,
the whole marvelous mountain,
still on my lips.

*

Weeping Willow

When you’re eight years old
and pull enough of the whip-like
branches into your hands, take
a running start and lift your legs,
half the tree may bend, but still
you’re flying for a little while,
swinging in the sun’s arc
over the rock your brother calls
the Volkswagen because it’s almost
as big as the neighbors’ blue Beetle,
and when you let go, wild leaping
out over the rock onto soft ground,
rolling down the hill into the always
wet part of the yard, you know that
sting in your hands from landing
will go away, just like everything,
the last two times your parents packed
to move, some new tree waiting
at the new house, your knee bruised
again through your hand-me-down jeans.

*

White Pine

Down in the ravine
where the Black Creek’s
stoneflies compete
with gravity, and the water
competes with boulders,
almost everything
is part shadow, even me
when I crept up on the bear
scratching his rump
on the rough bark
of a pine, the small tree
shaking with every shove
of his legs and spine
til needles sprinkled
down on him and into
the cool brook trout
waters of the creek.
This went on for minutes.
The tree pushing back
against the yearling’s itch,
the creek slipping by
unnoticed, me frozen
in shadow trying to save
every moment in memory,
that place I go to more
often these days,
that place I feel better
in, rubbing shoulders
with the past, making
the minutes last.

*

White Pine II

Who doesn’t stop to marvel
at big trees? This forest, clear cut
completely at least twice shouldn’t
have a pine so massive.
It would take my whole family
to wrap around its trunk
like a bear hug, reward
for standing still
a couple centuries.
Upstream a mile
the remains of a mill
that ground this mountain bare.
Downstream a cemetery
remembers the flood
that washed the valley clean.
If this great old tree
remembers anything
I hope it forgets the sounds
of saws and chains.
The train whistle bearing
coal to Philadelphia.
The one great fire
that finished finally
the town. I hope
for wind and sun. Some
redstarts nesting
100 feet in boughs
still growing, getting
farther and farther
from the ground.

*

Grant Clauser is the author of five books including Muddy Dragon on the Road to Heaven (winner of the Codhill Press Poetry Award) and Reckless Constellations (winner of the Cider Press Poetry Award). Poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Cortland Review, Rattle, Poet Lore, Tar River Poetry and others. He works as an editor and teaches at Rosemont College.

Three Poems by Richard Bloom

Dear Larry Levis

Every forty minutes, the baby birds cry out for food.
Their beaks wide open,
Their throats, pink and red, like the throats of flowers.

If a berry drops from their beak, they can’t pick it up.
They’re just like the old people at the Hamilton Senior Center.
They can’t feed themselves, either.

And when the baby birds are satisfied, they no longer cry.
The flower of their desert colored throats close.
They puff out their scanty feathers.

What happened to their parents? They’re always better off with their parents.
Now I guess, I’m their mother.
Dear Larry Levis, my spine remembers wings.

*

Ballet in the trees

The sky is a washed-out blue.
The grass, a sickly brown.
The un-raked leaves crumple
like first drafts tossed in a waste basket.
I sit on the porch steps and watch a spider
pull one long strand of silk from
gutter to rainspout.
The soil in the field sleeps,
wanting warmth for the coming winter.

The trees are but half bare. Beside
the golden sycamore in my neighbor’s yard
stands a red maple. Its’ scarlet leaves
diminish the frail gold.
The sycamore is Diaghilev.
The maple is Nijinsky.
One says to the other: “Astonish me.”

*

Dust and baseball

I am eating a chicken burrito in Sonora when two
outfielders from the Mexican Baseball League stop
in for a beer.

I ask them to autograph the glove I’ve carried with me
since childhood. It’s a Rawlings,
soiled, oiled, and blackened
by the plays of a thousand games.

The fields of Sonora are dry as a prisoner’s throat.
The buses from West Texas
roll past the supermercado
and the dinner plate of the moon.

The bus depot/luncheonette is open
all night for passengers, police, and traffickers.
It is the only place I ever saw a man kick a dog.

The two great institutions of Sonora are dust and baseball.

Paul, my best friend growing up, came to Mexico to play ball.
The Diablos Rojos signed him.
They called him Kid. He played catcher.
One day, in mirage inducing heat, a girl named Rosa came to see him play.
They had met at a bar somewhere in town.
He didn’t play well that day. He never played well again.

He and Rosa got married.
She took him to Guadalajara to work for her father.
He was a businessman.
He ran one brothel and seven funeral parlors.

A year later, his head was found in a ditch.
In his catcher’s mitt.

*

Richard Bloom has published in various magazines, including Seneca Review, New York Quarterly, Barnwood International, and Eunoia Review. He has attended Breadloaf, and studied poetry writing with several accomplished poets at the 92nd Street Y. He worked in advertising for many years. Currently, he is a substitute teacher in the NYC public schools.

Treescape by Amy Barone

Treescape

A peephole to the world outside
reveals shades of green,
brilliant budding leaves.

The collage of trees shines
on a pink Japanese maple
as big crows probe a patch of dirt.

Mockingbirds aren’t chirping;
they’re belting out arias—so much to say
after their winter isolation.

I invited the morning shower
to wash away the cold,
help a heartier spring take root.

Rain made it easier to stay inside
and while away another Sunday.

*

Amy Barone’s latest poetry collection, We Became Summer, from New York Quarterly Books, was released in 2018. She wrote chapbooks Kamikaze Dance (Finishing Line Press) and Views from the Driveway (Foothills Publishing.) Barone belongs to the Poetry Society of America and the brevitas online poetry community. She lives in NYC.