SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: A WINTER POEM BY ALFRED AUSTIN

"Mit Reif vom Nebel belegte Rose." Photographer: Armin Kübelbeck, CC-BY-SA, Wikimedia Commons

“Mit Reif vom Nebel belegte Rose.” Photographer: Armin Kübelbeck, CC-BY-SA, Wikimedia Commons

MY WINTER ROSE
By Alfred Austin

Why did you come when the trees were bare?
Why did you come with the wintry air?
When the faint note dies in the robin’s throat,
And the gables drip and the white flakes float?

What a strange, strange season to choose to come,
When the heavens are blind and the earth is dumb:
When nought is left living to dirge the dead,
And even the snowdrop keeps its bed!

Could you not come when woods are green?
Could you not come when lambs are seen?
When the primrose laughs from its childlike sleep,
And the violets hide and the bluebells peep?

When the air as your breath is sweet, and skies
Have all but the soul of your limpid eyes,
And the year, growing confident day by day,
Weans lusty June from the breast of May?

Yet had you come then, the lark had lent
In vain his music, the thorn its scent,
In vain the woodbine budded, in vain
The rippling smile of the April rain.

Your voice would have silenced merle and thrush,
And the rose outbloomed would have blushed to blush,
And Summer, seeing you, paused, and known
That the glow of your beauty outshone its own.

So, timely you came, and well you chose,
You came when most needed, my winter rose.
From the snow I pluck you, and fondly press
Your leaves ‘twixt the leaves of my leaflessness.


Today poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here accordingly.


Alfred Austin (1835 – 1913) was an English poet and journalist who succeeded Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as poet laureate. His acerbic criticism and jingoistic verse in the 1870s led Robert Browning to dismiss him as a “Banjo-Byron,” and his appointment to the laureateship in 1896 was much mocked. He also published a series of stiff verse dramas, some novels, and a good deal of lyrical but very minor nature poetry. A patriotic poet of the most confident phase of the British Empire, his work lacked the resonance of Rudyard Kipling’s. (Annotated biography courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica, with edits.)


Editor’s Note: I love the use of metaphor in today’s poem, and the playful way language is paired with it. Moments like “And the year, growing confident day by day, / Weans lusty June from the breast of May.” I am taken, as well, by the allusion to the beloved, depicted as a winter rose arriving at what appears to be an inopportune time. But the poet eventually realizes that love–as it inevitably does–arrived exactly when it was most needed, occupying a space that had been waiting for just such an arrival: “You came when most needed, my winter rose. / From the snow I pluck you, and fondly press / Your leaves ‘twixt the leaves of my leaflessness.”


Want to read more winter poetry?
The Academy of American Poets
The Poetry Foundation

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ALAN TOLTZIS

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FORTY-TWO PLACES
By Alan Toltzis

As time passed,
they didn’t need to study love,
pray for it,
or even speak its name.

Instead,
they lived their love
silently.
Secrets remained secret

as love sank into unbending bones,
fused with supple corpuscles,
and seeped through soft skin
beneath their fingernails.

Only by looking back
and naming each
of the 42 places (in order)
they had journeyed

did they realize they had grown
into an old couple
who survived a long-forgotten stopover
of bickering and concession

and the should-
and should-not-have-saids
they should never
have crossed

leaving only unspoken love
perpetuated by the comfort and intimacy
of taking each other
for granted.


Today’s poem is from the collection The Last Commandment, published by Poetica Publishing, copyright © 2015 by Alan Toltzis, and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Alan Toltzis is the author of the book of poems, The Last Commandment (Poetica Publishing, 2015). His work appears in print and online publications including The Provo Canyon Review, Poetica Magazine, Burningword Literary Journal, Soul-Lit, and Red Wolf Journal. Alan is working on his second book of poems and is developing The Psalm Project, to teach poetry to middle- and high-school students.

Editor’s Note: There is something of a prayer in today’s poem. A thanksgiving. Something quiet, humble, and honest. Something lived, understood, known. What it is to journey throughout a lifetime of relationship. What it is to look back and reflect upon “the should- / and should-not-have-saids … leaving only unspoken love / perpetuated by the comfort and intimacy / of taking each other / for granted.”

Want to read more from Alan Toltzis?
Alan Toltzis’ Official Website
“Miles Away” in the Red Wolf Journal
The Provo Canyon Review
“Noah” in the Red Wolf Journal
“Elegy for 107696” via Poetica Publishing

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: EDGAR ALLAN POE FOR HALLOWEEN AND DIA DE LOS MUERTOS

Edgar Allan Poe (public domain)

 

By Edgar Allan Poe:

SPIRITS OF THE DEAD

Thy soul shall find itself alone
’Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee for ever.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

THE RAVEN

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“ ’Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon I heard again a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
“Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not an instant stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of “Never—nevermore.”

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamplght gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Angels whose faint foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!

(Today’s poems are in the public domain, belong to the masses, and appear here today accordingly.)

Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was an American author, poet, editor, and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, and is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre. He is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. (Annotated biography of Edgar Allan Poe courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Editor’s Note: Your faithful editor of this Saturday Poetry Series is a HUGE fan of Halloween. This year I’ve decided to celebrate with poetry! “The Raven” is a classic poem of the macabre, and as such is a perfect nod to All Hallow’s Eve. I am particularly partial to this rendition by the Simpsons, because Halloween should have both tricks and treats involved. In addition to “The Raven,” well-known and beloved, I was pleasantly surprised to find “Spirits of the Dead,” a poem that calls out to Dia de los Muertos, when the veils thin between the worlds of the living and the dead and we welcome the spirits of those who came before us. “[F]or then / The spirits of the dead, who stood / In life before thee, are again / In death around thee, and their will / Shall overshadow thee; be still.” Happy Halloween!

Want to read more by and about Edgar Allan Poe?
PoeStories
The Poetry Foundation
Academy of American Poets
Poe Museum

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: KATIE WOODZICK

Flirting_with_Danger


YEARNING
By Katie Woodzick

She delivers my sloe gin fizz
and her slim hips testify
to an ecstasy that has
not yet been experienced.

I want to trace
the subtle protuberances
of her hip bones
(ghost-like, merely a suggestion
of bone pressing against her tender skin)

I sip my gin
instead of
tracing her hips.

Because she is forbidden.
Because my jaw locks.
Because I don’t know how.


“Yearning” originally appeared in woodzickwrites, and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Katie Woodzick is a writer, actress, director, feminist and External Relations Manager for Hedgebrook. She considers herself a smattering of Rogue from X-Men, Mae West and Tina Fey, among others. She holds a strong belief that leopard print is a neutral. Publications include Floating Bridge Press (Fall 2014 Issue) and Writer’s Digest Short Short Story contest (7th place, 2012 competition.)

Editor’s Note: Ahhhh… alliteration. The “sloe gin fizz,” the “slim hips,” the “ecstasy… not yet… experienced.” And the joyous interplay of alliteration and content! That we, the reader, are treated to gratification and pleasure with this sensual alliteration, and yet the words themselves insist that ecstasy has not been experienced. While the playful nature of the poem’s acoustics arouses our senses, the poem’s narrative unfolds, equally alluring. And in the end we are treated to a glimmer of honesty an introspection, even defeat. Despite all the attraction, all the fantasy, in the end, “I sip my gin / instead of / tracing her hips.” Why? “Because I don’t know how.”

Want to read more by Katie Woodzick?
Katie Woodzick – Theatrical Mustang
woodzickwrites – At the intersection of theatre and poetry
Floating Bridge
Whidbey Life Magazine

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: JENNY SADRE-ORAFAI

Sadre-Orafai

KARAJ
By Jenny Sadre-Orafai

When I miss her, I open my popout map.
I spill my face into the streets of Tehran.
I hide in Laleh Park. I read street names
aloud, like I’m reporting to someone.
I pretend I see things no one else can─
who took the Peacock Throne, how the burnt
city fell. I say Karaj like I’m telling you your future.


Today’s poem was originally published in Thrush Poetry Journal and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Jenny Sadre-Orafai is the author of four chapbooks. Her first collection Paper, Cotton, Leather will be published this fall by Press 53. Recent poetry has appeared in Redivider, Thrush Poetry Journal, PANK, Rhino, Sixth Finch, ILK, iO: A Journal of New American Poetry, and Poemeleon. Recent prose has appeared in The Rumpus, The Toast, and Delirious Hem. She is co-founding editor of Josephine Quarterly and an Associate Professor of English at Kennesaw State University.

Editor’s Note: I fell in love with today’s poem because it so intimately and distinctly tells the poet’s story, and yet, this is not her story. I have my own Karaj, and anyone who has ever loved a city that lies on the other side of the world—anyone who has ever loved a city by way of memory and longing—speaks the language of this poem. I am reminded, too, of Danusha Laméris’ beautiful poem, “Arabic,” of the ways in which love—of a language, of a people, of a place—remain with us across the span of distance and time. When Jenny Sadre-Orafai leaves us with her (killer!) end-line, I know what my future holds. I know what city waits for me on distant shores.

Want to read more by Jenny Sadre-Orafai?
Official Website
Two poems with audio in PANK
Creative nonfiction essay with audio in The Rumpus

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE SONG OF SONGS

739px-Song_of_solomonDepiction of Solomon and Pharaoh’s daughter reciting the Song of Solomon.
This image is in the public domain.


From THE SONG OF SONGS
From the Hebrew Bible

I am a rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.

As a lily among brambles,
so is my love among maidens.

As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.
Sustain me with raisins,
refresh me with apples;
for I am sick with love.
O that his left hand were under my head,
and that his right hand embraced me!
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
by the gazelles or the hinds of the field,
that you stir not up nor awaken love until it please.

The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle,
or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is comely.
Catch us the foxes,
the little foxes,
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.”

My beloved is mine and I am his,
he pastures his flock among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle,
or a young stag upon rugged mountains.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


The Song of Songs, also known as the “Song of Solomon” or “Canticles,” is one of the megillot (scrolls) found in the last section of the Tanakh, known as the Ketuvim (or “Writings”), a book of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible. The Song of Songs is unique within the Hebrew Bible: it shows no interest in Law or Covenant or the God of Israel; instead, it seems to celebrate sexual love. It gives “the voices of two lovers, praising each other, yearning for each other, proffering invitations to enjoy.” The two are in harmony, each desiring the other and rejoicing in sexual intimacy. (Annotated biography of King Solomon courtesy of Wikipedia.org, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: In honor of Valentine’s Day, the Saturday Poetry Series offers you a good old fashioned love poem, emphasis on the old. An anomaly among the fire and brimstone, monotheistic propaganda, and general prescription of the Bible, the illicit sexual nature and unbridled romance of The Song of Songs has baffled scholars for centuries. Believed to have been written some time between the tenth and second centuries BCE, there is no authoritative agreement regarding the poem’s authorship, inception, or setting. The subject matter of the poem itself has long been heatedly debated, with some scholars embracing the titillating nature of this epic poem, while others insist it is a metaphor for man’s love of God. While its milder language is often quoted in the context of weddings, showcasing a true love with ancient roots, when one sits down and reads this masterpiece from beginning to end—with eyes wide open—they encounter a hot and steamy poem that gives Fifty Shades of Grey a real run for its money.

Want to read more about Biblical poetry?
Wikipedia

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: JOSHUA BORGMANN

jbprofile

WHEN YOU WAIT FOR LOVE
By Joshua Borgmann

A silence thickens into a wall of stone.
I’ve slept in late and written my days with fear
in an empty house and gone to bed alone.

For hours, I’ve sat and stared at a silent phone
and played the music loud to keep from hearing
the silence thicken into a wall of stone.

I’ve hidden my eyes and spoken with a broken tone
and sat for hours at a table sipping beer
in an empty house and gone to bed alone
as my silence thickened into a wall of stone.

Now, I hear a note breaking through the drone
and see a smile I’ve missed from spending years
in an empty house and going to bed alone.

I hear my lover speaking to me on the phone
and a poem can sweep away the sinking fear:
a silence thickened into a wall of stone
in an empty house where I go to bed alone.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in Rattle and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Joshua Borgmann teaches English at Southwestern Community College in Creston, IA. He holds degrees from Drake University, Iowa State University, and the University of South Carolina. He has had poetry published in Rattle, Flyway, Prairie Poetry, The Blue Collar Review, and others; however, in recent years, he has been a bit distracted from his writing by his job as community college English teacher and he and his wife’s struggles to adopt a child through the foster care system. He continues to make occasional appearances at the Des Moines Poetry Slam, trying to regain his youthful veal, and hopes to write and read more in the coming year. He has an unhealthy fascination with science-fiction, horror, fantasy, and graphic novels; listens to unpopular forms of music such as heavy-metal and opera; and spends too much time looking at cat memes on Facebook. He resides in Creston, IA with his wife and three cats.

Editor’s Note: In today’s piece Joshua Borgmann is working in a form that recalls both pantoum and terza rima. The rhyme and repetition work together to echo the sentiment of the subject matter. Loneliness and desperation pervade as we move over and over with the poet throughout the slow progress of his time lived alone, in fear, facing isolation as a wall of stone. In the end, the repetition and rhyme turn the narrative on its head as we—alongside the poet—are freed from our suffering by the arrival of love. But loneliness past continues to haunt the poem’s resolution; even when love finally arrives, the poet has to work to combat his old fear of “a silence thickened into a wall of stone / in an empty house where I go to bed alone.”

Want to read more by and about Joshua Borgmann?
“Peonies and Dust” in Prairie Poetry
“Forgetting 87” in knotgrass
“Dead Again Kenny” in The Diagram