Tom Montag

(December 31, 2004)

I have not written of the recent
Devastation. It has gone beyond
All understanding. I cannot find
The point of stillness which could contain

Such a singular enormity.
I would only offend, saying "This
Is one more proof there is no God;" or
"If there is a God, I want nothing

To do with such a monster." It is
Sun and sound I believe in, earth, wind,
Water, and star dust wishing to be
Seed again. Seed is our only hope.

We are blown dust, yes; we are the stuff
Of stars. Won't we let them comfort us?

Originally published at THE MIDDLEWESTERNER


American Life in Poetry: Column 013


Birthdays, especially those which mark the passage of a decade, are occasions not only for celebration, but for reflection. In "Turning Forty," Ohio poet Kevin Griffith conveys a confusion of sentiments. The speaker feels a sense of peace at forty, but recalls a more powerful, more confident time in his life.

Turning Forty

At times it's like there is a small planet
inside me. And on this planet,
there are many small wars, yet none
big enough to make a real difference.
The major countries--mind and heart--have
called a truce for now. If this planet had a ruler,
no one remembers him well. All
decisions are made by committee.
Yet there are a few pictures of the old dictator--
how youthful he looked on his big horse,
how bright his eyes.
He was ready to conquer the world.

Reprinted from "Cooweescoowee, A Journal of Arts and Letters," by permission of the author, whose most recent book is "Paradise Refunded" (Backwaters Press, 1998). Poem copyright 2004 by Kevin Griffith. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

by Susan Elbe

The Summers, Like Tomatoes

Chicago, 1958

Just before night cracks its dark husk and spills into light, the night shift from Campbell’s Soup factory punches out. In a slow ferment of August heat, Black men at the bus stop, stewed down and shining with sweat, glow like foil in the haze of streetlights. Flicking their Zippos to Camels, they inhale blue smoke to scour the sharp taste of acid from their tongues.

The great factory boilers ka-chunk and hiss white steam. Eighteen-wheelers downshift and ease around corners, their brakes whistling under the weight of love fruit, its acrid perfume settling in our damp sheets and skin, oiling the haywire gears of our dreams.

First appeared in Atlanta Review (Winter, 2003)



by Wilda Morris

Night Stand

Jane Kenyon thinks
she is dead. She
writes no more
poetry. Leukemia,
not melancholy,
dragged her away.
But she sits
beside my bed,
whispers in my ear
of cows in the snow,
cats by the stove,
rock, leaf, bird song,
love, death, lies,
the silver thimble
and the medicine jar.
All night she begs
me to read aloud.

Published in SecondWind,
No. 4 (Winter 2004).


by Susan Elbe

White-Radish Moon

The heart, reckless and obsessed,
is capable of large deeds,
but always has to choose.

This or that. Now or never.

Like the white-radish moon
that dangles over rooftops
each night, the heart
haggles--stingy meniscus
or a clamor of light.

First appeared in Hummingbird: Magazine of the Short Poem (Vol. XIII, No. 2)
and in Light Made from Nothing (Parallel Press)


by Maxine Scates


Clouds parted, hands reached for us
because we wanted god made flesh
and flesh made touch
which cured the leper, forgave
the prostitute, raised the dead
from the dead.

In the outcast we saw
what might be changed if the untouchable
in us might too be touched
and in the risen dead, our deadened selves
cast off. Alive to the god in us
we hoed the garden, took the honey
from the comb, traced
simple designs of love--same god
who slapped the child,
held the knife to quivering throat--
our lot to wind and unwind,
do and undo.

And so the healers among us
reach hand for hand,
touch held between us each time anew,
what it might mean,
how it might change us
until it is its own body, flesh and blood,
salt of tears, our little temple
where fingers dip to tend the wound--
sting of vinegar, balm of tenderness--
until it seems again nothing festers,
the bloodied water finally clear,
nothing left untouched.

From Black Loam. Originally appeared in Luna.


by Tom Montag


Light the color of dust
Settled on corn stalks just before

Harvest. Dusk. Once, the chirp
Of crickets and a quiet beer.

Sound of the river. Once,
The smell of new-mown hay, shadow

Of a breeze stirring the trees.
What the light carries low. Dusk.

All the edge of things
Defined by approximation.

Originally published in WISCONSIN POETS' CALENDAR.


by Catherine Jagoe


An angel
this tree
luminous with leaves

burning on a black

A thresher
this wind
that will
blow them out.

Published in Wisconsin Academy Review,
Fall 1999, Volume 45, Number 4.