Poetry | August 2023 | Poetry | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
Drinks with the Ambassadors

These woods, the swamp across the street,
seemed a timeless borderland when we
moved in—a young couple, two kids.
Owls greeted us every night
(Welcome to you! Welcome to you all!)
and herons flew with sticks in beaks.
The girls fledged, the great blues moved,
now ravens come in the afternoon,
stay mostly out of sight but take
care we hear their arguments,
too loud even for their big throats,
as if they have a microphone
and a PA on a swaying stage.
Their impatient rasping fits
the ever-hotter ugliness
that’s sure to be our legacy.
We listen, metal straws in drinks,
breathe smoke from citronella sticks.
Are they saying we’re to blame
or come up, please, come up, join in?
When they go, with croaks and glossy wings
so large they barely clear the trees,
we’re foolish enough to think
an Earth with such ambassadors
can’t have given up on us.

—William Keller

Wordle #506

How do I (you) change the things,
the ways, the circumstance
of my (your) lonely heart?
Years spent taking responsibility
for my (your) singularity,
reminded at every turn
Begin, Begin, Begin
of the day into night
my (your) aloneness is secure.
I am (You are) whittled down
by chances taken
along the way until
the only thing left of me
(you) is me (you) without
what feels like opportunity.
Begin, Begin, Begin
This clock ticks on
hands of advice not followed
but heard, heartfelt, real
whispers of Wordle #506
very first guess on a ferry
eighteen miles out to sea.
Begin, Begin, Begin

—Lori Corry


I want to paint the autumns I remember
From the secret hearth of childhood,
The milkyway of yellow woods
Stricken and keen and full of nightfall.
Come and pick the blackberries
Before the birds get them; come see
The pines that stay green all winter long,
And the slow, storybook snow
That falls soundlessly on the rooftop:
The unfastening of the moment,
The scorching mercy of sentimentality
Disclose themselves to me as souvenirs
To days of unrealized contentment.
Who can return from themselves
To the origin of pity, the first clemency
Permitting all the rest? Who can reinvent
The lost simplicity and kindle again
The red in the maple leaves, or the
Ruddy light of autumn’s livid patience?
—Lachlan Brooks

A crooked finger
beckoning earth to heaven—
the jagged lightning

—Jennifer Howse

On the Wing

Swallows skim still ponds
In flight they soar and plummet
The air torn in two

Coffee Thoughts

Dad was twenty once, too, drinking
six cups of coffee with Cremora, sitting
outside the East Village Veselka. Kicking
his Adidas out in front of him in a moment of bliss.
I am here drowning over a single cup.
But somehow, I still see him in the mirror.

—Maeve Flusser


If she hadn’t rejected me
for holding her like a shoplifter
palming a stolen gem
in a jewelry store
I never would have discovered
the cluster of stars
in my shirt pocket

—Liam Watt

Artists Are Never Satisfied

Monet regretted
never finishing a painting to his satisfaction;
never arriving at the perfection he sought.
Yet, we have “Water Lilies.”
The image in his mind invariably evolved
into something unforeseen;
the finished work always a surprise—
and sometimes, a disappointment.
My friend Hank, paints what he sees:
cows in green meadows or under the trees,
clouds in blue skies and meandering streams,
or landscapes inspired by one of his dreams.
Invited to the wedding of a colleague,
Hank agreed to give him a painting
instead of a cut-glass candy dish.
(It was his wife’s idea.)
Then, he promptly forgot.
So, she chose one from a stack against the wall
and delivered it to the groom
on the very eve of the nuptials!
He stayed up late that night,
to hang it over the fireplace,
for his guests to admire at the reception, next day.
(He felt Hank would be pleased to see it there.)
I saw them talking together,
in front of the painting, across the room,
and wove my way over to listen in.
Hank waited until the groom ran out of steam.
Then, without a word.
He placed his flute of prosecco on the mantel,
lifted his painting from the wall,
and threw it into the cheerily burning fire.

—Frank Wright


She slides open the
of her dainty summer
to the rain soaked
her body passes
like a storm
of summer bloomed
—Ryan Brennan

Dreaming Odesa

I summon the Black Sea breathing gruffly liked a caged animal,
an old-world dame clad in black night gasping for air,
cinched across the waist by the Lanzheron Beach with blinding white stairs.
I summon Atlantis holding up the globe on Gogol Street.
It is tender blue speckled with little yellow stars,
the colors intoning, thirty years before the War, that “все буде Укра—на.” 1
I’m eating apricot ice cream by a tasteless monument
to a lion tearing apart flesh for his young.
Every hour in the park, the booming radio deafens me
in a plea not to forget a war such as not even my mother had witnessed.
Yet this fear is exhilarating, like light
that changes a room when you least expect it.
How the Cathedral Square seems to blossom at night,
the night which swoops down on us from chestnut trees
like a strange bird: enormous, delicate, glistening.
Sometimes old women peer at me from courtyards
lined with chestnut trees. They chuck shells
from sunflower seeds while they mutter old spells under their breath.
So much of my childhood seemed to take flight
in passageways, doors, tunnels to another world.
Everything was foreign, everything was familiar.
For many years I’d watch the scaffolding go up
on a building across from Cathedral Square.
When we left for the States it was still in shambles.

With his missing fingers and World War II ID,
my grandfather would break through long quays
to buy milk with tiny yellow papers that passed for money.
I remember how packs of butter would just say “butter”
and bread was “bread,” a Platonic ideal without variety,
though the three-kopeck roll was an ochre shriveled ball
like an old woman’s hand while the nine-kopeck one
was glowing red and speckled with poppy seeds.
When I devoured a treat of coffee and milk
compressed into a brick, the sweet milky taste
combined with bitterness as if to distill
something essential about my Soviet childhood.

I taste Odesa, the tiny crawfish wrapped in newspaper,
the fire-baked potatoes at our dacha,
the parasitic snails my friend’s husband would fry and grind to a paste,
the forbidden pierozhki my grandfather bought me in secret,
the hot bread I tore into pieces and ate on the bridge
as I rushed off somewhere with a friend long gone, the sweet cherries
she brought all dangling in a chain
I had to undo with my mouth open
trying to catch the wonder, the promise,
my face colored vermillion from the effort,
the pits thrown carelessly on the ground
the shadows from the heavy bridge ornaments
buoyant in summer light
just like our sprint through the city
before we knew my family would leave the country
that my friend would die twenty-one years later
that the warm wind coursing through Odesa
would still to a halt, like the ethereal dust mites
flickering in the summer light that makes up childhood.

—Natalya Sukhonos

1 “Everything will be Ukraine,” a phrase attributed to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on September 30, 2022

Unmeasured Moment, Some Sunday Morning

Sit comfortably. Type a password. Wait, which one be the one
for this app? Oh, yea, 1 n i c e D A Y & H O W . Birds expound
on some topic out there, while the air
conditioner blows constancy in here.
Open, browse, drink tea, allow for distraction—
a squirrel, poised on a leafy, seesawing branch,
good morning, to a coin-sized face, maybe a soul,
staring side-eyed, through glass at whatever
my hands do, tic tic tic typing,
hauling a hot mug to my mug. He scratches his nose
like a baseball pitcher. I’m his vague dream. He’s mine.
The open app, all its symbols scroll by, so unread.

—Agrimmeer DeMolay

Venus and Mars

Mars: This fantasy is often a dream
Give me a reason to make it beam

Venus: Grab your thoughts and point to the sun
An arrow will light your world undone

Mars: Too much light will sometimes burn
At the center of the universe’s churn

Venus: But not enough light will keep the dark
And you will miss the shine, glare, and stark

Mars: Temptations can be high, strong, and daring
How do you balance them and render them taming?

Venus: A little faith goes miles ahead, with determination
To pacify the lures and bring anticipation

Mars: I thought Venus was stronger than faith
To change the course of the universe chain

Venus: Fill me with belief in the world’s might
Against all odds, I will show you my plight

Mars: Your plight is mine, and mine is yours
We’re both small spheres in the palm of two shores

Venus: Wrap me with your love, and I will do the same
In this world of wonder, we will light the flame.

—Ramzi Albert Rihani

It’s “Win a Barely Running Used Car” Night

Turns out I had a lot of ducks, three of them were rabid, a couple had ADHD, several had PTSD, and don’t ask about the daffy one.
But seriously… Keep your ducks all in a row, going in the same direction, if possible, jus’ maybe use some duct tape to keep ‘em together? That’s what I do. That’s what I do… And then release them in every direction for a spell… because, why not.


About The Author

Phillip X Levine

Phillip X Levine has been poetry editor for Chronogram magazine since June 2003. He is also the president of the Woodstock Poetry Society. "All the people I was going to be when I grew up - they're still here"
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