Poetry | December 2023 | Poetry | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
What Does the Spider Know of War?

inspired by conflicts in the Middle East & Ukraine
... When a spider meets another, it thinks “food,”
not “friend.” It doesn’t feign or posture
welcome, greet lover or long-lost brother, pretend
it seeks the thrills
of a feud
or caress: It simply kills...
Death is what it does best.
... & so, in the wider world of humankind, where names
can be misnomers & humankind itself
an oxymoron, the idylls of love
still rank high in esteem
while men, just
like words, seldom say what they mean: Their cruel games
incite, divide, deem losers & winners;
yet, like spiders, they spin on & on—
Killing machines
with no End-or-Beginnings...
But the spider weaves its web to feed:
It claims no dogma, but to breed.
The spider does only what designed to do, its legacy
a fine precision
of patterned-purpose & order: Men,
on the other hand, proudly assume the role of marauder,
often vexing/ perplexing each other ‘til little is left.
But, mayhem or murder, theirs is a more tangled web
of intrigue, mire-&-stress: Man spins for pride/for greed
& excess. Yet, sadly, more & more
it seems
the Worst of Man is Spider’s Best:
Like his dark fellow predator,
Death is what he does best.
—Marlene M. Tartaglione

Listening to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” on a Rainy Day

….Is not a good idea.
Better not to imagine dark fedoras
And clever rhymes at all.
Better still, get up and turn it off
And let the room fall to stillness
Except for the teardrops of rain
On the glass and sills.
Put away the melancholia.
Replace it with sturdier stuff….
(But nothing comes, nothing at all,
Just rainy echoes and chill.)
The song, a dirge in shadow,
Refuses to leave the room and head.
It wails and hums and moans
Long after the disc stops spinning.
So, the old Canadian gets his wish,
And perhaps spins some in his grave
As the words rattle and woo ya,
Hallelujah….hallelujah.
—Stephen J. Kudless

Under the Ice

In the winter, I surround myself with pictures of frogs
statues of frogs, books about frogs, because you never see frogs
when it’s 10 below zero, and that’s the time I seem to really miss them.
When I go to the zoo, and I see the little poison frogs in their cages
it’s not the same, because it’s not like seeing a flat-footed toad
sliding down my office window in the middle of a rainstorm
scrabbling against the glass as if trying to get in
or when I go to my mother-in-law’s house
in the dead heat of summer, and find a tree frog
perched on top of her doorbell, or spying over the lip of a flower pot.
It’s not so much that I like frogs, but that I miss seeing them because it’s winter.
It’s not so much that I miss frogs, but I miss the weather associated with them:
the hot summer rains that cause tadpoles to sprout legs and spring free from the water
the way the lawn explodes with tiny brown toads when I start the mower up
the way my daughter used to dance with the frogs she found in the back yard,
around and around, like she was some sort of fairy tale princess
this is why I’m surrounded by motionless surrogates, these harbingers of spring,
always, and especially now.
—Holly Day

Shut Up About the Pandemic

(Nothing’s Changed)
Desperate, afraid
Is this who we are now? Lost
and stumbling through love
Casey O’Connell

The Hole

I came across a hole while lost in the depths
Desperate and close to death I collapsed beside it and began to feel rejuvenated
I thanked it for its refuge and used it to get out
But once out, I was no longer the same
I was now aware of this hole
That made everything else seem hollow
So I went back down with hopes of plugging it up
To get back to what I never knew I had
But when I got there I couldn’t bring myself to do it
Because at last I felt whole again
So I began visiting it everyday
Til’ every thought I had was of it
Its comfort, its habit, its loneliness
I started breaking off pieces of myself and dropping them inside
My job, my friends, my hobbies, my loves, my hates...
Trying to fit myself down inside of it so I could be nothing but the hole
Until there was more of me in the hole than out of it
No food, no water, no breath
Just me and the hole that I’ve become
—Mattie Parker

Bare

You graze my surface
My superficiality
On full stark display.
—Sage Higgins

Koala
A
drowsy
marsupial,
treed
Morpheus,
rouses
languidly
to
feed,
endlessly
masticating
this
delicious
Eucalyptus.
—Judith Saunders

Wild Life

So far, four squashed snakes,
one grungy coyote trotting the center of Hillside Avenue,
a single kit fox frolicking over property lines,
and a vintage porcupine waddling up the eponymous hill.
Oh, and you—the seductive bobcat lounging in a posh den,
biding time to pounce on me again.
—Elizabeth Young

So much depends upon

this is Just to Say
I have eaten
the white
chickens
that were in
the red wheel
barrow
and which
were glazed
with rain
water
so lascivious
and still
—Dan Wilcox

December Morning

The snow
has turned
the world old
overnight.
I will
not ask
anything
of it today.
—J. R. Solonche

Conviction

Every conviction,
every possession,
no matter how promising or pure,
grabbed firmly
cuts deeply,
two edges to every sword.
—Paul Anthony Sacca

Washington Square

Dylan probably sat here. Who cares.
Who doesn’t. I could draw something
like that guy, that guy. Maybe I’ll play
chess with those chess guys finally. Finally?
Always wanted to be the one
to play those chess guys. So I do.
Da-rell, oh not Darrel, nope, got it.
The birdman is round, rotund, a roving
orange of pores and silence. Lumbers in grey
uniform (STAFF) rolling his vinyl
burden, emptying others. He’s jolly though,
sits and reels like you would think. Castles. Maybe the...hello
my name is Fahim, knight to knight six, I’m homeless and suffer
from paranoid schizophrenia, sorry man,
pawn to rook three, beard and brown arms
and ink. Maybe his...my parents seem rich, queen to rook four,
but I don’t know when I got in I felt so bad. Bishop
to queen two. Maybe his insights
on group pigeon behavior are
world class, or his sense of who’s high,
who’s not is icy keen, queen to king-two
trade offered. Four-piece jazz, off-
white girls on the bench, two pasty Brits, a stoned out
graybeard, shirt spread, beaded headband, dark
shades, mouth agape in sun-flecked awe. Queen takes queen.
Now his fingers moving, beating the floating
super keys. King takes queen. Ooh yeah I should read
On the Road again. Ooh yeah. Nothing hits
like jazz and the city. Any requests?
Lovely Black Eyes? Ooh yeah. Wins on time. Five bucks—
Ooh yeah.
—Christian Walker

The Unveiling

When the time comes,
Will we want to take off our masks?
—Rachel Hadas

I’m not ready to remove mine.

I like that you have to work hard
to understand my tone, read my eyes,
wonder if we should hug,
question if our hands should touch,
continue along the path of not-quite-knowing
which side of the wall we stand,
or whether we will ever join forces.
When the veil lifts and we’re all the same,
I won’t be able to discern how strong
you were during the immoral reign
of a maskless face peering out of Pandora’s box.
It makes me believe maybe I don’t need anyone
to make me mindful and mouthless.
These days, I still dream you wearing a disguise,
dark eyes squinting, air-kissing my cheeks.
—Perry Nicholas

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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