Poetry | September 2022 | Poetry | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

On Halloween I Rearrange My Spice Rack

After all, it’s almost baking season:

cinnamon into a new glass jar,

cloves and allspice in small square tins

I take down, polish, set back upon

my woven wicker shelves above

where my striped cats drink water, crunch

dark food from shining silver bowls.

Edge of the year, veil wavering

between human breath and spirit reach

through time no longer time. My mother

waves to me and smiles, her crimson

fingernails around her final cigarette.

My father offers a smooth tomato,

perfect gleaming globe in his curved palm.

My grandmother holds up her wrists

and looks to see if I still wear her

jewelry. Then there’s him, my brother,

half-rising from his suicide, mouthing

our pain’s secret from far ago, his ashes

thin and trembling with long plea.

All of them call to me through clear air

how they will welcome me, the last.

But my warm kitchen’s all around me

and the stove stands bright and clean.

I reach for sugar, deep cups of sugar.

How good the solid wooden spoon

still feels in my old hands!

—Katharyn Howd Machan


On a train traveling south,

the Hudson streams (shades

of blur) out windows;

passengers moving


startled when

instead of ticket purchase is

the obligation

to tell anything to offer

an explanation (somber maroon or

joyful yellow) how come

this trip to the City


will color our journey,

which can be boring,

so much more


don’t you think?

—C. P. Masciola


It was her first, first

My heart swelled with pride and fear

She looked back just once

—Dana Muwwakkil

My Mighty Hudson

Thank you for treating me so well as I swam across your moving waters.

I have not doubted myself. I knew I could reach from one side to the other. From Newburgh to Beacon.

So little am I in comparison to you. You are streaming here in this land for so long. You have seen it all.

You let me enter your body. For a while it felt like we were one.

I swam first to reach some space for myself. Then I swam diligently. Calmly but steady. Then I came to feel your motions. Where I first felt like I move through you, I started to feel how you move me.

You put my body in motion and I adapted my strokes. You heightened your motions creating more currents and I needed to get more powerful. I had to give a little more, add more strength to my stroke. Be more adaptive as I attuned my body to the motion of the water we encountered as we got closer to the shore. And swim north. Up. Getting stronger, maybe faster in my strokes.

Still feeling hugged by your water, breathing, gliding through it.

I know you now a little bit.

It feels so big, so relieving and so rewarding that I believe I will thank you forever. For allowing me to swim inside of you, and for gaining so much joy and strength as I did it.

The current of your water, rhythmic and changing, affecting my flow, the flow inside of me. I feel you changed me. Maybe.

I felt alive, and as I think of you, invigorated, filled with love. I feel love for you. Thank you for being so kind to me, for making me feel held. Maybe you, too, showed me love as you kept me safe. You moved me, my body and my mind, my heart.

My mighty Hudson.

—Heike Jenss

Villanelles Don’t Buy Houses

For Stone

Lord let me die by the Hudson, this whole valley’s gone to hell;

We don’t sing the springs anymore, not since the cats all drowned.

Poetry won’t buy us pretty houses, and villanelles don’t sell.

When I heard the news, I thought it just as well—

I yearn to fill my pockets with rocks, tie books to my feet, and drown.

Lord let me die by the Hudson, this whole valley’s gone to hell.

It’s time to hit the road, pack your pillowcase with Durrell.

Hell is empty and all the devils moved to town.

Poetry won’t buy us pretty houses, and villanelles don’t sell.

New Paltz has grown tired, downtown is but a shell.

No one sings river songs anymore, I’ll miss seeing you around.

Lord let me die by the Hudson, this whole valley’s gone to hell;

Seven feet tall, no match for the tales you’d tell—

I swear I can still hear you singing hymns six feet underground.

Poetry won’t buy us pretty houses, and villanelles don’t sell.

But when I walk by the river, my heart can’t help but swell.

May the circle be unbroken; hallelujah innyhow.

Lord let me love by the Hudson, this whole valley’s gone to hell;

Poetry may build us more than houses, my villanelle’s not for sale.

—Alexandria Wojcik

When You Took Your Shoes from the Closet

One of those things I almost missed

however usually meticulous

Your shoes, always scattered

across the floor were gone—

they weren’t there anymore

Summery shoes—sandals, straps

once strung about, vanished

And standing there, by the open

door, looking down upon that naked

floor I stopped—and lost a breath

When you took your shoes from

the closet, I suffered a kind of death—

Yes—there was some little, silent


—Christopher Porpora

Stone House

The blue corner store

grew cabbage and kale in tall pots

beside the cornfield and the colonial bridge

across to the stag headed bar

amid stone houses

everything they lacked in warmth

they made up in character

—C Kuhl

Stage Light Migraines

You must forgive me for not knowing any better than

to consider you an audience of one.

I am a creature possessed

by my voice-box and my diaphragm, filled up

by air and sound and noise.

You are sitting at the sticky table in the dining hall

with your raincoat still on and dripping pools onto the just-cleaned floor

but I am on the stage

and the lights are bright in my eyes and the house is so dark

that I cannot see your face

and I am only guided by the sound of your applause

and your laughter.

—Lily Raper

I Had A Typewriter

I had a typewriter.

All writers of a certain type had one.

By a certain type, I must mean a certain age.

It was a good editor.

The writing was slow, methodical, deliberate, plodding.

So it was a good editor.

You could think of the right word before you typed the wrong one.

You could write two lines ahead in your head.

It was stupid.

It was an editor.

It was a frustrated poet.

But it was smart enough to let you be the smart one.

It was smart enough to know bad from worse.

—J. R. Solonche

Safe Harbor

Buried deep in the Sound, a tetrapod of poles

supporting a crow’s nest with two “red, right,

returning” triangular signs, a beacon

for boats coming back to a harbor sheltered

from rough seas. Out here on the long jetty

with flat-topped boulders forming a wide

walkway, you know that the winds won’t blow

you away; you’ll be okay holding onto your hat

and stepping past the bits of crab shells

and claws left by gulls. You’ve come out today

because the skies are finally clear, and, for

a few moments, you can get far enough away.

—Jim Tilley

Kind Word

It is the


that my ear


out for hoping


it brings a


—Duane Anderson


Let the radio

play on

Come lie

back down

turn toward

the window

and let me

hold you

like broken


holds the



—Ryan Brennan


There’s a place up Saratoga way

you may want to check out

tucked north of the grey and pink houses

where east-facing windows

stare bleakly at the lake shoreline

sprinkled with the skiffs of summertime.

Drive past some long-haired cows, once white,

now the color of old men’s teeth,

sprawled contentedly in lumpy mud

on straw laced fields,

bovine leftovers of yesterday’s farms.

Stumble on into Betty’s

…Sunnyside Cafe

Crack a Molson and sit,

rest your bottle on the red vinyl tablecloth,

where gingerbread men prance gaily across,

remnants of Christmas past.

You may feel unwelcome at first

as you notice the farmers’ backs,

behind a blue curtain of smoke at the bar

on red leather stools, solid and unyielding,

…a stranger with a notebook is a foreign sight

The knotty pine walls are thickly coated

with the stink of sixty years of beers,

displaying a crooked canvas of neon-lit clocks,

Budweiser, Miller, Schlitz, Beck’s

Soon you’ll feel warm and safe,

watch the fat black stove rocking,

stuffed with snapping logs

Betty serves up the brewskies and

kicks open the door behind her

to shuffle in a sliver of hard March air.

The water doesn’t reek at Betty’s

like the miraculous springs of sulfur past

and blue linen towels unwind endlessly in the

bathroom dispenser

walls whisper of pool hall hustlers and

farmers with a week’s pay from their grain.

A tractor-wide man with big black suspenders

parks his John Deere outside

and a young farmer with a wedding band

approaches your table to quote Shakespeare

a twinkle in his eye born of boredom

and boondock daydreams.

Stumble on into Betty’s

…Sunnyside Cafe

—Fern Suess


You give just enough

to hook my heart, fire my brain,

leave me wanting more.

—Elizabeth Young

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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