Poetry | May 2021 | Chronogram Magazine

Poetry | May 2021


There’s a whale in my backyard
I’ve tried to water it
But it’s not easy to reach all the places it needs To stay hydrated
And alive
It sings a deep sad song
Sometimes so long and low
And I worry I’m the only one who hears it

It’s too big to lose
It’s presence unnerving
It’s too big to forget
Or minimize
Or plant a garden around and transform it Into something else

“There’s a whale in my backyard” I tell my friends
“What should I do?”

It belongs in the ocean
It belongs somewhere that cradles it Keeps it safe
And let’s it feel free
And weightless
Where it can hide
Or rise
When it needs

“Did I trap it somehow?” I ask them
Did I siren it here
And strand it

With promises I wasn’t capable of keeping?

There’s a whale in my backyard And I do all I can
To keep it

—Siobhan McBride

Pond Pieces

Pond never sees own reflection.
Trees, shrubs, grass, clouds, sky and sun hoard pond’s surface like outsiders pushing to see the other side
through a peephole.

Wind, as a friend, shivers blurs,
and rain pockmarks the gazing
into choppy jigsaw puzzle pieces flung out of frustration of the picture not coming together.

Pond yearns for moonless nights where sight is blind, and grass tickles, startles insects into a tease,
where pond admires itself
in touch all around.

—Diane Webster

Three Stanzas


    Submerged neck-deep
    Yet I smile
    The smile you call a lotus


    Consciousness too is addiction
    Addiction too is pain
    Staying conscious all the time
    What utter pain
    Only an addict knows

Gladness and Sadness

    Sadness is my breath
    Gladness is my smile
    Smiles do have types
    Breath is beyond types

—Guna Moran

(Original Assamese poem titled “Tinita Stavak”) Tr. Nirendra Nath Thakuria

Sonnet Looking for Utopia

What would it take to craft a government that met the needs of everyone? A feat
to challenge gods, who might decide to send the ablest members of their kin to meet, assess the vagaries of politics

with us until we’d crafted something real,
not conjured like a slick magician’s trick,
with language so compelling we would feel
the majesty of what we’d built, a place
where being just and true was more than words, where no one felt left out because of race

or creed, where all our voices would be heard. A nation none have known except in sleep, where visions oft reflect the hopes we keep.

—William J. Joel

At Eighty-Seven

He’d still strap on his old Gibson guitar,
pluck at the strings with wrinkled fingers,
sing in a deep cackle; the words he strained to remember.

God and the devil,
good women and bad,
barrooms and churches,
poverty and penance—

the same old same old
and always in G.

—John Grey


Outside the body, all things are encumbrances — Charles Wright

I hear a grinding sound
Mechanical, irregular.
The sound of something breaking.
I dreamt I’d discarded an old anatomy poster. It got caught up in the shafts
and pulleys of a conveyer belt.
The wheels jammed.
Electric arcs stabbed the air, sparked
and coalesced. Paper. Metal.
The fire consumed it all.

J. sends more explicit emails these days. Describes the fatigue, the experimental treatments.
He is also preparing his will.

He reports he is happy
—maybe content is the better word— with his lawyer. He is content.
At the last: He Does Not Covet.

We’re down to the last
of the suet and birdseed.
Perfect timing
for this changing season.
We can leave the birds
(to God or) to their own devices Now.

It is a good time
to replace thick sweaters with lighter ones. Adjust the clock
and replace the hours with lighter ones. Discuss lighter topics. Eat lighter meals. Outside the body, all things are encumbrances. Except for the body, all things have weight.

—Hannah Brooks

We Only Hear the Silence

On the first day of winter, we take our puffer coats and boots packed with plastic bags from the grocer down to the creek. It is frozen over, surrounded by a soft snow that fell simply while we slept. As the other kids graze their gloved hands across the glittering white, I think about last spring — how this creek, rippled with water then, called a boy not much younger than me to it, drowned him in its shallow mouth. I think, maybe he is still here, pounding the underside of ice with his small fist, asking this new season for a second chance.

—Samantha Spoto

I Will Take A Walk Today

I will take a walk today.
It will be a difficult walk.
The day ends at a loss
about how to describe the day.

Ecological succession at Stewart State Forest:

Woodlands of maple, oak, elm, shagbark hickory, hophornbeam.

Fields of indian hemp, dogwood, buckthorn, bitter dock. Black seeded plantain, cinquefoil, multiflora rose, bird vetch, field pennycress, bull thistle, greater celandine.

Autumn olive bush in full springtime bloom, common comfrey, brome, germander speedwell, wingstem, sensitive fern.

The poet was succinct and to the point: “taking/the field by force.”

Everywhere is troubled. There’s protest upon this land. Raw protest.

—Steve Clark

Sorrows of Willows

Rain drums somber songs.
Willows listen getting ready to weep.
Roots soak up flood
for late night tears.
Wispy green appears,
branches hang low,

—Jerrice J. Baptiste

Allowing Myself to Be Bored

I experience
a moment
of boredom,
and wonder
what to do next? Doing nothing— nothing doing—
Is there a shortcut to happiness—
Do I have to reinvent the wheel? Do I always

have to be climbing up a mountain or creating something new in order to not feel guilty or

that I might be wasting time?
Then I remember— I’m still breathing effortlessly—

If that keeps me alive, what else could be more important?
I breathe in slowly and experience

a moment of genuine happiness. I can do nothing.
I have everything.

—Milton P. Ehrlich

One Steve

Class writing prompt Steve (last week was Bill)
turned out of the 12 women in the class 5 had been married or almost married to Steves. (None had been married or almost married to Bill.)

Another Steve (2)

Started asking everyone
for Steve stories. Emma said she once worked with a Steve who wore ill-fitting pants and beige Wallabee shoes. He was a prick.
The whole story.

A Stranger’s Steves (3)

Woman I met
yesterday on a park bench
her name is Susan I asked
do you know any Steve stories for my collection? Can you believe I actually married three of them she said.

—Esther Cohen

Central Park

two companion photographs in black and white,
          we took turns standing in profile
before the bright blossoming magnolia tree
          in Central Park, with the reflecting pool
fuzzy and out of focus down the hill
          both bearded and my hair longish
yours shorter just coming out of chemo
          but the twinkle was there, a sparkle
from the unknowable working its way free.

we’d just come from the alice in wonderland statue,
          mad hatter in tableaux with the rabbit and
prim child in the victorian apron; you laughing
          as I made you sit in her lap, but that picture
didn’t come out, no, only the one of the two of us staring
          into the distance, as if we could see the future,
like peering down a rabbit hole where mathematical
          algorithms, relativism-space-time-coordinates

could fix us forever still, in that eternity of our own space,
          explain the lost moments spent on the couch letting
poisons drip into your blood, like swarming statues broken
          from their pedestals at the metropolitan museum, slowly
dissolving like Ozymandias in the desert; all the ancients
          crumbling into whirlwinds of dust, as alice
and alice, and the rabbit and alice, and the statue and alice,
          stumble before me into that blackened hole
of a photograph, and I hear your laughter again, as you

throw stones at the tiny ships sailing on the reflecting pool,
          tsunamis swamping the delicate wooden boats, controlled
by strings from ancient mariners who patrol the shoreline
          like gods from Olympus; until driven to holy madness
they pursue us, bloody invective strengthening their limbs,
          till we splash across the pool and up the slope
to stand breathless beneath that tree, flowers falling like pink rain
          into our upended mouths, not sensing from the photo
that our feet are soaked, and a Cheshire cat is grinning somewhere.

—Thomas Belton

Snowbound, Evening Light

We have been here all along,
so it will occur to us
on the other side
when we reach out our fingertips like leaves for the last light,
we have never been.

—Thomas Festa

I Want to Elope

I’ve been asking around, don’t worry. I only ever kissed a girl. I can’t listen to music. It will be evidence of my being here today. I don’t want to marry, I want to run away. I want a series of days and to say hello and hello. I’ve been thinking about good morning, I’ve been thinking about good night. I miss presence.

—Elena Botts