Sunday 30 September 2012

The Cave of Shanidar by Gary Every

What else really matters
            except that someone loved him
            and loved him dearly
            enough to place flowers in his grave.
            The archeologist excavates;
            carefully scraping the remains
            of a 60,000-year-old Neanderthal
            into a sack
            to be weighed and analyzed.
            So much of prehistory has been lost;
            social structure, tribal government,
            and even though the shape of their skulls,
            length of their tongues
            and complexity of their relationships
            screams for a language
            not a single word has been retained.

            The archeologist tries to piece together the past,
            amazed that this tiny grave
            could hold so much flower pollen.
            There are many more flowers
            than could have blown into the cave of Shanidar
            with the wind;
            even during the most violent storms.
            The grains of pollen are all that remains
            of hollyhock, grape hyacinth, bachelor buttons, and groundsel-
            beautiful blossoms which faded into dust.
            All we can say for certain
            about this dead troglodyte,
            60,000 years after the fact,
            is that this short, squat, thick-skulled brute
            whose life was ruled by blade, blood, and butchering,
            was that someone loved him
            and loved him dearly
            enough to place beautiful flowers in his grave.

Gary Every, Arizona, USA

Sunday 23 September 2012

Ynys Môn by L C Ricardo

Ynys Môn 

On craggy, stone-strewn shores
glacial breakers

the mothering rock.
Her deep ores sustain her

She views hoary mountains
and stretches through
pale, lucent mist,

a ship off the cairn
or ancestral ghost,

Her name rings silver.
Her heart, living coal,
men's bread.

Her elder offspring raised stones
like broken circlets,

left in mute patterns,
undecipeherable and

L C Ricardo, Florida, USA

Sunday 16 September 2012

The Material Soul by James Valvis

My daughter wants to know about the cat.
Will it go to heaven when it dies?

My wife is content to tell her that it will, but I know it won’t.
That cat, according to the faith we practice, has a material soul.

Our heaven is a heaven for humans: not cats, cows, or cabbages.
How could we even begin to move, to live in any way,
if every bacteria we killed was equally made in God’s image?

But I don’t pretend to understand it all myself.
Heaven has always seemed to me less likely than hell.

It’s certainly harder to imagine what it is like to be there
and what might deliver you there in the first place.

In many ways, the cat is more deserving of heaven than I am.

The cat has never yelled at my wife over nothing,
never flew off the handle at my daughter for her trichotillomania.

It’s not easy to conceive of a place that invites none of the things we love.
It’s even harder to imagine a heaven where a beloved daughter misses her cat.

James Valvis, Washington, USA

Sunday 9 September 2012

Mother Psalm 8 by Rachel Barenblat

When all else fails, a stroll will put you to sleep.
We walk beneath trees still mostly green, here
and there a branch burst into purple flame, until
Whole Foods looms glossy at the sidewalk's end.
We load into the basket beneath your sleeping form
a pumpkin and a gourd hooked like a swan's neck.
All the way there my sister and I talk about marriage
and I wonder with whom you'll walk like this someday
remembering aloud the house you grew up in, our
spiral staircases, the boxes of dolls in the basement.
The minute we stop, you wake; I pepper your head
with kisses, try to adjust your already-drooping socks.
It's autumn in Newton. My muddy iced coffee is the last
of the season. Little man, you can move yourself now
across the floor with intent, though you pause and sit
contemplating whether the ball that's rolled away
is worth the effort of the journey. It's always worth
the effort of the journey: the ball, the book, the child
you may someday try to raise, as clueless as we.
Make your way across the room. Pluck sweetness
from every interaction, extract smiles from strangers.
Go get it: we're cheering each painstaking step you take.

Rachel Barenblat, MA, USA

Monday 3 September 2012

Selkie by Lori Lamothe

“The most common theme in selkie folklore, however, is one in which a cunning young man acquires, either by trickery or theft, a selkie-girl’s sealskin.”

For years, you wore ordinary as a housecoat.
Typed memos by day and made weak

martinis by night. For years, you were the one
they could count on to sweep all the unsaid things

under the rug. Sometimes you’re oblivious to blue.
Sometimes a shadow caught in a pool of light

makes you want to scratch off your skin,
dissolve in tides of wind that swing out and across

the street’s moonlit lawns.  Now, with your life
half gone, your child of amber eyes and ruby shoes

hands you what was nailed to the bottom
of a long-lost trunk. For six nights

you sleep on shore, cocooned in love’s sheer
blanket. On the seventh you slip an arm

into fur that still glows like coals, feel
how this shell of warmth still holds

an echo of water’s deep lullaby.
As you dive into a tango of stars, you turn

and watch her hand moving in adagio,
perfectly timed to the story you always told.