southern beatitudes

featured in the poetry forum July 22, 2023  :: 0 comments

Blessed be the tobacco fields
dealing pale green leaves for sweat
and blessed be the bossman
who knows exactly how many rows
before I break

Blessed be these aching muscles
snapping suckers
priming ripest fields
hanging leaves
hauling fifty-pound bundles
from over there to over here
and blessed be the farmer’s daughter
handing out salt pills, moon pies, and grape soda

Blessed be this John Deere gimme cap
worn all summer
working Mr. Jackson’s fields
living on the shelf
above my desk
amazed I get to sit
air-conditioned in a cube
sending out reports
nobody will ever read

editors note:

Blessed be the A/C luxury of memory. – mh clay

Deconstructing Christmas

featured in the poetry forum December 27, 2022  :: 0 comments

Nobody harks the herald
while taking down the lights
on New Year’s Day—
thrum of an almost hangover
reminding you that champagne
and late late nights are no longer
your domain. Nobody jingles the bells
while wrapping ornaments in tissue.
The evergreen branches
beginning to brown and you have already
reminisced over every blown glass bulb,
told the story of the wooden Santa,
picked your favorite ceramic angel.
Nobody sings joy to the boxes
resealed and banished to the attic
where all the jolly accruements
dream of being taken out
and allowed to shine.

editors note:

We are the accruements of this Holiday Madness; time to crawl back in the box. – mh clay

Meeting Edward Abbey in the Rain

July 9, 2022  :: 0 comments

we need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope Three days hiking, relentlessly setting up tiny tent in the rain, taking down in the nonstop rain. Nothing ever dries. Crawling into a damp sleeping bag, rain thrumming against the fly. Coffee never hot enough to defeat the chill. Climbing miles, and miles back down. All the scenic …

half measures

featured in the poetry forum February 17, 2022  :: 0 comments

half a fool
juggling half as many
telling jokes
only half as funny
but really
isn’t life only half a waltz
music stopping
half way through
half scrambling
to find half as many chairs
half a lukewarm beer
waking up
half an hour late
half remembering the night
with half a grin
half regret

half of us
half nostalgic
for the way things used to be
when in our half-assed way
we half way tolerated
so much
that was way more
than half way wrong
half innocent
holding half ourselves
half responsible
we offer up
half a prayer
to gods and half-gods
half believed in
and trusted less

editors note:

And that’s not the half of it! – mh clay

word problems

featured in the poetry forum May 17, 2021  :: 0 comments

negative b
plus or minus the square root of nobody
ever used eighth-grade algebra to find
love or beauty in a storm
but this spinning world is full
of unknowns and inequalities
poverty curves and inflection points
cotangent of a rainbow
radius of a door slamming shut

if the x-axis is melanin and y equals fear
plot the curve that separates
hooded teen from bullet

if n is the number of students
crossing the graduation river
at illiterate words per hour
and z is the cost of a prison bed
how many words does a politician need
so fifty-one percent of voters
sleep well at night

editors note:

Evict vicious variables and maybe the equation will balance. – mh clay

Imagine a Christmas song

featured in the poetry forum December 25, 2020  :: 0 comments

played or sung
without trying to sell you anything—
not a Nintendo, not a Savior, not a download,
compact disc, or another worthy cause.
Imagine a Christmas song
sung because the winter darkness is crisp
because each rising star reminds us
every newborn is holy
because your breath turns crystal
and the coyote howls.
Imagine finding yourself
staring out at the predawn moon
humming a song about a silent night.

editors note:

Imagine that. Merry Paxmas, everybody!- mh clay


September 22, 2020  :: 0 comments

twenty-four hours eggs and grits and hot coffee small shared silences Too old for milk and sugar, I was 12 when I drank my first cup of black coffee. We were at the diner where Old 54 runs into Trinity Mills. No sign, no name, just the diner where Dad and I always ate breakfast before heading to the lake. …

in matching capes

featured in the poetry forum September 19, 2020  :: 0 comments

red riding hood and superman
spin together
negotiating who saves whom—
man of steel offers to kill
every wolf in the forest
but red has known
too many woodsmen who believe
blood is the solution to every fear
who wear brawny biceps
like a mask
and she doesn’t want to be around
when he catches
lois and jimmy getting it on
in the archives of the daily planet—
not that lois doesn’t love the suit
but playing second fiddle
to every quake and two-bit super villain
leaves her feeling less than special—
and red doesn’t want to be around
when fifty pent up years

she would teach him
what it means to be human
the kryptonite of desire
to live
so the lack of a caress might sting
like the punch of an exploding star
so anyone might love him without fear
without adrenal aftermath of falling
and caught in the nick of time
red could love him
for twinkle and laugh
if only
he would share a dream or two
if only he would let her inside
his fortress of solitude

editors note:

Ultimate fantasy; super fan gets super hero in super love. (We welcome Alan to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page – check it out.) – mh clay


featured in the poetry forum February 13, 2020  :: 0 comments

and placed with the care of spooning lovers
whispering rise to a pulse of flowers
a yes to summer’s green
a wall that whispers let go
to gold and crimson leaves
whispers sleep to everything
beneath the snow

imagine a wall
so confident it doesn’t have to scream
go away you are not welcome here
a wall that stitches seams together

low and humble
sinking beneath the surface of a small pond
crawling out the opposite bank
winding between maples and oaks that one day will
grow large enough to dislodge
a wall whose beauty will not be lost
in the scattering of its stones

after Storm King Wall by Andy Goldsworthy
1997-98, Fieldstone, 5’ x 2278.5’ x 2.7’, Storm King Art Center

editors note:

Let’s build more of these. (See the inspiration behind this poem here.) – mh clay

When the grieving mother asked, the rabbi replied

featured in the poetry forum October 26, 2019  :: 0 comments

We are not jazzless angels
every harp note perfect and predictable, every chess game
a draw. Freewill cannot dazzle if every foul choice turns gold.

Hunger gnaws and starvation
a mountain lion invisible against the rocks.
Claws celebrate emaciated flesh
so we plow and plant
but the god equation is not so simple as
a good life equals a good life. Rains turn
on a butterfly’s hiccup.

Sometimes children lose hair to chemo because water flows
through lead or perhaps a gamma-ray spun off from a distant star—
capricious freedom. Mothers could die
young enough they never pose difficult questions nor lose
young names in setting sun.

Suppose the world a coke commercial, everyone
singing, holding hands, and sweet fizzy drinks didn’t make you crave
another and another until insulin shots circle like vultures.

Beauty sans purpose is boring as certainty. Healthy forests
need wildfire and satisfying years need
2nd period bullets, outlawed loves, unjust lash. Bombs clinging
to hopeless chests, desire for more more
trumping children of the poor.

And what of love?
Imaginary, impossible
if we did not throw while the coin spins high
all our money on the table.
Place your bets; hold your breath.

We do not have to, crust will not collapse. We get to
say maybe, just maybe, bend the universe imperceptible—
hallelujah a prayer of sweet,
sweet sweat— muscles obeying best they can or not.
Revel in unpredictable effort.
Pity jazzless angels— no reason to wake except to praise.

editors note:

Natural selection or improvisation? Yes, place your bets now. – mh clay