Two Poems by Sterling Warner

Cedar Chest

Grandma kept her wedding veil
sanctimoniously folded inside
a cedar chest—the Blackford family
heirloom preserved, revered,
always there for a glance back
in time & journey of remembrance;
as passing days fleeced her clarity, she
relived yesteryears…sensually touching,
feeling, smelling tactile mementos
like a lacey veil,
calve skin gloves,
Egyptian tiaras
& flapper beads.

Grandma ensured posterity once
she closed the trunk, imagined
grandchildren reacting to items
that fashioned her life, defined
her world before responsibility
replaced frivolity & duty, undermined
personal exploration, safeguarded
her past by cherishing & maintaining
clothes & keepsakes that chronicled her life,
justified excess,
motivated restraint,
survived into the future
once she passed.

Golden Gate Twilight

In Japanese tea garden shadows
behind a sacred pagoda
where squirrels navigate
various tiered tower eaves, 
a grizzled old man sits
like a 21 th century Buddha
on a hand carved bench
near the arched drum bridge
glancing at bushy tails
twitching in anticipation
watching his spotted knuckles
noting flashes of silver levers
between arthritic digits:
listening, listening, listening.

They jump to his tweed jacket
dig claws in suede elbow patches,
& circle his torso like a red wood
trunk before resting on shoulders
hunched, curved & world weary
eager yet patient, respecting
his ever inviting yet limited range
of emotions; the park regular cracks
open chandler walnuts, tossing shells
on bare earth, holding nut kernels
between his shriveled thumb
& index finger, feeding & nurturing
frenzied red and grey disciples
like St. Francis of Assisi’s birds.

Sterling Warner is a Washington-based author, educator, and Pushcart nominee for poetry. His works have appeared in many international literary magazines, journals, and anthologies such as The Ekphrastic ReviewAnti-Heroin Chic, The Fib Review, and Sparks of Calliope. Warner has written seven books of poetry, including Without Wheels, ShadowCat, Memento Mori: A Chapbook Redux, Edges, Rags & Feathers, Serpent’s Tooth, Flytraps, and Cracks of Light: Pandemic Poetry & Fiction (2022)—as well as. Masques: Flash Fiction & Short StoriesCurrently, he writes, turns wood, and hosts virtual poetry readings.

“Hamartia Unbound” by Sterling Warner

Cassiopeia glares down at me
from the heavens
chained to a tortuous chair, reflecting
on her vanity
forlorn, constantly fanning herself
with a palm leaf,
longing to behold her beauteous face
in a pearl-handle mirror.

Cassiopeia now saturates night skies, a
silvery studded constellation
wheeling her throne like a stellar convalescent
about the Celestial North pole
spending half her time circling the globe upside-down,
sending blood to her head
the “earth-shaker’s” punishment befitting
disparaging sea nymphs.

Brooding Cepheus sits by Cassiopeia, as undeserving
among planets as humans,
guilty of offering Andromeda to Cetus, atonement for
the Queen Mother’s transgressions;
(what’s with comparing mother/daughter beauty to goddesses,
Nereids, and female water spirits?)
Husband and wife filicide co-conspirator’s fate merits
Medusa’s gaze—a stone not star eternity.

Sterling Warner is a Washington-based author, educator, and Pushcart nominee. His works have appeared in many international magazines, journals, and anthologies including the Scarlet Leaf Review, Street Lit: Representing the Urban Landscape, Visual Verse, Metamorphoses, BlogNostics and the Fib Review. His poetry and fiction collections include Rags & Feathers, Without Wheels, Edges, ShadowCat, and Memento Mori: A Chapbook Redux. His first fiction collection, Masques: Flash Fiction & Short Stories debuted in August 2020. Apart from washing hands, distancing, and wearing a face mask these days, Warner spends his time writing, wood working, and salmon fishing.