Two Poems by Felicia Nimue Ackerman

Spend an Afternoon with Annie

Annie’s always calm and cheerful,
Speaks no ill of friend or foe,
Always prudent and productive,
Meets temptation with a no.

Never gossips, never grumbles,
Eats fresh fruit instead of cake.
Spend an afternoon with Annie–
See how long you stay awake.

Lenore in the Sunlight

I wake at dawn and face the sun,
Whose rays caress my head.
I glory in the morning light,
Though I can’t leave my bed.

My will is strong, my body weak.
Please help me stay alive.
It’s much too soon for me to die;  
I’m only ninety-five.

“Spend an Afternoon with Annie” and “Lenore in the Sunlight” first appeared in The Providence Journal.

Felicia Nimue Ackerman is a professor of philosophy at Brown University and has had over 230 poems published in a wide range of places, including several in past issues of Sparks of Calliope.

Two Poems by Joshua C. Frank

Alone Together

Narcissus, in the days of old,
Fell in love with his reflection.
He knew none greater to behold
And starved while staring at “perfection.”
Now we’re enamored with our phones
Reflecting worlds of our own minds.
We sit and stare, as still as stones,
Bound by the modern tie that blinds.

At beaches, churches, concert halls,
Campgrounds, parks, and county fair,
We shut ourselves in online walls
As at our phones we stop and stare,
Side by side with closest friends.
We shun and snub each other thus,
And our relationship descends
To that of strangers on a bus.

The Vacant Playground

The playground’s occupied no more
The wind blows sand against the slide
No playground chatter like before
The swings are swaying side to side

The wind blows sand against the slide
The ladder’s rusting bit by bit
The swings are swaying side to side
The wooden picket fence is split

The ladder’s rusting bit by bit
No hands now touch the sliding poles
The wooden picket fence is split
No balls are kicked through soccer goals

No hands now touch the sliding poles
No parents calling children’s names
No balls are kicked through soccer goals
The children won’t play screen-free games

No parents calling children’s names
No playground chatter like before
The children won’t play screen-free games
The playground’s occupied no more

“Alone Together” and “The Vacant Playground” were first published by The Society of Classical Poets.

Joshua C. Frank works in the field of statistics and lives near Austin, Texas.  His poetry has also been published in The Society of Classical Poets, Snakeskin, Atop the Cliffs, and The Asahi Haikuist Network, and his short fiction has been published in Nanoism.

“The Crows” by Leslie Lippincott Hidley

This tale’s nothing new,
as everyone knows
There’s nothing as sad
as the sorrow of crows.

Other birds sing so sweetly
their music and song
But crows are in mourning
for what has gone wrong.

They remind us of error,
of pride and self-will:
Their sound, so discordant,
no soft little trill;

Their sad, cranky cry,
Their constant complaint,
If they only had thumbs,
they’d have fun, they could paint!

Or play cards or make biscuits
Oh! Biscuits they love!
Toss bits on the lawn
They’ll fly down from above

But won’t stop complaining,
It’s all that they utter –
All the while that they’re eating,
“Where’s the jam? Why no butter?”

They’re never content
in their glossy black clothes
As they perch on the clothesline
in glossy black rows

And complain to each other
what our garden lacks
In the way of large fountains
and licorice snacks.

But we do our best,
if they left we’d miss them
(which isn’t to say that we’d
hug or kiss them!)

For crows are stand-off-ish
if you’re not of their kind,
If not one of their species,
they really would mind.

We live here together,
The best that we’re able
Some of us steady,
Some are unstable.

Crankier birds I don’t
Think you can find
Than the crows that we’ve got
But we really don’t mind

‘Cause the crows don’t mind us
No matter how cheerful
Or chatty or happy or
How much an earful

Of singing and talking
And chirping we might
Beginning at dawn and
Keep up half the night.

Leslie Lippincott Hidley has been writing prose and poetry for her own amusement and that of her family and friends and others for most of her 76 years. And one of her ten grandchildren is named Kalliope. She has lived in Walla Walla, Washington; Frankfurt and Bremerhaven, Germany; Upper New York State; Enid, Oklahoma; Montgomery and Prattville, Alabama; Lubbock, Texas; Dover, Delaware; West Palm Beach, Florida; Goose Bay, Labrador; Washington, D.C.; Fairfield, California; Omaha, Nebraska; and now resides in Ojai (Nest-of-the-Moon), California, where she continues to write.

Two Poems by A. Gee

By the Shore

Whitecaps, eager, race to shore —
couldn’t get there any faster;
sand attempts to keep the score…

Shells of pearl and alabaster
dot the wild, abandoned coast,
laid bare as an ossuary,
and the wind, a mournful ghost,

Indifferent, the waves hurry.

Beach Chair

Hanging clouds, soft cotton candy,
wispy tendrils probe about.
In my beach chair, sipping brandy,
waiting for the tide to out.
Sweat is cooling, makes me shiver,
pondering my life and death,
yearning for a single sliver
of a sail upon God’s breath.

There she is, all mast and power
as she leans from bow to stern.

As her wake upends the hour

yearning over, I return.

A. Gee has spent the bulk of his 20-year career writing code for a living. An avid reader of both English and Russian classical literature and poetry (English is his third language), he’s long been fascinated by the challenge of creating metrical, rhyming English poetry that wants to escape out of your mouth and be read out loud. A happily married father and grandfather, A. Gee and his wife split their time between New Jersey and Texas. Check out his book, Myth Takes: Rhyme and Reason in the Age of Entitlement or more of his poetry here.

Two Poems by Paul Buchheit

To Seize the Day

With every pulse a pixie scatters dust
to mark her presence, as the gods ordain:
she heaves and thrashes with a harlot’s lust
to satisfy the scurrilous refrain
of moments hurtling in a desperate
appeal to never end, while humankind,
possessed of dreamlike powers to emit
a billion self-delusions in its mind,
adorns itself in jewels, velvet robes,
and masquerades of immortality.

But merciless the timeless eye that probes
and parodies the human foolery
of squandering tomorrows to ascend
to glory just before tomorrows end.

To Embrace One’s Fortune

When breath of dusk is gathering inside,
and paths are blurred by brooding clouds of mist;
when kindred spirits hesitate to guide
your errant journey, and the Fates persist
in taunting you by lashing heavy stone
to every step: then stoke your neural fires
until the glimmer in your mind has grown
to waves of longing, rousing your desires
to revel in the ancient mysteries
of being. Lots were cast for centuries,
and moments passed in infinite degrees
of time and place for fleeting ecstasies
to spark your life — yet lives to never be
are numerous as droplets in the sea!

Paul Buchheit, a lifelong Chicagoan and retired college teacher, is an author of books, poems, progressive essays, and scientific journal articles. He recently completed his first historical novel, 1871: Rivers on Fire. His most recent non-fiction book was Disposable Americans, published in 2017 by Routledge.

“Conjure” by Dana Ravyn

For those who I have loved, I cannot know
if time has been so fair or cruel to me.
Have thoughts of me just faded long ago,
or held me tenderly in memory?
At night I peel back the waning layers
and coax their voices sweetly to their tongues,
to resurrect the songs of muted players,
the notes unplucked and chords we could have strummed.
The faded faces where their eyes once glowed
stare back from every shadow on my wall.
I’d give up all I’ve hoped and all I’ve known,
if their sighs whispered now and let me fall.
Outside the chains of time their love is free,
but do they ever yearn to conjure me?

Dana Ravyn is a poet, novelist, and educator. She has published a novel (Fearless Heart), a chapbook (Swidden Dreams), and haiku and poetry in print internationally. Her new series of poems will appear in Red Haircrow’s upcoming anthology, Varied Spirits, in early 2023. Dana lives in the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, area.

Two Poems by William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827)

Arguably known as much for his painting skills as for his poetry, British Romantic poet William Blake (1757-1827) was recognized for neither during his lifetime. Blake has been posthumously recognized for the philosophical undercurrents in his self-proclaimed prophetic works.

Blake was said to be influenced at one point, as were many writers of his time, by the ideals of the American and French Revolutions. His vocal criticism of organized religion and idiosyncratic viewpoints likely did nothing to help him gain prominence in literary circles during his lifetime; however, the rise and fall of many writers’ reputations throughout the centuries has more to do with the ideologies and sentiments of modern critics than actual fair analysis of one’s work in the context of their own time and circumstance.

The third of seven children, Blake was homeschooled by his mother after age 10. He entered into an apprenticeship for seven years to become a professional engraver, after which he became a student at the Royal Academy. In 1781, he married the illiterate Catherine Boucher, who he taught not only to read and write, but how to engrave. She subsequently helped him in his craft for the rest of his life.

Blake’s most recognizable poems include “The Tyger” and “The Chimney Sweeper: When My Mother Died I Was Very Young,” both of which are found below.

The Tyger

Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp.
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The Chimney Sweeper: When My Mother Died I Was Very Young

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry ” ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep! ‘weep!”
So your chimneys I sweep & in soot I sleep.

There’s little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head
That curled like a lamb’s back, was shaved, so I said,
“Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head’s bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair.”

And so he was quiet, & that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping he had such a sight!
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, & Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black;

And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins & set them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing they run,
And wash in a river and shine in the Sun.

Then naked & white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind.
And the Angel told Tom, if he’d be a good boy,
He’d have God for his father & never want joy.

And so Tom awoke; and we rose in the dark
And got with our bags & our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy & warm;
So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

Two Poems by Edmund Spenser

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

A contemporary of William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, British Renaissance poet Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) is probably best known as the author of “The Fairie Queen,” an epic fantasy poem celebrating the monarch of the time, Queen Elizabeth I.

Spenser, however, did much more than write a flattering poem paying tribute to the queen and her family line. He also wrote many sonnets and is considered one of the founders and most respected craftsmen of English verse.

Born in London and twice married, Spenser’s life was spent writing and socializing in literary circles. His foray into politics was suppressed during his lifetime, possibly due to his incendiary viewpoints regarding the Irish. His prose pamphlet entitled “A View of the Present State of Ireland” argued for destroying the customs and language of the Irish people, by violence if necessary, to force them into a more submissive stance toward the English. He died in London at age 46 and was buried in Poets’ Corner in Westminister Abbey.

Aside from his most famous (and very lengthy) epic fantasy poem, “The Fairie Queen,” the following two sonnets are from his collection Amoretti and are among the most notable poems Spenser wrote.

Amoretti LXXIX: Men Call You Fair

Men call you fair, and you do credit it,
For that your self ye daily such do see:
But the true fair, that is the gentle wit,
And vertuous mind, is much more prais’d of me.
For all the rest, how ever fair it be,
Shall turn to naught and lose that glorious hue:
But only that is permanent and free
From frail corruption, that doth flesh ensue.
That is true beauty: that doth argue you
To be divine, and born of heavenly seed:
Deriv’d from that fair Spirit, from whom all true
And perfect beauty did at first proceed.
He only fair, and what he fair hath made,
All other fair, like flowers untimely fade.

Amoretti LIV: Of This Worlds Theatre in Which We Stay

Of this worlds Theatre in which we stay,
My love lyke the Spectator ydly sits
Beholding me that all the pageants play,
Disguysing diversly my troubled wits.
Sometimes I joy when glad occasion fits,
And mask in myrth lyke to a Comedy:
Soone after when my joy to sorrow flits,
I waile and make my woes a Tragedy.
Yet she beholding me with constant eye,
Delights not in my merth nor rues my smart:
But when I laugh she mocks, and when I cry
She laughes, and hardens evermore her hart.
What then can move her? if not merth nor mone,
She is no woman, but a sencelesse stone.

“Centripetal Faith” by Andrew Benson Brown

The Greeks observed, in their curving theaters, just how the straight
path of dodging fate revolves one towards its center.
The mask of the tragic presenter expressed each face’s frown.
And to steal another’s crown of fate, that’s twice as grim
when two spools too quickly grow slim, two wound-up knitting skeins
are uncoiled and cut in twain as they hug, intertwined.
It’s true, the planets align once every hundred years
or so, veering to smile at their wandering fellow spheres.
Then the sun’s commandment steers them away to orbit alone.

The Hebrews knew, praying beneath their domes in the sand,
that though cupped in Heaven’s hand, one can’t escape its turning.
When a golden temple is burning and sorrow fills the sky,
and the new moon on high occults each brilliant star
and eyelids close and the scarred breast, submerged in sobbing,
quickens its sharp throbbing till hollowed, voided, cold
fingers can still be folded in prayer: it warms the heart,
unveils celestial charts concealed in infinity—
but it’s not enough to save a temple built of gold.

Andrew Benson Brown was a graduate student at George Mason University before taking too many classes outside his discipline coincided with the reality of Debt. He now works as a children’s caseworker in rural Missouri. In his spare time, he reads obscure classics, writes things of little market value, and exercises far more than is befitting for a modern intellectual.

“Richard Wilbur R.I.P.” by John J. Brugaletta

He who turned our English tongue
into songs no one had sung
now has fallen and now lies
in a place that gives no prize,
under several feet of loam
in a narrow wooden home.

Rhymes no longer meet his ears.
Now the autumn frost appears
not to delve where he now sleeps
in a land where no one weeps;
where no dog lies past a pine;
no one cherishes his swine.

Now our formalists are left
in a tidy little cleft.
Like the Spartans at the gates,
each composes and then waits.
Time will tell if taste returns
with some newer well-wrought urns.

John J. Brugaletta is the author of ten volumes of poetry, including his Selected Poems (Future Cycle Press). His poems have appeared in Extreme Formal Poems, The Formalist, Measure, The Random House Treasury of Light Verse, and TRINACRIA. He is Professor Emeritus of literature at California State University, Fullerton.