Off the Coast, Maine's International Poetry Journal

SPRING 2012: "Green"

Hinges & Splinters

The builder called a home organic
and banned us from remodeling.
Home, he says, is a system tangled in systems

and lots more hip metaphor
for all the rooms we occupy,
we the seven billion remodelers.

And that's only humans.
How many ants, and elephants,
what weeds shoulder through pavement!

The year began at a railroad crossing
and I was happy, uplifted
by my Resolution: Stand up more.

Science, our tool to fix cluttered wiring,
plumbing, to learn balance,
says stand and live longer.

Then a mile of coal cars, a recitative,
rolled its dirge downtown.
I felt that twinge grind inside.

I called it "fear." It echoed in my skull
as I walked uphill, along the shoulders of the world,
tapped my doorframe into place, and I was home.

Michael Daley, Anacortes, WA

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A gleaming ball
of blue
and brown
in the black.

Will Hodgkinson, Arlington, MA
Youth Poet

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The Women of the Village

don't waste anything. Wear
their dresses for years. Wouldn't
think of throwing away
good food. Use their muscle
to cook from scratch, scrub floors, walk
to the baker and the butcher. Crochet
doilies to dress their homes. Know
how to chop wood, milk a goat,
pluck a chicken, scale fish. Can fire
wood to heat a room and
sometimes even to cook. Think
you're crazy with your new-fangled
things, sputtering exhaust and
making noise, polluting the harbor
and the air in town, puffing into
the mountains. And where
are you going anyway? Aren't you
there yet?

Donna J. Gelagotis Lee, Princeton Junction, NJ

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You Only Have to Ask

So what if the ostriches
and the egg-yolk yellow birds
aren't out today festooning the trees.
There is still all that I think
when I stop thinking, the fibers
and threads, all the weavings
of my mind going on by itself,
hoarding its dictionaries
and alphabets that are the envy
of everyone for their color and song,
their dances over flowers and tufts of weeds,
better than all the cartwheels at the fair.

I am cultivating a brisk vacancy,
one full of sinews and muscles that arrive
in a flash like the princes and heroes
of old. O Dictionary, O Alphabet,
keep me company that I may delve
into your many conversations, tunes
and speeches, your memories.

So I go on through the sifting winds
under the slow clouds that are so white today.
I can always follow the traceries,
the glances of the sun, threads
in the fall of the rain. Everything
is emblazoned and you have only to ask
the smallest dwarf in the forest
and you will see it all.

—Tam Lin Neville, Somerville, MA

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Shopping at Bread and Circus After Hearing a Poet Read Poems about her Trip into the Low Impact Wilderness

we glide down aisles
smiles beatific thoughts pure
our Saabs and Volvos parked outside
bumper-stickered "free Tibet"

it is beautiful here
what waits for us
like Christmas morning
polished food in perfect pyramids
organic and serene
milk in glass bottles
from your grandmother's childhood

fish that swam smiling into the nets
or maybe directly into the cases
to plant themselves on ice
animals that ranged free and muscular
before we got hungry

we leave only money
we take only food
homeopathic remedies
and aromatherapy sheep

shelf life is short here
infant eggplants artichokes zucchini
reaching their destinies fast
baby spinach ripped
from its mother earth
still soft and small
like the sweetly sticky toddlers
in our shopping carts

it is convenient here
effortless to hunt and gather
signs grammatical and even the radicchio
and mesclun spelled correctly
pale restrooms with changing tables
we leave our shit where we can
secure in knowing the fruit and coffee pickers
live in cozy bungalows
and send their picker children
to progressive schools

maybe we should have shortened the days
of the miserable penned veals
instead of the gamboling ones
roaming bright meadows
with the chicken parts and lamb chops
in Bambi-esque nirvana

but it is beautiful here
in the blond wood aisles
here in the glow
of unbleached cotton
it is beautiful here
we are one with the world

—Ellen Steinbaum, Cambridge, MA

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A Morning Song

The gray sky's gray lies lightly on the air.
Drifts descend out of a depth less sky
to burden our homes with white mantles.
The trees are set to snarl the air just so,
the filigree of their limbs stark
upon the winter moming.
In them the redbird rouses.
A rare breath cllsh ions the edge of wind
with pillows of mist.
The chickadee proffers his black cap
where the bankrupt feeder weaves
above the belly of snow, the chaste ice.
It is too soon to impose the arc
and fall of will upon these shi fting things:
dunes of flakes, this pale sea of silence.

—Lewis Turco, Dresden, ME

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Heavenly Desert

Heaven is under our heel as well as over our heads.
- Henry David Thoreau

Forget the moon, sun and stars.
Come back down to earthsnuggle
up to a snail as it snacks
on a cabbage leaf.

Life is far too brief to long
for what's beyond our reach.
Take notice of the glint of light
on the consecrated waters

of the sea of salt, Arabian Gulf.
The shamal-driven grains of sand
glancing off the long erect crest
of the Hoopoe feed ing along the grass

verges of the irrigated roadside,
the small wiry bush Acacia tortilis
with its tight-clustered white aromatic
flowers tolerant (you are envious)

of drought and heat, high alkalinity,
stony soil and sand blasting- its pods
and foliage favorite fodder of desert grazers;
crystalline desert roses under the surface

of the inland sabkha, one meter above
the water table, just waiting to be dug up.
Moon flowers at dusk, scent of wild mint
and musk, chorus of cicadas,

Cape hare in a clump of saltbush.
Don't wish for the moon.
You'll have it soon enough.
Instead of looking up, look down

and witness the marvels under your feet.
Then walk gingerly, with fear
and trembling, intent on disturbing
nothing of this divine desert.

—Diana Woodcock , Dohar, Qatar

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Song of the Grub

I am part of everything that under
the sun is under the earth. But more
innocent than the worm who renders
soil as grief. My beauty is the lore

of ancients: Adam and Eve before
they ate. You can see my gut
through my skin. Guileless pores.
No dirt in my belly. So I cannot
guess why light hurts, naked
as I am. Perhaps once I sat
a pink-cheeked cherub in the rote
of the sky, but that's

certainty before creation. So cover me,
my pallor, against your bruising heel.

—Lois Marie Harrod, Hopewell, NJ

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on the frozen pond
the global warming skeptic
walks a bit faster

—William Cullen Jr., Brooklyn, NY

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