Poems from
the Eleventh Intergenerational Poetry Slam



  THE SWAN ON NUTTING LAKE
for Thomas Lux
by Jack McCarthy

Among the geese and ducks
on Nutting Lake this spring,
a single swan appeared,
southwest of where
the Middlesex Turnpike
bisects the lake.
I look for him each day
as I roll through on my way
to work, from work...

He frequents the little island
in the southmost corner,
but sometimes my eye's betrayed
by a white plastic K-Mart lawn chair
sitting on a dock on the western shore
not far away from the liquor store.

I keep hoping to see a second swan,
and I bet our singleton
is thinking the same thing,
scanning the sky
for some foxy female
happening to overfly
look down, spot him, and think,
hey, that stud's got
a lake of his own;
and her biological clock will sound
a shrieking Mayday alarm
and all her nesting hormones
will sieze control
bringing her around and down
in a long slow gliding arc

but it hasn't happened yet.
And more and more often lately
our Singleton is turning up
in the area of that
windswept lawn chair,
so that I wonder if his eye
betrays him the same way mine does me,
if that peripheral flash of white
says "Swan!" to him too,
but he likes that white lie,
the way that solitary men
find comfort sometimes
in airbrushed images of women.

And why am I so sure
it's a male waiting for a female anyway?
Why not female, or gay? or bi?
I guess because I
populate its head
with foolish masculine fantasies.
Thomas Lux has a poem about a guy
who hung upside down
from a bridge over a highway
to paint a message of love
for his sweetheart
only to perpetrate a particularly
gruesome misspelling
of a critical word.
After a reading someone asked
why he was so sure
the painter was male
and it's not often words fail
Lux, but on this occasion
all he could say was,

"You've got to be kidding."
Point being that the right to make
a public and spectacular fool of oneself
over a potential mate
is a deeply cherished
masculine prerogative.

So if our swan isn't a young male,
must be he's an old one.
They say swans mate for life--
though as for that I was watching
PBS about coyotes
and they said they mate for life
but later on they showed
this renegade young male
attempting to scale
the hindquarters of the alpha female
and I couldn't help noticing she
wasn't exactly desperate to escape....
Maybe animals mating for life
isn't a rule, exactly,
it's more like a guideline,
they're not fanatics about it.

(Actually, I wasn't really
watching that show,
my wife was and I
just happened to be going by.
That would be my
second wife, Alpha Carol.)

But getting back to our swan,
(now that we've established it's a he)
maybe he's old, and lost his mate.
Maybe he hasn't come
to Nutting Lake
to await a mate,
he's come to die--

much the way that I
felt after my first marriage broke up
when I said to Grandmother Read,
"My life is very exciting,
I'm doing lots of interesting things
there are terrific women at meetings
but part of me can't help feeling
that my life is over,"
and she said,
"A chapter of your life
is over.
The next chapter
hasn't started yet."

And I guess that's what
I'd like to say to our swan.
Bide your time, shining brother.
Keep putting one webbed foot
in front of the other.
Find solace in your solitude.
And mark the day
when you hear yourself say,
"Hey, this ain't bad.
I eat when I'm hungry
I drink when I'm dry
and if moonshine don't kill me
I'll live till I die."

Because then you'll know you're ready
for some female swan
foxy and real
to overfly Nutting Lake
and wheel into a long slow
descending curve
when she spots you.

No swan is an island;
don't drive her away.
Guidelines are okay,
but there's no percentage
in fanaticism.
You've lake to share;
don't settle for the company
of geese and ducks,
a plastic K-Mart lawn chair.
Remember Thomas Lux;
remember the immortal words
of Dustin Hoffman: "K-Mart sucks."




  THE STAR
by Yeth Kong and Catherine Hardy

At midnight I am sitting here alone
Above the moonlight is bright
(Like the) inside of my soul
I take a look at the sky
The star I see is too high from me
(Just like you) oh I miss you
Do you know I love you
The winds of my heart are cold
All my life I am wishing
That you would come into my arms
I want to reach the star
I want to touch the star
The star is far away from me
I want to sing you a favorite song
My heart is too strong
And my heart belongs to you
Nothing is wrong with me
Silent night I am alone
I am calling your name in the night
And my heart feels emptiness
Every night and every day
I think of you
Without you my heart is cold
I wish to send you my love




 
The Wish Denied
by Doris Gayzagian

How dare those fresh new shoots of daffodils appear
And robins chirp with sweet lighthearted glee,
Squirrels scamper, gathering leaves for treetop nests,
And crocus chorus sing a wake-up song,
As if nothing nothing nothing at all
Had changed?

Dull winter's gloom still grips my grieving heart
In spite of sun and shadows' duo dance.
Instead of cloudless blue my sky is drear.
Eyes blind to yellow willow's arch
See barren branches sheathed in snow
And ice.

I wince to think how much you loved the spring,
To clean the brook and clear away the brush,
To saw the tree trunks felled by winter storms
To split and sort and stack for future fires,
But no flame thaws my shroud of
Widowhood.

A robin calls, cheerful, insistent, annoying,
Taunting me to share his view of woods.
Whispering spring-fresh breezes swirl and tease,
But I resist their tempting touch
Until at last their wills win over mine.
I go.

On head and shoulders rivulets of warmth
Ease tangled thoughts and tired nerves long-clenched.
Remembering your vow to live till spring -
A wish denied - my heart relents, accepts
Renewal, and tries like daffodils
To bloom again.




 
Nightbirds
by Katie Fowley

At night
the nightbirds
with their long moon beam wings
streak past
my window. Daylight,
you are still
sleeping,
your eye lids closed
like pages of parchment,
your shine snuffed
to ashes.

While you are sleeping,
I am half dreaming.
My eyes
open.
and close.
I am lying in my bed-room
or am I?
The perimeters of cabinet and closet
are smudged by eraser
Lucid night visions mesh
with concrete walls.
It is past twilight
but before you have risen
in your bleached robes.
In that moment of midnight blue
the nightbirds come
their eyes
as lush
as dew
their wings
as soft
as the inside of slippers

And they sing to me,
while you are still sleeping.
Voices
whisper like the plink of icicles.
Voices
sing like the clatter of trumpets.
Their music
lures me past dreams.
and I wake
up
run to my window
search for the jewels of their eyes
in the empty night.

There is no word to define
these birds.
They are neither sparrow
nor hawk,
but only velvety
black.

Morning, you draw me out of bed
with your charred, searching fingers
slap light on my face
and wash away the night,
scrubbing each cloudy surface
till it gleams crisply
and I can see the edges of things.

You tell me that birds don't sing in the night.
You've only heard the fierce songs of the morning birds.
You tell me that I'm dreaming.




 
Fox Run
by Susan Edwards Richmond

When I saw the fox again this morning
I thought it must have been some sign.
For where in this cultivated life have I any right
to have a fox run through? I was lucky

to be awake, my face at the window
just then. I could have easily
been looking down, head in the dishes,
minding something unseen, inside.

But he came smoothly, galloping, crossing
the street lightly, no one else out, no one
to see. He was my fox, coming for me.
And I moved from window to door

to window to see him through,
around the brush pile, over the stone
wall of my neighbor's yard, each frame
I sought diminishing him.

I followed the streaking gold, alive, stirring
me with his wildness, in broad daylight,
casual as a dog, as though he belonged,
as though he would stay if I called to him,

if I sat still. But he keeps
running, a needle's swift threading of my heart,
the thrill, his feet barely touching, stitching
together the bare places, moss and sand.

It has been months, but once
he acknowledged me, with deep fox eyes,
quivering black mustache of mouth, I was out
on the porch, and froze, not breathing

for a moment. I was fox, too,
imagined myself worthy
to run with him. If only I didn't move.
Was he grateful, in his trembling, for

giving me that pleasure, proven
once, not vision only, but flesh and bone,
(oh, to bury my face in your fur!)
before moving on?

But I don't count in a fox's world,
or I'm a danger. He has seen
envy tear his brother limb from limb,
and has no use for my grief.

Still, caprice is a sort of comfort,
here again and gone. Coming
out of a misty morning, vanishing into it,
a blessing when I least expect one.

If only I could free myself of expectation,
stay silent, I could feel forever
watching his flight my chest tightening
with the rash beauty of this morning,




 
Navigating the Woodland Of Life
by Mark Hazel

Life has been no easy forest for me to navigate --
Not always with a predetermined path to follow,
But abounding with rocks and roots to trip over
While stumbling along in a period of darkness.
Never knowing whether to take the left or the right fork,
Ever maneuvering the endless labyrinth
Of trees with dancing boughs and gnarled bark.
Always following the gently trickling blue snake,
Which is really a minute stream
But never too closely
For fear of falling in.
Constantly checking in all directions
For vicious, rampaging, wild beasts
That may be roaming the wood.
Never willing to stop, pause, or turn around,
Though sometimes I wish I could,
Being prevented only by the fact that
Even if I tried, I wouldn't be able to find my way back.
Ever keeping my faith in the reward on the other side,
I continue to traverse through the seasonally changing woodland of life.




 
The New Chelmsford Public Library
by M. Paul Ward

It seems like years ago I heard it,
That we'd someday be inside
This new and lovely building.
It would give us so much pride.

A lot of work went into this
As months of work we saw.
Did we think it would turn out this good?
We looked, we liked, but nah.

The days and weeks of busted bricks
And tousled turf and high debris
Attested to good money spent
But where the heck's the library.

They even moved a building
Way up the street someplace.
To add to the expansion
And provide us with more space.

Aha, the space it seems, with so much room
Was left and really not
To widen this fine edifice
But leave us one swell parking lot.

The parking lot - Oh boy!
I think of what we had before.
Few spaces so we often used
The lot across the street. No more.

You now can be content
To come here feeling free
To park out front for hours
To use this library.

But wait, It doesn't always work that way.

Last month I ventured here to see.
This monument to Chelmsford pride.
I sought the entrance to the grounds
But couldn't get my car inside.

Apparently there was a sign
Just past the exit newly made
It said next left route twenty seven
Imagine then my escapade.
I passed that left and kept on going
All around the block.
Still looking for the entrance where
I could simply park and lock.

The third time round I took the left
That said to twenty seven.
Yup, there it was, the place to park
A virtual driver's heaven.

The only thing I noticed then
Some cars kept circling the lot
Persistently pursuing there
The twenty-seven route, they sought.

In conclusion:

The powers that be did intervene
In order to form a better center
The wayward sign did leave the scene
Replaced by one that just says ENTER.




 
Every Time I Look at You
by Becki Davis

Every time I look at you
I can't help but think
of the way it used to be.
I see you in the hallway,
with your new group of friends,
and I can't help but stare.
I notice your blue earrings
and the memory of your birthday party
takes over my mind...
That's when I gave you those.
You don't see me looking,
but I am paying attention to everything you do.
Your friends,
the friends I will never have,
look back at me and laugh.
You laugh too,
and you lead them away.
Right before you turn the corner,
you sneak a look at me
and make a face at me.
It's a face of triumph,
a patronizing face,
a face that clearly says
"Too bad, you lost!"
You laugh again,
and you and your group
disappear into the distance.
The hallway is now empty,
and once again,
I am alone.


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