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by EMILY SPENCE
The moon gently ascends out of a stand of quiet birch.
It backlights them
so the edge of each limb, twig and leaf
is momentarily lit up and etched
with dazzling white brilliance.
Drenched in light,
each lacy bough stands out,
blazing in vivid detail.
Then as the moon rises,
the birch gradually sink back to a dull grayish mass –
a murky blur pressed against a wall of sheer starry sky.
My eyes follow the moon upward on its path
as it weaves through stars
riding their own patterns across the night.
Past the moon,
I construct in my thought what is further out –
dense blue suns, huge black holes,
swirling cosmic debris,
lifeless silence and infinite emptiness,
an emptiness replete with itself.
I feel disturbed, lonely and sad
as I measure the smallness of life
against the stretching immensity
of that cold timelessness.
Then, my glance returns to the splendid birch,
and to nearby mountains–
lumpy mountains I regard as friends
because I have loved them dearly,
know their slopes as intimately
as the palms of my hands.
They conceal a great section of sky from sight
and tonight, I find solace in that cut-off view.
Surrounded by birch and mountains,
I measure the small landscape that they provide my life
against the infinity the universe engulfs,
and the eons grown obscure.
Against such vastness and mystery
my close surroundings cradle me,
bring tender aching love for intimate
Emily Spence is a teacher in MA, USA. She has written poetry since a young child , and was the recipient of assorted awards, fellowships and grants, including from NEH and the Ford Foundation. Emily’s art and writing have showcased in galleries and museum exhibits, including at the S. R. Guggenheim’s “Learning to Read through the Arts” show.
Stranded in Stumptown, Brother, Can You Spare A Twenty?
by PAUL K. HAEDER
He calls Houston home, 27 years after reaching
northern hemisphere stars, afterglow of Dak To
napalm sunrise lingers, aged 14,
“… first time on boat, no way, no way for me . . .”
DNA bloodline tied to fish, Nguyen (Win) Van Sinh,
stranded in Portland, finger-printed, shuffled jail to jail
“honorable mention” for Win’s warrant, grandly issued
to all homeless – vagrancy – Salem cops feed like maggots
on throw-away flesh, electrodes grounded & bond to badges,
jailers laugh, people cornered between Hills 875 & 876 –
Apocalypse Now planet, night-vision scope focused on Win,
hunter’s law, Pacific coast swarms with radiated fish.
My stout-mouth flapped… humorous, intense,
actionable – “Sir, no, sir, I understand, but
America owns collateral damage, unspeakable millions.”
Thrown down, I am Tom Petty & Heartbreakers
dog-town cathedral, “I can’t back down.”
Charges exhaust out antibacterial air, cling low to insane asylum floor,
ancient lies stick to my swinging dick; I sit still, steam,
listen to tattooed cops boast about beer blasts, pieces of ass,
“Hey, hipster Haeder, whaddya say now?”
Posters on wall: “Support our Troops,”
“FBI’s Most Wanted, ” “Hard Cash for Tips”
“Join the US Border Patrol Today”
Six-hour lock-up, six more than Tricky Dick,
others in Stumptown wrangled 72 hours,
paraded into courts where juvies plead community service
for spit balls in-class . . . man, Win, he’s 41, popped for
vagrancy, behind bars, “failure to appear,”
Oh shit — he’s old enough to drink at V.F.W.’s, pay dues,
take “fix” behind Flying J latrine doors.
On road, he’s animal embryo, democracy devolving,
waiting for Agent Orange sunrise to lift South China Sea.
Win passes through metal-detector arch, “…Chúc ong di bình yên
…safe trip, Professor Haeder,”
freer than anything god released from Egypt,
he humps pack along Columbia River,
only way Win knows how to stay clean, acceptable.
Under Tet constellation, Sterno light,
forgotten by enemy & IRS,
Mike-Mikes fire 300 rounds per second,
Win jumps stump-to-stump, “vagrant,”
he hears Salem cop-posse talk, fire-tracers, say,
“Chalk up one more in place he don’t belong.”
Paul Haeder is a teacher, photographer, and journalist living in Vancouver, WA. He’s worked in
radio, had poems, fiction and creative non-fiction published in House Organ, the William and
Mary Review, and Small Pond Review of Literature. Paul worked for newspapers in Southern
Arizona and Southwest Texas for years. He edits “School Yard Fights” at Dissident Voice.
by MARC BEAUDIN
As a child he knelt down to pray
he knelt down to puke
The results were roughly the same
Marc Beaudin is the regular editor of Poets’ Basement. He’s thankful to Chuck for filling in this week, and for asking for a poem to include. More CrowVoice.com.
This edition of Poets Basement was guest-edited by Charles Orloski, Taylor, Pennsylvania. Along with the late-Stew Albert, Orloski’s a veteran-rider on Poets Basement since Operation Phantom Fury, 2004. The poems were selected in honor of author’s passion for roaming mountains and justice. Orloski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)
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To submit to Poets Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at email@example.com with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work). Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where. For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights. Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx – use “Save As” to change docx files to “.doc”). Expect a response within two months (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions). Submissions not following the guidelines may or may not receive a response.
Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology.
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