Site design: Skeleton
Sample Poems by Stephen Cushman
Anniversary of Appomattox
Some people so lonely
they can’t bear the birds again,
those catchy solos about duets
mouthing off outside the window.
Others been lonely so long
they’re used to making do
and don’t want you
reminding them of redbud blossoms
they’ve learned to live without.
So if you’re a victor, shut
your trap and do no harm
to people who hear in birds,
only the terms of surrender.
So subjunctive, your name;
yet there’s nothing iffy
about the trees in basic green,
their colorful underwear gone
back in the drawer of early spring,
nothing the least bit contingent
in the way a wood thrush succeeds
white-throated sparrows at dawn
or iris follows dogwood.
Here in the northern temperate zone,
how could you possibly express
the hypothetical, the wish,
with all your satisfactions
so relentlessly indicative?
Oh, what I wouldn’t give
to cross your looks with just a whiff
of that autumnal musk
you emanate down under.
Bioluminescence Is a Big Word
for tiny cells and tissues
fermenting with an enzyme
inside the abdomen of the very first firefly
this spring, the only one floating
above the dark acres of a derelict farm
on a muggy May evening. Could be a scout
charged by the others with patrolling the fields,
in bad need of mowing, for non-flying females
on the ground or in bushes, who seeing him beam
the correct species signal, answer right back
in codes of their own. Or maybe he’s eager,
this soft-bodied beetle, and impressively potent.
Whatever the case, how can they call
a device for mating heatless light?
And why dub him lightning bug
when his guttering glow has less in common
with blinding bolts than blinking yellow
at midnight intersections, caution, caution
flashed out here against the black
to steady the pulse in spite of all risk
inherent in chemistry, no matter how small.
A sea-side town in Greece
and on the way back from the beach,
along a lane beside the train tracks
through groves of groaning lemon trees
and stands of red poppies,
past purple quilts of bougainvillea
and one sparrow with a currant in its beak
and something heard in the uncut grass
with too much slither for a lizard,
a middle-aged man out trying to teach
himself to ride a beat-up bicycle,
to learn on a few wobbly turns of the pedals
the secret of balance,
having no father to show him how
between the crashes of metal that sound
down the lane at regular intervals
across the warming Gulf of Corinth
from the snowy peak of Parnassus.
Said of a flower
that opens in moonshine,
but doesn’t it mean
full moon bamboozles
the gullible flower,
by cranking out shadows,
or does such a flower
any old onslaught
of usable beams
and the moon’s special mix
of darkness and light
as it coaxes each petal
so ready to open
to just the right touch.