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Poetry Gallery - Southold Library

Poetry Gallery

Welcome to Our New Online Poetry Gallery Featuring Local Poets


A Word About Poetry

Inside this word is a soul
But not every word has a soul
Because what you say is a knife
What you say is a noose
Tell me without words
Or learn the word with a soul inside
And if I am not already dead, I will hear and we will heal
For until then, until then we will both just keep on dying

- Susan L. Rosenstreich


Grand Central: Night Music

Grand Central: Night Music (Grand Central subway station: Christmas shopping crowds line theplatforms, hear a distant violin and non-descript waltz music while waiting for the 7 train.There is a hum and rattle of an escalator in the background.)

-1-

The night rises like a cobra
and you try to tame it
with the music from
the toy keyboard.
You play skate rink tunes
from the fine days
when your children and you
laughed and whirled
on the thin ice of your life.
Your head is tilted to one side,
your red leathered face
emerges from the kerchief,
and you tap the rhythm
with a foot that wears a brown sneaker.
Your clothes stink and your body rocks,
but the night still looms
and you will soon sleep
among others on the stairway.

(Scene shifts to the street while waltz music fades into street sounds: carhorns, car radio entering and fading away, bits of conversations of people rushing by.)

-2-

Help a body out man.
You got any spare change?
You got any spare change?
Got any change?
Can you spare a quarter, man?
You got any spare change?
Help a body out, man?
Got any change?
Can you spare a quarter man?
Any change, man?
Help a body out, man?
Hey, got any change, man?
Any change?
Help a body out, man?
Got any change, man?
Can you spare some change, man?
Any change?
You got any spare change?
You got any spare change?
Hey, help a body out?

(A bass drum penetrates through street noise, a muted tromboneplaying Christmas tune ”There’s no place like home for the holidays”)

-3-

Home
home on the range
home is where the heart is
home is where the hearth is
home run
home
no place like
my old Kentucky
home
fly away
all the way
heaven
be it ever so humble
home is the sailor
home from the sea
keep the fires burning
home
a house is not
home
of the brave
this little piggy stayed
you'll be coming again
keep the fires burning
where the buffalo roam
the little pig stayed
home
there was an old woman
who lived in a shoe
there was an old woman
lived under
the hill,
stairway,
storefront,
stoop,
shelter,
crack house,
air-shaft,
subway.

There was an old woman
a bundle of rags
in a cardboard box
where the buffalo roam
my old Kentucky
on the range
home
home

(Cymbal crash, car horns, talk, noise and music fade out)

The night still looms
and soon sleep will come
beneath the stairway.
Help a body out, man!

- Bill Stamatis


2 Winter Walks

Swaddled in down and corduroy
I venture into the woods
At the verge of a golden meadow
In the brilliant slanting rays
Of January noonlight.

Along the trail
Yesterday’s impressionable mud
Presents today’s trace fossils:
My boot tracks, Ruby’s paw prints,
And the frozen forms of the repeated strike
Of my walking stick…
Hardened natural art beneath my feet

Signed by the Weatherman!

- Joe Mc Kay
1/18/18


Hands of Time

I remember a soft hand
Gently rubbing away the
Bad dreams and lulling me to sleep

I recall a strong hand
Steadying the two wheels of my bike
Holding on until I was ready to let go

I can clearly see that hand
Reaching for mine as we danced
Our first dance

I look down at the gold band
On my finger and I
Lovingly remember the spoken vows

I see a tiny finger curling
Around my hand
So small, tender and trusting

We sit in wicker chairs
Rocking in harmony
Hands clasping
Watching the setting sun

- CarolAnn Zito
3/8/18


Call Me a Poem

in search of language
i return to the water’s edge
and what gathers
in the undercurrent(s)

the turn of driftwood
the shape of sea glass
even the tumble of pebbles

such remnants are left
to suggest texture

- Stella Kamakaris


OUR BARNS 

Crowning a slow rise of farm fields,
on flat land between glacial traces,
storing apples or turnips or corn,
sheltering the produce of earth’s seasons.
Dairy barn, horse barn, hay barn,
buttressed potato barns.
Our settlers sought God’s will in the land,
their barns were hewn timber
protecting the gifts of soil and rain.
Our barns are brown, gray, green,
barn red from the iron earth.
Vertical plank, horizontal clapboard,
asbestos shingle, aged cedar,
handsome board and batten sides.
Raised and re-raised, flanked
with sheds, odd additions, patched
with old windows and doors,
like our own disrupted lives.
In sea mist on quiet mornings
they may appear as ghosts
afloat on green fields reminding us
of the traditional husbandry of this land,
past and present held in one place.

- Sally Kahn


“The Old Neighborhood”

On the avenue, this morning,
under the hulking black elevator train,  I met my grandmother,
wearing a flowered housedress and black oxfords with pinholes.

A white bakery box tied up with red string
hung from her purple veined, brown spotted hand.

Down the block my mother’s high heels clicked like castanets
as she hurried home,
steno pad and typewriter left behind on her city desk.

In our three room apartment,
we sat at the chrome kitchen table on plastic chairs
waiting  for the sweet aroma coffee to percolate.

Inside the cake box lie an iPhone X.
We  texted God.
Asked Him why He had been away so long.

Also, how’s Margaret?
At three years old Margaret died,
of whooping cough.

We have been worried since.

- Pat Gallagher Sassone


Just Visiting

SHE HAS BEEN
JUST VISITING
HERE AND THERE
AND EVERYWHERE
FOR 20 YEARS

JUST VISITING
LONG ISLAND
BROOKLYN
CONNECTICUT
SKIPPED
NEW JERSEY
AND THE BRONX
ALL TOGETHER

JUST VISITING
THIS PLANET
IN THE INTERIM

FRANCE
IRELAND
ITALY
SHE LIKES SHORT
LONG DISTANCE
VISITS
SHORT LONG TERM
COMMITMENTS

SHORT IN THE DURATION
LONG IN THE DISTANCE

JUST VISITING
AND WHEN THE DAY
IS DONE
IT IS BEST DESCRIBED
AS
JUST VISITING
FOR ALL OF LIFE
IS BUT A MERE
VISIT

- Vera DeCicco


NORTH FORK BARN BLUES

When we were a farm, I had three tall stalls. One for the old gray mare. Remember that tune? One for the work horse. Milk cow too. Up where it was warm? My hay loft—sharp, stickety & sweet.  

When roads were dirt & dung, when young boys went to war & never came back. Fields fold over time. Now it’s bikes, kites & pseudo-canoes. The bronze monuments long gone green.

Train tracks shined pearl from oyster shells spilling from barrel after barrel headed west to the red brick mansions of the rich, before the beds of men & shellfish were laid bare by income

tax & greed. One in the same name. And you thought my name was nostalgia? That’s a man’s word for a world that never was. The one a man wished for, but never got around to living

before he was gone. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes my right-now owners sigh as they bury their little black dog right behind my unoiled door. Back where the aspen tree weeps.

Why do they make their dinner outdoors? That’s what a woman’s kitchen is for. They worship the god of charcoal in its metal grate, forsaking the uprightness that is pew & praise on Sunday.

A sin not to know to whom and what to pray for. Dinner won’t get you no where near heaven. And from where I stand, this current crop is quick-stepping straight down to that red-hot location.

Hollering and flickering late-night-lights on small devil screens. What ever happened to chair, book & two-for-two pleasure in bed? Don’t sing “she ain’t what she used to be” to me. I’ve seen it all.

Plainer then. Tawdrier now. Three wars, full forty families here & gone. All that’s tall, silent & green chopped up for fast food & cold music. I’m still here, two hundred years and counting.

- Miranda Beeson


The train to Porto.

Fertile fields patch over my regretful passage
As I slip into the falling vistas of tomorrow
Every shadow a lifetime, every crest borrowed
There’ll be stolen hills and cold farms in my luggage

Your face on the train’s patient window, asleep
Tall trees throwing shadows across your dreams
Deep in an evening lake your tiny breaths weep
For the frost on glass, the glossy deaths in magazines

We long to look back from the next station
To grasp the meaning of our destination.

- Geoffrey Wells


To the Early Harvester of Peconic Bay

If the tide were low enough
the sea level below your knees,
but the tide is not low
the sea is not below knee-level,
you’d tug on rubber boots, thick-soled,
so no shell shards could cut you, you
would wade out into gumbo mud, carrying
a hammer to pry life off the reef,
Samson rope tied waist-high, so
the bounty bucket floats alongside you.

If a license empowered you
but there is no license that gives you sanction,
to rake across the reef
a heavy- toothed dredge
to harvest the smallest, sweetest meat
with slobber, lick, smack on the mouth
and drunk with the ease of the take.
Unaware of the trap set
by the comeback of rising tides. Unaware
of rank water, so common in graveyards
of the slimy and broken
and no good comes from life
on the fringe of death’s layers.

If your spirit were grateful enough
but your spirit is not grateful,
you would confess
that nothing compels you
as much as appetite. You,
lust-gush-gimme
in murky waters, you bloom
in murky waters, you
feast on the colonies of ostrea

without care for seeds or beds,
without discernment, voracious
child of the infamous tide.

Fill your bucket to the brim
And it will spill.

- Vivian Eyre


The House Died Too

The house died, too.
Slowly cracks appeared in the ceiling.
The paint flaked.
The screens tore.
The tiles turned their backs on each other.
The showers leaked.
Squirrels ran across the attic floor,
while the furniture stood stiffly in formal rows
waiting for the clock to stop.

The house is healing, now.
Sunflowers smile from their vase on the hearth.
Carpets tickle bare toes.
Shades open to greet the waking sun,
the teasing moon,
the crackling thunder.

Though the angles of the chairs have shifted,
seats hold the memory of other conversations.
As the tide clock announces the ageless cycles,
lanterns beckon to promised footsteps.
The house waits for new laughter.

- Joan F. Kuchner


Dents de Lion

That’s French, you know,
and fierce,
and so are we —
lions’ teeth for leaves and
blazing golden battle helmets —
French and fierce and ancient.

Raw, boiled, blanched, pounded,
squeezed, braided, brewed, fermented —
we’ve fed cavemen, merchants, kings,
soothed the wounds of hapless knights,
gilded young girls’ hair;
our sweet wine eased the loss
of many a maidenhead,
and in dainty finger sandwiches
we graced posh Victorian teas.
They make rubber from us
and root beer;
bees and butterflies and birds
thrive on us;
our deep roots draw up sustenance
for pampered plants with Latin names.

Every year we claim the field
in the name of spring,
ten thousand tiny suns,
fearsome and obstinate —
just ask those cursing gardeners
yanking us from perfect, toxic lawns.

But why this ceaseless war?
All we ask is to herald spring, then,
no better use appearing,
fade to clouds of silky stars
and drift away
into the welcoming, milky sky.

- Carol Lew Simons
03/23/18


SAILING

If it weren’t for the trees,
There are times we would not notice
The life of air.  We’d forget

We are whirling.  In the afternoon,
My grandson sees
The half-moon in a sky-blue-sky

Alive with foamy clouds.  Having spent
Only nineteen months on Earth,
With unblemished freshness

And no linguistic bias,
He points to that brilliant mass
Afloat in the blue and says, “Boat!”

I want to lift the sails,
The battened years of seeing.
I want to shout, “Boat!” at the moon.

I want to remember our moon boat,
To recognize at every moment,
Even at a desk, paying bills,

Even when the wind is still
And Earth seems unplanetary,
We are sailors of the Milky Way,

Waving our spangled arms
To all who travel
The universe.          

- Fran Castan


Camilia and the Amaryllis

Amaryllis in moonlight, crimson petals    
Velvety like Camilia’s pajamas
Fleece covers her, pureness radiates out

Still swaddled like a babe, my babe to care for
Watching as she sleeps, listening to her breath
Her warm delicate hand, always touching mine

Amaryllis, a simple extravagance
Dig out a pot, find a sunny spot
Whisper to start, laud while it grows  

My child, my flower, my heart
Leaps, breaks how many times a day
We are from the same roots

By nature blooming
Camilia and the Amaryllis

- Melissa Billinghay


THINGS WITH WINGS

if these words could fly
off this page
they would buzz over to you
flutter into your heart
and burn in the flame
that flickers for another

how easy that would be
to end the story which
never really began
for where would the moth land
or what would it say
if it made it through

do you see me now that
i am a plume of light and ash?

do you feel me now that
our hearts have meshed?

another matchstick to strike
a small spark
that doesn’t catch leaves
another nest dry

i flew the coup
right into your light
a short-lived flight
like a black fly
i once shooed

things with wings
love hearts
and flames

- Courtney Lee Hall


Say Yes

I am a puppy, I want Direction.
I am a puppy, I need protection.

But it’s okay, To let me play,
In the end, I will go my way.

I am not a puppet, I want freedom.
I am not a puppet, I need purpose.

It is not OK, To hear me say,
Please let’s go, and always say, No.

Know me, and Let go.

- Benja Schwartz


The Bicycle Path 

Along the bicycle path, time’s light flickers.
Trees peal their pastels to fuller shades and finally to brown.

Nearby, the sea flutters with imaginary fish, slips beneath quickening
mallards, stirs the meringue shore.

I pedal in and out of seasons, tracing footfalls below a teal sky,
That speaks of summer’s morning or winter’s afternoon.

Here the clouds hold the sun like a marble in their billowy cheeks.
Thickets hold their berries from late August through to June.

In time,

The gulls that toss black shells to the stone-cluttered beach,
Will drift like decoys on the swelling sea.

The marsh grasses that whistled like children
And pull at the wind with silvery teeth
Will shift from silver to a dryer gold.

And we will walk

The Bicycle Path,
Growing young,
Growing old.

- Nina Yavel


Any Student 

Don’t be fooled by his appearance
He doesn’t look like or act like an A student
He appears apathetic to learning
He appears not to care
His behavior can be difficult

Yet, there is something special about this child
He has a sense of humor
Despite his poor handwriting and grades
He fooled me
He dazzled me with his writing

Others came before him
Other writers who were like him
Others fooled their teachers
Today they are professional authors

Don’t be fooled by his appearance
Encourage him to communicate with you through his writing
He could be any one of those pairs of eyes
Looking back at you on that first day

He could be any one of your charges
Who appears to be a mediocre student
But is a gifted writer

- Rosemary McKinley

Finalist in poetrymattersproject.com in April of 2017.


Divine Intervention

It’s tough at the top as they’re always saying.
Well, it’s worse down here, and I’ve given up praying.
I don’t really have to – well, not any more,
since most of my life is concerned with the floor.

I come in each week and polish and scrub
and they always ignore me – (you could call it a snub);
after all, who am I but the lady who cleans
while they pass their days behind black lacquered screens.

They never acknowledge a good job well done.
They watch with disdain and consider it fun
to cover my floors with rubbish and crap
and return to their beds for a well-earned light nap.

But last week was different in quite a few ways.
I hadn’t been in for several days…
and God, when I got there – well, it’s hard to begin:
I’ll start with the priest and all mortal sin.


You see, they’ve got this crazed daughter who just can’t
sit still.
She tries very hard – it’s not a question of will.
There’s something peculiar which takes her right over,
and Christ, when it does, we all run for cover.

I’ve never seen anything really quite like it.
All this writhing, and squirming – no way she could
fake it:
and she yells and she screams and she curses and vomits…
Well, how much can you take? There have to be limits.

So early last week, on the Monday I think,
they called in this priest, and also a shrink:
and they tied up that girl so incredibly tightly,
I thought she would die just from smiling politely

at all of the people surrounding her bed --
just watching and waiting in fear and in dread
as the priest began chanting and choking on smoke,
and coughing his lungs out after making a joke.

It went on for hours; well, eight for precision,
and then there was silence – and then a decision.

Whatever it was that invaded that child
had departed at last – she was all meek and mild.

But way down below, past the kitchen and parlor,
it took hold again, and did me a favor.
And now I’m the one making light of the world
as I flit round the rooms where for so long I toiled.

They’re filthy and dirty, disgusting and vile,
and all I can do is just stand here and smile.
I’m dead as a doornail and cleaning no more,
and I am The Spirit who fucks up the floor,

- Nadia Chigerovitch


What is a Friend

A friend is someone who cares about you
Who  will listen to what you say.
Someone who doesn’t judge you
And is there for you at the end of the day

A friend is someone who supports
A cause in which they believe
Someone who gives their time
Toward a goal they hope to achieve

A friend is someone who is a patriot
Who knows the term “friend or foe”
Someone who stands for our flag
And when duty calls, will always go

A friend is the someone I want to be
Who  will serve and comfort others
Someone who knows that life is a gift
And sees everyone as a brother

- Fran Reichert


STRANGE GIFT THIS . . .  

I saw a daisy growing all alone
beside a woodland path
its petals were white clouds
arrayed around a tiny sun;
it floated on a sky of grassy green;
it held diminutive dominion,
reigning by its beauty,
over a terrain of blades and twigs.

I bent to pick it for you,
to send it to you,
along with thoughts of you
its preciousness evoked.

But I paused,
realizing I would be putting it to death
and that its beauty was in its life.

I thought of you,
of how your own beauty
is a living thing,
and so I did not pick the daisy.

For you, I left it living
and send you the thought of it instead.

Somewhere in Saratoga Wood,
still dazzling its little patch of pathside,
is your flower.

The daisy lives its own separate existence,
yet, in a way,
lives on because of you.

Unpicked, it is more yours
than had I picked it.

Strange gift this...
the daisy I didn’t pick for you!   

- Thomas C. McCarthy