A Word From the Publisher
Persimmon Tree is fortunate to have Cynthia Hogue, a well-known poet and teacher of poetry, on our editorial board. Not only did Cynthia invite contributions from a lifetime’s circle of established writers, such as Karen Brennan and Charlotte Mandel, but she also read many of the poems that our readers submitted, and participated in selecting the poetry we are publishing in this issue.
We received so many poems for this special project that, to our great regret, we must omit from this issue many poems of publishable quality. We have decided, however, to bring out a second installment, so if your poetry is not here, it may well be in that next issue. And, whether or not we publish it, we want you to know, as Cynthia said, all the poems we received “were full of fresh insight and wisdom, well-written, and interesting. And as Devreaux Baker, the judge of the West Coast poets issue, wrote me, they were all a joy to read.”
They are a joy because they open doors between us, break down the solitude we are all forced to endure, and bring us together. We recognize our experiences in those you describe, our reactions and responses in yours, and we thrill to the life and creativity you display.
We have scattered among the poems works from other artists as well. Gena Raps, member of our editorial board, renowned concert pianist and composer, has given us links to two of her recordings – a Dvorak to soothe us and a Mozart to make us happy. You will find one of them here and the other in the prose section of this special issue. Francesca King contributed the haunting and mysterious works of art you will find here. She describes them as “silent art thoughts of life in lockdown.”
Please, enjoy reading, looking at, and listening to everything we have gathered for you here. And then, please leave a comment on each of the poems you read. That is another way we can affirm our togetherness.
Once you have finished the poetry, you can turn to the fiction and non-fiction that are also in this special issue. You will find them every bit as engrossing, as comforting, and as interesting as the poetry you have just enjoyed.
On that day
in orbit round its star the sun
like a subway train
for one unrecoverable second
rounding the bend
a woman or man or child
fallen on the track.
On that day, Earth
into backward spiral
toward non-being into no time.
Can human fists
some cosmic lever
before the tremors of our hands
and dizzying brains
know day from night?
I’m heartened to hear three cougars–
As aware of our presence as we’re oblivious of theirs–
Stroll the streets of Boulder,
And all those years ago
The old steps from our porch
Hauled into the orchard for future discard,
A perfect place for a young cougar
To leap atop and stretch out long and orange,
The wide space twixt its ears and extra-long tail odd, but catlike,
At least that’s what my mother thought
When she carried me out to see the regal cat,
Calling Kitty, Kitty.
And my father, horrified to learn of it
When he came home,
As he remembered in the night the screams
He took for a screech owl so didn’t mention.
That small misstep made her the butt of jokes in our logging town,
“The teacher who didn’t know a cougar when she saw one.”
So today, as cougars venture out in Boulder’s empty streets,
I applaud their courage
And my mother’s–for teaching on for decades,
Past an error she refused to let define her.
the familiar cup of coffee early before
any other thing can set us off;
the very pen we pick up to write
in the pages we know so well;
the warm words that come to mind—
you know, how the mind will
come up with a story for what
is happening even before we
take it all in, then our story
becomes the shadow or shape
even though it may be something
else entirely come to pass,
so what we want to call a new
normal may never be either
but how would we know?
of fire through my body,
as I heard on CNN,
while sipping my morning coffee,
that I had been designated
by the Centers for Disease Control
one of the vulnerables:
those of a certain age
with pre-existing conditions
who, because of these factors,
would not receive scarce resources
in this time of pandemic.
In the calculus of data,
I was dead.
Dead before the fever.
Dead without the cough.
Dead, standing in the kitchen,
washing my hands.
Then a doctor reported
there were no tests.
There were no vaccines,
There were no medications.
And what should I do now that I’m dead?
I’ll decide after I dry my hands.
Sonata for Keyboard and Flute
Garden in the Plague
its fragrance glorifying every breath,
not clinging to the fence as planned, but
spreading tall and wide into the olive tree
tendrils clinging tight to branches, then venturing
out among the wild coyote bushes,
snaking along the ground toward the roses.
Toward the gate.
Light on Monet’s Haystacks
A friend’s death casts unexpected light, few shadows.
A cloud so low it rested on my car top
absorbed light, blocked shadows.
Six blackbirds equidistant on a power line.
On the sidewalk below, six nearly equidistant shadows.
In the museum of broken relationships
ghosts of what was toy with remaining shadows.
Droplets in foggy mist settle on a windshield.
Dry, they leave dust-dot shadows.
Coronavirus arrives, visits selected guests.
If they’re lucky, it leaves only shadows.
In separate rooms, earphones in place, musicians play together,
perform a symphony that casts light, lifts shadows.
sweating from a fire in the mind
The Quantum Mechanics of Social Distancing
and we’re conjugating the verb ‘to be’?
There may be someone behind the mirror watching me eat Cheetos straight from the bag.
Such occult observation can change you from a wave into a thing.
On Facetime my high risk friends age into pixels.
You cannot love whom you cannot smell.
In the other multiverse, a gathering of ghosts is sheltering in place, laughing.
They clearly know something about dying that I don’t. Something hilarious.
If all the toilet paper were to travel at the speed of light for an infinite amount of time
there would be enough for everyone. Right?
The question of whither consciousness is a damn hard problem.
So is whether to wear pants in a universe that sees only your face.
The Future Rushes Toward Us
A particular leaf
Has a shadow side
Through dark mid-ribs
By the minute
The puzzle I left on the table
Where is that piece of sky
So much like the others
What do the birds make of this universe
The future rushes toward us
The little boat I used to sail engulfed