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Hepatica

[poems from Kakalak 2021 by Beth Copeland, Danielle Ann Verwers, Don Ball]

How cool would it be if your friends got together and wrote a book for you? Friends you hadn’t seen in a while, like maybe two years. Friends you’ve swapped a few stories with and suddenly here they are sharing new stories. Friends who at this very moment are just now becoming your friends.

How cool? Very cool.

Kakalak 2021 arrived last week and here are my friends! I’ve read the book through and gone back to re-read my favorites over and over again; the Carolinas have suddenly become cozy and personable and at once broad and expansive. Heart-expanding! Among the poets and visual artists in the book I see so many people I’ve met before at a literary gathering, read with at an open mic, served with on a board or committee. And then there are all the people whose books I’ve read or whose names I’ve seen and now the many more names I’ve not heard before but am learning. Names becoming friends. Somehow they’ve all come together to write a book for me. And for you.

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Fog

Morning fog erases the mountain and trees.
No, not an erasure but unseen.

+++ Not an erasure but unseen.
+++ The mountain, the laurel still green.

Unlike the mountain and laurel still green,
the dearly departed lie beneath white sheets.

+++ The deer depart beneath white sheets
+++ of fog, stepping into a forgotten dream

of fog slipping into a forgotten dream
the ghost mountain dreams.

+++ The ghost mountain dreams.
+++ Crows fly to pines on mascara wings.

Crows fly to pines on mascara wings,
mourning. Fog erases the mountain, the trees.

Beth Copeland

 

Ptera

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In between reflecting on the poems and enjoying the art, I flip to the back of the book for the bios. The array of people’s publishing kudos is, of course, impressive, but personal glimpses also shine through (which, true confession, is what I’m really looking for in a bio):
Dean of Arts & Sciences at Isothermal Community College . . . Kathy Ackerman
interior designer . . . Melanie T. Aves
proud member of The Poet Fools . . . Don Ball
retired librarian . . . Richard Band
academic therapist . . . Joan Barasovska
feels a good day mellows blissfully with . . . creating art . . . Christina Baumis
poems featured on a transit bus . . . Michael Beadle
beginning poet . . . Gay Boswell (an awesome beginning here, a devastating poem)
eats dark chocolate daily . . . Cheryl Boyer
loves roots music . . . Joyce Compton Brown
marriage and family therapist . . . Bill Caldwell
sings in several church choirs . . . Joy Colter
masterfully overbooks non-existent free time . . . Julie Ann Cook
creates “convoluted notions” . . . Caren Stuart
passionate about reading aloud to children . . . Jennifer Weiss
collects library cards . . . Danielle Ann Verwers
and more, and more . . . . . . . .

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Two Sparrows for a Penny

+++ I.
If an airport is anything, it must be purgatory. And positioned
here in this terminal is benevolent holding space to store heavy
baggage as I watch my status, wait for take-off. A hollow metal
locker contains all my small treasures as I perch near walls of
windows. Iron flocks drift into the cumulous blue.

+++ II.
Milton, the bishop not the poet, believed humans would soar
in time. Brethren mocked his vision, convinced all schematics
to be sketched were drafted, nothing new under the sun to be
invented. Still, Milton knew his offspring inherited aviation
faith in their DNA, their eyes fixed on the heavens, their irises
bright with flight. Before fruition, typhoid took him. He missed
it when his sons fulfilled the prophecy, when his boys flew
with sparrows.

+++ III.
No one sings about two sparrows for a penny. Instead, we praise
our own ascent after a shell of flesh is molted. I’ll fly away, Oh Glory!
When I die let them sing the blues. Play a minor key for the birds
who crashed, feathers intact. Sing about birds who caught
tender gaze of God. Yes, let them sing of paradise lost.

+++ IV.
Close your eyes. Imagine you are a cloud drifting in the sky.
Light and free. No—imagine you possess hollow bones, you
are all sparrow. And now you flap your feathered wings but
your sternum is lead heavy. And you are falling towards the
ground at the speed of—no imagine you are light, warm and
bright. Imagine beams emit from your eyes, your chest, your
feathers, your beak. You radiate. No—I take it back. Imagine
you are a vapor, here today and gone tomorrow. Yes, imagine
you are a cloud.

Danielle Ann Verwers

 

Two

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Somehow they’ve all come together to write me a book . . .

Well, not somehow come together – they’ve arrived here by intention. This book for me (and for you) was born of diligent labor and evolved quite intentionally. Enabled by the founders, sustained by editors and publishers through the years, the Kakalak vision perseveres and flourishes – a regional anthology created of and for people connected to North & South Carolina. This year’s Editors have sprinkled their selections with an especially effervescent cloud of pixie dust: they have created magical groupings of poems, 2 or 3 or more with complementary theme, style, subject. And the Art Editor has added a swish more magic by partnering the groupings with art that amplifies the verse.

And then . . . and then the real magic. The shiver. The heart to heart. I read these lines and something shifts inside me. I see with another’s eyes. I feel the depth of another’s struggle. God almighty, this is the place and this is the thing I need and this is certainly the time. When have we ever before needed it so much, this connection? Here we find it: connection with each other; connection with our small place on this planet; connection with our self.

Thank you, friends, for writing this book for me.

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Wish
Park View Hospital, Rocky Mount, NC

I am supposed to kiss my grandfather,
stroke-frozen in his high-racked hospital bed,
but he is angry at us and crying,
half-realizing the difference.
I stand by my brother and close my eyes.

About the same,
my mother says to someone in the hall,
and he’s about the same,
she whispers later on the bedside phone,
nodding to the wall.

But I am changed
by the hospital light, cold-yellow and dry,
by the white carts gliding through plastered corridors,
rattling over steel plates, swallowed by the swinging doors,
and voices that start up and quit—voices
suffocated by the secret-keeping walls.

This is it — I am thinking —
God almighty, this is the place.

Outside we are walking, our breath released.
The summer evening is blade-green and black.
The parking lot is full but quiet.
Crickets call behind looming elms,
and the moon booms out into the open sky.

Look, points my mother, The first star.
Make a wish.

The rows of hospital rooms are burning and hanging;
my brother is bending over the hint of a penny;
Grandfather, I am kissing you goodbye.

Don Ball

Currituck

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Kakalak 2021
Copyright © Moonshine Review Press, Harrisburg, North Carolina, 2021

Editors & Contest Judges:
+++ Kimberlyn Blum-Hyclak
+++ David E. Poston
+++ Richard Allen Taylor

Executive Editor and Publisher (and Art Editor)
+++ Anne M. Kaylor

[You might imagine how difficult it was to select just a few poems from many, many new favorites in this book!

Today’s art were among the entries I submitted but which were not published in Kakalak 2013, 2018, 2020, 2021. You’ll have to buy a copy of your book to see Incisors, selected for this year’s issue! — Bill Griffin.]

Order your copy of Kakalak 2021.

Explore past issues of Kakalak published by Main Street Rag.

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Delivery

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2020-03-07 Doughton Park Tree

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Forest Bathing Trail, Grassy Creek off Mountains-to-Sea Trail

[with poems by Lucinda Trew and Jane Craven]

Last week I took a walk in the woods with my oldest friend Bill (distanced by 2-meter dog leash). We were forest bathing (shinrin yoku): phones off, listening to Grassy Creek accompany our rustic trail, smelling leafmold, fungus, pines, going nowhere and getting there; reflecting on the moment, simmering in our conjoined past which stretches all the way back to our grandfathers who worked together on the same railroad 60 years ago.

Every trail, though, has a way of turning. Almost back to our cars, Bill happened to ask, “What are you going to do with your stuff before you die?” Us old guys, especially old poets, think about dying. Good story fodder. Let me tell you the one about . . . . Just not usually as concrete as what will become of our earthly matter when no one wants it any more.

Stoff: German, translates as substance. Two synonyms for Oxygen are Sauerstoff and Atemluft, the first meaning acid substance (early chemists’ misconception that all acids must contain oxygen) and the second meaning air for breathing. We humans can live about 3 minutes without oxygen before our brains lose neurons and our substance begins to degrade, but oxygen is pure poison to many microorganisms and tricky to deal with even for our own mammal cells (or why else would anti-oxidants be such a big deal?).

Stuff is pretty frangible. Are the moment’s mental occupations or the day’s consuming concerns any more tangible? Bill shared with me a photo of his granddad Enoch Blackley in his engineer’s gear from the 30’s, outline of pocket watch visible through the denim of his overalls. I have one very similar of my granddaddy Peewee Griffin. The bit of stuff comprising those old prints, grains of silver on paper, is mere milligrams of matter; the cubic volume of memory those images reveal is larger than many lives.

My Stoff – carbon, nitrogen, phosporus – will feed the trees. May I leave behind the tempo of my walk, the sound of laughter, honest tears of compassion, a couple of good poems. Maybe that’ll do.

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These two poems are from Kakalak 2020, the annual anthology of Carolina poets, by writers whom I don’t know and hadn’t read before. Lucinda Trew’s Of Stars fills me with wonder, all the universe in a crow-eye seed, somewhere within the secrets of universe wanting to be spilled out. Jane Craven’s Speaking of the World does just that, the image of a small flower expanding to hold the pain and contradictions of the most intimate relationships.

Metaphor is the tool that communicates the mysteries which swirl around us and within us, the inexplicable spark of our synapses, the spin of our electrons. Some things can’t be spoken, only sung.

Forest Bathing Trail, Grassy Creek off Mountains-to-Sea Trail

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Of Stars
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe. – Carl Sagan

The conjuring orchard man
holds hemispheres in sturdy hands
cupping chaos and creation
presenting apple halves
for inspection
and the revelation

of stars
a crop circle enigma etched
within sweet flesh
five symmetrical rays cradling
crow-eye seeds
small enough to spit
vast enough to hold eternity –
the very dust and stuff

of stars
carbon, nitrogen, oxygen
phosphorus – the breath and wingbeat
of birds who rise from reeds and nest

the rush and thrum
of boys who scrabble up bark, swagger
wave applewood swords

the sway and silhouette
of branches, girls dancing
longing for the moon

of pulse and surge
of cities, song, engines
prayer

the earthen realm
of roots and worm, turnips
and bones

the axial turn
of tides and shells
molecular chains

and of apples
twisted exquisitely, evenly
in half
spilling stars
and seeds and secrets
of the universe

Lucinda Trew, Kakalak 2020, Main Street Rag Publishing Company

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Forest Bathing Trail, Grassy Creek off Mountains-to-Sea Trail

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Speaking of the World

Pinprick faces open in a violet fever behind my house – swathes
of mazus flowering downhill. A cultivar

from the Himalayas, it’s bred to survive scarcity and climate extremes.

In your world, the doctors have gone, left your body

a prescribed burn, lightly
elevated in a rented hospital bed, handfuls of pills labeled for days.

The trees, to a one, freeze beneath a milky lichen – and you who sleep

year round with open windows are speaking of the world –
of the last deer you saw weaving through balsam, of the bear

who bent double the birdfeeder, wild turkeys and their long-
neck chicks, a lone slavering coyote crossing the yard.

Grief, you say
three times,
each a dry leaf
papering
from your lips.

I left you in the boreal world, rushed back to my own life.
And I admit this with unnatural ease, like there’s no shame

in turning toward the sun, in enduring.

Jane Craven, Kakalak 2020, Main Street Rag Publishing Company

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Lucinda Trew: http://trewwords.com/about/
Jane Craven: https://www.janecraven.com/bio

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2020-11-03b Doughton Park Tree

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[with poems by Joan Barasovska and Kathy Ackerman]

Everything or nothing. The radio is off. The screen is frozen. The refrigerator snores. The clock won’t tick any faster, any slower. In an hour we leave for Raleigh to see our grandson (backyard, distanced, masked) but right now nothing is happening

I’m no good at nothing. If I wake in the dark my brain whirls venom trying to bite its tail. Where is dawn’s blessed peace? If I take deep breaths, watch the feeder, daily agendas begin to scroll down the back of my cornea. How many seconds after emptying myself before I fill back up with everything?

We are entering the season of nothing. The azalea may feint a few off-season blossoms but will we ever bloom again? We are in the season of waiting. Where is the so fragrant earth we lost so long ago? Where is the muscle and spunk of summer that convinced us we might carry through? The season of turning. What justice like waters, what righteousness like an ever-flowing stream? When? How do these shortened days stretch so long?

In the woods, something is happening. Orchids are making sugar. How have I missed that? One species will bloom in May, the second in August, but their leaves are now. Their delicate little tenacious tough-ass corms swell all winter waiting to rocket up a spike of summer flowers into a leafed-out overshaded world.

Something is always happening. Something is deeper than those scrolling agendas. Something in the world and something behind my optic chiasm in deep matter. Something that maybe wants me to be still and notice. Something to hope for, to wait for, to go forth and meet.

There is no nothing. It’s all everything.

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These two poems are from Kakalak 2020, the annual anthology of Carolina poets. It is an eclectic volume – conversational, confessional, contemplative. Not as many COVID poems as I expected but wait until 2021.

The poems by Joan Barasovska and Kathy Ackerman speak to me of the winding thread that connects our past to our present. Knots and tangles, yes, but also a lashing to secure us in the lashing storm. The something that is happening every day is us becoming human.

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Cranefly Orchid, Tipularia discolor

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Her Breath

Mike and I exchange a glance
over her cooling body.
Our eyes are dry.
Elsie wears a faded housedress
with a pattern of flowers.
Thirty minutes ago
an aide crossed
her swollen hands.

All morning we sat waiting
while Death rattled her.
She died in the afternoon
while we were out walking.
Our mother took a slow
rollercoaster ride to this day,
dragging us with her on
every shivery dip and climb.

Back from the dead,
Mike said when she woke
from a coma, angry to find herself
in a clean hospice room.
She raged until he put her back home.
Frail, sick, ninety-three, hanging on
ten hears after Dad’s death.
She scolded me yesterday.
I was late for lunch.
I had forgotten to pick up her mail.

Their old bed had been replaced
by a narrow hospital bed
rolled in the hospice workers
while she fumed in the living room
and I boiled water for tea.
Now her jaw is slack,
her last silent treatment.
Above her head hangs
a sad-eyed portrait of me at nine,
painted in blues and grays.

Mike and I are limp with relief.
the secret of Elsie’s anger died with her,
but it was probably sadness.
We are second-generation Americans,
inheritors of the sadness seed.

This mother
lying flat between us
birthed me sixty years ago.
With her last breath,
She’s in a better place
and so am I.

Joan Barasovsaka, Kakalak 2020, Main Street Rag Publishing Company

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Adam-and-Eve Orchid, “Puttyroot,” Aplectrum hyemale

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Misnomer
for Goliath, my father

i.
This story begins when I believed every word my daddy said.
Honeysuckle, he called them, tending the cuttings
that go all the way back to Rock Creek 50 years,
Aunt Gracie’s yard in the hills where I never lived.

Honeysuckle was all I had to root me to that ancient soil,
so every home I bought I planted some
from Daddy’s supply, rooted in plain clear water.
I wondered why it had no scent, was not a vine,
was pink, for crying out loud.

Now shopping for plants for house #5,
I see the truth in 5-gallon pots before me:
Weigela.

I imagine old Aunt Gracie shooing my father away
from her quilting or canning or sitting alone.
Go cut back that honeysuckle
before it swallows up the outhouse.

Later, seeing his mistake, she didn’t correct him –
a name is just a name –
Grace just glared at tiny Goliath
so proud of his mound of pink and green
already wilting

while the roof of the outhouse
still plushed with yellow sweetness
he’d confuse for 80 years
with a plant that belongs
to the same family, after all,
but so much harder to say.

ii.
Start me some honeysuckle, Daddy, I blurt out
in one of awkward lulls.
I want to imagine his hands on the branch,
the snip of sprigs of coal country
where Gracie’s old feist
barked me all the way to the outhouse and back
when I was too small to know
how hard it is
to keep what lives alive.

Kathy Ackerman, Kakalak 2020, Main Street Rag Publishing Company

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Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.
Amos 5:24

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2019-02-09 Doughton Park Tree

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