My soul has grown deep like the rivers langston hughes
passager 2011 poetry contest
From the Editors
Dear Reader, This issue presents the winners of the 2011 Passager Poetry Contest for writers over fifty. This year’s Passager Poet is Penelope Scambly Schott, from Portland, Oregon. Five poems and an interview begin on page 30. Penelope fell in love with poetry in childhood, and now, after raising a family and working in academia, she is relishing the time to write, as she says, all the time. Thirty-six honorable mentions come from all over the country, and they are unmistakably and undeniably themselves. We have a freewriting alto cat maid, a handbell-swinging Christmas tree, a poet inspired by a mortgage broker, a minor leaguer grandfather. And all share the same passion; as Florence Weinberger says, “happiest when in the middle of the poem.” This summer we hosted our first conference at the University of Baltimore, celebrating the journal’s 21st birthday and the publication of Burning Bright, a collection of poems, memoirs and stories from Passager, 1990-2010. So many of you came from all over the country! It was as thrilling as it was heartwarming. Cicely Angleton, 2005 Passager Poet, rolled off the elevator in her wheelchair, guided by her handsome son-in-law, to read her poem at the Burning Bright celebration. Cicely, now in her 90s, did not want to miss this gathering, and seemed to move heaven and earth to be with us. From the spirit of the gathering and conversations with the participants, we’re inspired to have more events around the country, workshops, open mics and seminars. (Any ideas?) Think of what we could do if we actually saw one another. Thanks to all of you who continue to support Passager writers! Kendra and Mary P.S. For a three-part video of Passager, produced by Jon Shorr, please go to YouTube and type in “Passager Writers.”
Cont e nt s
7 Jersey (July) kirby olson
19 July, Long Light judith slater
8 Old Testament carol tufts
20 Strike Summer gary lark
21 â&#x20AC;&#x153;Girls Wanted at Once to Learn the Cigar Tradeâ&#x20AC;? linda buckmaster
Spinning matthew j. spireng
10 Over Sixty Tennis doug arnold
22 Home Town ann rayburn
11 Ubi Sunt on a Budget carolyn moore
24 Linoleum kathleen lynch
12 White Chick Hits the Road joyce r. ritchie
26 Paper Dolls sharon charde
14 Just Love richard jay shelton
28 Joining the Salvation Army marvyn petrucci
15 Spousely-Held susan cohen
29 2011 Passager Poet penelope scambly schott
16 Lola High Upon My Shoulders art schwartz
41 Physical Therapy joyce s. brown
18 In Praise of Gray jay rubin
42 As If james k. zimmerman
44 Cocoa Beach terry godbey
59 Birches, Winter Sky dorothy brooks
46 Lie and Lay conrad hilberry
60 Mnemosyne rossme taylor
47 The Muse Is Loose leslie davis
62 White Matter becky sakellariou
48 Moving Your Vowels orman day
63 Anxiety in Autumn emily hayes whittle
50 Domesticity Among Elephants graal braun
64 Sometime Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll Take You There jack slocomb
52 Takedown david sloan
66 The Tamarisk Tree shirley windward
54 Cautious Light florence weinberger
67 The Divide michael romary
55 The Christmas Tree patric pepper 56 The Dead claudia van gerven 58 If I Had Loved You Young elizabeth robinson
spinning First on our feet, twirling and twirling in the grass, so when we finished and fell down laughing, it did not hurt, the earth padded, the grass a green mass, the summer sky sickeningly distant and unsteady above. Then it was the swings, twisting and twisting on the seat so the chains wound a double helix above and the seat rose until we were on tiptoes and could twist no further, and raised our legs and spun quickly as the chains unwound and we lost touch with the world around us. We marveled at the ice skaters who could spin and spin and skate on without missing a step, and we learned about the Earth spinning in space, faster than any child on the lawn or a swing, faster than any skater can spin, and wondered that we kept our heads. Matthew J. Spireng
white chick hits the road a blues sestina
I just need to get away, not from you, love, not from you. Too much meanness ruined this place, buried truth and smothered grace. Gotta find some solitude, feel some hot sun on my face. Sun-hot wind across my face burns this veil of care away to ashes, blessed in solitude and buried, facing east toward you. Truth is, once I moved in grace, built an armor in its place. Straight roads take me to this place, fresh breeze cool now on my face, truth lies here in natureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grace. Birdsong lifts the pain away, wheat grass murmurs thoughts of you. These fields long been my solitude. The thing there is in solitude is, once you find that special place you find yourself alone with you starinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; you right in your face. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s some kinda get-away. Truth is facing self with grace.
Search for truth, remember grace, a soul sees clear in solitude, all that’s not real falls away. Crossroads brought me to this place of center, standing face to face with choice. You said, “It’s up to you, just know I’m standin’ there with you.” Find my truth, recapture grace, feel that sun warm on my face. Time to leave this solitude, a soul’s true compass finds a way, straight roads or winding, place to place. Away brings me back home to you, a place of gentle truth and grace, where solitude smiles in your face. Joyce R. Ritchie
I’ll put down that it’s spousely-held. – mortgage broker
Even after I no longer want to be arousely-held, love, I’ll want to be spousely-held. When I don’t need to be Wowsly-held, I’ll still need to be spousely-held, clutched to your chest like a bottle that can’t be pried from your grip. Hold me for years yet, until I’m so short of breath that breath stops short, and I die housely-held in your arms. Then burn me, bag me, box me, shelf me. Say a few kind words. I’ll wait patient as only ash can be patient, my objections to death mousely-held. I want our ashes to float in the ocean, wrapping, a cloud in the water suspended in waves. Let’s be unsettled as salt, and drift off a pier where we sat when were just vowsly-held. Susan Cohen
3 2011 passager poet penelope scambly schott
2011 passager poet
in which a wife tells her husband the truth about sex in marriage I am tired of cooking dinner. Instead Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d rather lick caterpillars just for the feel of fur on each of my tongues. I have one hundred slippery tongues and each speaks a different dialect. Is any one of them yours? Often my breasts are annoyed by the tedious fact that every penis is an antenna. These breasts are happy as owls to dwell in a tree. Branches tremble but they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t reach. I live behind my eyes. Whenever I peek between eyelashes, our bed sheet is a black sky full of yellow holes. Sometimes I shed my skin. It sloughs off in rainbows. Each color is a string you must tune before you play me.
2011 passager poet
Your bow is a lightning streak. Sometimes, though rarely, my body is struck by lightning, Other times Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m the best liar in Portland, Oregon. Strangers have paid me to lie. For you, my beloved, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll do it for free.
the divide Passing through Mansfield and Ashland, Ohio on U.S. 30 and I-71 into Medina County the Black and Vermillion Rivers run north where elevations cause rivers to flow north into Lake Erie then Ontario and out of the Gulf of St. Lawrence into the great North Atlantic. South of there water flows in a different direction â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to the legendary Ohio River where it makes its way into the Mississippi and later the Gulf of Mexico and out to the Atlantic as well. These waters do not think of themselves as different; water does not believe itself different from land, think of the body we are carried in nightly and daily, made of fire, water, air and earth, as being different from the eternal and impossible earth. All are flowing to a horizon that is the same as where we are at any time. Michael Romary
2011 passager poet: penelope scambly schott (or, pg 30) I live in Portland, where I write, paint, hike, and spoil my husband and dog more than it would have been safe to spoil my children. I have worked as a donut maker in a cider mill, a home health aide, an artist’s model, and, through it all, a college professor. My most recent poetry collection is Crow Mercies (2010) from Calyx Press. My verse biography, A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth, was awarded the Oregon Book Award for Poetry in 2008. doug arnold (pa, pg 10) I’ve been writing poetry since 2003, motivated by how a poem can be cognitive shorthand. A poem, in my opinion, should deliver an accessible denotation and a provocative connotation that spurs the reader to plunge into meditation about the work. “Over Sixty Tennis” explores how an older man successfully relates to the outer world, even though his physical prowess, as shown through tennis, is in decline. My poetry has been or will be published in the New York Quarterly, Atlanta Review, The Literary Review, and Borderlands. graal braun (fl, pg 50) I was born in Ohio in 1925, fought in WWII, was wounded and discharged in 1945. I graduated with honors in English from the University of Cincinnati. My poems have appeared in a variety of journals, and my book, Villains, Victims, and Babes in the Woods, was published in 1999. My inspiration for “Domesticity Among Elephants” was a poem by D.H. Lawrence, “The Elephant Is Slow to Mate.” Having seen a National Geographic account of elephants mating, I found Lawrence’s poem inaccurate and sentimental, so I wrote my own version.
dorothy brooks (mi, pg 59) My poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Washington Square Review, Driftwood, Blast and Furnace. About “Birches, Winter Sky”: I got hooked on sky-scapes, living in New Mexico. Their intrigue haunts me. joyce s. brown (md, pg 41) My poems have appeared in Poetry, Yankee, Smartish Pace, The Christian Science Monitor, Passager, The American Scholar, The Journal of Medical Humanities, and others. I have published a book of poems, Call and Answer, in collaboration with local artist Mary Swann. “Physical Therapy” tries to illustrate the psychological truth that interior distress can result in exterior orderliness as a way of balancing the personality. linda buckmaster (me, pg 21) I have lived within a block of the Atlantic most of my life, growing up in 1960s Space Coast Florida. I am the former Poet Laureate of Belfast, Maine, and teach in the University of Maine system. About “Girls Wanted at once to learn the cigar trade”: A group of local poets made a field trip to the historical society, and this letterpress poster made me think about the working class history of Belfast. sharon charde (ct, pg 26) I have been published in Calyx, The Paterson Review, and Rattle, among others. I edited I Am Not a Juvenile Delinquent, containing the work of the adjudicated teenage women at a residential treatment center and am the author of Branch in His Hand, (Backwaters Press) adapted by the BBC as a radio drama to be broadcast in this year. My writing has always been a way to transform my personal history, my losses and griefs, and my difficult family relationships; in “Paper Dolls,” I use the details of a powerful childhood memory to address the attitude my narcissistic parents had towards their children.
susan cohen (ca, pg 15) My work as appeared in Atlanta Review, Poetry East, River Styx, Southern Poetry Review and Verse Daily, among others. My first book of poems, Throat Singing, is forthcoming from WordTech/Cherry Grove Collections. About “Spousely-Held”: My husband and I visited a mortgage broker who used the term spousely-held. Neither of us had heard the term before, but what poet in a long marriage could resist its inspiration? leslie davis (ny, pg 47) An avid reader, I began writing in grade school. Through the years, poetry has always been my favorite means of expression. My greatest obstacle is finding the time to write. That still proves difficult, but getting those first words on paper is easier with freewriting. Frequently the tone and structure of a poem will suggest themselves, giving me a place to begin, thus “The Muse Is Loose.” My other passions include choral singing and animal rescue, which basically make me an alto cat maid. orman day (nc, pg 48) I grew up in Southern California, where I was encouraged to write at an early age. As a teenager, I spent a week as a handbell-swinging Christmas tree marching in Disneyland’s holiday parade, trying to evade bulb snatchers. Later, dressed as a frog, I won a boat on “Let’s Make A Deal.” During my travels, I rode freight trains from L.A. to New Orleans, bungee jumped off a New Zealand bridge, and witnessed a sky burial (two corpses, hundreds of vultures) in Tibet. After reading an article on sleep apnea, I found myself “moving my vowels.” terry godbey (fl, pg 44) I am a freelance writer and editor in Orlando. I’m the author of two books of poems, Beauty Lessons and Behind Every Door. Flame will be published in 2012. I chose the pantoum form for “Cocoa Beach” in an attempt to layer tension, fear and adrenaline through repetition.
conrad hilberry (mi, pg 46) My most recent publications are After-Music (Wayne State University Press, 2008) and This Awkward Art (Mayapple Press, 2009) which pairs my poems with those of my daughter, Jane Hilberry. I am retired, having taught at DePaul University and Kalamazoo College. About “Lie and Lay”: I thought a villanelle might be the right form for “lie” and “lay.” It’s repetitive, it takes its time, it doesn’t mind holding up and turning over a distinction that no one pays any attention to in the real world. Let’s enjoy the distinction before popular usage tosses the two words into the same pot. gary lark (or, pg 20) I have been a librarian, carpenter, janitor, salesman and hospital aide. My work has appeared in The Sun, Orion, Beloit Poetry Journal, and others. My book, Getting By, won the Holland Prize from Logan House Press, 2009. “Strike Summer” comes from the mid-1950s when the lumber mills were shut down and thousands of families were affected. Kids were used to working in the fields, but that summer, it was a matter of survival for many. kathleen lynch (ca, pg 24) Since the age of eight, I’ve loved “reading” dictionaries. What a thrill when I looked up a forbidden word, “fart” – “a burst of wind, as from the anus.” Anus? Whatever could that be? Thus began my lifelong journey into the secrets of the body, of language, and the pleasures of words themselves. I wrote “Linoleum” after dictionary-cruising recently, where I came across an old familiar, “oxblood.” It evoked school shoes, linoleum, and the atmosphere in our 1940s house. carolyn moore (or, pg 11) I taught at Humboldt State University (Arcata, California) until I could eke out a living as a freelance writer and researcher. Though I wrote poetry for many years, it wasn’t until my sixties that my first chapbooks were published, and my first book-length collection won the Deep Bowl Poetry Prize and
is forthcoming this year. “About Ubi sunt”: If a well-worn saying dispenses advice – does calling it an “adage” excuse it from being clichéd? I gathered a gaggle of adages and imagined an older speaker who had lived by them. kirby olson (ny, pg 7) Every summer my younger wife (she’s only 40) takes me some place new. A couple of years ago she suggested we go to Ocean City, NJ, and I fought it, preferring the museums of New York City. Eventually we packed up and off we went. It felt strange to be on a beach with terns running up and down in the surf with a half million people dipping in and out of the water or floating on tubes. Eventually, the experience became “Jersey (July)”. My poems have been in Poetry East, Cortland Review, S. Dakota Review, and others. patric pepper (dc, pg 55) My work has most recently appeared in Bosporus Arts Project Quarterly, Ekphrasis, Gargoyle, and Confrontation Magazine. I am author of Zoned Industrial and Temporary Apprehensions. “The Christmas Tree” came to me one December morning while sipping tea and contemplating a time my brother, Perry, and I went out to cut a scrub pine Christmas tree for our family home. I think the poem reflects my view that all of life is quite dream-like even as it is the only reality we know, and is, for sure, real. It also reflects my belief that in our lives, which are as absolutely transient as a raging river, it is the love we establish that provides us a rock to cling to. marvyn petrucci (al, pg 28) I teach at Auburn University in Alabama. My chapbook, Pardon Me, Madam, was published by Cannibal Books in 2009. “Joining the Salvation Army” was stitched together from a number of images from my childhood.
ann rayburn (va, pg 22) I’m a native Californian and have lived in Northern Virginia since 1961. In 2007, I retired from 37 years as a psychotherapist, first in a public agency and then in private practice. Two years ago I visited my hometown in the San Joaquin Valley. The memories that prompted “Home Town” were the high school football star and those wonderful old air conditioners. Tragedies like the rectory fire were rare; riding up and down Main Street was a constant on summer nights. joyce r. ritchie (md, pg 12) A life-long reader and classically trained musician, the power of words and music to transport us has been central to my life. I grew up in the flat, square farm fields of Indiana. A career as a development professional allows me to enjoy fascinating people and places across the U.S., in Asia and in Europe. All these experiences infuse and inspire my poems. It’s been a great journey, despite the inevitable crossroads – or maybe because of them. “White Chick Hits the Road” captures one. Ultimately, of course, it’s a ballad to the one I love. elizabeth robinson (or, pg 58) A NYC drama school graduate and Southern Oregon University English major, I taught young children for 30 years, racing with the arts across the curriculum. I’ve written two books A Path of Words and Wordbent Woman, and a poetry pamphlet, A Gathering: Six Womansketches. Poets are my tribe, poetry my true and constant companion. “If I Had Loved You Young” is a meditation by a mature woman. What would happen if the person you’re struggling to love and who’s struggling to love you had met when you were young and unformed? What then? michael romary (oh, pg 67) I retired four years ago as a professional reference and research librarian having worked as one in Indiana, Ohio, Texas and Baltimore. The poem is from a work in progress that is tentatively entitled The Body Poems. The union of opposites is always toward being one. “The Divide” is toward erasing a
division that does no one any good; living and dying is one as well. May we do this in our entire and only existence. jay rubin (ca, pg 18) About “In Praise of Gray”: Perhaps it’s a fetish, but I find gray hair on women to be quite attractive, “a crown of splendor” as described in Proverbs. For years, I tried to encourage my wife to stop dyeing her hair every few weeks or so. Unfortunately, her desire to hide the truth trumped my desire to celebrate it. I teach at The College of Alameda in the San Francisco Bay Area and publish Alehouse, an all-poetry literary journal, at www.alehousepress.com. becky sakellariou (greece, pg 62) I was born and raised in New England and have lived most of my adult life in Greece. A teacher, mediator/counselor, I have been published in Northern New England Review, Common Ground Review and Comstock Review. I am author of two collections of poetry. I love little odd, random pieces of information, especially scientific facts. Sometimes these bits suddenly fit into a new order, and a poem comes. I also believe that, in poetry, we often have to defy logic as we know it and fly where our mind tells us not to go. That is the genesis of “White Matter.” art schwartz (pa, pg 16) Five of my plays have been produced in New York, including Naked Batting Practice, which comes out of my years as a minor leaguer. Originally from Brooklyn, I now live in Rockville Centre, Long Island. “Lola High Upon My Shoulders” is a poem about a lovely moment with my granddaughter that, as I say in the poem, will never be forgotten. Moments like it are the strength of later life, and love is its great inspiration.
richard jay shelton (ca, pg 14) I have been painting and writing for 45 years. My art can be found in the Smithsonian Institution and my poetry has appeared in Down in the Dirt, The Chaffin Journal, The Homestead Review, Burning Word, and Languageandculture.net. My habit is to stick finished poems in my file cabinet and never think about them again. That explains why “Just Love” was written 30 years ago and only this year is being submitted for publication. It is about my wife, Laurie, who totally changed my life; I might even say, saved my life. The crisis this poem addresses was the conflict I experienced with commitment. judith slater ( , pg 19) I live in Buffalo and work as a therapist. I hold doctorates in literature and psychology and am the author of The Wind Turning Pages (Outriders Poetry Project). Memory is a major source of inspiration for my poems, including “July, Long Light.” david sloan (me, pg 52) I graduated from Harvard College (1971) and Maine’s Stonecoast MFA Poetry Program (2009). I teach at Maine’s only Waldorf high school. My poems have appeared in The Broome Review, Carpe Articulum, The Northern New England Review, and others. “Takedown” is largely autobiographical. The experience of lying pinned and wriggling beneath a son’s burgeoning strength was life-altering for both father and son. jack slocomb (md, pg 64) “Sometime I’ll Take You There” reflects my interest in how being in the natural world invites relationships to thrive or flow. We are so separated from the wild in our everyday lives that our connections with others tend to be superficial and without depth. Without an injection of the wild, our human affiliations wither. We need to be in the out of doors with one another. Writing as an older person has given me this perspective, I believe.
matthew j. spireng (ny, pg 9) I am author of two books of poetry, What Focus Is and Out of Body, and several chapbooks. “Spinning” is one of those poems that arises from childhood memories – the swing, twirling around to get purposely dizzy – with the addition of reflection from the distance of age and added knowledge. rossme taylor (md, pg 60) I am originally from Winnipeg, Canada, and now live in Silver Spring, Maryland. After retiring from teaching music and yoga for seniors, I became interested in poetry, particularly Chinese and Sanskrit poetry and Japanese haiku. I have taught poetry for seniors at the University of Maryland Legacy College and have discovered, to my great joy, the Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland. “Mnemosyne” was dreamed up on an old D.C. street down by Georgetown’s “drowsy old canal.” carol tufts (oh, pg 8) I have been published in a number of magazines, including Poetry, Poet Lore and Columbia, as well as anthologies, Claiming the Spirit Within and Orpheus and Company. I teach at Oberlin College. The inspiration for “Old Testament” comes from my experience that, no matter the evidence, we human beings behave as if all will remain as it has been and that we and our descendants will be the essential inhabitants of our planet for eternity. Profound change may be upon us, particularly in regard to the environment, though we go on acting as if we will ultimately prevail and thrive. claudia van gerven (co, pg 56) My poems have been published in a number of journals and magazines including Prairie Schooner, Calyx, Runes and The Lullwater Review. I teach at the University of Colorado. “The Dead” arrived as a poem as I was touring an exhibit of sources for a series of Impressionist painters in the Denver Art
Museum. What struck me instantly about Fredric Bazille’s still life, “The Heron,” was how dead the heron seemed. Unlike the Chinese custom where the dead seek attention from the living, it was attempt to explain our living to the dead. florence weinberger (ca, pg 54) I am the author of four collections of poetry, most recently Carnal Fragrance and Sacred Graffiti. I’m happiest when in the middle of a poem, trying to expand its inner meaning, as if it is a dream sent to me with a distinct and valuable message. But I also love the tease of a new poem. About “Cautious Light”: I’ve recently been playing with the forgiving format of prose poems. Coupled with the possibilities of a new relationship? Better than chocolate. emily hayes whittle (pa, pg 63) I am a poet, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. My grandmother instilled in me a great love of poetry. I have been published in numerous journals including Passager and Kalliope. My poems have been translated into Japanese and appeared in three bilingual editions of The Plaza (Tokyo). “Anxiety in Autumn” was written on Halloween, when many, including myself, believe the veil between the two worlds is at its thinnest. It is an attempt to express the idea that something fearful, though not known, is at hand. shirley windward (ca, pg 66) I have lived through several wars, given up three libraries, married and helped raise two sons, travelled in Europe, Asia, Africa and the States, and founded a secondary school in Los Angeles. I have written with pleasure ever since I can remember and regard poetry as one vehicle worthy of carrying to others the deeper messages of art and of life itself.
poets zimmerman james k. zimmerman (ny, pg 42) My work appears or is forthcoming in anderbo. com, The Bellingham Review, Rosebud and Inkwell, among others. I am a clinical psychologist in a private practice and was a singer/songwriter in a previous life. In writing “As If,” I tried to capture the disquieting moment when we know we are in the presence of something beyond what we can comprehend, an inchoate voice in the darkness, at the periphery of our mind, but nevertheless somehow concretely here and now. jon shorr (md, cover photograph) Several years ago we went on a Cape Cod whale watch, where we watched nothing but a lot of tourists watching for whales that were somewhere else that day. This past summer, armed with my new Canon digital camera, we decided to get back on the horse – or boat, as it were – and hoped for a better experience. And was it ever! A pod of 25-30 humpbacks and others just off Provincetown on the Stellwagen Bank. “Are the whales performing for us?” the woman standing next to me asked the naturalist. “Don’t give yourself so much credit,” he answered. “They’re eating lunch, doing what they do. We just happen to be here watching.” It was a good reminder about our relative importance in the universe, something that I think we understand more organically as we age.