All of the below poems were read on May 31, 2020 at The Society of Classical Poets Symposium, which was held online due to the pandemic. Below are poems from Session I. Session II readings are forthcoming.

 

What’s love got to do with it?

(With apologies to Tina Turner)

by Ed Ahern

A little word that carries heavy loads,
Of caring, lusting feelings, coarse and fine,
Of heavy meanings, shaped by hints and codes,
Of godly wants and heathen needs enshrined.

A sanguine word so often misapplied
If used too loudly it’s a toast or boast
If used too softly it’s a lover’s lie
If used with malice it’s an evil ghost

A word whose phrasing shifts with time and age
Into a silver black with use and care
Into a band of gold with worn off gauge
Into a skin with looks no longer fair.

This little word with meanings lank and loose
Is what we use to help us self-seduce.

 

 

An Elderly Patient

by Richard Lackman

She hardly thought the visit was worthwhile
And just as I was opening her file
She said that she was too old to be treated
A statement that she several times repeated

I reassured her that I understood
Her situation but perhaps we could
Review her treatment options just for now
To understand the why and what and how

She was a happy person all her life
A loving mother, grand-mother and wife
She understood how blessed her life had been
Yet knew this was a fight she might not win

She said that she had not the energy
To pursue a treatment course with me
She said that she felt quite prepared to die
Then fear welled up and she began to cry

I consoled her, did the best I could
To describe some treatments that she should
Consider in the context of her age
Ideas that she could comprehend and gauge

She trusted me enough to move ahead
As we worked to dispel her fear and dread
And so her quality of life remained
As each day she saw happiness sustained

I treated her for two years from that day
Then was informed that she had passed away
But this had been a clear cut victory
A gift to her and certainly to me

 

 

 

The Art Professor

Pygmalion knew these women all too well; his instincts told him he’d better sleep alone. He took to art. —Ovid, The Metamorphoses, Book X

by Sheila Mulrooney

His wife will say no living soul should trust
that skinny man. He reads too much and falls
asleep at 10pm. He only lusts
for crumbling effigies. In dreams he’s called

to bed by Hellenistic Artemis
through drapes of Grecian white. A labyrinth’s walls
protect him as he steals the virgin’s kiss,
then lays his hand upon the goddess mould

and sees her cobwebbed eyes alight with bliss:
her bliss, his living art. Her ivory folds
would shield him from banalities of strife
and age. He longs for stones to shed their cold—

Must only sculptors bring their work to life?
Professors, too, can carve a perfect wife.

 

 

 

Lactose Intolerance

Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.—G.K. Chesterton

by C.B. Anderson

That arbiter of prudence, Milton,
Refused to write an ode to Stilton,
And even rakish Baudelaire
Composed no sonnets on Gruyère.

Although Bob Frost was fond of Cheddar,
He thought Gjetost was somewhat better,
But he was disinclined to write
Of food he nibbled late at night.

Neruda never earned a peso
From writing verse extolling queso,
And any thoughts he had on Gouda
Are secrets buried with Neruda.

Though Dante left unturned no stone,
He wrote no lines on Provolone,
His favorite pairing with bruschetta.
Cavafy never mentioned Feta.

Good taste is timeless, and of course
It’s wise to hearken to the source
Of what’s now called the Common Era.
While cheese goes well with primavera,

The banishment of curds and whey
From poetry is here to stay:
No parable of moldy cheeses
Has been attributed to Jesus.

(First published in Light)

 

 

 

The State of the Art

by David Galef

Literature, that romantic old bastard,
Is sick again, aslant on his chair
Like a spread-eagled book, already plastered
By noon and mumbling life’s unfair.

He speaks these days, ventriloquizing
In a voice long ruined by social disease,
His brilliant spasms slowed to writhing
And minute gestures that nobody sees.

What can we do for the drunken degenerate?
Tear up his license, make sure he’s not read,
Submit him to lectures, make him aware that
We don’t want him living, we don’t want him dead.

(First published in Pivot)

 

 

 

Old-Growth Cedar Grove

Long Island, Willapa Bay, Washington

by James A. Tweedie

In whispered silence, nature weaves
The forest canopy above,
As sunlight filters through the leaves
And needles of the old-growth grove.

While on the shadowed floor below,
Amidst the ferns in which we stand,
The Salal and the Salmonberry grow—
An island in a saw-cut land.

We enter through a timeless door
Where earth and spirit intertwine,
And ancient, bark-scarred cedars soar
Like pillars in a templed shrine.

A nearby, spring-fed streamlet sings
Of wind and rain, of ocean’s roar,
Of pristine, God-created things,
And those who’ve passed this way before.

 

 

 

For Hongyu

This poem is inspired by young Falun Gong practitioner Zhang Hongyu’s moving true story, which can be found here

by Yuan Xi / Translated by Damian Robin and Jennifer Zeng

少經離亂度年華
辭鄉一去成天涯
遠志如鴻任高蹈
冰心似玉自無瑕
悲懷神州陸沉久
共匪不滅難為家
踐約屠龍當此日
風雨江山又荻花
塵劫茫茫終有渡
崢嶸歸去紫雲霞

Chaos, turmoil, longing, broken youth,
Goodbye to birthplace, then the world is gone.
You yearn to fly off like your namesake swan;
Your jade heart flawless as the day you’re born
But weighed with grief as China falls so long;
No home while communism spreads its wrong.
Your vow will shine when dragon’s soul is torn;
You’ll cross stormed mountains into silver grass,
Be saved, the endless trials at last will pass
And lift, in rose clouds’ shine, returning truth.

 

 

 

The Rise of Fall

by Theresa Rodriguez

There were such pretty flowers in the spring:
The fragrant colors of a verdant time;
Such fresh potentiality, sublime
In all the loveliness that they did bring.
Then summer issued forth a deep wellspring,
Maturely ripening, where vines would climb
And trees begin to bulge. This is the prime
Of life when growth will dance, and sway, and sing.

But autumn is the time of now. I stand
Amid the harvests and the fruit. The change
Between the then and now, it leaves me jaded;
I barely have the bearings to withstand
This person of today. Indeed, how strange,
How much the beauty of the past has faded.

 

 

 

Zoom Etiquette 

by Susan Jarvis Bryant

When attending a conference at home in your room
on the boon of that technical app they call Zoom,
to emerge in your undies and pitch from your bed
is a frightful faux pas that is simply ill-bred.
Never greet at a meeting in anything less
than a brushed and flossed smile and sartorial finesse.

Do not slouch on the couch, it’s unseemly and rude,
and don’t ever appear drinking beer in the nude.
Please relinquish all fancies to fidget or fart;
remain pert and alert and as sharp as a dart.
Any brash, cyber crassness is at your expense
if you make others wince with an online offense.

You will slay the Zoom forum with polish and class
when you’re minding your manners and covering your ass!

(Originally published in Light)


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