Now, while Winter’s noisy emptiness moans
In the flue, Dearest, look out at all these
Somberly unimpatient silent trees
Holding aloft their abject skeletons:
Can new flesh somehow sprout from human bones
Like April’s tender leaves? Can memories
Of touches lost refind their first surprise
As roots grope darkward to refresh those crowns?
Striking, those vegetable paragons
Of unrelenting hopefulness! What frees
Us, prisoners of this weak flesh, to rise
Above our towering need? Caring postpones
Our gaping night. Caring buds new leaves where
We stand, weeping. Dear Heart, we care! We care!



The Hearth Altar

A fire cannot tend itself. It needs
Fuel that time drags in. The hardwood weights
My arms to serve the appetite it feeds,
Slaves to the heat consumption radiates.

I measure out my days in lengths of wood.
All other tasks get punctuated in
My kneeling sacrifices to this good
And faithful savior of my wintered skin.

A sudden chill: I shiver in my chair
And jump to duty where my waiting’s wanted.
By words distracted for a moment there,
I almost took the god of warmth for granted.




This rime is on the grass
But will sublimely pass
And then the grass will go
To sleep beneath the snow.



Lionel Willis was born in Toronto in 1932. He has been a mosaic designer, portrait painter, watercolorist, biological illustrator, field entomologist and professor of English Literature as well as a poet. His verse has appeared in A Miscellany of Prints and Poems, The Canadian Forum,  Candelabrum Poetry Magazine, Descant, Dream International Quarterly, Harp Strings Poetry Journal, Hrafnhoh, Iambs & Trochees, Light, Romantics Quarterly, The Classical Outlook, The Society of Classical Poets, The Deronda Review,  The Eclectic Muse, The Fiddlehead, The Formalist, The Lyric, The Road Not Taken, Troubadour and White Wall Review, and in two books, The Dreamstone and Other Rhymes (The Plowman, 2003) and Heartscape, a Book of Bucolic Verse (EIDOLON, 2019).  

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6 Responses

  1. Adam Wasem

    Isn’t it nice
    To nail a riff like “Rime?”
    Am I wrong to think Frost
    Was on your mind?

  2. Cynthia Erlandson

    There are some exquisite phrases here: “Winter’s noisy emptiness moans in the flue” and “Holding aloft their abject skeletons” are both extremely descriptive, as is “the heat consumption radiates”. And I like the way you’ve fit both internal rhyme and end rhyme in such a short “rime”.

  3. Paul Freeman

    The ‘slants’ you use add another dimension to your work.

    Thanks for the reads, Lionel.

  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Lionel, I love this trio of poetic delights, especially the beautifully expressed, heart-touching musings of “Caring”. If only “new flesh somehow sprout[ed] from human bones/Like April’s tender leaves…” I’m in the autumn of my years and my leaves are threatening to wrinkle and drop… need I say more.

    I also love “The Hearth Altar”. I like the way that days are measured out in lengths of wood. My equivalent is “The Avian Altar” and my days are measured out in handfuls of birdseed… your metaphor is far superior.

    “Rime” is the icing on the poetry cake. Thank you for a wonderful read!

  5. C.B. Anderson

    In the third line of “Caring” you employ the delicious litotes (or wicked periphrasis) of “unimpatient.” You serve the language every bit as well as the language serves you.

    I have seen the rime on Mt. Washington in October. And I think you’ve got the physics exactly right. It doesn’t ever really melt–it just sublimates.

    For that matter, I thought all three were sublime. You might be surprised to learn that I have been reading your poems in a number of venues for some two decades now.

  6. Lionel Willis

    Adam, Cynthia, Paul, Susan and C. B. : Thank you all for your encouraging comments.


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