Friday, June 10, 2011

There Are Untold Failures

There Are Untold Failures
Patrick Winn

As a boy, I saw the processes of failure,
Unto those secret and leaden coves,
While others played in the industrial parks, waving dry sticks around,
I saw beautiful Maria melt into her cotton sheets
While the rest hid and sang to each other through the nettles,
Maria, we could never sing to each other.
And there was rage in me the likes of which you could not imagine.

But then, somehow, I was a man, and mellowed in the vale of years,
Before me a new generation rose in the Hollow,
shuttering and turning back and stopping.
In rising defeat, you ante-heroes, fearsome eyes for the decline.
I stand in the distance, your malignant Aeneas
Warm defector, wrapped in an aegis of calm,

But the distance between us is not that great.
Mark my words: the best things ever written have been thrown out on the backs of inventory tags
Or forgotten in the smoke and ether of broken hearts.
Heaven simply cannot exist,
If it is not a tender conclave of such failure.
You will lose beyond reckoning,
Failure upon failure, you will live forever.

Come, look into the sinking face of Maria,
You see, there, you do not know how to live.
But I love you more for it.
Your wounds are about me, and I am with you.
Sing your decompositions, and I will listen.


Patrick Winn is an attorney who studied literature as a grad student at Boston College, and as an undergrad at Brandeis.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Letter to a Dead Grandmother

Letter to a Dead Grandmother
Karen Douglass

Before I forget again, let me say
that I remember the front hall
with the stag’s head watching over us.
And the enamel topped kitchen table.
I remember your lap, the porch,
the rocking chair with paint so thick
I etched my initials in it with my fingernails.
Summer evenings we watched barn swallows
diving and darting, and you and Aunt Grace sang
“Bye, Bye Blackbird” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

Bedtime meant the door between my room
and the dining room left open because
I was afraid of the closet and a little bit scared
of the whippoorwill who sang every night
under my window. We never saw that bird.
The summer after first grade, I never
saw you again. Oh, Uncle George said
the thin woman in that high bed was you.
I didn’t believe him. Now I do. I’ve visited
the cemetery and seen your name on the stone.

In those seven years you mothered me, did you ever
resent raising another child? After all,
your youngest, Gracie, was ten the day I was born,
soon dropped into your lap when my mother vowed
she had to work and couldn’t watch me. She was right.
Not made for mothering small children, not like you.
Maybe she never noticed your hands as you made
jelly, lemon pies, mashed potatoes, tea with milk.
She drank coffee and smoked Pall Malls and married
four times. You were widowed early and never again
had the comfort of a man at your side. It wasn’t fair
that you had to suffer, never an easy day or
enough cash to shop anywhere but the IGA.

I know you’ll never read this. Writing to you now
cannot make up for my silence, or break open
the family secret that you were dying.
I was yanked away, sent off to the other grandparents,
who were good, but who cut off my braids,
and closed the bedroom door, who had no birds but
silent, tiny hummingbirds they fed on sugar water
from red glass bulbs. Now I am a grandmother,
not like you, not singing and rocking. One day I will die
and my grandson will—maybe—think about
what he might have said, but didn’t. Generations,
lineage, heritage—what is it but a bird flying over us,
dropping feathers that blow away in the breeze?


Karen Douglass writes poems, novels, a blog, and grocery lists. She lives in Colorado with three dogs, one cat, and her family. You can visit her at KD’s Bookblog, or you can come to Colorado. Her books include Red Goddess Poems; Bones in the Chimney (fiction); Green Rider, Thinking Horse (non-fiction); Sostenuto, (prose poems) and The Great Hunger (poems), which is available from Plain View Press (2009).

Monday, June 6, 2011


Doris Lueth Stengel

Grandfather sailed into New York on the Bremerhaven,
clutching the American dream.
He waved to the lady with the torch---
she was an immigrant too, from France.

In the steamer trunk were his tools,
plane, lathe, level, chisels.
A cabinet maker by trade, also
undertaker, because he made coffins.

He traveled to Minnesota,
where other Germans had settled.
The train traversed broad prairies.
Such good land, such opportunity.

Then came the day when a farmer
hanged himself from rafters in his barn.
The widow pleaded with grandpa
to find a place to bury her husband.

Righteous townspeople
would not abide lying near a suicide.
They were buried south of town,
tidily laid down in order of death,
too thrifty to waste farm land on large plots.

A man must be put into the ground.
The immigrant carpenter walked north
where a family had a small private cemetery.
Could he buy one plot? Not inside the fence.

To this day, too sinful to lie among neighbors,
that man lies alone outside the fence.


Doris Lueth Stengel grew up in North Dakota. Her paternal grandfather immigrated from Germany and this is his story. Doris is a member of Heartland Poets, League of Minnesota Poets and National Federation of State Poetry Societies (NFSPS) and has served as president of all 3 organizations.