The Heart of the Matter

by Lise Day

Today I cooked an artichoke
which is really a bitter thing
needing garlic for sweetness,
oil for softness, lemon for zing.

I eat it in the evening hush
after a day of swirling wind
from each petal
scrape the good
discard the tip of gall.
I think it’s like my life –
outer leaves leathery
resilient as my youth,
the inner segments
mushy middle-age.
Then, suddenly the choke,
a hairy knob of awfulness
I incise it carefully
discard it chop chop.

Now relish the succulent
sweet heart of maturity,
and the best part
of an artichoke is,
all that comes after
tastes even better.

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Back-street Shop

by Pamela Newham

Somewhere in the back streets
we come across a shop, dimly-lit.
We push the beaded curtain aside.

A small girl, pink sandals abandoned
on the floor, watches us warily
as we examine vintage teddy bears

and shelves with paper-thin cups
and hand-bells, tarnished by time.
Mother Mary, framed, gazes down at us.

But the girl in a white lace dress
does not smile. I point to a bear,
ask, “How much is this?”

She shakes her head, looks down
at her discarded sandals.
So we wait for a moment then leave.

What was it? What was it today
that made me think of that shop
its bears, its bells, its sad-eyed child?

The Summer She Died

by Cornelia Rohde

On soft summer afternoons with the press of work over,
we sat together on the flagstone terrace Father laid,
looked out over the old orchard and let the day slip quietly away.
Do you hear Mrs. Wren? she’d say.

A long, joyous, rush and jumble voice would bubble
in the stillness. I’d spot the rufous brown chest,
the same rich hue of my mother’s hair, bustling round the garden,
zipping through tangles and low branches,
forever bringing food to young mouths stretched
hungry in their wooden house hanging from an oak limb.

Feisty for her tiny size, her abrupt scurs and scolds
warned off any predator threatening her domain.
Yet she paused often to deliver cheerful trilling songs
with complex notes– for one so inconspicuous.

Let’s sit here a little while more and listen.
There won’t be many more days as mild as this.

Overnight to Beijing

by Elizabeth Trew

In the top bunk I listen to sounds in the dark –
voices far-off and the sleepers’ breathing
over the wheels clickety-clack on the tracks.

Waking at dawn I look down and see the old woman
sitting still by the window
after she opens the blind to check herself in the glass.

Back home I look out at another day
and picture the grandmother
utterly composed in her stillness, nourishing her light.

October Moon

Thailand

by Lise Day

In our huts
mosquito-nets shroud sleeping bodies
humped in slatted bars of light
Outside men coiled in sweet poppy-smoke
puff on pipes stained beetle-juice red.
This, the village of the Hill People
who share their homes with foreigners.
I shuffled around a fire
to learn their dances in the jangle
of silver discs from nose and ears;
shared a meal of unknown origin;
swallowed rough drink when the cup was passed.
 
Now I stand alone in a tangle of moonlight
the dark bulk of an elephant down-stream
silver bamboo stalks ready to be bound
into flimsy rafts for tomorrow’s journey.