Poetry by Voice Readers

Big Top

I, too, once dreamed the starved boy’s dream
Of running faraway to swing on trapezes,
Somersaulting beyond gravity, sound and fear,
High above gasping crowds and yawning tigers.

Stalked by searchlights like a fugitive in flight,      
I bedazzle my adoring family of fellow-freaks:
Tattooed ladies, swordswiggers, swaggering runts,         
 Mustachioed ringmasters in bleached jodhpurs.
As camped upon a time as gypsy caravans,  
My runaway circus must be conjured in reverie,  
Slumbering in deep sepias of sawdust and straw,     
Pachyderms, painted ponies and peeling calliopes.

D.W. Rozelle, Wyoming Township

Psalm 428

To raise a life above the plane
of crass necessity,
trancendent purpose one must gain.
My Love does that for me.

The hashmarks on a kitchen door
inspire the child of three
to try to grow a little more.
My Love does that for me.

On field of battle, those who win
engage a primal key,
to draw up power from within.
My Love does that for me.

Atop a winding hilltop glows
a lantern, dreamily,
to mark a place of sweet repose.
My Love does that for me.

At play among the moon & stars —
from earthly tethers free;
rare moments as such visions are:
My Love does that for me.

Michael Brandt, Arena

Skipping Stones

to move slowly, carefully,
may seem like a waste of time
to the stone-skipping world

but it is of great value to me
to hold my world above the water

for skipped stones
no matter how swiftly they are tossed
and with what effort
will wind up on the bottom every time

Cecilia Farran, Spring Green

Shiftless in the Driftless

Get up!
Get up you lazy sod!
Brave the cold
And feed the birds;
Or have you so soon forgotten,
Who really feeds whom,
And keeps the other warm?

William Robichaud, Barneveld

I Still Love the Snow

In late September I created a poem
That wished for snow,
Like a kid expecting a big overnight snowfall
And a day off school.

Little did I know that I was creating
A winter-full of snowfalls
Bigger and deeper
Even than those in
The white-Christmas Wisconsin winters
Of my childhood memories.

And also creating cold
That rivaled even those
In our mothers’ most fearful fantasies
Of children’s frozen fingers and toes!

I underestimated the magical power of poetry!
I didn’t stop to think that winter powers would listen
To the sincere voice of even a wanna-be bard
Crying out in a Driftless wilderness.

Now I wish for an easy thaw
And the bursting forth of the roots and seeds
Sleeping in the cold, but thawing, earth.

But soon, I will miss the snow.
The long glides on my cross-country skis
Through the deep silence
When the heavy flakes are falling,
And the bright reflected light
When the snow storm has passed.
And how in that light,
The brown trees cast blue,
And even pink-purple shadows
On the white snow.

Can I say, even after this long winter,
That I still love the snow?

Kevin Clougherty, Barneveld

Fleeing the Seen

Jostled and drained,
I flee the crowded street.

Click three times
and I’m home.

Ensconced in a custom cocoon,
I am couched
in a stream of images —
fruitless snacks.
for stirring intimacy,
for simmering zeal.

My cares curtained away,
for the gap where
blinkered flickers escape
through the veiled pane.

And just there,
I see a slice of twilight,
for another chance.

Doug Hansmann, Ridgeway

Solar Heating More

Tis the season of freezing cold,
And many of the elderly can’t handle the wood anymore,
And the propane and gas prices will go up and up,
What a fracken mess we are in,
Tis a wonder we are not using solar heating more.

Joel Goodman, Dodgeville

Pine Tree Woman

She roams these haunted woods at night disguised as a fragile pine. She feeds on aspen leaves and thistle seeds and moths and fireflies. Her bed is a heap of dry meadow sedge in a cave next to Mossy Pond. She wakes to the call of the whippoorwill then prowls till the pink of dawn. The great yellow-eyed Barred Owl perches on her thorny jack-pine wrist. Its phantom spirit hoots keening cries to souls in that otherworldly realm of ghosts. I have heard her sing on moonless nights, an airy, lilting, tune without words. Native people refuse to speak her name, for fear her spirit might hold a curse. Legend says her warrior died in battle, Blackhawk’s last stand, and she still searches for his grave. I like to think she’ll find him soon, so she can reunite with her brave.

Jerry McGinley, Waunakee

Prayer Flags

Travelers tell
of high mountain shrines,
of lines strung from rock to rock.
and hung with flags, 
cloths impregnated with prayers.
So many reverent tongues 
lofting prayers far above
earth and death,
as the mountain sits
and follows it’s breath.

I know 
of backyards and balconies
where lines are strung,
and clothes are hung,
and sometimes too,
hopes are pinned to the ropes.

down to earth, caught in the cycle
of death and rebirth, 
we measure something’s worth
by how well it will wear.
What’s true for the cloth
is true for the prayer.

May the sunshine.
May the breeze blow.
Come home safe my love
to take from the line
these clothes, these cloths
ready to wear.
sanctified by the sun, 
blessed by this prayer.

Susan Krause, Ridgeway

Season Passage

In a cafe booth
I watch a young mother
cooing to her newborn
with a rather
disheartening realization
that I do not feel
the yearning I used to
to hold my new baby in my arms.
I must have passed through
some portal of age
where time
gently took from me
that maternal yen
and paid me for it
with gray hair
and aching bones.
Then I hear
in that melancholy moment
the chirping voices
of my grandchildren
who shout out greetings
when they see me
and I understand
a little better
the subtle exchanges
our creator designed
and thank him silently
amid hugs and menus.

P.A.T. Larson, Lone Rock

Bruce Howdle, Potter

He stuck his hand in the clay 
and pulled out a pig.
Amused, he never stopped.
Clay, he found, was composed 
of earth, and truth, and laughter.
He pulled out turtles and fish,
ravens, and prairie plants,
found old tires in the clay,
naked women, and outboard motors,
and ultimately, all of High Street.
He molded stories, jokes,
history, and everyday chat—
All went into his work.
He shaped all around him,
and when he was done,
he danced.

Justin O’Brien, Mineral Point

Boisea trivittata

A boxelder bug tiptoes through the hills and valleys of our quilt,
drawn to warmth on this winter morning,
or maybe to our pungent coffee.
Pausing at every precipice to survey the territory,
it makes slow progress toward the lamplit pillows
where we read.

Cautiously it approaches my bookmark,
an unexpected barrier in its path,
explores it with delicate antennae and tapping feet,
while my coffee cools
and my bedpartner thinks of breakfast.

Cheers to you, small traveler.
At the end of your journey return to your nestmates
in the dark shadows under the bed,
where they wait to hear your tales of terra incognita—
bright sun in the night,
a steaming fragrant cauldron,
huge silent beings huddled in a wilderness of blankets.

Nancy Schmalz, Mineral Point

Bring the Cows Home

We stumble down the rocky path with glee,
kids cracking jokes, from more difficult tasks we flee.
Clenched between our teeth a stem with tassel of silk,
the last chore of the day — bring the cows home to milk.
Come boss, come boss, we loudly bray,
and see the docile brown creatures start to move our way.
Back to the barn where they placidly saunter,
into the appointed stanchion they magically wander.
And the milking begins to fill the large can,
the twice daily ritual of the Wisconsin dairyman.
After turning the cows out to pasture at night,
to begin the same process tomorrow at dawn’s first light.
That was then and this is now,
a very different life for our state dairy cow.
No days are spent in our driftless’ green meadows,
often they are sheltered year long in factory ghettos.
Confined to the stanchion, a corporate farm you envision,
the herd to be managed with industrial precision.
Sure the genetics are better and the yields up much,
nonetheless I must wonder, don’t you miss the earlier touch?
When the family knew each of the cows, most often by name,
and the milking process was not a round the clock game.
In summer the herd was pastured and fed grass,
but how did this new dairying process come to pass?
From a family operation to a corporate endeavor,
I know the earlier days were tough and strenuous, however,
call me old fashioned, an idealist or dreamer,
but don’t you miss the days of a simpler demeanor?

Tom Sieger, Rockbridge

  1. The poem “Prayer Flags” may be one of the 2 or 3 best poems I have ever read! The images were abundantly clear, and the transitions from the sacred to the mundane, and then the making the ordinary sacred again, read natural and effortlessly. Bravo!