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Poetry Now and Then
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Wed, July 04 2007 - 10:48 am

Swimming Whole

The words are dammed in by a semicircle of listeners.

Bodies block the door.

The swimmers are emoting, playing, splashing,

Celebrating their river.

"The water is great!  Come on in!" they call.

I don't know.

Farther downstream, the water is

Muddied with detritus from tornados and damaged cities.

Closer to its source the river, little more than a trickle, is cold as ice.

But here it seems just-right warm and deep enough to dog-paddle.

I stick my toe in.


January 2009

Valparaiso, IN


When I married

I wanted to carry

Bright red Antheria,

Their little stigmas

Hanging like penises

Against my off-white caftan

Traced with ink-black flowers.

I thought they would be stunning.

They would have been.

So I carried Stephanotus -

Fake orange blossoms -

And got a marriage sermon

That almost sent me running

Out the door....

If I had carried Antheria,

The preacher wouldn't have dared.

He would have been speechless -

Would have just stood and stared

At my blatant statement of what marriage is after all

Really about.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

early 1990's?

Queen of Introspection

I've been in palaces, fallacies,

Tall, tall trees and fantasies

Back road dreams and

Sneakings, meetings,

Freakings, sweetings

Challenges and failings,

Fallings and snailings

Bailings wailings flailings

In that journey from mind

Past bumps and sight

Through lumps

To the heart and beyond

To fingering fingers and

Toe toe toe tows

Through the oceans

Through snows

And anything goes!

Pleasure-bent and heaven-sent,

I've been everywhere, boys,

I've been everywhere.

May, 2008 Valparaiso, IN

Valentine to Nature

My true love is

the rising sun

shimmering golden

through the trembling

tender black leaves

of dawn.

Invisible mood-swings

polarize his light

filtering out

dark bracken witches

stirring floodbrew;

bright coral snake hoses

coiling and undulating

through lush green lawns;

Peace:  like the long, low horizon

of the western sea

Santa Fe  1992?


Feet pushing off--

Slicing ice

(To spin

You must

Swing backwards

and introvert)

Arms outstretching --

(To leap without falling

You must

Land lightly

and disperse)

Mind flying

With ravens

The black branches'


Santa Fe


I Forget Where, When, a Long Time Ago

Forgotten are the

dance-steps, the

field-steps, the

verymanyteeny steps,

the blisters and the blusters

(all the frosty frozen custards)

(dancing in the gloom

of the room

to an ill-remembered tune --

timbre of another day)

1970's ?

Valparaiso ?

Early Morning, Light Breeze

You don't need

New eyes

To see the

Rising sun

(To see the aspens throwing back their heads,

basking their faces in the new light,

see the lombardies waiting and adulating,

see the pinyons waving their hands

with their eyes shut...)

Go up on the hill.

You can see them

With any eyes

At all.

June 1981

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Hapless Fates

I am wrinkling

I                                 am





to     rise    why

trying                               am I

   I'm                                             sinking?


October 2007

Valparaiso, Indiana



Oh Muse

Oh muse,

Do not with God

Desert me

Now that the light is gone

And my heart-spring

Has turned into a muddy puddle

Churned up by the

Hooves of a hundred oxen.

Work with my dull mud

Make it into clay and mold it

Transform it

Into a vessel

For holding

Clear springwater

Or the rain...

A full earthen bowl.

Santa Fe, New Mexico


Our minds are funny things.  When I wrote this poem I imagined a plain red clay bowl.  Later I awoke from a dream of a big bowl ornamented in the Acoma style I think- white with rust and black designs.  Later still I saw a poster advertising what - the Indian Market? - with the same kind of big larger-than-life image of a bowl.  Did I unconsciously remember that image on the poster and dream it?  (I don't know what year that poster was issued.) Anyway, it was a nicer bowl even than I wished for!

(oF coUrse) the most importaNt thing

     1    Fucking         2    Flimsy        3   Fusty                     

           Unkowable          Unborn            Unkempt

           sNobs                Nature             Nurses

           Fronting             Flees               Fussing

           Unadmitted        Unutterable      Under

           Notions              Nurture            Nannies'

           Freeing              Fearing             Frosty

           Unnameable       Ugly                 Unforgiving

           Niceties             Nuances            Niceness.

           For                    From                Froggy,

           Unexplored         Unconscious      Unnerved,

           Newness            Nastiness          Natters

           Flies                  Flowing            Formulas

           Unto                  Unwept            Undeserving

           Neptunian           Nile-borne        Name

           Falsity                Flowering          Forever--

           Upward               Unseen...



Santa Fe, New Mexico


He prunes too hard,

Snips off every new shoot.

The shrub grows dense

With leaves.

Only one bud remains

In the heart of the plant -

It blooms unseen.

August 2007

Valparaiso, Indiana

"That's not a poem, it's a joke!"

Flying around in the black leotard

(Why did I choose black?

There were plenty of other colors to choose from

Oh, yes!  I have always wanted to be raven-winged!)

Not really flying, really

Dancing flight, she says,

"Oh look,

a feather from the Bird of Paradise!"

Really flying overhead...

I stretch out my hand to

Catch its ruffled feather --

and find I am holding --

My underpants!!

early 90's Santa Fe, New Mexico

(I'm not talking about me, here)

I am:

Those little tracks in new-fallen snow

The wavy lines rising from the ground on a hot hot day

The mosquitos and lightning-bugs birds dive for in the evening.

Ice in winter.

You can't make me come.

You can't make me go away.

Valparaiso, Indiana  August 2007


Follow it with your ears.

It is the sound of your shell cracking.

1980-something, Santa Fe

2007, Valparaiso


This morning

I awoke,

wrote a poem,

Cuddled my son

and listened to a daughter's dream,

Got out of bed,


Started bread,

Ate breakfast

and kneaded

while I wrote

Three more poems in my head.

I wrote them down,

Failed as peacemaker,

and called a friend.

Now it is 10.


Santa Fe  early 1980's

My watch is Lost

My watch is lost,

My phone is off.

I'm giving up







I think I'll hang on to ecstasy!

Valparaiso, July 2007

Ecstasy's Exultation

This exit

Does exist.

Doctors explain

Its existence

By sun's extinction

Moon's existential float

Stars' extra

Lights' extension

Seals exhaling

Bubbles exploding

Blossoms' exhibitionism

Rich men's expending

Worlds expanding

Girls exclaiming,

"Bridge the gap!"

Santa Fe, 1990's




Whirr, whirl

Will lilt,

Lift, flit, fly

Flow, flower

Hover over




Low, lone

Notes, tones.

Stones sown

Round around


Santa Fe, New Mexico 1987?

July Navidad

Summer night, noisy night,

Dogs howling, secular sights,

Glad bald-headed, clean-shaven,

Desert-booted Santas

Clad in tank tops and bright shorts

Carfooling to forth of July fireworks,

Exuberantly criss-crossing

The center line through moonlit

Landscapes of yucca and prickly pear

While the cloudless sky highway,

(Flyway for migrating reindeer

At a different time of year)

Bursts with reverse lightning -

Mega birthday candles

For the patriotic cake! 

Santa Fe, New Mexico 1994

Valparaiso, Indiana 2007

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