WDST Woodstock Roundtable Poems

On Sunday, August 26th a dozen poets will convene in the the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale from noon til 4 pm for the 22nd Annual Subterrean Poetry Fest. This year’s event, “Spoken Aggregate,” will feature collaborations, music, mystery, mayhem (I hope), and whatever else the underground muses call forth.

Three subterrean poets appeared on WDST’s Woodstock Roundtable to share some poems on Sunday, August 19th: Glenn Werner, who is the chief organizer of the event, Rebecca Schumejda, and myself.

A graphic designer from Beacon, Glenn Werner blogs as the Mongrelpoet. Here are two of his poems:

The Angelus
(Painting by Jean Francois Millet)

He uses boards pulled from the shed,
cuts them without measuring, straightens
a handful of nails to make a small crate,
sets the box down in the larder, fills it.
The air is cool. Dissatisfied with the job,

nailing the lid shut is difficult.
His wife has gone to find a place
already tilled and easy to dig.
He loads the box onto a barrow,
follows her into the field.

Millet paints the image of their labor
interrupted by the call to prayer.
For reasons he gives himself
he buries the casket with his brush,
marks the spot with a shallow basket.

In time his deceit is uncovered,
the canvas’ secret revealed.
Artists alter their work – I erased
phrases, written behind these lines,
that despite their truth, did not fit.

In every painting there lies a question
that every painting needs us to answer,
to be resolved, to be complete –
For what do these peasants pray
when the bell declares they must.

(Published in “A Clean Well Lighted Place”, Danville, Kentucky, ?http://www.lightedplace.com/the-angelus.html loose affiliation with Centre College)

Winter Harbor, Maine

My daughter, who lives with her mother, wanders
Schoodic point with my sister-in-law, and me.
Mist surrounds us. Spruce and jack pine recede behind
the weathered air. They don’t grow on the ledge, but warn us
against being fooled by breakers who’s song will distract us
from our footing on those pink granite dunes.

My daughter, who lives with her mother, forages
above the sea’s edge. Steps over pools collected
in shear rock spoons. Balances herself on basalt blocks,
volcanic dikes that divide the stumbled granite leviathans.
Fractured millions of years ago, lava filled their cracks black.
Bound them apart.

My daughter, who lives with her mother, perches
on the far end of a pink and black bevy of stone pedestals,
her arms outstretched. My sister-in-law holds the camera,
waits for a rogue wave to hit the broken crags below.
Sprays of froth and brine smash into the soft sky,
complete the scene.

My daughter, who lives with her mother, poses
for my sister-in-law. She will not pose for me.
For me she will clown and gawk, or blush and hide.
The basalt dikes, crushed by the granite
they divided, crumble into steps that span
old fissures between the worn monoliths.

My daughter, who lives with her mother, smiles,
elevated from where I stand, crowned by stolid haze.
Peering down at me, one arm raised higher than the other,
like a ship’s signalman in need of flags, she pierces the fog
collected above the stone, the pools, the dikes,
Message heavy on her arms.

(Published in Chronogram Magazine)

Rebecca Schumejda lives in Kingston and teaches at an alternative high school. Her new book, Cadillace Men, will appear in the fall. It’s inspired in part by her experience of owning a pool hall. Here’s a poem of Rebecca’s:


After the wind snaps the cornstalks,
you hold my hand on the back porch,
we watch the storm’s lungs expand
and contract like wanting and waiting
and wanting and I think about the corn
as if they were newborns dropped
on their soft skulls and abandoned.

You push your shoulder into my face,
a manly way of passing me a tissue.
The thunder isn’t a thank you or an apology.
When the rain stops, we will pick up
the pieces, rinse them off, tear off the husks,
and place each ear into boiling water
one at a time. We will slather
them with butter, cracked black pepper
and sea salt. You will tell me they taste
like the Minnesota of your childhood—

and having never been there,
I will hate what I have seen:
your mother’s gaudy costume jewelry
and the way she only calls when she needs.

For my part, I’ve been collaborating with Chris Wheeling and Janet Hamill. Here are two poems I’ve written from our shared musings.

Collecting Fireflies

Let the fireflies in the jar make their own constellations.
Enough already with Orion sheathing his sword.
Enough with our secrets about love.
Let the fireflies tell their own epic stories.
Let the luminous jar be a playground without tongues.
Unscrew the lid of your skull to try this new light in your eyes.
The damage you do will improve the rest of your days.
There’s enough dew on the hay to feed everyone.

* * *

Drown Your Mirrors in the Subterranean Waters

For good luck, carry a coin under your tongue.
You never know what Charon might charge.
These stalactites have never seen moonlight.
These waters never been brushed by a breeze.
But even pebbles have roses in their hearts.
She may not know your name, but so what?
She waits by the green pool of memory
with book in hand, this woman in white silk.
You must be prepared to drown for a second time.
To steal the wife of the dead is an act of great cunning,
but the Sirens, they will never sing for you again.

* * * *

The Mother Grouse Blog is produced by Will Nixon, author of My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse and Love in the City of Grudges available on-line.

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