Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shepherd's Center Poetry Anthology 2012

from the Shepherd’s Center
Winter—Spring 2012

This short collection is the fifth by our Shepherd’s Center Poetry Group.

These pages are meant to be a memento of our weeks together during the winter and spring of 2012, which I believe have emboldened us to find and affirm the poet in ourselves and others. Thank you again for sharing your talent and insight with the group.—Bob Demaree

Leo Kelleher

The family called him “BROTHER” from birth-at-home  to a Green Mountains grave.  If he had not become famous his mailbox name could have died with him. He walked with God from his youth.  He was still an altar boy when his peers had outgrown that.  Their home was north of the city.  Tall pines formed colonnades for Gods Temple, right next door. 

He had a dozen siblings and three dozen young folks called him “Uncle Brother”  .He had a special care for his little sister.  She was so alone in the crowd.  She would sit on the floor by his chair.  He would regale her with fleecy-cloud stories.  How her knight in shiny armor, astride his white steed, would gallop  into her life.  He would sweep her away to his sky castle. They would  live happily ever after.

Their street climbed a hill and turned west into a broad meadow, their meadow. They often took home the bright colored wild-flowers to replace those that had died yesterday. It was a sea of green.  When the Mariah wind blew green waves rolled from one end to the other.  It had been carved from the forest for a failed housing project, She asked him why they wanted to build many houses so near theirs.  He answered in jest hat maybe there were just not enough caves for all the people.

One day they discovered a treasure.   The gentle forest light glimmered on a shard of  glass partially buried.  Clay covered, she washed it inn the creek.  It was blue, a happy blue, a sky blue.  He told her it was her  special secret treasure, just hers, a no show no share treasure.  Like all treasures it should be buried.   To help mark her secret shrine   they dug under the only dogwood in the forest.  As time passed she came to her shrine only on her blue days.

She never really dug up her treasure.  Eons later she did dig it up in her mind as she told  Brothers fleecy cloud stories to her children.

Sherry A. Kelly

He brings paper whites and places them beside the Crèche
To celebrate my birthday on this winter solstice, the darkest day of the year.
One lone blossom bends gracefully over the manger,
Its gold center a beacon for the hope and promise
Of the Christ Child.

We’ve had forty nine years of paper whites.
Paper whites and diplomas to earn, careers to begin,
Mortgages to pay, children to cherish and pets as well, travels abroad and
    chores at home.
Planting and pruning, watering and weeding.
Papers to write and papers to grade. Lessons to plan and classes to teach.
Celebrations and tribulations.
Agreeing and disagreeing and through it all remaining true
To our promises to love unendingly til the end.

On Epiphany morning as we shower, letting streams of water pelt us awake,
   pelt us alive,
I see our now listless skin is the shade of the lather that cleanses us;
Stunned by the promise our paper white shrouds hold for us now in the dead of

“Ten and Counting”
Martha Golensky

I watch him smile in his sleep—
probably dreaming of a chance
encounter between some alien
and his alter ego, Astronaut Alex.
Space is his passion now,
supplanting dinosaurs.

Baby fat virtually gone,
every day I see his father
more clearly in the contours
of my boy’s still downy chin.
The lanky frame so like his;
no visible Mom traces left.

Don’t grow up too soon.
Don’t lose the ability
to love spontaneously,
arms wide in generous hugs,
flashing your whole-face smile,
cuddling with me just because
it’s where you want to be.

“Dawn & Dusk”
Dave Upstill

Out of the dark womb of night
Day begins as the sun is born
So fast we are enchanted
By the growing glow.
When fully rounded
The infant sun begins its crawl
Less noticeably up the sky of day
It has aims to carry through
Measurable in shadows shrinking
We likewise have things to do
Turn to give them our attention
At mid-day we may ;pause to notice
Shadows disappearance.

Then growing again in afternoon
Pointing toward time departing
The sun again demands remark
With perceptible speed in leaving
Pulling the light of day with it.
No wonder awesome dawn and dusk
Inspire so many rites of celebration.

“Airy Confidences”
Lois Losyk

One from the west
One from the south
our lives intersect
southeast heading north.

Squeezing into too tight
for comfort seats
we fly  into gentle,
pillow clouds miles away
from our every day.

We circle each other,
search for a connection,
with meaningless words,
polite questions.

We chat about our families,
ourselves; the circle
widening and deepening,
a canyon in our reveal.

Spouses gone, one by death
one by divorce.
We share pain that resembles
each other’s but different

Deep regrets, secret desires,
future dreams,  hopes
unrealized, all laid out naked.
Some of it unknown,
even to ourselves.

We arrive north. Goodbyes
and good wishes expressed.
Moving out of our circle
into our lives.
Our names never revealed.

“The Necropolis”
Cynthia Schaub

We walked the hills
My old love and I
A grey drizzly day
For Glasgow, for us

And saw the mausoleums
Stolid, grey stone
Built for lawyers, grocers
Solid burghers
To last forever, so remembered.

But now,
Not even a century,
Fallen, marked by yellow
Tape – “Danger”
And so forgotten.

“What Matters “
Kathy Coe

some measure
the worth of a thing
by the attention it is paid:
how many votes,
how many viewers,
how many sponsors it attracts.

at our home away from home,
nestled in the wrinkle
between high windblown hills,
it is not so.

there a thing’s value
is noted by the rising sun
as it creeps over the eastern ridge,
tinting first our treetops
then their outstretched arms
and soon the lower yard where
a mess of squawking turkeys

what matters there is the slow healing
of a certain tulip poplar
on the facing hill,
ravaged by last year’s ice storm,
or the ponderous parade
of slow-marching clouds eastward
across the wide valley,
shifting shapes and hues
in convincing display of evolution,
in case you had harbored any doubts.

what matters is the scent
of rain in the mist that meanders
up the ravine of a morning,
rendering our panorama
a blank grey screen,

or the wood-smoked air
filling the den
where stacked books await,
and the only sound
that matters
is the roar of wind in the pines.

“The Library Table”
Elmer Billman

It was in the living room of the home in which I was born.
The living room was my favorite. It had two French windows,
And two double windows with window seats flanked the fireplace.
A Seth Thomas clock on the mantel struck the hour.

In the large armchair my father would hold me in his lap and read to
 from the daily paper “Little Benny’s Notebook”
And the happenings in a family of rabbits.
The family was headed by Uncle Wigglety
And looked after by Nurse Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy.

The library table had two crescent leaves and six legs.
Perhaps the adjacent bookcase legitimized its name.
It has followed me to my present home.
I hope it will travel on.

“Wedding March”
Caren Masem

In the White Garden
where Lohengrin will play
through June’s warmth,
rose bushes stand bare,
their lace covered
white gowns still
not pulled down
over shivering shoulders.
They wait at the alter
patient in March’s
lingering chill.

“Witch Hazel”
Jenny Ward Angyal

a handful of berries
a blue glass bubble
of remembered light

the trunks of birches
the old crone’s shadow
on the white moth’s wing

dust motes
in a circle of light
the bubble
shrinking to a stone
inside the chest

to build a fire ring
flame from ashes
before dusk

the scent
of apples—
bubbles rising
each a different mirror
to a changing face

hearthstone ashes
the price of wisdom  paid—
can witch hazel bloom
so deep in winter

firelight fades
the old crone follows
the glint
of drifting bubbles
through the dark wood

“Witch Hazel” appeared in Lynx, February 2011

Judy Harris

Proud design of bare branches.
Medallion? Badge?
Pasted on a heavy winter sky,
You know. And you speak.
Yes, I know you speak.
Strange calligraphy?
Teasing segment of the jigsaw puzzle?
Affirmation of existence?
Your message is cleverly coded;
But is that what you are saying?
I will know, too, someday.

Judy Gecinger

Red comes unannounced at dawn's dim light.
It stabs at the day.
It rouses expectation.
It drapes and clings to body form
As it creates the day.
Red almost justifies oppression.
It challenges the exuberance of life's unfolding
Because it makes my day.
Red comes unannounced at dusk's closing light.
Then, it fades away.

“Three Milestones”
Audrey Elmore

I looked around and there you were!
Growing so tall, it seemed too rapidly.
So fair, with grace—astounding!
And now—almost fourteen—ready to make your
Commitment of faith in the belief
Of that awesome power behind us,
Seeking possibilities we can only imagine.
Good journey, cherished grandson.

Today, my son, you too reach a milestone
And I am blessed to be the one
Who has watched, and often cared too much!
As you followed the path of delight in living
And with all the good, the inevitable scariness.
Now, through pride and total acceptance
Of the man you have become.
I salute you with deepest love.

Here in act three of my existence, still young in my heart,
I am grateful and humbled by gifts received;
For lessons learned—some painfully
Of blessings through God’s grace bestowed on
   such an errant one as me!
My desire is that of giving more than taking.
Seeing love’s power overcome disappointment
   and shortcomings, leading forward
To the greater knowing promised!

Bob Demaree

At 73, I have long since given up
Soccer and basketball with him,
So we have devised a new game,
My grandson and I,
To play in the back yard on afternoons
Thick with the warmth of late spring.
I am the pitcher,
He the rest of our baseball team.
We toss the ball back and forth,
Field grounders and pop flies,
Each catch an out.
Sometimes the other guys reach base,
An errant throw skittering
Into the monkey grass, hidden by
Fallen azalea blooms.
My teammate, playing deep,
Somewhere between childhood and
Adolescence, applies tags to phantom foes
As they foolishly try to stretch a hit.
Our team scores a run
Each time we retire the side.
We have never lost.

Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 Anthology Due in September

The 2012 Shepherd's Center Poetry Anthology, featuring writing by participants in the winter and spring terms, will be posted during September.  Contributors will be notified by e-mail when the anthology is "live."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Spring term concludes by 'Washing the Elephant'

Our Spring 2012 session at the Shepherd's Center concluded with two wonderful poems, "Washing the Elephant" by Barbara Ras and Jennifer Barber's "In the Hebrew Primer."

Ras displayed what C.K. Williams describes as "zaniness and unpredictable cunning...verbal expertise and lucidity" and a profound knowledge of the world. "Washing the Elephant" explored desire, guilt and memory over time, coming back always to the image of the elephant:'s always the heart that wants to go out and wash
the huge mysteriousness of what they meant, those memories
that have only memories to feed them and only you to keep them clean.

For more reading, about and by Barbara Ras, check:

Interview about "Washing the Elephant"
More poems

Jennifer Barber used the technique of compression and spareness to present us with, perhaps, a plot summary of some of the Old Testament, but much more besides:

A woman a man
I was, you were, we were.

We were, indeed. I have enjoyed our time together this spring and will be working on our annual Shepherd's Center Anthology over the summer, which will contain poems by all group members who presented them, including Leo Kelleher and Dave Upstill whose skillful and evocative work we enjoyed this week.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Emerson captures heat, decay, sadness along U.S. 1

In "Elegy in July for the Motel Astra," by Pulitzer winner Claudia Emerson, a poet with ties to Greensboro, we felt summer heat "shimmering/above fresh blacktop," could almost small overripe cantaloupe, and most of all felt the sadness of abandoned dreams.

Below is a link to a useful website called Biscayne Bay Review. I have shown the page for Emerson, which contains lots of information, more poems, and, if you'll scroll down a bit,  an excellent short article called "Claudia Emerson, An Appreciation" by Susan Settlemyre Williams.

For an excellent longer article on Emerson, check:

Emerson finds in the flea market a metaphor and "testimonial to human loss." She also writes of it in "At the Route 1 Flea Market." It is a metaphor that I have also found meaningful:

“At the Flea Market”

Dented cans, lettuce edges brown:
Cavernous room, dim light.
Built to be—what?—a warehouse,
Architect’s sad default.
The coarse jest of tee-shirts,
Suspicious wrist watches,
Prehistoric computers,
Damp blue air thick with
Cigarette smoke, ripe cantaloupe,
Hope and despair.
The vendors’ faces shadowed, blank:
“I can do better on that.”  (RHD)

We conclude this week with pieces by Barbara Ras and Jennifer Barber,  which, like all good poems, are about several different things at once.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Collins, Bilgere prompt smiles, thoughts

We found in Billy Collins the ever-present wit and good will, making the reader a participant in the poem, and, just at the point at which we thought it was supposed to be funny, jolting us with an image that demands further consideration (in this poem, the "ripples that move toward,/not away from, a stone tossed into a pond.").

We could readily understand why Collins chose George Bilgere for the University of Akron Poetry Award in 2002. "Grecian Temples" is enjoyed most when read aloud and rapidly, and contains much recurring imagery that, again, has a deeper point in mind. For more of George Bilgere, check and

There are almost 5 million Google entries for Billy Collins. The poem by David Orr, which is a review of The Trouble with Poetry written in the style of Billy Collins, can be found at

The very long essay by Ernest Hilbert that takes a rather negative view of Collins can be found at

On Thursday we will look at a long poem by Claudia Emerson, a recent Pulitzer winner who did a reading at Elon a few years ago.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Merwin addresses "the profound power of memory"

Some readers are put off initially by the fact that W.S. Merwin does not use punctuation, but we found in our reading of "A Single Autumn," "Near Field," and "Rain Light," three poems that address "the nature of time and mortality" that the "words wash over you" and make you concentrate on the power of the imagery. We come away convinced of the precept I was given some years back, that you cannot study contemporary poetry without considering W.S. Merwin. There are numerous articles to be found about Merwin on the internet. Here are a couple of very accessible ones:

On Thursday, May 10, we will find Billy Collins, as always, hugely entertaining and with something extra to say. Likewise George Bilgere, the winner of a competition that Collins judged.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Poems by Olds, Chiasson

In the April 26 session, we continued our look at poems of family relationships, Sharon Olds' "My Son, the Man" and "Man and Derailment" by Dan Chiasson.

There was emotional power (but no "raw language") in Olds' poem, an examination of a mother's feelings as a son approaches manhood. Images of the escape artist Harry Houdini are used to convey a young person's breaking out: "Now, he looks at me/the way Houdini studied a box/to learn the way out, then smiled and let himself be manacled."

In Dan Chiasson, we knew to look for an "analytical, nervous and often literary sensibility" as he "juxtaposes childhood memories of his own father with a decidedly adult consciousness." Several of us recalled having been placed in a situation similar to that of the narrator of "Man and Derailment."

Elmer Billman's "My Cardinal" (another 'never-ending bird') showed again how a nature poem contains important personal truths, and Martha Golensky reminded us in "Ten and Counting" that the poet can present as a persuasive first-person narrative the voice of another person.

Next week we will look at three poems by W.S. Merwin, whose Pulitzer Prize citation spoke of "luminous, often tender poems that focus on the profound power of memory."

Friday, April 20, 2012

2012 Spring Term Begins with Baker, Mazzocco

The spring term began April 19 for the Shepherd's Center Poetry Group, with 15 present to consider poems by David Baker and Robert Mazzocco.

In Baker's "Never-Ending Birds," we seemed to leaf through a photo album of loss and regret, as a father reflects wistfully on a family life now in the past (probably divorce--"I have another house; now you have two"--but possibly death), illustrating nicely one critic's observation: (Baker's poetry) "is steeped in story--divorce, loss, raising a child, uncovering old worlds and new loves, poems gracefully lived in, lived through, with mystery and beauty."

Robert Mazzocco's "Dead of Night," published in 1976, is more complex and admits of more possibilities. We note in the haunting couplets repetition and variation of physical details (The oaks glisten and then are bare.) You perhaps noticed (and I neglected to point out) that there is no punctuation in this poem, a technique we will examine further when we read W.S. Merwin.

The first part of "Dead of Night" seems clear enough: the narrator, who refers to himself as "you," appears to be recounting the birth of his son's son. But "then the weather changes," and we see another delivery with blood and screaming.

What are we to make of this second delivery? Our interpretations depend in part on the identity of the people indicated by pronouns deliberately left ambiguous. If "you" is the father and "he" his son, then perhaps the narrator is reflecting on his own birth, in which his mother may have died. Or, if we relax our requirement about the pronouns, then the second birth might be that of the new father, not the grandfather. Both of these readings allow us to see a sad foreshadowing in the lines "On another June/You will be gone."

These readings, though, may not take full advantage of the powerful lines:

And you must not tell him
What you both know

That you are the son
Who has just been born

So we are left with the possibility of two births or three, or even one: we can also ask if the entire poem represents two ways of looking at the same birth: all deliveries are difficult, that being born is difficult and temporary.

But this last reading does not take into account the couplet about the narrator being gone, and the concluding lines about being close.

Fortunately Robert Mazzocco does not require of us a conclusion or consensus--a beauty of good poems is that they say different things to different people.

Next week we will continue our study of families, with two poems about parents and sons, Sharon Olds' "My Son, the Man" and Don Chiasson's "Man and Derailment."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Winter Term Concludes; Spring Begins April 19

Our winter term at the Shepherd's Center concluded February 9 with a session on Images of Place, featuring poems by Nancy Willard and W.S. Merwin.

The spring term begins April 19 at First Baptist Church. We will be looking at some familiar poets such as Billy Collins and Sharon Olds, taking a full session for W.S. Merwin, and trying out some poets new to us, including David Baker, George Bilgere and Barbara Ras.

Our mornings together were greatly enriched by the poems you brought in. We will again publish our "Shepherd's Center Anthology" at the end of the spring term.

In the meantime, a few links for your further reading:

Article on Nancy Willard:
On one of the new poets for spring term:
Poems by group members:

Please let me know if you would like me to post links to other poets, including yourselves.

Before I forget, regarding punctuation in the poem by Merwin: we surmised correctly--the period should not have been there. The period should never be there...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Shepherd's Center Poetry: February 2012

Several of our number were away this past Thursday, and so I thought I’d post a summary of our discussion on the “Learning and Becoming” poems.

We had guessed the previous week that William Logan’s “Mysteries of the Armchair” might be a recollection of a less-than-perfect upbringing—I think we can be absolutely certain that is the case with the poems by Sharon Olds and Franz Wright. Perhaps a better title for the session would have been the last line of Olds’ poem: Do what you are going to do, and I will tell about it.

In “I Go Back to 1937” we see her parents at their college graduations, perhaps in different parts of the country (him definitely in the west, maybe California, where Olds grew up), the father arrogant, the mother vulnerable, both unfit for the marriage and parenthood that followed. There is anger in this poem, but also regret and sadness. After all, she did want to be born; this was her life, her growing up. The poem moves rapidly, sped along by commas. Olds does not reveal much autobiographical information in her interviews, but there is reason to think this poem is based mostly on fact.

Franz Wright’s “unavailable” father was the poet James (not Charles) Wright—they constitute the only parent-child combination to win the Pulitzer for poetry. But his childhood—an absent father, a hostile stepfather and, again, a vulnerable mother—was wrapped up in books. The key seems to be the line “I get down on my knees and thank God for them”—them, referring both back to the"loneliness, boredom and terror" that formed his motivation, and ahead into the four texts mentioned in the last stanza. Du Fu was an 8th century BCE Chinese poet. The last two lines present the reverse of what we might have expected. Carolyn summarized the poem nicely with a quotation recalled from “Dead Poets Society”: we read to know that we are not alone.

“School Tie” served as a footnote to the themes discussed above.

We heard a poem by Audrey Elmore that had a lovely movement to it, noting the milestones in three generations of a family.

We had several visitors last Thursday from a class that was not meeting that day. Remember that there is no class next Thursday (February 16), and we will meet February 23 for our last session on “Images of Place.”

We have learned that the Shepherd’s Center does plan to offer the poetry group again in the spring, starting April 19 at First Baptist Church.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Icarus Myth Informs Poetry, Science, Popular Culture

In our January 26, 2012, session on Icarus poems, we found that while the three poems all involved the myth as told in Ovid, they had different emphases, with both Auden and Williams noting a "rueful recognition of the world's indifference to martyrdom" (Williams stressing the compression of later free verse and limiting himself to the Icarus painting) and Mary Jo Bang, telling a personal story of loss that we found extremely powerful.

As was suggested, the early passages of Auden's poem probably do refer to two other Bruegel poems at the museum in Brussels:
Bruegel, "Census at Bethlehem"
Bruegel, "Massacre of the Innocents"
Both paintings seem to support the notion of "the religious acceptance of suffering" that can be understood in the first part of the poem.
As was also suggested yesterday, the Icarus story has found to be useful in psychology and psychiatry, and elsewhere in contemporary culture. For further reading, you can Google "Icarus complex" ('A constellation of mental conflicts, the degree of which reflects the imbalance between a person's desire for success, achievement, or material goods, and the ability to achieve those goals; the greater the gap between the idealized goal and reality, the greater the likelihood of failure'). Interesting sidelights: the "Icarus Project", which seems to represent a very different approach to the phenomenon, "The Icarus Syndrome," a book about 'American hubris--a century of unwise military adventures, and "Icarus Complex," which seems to be a rock group.