Ars Poetica, by Irene Toh

Ars Poetica NaPoWriMo 2022

In the tradition of NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month, this collection is largely the result of writing a poem daily in the month of April 2022. The title of this collection, Ars Poetica, was the theme I had in mind. Writing poems daily imbued one with a sense of purpose and it is, as Jane Hirshfield said, language waking up in the morning and looking into the mirror: what it sees, and how it answers that world. Here then is a true-to-life, quotidian response, or how I processed the world in my head, or life as a spiritual experience. While it isn’t possible to cut up a brain to see its spiritual contents, it is possible to read the poems to see what’s inside one’s head. That is magic maybe or perhaps, just poetry.

Download the collection here.

Ars Poetica by Irene Toh

Catskills, Late 1970s, by Mitchel Montagna

Catskills, Late 1970s
by Mitchel Montagna

I thought I saw Val near the bus station, beneath sparkling leaves
           in sleek summer clothes, dazzling as the morning light
Treetops split the radiance around her; I know if she smiles, she
           will fuse those fiery shards together
But I don’t wait to see. I turn away, looking for the 10:05, because
           she probably doesn’t know me at all.

On 17 north near the mountains, cotton-blue sky, bluffs and
           meadows like shimmering gardens
If you doze, you feel the tingling of haunted canyons; graffiti
           carved by those who have become ghosts
After a steep climb the Grossingers sign looms, overlooking a world
           at end, as our bus slips cautiously by.

Riding through Liberty, pale granite and dust, gasping old stores; strutting
           unemployed, pretending to own the streets
I settle into a small cabin, then walk outside, purple twilight
           descending on the woods nearby
A sparrow chants; a young woman sits cross-legged at a picnic
           table and asks who I am.

Her dark eyes mirror the changing sky; a breeze carries a pine-needle scent;
           her smile is clever and makes me smile
I’m here for a new beginning, I admit. She points to the moon, impeccably round
           just above the horizon
Stars seem to creep out as if from behind a curtain. She brushes hair from
           her cheek, and thanks me for a gorgeous night.

Mitchel Montagna has worked as a special education teacher, radio news reporter, and corporate communicator. He is married and lives in New Jersey.

A Farewell to Sleep, by Mitchel Montagna

A Farewell to Sleep
by Mitchel Montagna

Peace came upon me after midnight
It settled like the pale mist in a dream
Outside the moonglow was shedding light
Stars rippled on a silvery stream.

On shore we found glossy and snaking vines
They glowed ever-softly in the dark
Nearby were traces of shadowy pines
Dawn lit up their leaves like a spark.

I dreamt of highways and sonic booms
I awoke as wind teased out our names
All exits ahead were sealed off like tombs
A bank of clouds burst into flames.

I pressed for sleep but nothing would yield
Bathed in twilight she pulled back her hair
I knelt in the smoky ash of the field
I saw her shadow dissolve in the air.

Mitchel Montagna has worked as a special education teacher, radio news reporter, and corporate communicator. He is married and lives in New Jersey.

Lost Girl, by Mitchel Montagna

Lost Girl
by Mitchel Montagna

I touched my hand to your waist as you came to the door
I’d never seen those stellar blue eyes before.

Like dark shades of twilight stirring the skies
Like tunnels of mood aimed to hypnotize.

Then, when you smiled, I knew I could cast
every damn bit of business of shame from my past.

But I couldn’t compete with your immaculate whole:
The malice I hid or your generous soul.

So I closed down my heart, and left you betrayed
Certain with time that your jeweled eyes would fade.

But you hung with me close, like a hovering dream
And you cradled my soul, then the air turned to steam.

You are missing, I’m haunted and needing to know
of the footprints you left all those long years ago.

I swear I must follow; for nothing is right
They’ve torn me apart through indifference and spite.

When I find you, I’ll quietly huddle outside
and peek through your window with eyes opened wide.

I’ll dig through my conscience and find me a prayer
that your life’s full of wonder and people who care.

That you triumph in dreams and in those whom you love
That your spirit feels watched and blessed from above.

Then, I’ll retreat and move on with my load
Like a tired wind drifts down a long dusty road.

I’ll wander alone through each canyon and curve
Convinced that we both got the end we deserve.

Mitchel Montagna has worked as a special education teacher, radio news reporter, and corporate communicator. He is married and lives in New Jersey.

Jersey City, by Mitchel Montagna

Jersey City
by Mitchel Montagna

The city is empty, except for the bars
that nurture the lost and burn up like stars

With rubble and ruin and Eden so near
it’s hard to believe that we once lived here

But I still see the soft dimming blue of her eyes
and the shape of her smile, once wistful and wise

And the form of her body, collapsed to its knees
on the field where we played, in the shadow of trees.

I dreamed I returned, bone-chilled in the rain
to the ground where she withered, grieving in pain

She still kissed my scar with a slow lover’s trace
while tears of compassion fell from her face

Such memories flicker as every heart beats
like neon lights dimming above city streets.

Mitchel Montagna has worked as a special education teacher, radio news reporter, and corporate communicator. He is married and lives in New Jersey.

It’s A Warm Evening Before April, by B. L. Bruce

It’s A Warm Evening Before April
by B. L. Bruce

It’s a warm evening before April and I’m planting wildflowers at the base of the peach tree: zinnia, cosmos, aster. I think of my mother, slender hands moving through the earth. This is why she never paints her nails. Earlier, we walked through the narrow rows of the nursery. Every so often she’d reach out to touch the soft leaf of a plant, recite its name. Salvia leucantha. Mexican sage brush. Hot lips. Now, I think of how, in a few months, bright colors will appear here from the soil. And again, I will think of her.

B. L. Bruce is an award-winning poet and Pushcart Prize nominee living and writing along California’s Central Coast. Her creative work has appeared in dozens of anthologies, magazines, and literary publications, including most recently Frogpond Journal, La Merle Poetry Journal, Visitant, Blood Moon Poetry, and Feral, among many others. Bruce is the author of four books, The Weight of Snow, 28 Days of Solitude, The Starling’s Song, and Measures, and is the editor-in-chief of the nature-centric literary magazine Humana Obscura.

Raindrops, by Søren Sørensen

by Søren Sørensen

Raindrops are drumming the roof of my car
The road is covered with sleet
The air is foggy, and I can’t see afar
But I’m not worried a bit

My brain is shuffling things left far behind
My thoughts are vague and obscure
The nature is muddled, and so is my mind
Something makes me feel insecure

It’s not the weather, nor the frosty, drab sky
Not the niggling, dull rain
My dreams appear to have gone awry
Just thrown down the drain

Snapshots of my life revive in my head
Like a disarrayed pack
My car is stingily drifting ahead
My ponderings are whizzing aback

All my strivings have crumbled and failed
The past is a dreary black hole
The future is veiled with a nebulous shade
Unwelcoming for a leisurely stroll

The present is just a dimensionless dot
I don’t know if it even exists
I am left to hide myself in a tiny slot
Submerge into a cloudy mist

Who am I after all, and why am I here?
Does my life make any sense?
All is a spectacle meant to soon disappear
Vanish into empty space

Raindrops are tediously beating my car
All I can see is muddy sleet
The air is foggy, and I can’t see afar
But I’m not worried a bit

Søren Sørensen is a physics professor at the University of Central Florida.