Nest Building, by Alan Toltzis

Nest Building
by Alan Toltzis

The first few years, mud and struggle
filled our yard. Longing for birdsong,
you played tapes of songbirds,
and kept a cage of finches.

Now, magnetite, DNA, scent, and star,
faithfully guide our sparrows.

Flitting
                              darting

       from

             sycamore

                                           to cherry

       to deck,
                              back

they
gather up bits of chickweed,
oak twig, twine, cedar scrap,
grass, and bark,
constructing yet another nest
under the retracted awning,
and the air sings
crescendos of lilting reassurance
that biology and fate
will lift us homeward.

Process Notes: The poem tells the back story. The sparrows arrived a couple weeks ago this year too.

Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment; his second book, 49 Aspects of Human Emotion, will be released this summer. Alan has been nominated for a Pushcart and his work has appeared in numerous print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and North of Oxford. alantoltzis.com.

Advertisements

Red-Tail, by Alan Toltzis

Red-Tail
by Alan Toltzis

1.
Hungry again,
hawk spreads its feathers
ascending
aloft invisible updrafts

to choose
the unsuspecting
in the stubble
of last summer’s cornfield.

2.
Sharp squeals, like laughter,
ripple through squalls and drifts.
Atop a pole,
hawk ruffles its tail

abiding.

3.
Earth’s shadow
creeps across the moon.
Snow-light, bright as washed bone,
eclipses its glow.

Hawk tucks its head
into its shoulder
comforting itself
as a green comet sizzles
invisibly far away.

Process Note: While the poem started with the hawk, celestial events often work their way into my work. This one has two from February— the Snow Moon Penumbral Eclipse on Friday night February 10 and the green Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková, which made its closest approach early Saturday morning (Feb. 11) at about 3 a.m. EST passing within 7.4 million miles of Earth. There was also a snowstorm that week that worked its way into section 2.

Alan Toltzis, is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, Once Sentence Poems, IthacaLit, and r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

Josh reading poems by Alan Toltzis here

New Year Omens, by Alan Toltzis

New Year Omens
by Alan Toltzis

1.
The tangled crown
of bare wisteria emerges,
woven and frozen against the spreading sky.

In all these years, I only remember
a few blooms under the joists
or at the edges of the pergola.

You remember heavy clusters in late spring,
if the pruning was done right.
Next May will tell us.

2.
Up ahead,
metal scraps, like twisted light,
glance the right lane,
a lone hubcap rocking,
the broken white line, its fulcrum,
while a man in shirtsleeves,
with hands in jeans pockets
that force him into a shrug,
slouches down the road from his stalled car
towards the doe,
her paralyzed body heavy and calm
but still able to raise her head
the moist nose twitching,
air steaming from her nostrils
inhaling familiar scents
—field and winter. . . some dormant grass—
now tinged with purple smears of sorrow and shame
as he approaches like a compulsion urging him forward,
when only waiting will bring an answer.

Process Note: An early draft of the poem had a reference to the highway (Route 95), but I didn’t know until later that day that the highway would become a distinct section of the poem because of the incident with the deer.

Alan Toltzis, is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, Once Sentence Poems, IthacaLit, and r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

Ringing Rocks Park, by Alan Toltzis

Ringing Rocks Park
by Alan Toltzis

Uprooted,
the underside of a tree steams,
its unsightly crawl
of dirt and decay clinging
to a hairy mesh of roots.

By all rights,
these displaced things,
unused to autumn light
yellowing in early afternoon,
should flee.
But this unseemly ganglion
continues to seethe and twist.

In the bright sun
of the adjacent boulder field,
the live rocks sing
their muted requiem,
each striking its own clear tone.

Process Note: I live outside of Philadelphia, close to Ringing Rocks State Park, but had never heard of it until last year when it made a list of top 10 spookiest places in the country. So my wife and I set out to explore. The park earns its name because of its 8-acre boulder field of “live rocks” that ring like a bell when they are hit with a hammer. Only a few places in the world have rocks like this. Take a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5cJbcoWaH8 The music starts around 1:13 and while the rocks ring for anyone, most people can’t make music like this!

Alan Toltzis, is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, Once Sentence Poems, IthacaLit, and r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

Cicada Serenade, by Alan Toltzis

Cicada Serenade
by Alan Toltzis

A halo of summer-weary sycamore leaves
curl and wither under the scrutiny of noon.

The sun burns white as moonlight.
Earth’s abuzz with fresh decline

heralded by cicadas
chanting ancient emergent death rattles.

Strewn around them, hollow,
iridescent cinders, of some born earlier,

their nymphs underground,
awaiting resurrection.

Process Note: This was a big year for cicadas and I started noticing their beautiful iridescent bodies as they died. That, more than their music was where this poem started for me.

Alan Toltzis, is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, Once Sentence Poems, IthacaLit, and r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

Coffee, by Alan Toltzis

Coffee
by Alan Toltzis

On this exceptional
cream and sugar day—

not black
not bitter

nor some sorrowful residue
settling to the bottom of the pot

reducing
thickening

until the last drop of hope
evaporates and scalds itself

leaving a stain of
pungent neglect—

drink endlessly
of joy unchained.

Alan Toltzis, the author of The Last Commandment, grew up in Philadelphia and now lives and writes in Bucks County. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Right Hand Pointing, Provo Canyon Review, IthacaLit, Hummingbird, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Burningword Literary Journal. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

Restoration, by Alan Toltzis

Restoration
by Alan Toltzis

Did I wear you out?
Did I leave you spent,
tattered, cut, bruised?

And when,
O weary, weary soul,
you left me again last night,

barely able to fill
and empty my lungs,
I waited for morning,

my body
and my heart
awash with you again.

Today will be different.
Today will be pure.

Today will be
a waxing crescent
moon at dawn.

Alan Toltzis, the author of The Last Commandment, grew up in Philadelphia and now lives and writes in Bucks County. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Right Hand Pointing, Provo Canyon Review, IthacaLit, Hummingbird, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Burningword Literary Journal. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

The Gaining of Wisdom, by Alan Toltzis

The Gaining of Wisdom
by Alan Toltzis

Stuffing one last bit
of moist green leaf into his bulging maw,
caterpillar felt something
new—
he was full.

His fearsome, snake-eyed skin
stretched
and split
as he spit a filament-wide hammock
that solidified in midair.
More goo buttoned him to a twig
among his lacy chronicles
of nonstop feasting.

Muscular, peristaltic wriggling
rid him of his last rag of beauty.
It fell away
revealing the luminous, ringed sarcophagus
that was always within.

Immobile and shielded,
he would never eat again
or crawl,
or spin.

By knowing what was inside him,
everything
was about to change.

Process Notes: The poem itself went through a lot of change and revision. It started as an exploration of whether we can truly be aware of another’s needs. I then started wondering about self awareness and if we could anticipate our own needs as we change and grow. That led me to the caterpillar and the striking differences as it changes from caterpillar to chrysalis. The poem ended up saying something different about beauty and how it can hamper and then lead to self-discovery and appreciation of differences.

Alan Toltzis is the author of the book of poems, The Last Commandment. His work has appeared in print and online journals including The Provo Canyon Review, The Red Wolf Literary Journal, Poetica, and Burningword Literary Journal. Visit him online at http://www.alantoltzis.com.

140,000,000 Miles Away, by Alan Toltzis

140,000,000 Miles Away
by Alan Toltzis

Towards the summit a thousand times taller
than anything it climbed before,
Spirit trudged upward

hurtling data home for sols on end
where it assembled into landscapes—
postcards from a world I’ll never enter.

It shifts into reverse
converting its stuck wheel
from anchor to harrow.

A track becomes a furrow
revealing a stripe of white and yellow crystals
gleaming a few inches below red dirt.

Once upon a time
they dissolved
in water that overflowed lakebeds

or meandered through
banked and deep river valleys.
Water ran swiftly etching the bedrock.

Here the task is harder:
look deeply and learn
the true nature of trees,

judge the strength
and weakness of people,
feel the promise of the land,

while squinting into the glare
of proximity
just beyond the horizon.

Process note: Sometimes it’s easier to explore dispassionately without bringing your self in. The poem compares the experience of the Mars Rover, Spirit to our own experience closer to home. The word “sol” (pronounced “soul”) is a Martian day, which is little longer than a day on Earth.

Alan Toltzis lives and writes in Bucks County, PA where he is working on a book of poems that are modern expressions of our relationship with God and the world around us. His poems have been published in print and online publications including Focus Midwest, Burningword Literary Journal, The Jewish Literary Journal, Soul-Lit, and the upcoming issue of Poetica.

Noah, by Alan Toltzis

Noah
by Alan Toltzis

It was a sublime deal
sealed with a rainbow
flexed across the sky and through the clouds.
No pressure, but what’s next?
Noah got drunk.

Because, how do you get up,
scratch yourself, piss,
make coffee, kiss
the wife and kids and
just get on with it?

While nature continues, nonplussed,
we are left with just
the ordinary,
unrelenting, pick-up-a-loaf-of-bread,
grind-it-out, and don’t-forget-the-milk kind of stuff.

As sure as that 6:52
sunrise
bestows the tragedy of another everyday sorrow
upon us,
we brace ourselves,
ready again to be heroes.

Process note: The ancient Greeks knew audiences needed a release after the intensity of drama and their playwrights wrote plays as a 4-part series: a dramatic trilogy and then a fourth play—the tragic-comic satyr play. But that need for release after heroic and tragic events can be traced much earlier, to the story of Noah. My poem looks at the Biblical even that happens immediately after the flood and how that connects with modern day life.

Alan Toltzis lives and writes in Bucks County, PA where he is working on a book of poems that are modern expressions of our relationship with God and the world around us. His poems have been published in print and online publications including Focus Midwest, Burningword Literary Journal, The Jewish Literary Journal, Soul-Lit, and the upcoming issue of Poetica.