Mourning Song, by Martin Willitts Jr

Mourning Song
by Martin Willitts Jr
           An aubade is a song from a door or window to a sleeping woman

The night has such a sleepless longing.
The heart-shaped moon peers through your window
as tree branches tap on your window
with nervous fingers. I cannot get enough of you
and your dreams, the finality of church hour bells.

Wake. Come to me like ecstatic music.
My arms of absence need filling
with the shape of morning doves murmuring
their immense sadness,
endless ocean waves drowning me in loss.

Some say, the day is over,
but not when two lovers embrace and cannot let go.
Window shades should be opening.
Traffic should be stopping and beeping
as trumpets scattering the night
into a thousand awakening eyes of love.

But sleep has you calming lover,
cooing doves in your ear, hushing you
into a softness of music of silence.

All I can do is stand out here,
the wretchedness of stars exploding.

Here is a process note:

I am trying to capture the regretful language of Neruda and Lora. That overwhelming unfulfilled desire or extreme loss associated with seeing the end results of war. I am also thinking of Romeo and Juliet. An unrequited love staring at a window, A troubadour ready to sing to a woman in a room. To me, the best line of lamentation is from Lora’s play, Blood Wedding: “Ah! What glass splinters are on my tongue!”

Written in response to prompt 429.

Martin Willitts Jr has 24 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 11 full-length collections including The Uncertain Lover (Dos Madres Press, 2018) and Coming Home Celebration (FutureCycle Press, 2019).

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Home Coming, by Martin Willitts Jr

Home Coming
by Martin Willitts Jr

When Odysseus returned home after twenty years,
claiming he lost his way,
Penelope took one look at that drunken fool
and the map of other women on his body,
and slammed the door on his wandering face.

Process Notes:

Several years ago, I decided I was a love poet, although it might not be clear, since I write about nature, memory, artwork, science, math, religion, protest, silent meditation. But in order to write all those subjects, I had to love something, care for something, be focused on what makes the world so interconnected and essential. Some of my poems can be very long, because it takes a while to write some complex subject, and at other times I can narrow down into the “Presence” of some moment.
In terms of the concept of “home”, I have been homeless before, so I understand the longing and the desire for acceptance and belonging. I have been a Conscientious Objector field medic in Vietnam sending some home wounded and some in body bags. I have built over one hundred houses with Habitat For Humanity, and some of them alongside former president Jimmy Carter.
Home means different things to different people just as much as love means different things to different people. I have a project called “Poetry in the Bus” where I create signage inside local buses using poems by first-time writers, ranging from 3rd grade to seniors in nursing homes, and adult ESL students writing in 9 different languages, and one of the themes was “home.”

Martin Willitts Jr Jr has over 20 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 11 full-length collections including forthcoming full-lengths includes The Uncertain Lover (Dos Madres Press, 2018), and The News from the Slow Country (Aldrich Press, 2018).

Swan, by Martin Willitts Jr

Swan
by Martin Willitts Jr

In spite of its soundlessness,
the male trumpet swan chases the mallards,
making itself larger than fear
flying out of the mallards’ hearts

Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian. He has over 20 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press), plus 11 full-length collections including How to Be Silent (FutureCycle Press, 2016) and Dylan Thomas and the Writing Shed (FutureCycle Press, 2017).

Nothing Stays Here Long, by Martin Willitts Jr

Nothing Stays Here Long
by Martin Willitts Jr

The sky is heavy with grey clouds,
stacked like cords of wood.
A hand plow is stuck,
impossible to move.
Wind stiffens.
Long drops of rain streak like angleworms.
A clapboard house is silent,
oddly tilted,
dungy with chipped paint,

empty now —
haunted by yesterdays
moving further away
when the world fails.

A weathervane creaks in wind
without anywhere to go.

*

Even in blatant emptiness —
a flatness extending beyond sight
where perspective narrows into a zero —

even then,
even in the absence of houses
or trees or roads or hills or ragweed,
there is so life:

a fly; an ant piling dirt
into pyramids; a single anonymous bird
too high up to identify;
thunder full of electricity;
a car following the road without a name
or rural road number
not having anywhere to ask directions
and dust trailing behind,
otherwise lost,

memory burnt away.

Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian. He has over 20 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press), plus 11 full-length collections including How to Be Silent (FutureCycle Press, 2016) and Dylan Thomas and the Writing Shed (FutureCycle Press, 2017).

Box Elder, by Martin Willitts Jr

Box Elder
by Martin Willitts Jr

For years, the boxelder has wrestled the wind,
the damp nights, the stars
grazing the meadows of the endless horizon,
the snow creeping up, the frost
speckled finger markings.

I wish I could say I could tolerate the winter,

but I have to go inside,
check the thermostat a couple of times,
wrap a comforter around my shoulders,
shiver out the deep chill.

The wind whines like a child
waking with night terrors.

I know the song of loneliness when I hear it.

That music settles in differently
than my body trying to generate heat.
Each recollection, each storage
of lost body heat, co-mingles like branches
in fierce wind, shuttering. Each star
is vaguely behind cold
meadows of clouds, snow sneaking in,
offering no comfort, no solace,
no rest from nightmares,
no matter how tightly I grip the blanket,
no matter what song I sing to myself
to keep the sadness from entering me,
a deep and sullen chill.

Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian. He has over 20 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press), plus 11 full-length collections including How to Be Silent (FutureCycle Press, 2016) and Dylan Thomas and the Writing Shed (FutureCycle Press, 2017).

How Leaves Form, by Martin Willitts Jr

How Leaves Form
by Martin Willitts Jr

at the tip of each branch
a green hope buds
a whisper

both stillness and
presence

unfolding

a sluggish wintered soul
readying to appear
a sleeper
slowly stirring

when it opens from within
all secrets rush out
green words

Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian. He has over 20 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press), plus 11 full-length collections including How to Be Silent (FutureCycle Press, 2016) and Dylan Thomas and the Writing Shed (FutureCycle Press, 2017).

The Day Hisses Snow, by Martin Willitts Jr

The Day Hisses Snow
by Martin Willitts Jr

It’s so cold, the air is shivering;
wind blasting through.
You’d near well freeze,

and morning has just begun,
hunkering down, snow
wandering from nearest hills.

Chattering is carried
from somewhere in the tree line,
a cold unanswered prayer.

You can taste the air.
Noise stretches far.
The day offers no reason to be out.

It hisses snow.
All bad experiences run their course,
but sometimes they repeat until we learn.

The moon careens
through empty tree branches:
a floodlight —

it’s past time to go in,
stoke a fire, take the chill out,
hang it up to dry.

Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian. He has over 20 chapbooks including the winner of the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, The Wire Fence Holding Back the World (Flowstone Press), plus 11 full-length collections including How to Be Silent (FutureCycle Press, 2016) and Dylan Thomas and the Writing Shed (FutureCycle Press, 2017).

Slowing Down, by Martin Willitts Jr

Slowing Down
by Martin Willitts Jr

In April, a stream is swollen by snow melt.
Every year the river surges,
greedy for another day, another discovery.
I am running out of time.

I want to slow down to a certain stillness.
But water lunges as it speeds up, time shortens.
Someday, I will be taken to that better place.

Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian. He has over 20 chapbooks and over 10 full-length collections. His forthcoming full-lengths include The Uncertain Lover (Dos Madras Press) and The News From the Slow Country (Aldrich Press).

Separation, by Martin Willitts Jr

Separation
by Martin Willitts Jr

Decidedly, the body enters a coma,
and it will not come back.
The heart-blood walks down a long corridor
away from its source. The brain
keeps firing a few tentative sparks,
enough to be considered alive.
The respirator forces air into the lungs,
but for all intents and purposes,
the body is dying, clinically dead.
Parts are splintering off
like decayed branches from a tree.

The relatives hover, however, discussing options:
pulling the plug; or maintaining a false premise
of life, hoping for a resurrection.
They hope for a report from the beyond
where the dead enter, and some, reportedly,
return with profound messages and memory
or what it is like beyond.

This spirit wants to leave.
It wants the rendering to end.
It wants the watchers to allow it
to go into the light, begging,
Please, let me go, I’m tired, I want to rest.

The departing spirit wants to tell them
there is no turning back.
Those were all false reports.

But the body cannot speak. It is pulling apart.
The body is transforming
into an empty shell like snake skin.

Already, parts flutter off, loose brittle fragments.

Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian. He has over 20 chapbooks and over 10 full-length collections. His forthcoming full-lengths include The Uncertain Lover (Dos Madras Press) and The News From the Slow Country (Aldrich Press).

Music, by Martin Willitts Jr

Music
by Martin Willitts Jr

Leaves fall out of silence
into the unknown,
depending on essentials
of sound, touch, sight
to discover them
crinkling underfoot.
They were once firmly attached,
then let go, as light as an eyelash,
heading into the understood
end of life, fearless,
unburdened.

In death, we all make our own unique music.

Martin Willitts Jr is a retired Librarian. He has over 20 chapbooks and over 10 full-length collections. His forthcoming full-lengths include The Uncertain Lover (Dos Madras Press) and The News From the Slow Country (Aldrich Press).