5 Poets: Featuring the work of KATHERINE FALK, STEVE NOLAN, LIZ CHANG, DAVID P. KOZINSKI, AND MATILDA BRAY
by Katherine Falk
I live in the still life of the table
with its orange jacquard cloth
and blue-jeweled vase of flowers,
my actual home, where I drink water
with my four French friends,
facing the Manet on the wall,
sister zinnias, burgundy Marie-Laure
and pink and white Agnes,
both with their gold zinnia crowns,
Laurine, purple tulip, with black and white
pistils and stamens, alternately arranged
bluish-green leaves that reach to us all,
Marie-Claude, long-stemmed rose,
deep red as thunder, as Bach’s
Piano Concerto in D-Minor,
I, white freesia, that loves
the way we lean to each other
when our stems need cutting,
the way we prop each other up
especially when the air swings cool
and the vibrations around us, hot.
I’m Leaning Towards The Milky Way
by Steve Nolan
Visiting a friend who needs an organ
transplant is a humbling experience
about life’s priorities – the hospital
bed occupying living space,
the highs and lows of each possible donor,
where he sits on the wait list, how
his deteriorating health made him
a less viable candidate, how
he may move up the list soon
due to his recently improved numbers.
His wife is exhausted but continues
her myriad duties as caretaker, nurturer.
She brings him a small meal and then
asks if he would like something sweet –
tapioca pudding, strawberry
rhubarb or a Milky Way candy bar?
I’m leaning towards the Milky Way,
he says and she brings him a halloween-
size miniature chocolate
and unwraps it for him.
We talk about things mundane
and then foreign travels, current events,
the state of the world. The President
sang “Amazing Grace” this week
and we marvel at that, the fact that music
is healing, that music and illness seem
to be doors to the spiritual dimension—
illness starting the day humans left
the Garden of Eden, nostalgia for
a celestial home dominating our thoughts
ever since; dominating even
our actions when you think of flight,
when you think of rocketry, when
you think of satellites and space stations.
We put a man on the moon. We sent
a probe to Mars but we did not find
heaven; not a cherub or harp has yet
appeared on NASA or SOYUZ cameras.
Perhaps farther out in the solar system,
farther out in some magnificent,
luminous galaxy we will find
those pearly gates -- I’m leaning towards
the Milky Way and the one woman’s hand
offering it, saying, this may not
be Paradise, but this is love.
Baby's First Shapes
by Liz Chang
Baby, when we first met you
in greyscale, when you first
evinced human contours
and less the doughy forms
of salt ceramic,
your grandmother declared,
"Liz, he has your nose."
Did she see the graceful
dips and crevices of
of the sleeping giant on Kauai?
Or did she wish to recognize
the stacked, clastic shale
of the Cliffs of Moher?
(I thought of her son's
when we rode there
and the air trembled
the edge of the world
remained stubbornly mysterious.)
Then the doctor arrived.
He surveyed your
and rewarded us:
"This one looks like Chris."
And we all smiled
in bas relief
since it is easier
in this ancient world
to be built up
and mossed and reborn.
by David P. Kozinski
With my brother studying abroad
that dominated my parents’ living room
like a tuned-up, polished vehicle
was mine to bang on,
to experiment with; the lid raised,
the cage of metal cords
plucked with tongs or tapped
with a socket wrench.
I laid paper of varying hefts
across the strings of the top octaves
for percussion, a wooden ruler
across the bottom, hung
the old Sony reel-to-reel’s microphone
like a trouble light under the hood.
We made tapes of everything
in our teens; the bathtub running, dog
barking, vacuum cleaner
and ‘cello duets, the mantel clock chiming
Westminster, Wittenberg and Winchester
running things faster and slower, backwards
and mashed all together. This was the field
he’d play on, the one my father put us out in early;
the one my family approved,
where Stefan thrived and I fooled around.
I played a little baseball
and loved football – relishing concussion
in helmet and pads,
scaring mother, I knew, without her saying so
but seated in the cockpit
of the Baldwin or the Steinway at school,
power under my hands,
the smooth, flat white keys
and the candy bar black ones
at my fingers’ choosing
I could drive the girls crazy
One of them did sit still
now and then in the auditorium,
her loafers kicked off, rocking a leg
crossed over a knee
as my fingers mounted the steps of a scale,
urging her along with my left hand.
by Matilda Bray
You hold the Ace a bit tighter
The King’s mouth puckered
trying not to be overpowered
by the card ahead.
The Queen looks up at her crown,
the Joker still smiles;
Mr. Jack wondered
what he was going to have for tea.
Ten wishes he might become a heart
and not a diamond,
while Nine frowns deeply—
so close to the Joker,
yet so far away.
Seven and Eight sit down;
not bad, not good
and Six is still proud to be even.
Five, well she honestly
doesn’t care at this point.
Four and Three are still alive
with Two barely even here
And One, he doesn’t exist.
About the poets
Katherine Hahn Falk attended a Breadloaf Writer’s Conference during college, won the H. MacKnight-Black Poetry and Literature prize, was first runner-up for Bucks County, PA Poet Laureate in 2015, winner of Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Refuge’s first poetry contest and a runner up in Japan's Airlines Haiku contest.
Steve Nolan had a military career and 25 years as a therapist. He was Chief of Combat Stress, Paktika Province, Afghanistan and ran a PTSD clinic for the VA. His poetry has been featured on National Public Radio and various small press journals.
Liz Chang was the 2012 Montgomery Count Poet Laureate in Pennsylvania. Her poems and translations have appeared in Breakwater Review, Rock & Sling, Stoneboat Literary Journal, and The Adirondack Review.
David P. Kozinski’s first full-length book of poems, Tripping Over Memorial Day (Kelsay Books) came out in January. He won the Delaware Literary Connection’s 2015 spring poetry contest and the Seventh Annual Dogfish Head Poetry Prize, which included publication of his chapbook, Loopholes. Publications include Apiary, Cheat River Review, Philadelphia Stories, Rasputin.
Matilda Bray is an extraordinary poet, currently in the fifth grade. Bray placed second in the 2016 Main Street Voices Poetry Competition and was a Runner-up at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Poetry Slam, hosted by Montgomery County Poet Laureate, David Escobar-Martin. Matilda is hard at work finishing up her first manuscript of poetry. She resides with her supportive family and beloved dog, Tuck, in Bucks County, PA.