Wesley Sims has published two chapbooks of poetry, When Night Comes, Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, Kentucky, 2013, and Taste of Change, Iris Press, Oak Ridge, TN, 2019. His work has appeared in Connecticut Review, G.W. Review, The South Carolina Review, Liquid Imagination, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Breath & Shadow, Plum Tree Tavern, American Diversity Report, Artemis Journal, Poem, and others.
Holiday traditions cling like ivy.
As a youth, come mid-December,
I went hunting for a cedar tree with Dad.
We trekked across tan, sage grass fields,
December-drab pastures, or maybe drove
a mile or two into nearby woods
in his ’49 Chevy to find a suitable
dark green specimen about six feet tall,
not so misshapen it couldn’t be trimmed
to some semblance of conical symmetry.
We hauled it home, square-cut the trunk,
made a stand of two crossed boards
nailed to the bottom.
Whacked off a stray branch or two,
whittled the top to take a star.
The birds have vanished into the sky.
I stand at the moonless window, only random fireflies
kindling the somberness. No trace of a pale moon
hiding behind a gossamer cloud, no red-tailed star
—Bleached Bones by Elizabeth Howard
The dog days of summer have steamed on by,
winds of autumn are blowing strong,
storm clouds clustering in the west,
the birds have vanished into the sky.
Cousin Mack from upstate Maine
snapped his syllables clean
and crisp like green beans
dropped in my grandmother’s lap.
Jimmy Joe from Arkansas
plopped his words like handfuls
of new Irish potatoes
tossed into a bucket so we
missed the sound of some.
And cousin Marlow from Georgia
extruded his, pushed them out
like sausage, long fluid flow
with soft, squishy pauses
and periods held and strung out
so they seemed like dashes.
Image credit: Just A Pinch Recipe Club superimposed with Microsoft WordArt
We relish lounging by the lake,
watching emerald waves lap
the shallow, grass-lined shore,
summer breeze caressing our faces,
nestled under canopy of oak leaves.
Hearing the cluttered world stutter
and slow its mind-numbing whirl
on a tilted, groaning axis.
She’d stopped counting the weeks and months
the stingy calendar doled out. Diminished
by tears, her anguish had dimmed some,
feelings that had raged like rain-swelled rapids,
about how he enlisted, leaving her and children
like orphans. Recruiters had pumped him
with speeches and patriotic songs, pretty
girls and liquor. But he would learn, verse
by daily verse, the gospel of war she’d taken
on testimony and faith—that war makes
a terrible mistress, tempting men with glory
and glamour, but feeding them empty bellies,
weary bones, bloody memories and mangled
bodies, and if fate chose them, a ticket home
with traumatized minds or missing limbs.
She paced the floor, hands wringing,
babbled to herself, sometimes tossed words
toward us that might or might not make sense.
Not unlovely, she hid her attractive figure
in simple cotton dresses, and coiled
her long, brown hair in an old-woman bun.
Floated in her own world, like a butterfly
in a conservatory, from one hallucinatory
bloom to another.