Chamber Musicians Also Wash the Dishes, Check the Mail

Our Poem of the Week is a piece by one of our favorite poets, Jack Ridl, who is from Michigan. It’s a great poem with an even greater title.

Chamber Musicians Also Wash the Dishes, Check the Mail

But now the chamber musicians are
just past halfway in Glazunov’s Elegy,

the part where in rehearsal they stopped.
“It feels as if I’m behind.”

“I don’t think so. I think I’m ahead.”
When I listened all I heard was a whole note held

in the third movement of a symphony
by Tinnitus, all I felt was the wax waning

onto the timpani of my ear drum.
Next comes another elegy, this by Suk,

Suk who was fifteen when he wrote its
sorrow-filled walk through what he did

not yet know. The chamber musicians
know.  They carry elegy in their fingers.

They open the world on the other side
of every note and let us breathe

within the haunting space between each
touch of key and pull of bow. They believe

heaven is between the stars, music
in the empty sleeve of the one-armed man.

-Jack Ridl
Douglas, Michigan


Our poem of the week is by Michigan poet, Joy Gaines-Friedler. It comes from a series of poems, nine of which were just published in our Spring issue of Third Wednesday. This one was chosen for its wonderful images.


The sea surprisingly warm,
the sky a blue room I wait in. Fearless
pelicans plunge headlong into waves.

I walk the imagery of my mother’s life.
There are no birds in these images,
I have never seen her dip her toe into the tide

never seen her startled by stars, no wonderment
at the way water ripples or forms clouds.
She is never looking up.

Here in the space between waves
where a kind of sanctity floats
I praise what I can:

A porcelain blue saucer,
the smell of Aqua Net & acetate
nails polished Frank Sinatra smooth,  

the Formica table worn pale from hours of Solitaire,
cravings to leave – hers
                                        as much as mine.

I return to her room –  keep shut the blinds,
the way she always liked them.

The day clings to the edge.

Outside a cloud of a thousand starlings
move in unison, left then right – then left.
They land. Settled-in for the night.

Skiing In March

We’ve had our first day of spring, but it’s still March.  Here’s a poem from Canadian poet,  Susanne von Rennenkampff, that reminds us that spring may not be just around the corner in all parts of the world, and for some people, that’s cause for celebration.

Skiing In March

if you forget it’s March,
forget that elsewhere
they’ve been wearing shorts
for weeks;

if you are suddenly
stopped in your tracks
by the intricate pattern
rising on the white trunk
of a birch, the rows upon rows
of silvery beads;
if you feel the bright splash
of rosehips on fresh snow,
crimson like blood
from the queen’s finger,
and do not flinch;

if you kneel down,
put your two fists
side by side
in the prints
of the moose
that crossed the trail
this morning;

maybe then
you will be grateful
that you still can ski
while elsewhere
snowdrops and primroses
have bloomed for weeks.

     Susanne von Rennenkampff
     Alberta, Canada

The Air Smelled Dirty

Massachusetts poet, Marge Piercy, remembers when houses were heated with coal.  My family referred to our coal furnace as “The Octopus”. 

The Air Smelled Dirty

Everyone burned coal in our neighborhood,
soft coal they called it from the mountains
of western Pennsylvania where my father
grew up and fled as soon as he could, where
my Welsh cousins dug it down in the dark.

The furnace it fed stood in the dank
basement, its many arms upraised
like Godzilla or some other monster.
It was my job to pull out clinkers
and carry them to the alley bin.

Mornings were chilly, frost on windows
etching magic landscapes.  I liked
to stand over the hot air registers
the warmth blowing up my skirts.
But the basement scared me at night.

The fire glowed like a red eye through
the furnace door and the clinkers fell
loud and the shadows came at me as
mice scampered.  The washing machine
was tame but the furnace was always hungry.

    Marge Piercy
    Wellfleet, Massachusetts

Your Voice

Our Poem of the Week comes to us from Malta. It’s not easy to write a fresh piece about a topic that’s been written about so much.

Your Voice

I hear your voice 
As you talk on the phone with your friends 
The kindness in your words is convincing
The laughter genuine 
And for a split of a second
I remember 
when you used to speak in the same tone to me
the same sincere laughter 
and I forget
that it’s the same voice 
you use to bludgeon
the insignificant

Kristyl Gravina
Zabbar, Malta

Groove Interrupted

Literature is a way for us to have experiences, good or bad, that we have no way to experience for ourselves. Poetry can be especially good at doing this, as demonstrated by our poem of the week, written by California poet, Deborah LaFalle.

     Groove Interrupted  

Huge ‘fros, perfect spheres of nappiness
five deep in M’s ‘60 Chevy Impala
subtle swaying to the silky smooth soul
of the Delfonics on 8-track
Didn’t I blow your mind this time?

Suddenly a siren, flashing red lights
consume the rear window
Our eyes meet each others’
bewildered – What’s up?
M ejects tape

Heavy-set officer approaches
takes the blue stance
“License and registration.”
We know the drill
M obliges

“Where’re you all going?”
“To get something to eat –
dorm cafeteria closed on weekends.”
I’m thinking…
Why should we have to explain?

“Is there something wrong officer?”
“I’ll ask the questions.”
flashlight beams in our faces
then in our laps

A walk around the car
looking, hoping
to find something
some small shred of evidence
to cite, worst yet – arrest

“Open the glove box.”
M obliges again
Officer chucks M his IDs
“Luck was on your side tonight.”

Once back in his squad car
we exhale, M slides tape back in
but we don’t resume the sway
We’re not hungry anymore
Another day of DWB.

     Deborah LeFalle
     San Jose, California