Poetry

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Martha’s Vineyard vs Nantucket

Not much between us.

Their two hundred pound linemen,

our tailback like a greased pig.

Their winters even longer than our own,

our superiority of trees.

Same wind-blasted sand dunes and canceled boats,

same tackles and cheerleaders sired by tackles and cheerleaders.

Same empty roads that lead nowhere,

same solitude we thought was all ours.

Some stick around, some go long and don’t look back.

Some stumble into trouble and break free, some

don’t. Like fraternal twins separated at birth,

we don’t recognize each other, barely speak,

but knock each other down to see who gets up

first. As the winners or losers line up for the shuttle

to the flight or ferry ride home, the home team

waves or turns their backs and everyone who has one

leans on their car horns.

Donald Nitchie lives in Chilmark. His poetry chapbook “Driving Lessons” was published in 2008 from Pudding House.

full moon shining

through the bedroom door

— the cat’s white throat!

cloudy morning-

unable to answer

the cat’s question …

staring back

at the cat

sitting in the rain

cat and i

both heard it

— that yowling outside

old cat curled

in a tiny patch

of winter sun

When Gary Paraboschi permanently retired to Martha’s Vineyard six years ago, he brought along his lifelong dabbling in poetry, especially haiku, for which he finds the lovely and abundant landscape of this Island endlessly inspirational.

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On the warm summer days

And into the autumn

Mabel holds court in her chair

On her wide front porch

And rocks and rocks.

She does puzzles in pencil

And watches the people

On their way to the beach

Or home again, with chairs,

Towels, wagons with children,

Teenagers in bikinis, and

Older folk with canes or walkers.

And she rocks and rocks.

Friends call to her from

The street and stop to chat.

“Danny Boy” plays on a CD.

Children and grandchildren

And great grandchildren,

Nieces and in-laws and friends

Join her for cold drinks,

Conversation and laughter.

And she rocks and rocks

While she drinks her cocktail

(diluted with a little water)

And joins in the hilarity.

She doesn’t get around much,

But the world comes to her,

The lady mayor of Pennacook Park,

As she rocks and rocks and rocks

On her wide front porch.

Barbara Peckham, a retired teacher, has lived on Martha’s Vineyard since 2001. In 2011 she published a book of poetry, “A Jar of Summer.”

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We tell people we are writing like people might tell us they are breathing or not with their backs to the wind but somehow it makes a difference to say it

because so often we are afraid we will not be we have not been it feels like death death in life death of the soul death of what makes you you me me her

her and so on we wake up holding one gold nugget from the night’s mining panning one gold nugget we are sure not to lose but by brushed teeth a pee

not to mention coffee it’s as far from our hand as last night’s covers just gone where there is no where before it was weighed it sunk back in the ooze

of the stream where nothing weighs nothing the effort to hold it weakens dies we know there will be gold to mine in the day light across the mountain

of the night where we know all the higher karat stuff is but we can’t hold on

we get anemic flecks of the day the stuff that tells you what you already

know even if it is the three levels of hell heaven purgatory or madness of Lear or quandary of MacBeth or revenge of Hamlet and Othello or the wars

of Tolstoy the agony of Roskolnikov the political voodoo of Swift the death of a spider what are their dreams where are the bars of gold writers smelt

in the night where is time future past present all deeds and misdeeds instincts cravings multiple yearnings flight and burials births and murders

where do they go why must everyone wake up with pen and dross bend to erect their words as civilized (read not human) objects for our endless

critical (read not human) minds so we announce that we are just able to go again trying in vain to write as though we are tamed humans having by the

time we get to our desk shucked off every bit of what would be startlingly original but impossible now to translate or decipher by reader or writer.

Fan Ogilvie, West Tisbury’s second poet laureate, started a poetry contest for high schoolers, Promising Young Poets, a program in poetry and playwriting in the MV House of Correction, and a continuing Summer Festival in Poetry featuring readings by national and local poets.

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Whirling, swirling,

furled leaves from nature’s wooden bedposts

blanketing Mother Earth in a patchwork quilt

preserving summer’s residual warmth

cobalt blue skies changing the temperature of my thoughts,

preparing my mind for the idea that summer will retreat

October winds blowing me backward

forcing me to accept the change of seasons.

My determination to resist has no effect,

so I accept the terms and wait for the next phase,

now determined to embrace October,

enjoying her harvest,

wrapping her patchwork quilt around my senses,

breathing her crisp, celestial spirit,

bathing in her moist, foggy, artesian dew.

Apple pies and woodpiles fill my dreams,

food for thought and warmth for my bones.

Living in October feels like home.

We all prepare —

plants, animals and humans —

prepare for the dormant life, biological freeze.

So live in October, laugh in October, love October.

Press its juices into the sweetest cider

then rest,

knowing winter’s arrest will not stop

spring’s renewal

or summer’s passions.

The cool and blustery wind

the seasons cycle spin

we’re living now within

stop the wheel.

Begin

living in October.

Lenny Hall is a student and observer of life without formal credentials, who finds inspiration on Martha’s Vineyard.

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I remember who is gone, and who remains.

I remember their names in the coral dawns

And saffron sunsets walking on the water

With the wind across winter’s green, green sea.

I see their bodies refracted in the green light of summer,

In the dancing leaves and afternoons of thunder

When sudden rain relieves the humid weight of memory,

In dangling webs and ladders of moonlight

And village streets lit by windows’ narrow beams

Upholding midnight vows and pleas

To Hold me, hold me please. . . Hold me,

Don’t let dreams keep us from our waking sleep.

Their faces in my mirror, graying hair, blue eyes

I see in skies reflecting gravity, in the deep

Black in black behind starlight’s roses and thorns,

In the hot day’s lilacs of noon suns, in sweat and wonder

As they come and go through me, that another sudden winter

Comes, will come out of tomorrow’s unborn snow.

I remember it all like stone cut from a forbidden quarry,

The words they spoke, the lips, the hands that stroked

And held, working through rough flesh and bone,

And the laughter that came after each disaster

Of a living world without answers, of remembered love alone.

A resident of the dank and moldy primal forests of West Tisbury for 32 years, Lee H. McCormack has reportedly been seen, usually from a great distance through high-octane vision-magnifying devices.

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There are days when I know that this land was high.

An island, you say?

Oh yes, now,

but its valleys run deep…

falling away

beneath reefs of ancient sunsets

before water

before time,

not as sunken

as soaring….

out of green depths

sprinkled with light

filling ridges of our past…

reaching towards mountain tops

and home.

Jo Scotford Rice moved to Martha’s Vineyard with her family during the winter of 1965. She kept a daily journal, and first wrote poetry at age 10. She died on Christmas Day, 2013.

Which are the words that make us

Young?  Armenia.

It is the only word I know

In your language.  Can you be young

In English?

Say the word suitcase subtracts

Ten years, sends you sky-bound

Over the Black Sea backwards.

Gone, your fear of flying.

Say parasol skims twenty more.

You stroll the shore, a patterned

Shield in hand.  Gone

Your interest in strangers.

Tolstoy, ten years.  Gone

Your penchant for reading.

Turkish Delight (traitorous

Words), nine.  Gone

Your memory of love.

You’re fourteen.

You have never left your village.

You have never dreamed of flight.

You have never read Tolstoy.

You have never spoken any language other than your own.

You have never loved.

You’re young.

Jennifer Tseng has been the Writer-in-Residence at Hampshire College, a Visiting Writer at Colorado College, and has taught Asian American Studies at UCLA. Her book The Man With My Face was winner of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s National Poetry Manuscript Competition and a 2006 PEN American Center Beyond Margins Award. Jennifer works at the West Tisbury Library and serves as Poetry Editor for Martha’s Vineyard Arts & Ideas.

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Definition

A man

is a person

who invents the clock so

the bomb will know when it’s time to

go off.

Growing Old

The thing

to do is sneak

inside yourself and find

the one place left for being

beautiful.

Moths

Daily

life, that slow flame:

each of us turns and twists

in it. It takes a whole lifetime

to fry.

A retired anthropology professor turned landscaper, the quixotic George Mills (1919-2001) was a well-loved figure in the Vineyard poetry community. Until his death George and his wife Florrie shared a small home in Oak Bluffs where they hosted frequent gatherings of poets, musicians, activists, and other thinkers.

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From padded window seat inside café

a cup of tea warms my hands

as cold winds shuffle sidewalk leaves

Two tables away sit two men

one in October years

the other May

Soiled clothing, old scuffed shoes, weathered

skin, bloodshot eyes, hair disheveled

The older begins reading to the younger

from newspaper wrinkled by other hands

“Rain and wind coming in tonight from the west,

tomorrow — clearing, with temps in high 30s

then dropping to low 30s

Saturday, sunny and in the high 30s.”

The young man’s chiseled face

seemingly stoic

suddenly tightened with the words

“Sunday, high 20s, snow mixed with sleet.”

I recall living outside for two years

I recall living with Weather.

William Waterway has been a poet since youth. He was the founder of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine and Nantucket Magazine; founder of the Martha’s Vineyard Poetry Society, and has been published by various media. He has won several national poetry awards.