The Poet’s Craft Blog

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Three Poems by Roberta Schultz, Leslie Clark and Rita Coleman

Today I offer you three poems with interwoven themes. Roberta Schultz of Wilder, Kentucky is a poet and singer/songwriter (among other fine things) who performs with the trio Raison D’Etre. Leslie Clark is a Clifton poet. It’s a stretch to call Xenia, where Rita Coleman lives, Greater Cincinnati, but she has to be an honorary Cincinnatian by now, as she makes the trek a couple of times a week to write with us at programs I offer. All have chapbooks forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

High Wire (after May Sarton’s “An Observation”)

Some players cannot bear
finger picks between the soft
pluck and the resonating

string. Tips wear blisters, dance
liquid sacrifice over fretboard, caressing
warm bronze, never scraping or buzzing

angel breath from triads. I dodge
the sound man’s slings, duck
thumb picker’s arrows. They would hoist

shields–bright clang of metal
on metal. Wounded digits sense
their way to truth. Daredevils inching

over taut steel.
They feel the way,
never looking down.

Roberta Schultz
Previously published in Still: the Journal 


A Cappella

Morning darkness,
silent world.
A bird calls.

From our beginnings
in the womb
Music is present,
surrounds us,
heartbeats pulsing,
blood rushing.

The body longs to sing,
feeling the rhythms
present in flesh
and bone.

We are born
with a hunger,
ravenous for
the cadences,
the chords,
the close harmonies
that will infuse
our lives.

Leslie Clark, forthcoming in Driving in the Dark.



All birds want to perch on a wire, electric, telephone, cable,
strung between tall crosses of right-sized poles.

When each season’s breezes blow, tiny claws
grip tighter, a subtle movement with each sway of wire.

Wire-perching for the vulnerable and brave is akin
to night walking with a waxing gibbous moon on a rural bike trail,

Alive to contrapuntal calls of cicadas in dark tree tops,
Alert to lumpy shapes along the shoulders, mowed shags of grass.

A flicker of fear, a new one, being muscled from behind
by he-man arms, courses through this woman shadow walker.

The white moon, cool in her simplicity, able to take on all lunacy
draws the walker’s thought up with silver ribbons,

Just as skycurrent draws all birds toward her zenith
toward her circling arms, even those unable to fly.

Like birds on a wire, we winged women must fly higher
than martyr crosses, to escape sacrifice, to soar.

Rita Coleman




Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Three Hive Poems by John Cruze. Nicky Westrick and Andrew R. Boettcher

Three poems about honeybees! Or is that what these small but powerful poems (by John Cruze, Nicky Westrick and Andrew R. Boettcher, respectively, all who have been part of my From Draft to Craft Class, part of Thomas More College’s Creative Writing Vision Program) are about at all? I’ll let you decide.


Follow the Honey

the humble bee
has a secret
it can’t keep
from the fragrant
lobes of flowers
that feed the world

in our striving
we deafen ourselves
to the harmony
in the bee’s
sunlit ways and
honey liquid life

John Cruze
Lawrenceburg, IN

Praying for Honey

Someone broke my heart today,
and I remember the summer afternoon
Dad set a watermelon to float in our pond.
We swam alongside it in the warm sun,
a cook-out with friends.
I see it split open upon the table,
a jagged opening of flesh,
seeds spewing from the mouths of children.
I long for the color of zinnias
and small striped bodies of bees
I would hold and press upon my cheek
was not the sting so harsh.

Nicky Westrick, Loveland, OH


Garden State

New Jersey;
garden state.
Blooms and blooms
of condos and apartments.
Red condo,
green condo,
white condo,
blue condo;
repeated plantings.
All the fields seemed
to grow neighborhoods,
Our playgrounds were
the hives
of poured concrete,
rebar, and wood frames.
We smoked cigarettes
the construction workers left,
and threw rocks
at beer bottles
the teenagers left.
The buzz of nicotine,
and the sting of broken glass.
We were restless, and bored
little bees.

Andrew R. Boettcher
Covington, KY
Check out Andrew’s prize winning poem from the Cincinnati Library’s Poetry in the Garden Contest here.


Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Two Women Dancing by Don Bogen

Don Bogen of Clifton is a professor at the University of Cincinnati and (like many poets we encounter this month) a longtime supporter of poetry and poets in Cincinnati. Here he puts words to movement, allowing us to be both within the speaker/observer and within the pattern of the dance.

Two Women Dancing
The way they mark this intricate beat in slow time,
not facing each other but side by side, angled,
hair swinging forward in doubled fluidity
as each glances just slightly over her left shoulder
and steps back, filling a small invisible box
on the floor, looks measured, Greek–I could imagine
them in robes, their long limbs firm lines beneath linen,
their hips directing the sway, each sandaled foot placed
delicately, deliberately in the pattern.

I feel the pulse too, but I’m frantic. The music
shoves me as if some god demanded a token
of complete abandon with every gesture.
Adrift, drowning, I flail–off time, lost, out of control,
my jittery eyes caught in amazement at how
they glide, slow as in strobe light but always moving
and synchronized, as when one arm mimes another
sweeping the air or both women dip from the waist
to reach down in one motion and lightly touch the floor.

This must be grace–learned and practiced, of course, but still
part of the body’s deepest connection with time,
and time’s with desire, as it builds and subsides
over and over in slow waves. They smile now, their eyes
half-closed. Bass, blips of rhythm guitar, snare taps–there
is so much they are floating on, with the shifting
poise of surfers. As they surrender to the god,
the fluent moves they make assert their mastery–
cool, shared, contained–over all his interwoven strands.

Don Bogen from The Manchester Review

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Two Insomnia Poems by Ella Cather-Davis and Annette Januzzi Wick

Can’t sleep? Might as well write! Here are two very different poems by two very different poets, Ella Cather-Davis of New Richmond and Annette Januzzi Wick of Over the Rhine, both capturing that tension between the internal and external worlds when sleep is caught somewhere in between.

The Breathing Tree

Just outside the glass doors
of this God-forsaken room
over there by the pool,
that tree is breathing.

I view it through half-open eyes
inhaling – – – exhaling
its leaves rustling like tiny bells.
I am too afraid to sleep

I force my heart to slow beats
and cautiously review once more
this vile day which has sent me
fleeing here for asylum.

I await rescue from me,
fight smothering panic,
will my eyes to return to
that calm breathing tree.

I hear a dove call Ooo, Ooo, Ooo.
The world is going on as it does
and I must awake tomorrow
to face its consequences.

And the world will go on
as it always does.

Ella Cather-Davis


Sleeping in my Bra

Lately, the quilts have offered
deep cover
from even deeper state.
I slide beneath
tired from shouting to the world
wanting to shut the world out

My feet are trapped
below the weight of wool,
as if toes have been woven
in place, ensnared in the loom
between the yarns
of what is told to us
and the threads
of what we tell ourselves

I lay in wonder
as thoughts shuttle between

the others
the mothers
the ones without mothers
the ones who can’t be mothers

and questions
throttle my throat
lace up my tongue
in these wee hours

Trapped still am I
from keeping anyone safe
from their own demons
their own diseases
their own direction forward
into a world that would easily
let them disappear

Finally, I wake
comforted by tangles
of a bra that serves
as a shield for my sheness
an armor for my soul

like a harness
lifts a heddle
on a wooden loom

my bra boosts
my femaleness
when I do not have the might.

Annette Januzzi Wick (

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Three Marriage Poems by Gerry Grubbs, Karen Jaquish and Dick Westheimer

It is all in the details—not the devil, but the poem. Here are three exquisitely detailed poems about marriage, by Gerry Grubbs, Karen Jaquish and Dick Westheimer that grow in power as they remain intimate and true to the details of daily life.

The Moon Was Full

The moon was full this morning
So let me say I thought about you
Shining in our bed
The quilts
Handmade by hands like yours
Loving and unafraid of each stitch
You bring together lost and desperate
Scraps of fabric because you love
Giving life to torn things
And so I rise in this darkness
Leaving your warm body
To sleep
To rest from your tasks
As I wander from room to room
Following the full moon
Grateful for the pale blue light that falls
Grateful for the breath that rises
And falls
From your moonlit body

2/14/17 for Mary

Gerry Grubbs is a North Avondale poet and lawyer. You can find more of his work at Dos Madres Press which was recently praised in CityBeat’s Best Of Issue



I prize your hands.
Lightly calloused tips live
above steadfast fingers.
A crippled nail in the middle
reflects that project you were
determined to finish.

Builder of fifty foot towers,
straight-leg tables, sandbox
castles, your touch traces
our child’s laugh on
Sunday mornings.

During the ice storm of ’76,
the sky was lit up like
London during the blitz.
While I watched transformers
flare and sputter,

you crawled along the garage roof,
and with bare hands, shook
the wires free of ice.
Our power stayed on
as other houses fell,
one by one, to darkness.

Tonight your right hand
rests on my thigh carefully
pressing me back
to earth.

Once when we were new,
Your fingers ran lightly
Along my nyloned calf.
It was the first time
I became beautiful.

Karen I. Jaquish, Milford Ohio.
First published in the Clarion, Sinclair College, Dayton Ohio, 1988.


Kale for Breakfast

Like a sparrow dipped in raspberry juice
a purple finch, high on a not-yet-budding ash

The finch and I alight
between winter and spring.
Snow showers dust blue spruce boughs.

Gingerly, I walk the spring-soaked garden path
I note the broccoli seedlings
weathered last night’s freeze.

The over-wintered curly leafed kale
the red romaine and stalwart collards
show sweeter than the day before
candied by long winter nights
and this frosty spring morning.

I turn from my meandering
to you, wife. In the doorway you beckon.
I come and am greeted with a morning kiss,
a smile, a question:

What does this day bring?
We wander inside and sit across
from one another. I pick up my guitar and sing
of love and morning and that last kiss.

In the key of everything, I sing. Fingers caress the neck,
arms encircle the body of this guitar I love, too.
With it in hand, I sing more of love
and of soil and spring and darkness.

The kitchen warms with morning smells:
your kale steaming on the stove, my apple sliced, coffee ground.
Our day begins to drift apart. First to kale and apples
then tea and coffee, next to here and away.
If one of us must go, I am glad it must be me.

Your smile shines through, most of all – in dungarees
and old cotton shirt, two buttons undone at the collar.
There is dirt on your jean’s knees and under your nails.
And you blossom in its company. You pull weeds and smile.
I pull away, down the drive to good work and the morning.

Dick Westheimer, Batavia
(Dick notes that the description in the first line is taken from Roger Troy Peterson)


Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Our Words Cincinnati, April 2017

I invite you to join me 2 pm today at City Council when April will be declared as Poetry Month in Cincinnati. Below is the poem that I will read—not mine, but ours, composed of lines given me by poets throughout the Cincinnati area on the subject of poetry in our city. Let’s all show up and let our City leaders know that Poetry Matters.

Our Words

Cincinnati, April 2017

This blue city
is on fire
with words
marching across the page.
In rooms quiet as sanctuaries, our words
like light through stained glass
blend disparate notes in poetic symphony.
River crossings connect us,
bridging the arteries of our lives.
Most folks stay pretty busy
breathing, eating, looping ends
onto themselves or trying,
writing the poem entitled
If all art is political,
we’ve been given a lot to work with.
Hone your craft; spark
a question in someone’s silo.
Perhaps, there is a destiny for words.

A fair city’s pendulum swings
away from
back to
We, planted in Cincinnati’s glacial till,
have roots and rhythms deep in red-brown
mountain soil, all made plain
by the writers and readers and songsters in our midst,
the ever-rivering lines of the Ohio
carrying a river of words, voices
plush with silt.

You can’t understand the world
without telling a story.
At the corner
of Memory and Silence
a rogue cat in the heat of the word,
prowling for rhythm and rhyme,
open mouthed and echoing
through the dusting brick,
and bodies sway to her speech.
After seven too-early moon rains
seven robin men
stand in jagged, fabricated rows,
digging for ancient worms
in a public park
while three dove women fly
crooked and broken wings into a sun
of their own making to protect
our young who are unveiling their voiceless
voices through rhythm and rhyme,
their stew of stories and poems a blessing,
my belly growling, aching for that food.

Words flourish here,
roll along like the Ohio River,
sometimes clear as glass or murky as churned mud.
They grow under glass, these hot house voices,
spring ephemerals, trilliums which emerge
each April, seemingly delicate,
little crocuses peeking from under the snow,
these words that change the world.


Composed by Cincinnati Poet Laureate Pauletta Hansel with words by Ellen Austin-Li, John Cruze, Mark Flanigan, Terry Focht, Sean M. Foster, Karen George, Richard Hague, Pauletta Hansel, Annie Hinkle, Pam Hirte, Desirae Hosley, Karen Jaquish, Kamal Kimball, Theresa Kulbaga, Elese Monet, Rhonda Pettit, Lynn Robbins, Roberta Schultz, Sherry Cook Stanforth, Chuck Stringer, Thomas A. Trevor and Dick Westheimer.

Listen to an on-air reading on Sunday, April 23, 7 pm on WVXU’s Around Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Freedom by Desirae Hosley

I look forward to reading with Desirae “The Silent Poet” Hosley on tomorrow, April 5, at noon at Cincinnati State’s first Poetry Month reading. She is many things—poet, activist, mentor, WordPlay Cincy teaching artist, my friend—but silent, she is not!  Desirae lives in Mt Healthy.



Lift every voice and sing
How can one honor a land who captured my ancestors before knowing they could be free?
Yet tears shed for those chosen to fight for freedom
Because they are told they are brave
Blood shed on the very land represented by each line/strip
Paraded by stars that slaves wish upon to be freed
Yet I’m suppose to be free
Laughed upon because I barely know my history
Which was pushed/ held back
And the only representation you have of me
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
But I’m free
So black history month can pride upon those who came before us
Malcolm X
Those who found our freedom
Harriet Tubman
Those who showed us we could be anything we want to be
President Barack Obama
So yes I’m free
With voice of not only hope and faith
But doing the work that needs to be done
Well by being the minority
Yet I can do anything
Because those who went through the trials and tribulations to prove
Planting this seed of possibility can come true
So yes I’m free
I don’t need to be handled by negro spirituals, or whippings, or work that paved the way for me to stand here FREE
Enlightenment of freedom
This soil, this cotton, the breeding of your animals, land
Which in hindsight is mine
My ancestors did the work
So I could find pride in this land
So yes I’m free
There is no need to explain a pain that reflects your humanity
African American
Yet my heritage is unknown
Black being the shade that reflects my representation
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us;
Sing a song full of the hope that present has brought us
Facing the raising of our new day begun
Reflectively stated, see I’m that generation
Not afraid to hold back my tongue
Knowing that our ancestors wanted more than RIP shirts and us mourning the deaths of those with their hands up
Turning in their grave due to the marches they hear
Knowing we should be One
And not divided
Yet the Revolution is being Televised
And shared, going viral
So we are the demise of taking two steps forward just to go backwards
Trumping a civilization
With anger and hate
Yet I was taught love
Being told I am not from here
But I was born here
Being told that I am ignorant
Yet my education proceeds your
But I was taught love
Nothing can break me
Because we were built strong
Nothing can break me
Because I was taught faith
Nothing can break me
Because I stand on the land of the free
Nothing can break me
I will not be broken by one man
Because I know we are equal
So as I stand
Over the land of the free
I will be brave.

Desirae “The Silent Poet” Hosley with lyrics from Lift Every Voice & Sing and Star Spangled Banner