Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Three Poems by Erica Minton Reid, Terry Focht and Debbie Westheimer

Hearts get a bad rap in poetry! Here are three very different poems, by Erica Minton Reid of Northside, by Terry Focht of Burlington, Kentucky and by Debbie Westheimer of Batavia that give the heart the respect it deserves.

Imagine a mouse clinging
to the pendulum of a grand-
father clock. This is my thick-
beating heart, this is its heavy
arc. I have all the sharp love
of a warm towel. I keep time
Do not worry
about what the mouse might
represent. He is a crusty
anxiety, he is one hundred lives
I will not lead. He is the hot little
heft of memory, a handful
of moments. He won’t be pried.
Lord knows I’ve tried.

Erica Minton Reid

Old Heart

Listen to me
Old heart
I hear your declaration

Always with me

Me to be

I hear your secrets
Old heart
Keeper of first loves
Excitement of new adventure

I feel your pain
Old heart
Guardian of heartaches
Deep in dark corners

I hear your voice
Old heart
Quietly beating

Reminding me
You are there

I inhale your rhythm
Old heart

Cadence of my life

Be with me
Until the end
Old friend

Terry Focht

Unintended Consequence

Husband survives
heart attack
an aphrodisiac

Debbie Westheimer

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine


Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Two Easter Poems by Michael Henson and Joseph Enzweiler

For Easter, I offer you two poems of spring. The first, by Mt Washington Poet Laureate Michael Henson, exquisitely captures the exquisite progress of new life asserting itself once again. The second is a moving prose poem set in an Alaskan spring by Mike’s friend and mine, Joseph Enzweiler. We lost Joe too soon, on this day in 2011.


First hints:
A red haze among the maples.
A great clutter of branches thrown down by a storm.
A row of daffodils that raise their baffled heads
out of the cold beds of the garden.
The light,
stretched back by the black fingers of the trees at the horizon,
stretched back by the rooftops at the head of the alley,
ekes out the lingering days.
The winter rains become the spring rains,
cold and persistent.
The rivers rise to their banks;
they darken with silt.
They boil coldly
in their drive to the Gulf,
bearing downstream anything loose in their path.
Then, a day that ignites
green fires at the tips of the sycamores.
A day when the earth shimmers
with a dim mammalian pulse.
After the million deaths of winter,
partisan births,
clandestine cadres,
in tens and twelves,
here, and here,
and in the hedges.
Everything swells.
Everything grows more numerous.
New hungers arise,
some small as the belly of a vole,
some nearly small as thought.
Others large as a field of wheat.
Still others, larger than we dare name.
Everywhere, the hungers assert themselves.
They stretch among the root hairs in the compost.
They call from the nests tucked in the branches of the cedars.
They quiver on the dark floor of every pond.
They weep themselves known in the houses of the poor.

Michael Henson
(published in The Dead Singing, Mongrel Empire Press, 2016)

Easter Night

The trees are hinged and creak in the starlight. A few leaves tick past, and wind makes snow devils at the corners of my house.

It takes six days to dig her grave. I make three fires a day in that square of frozen ground, get it roaring with an armload of wood, then shovel out the coals and thawed wet silt, gaining a few inches, then beginning again. I carry earth by bucketfuls inside the house, to keep it workable, pour them out on an old blue tarp in the middle of the floor.

”All right, let’s do this,” I tell my friend, and we carry the box out to the wall. It is Easter night, the time of year boreal owls begin to call. I light a kerosene lamp, slip a rope through the I-bolts in the lid to lower her softly as I could, as if to say “You’ll be down there just a little way, in your silver-fastened boat, and I’ll be right here.”

The stars are sharp as voices tonight, and lamp light mutters on the snow. I slip the rope out and coil it on one arm, then haul the buckets of earth back out, two by two. I finish after midnight, sweating, take off my shirt by the wood stove. We stand there a long time, in silence, and have a glass of wine.

Joseph Enzweiler (from A Winter on Earth from Iris Press)

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Three Poems by Vickie Cimprich, Lynn Robbins & Vince Broerman

Our human tendency to ascribe human qualities to non-human beings is sometimes called in poetry the “pathetic fallacy.” While I don’t agree that it’s always so “pathetic” to do so, what interests me in these three poems—by Vickie Cimprich of Ft. Mitchell, Kentucky; by Lynn Robbins of Cold Spring, Kentucky; and by Vince Broerman of Symmes Township—is how humans instead embody the animal.

Weather Report

By bedtime the storm left us no lights
but old candles in shot glasses.

The ridges again shown dark
out the bedroom windows,
acquitted pro tem
of Columbia Sussex’s megawatted stories
hanging in the branches
like a fancy girl’s shimmy.

The children of wolves
never born in Kentucky
on account of D. Boone and his tribes
came panting up our ravine
through the wuthering trees.

So we settled in and
took hold again of our two selves
as if they were pelts.

Vickie Cimprich


If I Could Keep My Eyes Open

The doe and I meet eye-to-eye blinkless
in the yard and hold each other there,
across the green, still, except for
four wide eyes glistening,
two hearts pounding, wind
wrapping around our ears.

Then I blink—I admit
I know better, but I blink
and the deer turns, bolts,
her bad back leg hanging useless,
though she bounds off fast enough
on three, soon safe in the shadows.

I turn then, too, to run away,
dragging my own old injuries
and infirmities behind me,
never feeling quite fast enough
or safe enough to stand firm,
unblinking in the face of joy.

Lynn Robbins
“If I Could Keep My Eyes Open” is included in Two Plus Two Is Fear: How anxiety stole a voice and poetry gave it back (2017), a memoir.


Mating, In the Wild

Alone, he searched.

Tucked under rounded shoulders and upturned collar,
he shuffled, like a bear,
over slab after slab of icy gray concrete.

What he saw: Wooden people, of the shops, with wide, unblinking eyes, frozen in time. There were hundreds and hundreds of hurried ones, too, each, rushing, like a river, through the same canyon. Then, there were the scriers, who blocked the paths, like unmoving boulders frothing the waters, gazing at their creations, yet unable to see.

He stopped, to rest
his worn, tired soles.
He sat on an old slatted bench.

What he noticed: Not one single person, whether wooden, plastic or stone ever saw. Their reflection, in the ribbons of bright plated glass, shined; and, overhead, in the distance, there was a sign, on which a message had been written, not which he bothered to read.

Always the same,
the promise. What he sought would be found
around the next corner.

He tightened his red silk scarf,
stepped off the curb, and,
like a salmon,
he swam upstream.

Vince Broerman

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Canary Dirge by Dale Marie Prenatt

Yesterday’s poems were, in part, homages to other poets, inspired by their poems. For today’s poem, former Northsider Dale Marie Prenatt (frequent contributor to Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, the literary journal of the Southern Appalachian Writers Cooperative–with an April 15 deadline, by the way–and designer of this website) was “inspired” (if anger can be considered inspiration) by the bestselling book, Hillbilly Elegy. Here’s her response:

Canary Dirge

American Elegy is coming
Just you wait –
A bestseller will kill you off too

I’m a hillbilly, they plum kill’t me
Bulldozed my bones into valley fill
with the other dead canaries

When exxon oil busts up your aquifers
a red state lawyer
will write a bestseller

about your loose bootstraps too
and shove them down your throat

You’ll be paying nestlé for your muddy tap
before your bookclub figures out
that our selenium sludge runs

and we are your headwaters

Dale Marie Prenatt, 2017

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26, 7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Poems from Poems by Ellen Austin-Li and Karen George

“Poems from poems, songs/ from songs, paintings from paintings” says poet Adam Zagajewski in describing how artists inspire each other. Here are two poems, the first by Clifton poet Ellen Austin-Li and the second by Karen George of Florence, which use other poets’ poems as diving boards to enter their own.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Cowboy Boots
(Hat tipped to Wallace Stevens)

I. Among the crowd of footwear
standing in her closet,
she chooses the androgynous black cowboy boots.

II. She was of two minds,
like her stylish yet functional
leather cowboy boots.

III. Despite their advancing age, the cowboy boots emitted
the musky aroma of a new buck.

IV. A woman and a pair of shoes
are one.
A woman and her pair of cowboy boots
are at least two.

V. She doesn’t know which she prefers,
the seductress in high-heeled boots,
or the shit-kicking, tough-talking cowgirl
ruling in her cowboy boots,
Or both.

VI. Fine lines filled her mirrored reflection
with unforgiving, advancing age.
The polished gleam of the cowboy boots
passed her eye, caught her attention.
She hesitated in the glow of the easily-renewed boots,
an indescribable sadness weighed her down.

VII. O Cowboys of the Wild West,
could you have imagined over a hundred years hence a gentlewoman
wearing your boots, prancing around, shopping, dancing, loving
in the boots you rode broke-back saddle in?

VIII. She knows a virile Western twang and the Southern drawl of a
charmer, the rugged outdoorsy cadences of some men;
but she knows, too, the lilting feminine voice of a Northern girl,
and she is definitely wearing cowboy boots.

IX. When the cowboy boots are put away,
the imprint of their power remains
On her choices.

X. At the sight of her pulling-on her black or tan cowboy boots,
even the critics of haute couture
applaud her versatile fashion sense.

XI. She drove all over the Midwest
in a black minivan.
Once, she cried she was lost,
alone in this stampede.
The cut of her boot reminded her
to start walking.

XII. The river is moving.
Her cowboy boots must be mud-streaked by now.

XIII. Her whole, tired life was a new frontier.
She knew she was living, even as she was dying.
She was getting old. She was going to die.
Her cowboy boots kicked-up the dust under her feet
as she walked-off into the sunset.


Ellen Austin-Li, originally published on her blog (where the line breaks are better behaved!)


Dream Rerun
( ~ Found poem composed/modified from words of C. D. Wright’s “The Body’s Temperature at Rest”)

In this version
a wildcat stalks the door
of a yellow brick tower

Inside, you behead irises,
pillow them in ice water
step out the door
brush the cat’s back, his face

He breathes a heady rumble
leads you to a pond
dips his paws
in the light mirror
stirs your shadows

Karen L. George
Published in the journal Amethyst Arsenic, Fall 2016 

Join us for the Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily Project Reading on Wednesday, April 26,  7 pm at People’s Liberty, 1805 Elm Street, Over the Rhine

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Collard Greens at a Republican Picnic by Kelly Thomas

Sometimes the simplest form, in this case a modified “list poem” can pack a mighty punch, as in this one by Clifton resident Kelly Thomas, a poet who is also an editor, writing coach and teacher.


Collard Greens at a Republican Picnic

I am please you,
not me. I am
push it down,
let it simmer. I am
the black pepper speck
caught between your
white teeth. I am

collard greens
at a Republican picnic.
I am shoulders back,
head up. I am
cayenne in the veins,
creamy potato salad
to your face.

I am blackberry jam
staining white bread. I am
the spicy black sheep
roasting in your pit.

Kelly Thomas
*Previously published in Genesis, 2009

Cincinnati Poetry Month Daily: Two Poems by Sara Moore Wagner and Caroline Plasket

I love bumping up against new-to-me poets in the Cincinnati area, and being knocked off my feet by the poems they write. Here are just two examples, Sara Moore Wagner, who lives in West Chester and teaches at Xavier and Northern Kentucky University (and whom I have met only through her poems) and Caroline Plasket of Erlanger, whom I met at February’s Writers Resist Open Mic. There is something about their poems that belong together. Perhaps it is the way in which the speakers acknowledge their own place in , to quote Mary Oliver, “the family of things.”
I Have No Love for Images

I’ve given up on the idea that a man
can crocus out of the earth all hair,
even his feet covered with hair, out of the earth
like a swollen root, his hands as soft and full
as berries. Because I am not
a tamer, but a shivering vine
and I also come
from this gorged stem, fruit
and not harvester. Forget
me for a second, you have given
up on this man out
of the ground because he is not
Adam but a fleshy bit of death,
and when he does get sick
and naked, when
he throws a bleeding thigh
so near the sun it hots
and smells like meat
your mother boiled down so low
it turned to dust. This thigh he cuts
from a living bull: from your sacred
body—if you want to know,
I’ve been searching for him, too—
I want to eat the stone bread
which stands for days, which stands for God,
to not sleep like a snake in a pile
of filth, to feed myself on air and the prettiest
slivers of sky. To be made
an equivalent beauty, or else
to not die is what I mean.

Sara Moore Wagner
Originally published in The Wide Shore  and will be in my chapbook (Hooked Through) which will be available soon from Five Oaks Press.


Incidental Offering

When he and I embrace each night on a forged promise of forever,
I offer my body: almost as his own
but never even mine, really.
It is there in my bones, where the love settles.

We are the found bird nest that sat on the porch table to be admired
until the cats knocked it off to become a pile of dirt, straw,
and broken shell—jagged blue pieces of a puzzle undone,
to be swept back onto the earth beyond the porch.

The same cats catch cicadas and bring them to the front door.
An offering of broken wings. A death,
while thousands of cicadas in the trees sing the song of living.
I glue a separated wing to a picture and cover it with shellac.
It is timeless there
but can’t fly.

Our children sit around the table each night
where we lay food in front of them,
our offering; a wing of love
ripped from somewhere.
It all becomes timeless in their bones.

One day the children can sprinkle this as ash over the world.
Caroline Plasket
First published in The Tishman Review