EXPANSIVE POETRY ONLINE
A Journal of Contemporary Arts 

 

poems

  by
 

  TED CHARNLEY
 
  ____________

AN INVOCATION OF FRAGMENTS

Sappho, please; please come to me not with anger,
not to Anaktoria, not to Atthis.
Tenth of sisters numbering nine, come dark-haired,
sultry, petite one.

I, who call you back to the Kallisteia,
sing of you; you sang of me there. We played on
girls as strings on kitharas plucked, enjoyed such
pleasures together.

Now, our Cle´s binds us as daughter, calling
you from other arms to my own. We’ve made our
music where we found it, but you’re the tone to
balance this triad.

Sappho, please; please silence iambic noises
wafting up on westerly winds, and turn them
back. Embrace my dactyls with yours; we’ll hold one
stylus together.

Halls in Alexandria burn, papyrus
fails before your verse, but your name resounds. Come,
visit: I, Alkaios, implore you please-ing,
sweet-smiling Sappho.

No; one fragment cannot restore another.
Age has left us fallen estranged, as pieces
torn and scattered. Edges between them fit, yet
never complete us.


 

*“An Invocation of Fragments”, a finalist for the
2019 Frost Farm Prize for Metrical Poetry,
is the title poem of Charnley's new book
An Invocations Of Fragments
Kelsay International (2022)

 


GROUCHO PLAYS NARCISSUS

“Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong
to any club that will accept me as a member.”

                - Groucho Marx

You bet your life I wouldn’t ever join
a club that would accept me as a member;
so, if you want me, I don’t want you,
although I did before. I’m sure there must
be something wrong with someone wanting me.

Just say the secret word, not sounds you heard
that end my lines; I’m bored by all your rhymes.
You see, you’re one of those who got too close
to be a club I’d join. But up till then,
you really did appeal; please go away.

This story has its echoes, then divorce,
for I’ve resigned as member several times.
As with the nymphs I’ve met, the trick is not
to join a club; it’s letting one join me.

 

THE TALE OF THE LATE 5TH HUSBAND
                                                   OF THE
WIFE OF BATH


She lies! She lies! Tales that she tells of me,
the blow that deafened her ear, dealt for damage
done to my book – barefaced lies that I brooked.
The ear she turned was the ear I earned, surely
hurt by my distance, not my hand. Indeed,
my studies stilled my voice and stirred her anger.
Lo, when like the low-pitched thunder I spoke,
beneath her heed, she heard just hum or rumble.
She and her girls would thrill to gossip, though,
and never need or want a word repeated.

Some wife she was, bargaining leave for love
to pay her debt, daunting with needs in number.
Hark! The ear I shunned was the ear she earned,
not one the bard would write, weaving her slander,
damning me as a mean and violent man.
He couldn’t call her bawdy, old and bitter,
me a neglectful gull as groom – oh no!
We can’t compare with partial tales so perfect.
Truth to tell, a marriage in full is two
who talk at length and turn an ear to listen.

 

 

BERRY PICKING

How lucky me with lucky you,
when summer solstice warmed our days,
to go to berry pick and graze
on blackcaps ripe in happy June.

Along the mapless paths we flew
with empty pails, and followed ways
of lucky me with lucky you,
when summer solstice warmed our days.

We found our fill of thorns and fruit
where tangled, brambly hedges raised
both blood and berry juice to taste.
This happy bounty picked by two
was lucky me with lucky you.

 

 

OTHER STRUCTURES

Near a nameless, forgotten graveyard,
where cornels encroach on toppled crosses
and spring from the sunken, fertile spots,
lingers what’s left of a sturdy structure.
An aged barn, braced and embanked,
its siding resigned to warp, wearily
leans from level, needing a little
more than paint or plywood patches.
Its gutters are gone, done conducting
the runoff of standing seams (whose screws
were lost or lifted loose by prevailing
vandals). Varmints have holed the very
foundations down where the mortar dropped
from stone. Still, it’s a home of humble
cover for bats and some cagey cats.
Closer, it’s clear its beams bear
no signs they’re sawn or quartered (while sundry
mills and men with mules were neighbors
then) – a thousand adze-marks, though.
These notches were hewn, but not for here,
and a mortise not tied to a tenon tells
of bygone use, beams bearing
lapse, collapse and salvage to serve
embedded as bones of a structure reborn.


 

WHAT DAUGHTERS DO

What daughters do, with charms that soon endear,
is wrap you round their fingers. Though you swear
to make them toe the line, you can’t deny
the pull of pouted lip or teary eye.
But what they do won’t stay at home, or near.

So it’s no longer just your daughters here,
and on the evening news they can appear
as any girl; a face that’s freckled by
what daughters do.

And now it’s not just yours for whom you fear,
but all the ones abused or disappeared,
the ones who run, the ones too scared to try,
the ones who go too soon, without goodbye,
whose fingers you’ll be wrapped around; it’s clear
what daughters do.

 

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