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September 2022 - Issue #302

Our September issue theme was reunions. The first thing that comes to mind for me is school reunions. That is especially the case now because I am on a reunion committee for my high school class. We have been planning it for three years because the COVID pandemic delayed it twice. It is on for October and I have lots of thoughts about seeing some of the more than 600 kids I graduated with again.

I found a few reunion poems online as models. One is "Reunion" by Dana Gioia. Here are the opening stanzas.

This is my past where no one knows me.
These are my friends whom I can’t name—
Here in a field where no one chose me,
The faces older, the voices the same.

Why does this stranger rise to greet me?
What is the joke that makes him smile,
As he calls the children together to meet me,
Bringing them forward in single file?

A second example is "Written on the Eve of my 20th High School Reunion, Which I Was Not Able to Attend" by A.E. Stallings. Here is how that poem begins:

Just what I needed,
Just when the dreams had almost totally receded,

The dreams of roles for which I learned no lines and knew no cues,
Dreams of pop quizzes with no pants on and no shoes,

Just when I understood I was no longer among
Those ephemeral immortals, the gauche and pitiable young,

Suddenly come phone calls, messages sift out of the air
To ask who will be there:

Maybe "reunion" makes you think of the family variety. Read "Family Reunion" by Rita Dove which begins:

Thirty seconds into the barbecue,
my Cleveland cousins
have everyone speaking
Southern—broadened vowels
and dropped consonants,
whoops and caws.
It's more osmosis than magic...

Another "Family Reunion" poem is by Maxine Kumin, and interestingly it also features some food.

The week in August you come home,
adult, professional, aloof,
we roast and carve the fatted calf
— in our case home-grown pig, the chine
garlicked and crisped, the applesauce
hand-pressed. Hand-pressed the greengage wine..

Our model poem choice for this writing prompt is "50th Reunion: Westside High" by William Trowbridge from his collection Put This On, Please.

How did we get here so suddenly,
with our bags and baggage, looking
the worse for wear, the ones misfortune

hasn't wrung into anything-but-perfect
strangers? Old buddies, old loves,
old antagonists chat at the bar

in the Hilton lobby; white-haired, no-haired
dyed-haired, ringers for those oldsters
so irrelevant to proms and cruising,

to study halls and going steady—to life
as we knew it...

Here are poems about school, family or maybe just meeting up again with one or a few people.

For more on all our prompts and other things poetic, check out the Poets Online blog.


i am transformed once again
as if by magic
to that shy and awkward person
of my youth
to which my siblings
gleefully reminding me
of how it was
and momentarily forgetting
of how it is now

Douglas J. Sweeting, Sr


Such ruined flesh, that was so light and quick,
so simple of motion, so easy of dance,
so far subtracted by arithmetic
and errant curves of circumstance,

For what assurance do we stand around,
hoping to see a friendly face?
What manner of salvation can be found
in either the cheering or the race?

Old men are gargoyles with familiar eyes,
objects of wonder and of dread.
A warning: See how fast the moment flies?--
A drink, a bout of laughter, then to be

Conrad Geller


We are young.
Yet, we strive to be old, it seems.
We haven't even settled on a purpose,
But already want to settle down.
We meet up just to have met.
Or maybe to share our woes.
We roast our past on a simmering grate
And drown our future in foaming drinks.
We frolic to frequencies echoing between foreground and background
And exchange cackling comments
about the younger and older:
categories we don't want to affiliate with.
We want to ride the frequency between.
We want to oscillate, lash out.
We leave with getting up for work tomorrow in mind.

Victor Green


It is established that we shall no longer rehearse the past.
The chance to meet that moment left the moment that moment left.

Only certainty of plague and uncomfortable doubt surround us.
Inescapable through recurring graduations or anniversaries of death.

That wisp of inbreathe is recognition that memories don't align.
An inward sigh we dare not share.

Unlike the car wreck curiosity that propels so many
into disappointing hotel rooms with unmerciful mirrors and inadequate light.

Amidst other echoes of previous name-tagged events,
we fail to reduce the distance of time.

Therefore, enacted on this day, no longer shall our phones
vibrate the news that reunion is nigh.

Mickey says it’s time to embrace yourself,
whoever you are these days.

Rob Friedman


Sixty years! I never meant to live
that long. I won’t be gathering around
the table, trying to catch the gist,
the weave of memories I didn’t share –
junkets in the car of whoever had one,
for shopping, movie, cherry pie
while I wandered off campus
to walk the dry wash for its solitude
and whatever words would sing to me
before catching a ride on the wind.

I’ve kept in touch with no one
all these years. Well, there was one –
the yearly Christmas letter but
they stopped. I think she graduated
to the next world. I won’t go to reunion.
I too have moved too far away.

Taylor Graham


"We better find a table . What looks good?"
Across the room, Marilyn, still Marilyn

"What happens at reunions stays at reunions," says Greg with a wink.
Spouses in absentia.

The cheerleaders huddle together talking to the deejay.
"Geez, don't tell me they're gonna do a cheer!"

"Remember when Patty farted in Spanish class? What a slut."
Patty, friendly as ever, says I "look the same."

Candles burning on the IN MEMORIAM table. So young.
"I wonder how they all died."

"The open bar closes at 8. Get me an extra vodka, honey."
The class president gives a speech. As stupid as ever.

"What about Sheri? Didn't everyone have a piece of her?"
I didn't. Thought she was a nice Jewish girl.

"Why weren't we friends in school? You seem like a lot of fun."
She never spoke to me. I was literally - not figuratively - invisible to her.

"I had such a crush on Mr. Gray," confesses Kathy
"Ooo, he must be like in his 50s now!" Marilyn says.

Marilyn is in no condition to drive. I offer my room.
"Let me see how things go and I'll get back to you ."

The deejay plays "See You In September" and says goodnight.
"What?" say gary. "Let's all go hang out in the bar."

A guy I didn't know and still don't know.
"I didn't want to come to this. Now, I remember why."

"God, I don't want to be 40!" say Bella
She and Peter slip off early to one of their hotel rooms.

"I should have stayed over. Long drive home."
says a woman that I remember as being a nice girl.
She takes home a flower centerpiece.
People promise they will stay in touch this time.
Hugs. Kisses. A few tears.
Marilyn is nowhere to be seen.

Charles Michaels


    We gathered: husbands, wives, children,
grandchildren, nine of the original eleven
(parents & two siblings dead, land & home sold
years ago) raising a glass and breaking bread,
telling old stories, laughing, joking, crying,
hugging, taking pictures one last time.
    We remembered: weddings at the church
where we had all been baptized, thanksgiving
dinners at the oak table that sat ten (grandkids
sitting at a card table on the back porch)
Christmases, weddings, evenings in the
backyard telling stories listening to the
hum of cicadas, sleeping in the house
built by our dad back in the twenties,
days passing in life’s somnolent rhythms.
    And I: I thought it would linger on
forever enshrined in a bell jar, all
of us always returning, the sun mild
and golden, the nights shadowed by a moon
casting glimmers on the house and old barn
(later a playhouse for some of us), the silent
field where we played hide-n-seek, built forts.
    But that was long ago: now only three
of us left to remember life as it was once
lived three-quarters of a century before
the ever present, where everything always
happens, the now itself rapidly slipping away
with every tick of the clock, every photon
skimming by in a relentless regression into
an unknown future bounded by its own
intensities, grounded in its own ties and losses,
where love and death rise and fall like waves,
and the stars shine benignly from an onyx sky.

Rob Miller


After all this time
And distance ...
It seems like an eternity
Since we last met

And yet, the other day,
I thought of you again
Like so many of
The white haired men
At my dear friend's memorial
Sharing gems of wisdom
Dusty treasures
Wrapper in tattered

Eulogies, reflections, recollections
Stories buried deep
Beneath the clutter
Of lives worn down
By Time
Dusted off and
Held up to the light

So much like your words –
The ones a younger me
Gulped down so hungrily:

"Being loved by someone
gives you strength"

"From caring
comes courage"

"Kindness in giving
creates love"

Turns out, what you said
My friend lived

So, let us share a cup of Tea
Tell me again, as you once did
How intimacy survives death

We were close back then
Perhaps, we could be again ...

Frank Kelly


it’s time to reunite
with the future you ran away from
many years ago.

you’ve both managed
to make through the burdens
and benefits of a life
sadly sequestered
from the dreams that so frightened
you both.

now you’ve nothing to lose
as you near the end of the highway
so pull into that diner
where the reunion’s being held
and your future, older and grayer.
waits to greet you.

R. Bremner


No invitation will be forthcoming
How scary would that be
Just pay for your ticket
Before the big day
Can’t lose a ticket that isn’t
No gates, no cover, no charge
Just hope you’ve earned enough points
to get you in
Your favorite cheerleaders
there to greet you
Mom, dad
Oh, mom, oh, dad
Oh, yeah
And, I know I’m okay
It's going to be okay
No photos or name tags
telling me who they are
I don’t need to see them
I can feel them
All of them
Surrounding me, enveloping me
Their homecoming queen
Daughter, granddaughter, niece, friend
I don’t’ know what happens after that
only that this is the party
to end all parties
The reunion to end all reunions
The after and the party

Terri J. Guttilla


The two who organize everything are at it again.
A while back it was dim sum at the big place up the peninsula
And Elton John at the Cow Palace.
A few years later, it was Original Joe’s
And the Rolling Stones at the San Jose Arena
When the Sharks were out of town.
The most recent took place at the sandy dunes of Asilomar
With a Saturday golf tournament,
Three foursomes over at Del Mar.
“It’s time for another reunion,” they remind us,
And this time they have their eyes on Arizona—
“It’ll be just like old times”—tacos and sangria
With Margaritas and a few puffs around the campfire at sunset.
The usual twelve companions, three vans, the changing colors of the desert,
The quiet twilights, the rugged bluffs,
Rustic showers in the heat of the day,
The shadows down in the canyons,
Sleeping bags under the magic sky.
“Nothing could be more beautiful,” they tell me.
“You have to come.” They pass a bottle of Chenin Blanc;
Smoke rises from fingertips.
I think of Basho, gazing up at the Milky Way
As it arched over the sea to Sado Isle.
I think of van Gogh in that swirling blue night
With stars and more stars glittering down
On the silent sunflowers.
My mind wanders to John on distant Patmos,
Alone on a high mountain, imprisoned
Yet rapt in the seven stars.
The eleven who will travel to Arizona,
My precious old pals,
How can I help them understand
That my soul has surrendered to Solitude?

Rose Anna Higashi


Sisters & brothers, we bathed adolescence
in holiday excess justified as tradition,
narrowed our common sibling celebrations
limiting adult gatherings to the hibernal solstice;
winterberry candles lit up the living room
where we sipped hard cider, eggnog & brandy,
laughing & joking about last year’s resolutions
while multicolored bulbs flickered revealing
festive garlands on an aromatic Nobel fir—
a crackling fire accentuating trite remarks
& bold proclamations. In the moment
yet flexible, we immersed ourselves
in a pleasant prison of freshly cut holly
& pine branches looped & crafted into wreaths
as the reliable forced air furnace provided relatives
and immediate family with gingerbread comfort.

Sterling Warner


Long ago it left me.
That innocence I thought was love
Long ago it taught me
It being forth things undreamed of

I searched for it high and low
In faces and bodies and lips entwined
In bottles and candy and flows
Exposing myself... maligned

It felt close so many times
I could feel it brush by with slight
Teasing, taunting, proud of its crimes
Eluding my grasp with such smite

If giving up was ever a bad phrase
We should recant its bad repute
For giving up that hopeful craze
Allows the mind to embrace the mute

The quieting of all that outside noise
That I thought had much to offer
But I found that its presence destroys
Became nothing but a scoffer

So I embraced the solitude of me
And searched myself for a solution
There I found that innocent peace
And with it ...restitution.

Angelica Barberena