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What Sustains You

April 2009

Our April poem was "The Hungry Gap-Time" from God Particles by Thomas Luxbook and our prompt came to us from Steve Smith.

In the Lux poem the larder is depleted, but the harvest is near. Everyone seems filled with expectations of what is to come (Soon, soon there will be food again), now that the hard labor is done. Slack times have not dampened the simple hope of life's continuance as expressed by Albert and Harriet's father. Even the pigs and the lambs will share in the bounty when the bins are filled with corn. The river is now low and the water is cold, but that too is part of a natural cycle familiar to people who make their living farming the land. The fact that the people are living "above the fault line/ beneath the mountain" suggests that whatever life's disruptions, life endures.

I agree with Steve that while we need food to sustain our bodies, dreams are necessary to sustain our spirits.

In this gap-time of the economic downturn we're living through, it seems like a appropriate time to consider what dreams sustain us in times of scarcity, worry, or exhaustion. What's left to do but "lie on our backs and stare at the blue" when "our work is done, our bellies flat," read poems for hard timesbook, and think toward some future fulfillment that will hopefully arrive "soon, soon."

Write a poem about what sustains you through tough times.

For more about this prompt and others, visit the Poets Online blog.


Two lambs disappeared like April runoff
down the creek that tore the fence out
where stockwire couldn’t hold. Grass grows
too fast for mowing, as if underneath
the dead lay greening fingernails and hair.
The sheep graze hungry-dazed as yesterday.
One ewe still wears a double winter coat ,
two seasons when no one would come
to shear – don’t ask me why, it’s like weather:
given by God, that we give thanks.
Another ewe sheds wool at random
against rock and tree. Ragged bag ladies
who manage to survive on castoffs, the old
ewes lie down in the shade of oaks
to ruminate, remember ancient lambs.
Fiddleneck, lupine, poppy, what are flowers
for? Wild oats, vetch, and filaree grow in spite
of everything. Clouds pass overhead
to gather, white in the swale. I count one-
sheep two-sheep three-cloud four. Another
heartache spring.

Taylor Graham


A fresh breeze of air through the meadow
Tall trees,
Green leaves that transpires life
One lovely thought of the midst of airier
Passing by to an occasion
I say I reflect the days I know
Blue sky
Bearing sunlight from afar
Into the light I see
Buildings that hide the sun
On a metal bench covered with soft plastic
enjoyment of the sense of touch, smell, taste, sound, and sight,
In the mood of company
The bench sustaining two
Now, I wait until I get a chance
To enter this place
Filled with life and knowledge
The library will be open tomorrow
But here I shall remain
Outside of the library

Cherese Eudlyn Nelson


There is too much sun,
too much sky
and the fall of this sparrow,
this morning’s smallest event,
could not have any divine interest.
It is spring and sticky little leaves
are waiting to open.
Pollen dusts the world
and the small brown wings.
If I turn away and pray
will it disappear?
The opposite of faith is not doubt.
That night, lightning over the bay,
bright light over dark water.

Charles Michaels


i day dream under a
cornflower blue sky
the pale yellow heat of
an unexpected summer day
fills my head with the steady
sound of the cicadas in the
silence of an august afternoon
salty sweat ribbons down
my cheeks
puddles around the slashes
in my flesh

i long for a spark of rain
a gentle breeze to lift me
high above the pain and longing
sooth my wrinkled soul
cool this burning wound



marie a. mennuto-rovello


red lights flashing
on her face
I am stopped at the railroad crossing
she stands close
too close
to the dropped gate
and looks towards the coming train
and leans down
I think she is moving
to go under and onto the tracks
she moves and I move
my hand to the door
her head reaches the thin barricade
bells and a horn and I push open
the car door as the train flashes
and there she is
in front of the lifting gate
no red lights
her face white in this twilight
and I am standing beside the car door.
The car behind mine
sounds its horn.
If she can keep moving,
then so can I.

Ken Ronkowitz