James Tolan

Spikes Driven into Oak


He must have come alone at night
so no mercenary soul could squawk
the story of what would seem
the moon-dropped madness of a man
who knew only bold and repeated injury
could save what would otherwise become
barrel, box, or beam, furniture or plank,
and not the final pillar of a cathedral’s ruin.

To be wise you must do more than know
the hum of sap within your timbre
or an oak’s. You must own
the strength to drive spike after spike
into the fragrant body of what you love
to save it from another’s necessity and saw.

John Stupp



On midnight shift
guys slept all over the Ford plant
in the cafeteria
in locker rooms
in bins of coveralls
it didn’t matter
when lines went down
at 1:00 A.M.
and the furnace
stopped belching
when the last foreman
gave up any pretense
of supervision
you could run screaming
through the foundry alone
only the machines
were awake
the gears oiled but silent
the great handling systems
tall as a building
for them the job
was never done
making automobile engines
over and over
this was the task
God set out for them
the sun the moon
the rain the snow
meant nothing
like St. Michael
and the others
they stood obedient
every night
and covered us
with their dirty wings

Annie Stenzel

Hear that lonesome whistle blow


In the first twelve months after the caboose
uncoupled from the crippled train, the quaint
car stood on the siding, grateful for relative peace.
Other traffic shook the ground it stood on
but the wheels were well-braced. Only the sides
trembled occasionally when the world hurtled past.

Then what? Seven years, that number rich in magic,
made their way past the solitary relic. Some crept,
others, for no obvious reason, moved at a dizzying
pace, covering the caboose in dust, rust, and forgetting.
This is year eight, in the East an auspicious number.
Did you notice that flicker of light behind one window?

Elizabeth Spires


calvatia gigantea


Gone for a year, you’re back.
There, in the backyard,
in a wide shade of the tree.
You remind me of a skull,
white, smooth and soft
as a newborn baby’s.

You grow larger, ever larger,
as if swollen in thought,
big as my head now
and growing bigger.

Today, a squirrel, kneeling,
takes delicate bites out of you.
Without a name or face,
you are very zen,
a stone statue gone soft in the head.

Like bolts of black cloth,
the nights unfurl themselves.
Leaves fall, spelling the inevitable.
Soon, feathery moonlight will stroke
your skull with chill fingers.
Winter will stare you down.

You’re crusty and thick-skinned,
like a good loaf of bread. Touching
you, my outstretched finger breaks
through to spoors of grey-green dust,
your thoughts aswirl at a future
that does not include you.

Who can imagine snow, a chill
effacement? Winter will come.
One morning you will be gone,
a twinkling emptiness
I’ll notice as now I notice
all that I am not.

Next fall will you, or something
like you, do what I cannot?
An absence, a presence,
will you come back?