Exciting things are happening in the world of poetry here in the Lowcountry! Not only is April National Poetry Month, a time dedicated to celebrating poets and their craft, but a Poetry Trail is in the making on Hilton Head. The trail will provide a creative way to immerse your soul into the beauty of our environment and the talents which abound. To celebrate and get in a poetic mood, here are the works of local poets for you to ponder and enjoy.
By Barry Dickson
I am swinging against time.
Turn, shoulders, turn.
--they must be going deaf
in their old age.
My muscles are
as strong as ever
but I pull a different one
on every swing.
Do you walk?
To the cart.
What’s your handicap?
I have loved the chip ins,
the lip outs,
the cracks of dawn,
the whirlybirded club
to the bottom of the lake,
the duck hooks
into the goose poop.
But they tell you
when you swing
make sure you finish.
I think it’s time
I heeded their advice.
Who says there is
no clock in golf?
Barry Dickson’s poetry book, MAYBE TODAY, was recently published by Cherry Grove
Collections. He has been a finalist for the Hearst Poetry Prize and received special mention in Pushcart Prize. Barry lives on Hilton Head Island.
By Miho Kinnas
After the blood test we drive downtown.
Turning down Liberty, we wait
for the pedestrians to cross.
Above, birds flutter from palmetto
to palmetto pecking fermenting fruits.
The sky cerulean blue.
Cedar waxwings keep passing fruit
as if being chased by a big shadow
they take no chances.
They are chased by life in the air, but sometimes
every bird in the flock finds
a spot on the branches of a large gum tree.
A bare tree.
Their constant buzzing calls cease.
Facing north-east they stay still. Still.
How much longer? I count my heartbeats.
The tree is too tall for me to catch their colors
Shifting in my seat, I see with my mind’s eye:
the dashing black around the head,
blondish crest, yellow hemmed tail
the red droplets on their wings, melted wax.
Details a disclosure
Each body, one ounce of divination
swinging through the spring sunlight
tomorrow, after tomorrow, another tomorrow.
I turn to you, on top of the wheel
the sun on your knuckles.
Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Miho Kinnas is a poet and translator living on Hilton Head Island. Elaine Etui chose her poem "Three Shrimp Boats on the Horizon" for the Best American Poetry 2023. Her book of collaboration with E. Ethelbert Miller, "We Eclipse Into The Other Side" will be available soon from Pinyon Publishing. She is the author of "Today, Fish Only" and "Move, Over, Bird" (Math Paper Press.)
What is the Name of Your First Pet
By Danielle Verwers
I am drawn to a sort of softness
that insists on a carapace
My first pet was a turtle
pulled from a pond
I named it Shelly
Later, I warned beachgoers
to darken their porch
Sea turtles were my companions
the ocean, my one true home
I loved them like my own
They taught me life and death are imposters
a turtle camouflaged
as a rock
When I die, I hope to be named the patron
saint of turtles, their skeleton shells
marking my grave
Once I watched four men
carry a loggerhead
to the edge of the sea
They lowered it
on the shore
and the rush of Atlantic waves
white foam, the undertow
carried it home
Danielle Ann Verwers writes and teaches in South Carolina. Her poetry and prose has appeared in Hawaii Pacific Review, Eastern Iowa Review, and elsewhere.
By Elizabeth Robin
water pours from the sky
a steady roar soaking dreams
fitness runs and bicycle trips
prove the moon will rise
hang in a half-circle
cardboard cut-out, pasted high
or that roads will dry
show Venus glowing next door
when she borrows a cup of sugar
before both orbs inch
further and further
in the night sky
Elizabeth Robin is a retired teacher and working poet on Hilton Head Island. She has three books, most recently To My Dreamcatcher (Finishing Line Press, 2022). More at www.elizabethrobin.com
By Deirdre Garr Johns
Its demand for recognition
rises into the air–
a permanent mark
that some see as a stain, a tarnish
against one’s capabilities.
But I have learned
that the body answers only to itself.
And if I have been marked,
then I will take what it offers:
a comfort—a companion,
a punishment–a prayer and a relief.
The body answers only to itself
and has invited me to this ritual
given to the powerful.
I accept what it gives
and what it takes.
Who could deny
this natural selection?
Deirdre Garr Johns is a teacher and writer. Inspired by nature and memories, her writing seeks to capture a larger connection to the world around us.
By Denise K. Spencer
She had long set her sights on the C-Suite
as had her sorority friends.
Her focus had always been Wall Street
with wealth and success in her lens.
Once every year the group gathered
to catch up on progress and trends.
They sipped their Merlot as they blathered
of promotions and stock dividends.
At last exhaustion outpaced her.
She’d worked every week and weekend.
The stress had begun to erase her.
Her happiness reached a dead end.
When she and her friends reunited,
they were shocked at the look on her face.
She was calm and serene and clear-sighted,
unchained from her leather briefcase.
“Dear friends,” she smiled large and asserted,
“blessed peace is worth treasures galore.
My tranquility long was diverted;
my happiness now is restored.”
Freed from a life bound by spreadsheets,
the rat-race she’d gladly forego.
Sweet-sea had replaced her old C-Suite
with a quaint near-the-beach bungalow.
Denise K. Spencer’s recently discovered passion for writing poetry evolved after a career in higher education, philanthropy, and now as the Principal/Founder of PhilanTOPICS, a nonprofit consultancy.
A Meditation on Lot’s Wife, the One Who Looked Back
By Ellen Malphrus
When we moved
out to the Galbut place
my mother left all those
little pairs of high heels—
those tiny size 5 shoes
she had longed for and loved.
Two careful rows in the top of her closet,
the ones in back perched
on their bright colored boxes—
the dotted Swiss
the blue ones
School clothes and hot dogs
for the first nights—
then weeks of sporadic next loads
for their bedroom set
the kitchen furniture
those end tables with the marble tops.
Who’d ever heard of a moving van?
And anyway, most of it was left behind—
sagging bed frames and cheap ass art
chipped Greenbax stamp dishes
and tired chairs silently gathering
that special dust of the discarded.
In the country were all the things
they’d saved for—
crockery, couch, appliances, curtains,
an actual dining room suite—
We were facing forward, I can tell you that.
But how could she not take
those fancy splurges
that had spun in the showcase
of Globe’s on Broughton Street.
And what was she really leaving behind?
Before word went out to the cousins
that came with baskets and crates
and picked over our past
I slipped a secret pair into my book bag—
the black ones with the shiny red bows.
But when I got them back to my new
shag carpet bedroom
I could only pet the soft leather—
my feet bigger than hers
since the fifth grade.
If she were here now would she tell me
of her uncharted desert,
about pillars of salt
and why those shoes
kept her walking—unworn.
Or could it be she’d just had her fill
of stilettos and
the only denial was my own
can grow tired
of a dream.
Ellen Malphrus is author of Untying the Moon (foreword by Pat Conroy) and Writer in Residence at USCB. She is a Lowcountry native whose work has been widely published in journals and anthologies. "A Meditation on Lot's Wife, the One Who Looked Back" was first published in Wraparound South Literary Journal.
Sitting in a Chair on Grant Street in Pittsburgh, PA
By Yvette R. Murray
In some 10 a.m. stupor or dream
I went to the sea
wild-haired sister in my sexuality
and found her dry
opened wide and vulnerable
Of both sunrises and sunsets,
I mused. Sipping their beauty slowly.
My toes touching the sand,
my face feeling the sun,
the chair on which I am perched,
the scratch of this wool against my skin.
So many voices around but
my own is a whisper.
Tender heartbeat being plucked violently
like a mad banjo solo. Solo.
I wish I could roar.
like my sister, the sea.
This, this is a day for ends.
I am adrift on a mighty crescendo.
My loving crashes
with the lone pound of a gavel
and splinters as if it never existed.
I crave much.
Not coins. But the sea:
the tide and the sand
even the prickly grasses.
A steady rhythm.
Blue-eyed sister with the sky as your hair,
soon I come.
Yvette R. Murray is an award-winning poet and writer. She has been published in Chestnut Review, Emrys Journal, Litmosphere, A Gathering Together, and others. She is the 2022 Susan Laughter Meyers Poetry Fellow, a 2021 Best New Poet selection, a Watering Hole Fellow, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. She is a board member of the South Carolina Writer’s Association and the Poetry Society of South Carolina, and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Find her on Twitter @MissYvettewrites.
By Janet Kozachek
Woman sufferer rises
to the occasion of bearing children -
or bearing not to.
Her body, as earth’s instrument,
yields to ground
yet surges with the tides.
Woman transcendent sits aloft
in her blue cotton dress.
She plans for work and waits for play.
She creates strategies for the survival
of herself and her troops,
drawing a battle line in marching triangles.
Woman triumphant stitches a quilt
within the confines of snatched moments,
when the young sleep and men need nothing.
She pieces together the fabric of their histories,
fastening the fascinating geometry of a worn through past.
Janet Kozachek is an internationally trained and exhibited artist. She holds a Master of Fine Arts Degree in painting and drawing from Parsons School of Design in New York and a Certificate of graduate study from the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing (CAFA). She is the author of The Book of Marvelous Cats, My Women My Monsters, A Rendering of Soliloquies–Figures Painted in Spots of Time, and A Book of Bothersome Cats.
Low Country Agenda
By Phil Lindsey
The island makes its own romance:
watch dolphins do a playful dance,
see angel oaks and setting sun,
beachbound tourists, ocean fun,
tee-shirt shops and restaurants,
pelicans and cormorants,
peaches sold at road-side stands,
jazz and weekly cover bands,
painters, poets, novelists,
ponds with early morning mist,
bicycle paths so easily found, and
golfers squeeze in one more round.
Today is sunny, small chance of rain,
but not a reason to complain.
Sip an evening glass of wine.
Relax. You’re on ‘Low Country Time.’
Phil Lindsey is a retired accountant and amateur poet living with his wife Karen in Bluffton. He is a member of Island Writer’s Network and has had poems published in their last three anthologies.
Hilton Head Island Launching New Poetry Trail
A poetry trail is coming to Hilton Head Island. It is a marriage of technology, creative writing, public art, and arts-minded businesses that is bringing a way to see Hilton Head Island through the eyes of the poets who live here. It’s the kind of collaboration that makes the arts an experience. For example, if you are grabbing wine for a dinner party from Rollers Wine & Spirits, you can now take a moment, scan the sign placed near the bar, and read Phil Lindsey’s “A Little Tipsy”! Fifteen sculptures and four businesses now await their signs, with five more pending approval.
The poetry trail’s opening will have two dozen stops and launch at the beginning of April to coincide with National Poetry Month. Along the trail are easy-to-find, numbered signs containing two QR codes. One takes you to a poem written by a local poet. The other takes you to the trail’s Facebook page, where you can find the entire route, plan a full tour, or comment on the poem, the art, or the business you visited along the way. Scanning the sign allows the Office of Cultural Affairs to measure metrics that help direct new projects in our arts community.
Join the Fun: A trail launch reading will be on the deck of Rollers Wine & Spirits, 9 Palmetto Bay, April 19 from 4 to 6 p.m. There, listeners can sample wine and hear the trail poets read in person.