Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Poem of the Week #9
March 2, 2008

When Everything Boils Down
to a Red Pom-Pom in the Snow

The five minute ride on the ski lift
with Francie Vandersluis produced
enough heat and pressure in him
to make diamonds
from the coal in his pocket.

Inches from his side,
they could be on a date.
They could be going up the aisle
to meet the preacher.
They could, at least, be talking.

But what can an eighth grade boy
say to Francie Vandersluis?
They don’t even go to the same school,
so no chance to hang out by the lockers;
posture with the guys as she walks by,
break rank and offer to carry her books—
or open a door—something simple,
but suave and nice.

He knows her only from church.
Her family sits across the aisle,
two pews ahead and he can gaze
upon the curls at the nape of her neck
for a whole hour, or longer,
as the pastor’s soothing voice
lulls him into a reverie—
the best damn sermon
a boy could hope for.

Here, in the dangling chair
he hangs on like someone drowning,
seconds away from her soft skin
the scent of her shampoo
mixed with the smell of wet wool,
blonde curls escaping from under
her red ski cap; her sweet little lips
like fingers that beckon him.

His mouth is void of saliva.
His hands tremble in his gloves.
His heart pounds so hard
it could be the very engine
running the ski lift
and all ski lifts, everywhere.
“We’re in confirmation together, aren’t we?”

He is stunned to be recognized
by this sovereign beauty. Confirmation.
Together. Yes, yes we are.
Before he can answer, she asks,
“What do you think of it?”

He would like to take the back
of his finger and rub it along
her rosy cheek, lay his head
on her shoulder. “It’s okay,” he says,
and immediately regrets it.
He realizes that his stomach
has been left far behind
at the bottom of the hill.

As they approach the summit
he knows that now is the time
to do or say something memorable
because he might not have this chance
with Francie Vandersluis ever again.

As he works to turn stray words
into some kind of sensible proposal,
she smiles and says “see ya,”
hops from the chair, a cute bunny,
and gracefully takes off down the hill.

The pom-pom of her hat dips and bobs,
vanishes into the blinding white field—
a red button of desire.

© Lisa Vihos

Special Edition: Leap Day
February 29, 2008

Leap Day

Wake up!
Today is leap day!
Leap into this moment.
Today, the day
that only comes once
every four years;
the day that man made
to correct the slippage
in the cosmic clock.

Who figures these
things out, anyway?
When I can’t even
decide what to eat
for breakfast,
who can measure
and determine
what to do with time?

Who got the whole darn
world to recognize
leap year?
Let’s get that guy or gal
working on world peace
and the green house effect
today, right now.

Or is leap year
just another one of
those false constructs
that delude us
into thinking
we’ve mastered
the time-space continuum?

No matter.
I will leap today
and every day
because this moment
is here forever,
always new,
always the next breath.

© Lisa Vihos

Poem of the Week #8
February 24, 2008

Sharpsburg Memory

We drove over from Baltimore to see
Aunt Catherine, ninety something then, still
running the farm. Owen was three, chubby.
Michael hadn’t seen her in forty years.
I was taking notes for Owen that trip—
names on gravestones, tracts of land, fallen barns,
gathered patchwork squares of family history;
not mine, but his.

At the rickety screen door,
she paused a moment; then came out to us.
She chased Owen past the garden, raised
him like a sack of Maryland potatoes.
Her weathered arms lifted him to praise
this ground he came from; not my ground, but his.
We’d forgotten the camera, but I still see their dance:
boy, sky, hands.

© Lisa Vihos

Poem of the Week #7
February 17, 2008

Dollar Value

Remember afternoons
dumping out the can of coins
and counting them with dad?
Ten pennies made a tower;
a wall of ten, a dollar.

He did nickels, dimes, and quarters.
I was the princess of pennies.

After hours of counting,
came the delicate task
of stacking the copper
flat in the wrappers.
He said little fingers
were good for that,
the neat, crisp folding
of the sleeves.

I loved those rolls in my hand,
their shape and heft had power.
We strode together
and traded them for treasure
down at the corner. Beer for him
and a Hershey bar for me.

Now, I take my coins to the bank,
willy-nilly in a can.
Down the chute they go.
No time spent, no towers.
Minutes later, the teller returns
with the empty container
and I go to my car,
a little bit poorer,
my pocket full of dollars.

© Lisa Vihos

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Poem of the Week #6
February 10, 2008


The world subsists
on the breath
of children,

feeds on their
fresh air.

Playground shouts
and songs sung

from tree tops
from roof tops,

music of tiny
wind pipes

rises and falls
like bread dough.

Mouths open
to the future,

their breathing,

their lungs gulp
whatever we float.

© Lisa Vihos

Poem of the Week #5
February 3, 2008


The pigeons knew,
seconds before.

Not so the people
in the pet market
cautiously enjoying
the first nice day in a while,
a good day for a stroll
and a neighborly chat
with old friends.

Not even
the crazy lady knew,
the authorities surmise.
She sold cold cream
in the morning;
was detonated
by remote control
in the afternoon.

feathers, claws, and tiny bones
mingled on the bloody ground
with fingers, skin, and wallets.

Even pigeons—
who spend a lot of time on the ground
maligned and grubby as they are
pecking out a little existence—
are able to fly up now and then,
look from a higher place.

© Lisa Vihos

Poem of the Week – midweek addition
Week of January 27, 2008

This poem won "runner-up" recognition in the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters statewide poetry contest and will appear in the summer issue of Wisconsin People and Ideas magazine.

Planting a Memory (for Owen)

I make us a lunch
for the train ride from Chicago to Milwaukee.
Granted, it’s a short ride
but it’s lunchtime and we’ll want to eat.
I pack salami, bagels, tangerines,
and a small bag of kalamata olives.

I want you to know this simple pleasure:
olives on the train. How delicious
they taste as we speed past houses and fields.
Olives run in our family, you know.
Our own special comfort food,
tumbling down the Greek
and Italian branches of our family tree;
little dark nuggets of love.

Someday, you’ll be in Tuscany
wanting to impress a girl.
It’s important that you learn
this sense memory now
so that when you’re standing in the market
outside the train station
you will not hesitate
to buy good olives for her.
You won’t even know why you do this,
but she’ll love you all the more
for spending a little bit extra
on something that tastes so good.

And when you are rushing together
past the lush green fields
and crumbling stone walls
of your Tuscan future,
bite into the rich, dark meat
feel slick oil on your fingers
lick salt from your lips and smile.

In her olive black eyes, there is warmth
and a beckoning road like a train track
vanishing into the distance
connecting you to something
(or someone) that loved you.

© Lisa Vihos

Poem of the Week #4
January 27, 2008

Song of Innocence

My son wrote a song;
a sad song,
in a minor key.
At nine-almost-ten
he sits with his song
on the brink
between childhood
and the dark abyss.

His song has no words
but its melody
holds the innocence lost
the first time we witness
some small evil
behind the garage;
the first time
someone we adore
ignores us

the first time
we hear of a mother
who drowns her own child;
the first time we ask
if there is more to life
than growing up, getting old,
and dying.

He leans over the guitar
and carefully picks his notes.
They tumble from his fingers
like water under a bridge;
they fly like dry leaves
on a winter wind.

It is his song.
It is him taking hold
of his own story.
Better to claim it
in a song than to let it
fester or run wild.

My son wrote a song;
a bittersweet song
in a minor key.
When the song ends
and he plucks the last note
he looks up at me,
not sad,

© Lisa Vihos

Monday, April 28, 2008

Poem of the Week #3
January 20, 2008

The Dog’s Prayer

O great one!
Thank you for a soft couch
and for pillows and blankets
that smell like me.

Thank you for my food;
the kind that comes in my bowl
and the kind that I find
on the kitchen floor.

Thank you for squirrels.
I pray that someday
I might chase one down
and have a little chat.

Thank you for walks
on sunny days
and rainy days.
Thank you for smells;
those I know
and those I don’t know.
Thank you for snow;
its cold fluff
begins and ends
my happiness.

Thank you
for delivering me
from the bad days
to the good days
to the humans who love me:
my belly scratcher,
the one that lets me run,
and especially my little one.

Please keep him safe
and grant him always
a soft couch, food in his bowl,
good smells, snow, and squirrels.
May he live a long and happy life,
even after I am gone.

© Lisa Vihos

Poem of the Week #2
January 13, 2008

The Different Drummer

I am the different drummer,
the one whose beat you march to
when you don’t fall in with all the rest.

I live alone across the tracks
in the old house overgrown with vines;
where seekers come to pass the time.

A place where gods and demons sing;
where sadness is transformed on wings
and wild dreams set sail for distant lands.

In crazy colors and crocheted hats,
I smell variously of violets and garlic.
I speak in the rhythms of the underdog.

Many have suffered to go with me
and been better for it in the end
despite the words of enemies and friends.

You can discount me in your blood,
but you’ll pay the price with ulcers,
insomnia, or unrequited love.

Better then to snub the outer noise,
and lift your feet to my refrain;
my beat, your beat, as we traverse the lane.

© Lisa Vihos

Poem of the Week #1
January 6, 2008


A tree is just a tree
until you climb
way up into its arms
and sit in safe repose
to think and sing
among the birds.

A dog is just a dog
until you fall asleep together;
her warmth, your blanket
your chest, her pillow.
You dream of chocolate,
She, of squirrels.

Lips are just lips
until a first kiss
sweetens them.
A bed is just a bed
until two people
make it home.

Silence is just silence
until you catch
the symphony inside you:
veins pulsate, bones rattle,
breath, like wind through a reed,
plays a melody
that only you can hear.

© Lisa Vihos

Poem of the Week: Prologue
January 1, 2008

Advice from the Snow

When you fall, fall as I do
soft as feathers or a baby’s sleep.

With a light hand, spread an ocean of diamonds.
Make no sound as you blanket the earth.

Reflect light back upon the looker
orange and pink at morning, deep mauve at dusk.

Simply by your presence, round out flat places
and outline beauty that otherwise goes unnoticed.

And when I call you, do not be afraid to lie down
to bring forth an angel; an image of you in me.

© Lisa Vihos