On Overcoming Obstacles

Virginia Woolf could not cross a puddle.
It is well documented. Just google
Virginia Woolf and puddle.

She came to the puddle.
She could not cross it.
She was suspended.
“Identity failed me,” she wrote.
“We are nothing, “ she thought.
And then she forced herself
to cross the puddle
and put her hand
against a brick wall
to bring herself
back into her body.

I have thought of that moment
often—how easily
you can be thrown off course,
how suddenly it can all seem
like a thin veneer, masking
a big, black hole.

But then you push on.
You persevere
past those moments.
You forget about
death and the vast constellations
hidden behind the thin blue sky.
You focus
on the task at hand—
getting across a puddle
so that you can buy
flowers for a dinner party
with friends.

Leaves in the Air
    —For Rachel and Kirun

As the good-looking guard clearing families in cars slowly

Models a starched white shirt, a rose-bud turban, and this outlandish tie—
Star spangled and knotted like a silk vine—tied long over

His clandestine crotch; as the October evening along the promenade

Gathers rings of yellow and green, curling leaves that swirl beneath
Mulatto clouds: Good-Will hand-me-downs and thrown-

Together dreams; as the half-hidden sunset reflected by the river glows

Brighter by its diminishing; so the work appears to be promising 
For those of us behind the scenes—invisible, moving like a cause

Among the scattered casualties—and content,

Knowing things outside will continue to fall, terrifically, into
Places, people, places:

This world of random faces one must learn by heart again

And again—some familiar, though all disappearing
With different notes of longing, like some difficult choir

No one can conduct            
                                    Or keep from singing.

Leaves on the Pond
    —For Mika

True, we don’t need an occasion to talk about such things.
But then, we’ve got one before us: Scrum of rust and gold leaves
Wheeling across the pond’s surface—and fish, I imagine,

Somewhere dark beneath. In fact, wouldn’t the real shame be
Not to work with the scene we’ve been given? Go on, my love,
My cherished-one, my reason-for-being—ask your questions.

Spring and Everything East

Spring and everything east of the park is softly
humming between the gusts of the avenues
an earworm from we don’t know where.
But there’s competition, capital.

Near the corner of 84th and 1st a woman
says to her phone, You’re a granddad now,
you gotta quit.  Her bloated cheeks
keeping the rest of her face from sliding

off and I wonder
if the new one would look the same. 
Further west: jackhammers and earth
movers.  She turns the corner and I

keep walking toward the construction,
feeling just capital.


Dell Lemmon
has studied acting, mime, performance, and performance studies. She also spent over twenty years involved with contemporary art in various capacities, from studio manager to collector. Her dissertation on Michael Fried’s theories of theatricality in the visual arts won the Monroe Lippman Memorial Prize for Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation and her criticism has been published in Women and Performance. After writing prose for years, she recently fell in love again with the poetic form. “On Overcoming Obstacles” is her first published poem.

Frederick Speers lives with his husband in New York City, where he is a textbook editor at Oxford University Press. In 2000, he graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing from Boston University, and in 2008 he received the first annual Fitzpatrick Award from the Vermont Studio Center, which is given to poets who “focus on nature in all its many facets.” His poetry and essays have appeared in AGNI and elsewhere.

Nathan Gunsch resides in Baltimore but lives in New York City. “Spring and Everything East” was commissioned by Poetic People Power and originally performed on May 17, 2012, at the Helen Mills Theater on West 26th Street in New York City. His poem “Four Parts” appeared in the fall2010 issue.


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