I am pleased as punch to introduce you to Martin Bartels, winner of our 5th-Anniversary Poetry Contest. Martin’s poem “At the End of the Day” not only offers a sense of discovery to the reader, but it plucks at that certain string – an air of plenitude maybe – native to so many of the poems collected here. And it ends with two lines that may be my new favorites. So now, with no further ado, I proudly present our winner…
At the End of the Day
A simple place to write with a friendly pub nearby.
Land to grow vegetables and herbs for our evening stew.
A landscape of pasture lands, a river nearby for fish,
the cheap cuts of steer or pig, a plucked chicken
(save the parts for stock). A cast iron pan. Good wine.
A quiet place to read where the land stretches its legs,
reminds us that we are humbled eternally by grace and
beauty. To know these moments is our only ambition.
At the end of the day you come home to what you are.
The corporate ladder is climbed primarily to patch walls and
change light bulbs. The serene young blonde at the corner bar
has aspirations. She will either live them or not, both results
equally poignant. The loons defend their twilight, blue-grey
mystics in a perpetual stance of expectation, until their wings
explode in the urgent energy of exploration. Mythic dances
unfold unobserved. These are our first angels. The moon in
daylight pretends to be a cloud. Nimbus or cumulus, I’m unsure.
In daylight the moon is a won ton, cloud-swallowing minister,
the monk who chops wood before and after enlightenment.
Wood chips on the grill smoke white cloud riffs against the sky.
The clouds themselves are thin fish bones; sky soup. The breeze
moves through us at the same pace as clouds. The moon
remains still. The moon is a skull in this light, not threatening but
ponderous. Strange dreams flow out of it that remind you of the
long poem by Harrison. The moon in daylight said this to me:
You are the changing line in the I Ching symbol that suggests
you will be a great man one day. I am buckled by the notion,
having no such pretensions. The old man who told me we are
born with nothing has it wrong. We come into this world
with everything. We leave with everything.
c. 2012, by Martin A. Bartels
Martin A. Bartels is an accomplished writer whose career in journalism and communications spans almost 30 years. His poems have appeared in Poetry24, the Found Poetry Review, and Verse Wisconsin. He has written for more than 100 print and online publications around the world, including AOL CityGuide, the Jerusalem Post, Chicago Sun-Times, and dozens of regional and community newspapers. He has held several leadership positions at national and international nonprofit organizations. Bartels lives in northern Virginia with his wife, two children, a cat, and a golden retriever. You can follow his poetry blog at Difficult River.