Green Hills Literary Lantern



There’s Got to Be A Night Before

There's got to be a morning after
We're moving closer to the shore
I know we'll be there by tomorrow
And we'll escape the darkness.


"The Morning After"-- song by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, sung by Maureen McGovern

Because if there is a morning after
it means you survive the night before
and wake to the scent of sunlight
breaking, the call of every hue.

The taste of dawn on the tongue
calls you to plow the darkness,
to sniff and rise, perchance to
ponder the need for ordinary stuff.

Someone sings in a distant shower.
The paperboy heaves the morning
news to break the anticipation
that nothing dreadful happened
as the whole town slept.

The milkman pauses for reflection.
Neighbors begin to stir the dust.
Birds ramble in the early trees.
Ants swarm a discarded cup.

A loose dog sniffs the sewer to find
yesterday’s meat gone putrid.
While children at their breakfast,
eyes drooping, long for their beds.

All this and the drowsy traffic
move the day along, where drunks
hung over with the night before,
all the booze and smoke uncurled,
sleep in the same old place.

Having it Out with Winter

I've never gotten used to winter and never will.--Jamaica Kincaid

In honor of Jane Kenyon

If you’re going to snow, snow.
Have the misery done and over.
Don’t just gloat about the posies,
limp on their summer stems.

All this tap dancing around like
Gene Kelly must stop. Go ahead
and freeze the fallow plains.

And if you’re sending us wind,
then fan the leaves in unraked yards
or campfires of the homeless.

Let those arctic blasts conceive
the long, dark, slothful nights.
Do your duty to rust the chains
of stolen bikes on the levee.

To Be Used

A tribute to Marge Piercy’s “To Be of Use”

The people I’ve seen too often
back away from work that’s sure,
hang around the pool hall
and shove with cool strokes the balls.
They labor to belong in the dark,
sour smell of beer and cigarettes,
to call the shots, square the rack.

I know people who are layabouts,
who languish with intent to do nothing,
who know that the neighbors
rise early and embrace the work.

I want to teach responsibility
to those who can work but choose
to sit at the curb all day and smoke their stuff.
The people who raise children
that bully, who move from place
to place and apply their trade.

The muddy yards, jacked-up cars,
property values that plummet
and fall like dreams undone,
the evidence of squalor,
garbage and torn sofa on the porch.
Lawns of rot and rust knee-high,
neighborhoods that were not made
as habitat for rats, where some folks
cry for charity that’s abused.

Gary Lechliter’s work has recently appeared in many poetry journals and anthologies. He has published four books of poetry and one chapbook. His newest book Photos of Ghosts is published by Spartan Press. Gary is the managing editor of I-70 Review.