Auld Lang Syne 

posted in: Aging, Poetry | 0

A look back on the last year at Passager and a peek ahead, with poems by Mark Elber, Sandy Longley, Christine O’Leary Rockey, Joyce S. Brown and Jo Miles. 
8 minutes


Passager’s offices and technology will shut down for the month of August to give the staff a little time to breathe, so this will be our last episode of Burning Bright ‘til September. To end this round of podcasts, a look back at what Passager has published since last summer.

Mark Elber won Passager’s Henry Morgenthau III Award for a book of poetry by a writer 70 or older. Here’s a poem from Mark’s book Headstone, “I Am Therefore I Am.”

I am the sea endlessly rinsing itself beside the ungroomed sand
I am the ubiquitous chain of ephemeral footprints
An epigram wishing I were an epic
A siren awaiting an Odysseus worthy of my allure
A surrealist temperament trapped in the body of a rationalist
Both “not-A” and “A” claiming the same logical piece of the planet

I am a narrative wading in a stream of consciousness
The phone rings
I am the silence on the other end of the line
I am undeclared income
I am off the books, off the record, off and running, off to a good start, off the deep end
I am the deep end
The steep ascent
Fear of heights
Height itself, absolute height

I am the blinding headlights which are nothing more than you racing towards your own reflection
I am the compulsory flaw
Pure melody afloat in rhythm
I am the child sacrificed on the altar of no god in particular

From Mark Elber’s book Headstone, “I Am Therefore I Am.”

Passager also published Sandy Longley’s book of poems, Mothernest. Here from that book is “Reverie, Morning.”

The next time you start
the coffee grinder
at 4:00 a.m.
on Saturday
in February
because you couldn’t sleep,
I will try to imagine you
as a pileated woodpecker
drumming on the near dead
oak by the frozen patio,
defending our territory,
our nest, or even better
tapping a courtship call
to me huddled under our
blue, down comforter, hungry
for the suet and raw peanuts
you hung on the Foil-a-Squirrel
feeder – your red fishing cap
a flare in the pre-dawn hours.

“Reverie, Morning,” from Mothernest by Sandy Longley.

Passager’s winter 23 issue was built around the theme of trauma. Here from that issue is Christine O’Leary Rockey’s poem “Portrait of My Mother.”

She is thin in that picture.
I can see her skull through the flesh
of her cheeks, eyes straight
on stalks
through living bone.
She is holding my hand.

She stares
like she is looking
at something — it cannot be
the photographer.
Not unless she is contemplating
killing him.
You never look at someone like that
without the intent to do harm,

especially your children.

“Portrait of My Mother,” Christine O’Leary Rockey from Passager Issue 74, the trauma issue.

And from last fall’s 2022 Poetry Contest Issue, “Wild Life” by Joyce S. Brown.

Hyenas are among the least
attractive in all God’s court
of animals: misshapen as
the Hunchback of Notre Dame,
cacklers, cunning carnivores.

Yet, watching
a National Geographic film,
I am overcome with longing
when I see a mother licking
her single cub, the cub up on her
shoulder, her head turned to
reach him. He never moves
while she licks over his head,
down his back, over and over.

“He got a lickin’” means to us
a punishment not pleasure.
This natural lick is what I want,
and never got, and never gave.

Joyce S. Brown’s poem “Wild Life” from Passager Issue 73, the 2022 Poetry Contest Issue.

We’ve been looking back over the past year at Passager. We’ll end by looking ahead to the 2023 Poetry Contest Issue, due out in early fall. Here’s Jo Miles’s poem “May the Fork Be With You.”

Life lifts its fork
I chose to eat my fill
Gobble down the sweetest bits
Twirl my tongue around the most spirited elixirs
Chew up all the flesh left on my plate
the fatty parts, the gristle —
bloody meat, raw as a skinned knee
I devoured the picante of life, the sour cherries,
the bitter herbs, the sugar cubes
that dissolved slowly under my tongue.
I have had cool watermelon dreams and the hot daring dreams of travelers —
beans and rice and steamy peppers — unleavened bread
I devoured the sun in a pudding, the cheese off the moon.
The fish from the sea swim willingly into my waiting arms.
Ah fork – If I am ever impaled on your tines
all is forgiven for I am satisfied, I am free
I am full.

To buy Mark Elber’s Headstone, Sandy Longley’s Mothernest, or to subscribe to or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to

We’ll end this podcast with this little ditty by the Passager Mixed Voice Ensemble.

Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne and the rest of the Passager staff will be back in September.
So will I. I’m Jon Shorr.

Have a good rest of summer.