Catherine Chandler—Featured Poet


Elderberry Tale

Once upon a time at summer’s end,
without specific plans to fill my day,
I sauntered to her house. I would pretend
I’d never heard the stories of the way

the week divided into different chores.
Her gravel voice and knotted hands explained
the wringing of the wash, the hard-scrubbed floors,
the kneading and the knitting. As she strained

the mash of berries, crimson droplets bled
in trickles to a saucepan on the stove.
The secret’s in the knowing how, she said,
to measure sugar, cinnamon and clove.

For happily-ever-afters, her advice
has come in handy. As I stir my brew—
the cauldron simmering with sweet and spice—
I add a pinch of snail, a frog or two.

On First Looking into Babe Ruth’s Homer

after John Keats

“. . . every muscle in my system, every sense I had, told me
that I had never hit a better one, that as long as I lived,
nothing would ever feel as good as this.”
—George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr.

I revel in those baseball tales of old—
the Brooklyn Grays, the Belles out of Racine;
some perfect games and grand slams have I seen,
and MLB stats never leave me cold.
Of Mazeroski’s feat I’d oft been told,
and those of Harry Hooper, Dizzy Dean
(the latter a great pitcher wont to preen).
But nothing can compare to this: Behold!
Babe stands with two strikes out, amidst the cries
of crowing Cubs aficionados, when,
to everyone’s (except his own?) surprise,
he swats a liner past the flagpole. Men
still claim he called the shot—a wild surmise,
yet one that cheers me, every now and then.

A Mother’s Kyrielle

For moments when they questioned me
and I replied indifferently,
or wished I’d practiced birth control,
may God have mercy on my soul.

For little mouths washed out with soap,
for loss of patience, faith and hope,
for all the times I botched my role,
may God have mercy on my soul.

For bad example, worse advice,
for thinking love would not suffice,
for every failure to console,
may God have mercy on my soul.

And though it’s true I’ve yelled and screamed,
the sad ranks of the unredeemed
can’t count on me to shovel coal
should God have mercy on my soul.

Twelve Tailgaters

Edna St. Vincent Millay:

Still will I harvest beauty where it grows,
Taking my pick of lusty Romeos.

W.H. Auden:

All the leaves are falling fast,
Thanks to dormant chloroplast.

William Butler Yeats:

Turning and turning in the wandering gyre:
An Evian bottle and a Goodyear tire.

Percy Bysshe Shelley:

I met a traveller from an antique land
from whom I bought a passport, secondhand.

John Donne:

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
Trump turns seventy-four today.

Emily Dickinson:

I taste a liquor never brewed.
If Papa sees me, I am screwed.

John Greenleaf Whittier:

Blessings on thee, little man,
Rosary in thy minivan.

William Shakespeare:

Like as waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do the lush rush to the liquor store.

Thomas Hardy:

I leant upon a coppice gate
which broke beneath my body weight.

Theodore Roethke:

I knew a woman, lovely in her bones;
alas, her lovely boobs were sili-cones.

Sylvia Plath:

You do not do, you do not do.
Embodiment of déjà vu.

William Blake:

Tiger, tiger, burning bright,
Please control your appetite.


They say Imelda owned three thousand pair
of shoes. The ones with Duracells would flash
as she merengued on the dance floor. She
would buy, with tidy sums of laundered cash,
Gucci platforms, pumps from Givenchy,
Ferragamo flip-flop leisurewear;
not to mention Halston golden calf-
skin spike-heeled boots. Her size, eight-and-a-half.

She ran the Beatles out of town, pell-mell,
then fled herself, accused of gross misdeeds.
Back in Manila now, she struts, undaunted,
in cap-toe slingback sandals by Chanel.
Lennon was right. Love’s all one really needs.
Perhaps that’s all Imelda’s ever wanted.


Olēka: The awareness of how few days are memorable.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, by John Koenig

My double-decker spice rack glares at me.
In its glass eyes of marjoram and mace,
of fennel, cumin, saffron, savory
and coriander, I am a disgrace
to cookery. And if, at times, I’ll toss
some basil and oregano to test
the limits of a bland spaghetti sauce,
tarragon and chive are not impressed.
So, as the cream of tartar gathers dust
and dill weed fades to a diminished gray,
my days and months and years fly—as they must—
without a chocolate cardamom soufflé.
No one to blame, no one to hold at fault,
I take this poison with a grain of salt.


Somewhat after Colossians 2:13-14

I had a fortune, but it’s spent;
I haven’t saved a single cent.
I’ve pawned my soul to pay the rent.

No stocks, no bonds, no pension plan;
my nest egg’s in the frying pan.
Hey, can I have that soda can?

I should have rationed, squared my debts;
I should have written off regrets.
I should have rolled my cigarettes.

Instead, I let the well run dry,
lived high-off-the-hog (and I mean high).
I’m down-and-out. Oh, by-the-by,

since all my bills are overdue
and I’ve no source of revenue,
God, will you scrap my IOU?

“Elderberry Tale” first appeared in Möbius ; “A Mother’s Kyrielle, ” in First Things; “Avaritia,” in The Raintown Review; “Olēka,” in Measure; and “Quittance,” in The HyperTexts.

Catherine Chandler, poet, translator, and editor, is the author of six poetry collections, including Lines of Flight, shortlisted for the Poets’ Prize, and The Frangible Hour, recipient of the Richard Wilbur Award. Winner of the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, the Leslie Mellichamp Prize, and a nine-time nominee for the Pushcart Prize, Catherine is an unapologetic formalista whose work has been widely published in journals and anthologies in North America, Europe and Australia. A trio of Catherine’s poems were chosen by George Elliott Clarke, Poet Laureate of Canada, for inclusion in the National Poetry Registry, Library of Parliament. Her latest book, Annals of the Dear Unknown, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in 2022. Catherine is online at The Wonderful Boat (