Sunday 5 November 2023

Five Poems by Luanne Castle


The Stranger


The door knocker’s clang sounded once,

startling us from Unforgotten on TV.

It was almost time to give the cats snacks

and head upstairs to bed.

I clasped the phone in my firm hand

while my husband peered into a peephole.

“Who is there?” he called out to no reply.

“It can’t be an animal that high up

and no bird would fly in the dark

and not leave a mark where it landed.”

After fifteen minutes, we ventured outside

to the long bone-white patio glowing

under an almost full moon, the tinkling

of the chimes in the slow rippling breeze,

an owl silhouetted up near the chimney

tooting his plaintive cry, and the psst psst

of tiny flying creatures. I could smell

the night jasmine releasing its bounty.

How many animals were hiding nearby

in the bushes and flowering shrubs?

Whoever rang the bell, were they gone?

I startled from a skittering behind me.

Then I saw the gecko bend from side

to side as he climbed along the stucco

from the porch light busy with insects.

Tapping my husband’s arm, I nodded

toward the unintentional culprit

who shook us from our cosey couches.





He’s outside now as usual

planting a cactus arm

that fell from its column

the watering can at his side

as it follows him over our acre.

He’s planted in the wash

sustenance and flat boulders

for the wanderers as they travel

through this land we share

with lizards and rabbits, snakes

and bobcats, quail and owls.

We’ve hosted hawks, coyotes,

a Great Blue Heron, and earlier

today in our pool and fountain

two ducks, male and female,

contemplating a nest site,

circled each other in

figure eights, the rippling

etching hearts in the water.

We sat on the lounge watching

the ducks gaze at each other

in their spinning infinities

so long that we began to hope

they would stay, then the pool

shuddered as they rose with

a whoosh, wings outstretched,

and flew over our trees.

When I Bravely Attended My 50th High School Reunion


Beyond the gazebo I shelter under,

past the grills, the tubs of potato salad

and coleslaw, the lake shimmers

under the August sun. All those years ago

my family spent summers at a lake close by.

The same shimmer, the same sun splaying

over the water, my brother splashing

near shore in his search for bullfrogs,

our dog at his heels--loving the swish

of his tail through the water--,waves

thudding the dock when boats passed by.

Summers were the reprieve from school

where I picked my way carefully through

the gauntlet of mean girls as if the silence

of my careful moccasins in the woods

would protect me from their disdain.

Those days were fifty years ago, although

time has collapsed like a travel cup, taking

me on a trip to my past, and yet--

I don’t recognize most of these people,

their edges soft and blurred like my own,

with lopsided grins and crinkles around

their eyes lending kindness and grace

to our eager re-introductions.

Later in the afternoon, my cry catches

in my throat. There we are at the dock,

lithe with long hair in movement, our

short dresses jostled by the breeze.

I sit down so fast on the bench my knees

scream at my neglect for forgetting them.

But these girls have lined up for a boat ride.

They are not with our party, of course.

Their pontoon swerves away from us,

and we walk to our cars back into our lives.


Is It Theft if It Fills an Absence?


I saw my father palm

his attorney’s antique cane

with exaggerated pomposity

and strut down the street.

I lagged behind, praying

nobody thought me with him.

The cane flamed like a fire baton

leading our thief parade.


My thieving father could not

withstand my constant begging

to return the cane and make

me clean again, so he swallowed

dirt and unswallowed the sword

outside the lawyer’s dark door.


Only all these years later

do I suspect him of paying back

the Man for the birthright

and surname robbed from him

by his own physician father

who denied him three times.


Perhaps I did understand

elsewhere than my thoughts.

For Father’s Day that year,

I bought him a peace pipe pinned

like a butterfly to backing board,

the irony of the gift on land

stolen lost to me at the time.


When a Leaf Falls


Evenings like this set the girl humming


her toes, elbows and stomach

as if lamplight

has amplified within

and now warms her body

sending her blood buzzing through

its gridded network


Lamplight casts a golden sheen across

the coffee table

which hums, as does

the mother in the swivel chair knitting

and these aren’t the hummings

of the hi-fi

although a Nancy Wilson record

rotates its steam

like the lamplight

The father hums at his basement work bench

and it’s not the paint-spattered radio

tipping its jaunty antenna


The girl would be happy forever except

for that feeling

like a boulder held just above.

She can’t get too


as anything could unbalance it.

An extra star in tomorrow’s sky, rain

or no rain

could re-set it all.

In the morning

sun will draw dust to the coffee table.

Couch cushions will fray

in that stream of daylight.

A leaf will drop to the sidewalk

where it is crushed



Note: this last poem was originally published in my 2015 book Doll God (Aldrich/Kelsay).

Luanne Castle’s award-winning full-length poetry collections are Rooted and Winged (Finishing Line 2022) and Doll God (Kelsay 2015). Her chapbooks are Our Wolves (Alien Buddha 2023) and Kin Types (Finishing Line 2017), a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Luanne’s Pushcart and Best of the Net-nominated poetry and prose have appeared in Copper Nickel, Verse Daily, Saranac Review, Bending Genres, The Ekphrastic Review, TAB, Does it Have Pockets, Sims Library of Poetry, Pleiades, River Teeth, and other journals. She lives with five cats in Arizona along a wash that wildlife use as a thoroughfare. 


  1. I love Luanne's poetry and enjoyed seeing it here.

  2. What a splendid selection, Luanne! You brightened my day with your shimmering images.

  3. I love Luanne's poetry, and these are no exception!


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