Written in Arlington

A Memorial Day poem from the forthcoming anthology Written in Arlington, which showcases the poets and poems of Arlington, Virginia.


Memorial Day
by Sean Murphy

Unanticipated clouds advance, shifting the weight
of the world—or at least the measured objectives of
so many compulsory affairs—nonplussed after all
this time by their capacity to inspire, interrupt, or else
frustrate the better angels of Nature’s encumbrance.

Fathers linger absentmindedly at inexhaustible grills.
Mothers indulge in a quick cry behind bathroom doors
(more from habit than necessity). Bored children fish
in depleted ponds, muscle memory improvising
rituals handed down unthinkingly, like faiths or families.

Soldiers, acknowledged at last in their fortified shrines,
die afresh each time a bouquet drops like a shell
atop consecrated soil, foretold fates secured again,
courtesy of grim yet unconflicted officials, whose
solemn directives ensure that history repeats itself.

Sean Murphy has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and been quoted in USA Today, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and AdAge. His work has also appeared in Salon, The Village Voice, The New York Post, The Good Men ProjectMemoir Magazine, and others. He has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and he served as writer-in-residence of the Noepe Center at Martha’s Vineyard. He’s the founding director of 1455, a literary arts organization.

Written in Arlington / Spoken in Arlington is a print and digital collection of the poets and poems of Arlington, VA, edited by Katherine E. Young and published by Paycock Press (forthcoming, fall 2020). It is supported in part by Arlington County through the Arlington Cultural Affairs division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts. For more information, visit Arlington Arts.

Image: After the Rain mixed media/collage on canvas by Anya Getter (fragment)

Written in Arlington

During the month of April 2020, Arlington Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine E. Young is posting poems from the forthcoming anthology Written in Arlington, which showcases the poets and poems of Arlington, Virginia.


Cherrydale, et al 
by Michael A. Schaffner

Yesterday the season changed 
a little sooner than expected. 
One wonders which warblers will find a new home. 

I haven’t seen a possum since driving
home from Loudoun County, back from farms 
that gave their names to corporate crossroads 
as produce stands grew into chains. 

But one should avoid nostalgia like favorite brands 
subcontracted into oblivion. 
I have a friend who sees everything from a condo 
at the top of Stafford and can tell you 

all we see from our porches survives 
only as a minor archipelago 
in a sea of change that rises at a rate 
we feel as glacial, though glaciers melt 

as fast as our history of forgetting.

Michael A. Schaffner is a retired civil servant. His publications include the novel War Boys, the poetry collection The Good Opinion of Squirrels, and poems in ShenandoahAgni (online), Beloit Poetry JournalPrairie Schooner, Stand, Poetry Salzburg, OrbisPoet Lore, and a bunch of other places, mostly ephemeral.

Written in Arlington / Spoken in Arlington is a print and digital collection of the poets and poems of Arlington, VA, edited by Katherine E. Young and published by Paycock Press (forthcoming, fall 2020). It is supported in part by Arlington County through the Arlington Cultural Affairs division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts. For more information, visit Arlington Arts.

Image: After the Rain mixed media/collage on canvas by Anya Getter (fragment)

Written in Arlington

During the month of April 2020, Arlington Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine E. Young is posting poems from the forthcoming anthology Written in Arlington, which showcases the poets and poems of Arlington, Virginia.


Hometown To-Do List 
by Moya Seneb

Let’s go sledding down Superman Hill. 
I wanna feel my ears pop 
 like bottle rockets in my head. 
Watch life flash before our eyes 
with me until we reach the bottom. 
Take a breath under the waterfall. 
See how long it takes for the  
corn snakes to show up. 
Drive up George Mason to 
watch the cops stake out  
people living their lives in the fast lane. 
Get the corner booth at Bob and Edith’s 
to see how her hair turns red and blue. 
Not one after the other, 
but at the same time. 
Climb to the top of the rope pyramid  
and jump off the swing midair. 
It’ll feel like no one’s ever breathed  
that air before. 
If that’s not high enough for you, 
I know a couple roof tops  
where we can watch the city fall apart. 
By tomorrow someone will have  
spray-painted over the cracked-up bits  
with something kind of beautiful. 
Under every bridge is a world most  
people don’t take the trouble to see, 
that’s why we set up camp there. 
Everyone needs a place to skip rocks,  
pick locks and escape the rain. 
You should always take the  
short cut through the dog park. 
Walk across the stream. 
Keep walking till you get home. 
Yeah, it’s still home when you come back. 
So, take me to Gravelly Point,  
I wanna hear the planes take off. 
I love this town, I always will, 
but I need to know what it’ll sound like  
when I leave.

Moya Seneb performed on the Kennedy Center Stage for the 2019 Louder Than a Bomb competition. She graduated from Wakefield High School in 2019 and then studied abroad in Italy for a year. “Hometown To-Do List” was written three months into that trip.

Written in Arlington / Spoken in Arlington is a print and digital collection of the poets and poems of Arlington, VA, edited by Katherine E. Young and published by Paycock Press (forthcoming, fall 2020). It is supported in part by Arlington County through the Arlington Cultural Affairs division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts. For more information, visit Arlington Arts.

Image: After the Rain mixed media/collage on canvas by Anya Getter (fragment)

Written in Arlington

During the month of April 2020, Arlington Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine E. Young is posting poems from the forthcoming anthology Written in Arlington, which showcases the poets and poems of Arlington, Virginia.


The Pool Poem
by Ceanne Rennie 

The water rushes through me
cleaning out my eyes and ears
like the cotton swabs my mother 
used to carry in her purse.
My pores are open when I surface,
the air burns my nostrils and
fills my head like
the steam from a steamer.
It makes me sweat onion peels,
especially after that first dip
in the water.
The chemical washes the
grime from my fingernails
and overpowers me.
As if this
is all there is
to life,
nothing else to recognize, 
except that the line for food is getting shorter 
and I can rely on my long legs to get me there 
before the family of five does. 

The pool is a communal bath.
This time of year you should call it a hot tub
or a boiling pot.
Sidewalks serve as stoves and you can smell the 
hot dogs and hamburgers.
When people walk by you can hear the sizzle
and pop of them cooking,
of the grease slithering down,
down to the brown pavement and
into the pot. 

A congregation of
people young and old.
Small children run and scream and
bob and weave through the lifeguard’s tower,
over the golden rainbow of tanned bodies 
and down the WonderSlide.
Seniors swim and swish in the shallow end,
smiles facing forward and arms brushing the clouds, 
all of them dressed in purple waists
riding on orange
snakes on
the journey of a lifetime. 

I wear the same things as they do,
but no doubt I look like a boiled egg 
with the way the sun shines on me,
and the way I struggle in six feet.

Bubbles broil off the hair 
from a big beefy back
and it smells like barbecue.

The pool is 
a tool for renewal.
First we 
cleanse the water,
then we
cleanse ourselves.
Fill the craters in your mind with 
ice cream and applesauce.
With the radio turned up high you can 
drown out your sorrows
and try something new.

People of different flavors 
bring their spices with them. 
They all blend so perfectly.
So we mix and we bake
and we sing and we laugh,
knowing that even when we leave
and the pool is drained,
the smell of our potluck will follow us home
and tuck us into bed tonight.

My tongue cradles the memory 
of every plate between each taste bud.
Sometimes, 
I can still taste it
when I smell smoke 
from a back yard.

Ceanne Rennie is a member of Wakefield High School’s Poetry Club. Inspiration for “The Pool Poem” stemmed from memories she has of birthday parties at public pools and family cookouts. She enjoys swimming and finds it meditative. 

Written in Arlington / Spoken in Arlington is a print and digital collection of the poets and poems of Arlington, VA, edited by Katherine E. Young and published by Paycock Press (forthcoming, fall 2020). It is supported in part by Arlington County through the Arlington Cultural Affairs division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts. For more information, visit Arlington Arts.

Image: After the Rain mixed media/collage on canvas by Anya Getter (fragment)

Written in Arlington

During the month of April 2020, Arlington Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine E. Young is posting poems from the forthcoming anthology Written in Arlington, which showcases the poets and poems of Arlington, Virginia.


Messages from the Children 
by David McAleavey

for Maia and Andrew 

Index card on the floor 
My daughter’s message or clue 
I am whar thar is no butey neer 

In the low grass where I was running a sparrow 
I didn’t see  
Crushed under my right sole 

In the street where I was driving 
A flattened squirrel with twitching leg and tail 

Andrew’s bad dreams are about monsters in the house 
Large fish 
Who keep following him 

We need to go down to the river, he and I 
Catch a catfish 
Bloody our jeans 

We need to really see the world  

We clean the fish 
Free the guts back 
Into the swirls of the tidal Potomac 

Airplanes drape their shadow crosses  
Over pagans and barbarians 

Sometimes we have separate needs

Sometimes nobody’s near

David McAleavey has published seven books, most recently Huge HaikuRock Taught, and Talk Music, as well as one chapbook, David McAleavey’s Greatest Hits, and has edited two collections of writing from and about Washington area writers. He has taught literature and creative writing at George Washington University since 1974. He moved to Arlington in 1976. “Messages from the Children” appears in his collection Rock Taught.

Written in Arlington / Spoken in Arlington is a print and digital collection of the poets and poems of Arlington, VA, edited by Katherine E. Young and published by Paycock Press (forthcoming, fall 2020). It is supported in part by Arlington County through the Arlington Cultural Affairs division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts. For more information, visit Arlington Arts.

Image: After the Rain mixed media/collage on canvas by Anya Getter (fragment)

Written in Arlington

During the month of April 2020, Arlington Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine E. Young is posting poems from the forthcoming anthology Written in Arlington, which showcases the poets and poems of Arlington, Virginia.


Biking the Washington and Old Dominion Trail 
by Susan Notar 

Fast, and it’s windy and dusty. 
Sweat drips between her breasts. 
She clips her shoe onto the pedal 
and she’s melded to the bicycle 
as if to a lover. 
She pumps up hills 
whooshes down them. 

She thinks perhaps  
the more miles she rides 
on this chrome alloy frame 
with Shimano parts 
her calves clenching 
until she’s sinew 
this ache can be fixed 
as easily as a flat bicycle tire 
glue, a new tube, gush of air 
she’ll be alright again 
enjoying the smell of the pine copses 
seeing the startled deer leap 
into the underbrush as she passes by. 

Susan Notar is a poet living in Northern Virginia. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including Joys of the Table, an Anthology of Culinary VersePenumbra, and American Literary. She is a member of the Arlington Writer’s Group and the Poetry Society of Virginia. She works at the US State Department on war crimes issues in the Middle East. She has one tall son. “Biking the Washington and Old Dominion Trail” first appeared in NoVA Bards Anthology 2015: A Northern Virginia Poetry Anthology.

Written in Arlington / Spoken in Arlington is a print and digital collection of the poets and poems of Arlington, VA, edited by Katherine E. Young and published by Paycock Press (forthcoming, fall 2020). It is supported in part by Arlington County through the Arlington Cultural Affairs division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts. For more information, visit Arlington Arts.

Image: After the Rain mixed media/collage on canvas by Anya Getter (fragment)

Written in Arlington

During the month of April 2020, Arlington Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine E. Young is posting poems from the forthcoming anthology Written in Arlington, which showcases the poets and poems of Arlington, Virginia.


Household Nocturne
by Susan Grafeld Long

I have gone to bed early in my white cotton gown
in which I am lonely
but bright as bone on a sheet of x-ray film.

In his small blue room, my young son is curled
like nutmeat into the folds of quilt,
the black cat snoring at his feet.

From the attic room come fragile lalala’s 
as my daughter practices her scales in front of a mirror.
Somewhere downstairs a spoon strikes  

a repeating metallic note
against the inside curve of a kitchen bowl
as my husband eats his ice cream

and reads Dostoyevsky.
The quiet in the house has nowhere to go 
so it becomes light

and pools in the old, wavy window glass.
The widow next door has sculpted a totem of women
to watch over her moonlit garden.

Something of me is out there tonight
Snout down, foraging 
through the pale cabbages.

Susan Grafeld Long has lived in Arlington for forty years. She taught at Marymount University and Trinity Washington, where she developed the writing skills center. She has also been a reporter, editor, speechwriter, and public affairs director at the US Department of Health and Human Services. Her poetry has appeared in Carolina QuarterlyNotre Dame ReviewPoet LoreJAMA Journal of the American Medical Association, and others. She is a recipient of the Virginia Commission for the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship in Poetry. “Household Nocturne” first appeared in Clackamas Literary Review.

Written in Arlington / Spoken in Arlington is a print and digital collection of the poets and poems of Arlington, VA, edited by Katherine E. Young and published by Paycock Press (forthcoming, fall 2020). It is supported in part by Arlington County through the Arlington Cultural Affairs division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts. For more information, visit Arlington Arts.

Image: After the Rain mixed media/collage on canvas by Anya Getter (fragment)

Written in Arlington

During the month of April 2020, Arlington Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine E. Young is posting poems from the forthcoming anthology Written in Arlington, which showcases the poets and poems of Arlington, Virginia.


Overnight Maples Turn into Pumpkins 
by Katherine Gekker

and the dog disappears for hours in his leaf-filled yard 
herds squirrels corner to corner 
No acorn will be harvested on his watch 

Too tired for his nighttime walk 
he puts himself to bed at eight 

Tonight as the sun sets 
wasps race to their nest 
angry that their time is almost over 
Seven deer tiptoe single file 
from their feeding ground to their sleeping ground 

A full moon 
shines silver on the batwing begonias 

And then it happens 
You are there 
The dog, overjoyed 
brings his ball, his stick 
anything to keep you 

It’s like that other sunset 
when the tops of the oaks glowed yellow 
For a long time 
you had been too ill to look out the window 
Suddenly you saw them 
and asked 
How can I bear such beauty? 

Katherine Gekker is the author of In Search of Warm Breathing Things. Her poems have appeared in Little Patuxent ReviewDelmarva Review, Broadkill ReviewApple Valley Review, and elsewhere. Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Gekker was born in Washington, DC. She founded a commercial printing company in 1974 and sold it thirty-one years later. When not writing, she practices piano. “Overnight Maples Turn into Pumpkins” first appeared as part of the song cycle Chasing the Moon Down from Musik Fabrik Musik Publishing.

Written in Arlington / Spoken in Arlington is a print and digital collection of the poets and poems of Arlington, VA, edited by Katherine E. Young and published by Paycock Press (forthcoming, fall 2020). It is supported in part by Arlington County through the Arlington Cultural Affairs division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts. For more information, visit Arlington Arts.

Image: After the Rain mixed media/collage on canvas by Anya Getter (fragment)

Written in Arlington

During the month of April 2020, Arlington Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine E. Young is posting poems from the forthcoming anthology Written in Arlington, which showcases the poets and poems of Arlington, Virginia.


Ode to Fairlington
by Sarah Lilius

Brick beside brick, we keep it together.
Hoses turn on like tiny mouths.
Roads wind about seamless.
Dog walkers up early as blue jays.
Trees speak like quiet women.
We whisper in cotton blends.
The children are sleeping.

Sarah Lilius is the author of four chapbooks, including GIRL and Thirsty Bones. Her work has appeared in the Denver QuarterlyPithead ChapelEntropy, and Fourteen Hills. She lives in Virginia with her husband and sons. “Ode to Fairlington” received an honorable mention for the 2017 Moving Words program on the ART buses.

Written in Arlington / Spoken in Arlington is a print and digital collection of the poets and poems of Arlington, VA, edited by Katherine E. Young and published by Paycock Press (forthcoming, fall 2020). It is supported in part by Arlington County through the Arlington Cultural Affairs division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts. For more information, visit Arlington Arts.

Image: After the Rain mixed media/collage on canvas by Anya Getter (fragment)

Written in Arlington

During the month of April 2020, Arlington Poet Laureate Emerita Katherine E. Young is posting poems from the forthcoming anthology Written in Arlington, which showcases the poets and poems of Arlington, Virginia.


In Washington’s Woodlands
by Dan Brady

I come home from work and again 
destroy the nest the birds 
spent the day building on the porch. 
My house is not your house, birds. 
Down the hill on the fields  
On Four Mile Run a bat cracks  
and a crowd raises its voice.  
The robins nearby don’t flinch; 
just stare, then depart.  
As I close the door, leaving it unlocked, 
I feel the other world behind me, 
bright and soggy after two days of rain 
growing into something new. 
I haven’t yet cleaned the dishes 
from breakfast this morning 
and the whole house smells 
of strawberries, of home. 
In this way the morning greets the night. 
In this way, each day, today continues into tomorrow.

Dan Brady is the author of the poetry collections Strange Children and Subtexts and two chapbooks, Cabin Fever / Fossil Record and Leroy Sequences. He is the poetry editor of Barrelhouse, a magazine and small press based in Washington, DC. Learn more at danbrady.org.

Written in Arlington / Spoken in Arlington is a print and digital collection of the poets and poems of Arlington, VA, edited by Katherine E. Young and published by Paycock Press (forthcoming, fall 2020). It is supported in part by Arlington County through the Arlington Cultural Affairs division of Arlington Economic Development and the Arlington Commission for the Arts. For more information, visit Arlington Arts.

Image: After the Rain mixed media/collage on canvas by Anya Getter (fragment)