Flotilla

I am so proud to know Steve Deutsch.  He is part of my poetry workshop group and for the second month in a row, one of his poems, this time “Flotilla,” was chosen by Goodreads from more than 300 entries as a finalist in their monthly contest.  To read the poems in the contest, click here.  And if you agree, as I do, that Steve’s poem is outstanding, please vote.

 

You left behind.
one half a jelly donut,
stale as last Wednesday;
some clothing, moth-eaten,
mildewed; two shoes,
one black, one brown,
with newsprint for the soles.
You left behind a paper sack
of winter warmth, and poetry
by Whitman, Poe and Crane,
well-fingered and browned in age.

You walked into the river
and left behind four dollars
and eighteen cents, which I
have spent on coffee
and a banana nut muffin,
that crumbled in its freshness.

Your poetry; penned
in your perfect prep school hand,
was stuffed inside two newish socks
atop the brown and laceless shoe.
It is unnervingly good,
but I can use the socks.
I crumpled your words in their freshness,
and set them to sail upon the river,
page by remarkable page.

– Steve Deutsch
First published in Weatherings
photo courtesy of moneycrashers.com

Stillborn

My friend Ryan Stone has a poem in the August issue of Red River Review.  I’ll reprint the poem as well as links both to his blog, Days of Stone, and to the journal.  Many fine poems on both venues.

 

Although science, with clinical wisdom
declared her not yet a person,
a heartbeat argued defiantly
for a night.

We visit the cemetery —
hands entwined, minds
in different hemispheres,
hearts mangled. In a quiet corner

where the sun lingers late in summer,
where gelid moans soften in winter,
we become broken pieces
of something once much stronger.

– Ryan Stone
photo courtesy of Jikoman

 

 

Rust Belt

“. . .empty factories and gutted storefronts. . .”

Rust Belt

Sure, we loved the hats and hoopla
the rhythmic chants of lock her up,
but we are not a stupid people.
We know full well this patchy place
between the slag heaps
and the scrub pine–
these crumbling houses perched behind
the padlocked plant once known
for truck tires,
will never be great—
or even good.

You say rust belt
and mean the measure
of empty factories
and gutted storefronts.
The jobs bled out.
The eyesores left behind to moulder.
But the rust is mostly in us.
Too many years of children
born to little hope.
Too many years of promises
from windbags in dingy union halls
and air-conditioned buses
painted red, white, and blue.

This afternoon, I take my maul
to the wood pile
by the rusted chain link fence.
Crisp and clear,
It is a fine day to bust things up–
And the making
of that splintered shattered kindling
with a body that burns
is as near as I will ever come to joy.

– Steven Deutsch
First published in New Verse News
Photo courtesy of Bankruptcy-USA.com 

 

A Search with Words

“His walking stick stands in my cupboard…”

Rajani Radhakrishnan is one of my favorite poets.  This prose poem was published today in The Quiet Letter.  Read more of Rajani’s stunning work on her site ThotPurge.

 

The idiom of childhood seeps into this borrowed lexicon, like the leaky roof drawing patches on the wall smelling of another rain, smelling of grandfather’s only black coat that he wore like a second skin;

When it hung on the nail behind the door, he was shrunken, diminished, swallowed by loud kitchen voices, rambunctious brass and copper pots, their warm bottoms patterned with soot;

His walking stick stands in my cupboard, older than me, than him, head bent in a way his never was, even the night by grandma’s body, preparing her, preparing himself;

I search for him with words in a language he never spoke, that can state he laughed out loud watching cartoons with me that last summer, but cannot translate the way his whole body shook, the way the sea trickled out of one eye, his face contorted into something that I now call joy.

 

Rajani Radhakrishnan is a poet from Bangalore, India.  Photo courtesy of The Huffington Post.

Everything Becomes a Stranger

“. . . a poem is a silent tree in spate . . .”

This morning I read a new poem by Rajani Radhakrishnan that is a perfect description of how a poem is made and who it becomes as we let it go.  Rajani gave me permission to reblog it, so here it is.  Please visit her site, ThotPurge to thank her, and while you’re there check out her second blog Phantom Road  where she converses with Marcus in a series of haibun poems — equally as evocative.  Rajani, I am so grateful to have discovered your poetry.

Everything Becomes A Stranger

even a word in a sentence,
you hold it there, lock it in and
for a while it makes sense
then it begins to work itself loose
wanting to move
wanting to move on
another appears in its place
an unfamiliar voice,
saying something else;

a poem is a silent tree in spate
one by one its green eyes fall
one by one new eyebrows are raised
only you know it is a different tree
the shadows paint another dark
and whatever is flowering
is not caused by your being;

everything becomes a stranger
once it leaves, once it falls
words, worlds,
people,
even you walking away
carrying a poem
carrying a sentence
cast shapes angled into the sun
as if the light is making love to you
in a different language.

– Rajani Radhakrishnan

 

Stevieslaw: My poem “Studio in the Asylum” was published in The Ekphrastic Review today

Speaking of ekphrasis, here’s one from my friend Steve Deutsch. He has written a series of ekphrastic poems from the point of view of the artist, taking into account the era and their particular situation. Steve’s always right on point, whether he’s writing poetry or political satire. Take a look at his other posts for the satire part.

Stevie's Law

Studio in the Asylum (find the poem at Ekphrastic.net)
Dear Theo:

I am surrounded here
by the painter’s commonplace,
the half- filled canvases
that dot the ochre walls and
those ornaments of still-lifes—
the vases and jars standing
to attention on the sill,
empty of color and purpose.
I feel a tension, as if
a single dazzling orange
would shatter the calm
forever.

I have finished “Studio in the Asylum.”
It is a soothing depiction,
like a setting for a prayer.
Yet, I might well have named the piece
“The window in the wall”–
that brightness that separates
the therapeutic room
from the glory of the garden
and the grounds.
Soon, now
I shall make my way outside.
to paint the olive landscapes
and pasteled huts
and to color
the stars of the night sky.

Yours: Vincent

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Susanna IX

“You must let me go, Tomás…”

OK, I’ll admit it.  I’m a hopeless romantic, and Will Pennington’s series of poems and fiction about Susanna captures lost love so poignantly that I asked if I could reblog his latest poem.  To read more of the Susanna series, please visit Will’s site, and let him know your thoughts.

 

Is she the one, Susanna?
I do not know, Tomás.
You must know, Susanna.
Why, Tomás?
She makes me think of you.
She is not me.
I want you back, Susanna.
I’m dead, Tomás.
You died too soon.
Yes.
Why? Why? Tell me.
I do not know why, Tomás. It was my time to die.
It isn’t fair.
Life is not always fair.
Sasi makes me feel the way you did.
Then you must be with her.
What if I forget you?
You must forget me to be happy with Sasi.
I lost half of my heart when you died.
Then Sasi must replace that part of your heart.
No, Susanna. I can’t.
Yes, Tomás. You must.
I don’t want to forget you. You have the piece of my heart that makes me whole.
You must let me go, Tomás, so you can find love and happiness again.
No.
If Sasi is the one, she will hold the piece of your heart that makes you whole.
Yes?
Yes. Love makes the heart whole, not the person, Tomás.
Yes.
Do you love Sasi?
I’m falling in love with her, Susanna.
You must be fair to her, Tomás, and let her love you.
Yes.
You must forget me to love her, Tomás, or you won’t be happy.
Then I won’t be happy, Susanna.
Tomás.
I love you, Susanna.
I love you, Tomás.

– Will Pennington

Family Photo, 1899

To end April’s National Poetry Month, here’s a wonderful portrait written by award winning poet Joan Colby.  Joan’s latest poetry collection is The Seven Heavenly Virtues.  Learn more about Joan and her poetry here.

Five daughters, every one with hair
To her hips. Cumbersome dresses
Meant for Sundays. No one is smiling.
The mother’s hair skinned into a thick bun.
The smallest child on her lap. The father
Gallant with sideburns, chin whiskers,
A wave over one eye. Cravat and
Polished boots. That they lived, all of them,
In a one-room log cabin in the Uinta Mountains
Is not apparent, dressed in their finest, hair
Freshly washed and brushed so that
Every girl could be Rapunzel.
Two infant sons already buried.
The father will die by gunfire
At the age of 40. The mother will be nursing
Her last child: my father
Who will be photographed later
In a white lace baptismal gown.

– Joan Colby
First published in Poppy Road Review

P.S. New prompts are up on the Prompts page.

He Is Six and She Is Three

Danny Earl Simmons provides a devastating child’s perspective on family in this poem.  I follow Dan’s blog so I don’t miss any of his poems when they are published.  (I’m a fan!)  His new chapbook is The Allness of Everything.  You can learn more about him and his poetry here.

He is six and she is three
when they’re sent to spend what’s left
of their innocence with their aunt,
the older sister of their now-dead mother –

beaten to death with the fists
of their now-imprisoned father
who loved them both with a rage

so red his bare knuckles bled
into their screaming mother’s face
until there were no screams left

while the six-year-old brother held
his three-year-old sister curled
all the way under the bottom bunk

as she sobbed until there was breath enough
to ask why their mommy just won’t be good
and why isn’t he crying, too.

– Danny Earl Simmons
First published in Eunoia Review

 

what i did in the war

“. . .keeping the company of ghosts. . .”

Matt Borczon says he didn’t fight during the war in Afghanistan, but he’s fighting in its aftermath.  You can read more about this fine poet and his chapbook A Clock of Human Bones here.

it’s hard
to explain
to civilians
that my
gun was
locked up
in an iso
container
for the
whole time
I was
in Afghanistan
that I
did not
fight this
war I
worked in
a hospital
at the
craziest
point of
the war
but no
I did not
fight the
war
I watched
it from
the distance
of a
severed arm
watched through
the holes in
marines chests
and stomachs
through the
eye sockets
of children
shredded by
hellfire helicopters
but I
did not
fight the
war
I prepared
gauze for
wounds and
vacuums to
suction blood
I cleaned
dead bodies
for coffins
for planes
for home
for broken
families
I bleached
mattresses
between patients
and served
meals to
soldiers with
no hands
to eat with
but I
did not
fight the
war
I searched
for missing
limbs and
spoke with
angry village
elders and
was hit
by an
Afghan prisoner
for trying
to help
him stand
but I
did not
fight the
war
and it
wasn’t until
I was in
Kuwait at
a stress
debriefing
that I
ever heard
the words
compassion fatigue
or secondary PTSD
so I came home
unaware of
how it
would feel
to hear
helicopters
at night
or how
nightmares
could make
me soak my
sheets with
sweat and
how panic
would make
me ruin
my children
or how I
could lose
days upon
days in
memories
keeping
the company
of ghosts
fantasizing
about my
own death
in order
to feel
like an
end was
in sight
but I
did not
fight the
war
I inhabited
the war
was forced
by blood
to adapt
by death
to adapt
by shock
and awe
to adapt
until the
day they
sent me
home with
no gauze
no bleach
no morphine
pump no
tool or
instructions
to readjust
to turn
it off
to forgive
or forget
so no
I did
not fight
the war
but I
am still
fighting
every single
day

– Matt Borczon
First published in Fried Chicken and Coffee