A haunting poem today by Carolyn Forché that highlights the refugee crisis. Poetry Foundation published it this week, but I didn’t see a way to reblog, so here it is in its entirety.
We were thirty-one souls all, he said, on the gray-sick of sea
in a cold rubber boat, rising and falling in our filth.
By morning this didn’t matter, no land was in sight,
all were soaked to the bone, living and dead.
We could still float, we said, from war to war.
What lay behind us but ruins of stone piled on ruins of stone?
City called “mother of the poor” surrounded by fields
of cotton and millet, city of jewelers and cloak-makers,
with the oldest church in Christendom and the Sword of Allah.
If anyone remains there now, he assures, they would be utterly alone.
There is a hotel named for it in Rome two hundred meters
from the Piazza di Spagna, where you can have breakfast under
the portraits of film stars. There the staff cannot do enough for you.
But I am talking nonsense again, as I have since that night
we fetched a child, not ours, from the sea, drifting face-
down in a life vest, its eyes taken by fish or the birds above us.
After that, Aleppo went up in smoke, and Raqqa came under a rain
of leaflets warning everyone to go. Leave, yes, but go where?
We lived through the Americans and Russians, through Americans
again, many nights of death from the clouds, mornings surprised
to be waking from the sleep of death, still unburied and alive
but with no safe place. Leave, yes, we obey the leaflets, but go where?
To the sea to be eaten, to the shores of Europe to be caged?
To camp misery and camp remain here. I ask you then, where?
You tell me you are a poet. If so, our destination is the same.
I find myself now the boatman, driving a taxi at the end of the world.
I will see that you arrive safely, my friend, I will get you there.
Poem by Carolyn Forché
of the unspoken …
half a rainbow
– Chen-ou Liu
Photo by MH Ramona Swift
Published in Tiny Words
Don’t miss these two spectacular poems by Sarah Law in Psaltery and Lyre today.
Two Poems for St. Therese of Lisieux
Note: In the photo, St. Therese is holding a laundry paddle.
“Women always turn toward a whistle…”
My friend and fellow State College Poetry Group poet Lisa McMonagle has a dynamite poem this week in Ekphrastic Review. I can’t figure out how to reblog it, so I’ll copy and paste. Enjoy!
No longer First Lady
in Chanel and a pill box hat,
she’s Jackie O. in jeans
and a Henley, striding
the Upper East Side,
wind at her back, still
graced with the good
fortune that carried
the debutante from
a prominent, but
declining family, farther
than anyone dreamed
possible. Windswept tresses
frame her famous face in
a three-quarter art-nouveau
shot as she turns toward a whistle.
Women always turn toward
a whistle, whether they
welcome it, or not.
They want to believe
they warrant a whistle,
inspire a whistle, that men
draw breath for them.
– Lisa McMonagle
First published in Ekphrastic Review
Photo: Windblown Jackie by Ron Galella (USA), 1971.
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
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
“. . .empty factories and gutted storefronts. . .”
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
“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.
“. . . 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
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