Bad Mutha’ Comin’ To Town

 
 

 

 

 

James Brown

 

 

 “Look at me,
I’m a bad mutha’,
yeah, I’m a bad mutha’, uhh! uhh! hey baby,
turnaround…”
James Brown

 
 

 

you be struttin’
james, up on broadway, ho’s
just shuck’n and jive’n, laugh’n out loud,
knew you were a big fisted daddy,
a tough mutha, that no muthafucka
would fuck with you—at Buddy’s Buzz Box
Buddy said, “Shit man, u tellin’ me
james brown is’n town—got to gitup to Broadway, got ta
see that man, an’his 20 footlongCadillac” he jes’ be
hangin’ back from that be-boppin, chest thumpin’, laughin’
mutha, just laughin’, just struttin’ blues, brownie, yah!
musta been, big time on Broadway, hell I don’no everboda’comin’out
cars stop’in people jes’ watchin’ even
little Willie, drunk asa skunk woke up sober, jes’
stragglin’ out to catch’m, willett smearin’ on
bright red lipstick, rosie ran upstairs, puttin’on
her tight- white sweater, and slick, he just sayin’
“tha’s my man, yah’ tha’s ma’man”

that was Gary, Indiana, September 14, 1960

 

Sam Hamod – see author’s full bio on home page, additional works, and author’s page.

 

Sam Hamod

 

I’d Rather Not Talk About It (For Palestine…)

Sam Hamod

 

I  really didn’t want

to talk about Ali losing his leg

to an Israeli shell last week, or

samira,scarred still in the hospital

her body napalmed

from a fast moving jet, but

as I said,

i’d rather not talk about it,

but it seems

there is nothing else

we can talk about except, maybe

the zaitoun* trees, the tanks

and bulldozers made short work of them,

but their stumps remain, gravemarkers

some say, but they say,

they’d rather not talk about it

between muffled sobs their women

knot their hands, shake their heads, their

scarves wet from tears, but even they say,

they’d rather not talk about it,

and as for me, I’d feel the same, but

as a poet, I have to give them voice, even though

they say,

they’d rather not talk about it,

I want to, and I want u to know

more about Mahmoud who lost an eye to shrapnel,

to Miriam who lost her 7 year old son

because an Israeli sniper decided he was a threat

as he picked olives in his own orchard, and

I want to talk about Father George, who was on his way

to church on Sunday, but walked too close

to the Israeli wall, and lost his brains

as they scattered along the wall, red and white

as another sniper made sure no one came near

this land they stole from Palestine, and,

Hussein who lost his foot from a cluster bomblet

that had been left behind in Gaza, he was simply

on his way to the mosque to pray on Friday, the

Imam said it was “Allah’s will,,” but I doubt it,

when asked why it was Allah’s will, he said,

I’d rather not talk about it, but we go on,

and, there is another story, behind another bed

in the emergency room, and another stretcher

bleached white with red stains all over,

and,  and,

and, and, and, but I could go on,

but as I said, I’d rather not talk about it,

as they all said, there is nothing to talk about,

nothing,  nothing,  no, 

nothing at all

 

*zaitoun:  olives in Arabic

 

 

PHOTO BY KRISTEN SCOTT

 

Sam Hamod – please see author’s full bio in additional works SPRING ISSUE, Home Page, and Author’s Page.

No Time Like the Present

Samuel Hazo

 

 
            You who believe in the false
               assurances of schedules, the presumptions
               of plans, or the pr0mised future
               of appointments. this poem is
               for you.
                       Today I have nowhere
               to go and nothing to do
               but watch the Mediterranean Sea
               from a seaside table in Menton.
            Nobody knows me here.
            The couples dancing tangos
               in the public square regard me
               as the foreigner I am.
                                 I order
               lunch in unimpressive French
               and sign language.
                          The world
               that pressured me at home
               with phone calls, obligations, bills
               and headlines carries on,
               but I’m not playing.
                            Instead
               I focus on the green and red
               confusion of a Nicoise salad
               while I hurt for an America
               I barely recognize.   
                            In the name
               of Christ we’re Arabizing Arabs
               as we once Vietnamized the South
               Vietnamese before our vanity
               consumed us.
                          We’ve sponsored free
               elections but reversed results.
            To launch the neo-century
               we crushed a country and destroyed
               a culture.
                           Though someone warned
               that occupiers lose at last,
               the warning was ignored.
                                 When scholars
               wrote that Athens at its peak
               sailed fleets to ultimate catastrophe
               in Sicily and bled for decades
               afterward into inconsequence,
               they reaped the glory of derision.
             Why bother talking history
                            with those whose only purpose
                       is deceit?
                          Why reason with unreason?
            When shouters violate what’s sacred
               with impunity, the only answer
               is dissent.
                    Hiding behind
               lapel-pin flags, they’ve fouled
               what I thought would be a holiday
               abroad, not merely a reprieve
               before the next resistance.
            I’ve met them all a thousand
               times whenever fear and cowardice
               demanded loyalty to causes
               that were never mine.
                                 Since power
               is their word for peace, they swagger
               like competitors who can’t not win.
            And when they lose, as they
               will always lose, they’ll claim
               they could have won with more
               support, and then they’ll whine.

 

 

Samuel Hazo is the author of poetry, fiction, essays, various works of translation and four plays. Governor Robert Casey named him Pennsylvania’s first State Poet 1993. He served until 2003.

From his first book, through the National Book Award finalist Once for the Last Bandit, to his newest poems, he explores themes of mortality and love, passion and art, courage and grace in a style that is unmistakably his own. He writes with equal feeling and clarity about political and artistic figures and the complex synchronicity between life and art. He is extremely interested in the wonderment and discovery that emerge in the act of writing, in the movement toward wisdom that results from the expression of feeling.

As the founder and Director/President of the International Poetry Forum, Dr. Hazo has brought more than 800 poets and performers to Pittsburgh in the past forty years. These have included Nobel Awardees (Heaney, Walcott, Paz, Milosz), Pulitzer Prize winners (Merwin, Kumin, Wilbur, Kinnell, Kooser and others), Academy Award recipients (Gregory Peck, Princess Grace of Monaco, Eva Marie Saint, Anthony Hopkins, John Houseman, Jose Ferrer) as well as public figures who understand the relationship of poetry to public speech (Senator Eugene McCarthy and Queen Noor of Jordan), playwrights and composers (Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Gian Carlo Menotti) and new poets of significance and promise.

Dr. Hazo is McAnulty Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Duquesne University. He has received eleven honorary degrees, is an honorary Phi Beta Kappa member, and has been awarded the Hazlett Award for Excellence in Literature from the Governor of Pennsylvania, the Forbes Medal, the Elizabeth Kray Award for Outstanding Service to Poetry from New York University, and the Griffin Award from the University of Notre Dame. His recent book, Just Once, received the Maurice English Poetry Prize.

We are honored to have Dr. Samuel Hazo’s work in Contemporary World Poetry: Journal for International Voices.

 

 

End-Speech

Jack Marshall

 

In a darkness with nothing to see,
in a darkness with little to hear
but the dove softly cooing on the wires above
and running water somewhere near
lapping the soft summer air,
train-whistles trail their signature-sounds
in the distance, diffusing to the timbre of smoke
and the doves’ soft cooing on the wires above…

And I have lately been thinking of the aged
eagle, the darkling thrush, the fire-fangled bird, and hurt hawk, all
grown weary of the trash that passes, the trash
that exasperates and likely provoking the poems they wished
they’d never have to write. How, at the end, stripped
of promise, as the fruit falls asunder,
annihilation becomes plain-
spokenly bare
cadence, canceling all show and ornament, bare-
boned end-speech, devoid of any intentions on us,
only voiced conviction, baring what it knows.
Nothing complicated: just life and death.

 

 

Jack Marshall is one of America’s finest poets; we are honored to have him on our site. He has published 12 books of poetry (the most recent, The Steel Veil, 2008), and a memoir, From Baghdad to Brooklyn 2005; a book-length poem, TRACE (for which he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship), will appear in 2012. 

Rhythm

Kim Hye-sun
Translation by Don Mee Choi

 

There goes a woman carrying a teardrop.
Erasing, erasing the world
there goes one woman carrying a teardrop.
Erasing her own face
there goes one woman carrying a teardrop.

There goes a crippled woman.
She takes out a broken leg
from her broken leg.
There goes a woman, walking.

Tears, there’s a woman that you drag along.
The hot rhythm pulls up a woman.
There’s the faint world erased
by the passing rhythm.

Translated by Don Mee Choi

Kim Hye-sun’s (1955- ) poetry first appeared in the early 1980’s, during
a period of intensified political struggle. South Korea fell under a
dictatorship of General Chon after the assassination of President Pak in
1979, who also came into power by leading a military coup in 1961. As
many as 2000 civilians and students are known to have been killed during
the civilian uprising in 1980. During the 80’s, many prominent writers
were arrested, including Ko Un and Kim Chi-ha, but at the same time,
women’s poetry began to resurface. Distinctive voices of women poets
such as Kim Hye-sun emerged despite the fact that Korean poetry has
traditionally been a closed space accessible to men only. Korean women
began writing publically since the early 1920’s, but only the works by
women that are contemplative and beautiful gained approval and
recognition by the mainstream Korean literary establishment. Kim’s
poetry challenges the criteria of gentleness still expected of women
poets. Her work explores the identity of women in the context of
oppressive patriarchal culture, nation. Kim’s poetry occupies a
marginal, yet critical space in Korean poetry.

She writes criticism and teaches creative writing at Seoul Arts
University, S. Korea. March of2000, she received the Korean
Contemporary Poetry Award. She received the prestigious Sowol Poetry Award, year 2001.

Don Mee Choi was born in S. Korea and came to the U.S. as a student in
1981. She studied art at the California Institute of the Arts. Her
poems have appeared in The Asian Pacific American Journal, Hawaii
Pacific Review, disorient journalzine, and Gargoyle. She lives in
Seattle and translates poetry of several contemporary Korean women
poets. Her translations will appear this year in the fall issues of
Arts & Letters: Journal of Contemporary Culture and Luna.

Letter

Ko Un
Translation by Don Mee Choi


 


My bother
a wounded soldier brother
of Vietnam War


I’m drunk
Today I detest lies
hate lies


I never worked
at an office or candy factory


That was all a lie


Seven years ago, as soon as
I arrived at Seoul Train Station
I went on my road
I went on a road of a Jap’s whore


My bother
my brother
crippled brother


I got drunk
Only when I’m drunk
I have a home


Even a whore, a whore has a home


Translated by Don Mee Choi


 


 


Ko Un was born Ko Untae in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province in 1933. He was at Gunsan Middle School when war broke out. The Korean War emotionally and physically traumatized Ko and caused the death of many of his relatives and friends.  In 1952, before the war had ended, Ko became a Buddhist monk. After a decade of monastic life, he chose to return to the active, secular world in 1962 to become a devoted poet. 


Around the time the South Korean government attempted to curb democracy by putting forward the Yusin Constitution in late 1972, Ko became very active in the democracy movement and led efforts to improve the political situation in South Korea, while still writing prolifically and being sent to prison four times (1974, 1979, 1980 and 1989). In May 1980, during the coup d’etat led by Chun Doo-hwan, Ko was accused of treason and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. He was released in August 1982 as part of a general pardon.


After his release, Ko married and moved to Anseong, Gyeonggi-do, where he still lives. He resumed writing and began to travel, his many visits providing fabric for the tapestry of his poems. Since 2007, he is a visiting scholar in Seoul National University, and teaches poetics and literature.
Don Mee Choi see bio in previous poetic translations on in the Author’s page.

Cucumbers

Ko Un
Translation by Don Mee Choi

 

Retail price of 30 cucumbers is only one thousand won, it’s dumbfounding
Our cucumbers taken to Karak Street, Orak Street in Seoul go for
400 won for a bundle of 50. It doen’t even make the transport cost
Even big round melons are 500 won for 10
a flat of garlic, 100 bulbs, is less than 2000 won
This is our crop, this is our crop

Smash this dog-craziness
let’s go to Seoul
let’s go to Seoul to live or die
My daughter can become a whore or factory girl
my wife can go as a maid
I’ll rise to the drum’s fury, climb to Mount South
scream once and kill myself!

Let’s go to Seoul
Let’s go to Seoul

Let’s go to Seoul to wreck life

Translated by Don Mee Choi

 

Ko Un was born in Gunsa, North Jeolla Province, Korea. Un became active in the democracy movement and led efforts for democracy in South Korea, which resulted in four imprisonments. After his prison release, he continued his writing, and since 2007, he remains a visiting scholar at Seoul National University where he teaches poetics and literature. His works include The Sound of My Waves, Beyond Self, Little Pilgrim, Ten Thousand Lives, The Three Way Tavern, Flowers of a Moment, and Songs for Tomorrow: A Collection of Poems 1961-2001, among others. Ko Un has won several literary awards including; Korean Literature Prize (1974, 1987), Manhae Literary Prize (1989), Joongang Literary Prize (1991), Daesan Literary Prize (1994),  Cikada Prize, and Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award (2008), among others.

 Don Mee Choi for complete bio please see other translated works in CWPJ and on Author’s Page.

 

Frog

Ko Un
Translation by Don Mee Choi

 

Crying all night long
crying kaegol kaegol
That potent cry
makes a rice paddy

Make a rice paddy to give to the poor
Sang-soe, good to see you again
Here, a patch of paddy for Kum-sun too

Look at the morning fields
such a colorful bride
All the frogs are asleep
from crying all night

kaegol kaegol

Translated by Don Mee Choi

 

 

Don Mee Choi was born in S. Korea and came to the U.S. as a student in
1981. She studied art at the California Institute of the Arts. Her
poems have appeared in The Asian Pacific American Journal, Hawaii
Pacific Review, disorient journalzine, and Gargoyle. She lives in
Seattle and translates poetry of several contemporary Korean women
poets.

 

 

see Ko Un’s bio in additional works and in Author’s page.

The Grand Hotel

Janet McAdams

from the Island of Lost Luggage

 

In those days everything was forbidden.
We traveled anyway, into the heart
of the abandoned countryside to a town
in the mountains, near the lake they now call
Lago Verde. Behind the altar of the dark cathedral,
Simon found the delicate bones of an animal,
crawled in, we imagined, out of the biting
winter wind. At the sound of our voices,
the skeleton collapsed into itself, the way
a house of cards falls when the table is jostled.
Bits of fur rose like fine mist from the animal
we could not identify, and drifted, casual
as the spurs of wild daffodils we blew away
as children, those summers near Anuncio. Sister,
do you remember?
In this first Autumn,
I am writing you in a whirl of leaves. Dark violet
and yellow, they fill me with emptiness.
And I am listening for swallows, who call
to each other just now at twilight.
 
That room with its impossibly high ceilings!
We talked then of how people once lived
and held each other in the musty bed, beneath two
names carved on the mahogany headboard.
I thought: I will never forget these names
and have. How little, Anna, we remember of what
we once knew. We are blessed to forget

unlike Luria’s poor patient “S,” the man
who remembered everything, and in no particular order.
He swam each day through a thick fog of trivia
and history: the yellow toothbrush his aunt
kept at the summerhouse, formulae for colloidal
suspensions, the weight in grams of the Faberge egg
lost when they took the Imperial Family to Tsarkoe Seloe.

What I remember is this: Simon brought almonds
and a tin of cocoa from his pack that cool evening.
We had the hard flat bread of travelers and plums
found in the tainted countryside. We ate them anyway.
They say that in March on that mountain, the butterflies
were so thick you could not walk without crushing them.
I keep this image as if it were memory.

 

 

In the Grand Hotel, we wandered through hallways,
past photographs askew on their wire hangers,
intricate rosettes carved on the overdoors, floors
of polished, hard green stone. We tried to imagine
the people who built this, then poisoned their fishes.
In that poisoned land, we slept and I tell you
I did no dreaming. Anna, will we remember our past
always? Will we ever walk the dream road
of our childhood, lined with wild rose, the scent
of cape jasmine, to waves iridescent with fishes,
fearful only of the wild cries of ravens?

 

 

 
   
 

 

 

Janet McAdams’s  Janet McAdams’ collection The Island of Lost Luggage won the  American Book Award in 2001. Her poems have appeard in TriQuarterly, Columbia, the Women’s Review of Books, the Crab Orchard Review, the North American Review, and other journals. She teaches at Kenyon College.

  

The Grand Hotel overlooked Lago Verde.
Its white and blue sign appeared unchanged,
as if doors might fly open and travelers emerge,
to walk the path around the lake. The bright sun
burned our skin, but it was cold in the stone
hotel. We broke two chairs and built a fire,
warming the room a little.

 

TROLLEY

Marc Carver

 

I look outside the window
and see the shopping trolley
that is sat in the park.
It has been there now
for about two or three weeks
I have lost count
Of how long.
 
I have seen young children being pushed about in it.
But there is no one there today.
The park is empty
and so
is the trolley.
 
The clouds get blacker and the rain gets heavier.
A bird flies over the trolley
And out of view.
 
I change my view
But still
I
Feel the same way.

 

 

Marc Carver has published four books of poetry, worked on a poetry site in New York City and has had two hundred poems published individually. He has performed in America and all around the venues in London and southern England. He resides in the United Kingdom.
  

 

WHEAT

Oriana Ivy 

              for the people of the village of Ponikła 

 

Tassels flow through my hand,
beads of grain roll against
the husk of my palm.
I lean to the lost

 

fire of the weeds:
the blue flame
of cornflowers,
papery mouths of poppies.

 

A rooster’s few
drawn-out notes
journey in the echo.
I stand shoulder-deep

 

in blond light.
Wind holds me,
then lets me go.

 

A farmer halts his horse,
points at me with his whip:
Black hair, strong head.
You will never go crazy.

 

*

 

I am the harvest now.
Sheaf by sheaf,
sky holds me,
then lets me go.

 

 

Oriana Ivy was born in Poland and came to the United States when she was 17. Her poems, essays, book reviews, and translations from modern Polish poetry have been published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Best American Poetry 1992, Nimrod, New Letters, The Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Black Warrior, Wisconsin Review, Prairie Schooner, Spoon River Review, Southern Poetry Review, and many other journals and anthologies. A former journalist and community college instructor, she teaches poetry workshops. She lives in San Diego.

 

 

ASHES AND DIAMONDS

Oriana Ivy

 

                         When our life is ashes, it will not
                         Be ashes through and through –
                         For under the ash will remain
                         A starry diamond.
                                   ~ Cyprian Norwid

 

 

You were born under an unlucky star,
the fake Gypsy said
at the half-price
reading of my palms.
The windowsill was lit
by Jesus with a light bulb heart.
Do you believe in God?
the Gypsy pressed.

Earlier that year, I turned down
three gorgeous young men.
How could I reach the heights
unless I sublimated my libido?

 

But where was it, this new Life in Art?
I was drowning in a maelstrom
of erotic fantasies. In the end
I threw myself at an alcoholic
Vietnam veteran, the comet of his
ponytail the flag of Mr. Wrong.

 

In the quiet of my appeased body,
I could see the oleanders again,
starry scatter of poisonous blossoms.
I could smell the iodine ocean.
You don’t even know what love is,
the Gypsy wailed. But perhaps I did.

 

First thing in job-shattered morning,
I’d reach for a book that slept
with me under the pillow.
That was my real love life;
my youth, between weeping.
My star the color of ash.
Yet underneath that death,
immortal diamond.

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Oriana Ivy – please see author’s full biography in her additional works or on the Author’s Page.

Commands of the Wind

R.T. Sedgwick

 

Come down from your pine-covered hill

through clumps of wild daisies

step along the rocky path,

chill of morning deep inside you,

your own walking keeping you warm

and let the sun as it climbs its own hill

reflect a brightness on the lagoon below,

giving depth to the sea-birds—cormorants

egrets, ducks and herons—look around,

reeds bending in the breeze, soil

giving beneath your feet and remember,

as though you had picked some daisies

and are holding a bouquet of them

over the water’s edge and you see their

reflection along with your own smiling face

and the willingness of your ruffled hair

to obey the commands of the wind

 

 

R. T. Sedgwick is a poet living in Del Mar, CA.  He has attended Harry Griswold’s Pleasures of Poetry workshop for the last nine years, Idyllwild Summer Arts Poetry in 2005 through 2010 and has participated in a Master Poetry Workshop lead by Dr. Sam Hamod in 2007 and 2009. He spent one week in 2006 at the Esalen Institute, Big Sur, CA studying under poets Ellen Bass, Dorianne Laux and Joe Millar. He is currently enrolled in a monthly critique group that meets in Rancho Bernardo, CA. He has four books of poetry, “Forgotten Woods”, “Harmony of a Storm”, “Sand Castles”, and “Circles and Lines” published by sedgwickARTcards, Del Mar, CA, as well as numerous poems published in various anthologies and periodicals.

The Ronald Reagan Memorial Poem

Brandon Cesmat

 

Mr. President, given you medical history
the “Reagan Memorial” anything seemed in poor taste to me.
But after seeing your spirit float proudly along your freeways,
through so many schools and over your own aircraft carrier,
the jets taking off and disappearing like many facts,
I now bow to peer pressure and offer this memorial poem.
 
I saw your funeral inside the National Cathedral,
          the camera at a bird’s-eye angle
          the same as God must’ve had:
          ring of mourners around your casket,
          mise-en-scène as if by Busby Berkeley,
          the way you would’ve wanted it.
Your coffin sat to the bottom of the encircling crowd, so
your funeral looked like The Smiley Face gone serious and blind.
 
How appropriate, I thought, not the blindness,
but the respectful space around your coffin,
for it was there the ghosts began to drift:
the Iranians whom Iraq gassed with military aid
you initiated over Amnesty International’s cries. Listen,
we can still hear them weeping for Kurds, Kuwaitis and,
of course, our own.
How good of you to sit up in the casket and salute.
 
Then came the Nicaraguenses, some carrying
their diaphanous limbs lopped off by your contras.
In grace, they piled eyes, ears, breasts,
genitalia and tongues into your coffin.
 
The Salvadoreños wearing neutralized expressions
followed the Afghanis whom your freedom fighters liberated
from life and any happy pursuit not
allowed by a literal reading of the Koran.
 
Finally, the Guatamaltecos crowded
comfortably around your coffin;
they’d been practicing in mass graves at least
since you restored military aid in ‘81.
                                                         
Did you recognize the ghost of Bishop Juan Gerardi?
You were deep in the delusions of Alzheimer’s in ‘98 when
a graduate of Fort Benning’s School of the Americas
bludgeoned Bishop Gerardi for counting Guatemala’s dead.
Genocide plus one.
 
How big of you not to make a fuss when
Gerardi helped you from your coffin and absolved you,
you not repenting and all that.
 
Your coffin loaded with broken bodies, the ghosts
glided beside you riding behind the caisson,
the nation honoring you in death as in life:
remembering nothing but good things:
how you held the picket line at the Warsaw shipyards,
how you stared down the Kremlin guards who took you hostage,
how you freed Tibet and
personally piloted the Dali Lama home on Air Force One.
 
It must have been at that moment of the procession,
you riding backwards yet comfortable in your old boots,
all of us suffering Sympathy Alzheimer’s,
that your mind was healed and
you understood you were on your way to heaven,
to spend eternity with the ghosts flowing beside you,
and that was when you began to cue the horse back
along the trail, so the bullets would revert to dollars,
the ink on the executive order flowing into the pen in your hand.
God bless that horse,
even with you sitting backwards in the saddle like that,
it wanted to obey your cues and turn from the grave,
but, alas, the soldier leading it had other orders.

 

 

Brandon Cesmat has conducted readings throughout The Americas. His books include Driven into the Shade, Light in All Directions and When Pigs Fall in Love. His blog is http://brandoncesmat.blogspot.com/ 

Cesmat currently teaches creative writing at CSU San Marcos and for California Poets in the Schools. He blogs about writer residencies for CPITS at http://cpits.wordpress.com/ 
           

Cesmat’s interdisciplinary work includes performances with the arts ensemble Drought Buoy, collaborating with visual artists at the Escondido Municipal Gallery and California Center for the Arts Museum, a documentary on poetry from the San Diego-Tijuana region titled Cruzando Líneas. He is currently an artist in residence for the San Diego Arts Institute Page-to-Stage program.

 

Happy Godfather’s Day

Brandon Cesmat

 

Mexican vendors prepare me for home
with Tony Montana merchandise.
The way little girls wrap themselves in The Little Mermaid towels
or little boys dream in Transformer pajamas,
adolescent males cover dorm walls with Scarface bedspreads and posters.
Tony, the anti-communist drug lord,
overlooks more pyramids of empty beer cans in U.S. dorms
than all portraits of Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Abe Lincoln combined.
 
“Mi padrino,” says the jallero in front of his curios.
Yes, I pray. Our godfather who art lining the way home to El Norte,
hallowed be thy merchandise.
Thy drugs that run, thy empire come,
in Omaha as in Bogata.
 
I look both ways on this street.
Federales stop traffic for pandillas on the way to playas.
Oh Tijuana, with gangland executions in vacant lots,
Oh Chula Vista, oblivious neighbor where Pontiac sells bullet proof Escalades
Oh the Americas, one continent, so many people.
from TJ to LA hear Don Corleone sing,
 
(To the tune of “God Bless America”)
 
Gangster America, land that I whack
from the Indians with casinos
who think they can buy their country back.
From the mountains, to the prairies, to the ocean front I own,
gangster America the land that takes,
gangster America, makes no mistakes.

 

 

Brandon Cesmat has conducted readings throughout The Americas. His books include Driven into the Shade, Light in All Directions and When Pigs Fall in Love. His blog is http://brandoncesmat.blogspot.com/

Cesmat currently teaches creative writing at CSU San Marcos and for California Poets in the Schools. He blogs about writer residencies for CPITS at http://cpits.wordpress.com/ 
           

Cesmat’s interdisciplinary work includes performances with the arts ensemble Drought Buoy, collaborating with visual artists at the Escondido Municipal Gallery and California Center for the Arts Museum, a documentary on poetry from the San Diego-Tijuana region titled Cruzando Líneas. He is currently an artist in residence for the San Diego Arts Institute Page-to-Stage program.

A Date With the Moon

Lahab Assef Al-Jundi (لهب عاصف الجندي)

 

Last night I had a date with the moon.
I arrived early.
A small knoll by a high perimeter fence
topped with barbed wire.
“Prohibited.  Do Not Enter” sign
in red letters, hung on chain links.
In front of me, Texas Highway 281.
Beyond, airport runways graying
in faded evening light.

I sat waiting on hard thirsty earth.
Patches of spring grasses.
A few drooping wildflowers.
I squinted in the strong breeze
to keep dust out of my eyes.
Images of rebels on the road to Tripoli
seeped into my head.
They were battling a sandstorm
and killer mercenaries.
Fumes from passing traffic
drifted warm into my nostrils.
Tires hissing and growling along.
Oddly sweet.
Calming.
Cries of the wounded in Dara’a and Hama
reverberated.
Teargas-choked gasps.
People screaming:
“Freedom”.

Little by little sky darkened.
Lights shimmered brighter in the haze
of landing jet engines.
My anxious gaze scanned eastward
over runways and fields.
Neighborhoods settling down
for evening’s meal.

Out there
where horizon fades
between heaven and land,
moon warily emerged
bathed in crimson shades.

Boldly climbed.

Set night on fire.

 

 

Lahab Assef Al-Jundi please see author’s biographical information in his additional works, and on the Author’s Page.

Book of Sins (House of Nehesi Publishers) by Palestinian/Israeli poet Nidaa Khoury

Reviews in from South Africa, Israel, Turkey
Book of Sins by Palestinian/Israeli poet Nidaa Khoury published in the Caribbean

 
ST. MARTIN, Caribbean (2011)—Book of Sins by Nidaa Khoury, a leading Palestinian poet in Israel, has been released here by House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), said publisher Lasana M. Sekou.

The new poetry collection is the eighth book by Khoury but her first full English translation with the full Arabic and Hebrew texts in the same book, said Sekou.Nidaa Khoury is “One of the major exponents of modernist Arab women writing,” said Israeli professor Yair Huri.In Book of Sins, Khoury’s poetry “is fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when many of us feel unreal and often spiritually hollow,” said Huri.Khoury’s poems “are burning off the pages—with a rhythm embedded in fury and a beauty embedded in the ancient,” said the South African novelist Antjie Krog.Betsy Rosenberg translated what Huri calls “The exquisite purity of Khoury’s style” in Book of Sins from the original Arabic into English and Hebrew.

With Book of Sins HNP is further introducing the Middle Eastern poet to the Caribbean and the Americas www.Amazon.com, said Sekou.
This is HNP’s third multilingual poetry book in less than one year. The press, based on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean, has published literary giants such as George Lamming, Kamau Brathwaite, Amiri Baraka, Chiqui Vicioso, and Shake Keane.
 

Nidaa Khoury was born in the Galilee village of Fassuta in 1959. Her books include The Barefoot River, The Prettiest of Gods Cry, and The Bitter Crown. The latter was censored in Jordan. Her previous titles were published in Israel, Lebanon, and Egypt.

 

According to the Turkish author Karin Karakaşlı, Book of Sins is “Written in water and ink, in between the shed blood. Nidaa Khoury’s poems take us to the bosom of an ancient woman… an archetype revived.”Khoury is studied in Israeli universities and widely reviewed by the Arab press. She is the founder of the Association of Survival, an NGO for minorities in Israel.

The poet has participated in over 30 international conferences such as the Conference of Arab Poets (Amsterdam), the Conference of Human Rights and Solidarity with the Third World (Paris), Poetry Africa, the Poetry Festival of Jordan, the International Poetry Festival of Medellin, the St. Martin Book Fair, and the Napoli Conference on Human Rights.Khoury, a senior lecturer at Ben-Gurion University, is the subject of the recent award-winning film, Nidaa Through Silence. Sarab for Dance is also producing Khoury’s poem “Portal to the Orient,” which is in Book of Sins, for performance in Palestine.
 

Book of Sins is available at www.Amazon.com, www.spdbooks.org, and www.houseofnehesipublish.com. Ask for this new title at your favorite bookstore.

 

 

Nidaa Khoury, a major exponent of modernist Arab women writing.

The Scented Whiffs of Jasmine/ 확 퍼지는 자스민 향기

Ines Abassi

Translation by Olfa Drid

 

The texture of the cloak of night,
An azure dawn full of the breath of the sea.
And the scent of the white lilies of departure
Fills the heart, fills the soul,
Fills the city, heavily armed with daggers
Made of the silver of days.
Memories:
Memories stretch over time 
Upon each fall
From the edge of waiting.
Memories shimmer in the womb of night:
Agony,
A gasp like an ornament on your blue shirt.
Memories:
Twinkle on the eyelashes of dawn
Like a rhymed dream.
Memories, the strings of the spirit’s harp,
Right in the middle of a dream.
The night lifts the veil off its face,
Expectant and fertile,
Forming in the bowels of time
Ever since the step met its mate
In the wilds of chance;
Ever since the dance of wolves
Failed to stop in your blood
Scorched by mine;
Ever since the soul touched its soul
In the body of a poem,
And the rose of longing did not heal.
Searing:
It is the white extent
Embracing the flicker of two lights,
And the wafting breath of drifting jasmine
Under the windows of the night.
It is the heart courting the heart,
A stretch of memories,
And the same music of longing
Dancing with the letters of the alphabet,
Letters curiously leaping
From all corners of language.
The night is suffused
With the sound of violins,
Summing up the passion of yearnings
And the softness of light.
And…the heart,
Heaving with the blood of longing,
Has turned into a sea shell,
Concealing the buzz of language
And the conceit of words.
The heart, your heart,
A garden of longing shaded by orange blossoms
And the jasmine of joy.
The heart, your heart, is my pergola,
And your soul a post to which are tethered
The horses of the night;
The whispers of the timid dawn,
The sound of waves and the cries of gulls.
…..

From the pinnacle of the soul,
And passion,
I excised the fuzz of words from my speech
And swept the dust off these times.

퍼지는 자스민 향기

밤이 걸친 외투의 질감,

바다 숨결 가득한 푸른 새벽.

이별의 흰 백합 향기가

가슴을 채우고, 영혼을 채우고

낮의 은으로 만든 단검으로 중무장한

도시를 채운다.

추억들,

기다림의 모서리에서

하나씩 떨어질 때마다

추억은 시간 위에 펼쳐진다.

추억은 밤의 자궁에서 가물거린다.

고뇌,

너의 푸른 셔츠 위에 장식 같은 숨막힘.

추억들은

압운(押韻)된 꿈처럼

새벽의 눈썹에서 반짝거린다.

추억들, 꿈의 한 복판에서 울리는

영혼이라는 하프의 현들.

시간의 내장에서 형성되는

기대에 차 있고 비옥한

밤이 얼굴에서 베일을 들어 올린다,

우연의 황야에서

그 발걸음이 짝을 만난 이래 줄곧,

늑대들의 춤이

내 피로 태워져버린

당신의 피에 멈출 수 없었던 이래 줄곧,

시라는 몸에서

영혼이 그것의 영혼을 만지고

열망의 장미가 치료되지 않은 이래 줄곧.

불태움,

그것은 깜빡이는 두 빛을 품는

하얀 넓이이며

밤의 창문 아래

떠도는 자스민의 살랑거리는 숨결이다.

그것은 마음을 구애하는 마음,

추억의 확장이며

언어의 구석구석에서

기이하게 도약하는 글자들,

그 알파벳의 글자로 춤추는

열망의 음악이다.

빛의 부드러움과

연모의 열정을 요약하는

바이올린 소리로

밤은 가득하다.

그리고 … 그리움의 피로 울렁거리는

마음은

언어의 소란스러움과

말의 기상(奇想)을 숨기고

바다 조개껍질로 변했다.

그 마음, 당신의 마음이 나의 정자

그리고 당신의 영혼은 밤의 말(馬)들이

매여 있는 기둥.

소심한 새벽의 속삭임,

파도와 갈매기의 울음소리.

……

열정과

영혼의 정점에서

나는 내 말에서 말의 흐릿함을 잘라내고

이 시대의 먼지를 닦아냈다.

 

 

Ines Abassi

Tunisian poet and writer Ines Abassi was born in 1982. She is also working as a journalist in UAE. In 2004, her poetry collection Secrets of the Wind was published in Tunisia., which won the best selection of poetry same year. In 2007, Archive of Blind was published in Egypt, which won the CREDIF prize for the year 2007-2008. This prize was awarded by the Tunisian Ministry of Woman’s Centre for Search, Study, Documentation and Information on Woman. She has participated in numerous literary activities: first Arab Youth Literature Festival in Oman, Literature Festival in Jordan, Asian African Literature Festival in Jeonjou, Korea. Abassi has spent 6 months in Seoul joining in the Korea Literature Translation Institute’s residence program.  And she participated in SIWF 2010 (Seoul Internationnal Writing Festival).

Based on her residency experiences, she wrote a narrative book, Tales of Korean Shahrazad. This book, which was published in Lebanon, talks about Korean society, culture, history and habitudes. Currently, she publishes her poetry, writings and translations through a number of newspapers, magazines and websites including al etihad (UAE), al arab (London), al sahafa, alhayat athatkafia (Tunisia), al watan (Jordan), kitabat mouasira (Lebanon) and dubai al thaqafia (UAE).

 

 

 

 

Gone Missing

Kristen Scott

 

And, what is happiness,

if not a fleeting moment

touch

rub

flush of cheek

brush across mouth

 

what is it,

if not a moment

that one two-minute

dance that lasts  lifetimes

 

a strong whispered, “I love you baby,”

soft moans in the darkness of bed

 

 

when does it go missing?

making your whole- wide- world

as you know it change,

so swift as a twirling leaf

dwindling, sinking, to ground

once devoted to limb and bud,

blown off

by unexpected winds, blasts,  gale forces

the head spinning, snaps    back     stops.

                feet come downhill    touching ground

stranded   in    everyday

 

a minute

 

splitting seconds of time

 

 

Kristen Scott has her MA in Literature from National University in La Jolla, California and will graduate with her MFA in Creative Writing in fall 2011. She has published in several anthologies, newspapers, and online journals. She resides in Princeton, NJ.

OJAS DE MIEL/HONEY EYES

CV Will with Adolpho Vasquez

 

OJAS DE MIEL

La luz en la sombra
de mis noche
Su ojas fuego ambar
Recuerdo quemado
con su luz in mi memoria
Aun en noches sin luna.

 

HONEY EYES

Light in my night’s shadow
your eyes burn amber
in memory
even on moonless nights.

 

 

C. V. Will is transplanted native of the Midwest who returned to creative writing pursuits after years of writing formal reports.  Will’s poetry has appeared on-line in Today’s Alternative News, The Muse Apprentice and …. and has been published in a number of anthologies.  Will was a founding member of several writers organizations in the San Diego area and enjoys an active association with the Maui Live Poets Society.  CV practices writing and tai chi when and where able.  Recent poems were written in the International Terminal at LAX circa 3 AM.  A favorite poem was written in a bar in Ensenada, MX with one of the waiters who assisted in writing the Spanish translation of the poem as CV and a friend drank far too many margaritas.

 

Of Looking Glasses

Kristen Scott

 

I would drink the drink of strychnine

to push the hurt of you out of my mind

 

I never knew that look before

I never knew   orange

blossoms departed from your eyes

 

oh, to look at me in such venomous

strikes  –

I never thought to see that through

the roses of mine

 

could Shakespeare have written

such a fantastical ending

to a wide-eyed passion?

 

ah, the glorious dying from love

the fables and witchery of wonder

secret potions, eyes of newt, and

fairy dust.

 

but, alas, our love wasn’t born through the

looking glass – I just never knew

 

until now.

 

 

Kristen Scott- see author’s bio in additional works and on author’s page.

ABSURDITIES IN THE HOUSE OF THE DYING

CV Will

 

 I
Good intentions abound
in the house of the dying
at times they could kill

II
The living are too involved
in life to understand dying
until it is too late

III
Visitor talk to each other
never saying a word
to the people living in the house

IV
How is your husband?
He is dying.
But how is he?

 

 

CV Willplease see author’s full bio in additional works and on the Author’s page.

 

 

 

New Moon

CV Will

 

Tonight is a black well we toss our coins in
with wishes for quiet passage
our hearts beat back terrible fear

We remember days in the sun, garden plans,
our jacaranda journeys for your sketches
the long drives in spring, the seeds planted

The stars shine bright without the moon
we still follow the mysteries we live
clocks tick away and echo through the dark

The wind ruffles by outside, it cannot move
the stars or the absent moon, but it moves us
unseen toward some unknown place where
we must go–a place where no shadows are made

We are so tired in our different ways
but are so very much the same in our needs
to release to sleep–to dream deep into the well of this night.

 

 

C. V. Will is transplanted native of the Midwest who returned to creative writing pursuits after years of writing formal reports.  Will’s poetry has appeared on-line in Today’s Alternative News, The Muse Apprentice and has been published in a number of anthologies.  Will was a founding member of several writers organizations in the San Diego area and enjoys an active association with the Maui Live Poets Society.  CV practices writing and tai chi when and where able. 

THE DREAM

C V Will

 

I wake
this dream
I dreamed before

I am an angry
child who
leaves the house
of childhood
to walk or to run
around in the night

But in the dream
it is daylight
and my father
is on a ladder
reaching for the head
of a black snake

I try to warn him
it is a cobra
He ignores me
or does not hear
the warning

This is the third
time I’ve dreamed
the dream I think

In life my father
is dying
so I know
this dream is about
transformation

I see my father
struggling with the black
snake, his balance
on the ladder precarious
between heaven and earth

He does not hear me
and cannot see me wake
He is in the dream of dying

I am awake in night rain
thousands of miles
and years from home
where I understand
the dream

I taste the change
in the wind, I
hear the cadence
of rain on the roof

I am still
angry at
old abandoning
he left me alone
near the iris beds
in the side yard

Awake I write in the dark
and know change
is coming and I am
too old to run away now

I don’t think I was the one
who ran away from home

 

 

C. V. Will is transplanted native of the Midwest who returned to creative writing pursuits after years of writing formal reports.  Will’s poetry has appeared on-line in Today’s Alternative News, The Muse Apprentice and …. has been published in a number of anthologies.  Will was a founding member of several writers organizations in the San Diego area and enjoys an active association with the Maui Live Poets Society.  CV practices writing and tai chi when and where able.  Recent poems were written in the International Terminal at LAX circa 3 AM.  A favorite poem was written in a bar in Ensenada, MX with one of the waiters who assisted in writing the Spanish translation of the poem as CV and a friend drank far too many margaritas.

HOLLYHOCKS

Kate Harding

 

Three days after my mother died,
her hollyhocks tumbled down
under their own weight. My father had
disappeared. I had eaten the last
of her meatloaf wrapped in wax paper.

She had waved me out of her kitchen.
“No need to learn to cook. You’ll be
a professor.” She ground her own meat,
the red strings wriggling like worms.

Though I only had my learner’s permit
I drove her old Plymouth to the store.

There were whole aisles in Safeway she
never went down. That first day I bought
Bird’s Eye frozen broccoli and macaroni
and cheese.

The mothers of my friends gossiped about me,
told their daughters, “Stay away from her.
Who knows what’s going on in that house?
Parties. Boys.”

There were no parties. No boys. Nights,
I was so lonesome I would call the Time
and a lady would say it is now three oh three.
I made JELLO and Swanson’s turkey dinners.

I asked the gym teacher, perky Miss Butler,
a woman whom a month before I would never
have talked to, about salads. Miss Butler coached

the  Sergeantnettes,  a girls’ marching drill team.
She told me she had polio as a child. I tucked
that away. People could survive all sorts of things.
She said, “Wash the lettuce first.”

I fried hamburger meat, flames jumping
wildly under the iron skillet. A month later,
my father reappeared, moved us to a dingy
apartment across town.

Nights, I would sit in my mother’s car.
in front of our old house. The new owner,
a gardener, staked my mother’s hollyhocks.
I couldn’t see the pale pink, ruby, and yellow
flowers in the dark. But I knew they were there.

 

 

Kate Harding is a Pushcart Prize nominee in both fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Contemporary World Literature: Journal for the Arts, Poetry International,  Perigee, Today’s Alternative News  and the San Diego Poetry Annual. New work will be forthcoming in The Hummingbird Review.
 

Primal Touch

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

My newborn’s skin was so satiny to the touch
I worried my hangnails would catch and rip her.
I bent my face to her downy head, touching my lips
to the soft curve of her skull, bones soft
and unmolded, hair wispy and damp,  the odor of birth
still emanating from her as if from a new-baked loaf,
musty and sweet. I could have spent forever
with my lips pressed to her infant flesh, but hunger
had other agendas. Her wail pierced my body,
sent electric cramps through my still-open womb,
milk sparking through my nipple, as her toothless gums
clamped down and pulled, tugging milk fiercely
from my deepest core, flooding us both with the essence
of life. It’s the primal touch we don’t remember
that shapes us.  The first time my daughter opens herself
to another’s caress, will her body recall that first flooding of love,
light touch of lips and hands,  life-force expanding in a milky rush
as I drew her body to my body and gave suck?

 

 

please see author’s full bio in additional works and in the Author’s Page.

Finding Your Group

Lisa Suhair Majaj

 

My daughter, proud spiny-pet owner
votes for a prickle of hedgehogs.
My husband, the spear-gun fisherman,
stands firm for a shiver of sharks.
My sister, cat lover, chimes in for
a chine of polecats, while my mother-in-law,
an inveterate chef, dithers between  a bouquet
of pheasants and a wrack of rabbits.
Me, I’ll settle for a storytelling of ravens –
like the ones over there, perched on the carob tree branch
that leans over the cliff (wrinkled sea
far below), tossing tales between them
like popcorn, weaving strands of story
into their nests–bright bits of ribbon and floss
to amuse the chicks. I watch them
 preen their raven-black feathers and strut:
tellers of tall tales, lovers of small
shiny objects, birds of a feather together.
I love how they embellish the plot, enjoy the side-bars,
and, when they reach the end,  caw raucously,
laughing at their own bad jokes.

 

 

Lisa Suhair Majaj is the author of Geographies of Light, winner of the Del Sol Press Poetry Prize. Her poems and essays have appeared in over fifty journals and anthologies worldwide. She is also co-editor of three collections of critical essays: Going Global: The Transnational Reception of Third World Women Writers; Intersections: Gender, Nation and Community in Arab Women’s Novels, and Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist. She lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.

And Now, Beirut

Marian Haddad
 
Summer 2006

 

 

City of beauty, or so I have heard.
I have only seen pictures of your cliffs

jetting out high above the ocean. 
Today, in the morning, they bombed

your port.  We knew this would happen.
Jounieh, Tyre, now you.  People kept

asking, “Have they bombed
Beirut?”  So afraid all your city

has rebuilt, all that has been done
to bring you back, to raise you up,

demolished, again.  Oh, Beirut,
how many sing of you?  Fairouz loved you,

and she knew, in her lyrics, wars
divide children of one country.

Ooh uza nihnah’t firakknah,
Bee jum’arna hubbek.  And if

we are parted, our love for you
will unite us.  Yesterday, I saw a woman,

in Lebanon, on TV, an American journalist asking,
“Are you going to evacuate?”  She said,

“I will not leave.  I will die here.” 
Habbee min tarrabekk bee iknoz i’dinee.  

Ibhibbek ya Libna’n
Ya, watanee.  One granule of your sand

will hold up the world.  I love you, oh
Lebanon, “place of my birth,”

so many Lebanese cry, “I’m afraid
for my children!” another woman screamed,

and her, perhaps my age, holding a toddler
in one arm, the hand of her small daughter

in the other,  “Yes, we have to leave,
for my children’s safety.  We do not know

where we are going, but we must go. 
We hope to come back, soon!”  Her wish,

her prayer.  Soon.  Last time you were hit,
ya Libna’n, 1982, it lasted fifteen years, or more.

“Soon,” she said.  I pray with her,
“Soon.” I wonder where she is now,

and if she got there, safely.

 

 

PHOTOGRAPH BY J SCOTT SCHRAEDER

Marian HaddadMFA is a Pushcart-nominated poet, writer, manuscript and publishing consultant, private writing mentor, visiting writer, lecturer and creative workshop instructor.  Her collection of poems, Wildflower. Stone., (Pecan Grove Press, 2011), is the press’s first hardback. Yusef Komunyakaa states that this collection, “…celebrates the observable mysteries of daily existence … these poems have dropped all disguises, and each rides the pure joy of music.  There are superb leaps and silences that deftly highlight the monumental in simple things.” 

Haddad’s chapbook, Saturn Falling Down, was published in (2003). Her full-length collection, Somewhere between Mexico and a River Called Home (Pecan Grove Press, 2004) approaches its fifth printing. Her poems, essays, reviews, and articles have been published in various literary journals and anthologies within the United States and Belgium and have been invited for publication in the Middle East. 

Haddad has taught creative writing at Our Lady of the Lake and Northwest Vista College, and International Literature and American Literature at St. Mary’s University.  Her works in progress include a collection of essays about growing up Arab American in a Mexican American border town.  She writes a blog for the San Antonio Express News.  

 

 

 

 

My Father’s Garden

Marian Haddad

 

is full of weeds now –
I am okay with that – as a matter of fact –
I am stunned by their grace – their appearance since
May – I came to say Sabah il khayr –
 

to kiss the forehead of a father
one late Sunday morning – and they
took me
by surprise – and me gasping . . .
deep –  almost smiling . . . standing there,
by the bay
window bringing in
droves of light . . .
 

There they were –
what we call weeds –
but they were florid and high
in their stance . . . and the richest,
green – little yellow buds peeking
their heads . . . between what seemed
fields of gathering
fern . . . I was amazed
at the fecundity of forms . . .
of grass
of bright yellow
happenings. Our field
was near-covered
with them.
 

My father walked in to see
what all my great commotion
was about – he smiled, shyly,
almost ashamed . . . and said,
 

Badnah nik’lah-on –
“We need to pull them out.”
 

The man he was would never have
allowed such rampant things –
But I said, “No, Baba!”  “These
are beautiful.”  He looked and tried to see,
and I think he may have agreed
after the looking –
 

Two, maybe three feet of feathery
growth – and what seems a field
of small wild flowers
at the tips of stems . . . bright –
the color of sun –
and just enough space
between them
for wind to play
and breezes to sway
stems  . . . perhaps
 

his field has been
so dry for so long –
that they remind me
of his kept garden
that curled around our house
 

The grass was always there
and watered – as if we
expected it to be –
us running
through our busy days –
I assume we never thought
of how it stayed – Father
watering, placing the hose,
curled like a gardensnake
among grass – perhaps
that is why our lawn
was never as evenly colored
as the neighbors’ yards –
 

he would shift – after so long,
the placement of the coiled hose
to dryer spots, rotate,
every so often, the fielding
of water –
 

and so, naturally,
there were some yellow
spots and tufts of grass
that water
did not reach.  But there was always
 

grass . . . and the bricks and rocks
he’d use to build low circles around the trees
he’d plant – we saw them bud and grow –
yield his proud fruit – always asking the guests
if they’d like to see
the garden,
explaining proudly,
pointing each one out . . . and the naming began:
 

–          apricot, fig, plum

–          mish-mosh, teen, khokhh
 

and the grapevines that crawled
along the stone
fence – so high, grapeleaves covered
the wall – and the grapes, hanging heavy
in their descending bodies
along the periphery
of our place –
 

and then
the daly  – the place he built
with chicken-wire and wood –
holding the vines up –
 

training them
to grow
this way . . . or that . . .
 

it was what others might call
a coop . . . we’d enter this large
sub-garden through a fence that unlatched –
chicken-wire high above us
and all around
to keep
the birds out  – to protect
the grapes – not pecked at

Father would walk slowly
amid the daly, raise his arms high up
to pick the pickable ones –
 

And I’d follow him
and put them in
a deep, long tray
until it was full –

arms heavy with fruit
and overflowing . . .
 

Picking grapes
in my father’s proud yard.

 

* first published on Rawi Website, and appears in the latest collection of Marian Haddad’s, WILDFLOWER. STONE. (Pecan Grove Press 2011) . . . to order an autographed copy, contact Marian Haddad at haddadmarian@aol.com

 

for author’s complete bio please see additional works in the SPRING ISSUE.  Haddad’s full bio may also be viewed on her “Author’s Page.”

For Naomi Shihab Nye

Marian Haddad

Granddaughter
of Sitti Khadra,
I did not know you
until I picked
your book off a shelf
over fifteen years ago. 
 

It’s there I first read
about your yellow glove,
a red suitcase, your Uncle
Mohammad and the broom-
maker in Palestine,
the way you made it seem
he was a master
of this one lost art,

 

how he woke up
and began to weave
the seam around the straw,
stitched it into place,
taking such care,
as if it were something
his own wife would wear.
 

The way I saw your name
and it rang clear,
 something in it meant
you were quite like me. 
 

A name—how we relate
to people from our lands,
though I still
have mine, but you
do not
have yours. 
Syria is still
on the map,
and last month
it resonated loud
and clear, your Palestine
has been
erased
from the map
on my friend’s
wall.
 

For some reason, it was then,
I began to study
where every country lay,
and something in me sought
the places of my race,
 

and I began to see
the space between
Syria and Lebanon,
and how it was O.K.—
the separate countries
that they made,
allowed the other
to exist;

 

 I looked for Jordan,
Yemen, The United
Arab Emirates. 
Morocco and El Jazayer,
Berber countries first,
how they embraced
the same language
our grandfathers
spoke, but they, still
able to keep
their own identities.

 

I saw Israel
and thought,
Our neighbors, a part of us,
our space.  A cup of sugar please.
 

And for a moment I forgot
a strange happening.  I began to look
and look for one
country
I once had to name
on an old map.
 

My eye began to scan
the crevices in-between,
and a panic began
to stir somehow
inside the brain.

 

Unable to find
this one lost patch
of land, what color
was it then?
 

And the next second
it came to me.  The way
it’s been erased.

 

Oh, yes.  I cannot even place
my finger atop
it’s geographical brow,
the hump it might have made
under a braille hand
on the raised surface
of a sky blue globe.
 

It then made strange sense
to me, why I couldn’t find it
between it’s cluster
of neighboring spots.
 

I was appalled to think
someone had buried it
while I wasn’t looking
straight, and that I didn’t go
to this one funeral
they must have had
somewhere
to mourn their dead.

 

We hear so often
on the news, a story
somehow far away,
and we
forget to place
this one reality
in our own
dark book,

 

until something wakes us
into shock, and me pointing
my fleshy finger
on a land I once knew
existed there, cancelled
out.  What about Sandy,
and Paul, my brother’s friend,
his father’s father came
from there, her grandfather left it
for L.A., and now,
there is no finding it
again.  The place from which
they stemmed
has blown up, city
of smoke, and the houses
they once villaged in,
 

playing the nigh and the durbuk,
villages where weddings took,
and church bells rang,
or the call to prayer
in a mosque,
 

the children
playing with sticks
in thin alleys
between houses,
the women
baking the sej
and picking mint
out of
their own
small yards.

 

* first published in SCHERHERAZADE’S LEGACY, Ed. Susan Muaddi Darraj 
and RADIO TAHRIR via Barbara Nimri Aziz.

 

Marian Haddad, MFA is a Pushcart-nominated poet, writer, manuscript and publishing consultant, private writing mentor, visiting writer, lecturer and creative workshop instructor.  Her collection of poems, Wildflower. Stone., (Pecan Grove Press, 2011), is the press’s first hardback. Yusef Komunyakaa states that this collection, “…celebrates the observable mysteries of daily existence … these poems have dropped all disguises, and each rides the pure joy of music.  There are superb leaps and silences that deftly highlight the monumental in simple things.” 

Haddad’s chapbook, Saturn Falling Down, was published in (2003). Her full-length collection, Somewhere between Mexico and a River Called Home (Pecan Grove Press, 2004) approaches its fifth printing. Her poems, essays, reviews, and articles have been published in various literary journals and anthologies within the United States and Belgium and have been invited for publication in the Middle East. 

Haddad has taught creative writing at Our Lady of the Lake and Northwest Vista College, and International Literature and American Literature at St. Mary’s University.  Her works in progress include a collection of essays about growing up Arab American in a Mexican American border town.  She writes a blog for the San Antonio Express News

 

 

The Life of Poetry

David Kherdian

 

Any biography must be divided into two parts; the years prior to 16, which are unconscious, or consciousness opening, and the years after 16, which are invented. We believe what we say, especially when we write what we claim is the truth. Aside from writing, what I have done since that age of 16 is irrelevant, no matter how damaging it may have been, and supposedly real on that account. It is my early  life that concerns me, but it is very nearly impossible to talk about this life except perhaps as art, because that is the dimension it most nearly approximates. What we know as growing children is instinctive and inseparable from our ecology, because we are controlled then by sun and tides, and our moods are more animal than human. The delicate thread then was not the dichotomy between fantasy and reality, family and solitary wandering, but my own unknowable relation to the sun and plants, and the mysterious upstream movement of fish (that I followed with such rapture and attention as to become fish myself), that determined the flow and current of my own life. This is the world we forfeit when we acquire adulthood, and this is the world of the unconscious that only children and artists know about. And it is as an artist that I am returning to what was once mine by birthright.Therefore, I have no biography worth telling as exterior event, and I will not tell that biography until it becomes the equivalent of and moves parallel to my own created life, which is poetry. I find in my writing that I gain the future by reclaiming and making whole the past. Only poetry can do this for me, because only through poetry can I achieve a working relationship with my unconscious, which gives shapes and forms to periods lived in chaos and ignorance. It takes years to understand an experience and a lifetime to know who we are. Therefore, in this true sense, all of  my writing is autobiographical because my own story, when truly told, becomes everyone’s.

 

 

David Kherdian is the author of 69 books: poetry, novels, biographies, memoirs, anthologies, bibliographies, retellings, translations, and children’s books (many illustrated by his Caldecott award winning wife, Nonny Hogrogian), which include a narrative biography of the Buddha, a retelling of the Asian classic Monkey,10 poetry anthologies, including his major groundbreaking anthology: Settling America: Fourteen Ethnic American Poets; Forgotten Bread: Armenian American Writers of the First Generation. His biography of his mother’s childhood and survival of the Armenian genocide, The Road From Home, was a Newbery Honor book, among other awards and prizes, and was nominated for the American Book Award. Kherdian’s forthcoming book is titled, Gatherings: From the Selected Writings of David Kherdian.

 

 

 

FACTS ABOUT THE MOON

Dorianne Laux

 

The moon is backing away from us
an inch and a half each year.  That means
if you’re like me and were born
around fifty years ago, the moon
was a full six feet closer to the earth.
What’s a person supposed to do?
I feel the gray cloud of consternation
travel across my face.  I begin thinking
about the moon-lit past, how if you go back
far enough you can imagine the breathtaking
hugeness of the moon, prehistoric
solar eclipses when the moon covered the sun
so completely there was no corona, only
a darkness we had no word for. 
And future eclipses will look like this: the moon
a small black pupil in the eye of the sun.
But these are bald facts. 
What bothers me most is that someday
the moon will spiral right out of orbit
and all land-based life will die.
The moon keeps the oceans from swallowing
the shores, keeps the electromagnetic fields
in check at the polar ends of the earth.
And please, don’t tell me
what I already know, that it won’t happen
for a long time.  I don’t care.  I’m afraid
of what will happen to the moon. 
Forget us.  We don’t deserve the moon.
Maybe we once did but not now
after all we’ve done.  These nights
I harbor a secret pity for the moon, rolling
around alone in space without
her milky planet, her only love, a mother
who’s lost a child, a bad child,
a greedy child or maybe a grown boy
who’s murdered and raped, a mother
can’t help it, she loves that boy
anyway, and in spite of herself
she misses him, and if you sit beside her
on the padded hospital bench
outside the door to his room you can’t not
take her hand, listen to her while she
weeps, telling you how sweet he was,
how blue his eyes, and you know she’s only
romanticizing, that she’s conveniently
forgotten the bruises and booze,
the stolen car, the day he ripped
phones from the walls, and you want
to slap her back to sanity, remind her
of the truth: he was a leech, a fuck-up,
a little shit, and you almost do
until she lifts her pale puffy face, her eyes
two craters, and then you can’t help it
either, you know love when you see it,
you can feel it’s lunar strength, its brutal pull. 

 

Dorianne Laux – From her forthcoming book, Facts About the Moon.  Please see author’s complete biographical information in her additional works for SPRING, 2011 and, on the Author’s Page. 

 

 

THE DOWNTOWN OASIS

Helene Pilibosian

 

My disbelief tunneled in the ground
like a found fixture
as an oasis peered at me.
Yet my surroundings bloomed green,
and buildings grew tall as infinite hats.
I tried not to ask why.
 
The only dryness there paid
the debt of occasional doubt
to the tax officers.
The world indeed alternated
between light and dark
in mood and reason.
 
Let not the mirage
of dresses of satin
on the stun gun of models
become only a deception.
The glow has proved necessary
to our civilized stance
 
where naturalists
see a pond for egrets,
not wanting to note absence,
where financiers
finalize trade agreements
across the international board,
 
where nutritionists
give people vitamins
to arrange sustenance.
This world consists
of continents in the blend
of constant community.
 

 

Helene Pilibosian

Helene Pilibosian’s poetry has appeared in such magazines as The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Louisiana Literature, The Hollins Critic, North American Review, Seattle Review, Ellipsis, Weber: The Contemporary West, Poetry Salzburg Review, Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies as well as many anthologies. She has published the books Carvings from an Heirloom: Oral History Poems, the Writer’s Digest award-winning At Quarter Past Reality: New and Selected Poems and History’s Twists: The Armenians (honorable mention). Helene’s early work has been cited in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature.  She holds a degree in humanities from Harvard University. She is the current head of Ohan Press, a private bilingual micropress.

THE DOG DAYS

Helene Pilibosian

The dog days of summer
ushered the ride of a request
for the wild roller coaster
with shouts blurring features
and fingers sprawling on sprawl.
It was what we had left.
 
We threw alphabets to the stars
still hidden by daylight.
It was ABC for me
and ayp, pen, kim for you,
the English-Armenian combination
that had made us a team.
 
They explained water beliefs:
tears of pond,
incentive of rivers,
ocean trips with tips for carriers.
I asked which ocean you liked best,
including those at the equatorial belt.
 
You answered the one
without any mosquito bites,
though mosquitoes left you alone
after the initial malaria.
Yet the cinnamon spice
and lemonade favored our taste.
 
Or perhaps the strength
of coffee or pastis encouraged
the Lebanese or the French,
the machinations of Italian ice,
the popular ballads of the time
or time itself.
 
Amazement stitched us like rags,
bumping against so many spots
on the Mediterranean coast.
We were stubborn wood
like the mahogany of our tables
because we were not alone.
 

 

Helene Pilibosian’s poetry has appeared in such magazines as The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Louisiana Literature, The Hollins Critic, North American Review, Seattle Review, Ellipsis, Weber: The Contemporary West, Poetry Salzburg Review, Journal of the Society for Armenian Studies as well as many anthologies. She has published the books Carvings from an Heirloom: Oral History Poems, the Writer’s Digest award-winning At Quarter Past Reality: New and Selected Poems and History’s Twists: The Armenians (honorable mention). Helene’s early work has been cited in the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic American Literature.  She holds a degree in humanities from Harvard University. She is the current head of Ohan Press, a private bilingual micropress.

DREAM: THE CITY: Bagdad, 2008

Veronica Golos


Who am I that I sit here at this door?
In my dream, there is a long alley, a place I learn Want.

The city is a mirror. Inside my reflection, old men are on fire—
Flaming like red kaffiyahs.

Litter ignites into funeral flares; the bread of the dead is baking.
Above the moans of children, soldiers warm their hands.

Avenues widen into downpour, detours unfold, flower into cemeteries.
Into this narrow place, two rivers clash.

Am I the one covered with brine, smelling of tides?
Or am I the stone, lifted like a flag?

 


Veronica Golos

Veronica Golos won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize (Story Line Press) for A Bell Buried Deep. In her newest book, Vocabulary of Silence, (Red Hen Press, Feb. 2010) are powerfully wrought poems that witness and respond to the continued wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza—a mirror in which we see and hear the names of war’s dead, their ghosts, and ourselves. Most recently, her poems have been or about to be published in Drunken Boat, Pedestal, Pemmican, Press 1, Bridges, Squaw Valley Review, Meridians, and other presses.


Deadline

Eve Lyons

 

It is spring

everyone is breeding:

Two co-workers,

the hawks in a building

on Fresh Pond Highway,

the geese in the Chestnut Hill reservoir,

and Phoebe, the hummingbird in California

everyone’s watching on the internet.

It seems everyone is breeding

except me. 

When I was twelve

I played M.A.S.H.

tried to predict

the essential things in life:

Who I’d marry,

what kind of car I’d own,

what kind of house I’d live in,

where I’d live,

how many children I’d have.

I remember being so sure

I’d have kids

by the time I was twenty-eight,

I remember thinking twenty-eight

seemed so far away

so very old.

I’m nine years past

my expiration date

and counting.

 

 

Photo by J.L. WOODWARD

Eve Lyons is a poet, fiction writer, and playwright who is living in Boston, MA. She has published in Fireweed,  Labyrinth,  Concho River Review, Barbaric Yawp, Women’s Words,  Woven, Sapphic Ink, Texas Observer, Houston Literary Review, Word Riot, protestpoems, and two different anthologies.  

Drifting Off, East North East

Beau Boudreaux

 

I’m the one
inside the crowded bistro

reading alone
with an untouched martini

a young woman in floral dress
pedals by

and there’s a boy cross-legged
at the trolley stop fumbling papers

why close the sculpture garden at night…
I’ve never been to Boston

Baltimore or Philly—
the window, people sip
 

outside the coffeeshop
form a patio

may be too much
with myself

like a cheap shot
of tequila after many rounds with friends

is not last year, but a decade
when I sat for the first time

through a matinee
sunshine cooking car seats

a shock sitting into
like biting a lemon

  

 

 

Beau Boudreaux

Beau Boudreaux is a poet and professor in Continuing Studies at Tulane University in New Orleans.  His poems have recently appeared in Antioch Review, Cream City Review, and Margie