Monday, April 24, 2017

This Might Not Make Sense Now, But Don’t Worry, It Will

By Noah Michelson

For Paolo Fanoli 

When I ask Paolo how to draw the line between
not wanting to live anymore and wanting to die,
all he’ll quietly commit to is “that isn’t funny.”

I’m worried I worry him.

He says if I ever left him he would keep my body
under his bed and drag it out once a day to remember me,
prop up the less and less of me that’s left of me
and remind me of the world I left behind me — just look!
Some people can wake up every morning, open their
eyes and recognize something beautiful, even if it’s
just the sun slobbering across the bedroom floor with its
hot black tongue,

so, why can’t you?

He’s right, of course, but when I was 14, nothing was
more beautiful than the thought of the heavy gray
garage door guarding the far edge of my family’s driveway
and how sweetly, how surely it could kiss my head
apart from the rest of my body if only I asked it sweetly
enough.

Things were different then —

I still was afraid to ask for what I wanted then and I
spent my lunch hours holed up in the biology lab hiding
from the other boys, sobbing into my sandwich, another
pickled frog prince bobbing in his embalming fluid, one more

never-born piglet day-drunk on the useless daydream of
one day living someone else’s life on the other side of the glass
but we both know how that story ends.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Self-Help for Refugees

By Li-Young Lee

If your name suggests a country where bells
might have been used for entertainment

or to announce the entrances and exits of the seasons
or the birthdays of gods and demons,

it's probably best to dress in plain clothes
when you arrive in the United States,
and try not to talk too loud.

If you happen to have watched armed men
beat and drag your father
out the front door of your house
and into the back of an idling truck

before your mother jerked you from the threshold
and buried your face in her skirt folds,
try not to judge your mother too harshly.

Don't ask her what she thought she was doing
turning a child's eyes
away from history
and toward that place all human aching starts.

And if you meet someone
in your adopted country,
and think you see in the other's face
an open sky, some promise of a new beginning,
it probably means you're standing too far.

Or if you think you read in the other, as in a book
whose first and last pages are missing,
the story of your own birthplace,
a country twice erased,
once by fire, once by forgetfulness,
it probably means you're standing too close.

In any case, try not to let another carry
the burden of your own nostalgia or hope.

And if you're one of those
whose left side of the face doesn't match
the right, it might be a clue

looking the other way was a habit
your predecessors found useful for survival.
Don't lament not being beautiful.

Get used to seeing while not seeing.
Get busy remembering while forgetting.
Dying to live while not wanting to go on.

Very likely, your ancestors decorated
their bells of every shape and size
with elaborate calendars
and diagrams of distant star systems,
but with no maps for scattered descendants.

And I bet you can't say what language
your father spoke when he shouted to your mother
from the back of the truck, "Let the boy see!"

Maybe it wasn't the language you used at home.
Maybe it was a forbidden language.
Or maybe there was too much screaming
and weeping and the noise of guns in the streets.

It doesn't matter. What matters is this:
The kingdom of heaven is good.
But heaven on earth is better.

Thinking is good.
But living is better.
Alone in your favorite chair
with a book you enjoy
is fine. But spooning
is even better.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Marathon

By E. Ethelbert Miller

it’s a strange time which finds me jogging
in early morning
the deadness of sleep alive in this world
the empty parks filled with unloved strangers
buildings grey with solitude
now near the end of another decade
i am witness to the loss of my twenties
a promise invisible
i run without purpose
far from the north star
i run with the sound of barking dogs closing in
i have lost count of the miles
i am older and nothing much matters
or has changed

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Song for Mardi Gras

By Rolfe Humphries

(Variation on a Welsh refrain Dy garu di a gerais)

I have loved loving you
O my dear, my softly spoken,
Now the forty days draw near,
Vows are made, vows are broken
Fare thee well, my little slim-waist,
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my fond, O my darling,
In the season and beyond
Under moon, under star
Now the time comes to fast -
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my linnet, O my dove,
God have mercy on a sinner!
Fare the well and absent, love,
Moon and star must go to waste
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my green, O my shadow,
In the ambush set between
Mountainside, moor, and meadow.
March be gone, April haste
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

 
This poem originally appeared in The New Yorker on March 2, 1957.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trigger Guard

By Joanna Fuhrman

Everyone I ever loved is standing
on a platform with a gun.

In the cartoon version, a flag pops
with the word 'bang.'

In the soap opera version,
my face turns the color of merlot.

In the haiku version,
metal gleams in the narrow shadow.

In the Republican version,
two guns wrap themselves in a single flag.

In the Langpo version.
idolatry yips yaps paradigm the.

In my diary version,
I wonder why everyone hates me.

In the indie film version,
a gun flickers over a mumbled tune.

In the Chekhov version,
(well, you already know.)

In the 10 o'clock news version,
the crisis in violence is rising.

In the action film version,
a shot means profits are rolling.

In the catalog version,
the smoke's hue is a burnished moss.

In the teen movie version,
a nerdy gun removes her glasses.

In the lucid dream version,
I kiss a muzzle and it blossoms.

In the music video version,
a gun turns into a mouth.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Babi Yar

By Yevgeni Yevtushenko

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.

I see myself an ancient Israelite.
I wander o’er the roads of ancient Egypt
And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
And even now, I bear the marks of nails.

It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself.
The Philistines betrayed me – and now judge.
I’m in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
I’m persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.

I see myself a boy in Belostok
Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.

I’m thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of “Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!”
My mother’s being beaten by a clerk.

O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
Are international, by inner nature.
But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.

I know the kindness of my native land.
How vile, that without the slightest quiver
The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
The “Union of the Russian People!”

It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
And I’m in love, and have no need of phrases,
But only that we gaze into each other’s eyes.
How little one can see, or even sense!
Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
But much is still allowed – very gently
In darkened rooms each other to embrace.

“They come!”

“No, fear not – those are sounds
Of spring itself. She’s coming soon.v Quickly, your lips!”

“They break the door!”

“No, river ice is breaking…”

Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.

And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I’m every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.

No fiber of my body will forget this.
May “Internationale” thunder and ring
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.

There is no Jewish blood that’s blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that’s corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!


NOTES Translated by Benjamin Okopnik, 10/96

Saturday, April 1, 2017

American Nightmare, Day Two*

By Carol Seitchik

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  Margaret Mead


Be vigilant, America.
This is what Feminism looks like.
This is what democracy looks like.

Females are as strong as hell
when women of the world resist.
And you haven’t seen nasty yet.

This march is not about you, Donny.
You’re out of your element.
Feminism is my Trump card.

Keep your laws off my body.
Our daughters need to know
their bodies are their own.

Action is an antidote for despair.
But now, hell hath no fury
like a woman reborn.

Women united are stronger
than a country divided.
I voted for love not hate.

I will not be silent.
I will not play dead.
I will fight.

I am woman hear me roar.
Hear us, hear our voices.
This is just the beginning.

*All taken from signs from the various marches


Carol Seitchik comes to poetry after a long career in the visual arts. Her poems have appeared in the anthology, A Feast of Cape Ann Poets and various journals such as Endicott Review, Zingology, Gemini Press, and Heartlodge. She has been nominated for a Pushcart award and has won prizes from the North Shore Poets Forum, Byline and the Indiana Review. Carol is a member of Cape Ann Poets and lives in Beverly, MA.

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