Friday, July 28, 2017
It starts with the scent of lavender as she
buttons clean pantaloons, laces up stays,
smooths her bodice and shakes out the frills,
ties the black ribbon about her neck.
Her costume smells, as they all do: mingled
sweat and makeup, the fabric itself,
splashed, perhaps, with the licorice twist of absinthe.
Then come powder and rouge, the small earrings,
a pink and white corsage already starting
to droop. Her props are placed on view: beer bottles,
champagne, a vase containing two pale roses,
cut glass bowl of oranges that may
or may not indicate a certain kind
of availability. Leaning on
the marble bar, she doesn’t look at you
(Why should she look at you? Can you give her
what she needs, or even cab fare home?):
posing, perhaps, or perhaps beyond posing,
her face bleak, artificially rosy amid
the moon-pale globes and crystals shimmering
in the ersatz heaven of the cabaret.
Perhaps a man inspects her in the glass,
perhaps he’s looking past; neither of them
seems to see the woman on the trapeze,
feet squeezed into ankle boots of lizard green.
Later, she observes his red-gold lashes,
watches his still-young face slacken in sleep,
breathes in his scent of cigars, cheap brandy,
scent that clings to her fingers like orange
oil as she works her nails beneath the skin,
methodically stripping the pith to find
whatever’s left of the fruit’s sweet flesh.
-- Katherine E. Young
“Bar at the Folies-Bergère” was commissioned by the Washington Shakespeare Theatre as part of its Poets are Present residency.
Katherine E. Young is the author of Day of the Border Guards, 2014 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize finalist, and two chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, Subtropics, and many others. Young is also the translator of Two Poems by Inna Kabysh; her translations of Russian and Russophone authors have won prizes in international competitions and been published widely in the U.S. and abroad; several have been made into short films. Young is a 2017 National Endowment for the Arts translation fellow and currently serves as the inaugural Poet Laureate for Arlington, Virginia. http://katherine-young-poet.com/
Thursday, July 27, 2017
Which Girl Am I?
by JoAnne Growney
The girl who’s not forced to divide
into the good girl and the real one
is a lucky one. I was eleven
when I felt a crack begin.
took on two heads, two faces,
two cuts of hair. Mock feelings
serve as well as true ones,
I told myself — but buried parts
still surface like cicadas in their year.
Long division is difficult
and plagued with remainders.
A girl with two heads
is like a bird with one wing.
Note: This poem came out of a cooperative ekphrastic venture with Silver Spring sculptor, Mark Behme – he bravely lent me his sculpture "Split Tales” and, living with it, I discovered its connection to mathematics – and the poem. The poem was first published in “Intersections: Poetry with Mathematics” in 2014
Since childhood JoAnne Growney has loved poetry and found some time for enjoying it during lots of years of studying and teaching mathematics. Both her childhood and her teaching took place in Pennsylvania but in 2005 she relocated to Silver Spring, MD to be near family, especially her grandchildren. A lot of her poems, relate to mathematics. She also has a blog, “Intersections: Poetry with Mathematics” at https://poetrywithmathematics.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Archaeologists in China have found the world’s
oldest playable musical instrument – a 9,000 year
old flute carved from the wing bone of a crane.
Los Angeles Times
Long before the Greeks measured to set
the frets on their lutes, dividing tight strings
by exactness of tones, long before that,
someone in China, probably a girl with time
and some need to walk alone near the sea,
lifted to lips the hollow wing bone of a crane
and blew through it, no thought of why,
mixing sky-air that lifts wings and sleeves
with the unseen source of life they call breath.
Imagine the whistles and arcing bird-cries
these people learned to make as they breathed
through bones with scaled apertures and lengths
and drilled little holes where fingers could find
the tunes beyond birdsong they began composing.
How plaintive and lonely the wordless sounds
must have been – calling out thin, rising, then
drifting into and through the Bo leaves,
over rocks, like smoke in curtains and rafters,
vanished as softly as morning mist off the Yangtze,
like thoughts half-remembered. But the tunes lacked
grounding, sounds that tied light melodies down
to stone floor and soil and the warm flesh
of hands. Years later, long miles to the west,
high up and getting out of the wind,
chapped hands of shepherds and goatherds tugged
animal guts and dried them and learned to snap
their lengths of string to vibrate them
against flat wood, later hollowed out ,
to make the kind of sounds for love or despair
that Athenian throats would utter if only they could.
The sweaty pluck and thrum of finger and hand
hefted earth tones struggling upward, rising to meet
the vibrato of long breaths ringing out of
that hollow wing-bone, and the melding created
dialogue, Greek harmony, music, sympathy,
a transcending of selves, a republic.
Born and raised in Michigan (1927) and a longtime resident of the Washington, DC area, Rod Jellema is Professor Emeritus of English and former Director of Creative Writing at the University of Maryland. Since he began work as a poet in mid-career at age 40, five books have been published: Something Tugging the Line (1973), The Lost Faces (1978), The Eighth Day: New and Selected Poems (1985), A Slender Grace (2005), and his most recent book (which includes a CD), Incarnality: The Collected Poems (2010). He has also published two award-winning books of selections and translations from Frisian poetry: Country Fair (1985) and The Sound that Remains (1989). The father of three sons, married to the writer Michele Orwin, he is presently writing essays on the reading, writing, and teaching of poetry. Eleven of these essays have been recently published in three journals, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, and International Poetry Journal. He is at work on a book of such essays, Riding the Undercurrent.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
I have made an effort to make
poetic language resemble every
day speech. That is what I have
done. I am interested in
the supernatural, though I don't
like being scared. I am also
really focused on the emotions
and on nature. Those elements
are extremely important if
you are trying to write Romantic
poetry, as I am trying to do.
You do know, I hope, that
the world is just a construct,
that we exist only inside our
aging, inebriated minds.
It's pretty depressing and
unfortunate, especially the
way sex too becomes imaginary.
Here in Atlanta, Georgia, we
are busy killing bugs, snakes,
and turtles. We are drinking,
arguing, and singing the state
song, "I'm my own Grandpa."
Eventually we will go to sleep
and thy beauty will seep into
our dreams, and you will be
as naked as a star in a galaxy
floating in a glass of ice water.
from This Way Out (Hanging Loose Press, 2014)
Terence Winch is the author of eight poetry collections: The Known Universe [forthcoming, fall 2017], This Way Out, Lit from Below, Falling out of Bed in a Room with No Floor, Boy Drinkers, The Drift of Things, The Great Indoors [Columbia Book Award winner), and Irish Musicians/American Friends [American Book Award winner]. He has also written two story collections, Contenders and That Special Place: New World Irish Stories, which draws on his experiences as a founding member of the original Celtic Thunder, the acclaimed Irish band. His work is included in more than 40 anthologies, among them the Oxford Book of American Poetry, Poetry 180, and 5 editions of Best American Poetry, and has been featured on “The Writer’s Almanac” and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Winch is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship in poetry and a Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Writing, among other honors.
Monday, July 24, 2017
by Toni Asante Lightfoot
And with great fear I inhabit the middle of the night
What wrecks of the mind await me, what drugs
to dull the senses
"The Acts of Youth"
Between real sleep and the waking spasm and
between what you are and what you with
the ignorant exuberance of youth thought a great
life would be, lay the between of hope and fear.
I am living a life i never knew possible to the "I"
of my youth to grow into. This body I inhabit
long ago betrayed me. By 22, it moved from the
smooth, taught, supple center to the broad middle
of a middle aged broad. I have had this body of
middle age twice as long as i had the
great body glowing like morning, enticing night
with dance, bourbon, and "yes". Yesteryear is what
years of tomorrow have become. Wrecks
of relationships make the shoreline of
my memories fascinating. Among the
lost ships I visit when i have time for my mind
to salvage from them the shiny bits that await
my wiser translation of the loud, scared me
is the big hulking ship holding dreams. What
do I do to quell their haunting? Drugs,
whiskey? No, I line them up, look them over to
remind myself: I am "here" because "there" looked dull.
Under the magnifying glass of age the
bright light of perspective tantalizes my senses.
Toni Asante Lightfoot is a native of Washington, DC, where she was president of the African American Writer's Guild. She moved to Chicago and was the director of writing programs at Young Chicago Authors. She currently consults on curriculum development that integrates the poetry with mathematical and scientific theory. Lightfoot is currently studying Chinese acupuncture and herbology.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
MASS FOR NANKING’S 1937
hands on bone flipping,
boned through like combs,
every single park bloodied by gun,
knifed to cave after cave of wounding,
a Messiah’s frame, mad overturned thunder,
12-13-1937 for Japan in years of our memorization,
irrelevant pen it mini-civilized, year off civilization,
of an Emperor’s name, a flag turned blunder,
life under wave over wave of pounding,
below a darkened and wrinkle sun,
stone flown to bits by bombs,
a land in blood weeping--
thousands of hundreds,
even many minor, females,
a page of devil lines recalled--
Raped under chilled katana by a gang of killers.
The female-homed samurais’
Male deformed in volunteer.
Being shaped shielded agenda bang for healers,
stage for de civil signs scored--
junior/senior, not only males,
thousands of millions,
underground passion of rings,
pain never make past saddened alone,
moon’s cold long badly atoned a country,
emotion of the rape harked by map wrapping,
year 2007 torched against sin under global integrity.
Hear heaven’s vocal sincerity torching with dignity,
a nation to shape among marks of gap lapping,
wound’s old song sadly toned each entry,
an ever main pick for a heartened tone,
extra-sound of lotion on strings,
with no fears-
Dears, thou unrested--
Let hearing renew: Tone to heal, stone peeled, thy tear sealed.
Dears, be rested.
Japan in years of memorization for nineteen thirty-seven,
pounding wave over wave of bombs/stones on life.
In name of Emperor, under the flag,
sun turned to wrinkle and dark.
Bone, after butcher's hand,
blood upon ruptured land,
gun overturned each single park,
framed as Messiah, thunder of mad.
Wounding cave after cave, combed bones by knife,
pen it a year off civilization, mini-civilized be irrelevant.
Recalling lines of devil page:
Hundreds with thousands,
females, even de minors,
weeks for seven,
under de killers' chilled katana.
Samurai homed from female,
volunteer deformed as male.
New healers' shielded agenda:
Years for seventy,
over millions of thousands,
scoring signs for a civil stage.
Global integrity torched against sin in two thousand seven.
By emotion, wrap up such map being harked of rape,
weep with peers for rings of passion underground.
A country atoned bad long by de cold moon,
saddened past never make de pain
heartened pick thou an ever-main,
toned each entry of sad song off old wound.
Rip, with no fears, strings in lotion of extra-sound.
Of a nation, lapping over gap marked among shape,
vocal sincerity with torch accompanied a dignity up heaven.
Unrested thou dears--
We do hear: May our tone, peel the stone, seal thy tear.
Be rested, dears.
BIO: During his tenure as Development Director for the Washington, DC Youth Symphony Orchestra, Chan Wing-Chi raised multi–millions to operate the Orchestra’s international tours to Europe and Asia. His artistic/cultural advisory spectrum has been crossing over the ocean, including serving as a consultant for the National Endowment for the Arts, New Jersey and South Carolina Arts Commissions, D.C. Mayor’s Office, Jiangsu Provincial Performing Arts Group and China National Symphony; D.C. Commissioner for National & Communities Services; Project Director for Meet The Composer New Residencies Program; Vice President for Washington Symphony Orchestra’s Board; commentator for Canada’s Fairchild Radio and Voice of America; organizer for Asia Pacific Life Insurance Underwriters Association Conference and Aetna Sales Congress; adjunct professor of music at Green Mountain College in Vermont and Shenyang Conservatory of Music in China, as well as external examiner for Master’s thesis at New York University.
In 2007, Chan, as choral conductor, took a team of twelve American vocalists to participate in a Memorial Concert for the 70th Anniversary of Nanking Massacre, which included Thomas Young, who has been praised as one of the best three American tenors today.
Friday, July 21, 2017
A mathematical sonnet
for Bobby Fischer (1943 - 2008)
It’s a palindrome so my phone number
Should be easy to remember, it’s 219-1912.
I’m local, so the area code is 812 of course.
The most famous palindrome could easily be:
Madam I’m Adam - which is probably the first thing that
He ever told Eve. Anyway, call me
When you reach my house, it’s 115 Lincoln St.
Notice that my address is composed of
The prime numbers 11 and 5. Also 11 + 5 = 16.
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President
of the United States - Can you hold for a second?
Checkmate. O.K. I’m back. Thirty minutes is fine.
Your pizza was highly recommended.
I will see you then. Thank you. Goodbye.
Note: “A mathematical sonnet” previously appeared in print in ASKEW, in a slightly different version. This is its first online publication.
Steve Castro's poetry is forthcoming in Plume; Forklift, Ohio; Phantom Drift: A Journal of New Fabulism and in The Plume Anthology of Poetry 6 (March, 2018). His poem 'Scrapers of the Sky,' originally published in Green Mountains Review, was featured on Verse Daily on June 16, 2017. He was recently interviewed by the Chicago Review of Books (forthcoming). Birthplace: Costa Rica.
Thursday, July 20, 2017
by Sarah Browning
One month in this apartment and the art
sits, propped against the wall. I prop myself up
with gin and outrage – nothing manageable:
not pictures for the walls, not boxes still
half-filled, not friends, not even the dark oblivion
of the movie theater, the gnaw-gnaw of popcorn.
Too much, too little, this life I do not know,
my child an echo on the phone, a ghost –
my love propped against the wall.
I will always miss his toddler body,
fist wrapped tight in my hair, the raw
comfort we took in one another.
Now, he is 16. On our hike to the river –
as we descend side by side into the tunnel
that will take us this last stretch – he drapes
his long arm across my shoulders. I wrap
my arm around his waist, lean against
his towering frame, and together we head
like this into the darkness, the bright
Potomac promised on the other side.
Sarah Browning is co-founder and Executive Director of Split This Rock: Poetry of Provocation & Witness and an Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Author of two collections of poems, Killing Summer and Whiskey in the Garden of Eden, and co-editor of D.C. Poets Against the War: An Anthology, she is the recipient of artist fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, a Creative Communities Initiative grant, and the People Before Profits Poetry Prize. She has been guest editor or co-edited special issues of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Delaware Poetry Review, and POETRY magazine. Since 2006, Browning has co-hosted the Sunday Kind of Love poetry series at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
The Jazz Harpist Lies Sleepless
At night in another strange bed
tiger-striped with streetlights
and shadows of venetian blinds,
the jazz harpist wills herself
Her husband sprawled beside her
is dead to the world.
She is alive to it:
the itch of wool blankets,
the whisper of a pink
over her thighs,
her place on the edge
of a full-sized bed,
the traffic like Pacific surf
outside her window,
the music she cannot
write down at night.
She imagines rising
to tidy up the room.
Her husband will wake
to a clear path
if only in this place.
She will not touch
travels with them
like an awkward, half-grown child
looming over his parents,
the only child they will ever have.
She shuts her eyes
to this bedroom
and to her harp
that emerges in darkness.
She hushes her crashing thoughts
from the hours
most women her age
do not keep.
and the darkness
and she falls
into a dream
of willing herself
to stay awake
as her husband drives
her and their human child.
In her dream, she strokes
her little girl’s hair,
The Look of Love,
as they travel home
long before midnight.
BIO: Marianne Szlyk is a professor at Montgomery College and the editor of The Song Is... Her second chapbook, I Dream of Empathy, was published by Flutter Press, and her first, Listening to Electric Cambodia, Looking Up at Trees of Heaven, is available online at Kind of a Hurricane Press. Recently she was artist in residence at The Wild Word. Other poems have appeared at Cacti Fur, bird's thumb, of/with, The Ekphrastic Review, Solidago, Figroot Press, and other print & online venues. She encourages you to send work to her magazine. For more information about it, see this link: http://thesongis.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
by Regie Cabico
Your poems revolve around
my brain like sushi rolls
on a conveyor belt…
I sit in the darkest corner
where my eyes are pitchers
full of sangria…
& I am too sullen to sleep
or blink. I offer you my arms
that are so heavy
they would break a lover…
Instead I give you my fists
unfolding like construction
paper cupids …
I have pried my ribs
in the hope
of finding you an Adam…
The cuckoo clock
in my chest
collapses & I release the bird…
Here is my body,
of Russian dolls…
for all the failed romances
Accept these gifts: the bird
that looks like 2 mustaches
kissing, the arms of a clock
that never meet, my fists
light as snowflakes & the river
of sangria that quietly
moves & waves us on…
Reprinted from Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Vol. 17:2, Spring 2016, with permission of the author.
Regie Cabico is a spoken word pioneer, having won the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam in 1993 and taking top prizes in the 1993, 1994 and 1997 National Poetry Slams. Cabico is co-editor of the anthologies Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry (Lowbrow Press, 2013) and Poetry Nation: The North American Anthology of Fusion Poetry (Vehicule Press, 1998), and his work appears in the anthologies Short Fuse, Poetry Slam, The Spoken Word Revolution, and Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC. He is co-director of the Capturing Fire National Queer Poetry Slam And Summit. Cabico was a featured poet at the 2016 Split This Rock Poetry Festival.
Saturday, July 15, 2017
Queen Anne's Lace
Constellations on a slender stalk,
how you have spread through the wind.
Brought by boat over oceans,
seeded in the first gardens,
who could contain you to a plot?
Once planted remain where you are
means nothing to a seed,
or a weed
which is what they call you now—
what we call what was never intended
by those who had no right to their intentions.
Now you grace the empty lots
in the cities of America,
populate the cracks of green with your lacework,
accompanied by the blue tongues of August—
your consort, chicory.
You were never part of any botanical plan
bishop's lace, wild carrot, zanahoria...
all the names we give to your persistence.
Speaking Wiri Wiri, by Dan Vera. Red Hen Press, 2013
Dan Vera is a writer, editor, and literary historian. He's the co-editor of Imaniman: Poets Writing In The Anzaldúan Borderlands (Aunt Lute) and author of Speaking Wiri Wiri (Red Hen Press), the inaugural winner of the Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize. His work is featured in college and university curricula, various journals and online sites including Poetry Foundation, Notre Dame Review, Poet Lore, and Gargoyle, and anthologies like The Travelers Vade Mecum and Queer South. The recipient of awards from the DC Commission of the Arts & Humanities, the Ragdale Foundation, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Vera publishes other poets through Poetry Mutual Press and Souvenir Spoon Books, co-curates DC Writers’ Homes and chairs the board of Split This Rock Poetry. For more visit www.danvera.com
Thursday, July 13, 2017
I love to see those tall, lean, muscular men
with their clean-shaven heads and digital
watches toss their kids in the air. And I love
to see them drop, not weightless, but light
as grenades. This is how children learn that fear
can be fun. And fathers, that this too is hand
to hand combat. To cradle or kill – what story
do we tell ourselves to justify. That a dunam
of earth is worth dying for? That a child opening
his mouth with an o of pleasure overturns
everything? We grow like onions, our heads
buried in dirt. And we die like onions, face
down in a pot of boiling water. Gravity causes
all to fall down, and love, to hold things up.
BARBARA GOLDBERG is the author of five prize-winning books of poetry, including the Felix Pollak Poetry Prize for The Royal Baker’s Daughter. She also translated Scorched by the Sun, poems by Israeli poet Moshe Dor. Goldberg and Dor translated and published four anthologies of contemporary Israeli poetry. Goldberg received two fellowships from the NEA as well as awards in translation, fiction and speechwriting. Goldberg is Series Editor of the Word Works’ International Editions. She lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland. www.barbaragoldberg.net