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Poetry December 2011-1
Poetry December 2011-1
On this page: poems by Wendy Blumfield, Tom Berman, Donna Langevin, Doug McAfee, Elaine Frankonis, Emery L. Campbell, Gonzalo Salesky, Immanuel Suttner, A.D. Winans, Deepa Kaylasam Iyer, Birgit Talmon

The following works are copyright © 2011. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.

Wendy Blumfield

Wendy Blumfield, born in London, lives in Haifa, is President of Voices Israel, freelance journalist,  childbirth educator and lactation counsellor.
Her poems have been published in Voices anthologies and other poetry journals. She has published two books: "Life After Birth" (Element UK) and an anthology: "The Soldiers` Mother."  and won 4th prize in Reuben Rose competition 2007.

Accident Ward

Falling off ladders
Slipping on floors
Breaking glass shelving
Bumping into doors

The queues are growing in the emergency ward
By the end of the day the doctors are bored
What has happened to cause this accident rate
Could it be connected to a special date?

Here comes one hopping on crutches,
Another with bloody hand held high
Clutching a cushion one cannot sit down
With foot stuck in bucket, another cannot get dry

Another queue forms to take pictures of bones
All reporting to loved ones on cellular phones
A trolley is wheeled by with mountains of plaster
A nurse winds the bandages tighter and faster

What has caused this epidemic of accidents
It cannot just be a coincidence
The cause of this monumental increase in turnover
Is spring-cleaning the week before the Passover

Tom Berman

Tom Berman has been a member of Kibbutz Amiad in the Upper Galilee, Israel for over 50 years. He is a scientist and most of his research has been focused on the Sea of Galilee (a.k.a. Lake Kinneret). He grew up in Glasgow, Scotland having arrived there aged 5 from Czechoslovakia with the Kindertransport in 1939. He is married with one wife, one dog, three daughters, seven granddaughters and a grandson. His poetry has been published here and there, now and again. He was Editor in Chief of the annual Voices Israel Anthology from 2003 to 2006. is still trying to dispose of a book of his poems (Shards, a Handful of Verse).

Pill Box

Sitting on my night table
a plethora of pills,
stacked in strict order
within each slotted cell

I mark and pace my days
record time’s flight
trace the transit
of my life’s arc
by the number of slots
in this plastic box

we are now such stuff
as pharmacies are made of
thus, by their blessèd grace,
we still live on…


Growing up
I was always told
never intrude
into the lives of others

No one can claim
that by-pass surgery,
is not intrusive

the chest is sliced
down the middle
with a neat little electric saw
muscle and ribs are pulled apart
revealing the heart
nestled in its intricate
web of pipes and conduits

then connecting to
the cardiopulmonary machine
followed by some
fine adjustments
to the plumbing

now comes the stopping
of the heart

a deft cutting
slicing and splicing
odds and ends of tubing
here and there
to make all well again

switch on the heart

unplug the outside pump
gently replace ribs, muscles
and seal up the incision

the invasion is over

now let nature heal

Tirzah Ben-David

Tirzah Ben-David was born in 1949 in Liverpool, England, and read English Literature at Cambridge University. After visiting Israel as a kibbutz volunteer she converted to Judaism in 1977 and received rabbinic ordination from Leo Baeck College, London in 1996. She is a member of Kibbutz Kfar Hanassi and visiting rabbi to the Shir Hatzafon Progressive Jewish Community in Copenhagen. Her first book of poetry 'Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute' was published in Britain in 1988. Her second book 'Consider the Heroes' was published in Israel in 2005 in a bi-lingual edition by Gvanim, with Hebrew translation by the Israeli poet Oded Peled.


Is the Lord my shepherd
So I shall not want,
Or a renegade sheepdog
Herding me over the cliff-top
To a death beside still waters?

And when I walk through the
Valley of the shadow
I can't promise to fear no evil:
I'm not King David
Commander of Hosts,
Just a humble recruit
In the ranks of the hurt

And my enemy escorts me
With a hungry eye
And has no table manners.

Anoint my head with oil
And I'll glow in the dark
Like Chernobyl

Drink to my health if you dare

God's House sounds too grand
To dwell in,
Especially forever more:
Just give me back tomorrow
And I'll take my chances.

Chemo Dreams

On days like this, perhaps
    The dog
    Has better dreams than me

Gilgamesh wouldn't let his friend
    Enkidu die
    Seven days he stormed around
    The body
    Willing it to live
    Until a worm fell from its nose
    There's no arguing with a worm

Your life is on hold
    They tell me
    But no one names the silence at the other
    End of the line

Who fed the cuckoo in the nest
    Host to someone else's child
    Until it turned and threatened
    To eat me?
    There are no strangers, only flesh
    Of my indigent flesh
    Sitting down to dine

Host: the body of God
    Laid limply on the tongue
    After three days in the tomb
    Host: unwitting landlord
    Of a secret room
    Sublet to death

I have fallen away
    Further than leaves
    Further than water
    Further than the thought of falling

    When they call me I
    Shall not be answerable.

Not Orpheus

Once they walked in company
Measuring the world
In a blue coat, in a red dress
Before the future found them out
Before she left the place
He pointed to
Because she said
It wasn't there.

And every light was a sign
Of something burning

Stray too far
And the world is lost:
The pattern of the winds
Is strange
And the mind's great migrations
Lapsing into seagull cries
Locust voices
Signals of dumb things

To search out and reclaim the dead
Though futile
Is an honourable doom:

Take my hand, follow me

But he can only sit and feed her
Living absence
Spoon by spoon.

Donna Langevin

Donna Langevin is the author of The Second Language of Birds and In the Café du Monde, Hidden Brook Press, 2005 and 2008. Winner of the Cyclamens and Swords poetry contest in 2009, she was short-listed for the Descant Best Poem of the Year 2010 Winston Collins prize, and was short-listed twice for the GritLIT Poetry Competition in 2011. Her short play, “Man with a Butterfly Hat” will be performed at the Alumnae Theatre in Toronto in 2012.


Your mother, says her doctor,
like everyone on earth, is a body of water.
She has countless reservoirs she can tap

but when she becomes too weak...

In six months or less
my mother will become 
a dried-up river...

                 Today her floodgates are open

She soaks her diapers, leaks blood
from bruises, spills out tears
in torrents as she pleads with me to take herback to the Mississippi, let her die at home
on the beloved riverbank where
she used to live
Please please take me
I’ll pay you if you take me
Be a good daughter
Take me home again
I do not want the job
Last time I was there washing her
in the shower, at the sink,
I tore her tissue paper skin
and could barely staunch the wounds
You’re killing me, she shouted
as she stepped on me like a bathmat
and wrung me out like a towel
Six months or less...
my mother won’t find her reservoirs
her shoreline will disappear
Her hopes will bloat then shrivel
Should I take her back to the river
let her breath slow in time with its tidal sighs? 
In the morning her mattress held bloody pools
and her footprints left red trails
on the heirloom rugs
I bandaged her with rolls of gauze
that stuck to her skin and oozed
Terrified of infection
I rushed her to the hospital
then my own blood turned to water
and I crumpled in a chair
The river is calling her back
the treacherous Mississippi
full of whirlpools and snags
It swallowed countless ships
and covered their bones with slime
but will help her ebb in peace...
if I bring her home

The Band Aid
    a partially found poem

I borrowed an anthology
finding inside a band aid for
my bookmark

Perhaps the band aid
had a mind of its own
because as I moved it randomly
from poem to poem, it would land
on lines like these:

The doe, at a dead run, was killed
the instant the truck hit her*

It’s 2am and I can’t remember
the last name of my friend Joy
who died from breast cancer*

They cut off his hands for safe-keeping*

For some reason it is also a man
swallowing lighter fluid*

The meadow stippled with blood*

Villages where massacres have occurred*

As I read on... and on... I ached
to call 911 to beg for
a million medics
miles and miles of tourniquets
and endless rolls of gauze

but all I had was this band aid
(made by Johnson & Johnson
who had both expired)
to plaster on the world

*All quotes are from:
180 More Extraordinary Poems for Everyday, edited by Billy Collins
Robert Wrigley, Highway 12, Just East of Paradise, Idaho, p.218
Erin Murphy, Birthday Poem, p. 114
Gregory Djanikian, The Soldiers, p.309
Paul Suntup, Olive Oil, p.151
Ted Kooser, A Jacquard Shawl p. 108
Oliver Rice, Timel
y Enumerations Concerning Sri Lanka, p.312

Doug McAfee

Doug McAfee is an Aerospace Engineering manager, living in the Northwest with his wife and two teenage children. He writes for fun and self-expression and has had a small number of his poems published in Poetry Magazine.

The darkness you see

I would like to be the
void you feel
Those times you wondered
if God would ever let you heal

I would like to be
the quiet you hear
When your thoughts turn inward
with no one near.

I would like to be the darkness
you see
when you close your eyes.
Then I would know that
I would be
with you

Elaine Frankonis

Elaine Frankonis, a long-time “elderblogger,” feminist, and poet, has a B.A. and English from the State University of New York at Albany. She now lives and writes in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts, having previously been her (now deceased) dementia-afflicted mother's caregiver for ten years, before which she had enjoyed a varied 30-year career that always involved persuasive writing of some kind. Over the decades, she has has poetry published in a variety of venues, including the anthology Which Lilith?: Feminists Writers Re-create the World's First Woman.

Notes from a Caregiver's Journal

1. Storm Warning

A full-moon wind
brings hard rain to the garden
already burdened
with the duties of summer.

Tomato stalks cringe beneath
the storm’s heavy hand.
Fine thyme strands float
like seaweed among
severed marigold heads.
and tattered parsley fronds.

But the brazen spears of Jerusalem artichoke
bend like birches in the wind,
embrace the rhythms of the rain
that beats rich syncopation
onto a tympani of outstretched leaves.

And, while these garden gypsies
dance the night skies clear,
I wake from a fretful dream
that my mother has died,
without me near
to, once again,

2. Dementia
She reports each day
on the color of her feces,
the progress of microscopic eruptions
along her thinning skin.

Each day she reveals, again,
the sad injustices of her past,
re-tells her ragged history
with the same unhappy endings.

I know that the pain in her spine is real.
Each day it infuses her memories --
reminding, rehearsing, repeating
the cycles of a life lived
too troubled at its core
to ignore time's chance miseries.

3. Restless

You can be sure that picking up a pen,
already dripping virulent ink,
will bring an old woman tapping at the door
armed with burned pot and dented memory;

or maybe a mad cat clawing at the sleeve
of the rich wrap you threw on against
the chill of exigent mornings held at bay.

You yearn for moments between dawn and day,
for the silence sought by a rhymed mind.
You hunt the lines that pulled your smile from sleep,
and learn to expect interruptions.

Roots and Wings

I asked my mother to give me roots.
She smiled and left the cord uncut,
its far end snaking through
a lineage of cords untouched.
I clawed against its tether,
searching desperately for swords.

I asked my father to give me wings.
He stood away,
arms pressed heavy to his sides.
“Fly, fly!” his tired voice cried.
I raised my naked arms
and walked into the wind.

I asked my husband to share
with me the things he knew
of roots and wings.
He showed me scars
where his own still strained
from deep below old broken skin.
I stumbled away,
a stolen blade tucked in my boot.

I asked my lover to show me
what he thought of roots and wings.
He climbed upon a fence
and sat away the days.

So I called the stones
To coil at my feet,
sharpened the blade to womansword,
and carved a path that spiraled
through a horizontal rain.

And the roots became wings.
And the wings became roots.

And now I flow
among the warm seas,
deep and knowing;
I rise, unbridled
light among the dust.

Emery L. Campbell

Emery L. Campbell is an award-winning writer of poetry and short works of fiction and nonfiction. A selection of his poems and translations from classical French poets This Gardener’s Impossible Dream: A Not So Green Thumb (or Why I Took Up Poetry Instead), Multicultural Books, was nominated for the 2006 Georgia Author of the Year Award and a poem chosen from it received a nomination for a Pushcart prize. Campbell’s second book of translations Selected Fables and Poems in Translation was published in late December 2010 by Print1 Direct of Marietta, GA

His writings have appeared in Atlanta Review, Light, Midwest Poetry Review, Writers’ International Forum, Poets’ Forum, Parnassus Literary Journal, Spellbinder, Romantics Quarterly, and in anthologies including Reach of Song, Golden Words, Encore, Where Sunbeams Dance and others. His work has won awards from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, the Georgia Writers Association, the Georgia Poetry Society, and numerous other state poetry organizations.

Campbell and his wife, Hettie, a native of the Netherlands, live in Lawrenceville, GA.

Time Marches On

You no longer complain, greet the doc with a grin
when he stresses the need for prescribed medicine
to be certain the tricky old ticker ticks right;
there are still a good number of rounds left to fight.

It's a drag that the cost of those two-a-day pills
near surpasses your outlays for grocery bills,
but you take a deep breath, run the credit card through,
and then hope for the best when the statement comes due.

Nowadays you must give up the fats that you crave,
for to keep your line lean helps to stave off the grave.
What a shame that food's taste then leaves much to desire;
when you cut out the fat it just doesn't inspire.

In addition, besides the aforementioned cares,
you must monitor blood pressure, one of health's snares,
lest a failure to mind the good doc's caveats
finds you numbered among actuarial stats.

Still, in spite of a lengthening list of no-nos,
passing years needn't keep you from sniffing the rose,
or impede the adventurous quest for new loves...
or at least what one might designate as sort-ofs.

There remain any number of fields to explore,
many possible flings you should plumb to the core.
Yes, of course there are numerous woes you could cite,
but who cares? What the hell. Come, let’s keep the tone light.

Mycological Misadventure

A group of country friends of Baptist bent
would often get together for the day
to pass the time at games. This practice meant
the lady of the house would have to play

the hostess and prepare a noonday meal.
The week that Janet had to take her turn
as cook she faced the job with signal zeal.
Intent on showing off a bit to earn

the admiration of her gathered peers,
she put it to her husband that they do
grilled mushroom-smothered steak with sweet corn ears,
but he found mushrooms scarce and costly, too.

“Why don’t you pick some wild ones by the creek?”
“Oh dear,” she said, “they might be toxic, right?”
“I see some varmints eat them every week
and they’re OK,” he said. “I guess I might

as well give them a try,” she said, so down
she went and picked a bunch. She washed and diced
the lot but still had doubts, so with a frown
she fed Ol’ Spot, their dog, a bit she’d sliced.

Ol’ Spot ate every bite. All morning long
she watched the dog, but he showed no bad sign.
OK, she thought, I’ll use them; nothing’s wrong.
Her intimates agreed the meal was fine.

The maid washed up. Cohorts were satisfied
until the helper whispered in Jan’s ear,
“Ms. Williams, I’m afraid Ol’ Spot has died.”
This news was not what Janet wished to hear.

At first near numb, Jan slowly found her way.
She called the doc and told what had occurred.
“That’s bad,” he said, “but we can save the day.
I’ll come at once. We’ll get you people cured.

I’ll give you all a purgative and pump
your stomach.” After that was done he said,
“I think you’ll come out fine, but let’s not jump
to closure yet. Rest up a while in bed

and take these pills.” The friends were looking weak
and pale. Their once high lively spark had dropped.
The maid spoke of the dog, her visage bleak,
“That car that killed him never even stopped.”

Gonzalo Salesky

Lascano Salesky Gonzalo Thomas was born in the city of Cordoba in December 1978. He has published two books: " 2011 "(poems and stories, in the year 2009) and " Omen of light " (poems, 2010).
Gonzalo was awarded the First National Prize for Poetry Salac (Sociedad Argentina de Letras, Arts and Sciences) Cordoba, November 2010. , He was winner of the First International Contest of Latin poetry and short stories on the Nature Heritage (Latin Heritage Foundation, USA), 2011 and received second Prize in the Short Story Contest Fourth and Poetry "Evening 2011" (Argentina) as well as third Prize-Poetry in the Literary Contest V anniversary of the Argentina Society of Writers, Surbonaerense Sectional (Delegation Bernal - Quilmes).

You Will Be

You will be breath of sea, you will be nostalgia
When your mouth leaves and does not return.
You will be my breeze when the wind drops,
You will be fire beyond words.
You will be the sky, void of my pages,
And the prayer to announce my departure
When the pain, this world and our life
Take everything and leave me nothing.

Dust and water

Soon the night will come.
You will succeed to leave the labyrinth.
There are a lot of masks and it is true
That we are nothing but dust and water.
The earth is waiting for us.
Defend me from the wind and from the scythe
That will cut me in better times.
Southwards, at noon, I shall be free
Just like the sun that rises every morning.

On leaving

I still think it is better to leave
Instead of watching wornout echoes.
The high forehead, the intact heart,
My fading soul, a fountain with no coins.
The gray and senseless ashtray,
The yesterday glasses full of absence...
Having repeated the tour again and again,
I begin to feel how the desert fills me.
The hourglass has slowed and
It will be the sea who heals my promises.
I will draw my dreams again and again
Whenever necessary, on leaving.

Immanuel Suttner

Immanuel Suttner was born in South Africa, lived in Israel from 1981-91 and now lives in Sydney Australia. He has written a large non-fiction book Cutting Through The Mountain (1997, Penguin), a collection of verse called Hidden and Revealed (Snail Press & Quartz Press 2007), and a children’s book called The African Animal Football Cup (Quartz Press 2010). 

Damaged by the flame

The hospital for moths
damaged by the flame
fragile wings made whole
by the love that has no name

Sometimes I watch the news

hoping to see suffering and general mayhem
and then I might flick channels
and land on an image of an Afghan boy
holding on to parallel bars
long jalabiya wrapping around the stumps
left by a Taliban or NATO bomb
which now slices through the brittle casing
resentment and fear have placed round my heart
and as sadness comes flooding I stop pretending
their hurt can diminish mine

A.D. Winans

A.D. Winans is a native San Francisco poet and writer. His work has been published internationally and translated into eight languages. In 2002 a song poem of his was performed at Alice Tully Hall, NYC. In 2006 PEN National awarded him a Josephine Miles Award for excellence in literature. In 2009 he was given a PEN Oakland Lifetime Achievement Award.

Annual Physical Examination

Take down your shorts
Spread your legs
Bend over the table
This won’t hurt a bit
The doctor says
Slipping on a disposable glove
And greasing it with a lubricant

Breath in deeply
He tells me
His finger working itself in
But something is wrong here
I think, why so deep?
Why the corkscrew moment?
Why so long?
Why this strange feeling
I’m experiencing?
And why the smile
I see staring at me from the
Mirror on the wall?

Everything feels fine
He says, removing his finger
And disposing the glove
In a waste container
Make an appointment
In a year he tells me
As I get dressed
And make a mental note
to stop by the front desk
And change doctors.

Deepa Kylasam Iyer

Deepa Kylasam Iyer has a Masters in English Literature and French and is a published poet based in the beautiful town of Pondicherry in the southern coast of India. She has published in four continents including Asia, North-America, Africa and Europe and her poem ‘Tryst with Destiny’ was included in the anthology of poems ‘Journeys’ that was released at Birmingham Book Fair in 2010. She blogs at


Fruit cake
Spot the pit
Drill with grit
Floss and spit
Plaster it
Cavities and scandals
are mended thus
by dentists and men

Birgit Talmon

Birgit Talmon is Danish-born. While living in Beer-Sheva she worked as a licensed desert guide as well as at the Ben-Gurion University. A soprano, she has participated in several operas with the Philharmonic Choir of Tel-Aviv. Works as translator: Danish, English and Hebrew. Has studied prose and poetry with eminent writers in Israel and writes in the above mentioned languages. She publishes poetry and short stories in all three languages in anthologies and literary magazines both in Israel and abroad. Has served on Voices Israel Editorial Board. Her works may be seen on her website

A Visit

Holding fast to
Each others'
Distant figures
We stand very still
On opposite platforms
Numbed by
What this means for us.

You are heading back
To the institution
And I
To a far off place
Now home.

May there be a delay
That'll grant me
A little more time
To comprehend
Your bewildered face
Which I can no longer
Reach to caress.

Our trains
Sneak in between us
We wave, we board
The whistle blows,
Shambles of
Moving windows
Blur you out –
You're gone;
Was afraid to ask
About that other train.

Portrait Of Mental Chamber

Numerous selves
Jammed amidst
Motley collections of jars
Filled with tendencies
Needing to be held in check
At all times.

Balance is to be guarded
Lest an unwanted jar
Falls off its shelf
Shattering the mind.