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Poetry December 2011-3
Poetry December 2011-3
On this page: poems by Stanley H. Barkan, Lynn Veach Sadler, Helen Bar-Lev, Michael E.Stone, Kaila Shabat, Katelyn Shear, Roy Runds, Mediha F. Saliba, Thilde Fox, Norma Bursack

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

Stanley H. Barkan

Stanley H. Barkan is the editor/publisher of the Cross-Cultural Review Series of World Literature and Art, that has, to date, produced some 400 titles in 50 different languages. His own work has been published in 15 collections, several of them bilingual (Bulgarian, Italian, Polish, Russian, Sicilian). His latest are Poet to Poet #4: Poems: East Coast/West Coast, with Carolyn Mary Kleefeld (Swansea, Wales: The Seventh Quarry, 2010) and ABC of Fruits and Vegetables, with complementary drawings by his daughter, Mia Barkan Clarke (Sofia, Bulgaria: AngoBoy, 2012).

Boat People

Born on the boat,
raised on the boat,
living & working on the boat
their whole lives,
these boat people
of Abderdeen, Hong Kong
(who believe that the water
preserves their lives),
rarely step on land,
only for special shopping.
They are citizens of the water.
More people live on the blue water
(the water which covers most of the planet)
than those on the green earth,
who only inhabit a small fraction.
Blue water, green earth—
which do you prefer?


Be concerned before anyone else
becomes concerned;
enjoy yourself after everyone else
finds enjoyment.

—Teng Zhi Jing (Song Dynasty)


Concerned that everyone
is becoming concerned . . .
I look up at the new moon
the last star before dawn,
listen for the first twitter
of the morning birds,
feel for breezes brushing
across my face,
sniff for the aroma
of new buds opening
to streaks of sunlight,
and, as I taste the rice wine
trickling down my throat . . .
I become concerned, I wonder—
what of those who do not?


How can I enjoy the sweet rice wine,
its color and aroma,
its flow over my tongue, down my throat,
its cool warmth in my chest?

How can I enjoy the roasted rib
dipped in duck sauce,
shredded in my mouth?

How can I enjoy the opening of peonies
born of seeds in the rich dark earth,
furrowed by oxen-guided farmers
dreaming of ladies in dragon-tipped towers?

How can I enjoy the wind
blowing over the tops of trees
under the risen red sun?

How can I enjoy the trill of bluebirds
gathering in the branches
. . . while I think of you suffering
as you did before the last star went out?


I want no part of me
to be cut away
for reasons of extending
my days on earth.

No piece of this and that
to satisfy the advice
of well-meaning medics
or fears of family or friends.

When I go,
I want to go whole,
all of me intact,
as possible.

If I am to rest in the ground,
let it be all of me
in the box,
as if in one kinoptic urn.

I do not wish
this part of me here
and that part of me there,
separated in some heaps.

Though, if some part of me,
when the light has faded
from my eyes,
should be of use to another,

To keep a flame flaring,
then, by all means,
take my eyes or heart
Or yet some useful part of me.

I would be undivided,
waiting for the call to arise
all my parts intact.

Ready to respond
at the moment
when, as promised,
the bones will rise again.

Lynn Veach Sadler

Lynn Veach Sadler is widely published in academic and creative writing, former college president she has seven poetry chapbooks out. One story appears in Del Sol’s Best of 2004 Butler Prize Anthology; a novel will soon join her novella and short-story collection. She won the 2009 overall award of the San Diego City College National Writer’s Contest and Wayne State’s 2008 Pearson Award for a play on the Iraq wars. She has traveled around the world five times, writing all the way, and works fulltime as a writer and an editor.

In the Cast: Tiger’s Teeth and Fire

In Les Miserables, “The tigers come at night.”
I have The Tiger Squatter.
He has aged with me
but has lost no teeth.
Lemur-like, he feels obliged to ply them.

In all the literature I’ve read,
tigers can be kept at bay by fire.
Again, I dine on difference
(while Fire and Tiger dine on me).
In my experience,
Fire and Tiger make gormandizing duo.
Culinarily, I am their favorite fare.

Perhaps when physician was distracted,
Fire and Tiger lay down together
to be trapped beneath my cast.

The Tiger’s mouth is deep and wide.
It never shuts or sleeps
but is constantly at chew
upon my swollen fingers
where they balloon from out
my cast (Procrustean).
I keep expecting them to burst
when Tiger’s hot teeth puncture,
when pain penetrates the free world
as the world in chains of pain.

Fire heats Tiger’s teeth,
then pirouettes to play
up and down and round my arm,
leaving hatch marks under hatches,
making Hash de Bras.

To think that I have loved
fireflies, will-o’-the-wisps,
firelight, its heat.
I no longer like Fire’s dance
(or Stravinsky’s Fire Bird
that used to burn my heart).
Fire dances inside the gravelly grave
where my arm’s entombed
while the Tiger’s teeth
click castanets of finger.
All my five starred, Babe-like,
as the fleeing finger
in Chasing Sleep.
(Still, a touchstone,
it is a small thing but mine own.)

For the Plump Nurse Who Made Me Grin

Descending from Easter Island’s moai quarry,
I fell and fractured my writing wrist.
I was tendered to the mother ship,
nurse and doctor standing by.

Never having visited the hospital,
much less been broken before,
I was apprehensive.
How should I behave?

The nurse was plump, the quarters small.
Taking the x-rays, she smushed me
against the wall. I was cold, thirsty,
wanted to lie down, at least to sit.
She opined that I must grin and bear
whatever until the x-rays came.
“Not b-a-r-e, I hope!”
She ignored me and my grin.

The doctor looked, “hu-u-u-u-m-m-m-ed . . .
sent me to a room with bed.
“An IV with valium before I set the bone.”
“Don’t make me do that!”
the nurse exclaimed.
“You know I hate to do IV’s!”
While she was recovering,
I (not knowing what valium relaxes)
asked if I might try their bathroom.
“Is it necessary?” the plump nurse asked.
“Only in so far as it’s afternoon,
and I last visited at six A.M.”
She left me on my own to ponder her grin.

When I was back, she,
to make up for her outburst,
doubtless, tried three times
to impose the IV,
all the while complaining of the blood
all over her (and me?).
This time I did not grin.

While she’d gone to clean herself,
the doctor returned.
“Isn’t Miss Brookfield charming?”
“Quite alarmingly so!”
I said—and grinned.

Helen Bar-Lev

Helen Bar-Lev was born New York 1942, She has a B.A. in Anthropology. She has lived in Israel for 40 years and has had 90 exhibitions of her landscapes, 32 of which were one-person shows. Her poems and artwork appear in numerous online and print anthologies and on her website Collections: Cyclamens and Swords and other poems about the land of Israel, and The Muse in the Suitcase, both with Johnmichael Simon, illustrated by Helen, In Moonlight the Sky Will Slide with Katherine L. Gordon. Helen is Senior Editor of Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, former editor-in-chief of Voices Israel Annual Anthology, current secretary of Voices Israel Group of Poets in English and global correspondent and contributing editor for SKETCHBOOK, A Journal for Eastern and Western Short Forms.

A Day in the Life of Mr. Stubborn

He is painful
painful all over
in his legs, in his shoulders
his bones ache
the pain won’t abate
pass him the chocolate
pass him the nightshades
he adores the taste

He has gout –
cut it out, I don’t have gout -
some more sweets please
his big toe says no
he is deaf to its pleas

His cholesterol
is out of control
but the more butter the better
the more eggs the merrier
watch the cholesterol
soar through the sound barrier

His heart is erratic
a cardiologist is in order
leave him alone
he can’t be bothered

See t
he fillings of his teeth
falling out, one, two, three
his dentist is the best
he’s known him for years
and most important,
his fees are cheap

The state of his prostate
is too awful to relate,
to see a urologist
is not an option
open to debate

Watch him swallow
all those pills in the morning
forming a cocktail of cosmic proportions;
hear him burp the day away
as the chemicals continue
to rumble in his tummy

This poem at the moment
has no conclusion
it is awaiting his decision
to walk the path of moderation

In the meantime eating
without discrimination
is much more fun
so do him a favour
and leave him alone

Michael E. Stone

Michael Stone was born in England in 1938. His family moved to Australia in 1941, where he received his schooling. Michael was awarded academic degrees in Australia and at Harvard University. He holds an earned Doctor of Letters degree from the University of Melbourne. Michael lives in Jerusalem with his family, writes and publishes original poetry as well as translating. His translation of Adamgirk', a medieval epic about Adam and Eve in 6,000 lines, was published by Oxford University Press.

A Dear, Sick Friend
For M.

unable to speak
unable to think
or love
or laugh
and no cure.
That’s sure, they say.
Nothing's sure for him now but the
grave illness.
Him – how awful.
I remember
love, life,
common friends,
and sailing
on the boat,
with the sea shining in the night.


I am angry at the cancer,
I am angry at what it did to you,
I am angry at what they did to you.
Savages still, we have
nothing to do against it,
but the surgeon's knife,
cutting off pieces of us.
We excise, exorcise mad cells!
And pharmacists’ potions
poison it and us.
And prayers.

Kaila Shabat

Kaila Shabat, nee Katherine Rubin, born in London in 1947, arrived in Israel as a volunteer after the Six-Day War. She and her husband live in a suburb of Tel Aviv, and have two grown children. Her first book of poetry, ‘Back from Beyond,’ was published in 2008. Many of her poems, articles and short stories have been printed in anthologies in Israel and abroad. In 2011, she expressed her vision for a better world, in a chapbook, entitled ‘Venus Empowered. For the last ten years she has been working on a chronicle, which in the future, she intends to publish as a series of books. Her greatest joy is to sing and record inspirational songs, with a view to bringing out a disc.

Closed Ward

Through a barred window
view of a closed courtyard:
birds fluttering free and
swooping to peck breadcrumbs,
scattered at dawn.

Ivy creeps over high walls
enclosing a terra-cotta patio;
metal blue benches
in the shade of sturdy saplings
invite convivial congress.

Patients wander to and fro,
restless, aimless, going nowhere
until cigarettes are distributed
and a haze of contentment
settles on the courtyard.


By your bedside
for a final farewell,
we’re just the two of us
but I am, in fact, alone.

Spruced up but tranquil,
you seem to sleep
yet your spirit has fled.

Never before confronted
thus with mortality,
still and awed, I regard
your eternal stillness.

Katelyn Shear

Katie Marie Shear is a thirteen year old Christian. Her hobbies are reading, writing, playing the piano, and having fun with her cats. She is the oldest of seven children, and she enjoys being so. She is currently working on her first novel. She writes poems for many people online when they ask her to.

The Summer I Died

The summer I died was a wonderful summer.
My family and friends thought it was a bummer.
But I had known to love that summer best.
Because at the end of it, I would lay to rest.
I was so young, but knew so much.
I was living my life on a hunch.
I learned to take what life gave.
And that every life wasn't meant to save.
My illness took me away.
For that my family never forgave.
But I do not hate that disease.
It taught me so much, and took me to Jesus to see.
Life is but a fleeting moment.
Don't take chances, it'll snatch you away, before you know it.
My family watched me wilt away.
I had to go, even when I wanted to stay.
Cherish your life, family, and friends.
Let them know how you feel, before life ends.

Roy Runds

Roy Runds was born in Perth, Western Australia in 1944; came to Israel in 1972. He has been writing poetry steadily since 1983 and is the author of two books of poetry, with a third in preparation. His poems have been published in Israel, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany. He works as a free-lance editor and proofreader. 

Morning Constitutional

Wakey, wakey, rise and shine!
Walk, and blessings will be thine.
Lift yourself from your morass,
Swing your legs and move your ass.
Into the morning gaily stride
And in the best of health abide.
Walk ninety miles till breakfast time
To make you sparkle, smile and chime.
Wakey, wakey, rise and shine!
Walk, walk, walk and feel just fine.


Faces glowing with love bade me goodnight.
Tender fingers tucked me into bed.
Mummy kissed my brow.
Angels’ wings caressed me,
I tumbled into slumber...-

Lightning bolts blinded me -
I shrank from forking shades -
Lumps of black matter
Hurtled towards me -
Twisted limbs clawed the blackness -
Someone shoved my head down a toilet bowl.
I screamed and screamed and Screamed!

“There, there, darling, you’re safe.
We will never send you away again.
The bogeyman won’t get you”.
“But the bogeyman is still after me!”
They snuffed out the light.
“Come back!
Don’t leave me here in the dark,

Mediha F. Saliba

Mediha F. Saliba has published two non-fiction books, and one book of poetry. Presently she devotes herself to poetry and short stories. She has published poems in Cyclamens and Swords, Aurorean, Sage Trail, Rattlesnake Review, Main Channel Voices, and Seven Circle Press, Atlantic Pacific Press and others. She lives in Northern California with her husband, where she promotes arts and education through Studio 299 – Center for the Arts, a non-profit organization.

Music And The Irredeemable

His home pulses with continual music,
often the sounds so dissonant
visitors leave
not knowing what drives them away.

Rooms are filled with guitars,
a stand up base, banjo, zither, saxophone,
two violins and an accordion.
He collects. He experiments. He never makes music.

Only the guitar and banjo sound remotely
melodic, and his sweet voice barely carries,
but then he doesn’t intend for it to.
His songs are dark demons pulling on steel strings.

Music is just another barbiturate.
It functions as an opiate
to resist reality, to believe that things
Should be different,
better, if only others . . . others—

And so in his smoke filled haze
he pretends at life
and his bitterly mumbled blues
only disguise the irredeemable in him.

Resistance Is Futile And Sometimes Fatal

Because his wife could no longer live
with his tears, imaginary fears, and too many beers,
and his son was too young to understand
the demons carried not so secretly inside his head,
he left—
threw his possessions of worn out clothes,
ancient records, a guitar, and a few boxes
of childhood treasures into a used camper
found on Craig’s List and drove off into the mist,
leaving his wife and child hoping the best
for the man who could not love himself or others.

They knew his melancholy came from resistance
to everything from health care to education,
to green energy, to clothes, credit cards, money,
war, work, and even to what he ate.
His austere black-and-whiteness spiraled him
to a bottomless abyss, where his maniacal talk
developed a quality of hallucination.

Focusing only on resistance
magnified his demons. Anger, victimization,
loneliness became his family.
And they all crammed together in his camper
as he barreled down the road
to No Where,
believing it led to paradise.

Stuck in a Rock

The man has a rock in his hand
which he throws again and again.
Inside the rock is a lonely boy.
inside the boy is a meadow
of purple, blue, purple, blue.
Inside the purple-blue is a tear
no one has ever sipped from.
Inside the tear is the eye
of a mountain lion who has seen
a hundred different things
including fear, death, greed,
and even a man throwing rocks
because he won’t sip from his
own purple-blue, and drink
from his own tear.

Thilde Fox

Thilde Fox was born in Vienna and sent to England on the Kindertransport. She came to Israel in 1953. She has three children and six grandchildren who keep her happy. Her interests today are poetry, Jewish studies, and the novels of Anthony Trollope.


Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe,
A cigarette is always more.
Through my mother’s endless gripe
And doctors’ threats, I blandly swore
That I had finished, stopped and done,
The dread of cancer frightened me,
I’d never have another one,
I would be clean, I would be free.

In the street I turn aside
Hold the light beneath my coat
Let the dear smoke slowly glide
Up my nose and down my throat.

They blab their pop psychology –
What do they know of ecstasy?


When they hit your stomach,
I say to him,
they burst into white sparks
join the blood rushing round your body
and make you well.

If you bless your bread, even your water,
I say to him,
why don’t you bless the pills that struggle down your throat?

Still he clutches the cup
stares at the white thing in his hand
considers my philosophy

till he hears children calling,
swallows his why me with the pill

and saves me from no answer.

Norma Bursack

Norma Bursack and her husband made aliyah in 1951. She held English secretarial positions for major industries. In 1965 she returned with her two Israeli-born daughters to Connecticut retiring in 2000. Her five grandchildren inspired some of her rhyming children picture books and poems. She wrote and produced two rhyming plays of Biblical content. Her How Isaac Met Rebekah was produced with puppeteer Maureen Festi, as a Bat Mitzvah gift to granddaughter Rebekah. Purim in Rhyme is performed annually since 2004 by local Jewish organizations. Some of her poems have been published in local newspapers, in Voices  Israel, on the websites of Poetica Magazine and recently on Cyclamens and Swords.

According to My Medical Team

Now, here at the age of eighty-three
my health is most relevant for me.

My internist acknowledged, to him, it appears
I’m a healthy specimen considering my years.

My ob-gyn following internal examination
saw me fit to enjoy a safe intimate relation.

My cardiologist after monitoring my heart beat
foresaw many more years standing on my feet.

My gastroenterologist flashed before my face
photos displaying my gut with no cancer trace.

My ophthalmologist declared with surprise
no procedures prescribed for my old eyes.

My ear, nose and throat specialist
found a hearing aid I might still resist.

My dentist declared my gums to be good
obviously practicing dental care as I should,

My foot doctor commenting on my heel pain
declared it a gift I could foretell snow and rain.

My orthopedist noted after skeletal review
No cane or walker as yet necessary for you.

My dermatologist known to be correct
assured no skin cancer could she detect.

But none of these specialists would explain
why I suffer head, neck, tummy and knee pain.

I’ll just have to be grateful and you will agree
that I’ve reached the blessed age of eighty-three.