On this page: poems by Alan Hardy, Alexa Mergen, Bernard Mann, Elizabeth Turnidge, Breindel Lieba Kasher, Cassie Premo Steele, Chiquita Mullins Lee, Christine Tsen, David Fraser, David Gershator, D.N. Simmers, Elizabeth Claverie, Gretti Izak
The following works are copyright © 2012. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.
Alan Hardy is director of an English language school for foreign students. He is married, with one daughter. Poetry pamphlets: Wasted Leaves, 1996; I Went With Her, 2007. Alan has had poems published in such magazines as Orbis, Iota, The Interpreter's House, Poetry Nottingham, Poetry Salzburg Review, Poetry Cornwall, South and others.
Don't go back too often to the familial hearth,
the cockiness of your little triumphs, in your world,
will be swept aside,
they'll question the worth of all the days of your life.
They'll make you crumble into shapeless self-scorn,
all those fresh-faced goals you'd missed and forgotten
come back to point a finger at you,
they'll barely condescend towards what, with sweat, you've reached.
They'll make come alive in your mind like pin-pricks
youthful images of yourself
nervous before the world and its big moments;
in feeling at home,
you'll realise you're still snared by unfulfilled hopes.
They'll question the road you've trodden,
insist you have time to try for more,
will invalidate your hot-cheeked endeavours.
Don't go back too often to the wizened after-shocks
in the abode your dreams grew up in,
they'll sour everything you are and have done.
If you go back at times, stay silent in the corner,
ride out the time as best you can,
just as you did before, when you awaited adulthood,
and knew, deep down, it would disappoint.
Alexa Mergen grew up in Washington, DC, spending summers in Nevada and Utah. Her poems appear in a variety of journals and in two chapbooks, Three Weeks Before Summer and We Have Trees. She teaches poetry in community spaces to people of all ages throughout California and lives in Sacramento. alexamergen.com
Outside the window in the dream a canyon
Vaster than the grand yawns as she stands
Looking. Awake in the place moments before
She occupied as sleep the view of worn wood
Fence, beyond, a stranger’s window slid ajar, all
Disappoint less than knowing she will not sleep
Here again in the blue room with gold curtains,
The dresser laden with silver-framed photos of a son
Who survived a war to die here, at home, of disease
Brought back from the jungle like a trinket forgotten
In a duffel pocket, found after he no longer remembers
For whom he acquired it or where—
Lonely people call to each other
in a key they alone hear.
Not made for this sun
my people came west any
way with few belongings to be
poor in a new place. My father’s worked
trains and newspapers, taught school. My mother’s:
teachers, seamstresses, gardeners of chard and cauliflower;
they set hens, put up preserves. In deserts sweeping Texas, Utah, Nevada, Colorado.
Not drifters but the kind who trust expanses then let go, recognize tamarisk’s oily smell, name the integrity of tortoises, know that aquifers dry. White people in bright, still spaces burning into limitlessness quiet, wind, walks of solitude, books as company. In movies northern europe is misty, green and gray, brief days of rain.
If the great-great-greats had remained I’d be a milky, scarless gawker of paler sun dunking into another sea for long nights.
Bernard Mann, a native New Yorker spent 7 years in Israel - Jerusalem, HaSollelim, and Hadera, in which time, among much else, he painted and wrote for the Jerusalem Post. His poetry and other creative writing has been published in numerous publications, including Davis Enterprise, New Millenium Writings, Poetography, Ardent, Di-verse-city, Connection, Voices Israel and Cyclamens & Swords. Other writings include his non-fiction book on European and U.S. urban waterfronts, Rivers in the City. (NYC, London, Tokyo). He founded the Central Texas Jewish Writers League in 2006.
Craving the Storm, North of My House
There’s a distant bolt and growl
of thunder, the consummation
of earth-sky conjugal embrace,
from over the wooded bluff,
whose hidden, shaded understories
are the great horned owl’s guarded theater
of nocturnal mysteries, but now,
in this storm-threatened afternoon,
away from the bluff, one solitary hawk soars,
as if to dare the nimbus,
dismissive of the buffeting gusts
that have displaced welcome thermals.
The pummeling storm
its deep, somber front,
the darkling thunderheads,
boil over the brow of
the tree-topped height,
curling squalls in their path,
overpowering the blue,
muscling aside the sky,
while I stand, feet-rooted,
craving the wind and the passion
and the crash of lightning
and the sharing of wonder
with the hawk.
There’s a wood duck in my bedroom,
the wooden decoy kind, not
Aix sponsa, of which the male’s plumage
is too well known, with vivid red bill, and blue,
and purple, and iridescent blue-green,
and sides of yellowish gold,
no, not that Wood Duck, the second only
to the Mallard in numbers shot each year,
the most beautiful of waterfowl, in the eyes of many,
no, not that splendid luckless oxymoron,
but my wood duck decoy, carved
in Maine, on a forested isle,
and bought by me for a few dollars in
a New Hampshire barn.
For no good reason, he has camped
on top my sleep-room television
for more years than I care to count,
with a fixed gaze a-tip his upcraned bill toward
the ceiling’s corner, and I often imagine
that the living creature from which he
was modeled must have looked, in like manner,
to some part of the sky above,
a patch of good blue punched through
the menacing nimbus,
to the circling hawk, or the osprey
with an itch of hunger.
And my good wood duck, my decoy of Maine,
what must he be thinking,
trapped forever in this beech-carved avatar?
There’s no choice but to stare timelessly
into the ceiling’s corner, but I
can fairly well see the flash of a wink
in his wooden eye, and a gloating
over the arch of time passed
since his live template’s plummeting from
the good blue, a hunter’s bullet
through that delicate heart.
Out through my window, there in the garden,
in a near corner, a mutabilis rose,
nudged by a fumbling breeze,
bobs into and out of the pale sunlight
that reached for it through the clouds,
nodding back into the eave’s penumbra,
where its pink turns mauve.
Charlie leaps from his corner in the shade,
barking and charging the tight-lapped fence
to threaten an unseen canine on the far side
being walked by an unseen owner
with an invisible leash, retiring
after stating his case to a new lounge
on the grass that is more to his
liking, where the thatch suits his love
of texture and the green turns a lighter hue.
While I, foraging for words with my
unconversant keyboard, thirsting for the
reassurances of voices,
impatient for reappearances, grow
restless in my captain’s chair
and wonder whether Charlie, or even
the mutabilis, would join me for
Hearing the Moon
In the night sky, constellations circle,
lapping the lips of heaven's horizons,
hiding black holes, covering their shame.
At night, I often wake, hearing the moon song,
the air silent, its unheard lyric clear
as an ashram temple bell.
The Spanish oak that stands twice the height
of my home, my defender, sheds acorns
that rap sharply on the roof, tapping
out messages I have tried half
an eternity to decipher.
In the rust-hued bigtooth maple
my mockingbird calls home,
sweet morning calls reach my ears,
cleaning the slate.
Beth Tumidge grew up in Palo Alto and holds a degree in Rhetoric from UC Berkeley. She worked for ten years in the tech field at places like Apple Computer before dropping out to teach body movement methods such as Pilates and Gyrotonic. She quit teaching when her first son was born and is currently fully occupied raising two sons in Mountain View. This year she discovered the joy of getting away for writing retreats in beautiful places like Big Sur. The rest of time she is busy loving her boys until their heads explode and writing when she can.
We have the gate code, but not a key. It isn't our house, not yet.
Nestled on a green hilltop away from cars and lights
This could be our home.
We are called by the siren song of this perfect house
We come to visit over and over again.
We walk the halls, lie in the beds
We laugh with the ghosts of our future selves.
Today we tramp into the woods behind the house.
Through the reds and greens of arbutus and madrones
We dream a dream together.
We dream so hard and so well
That it is only when the pain comes and my pace slows
That we see we are lost.
That damn careless knight has left his sword in me again.
He comes about every day and stabs me with it
Then just leaves it there to dangle on the ground
To catch on every leaf and bump.
He finds me in my kitchen
He finds me in my car
He has found me here.
My husband runs off down the trail to find the path
To find the way home.
Only it isn't our home, not yet. We have a gate code, but not a key.
I lay down across the earthen trail, grateful for a bed.
The oak leaves are black lacework against a white sky
The grey moths are everywhere.
I watch them and wonder what they have to tell me.
Gone are the eagles, the hummingbirds, the crows.
But so many, many moths.
My cold bones sink into the dirt
I hope a horse does not come along this particular day.
My husband returns to tell me that it is not far
That we are just around the corner from home.
Our eyes meet and we know that it is not our home, not yet.
Nor are we sure that we want it.
This move will be the Big Move
The one where we will stay for for twenty or thirty years.
We know how old we will be when it is time to leave this home.
We know our children will be grown and gone.
Better to just stay where we are, where we can be young and uncertain.
I take his arm, and together we walk out of the woods.
Breindle Lieba Kasher
Breindel Lieba Kasher is a published poet and a documentary film maker. As an independent film maker, she traveled through out Eastern Europe for over a decade, recording the last fragments of Jewish life, quickly fading. From her work she wrote three books and conducted countless interviews. Her latest work in progress is a new book of poetry entitled, Portrait Paintings. She lives in Israel, near Jerusalem.
Walked the road
Climbed the stairs
To the roof where
She smoked up
And let down
Her long hair
Then cut it
It’s a sacrifice
Cassie Premo Steele
Cassie Premo Steele, Ph.D., is a skilled and prolific writer in several genres—she has published four non-fiction books, three books of poetry, an audio poetry book, and a novel. She writes the interactive monthly column, “Birthing the Mother Writer,” for Literary Mama. She works as a writing & creativity coach with local and long-distance clients from her Co-Creating Studio along a little creek in South Carolina, and her writing, research, and coaching focus on the healing and joy-producing power of the creative process. Her website is www.cassiepremosteele.com
Walk through the room of your beloved's difference
His loud chewing. His five boxes of cereal. Always more than enough.
He provides for his family and himself. His clean pants. His tucked shirt.
His belt. The trim help of his waist. The place you lay your head to rest
and hear the late night cereal gurgling. His sneakers. His running.
His discipline. His coming when he said he would come. He is the one
person you have always been able to rely upon. The child within you
lies upon his stability like a mountain lies on the earth. He is your beloved.
The one you were meant to be with from birth. The father of your daughter.
Your mentor. Your wise one. Your wily and smiling man. Your husband.
I have been afraid to look at hooks upon the wall, holding torn clothes
and the horn of my past rising fast in the early morning as I dressed
to make my way out the door, looking my best, running as fast as I could
from what would hold me back there. It was a dare I took, to grow up and
away from my childhood, from what might swallow me whole if it could,
if I gave way to the fears and the admonitions of crows that I was not good,
not good, not good. One day I decided I should-- not out of guilt or debt
or what I could or couldn't do to make up for what had laid on wood-- look back.
Take the clothes from the hooks and hang my bare body upon the back of the door.
Rise up and see how far below me was the floor. How high I'd learned to come.
How much there still was of me to become. What a home could be. Much more.
Spring Equinox, Sunday Morning
Facing east, waiting for sunrise between the cedars and palmetto tree.
A pink glow. Caw from a crow. Mockingbird stands perch with her low
grinding purr on the cedar while another rustles in the palmetto--
babies already maybe. Woodpecker in the west, knocking the morning
awake. Jet trail blends with the clouds on the horizon, a milky blanket
over the strawberry sky. Mockingbirds trade places, then both go in,
one gathers palmetto berries, the other looks in on the nest. Tangerine
enters the sky. All the buds are about to pop-- apple, white, and cherry,
pink. I am thinking about the future-- a vision of revision-- how long
it took me to be patient-- as if the lesson could only be learned by
practicing it myself. Gold glows. The sunrise takes a long time
to happen. It does not come all at once. We think it does, asleep,
in our beds. When we are awake, we see the long history everything takes
to come into this moment. Woodpecker winds up. Blue and white
touch down from the sky. The clouds mottle like a cold baby's skin.
The light gathers from within. The scar of the jet is faded, smaller yet,
as time heals even the largest regret. Geese flock in the distance.
This used to be a swamp, and at dawn, you can smell the damp and
a hint of the salt from a prehistoric shore. We do not always really know
what we want. Sometimes when we give up wanting, home gives us more.
Autumn Equinox Belief
Another day of death and starting over,
the transition between the core of summer
coming to its clandestine end, and the birth
of autumn, crunch of leaves and cool of air.
Equal day and night. Half and half. Fair is fair.
I have always loved the equanimity of this day,
the way the fortitude of one season gives itself
to the festive aspiration of the next. A time to be
reflective of what is destiny and what is really luck.
Balance books. Add it up. A buck's a buck.
To be honest, I don't believe in the existence
of an apex outside a science book. I am skeptical
of guarantees, quick fixes and clear messages
beamed subliminally from thieves and crooks.
Make your own message. Write your book.
But I do think there's something in the poetry
of satellites and stars. I believe the moon is
sometimes ravenous, eats too much, then
goes on diets and is imperfect, as we are.
Running, walking, or crawling. Far is far.
I also think we have the capability
of being illuminated every day, not just
when Jupiter aligns with Mars. I also love
the beauty of serendipity, its sudden song.
Life is crisp and short. A day is sweet and long.
I adore the way the world surprises us
with beauty, how home sings to us at night
through bullfrogs, and washes up like
sea stars onto unexpected shores.
Everything is open. There are no doors.
Chiquita Mullins Lee
Chiquita Mullins Lee is Arts Learning Program Coordinator for the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) in Columbus, Ohio. She served as Ohio’s Poetry Out Loud project coordinator and was a teaching artist on the OAC artist roster, teaching creative writing in Ohio schools. She earned a BA from Vassar College and MA degrees from Ohio University and Ohio State. An OAC individual artist/excellence award recipient in fiction and non-fiction, she was OAC’s 2007 Summer Writer-in-Residence at the Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her critically-acclaimed play Pierce to the Soul received its world premier at CATCO during spring 2010.
Harlem, New York
Landed in the hot screaming lap
of New York Summer in the City,
beating, strutting, dancing, well into blue night.
A street rod sputters, a growling monster
down the throat of 125 street and 7 avenue.
Traffic honks, flashes, a shining creeping blast of steel and iron.
Central Park, in 2 blocks, starts its frenetic trek downtown.
We ride to 7 in elevator tight as a windpipe,
and open on a haven above 112 street.
Fanfare and fumes rise from 112 to
Rodlyn's heaven on 7.
A synthesis of color, culture and Spirit
greet us, satisfying like the smell of chicken frying on 1.
The rooms of Rodlyn bear riches.
Hat boxes, three tiers high, light her bedside.
A classic volume, vertical, holds lamp light.
Two shiny arrows in fish tank float like golden kisses.
Snapshot of an island girl, flower petal. Symmetry.
Trinidad produces exquisite children; same face, Rodlyn, same island girl.
Bowls of water sanctify her altar,
Black Jesus, Black Madonna, Miriam sister of Moses dances.
Rodlyn charts Orisha; I introspect Ochun.
We answer hungering calls,
feed on color, image, substance,
Chinese chicken, fried whole, cut up and delivered with stir-fry veggie.
Jeannetta likes lo mein.
and tell stories dark and flavorful as soy sauce.
Fading soon, I retire to Lenecia's room
and enter the childhood I coveted, a room of my own.
Here stands a doll knee-high to grown me; perfect for my height at age 10.
Asleep at the foot of a gorilla, I hug a naked brown baby doll.
Awaken, smiling at the whiskered chipmunk, bemused and red tongued.
Saturday morning in New York,
a whish of movement, whir of transport,
drills, staccato on asphalt, car alarms, singing, bass rumble, buses.
Harlem softens the horizon, brightens tops of trees.
Awake, I remember last night, how I breezed by a handsome dark man,
his proposition, low, soft, Caribbean,
"I'll love you sweet til morning."
It is indeed morning.
We move in slow motion on 7,
among dolls, toys, no men, just my sistahs.
I can't imagine how it could be sweeter.
You mis-name it
when pot is metallic,
burnt, scrabble skillet
injustice, stuffed behind wire, rubber,
stifled, starved into flatness harder than 21 days fasting.
That round pouch, tummy pout,
purses its generous, smooth, extravagant
Climb that mountain,
lay finger trails on warm gentle slope,
Caress, open palm,
and bless that calm, deliberate
rise and fold of flesh now
vernal and again seductive.
Frill it, strutt that dancer,
diamond naveled, seven veils flaunting,
shadows rising like ocean's mother,
flirtatious and again demanding.
See how she welcomes?
She's an open door
well-rounded sitting room,
well for weary wanderers, blue velvet couch.
Rest your head, stretch your self, nestle.
Ample doorway feeds and holds you full.
This is your resting place,
Here lie the seeds, rolling seas of your conception.
We starve ourselves of these waters.
We run thirsty, no pool to plunge.
We craft and covet hard places
of dry bone, sucked white of all sinew and marrow,
lose rhythm, dance, and rolling subtlety,
expressive definition of fleshy, earth.
A supple frame, lay honest claim, embrace.
It’s yours, hug it close,
can't you feel all that?
And, oh, don’t you just love it?
A cold silver key hangs down my chest,
inside I go to my dark house after school.
Outside, friends run, playmates scream at the wind.
I wanna skip sidewalk stones, laugh like wind, jump at the sun.
I lock door, curtains, close,
drag kitchen chair, middle of the living room floor, climb up.
Stand on the seat and bump,
land on the floor, giggling over my fun, jumpin’ at my private sun
’til rude knocks on my living room door, upstairs neighbor checking in.
as my heart does.
“Cheek-ee.” Knocks again. And again.
“What are you doing?”
Truth shaming, don't dare tell,
“I'm just playin’
jumpin’ at the sun,
’cause Mama ain't home
and I can't go outside.”
In daylight, poison hides near back doors,
beside vacant apartments,
inside barrels as high as my chest.
Drawn to mystery, I linger. Back away.
Can’t tell what’s inside.
I am seven, shadowing entrances, climbing the steep asphalt driveway
of the Rooker apartments, rows of neat, brick, two-story buildings,
walls, slick with agate and marble, bordering the pathway,
the smell of dirty wood, red clay, blacktop at the back of my throat.
Is Mama at work… or sleep?
I’m alone outside.
Asphalt, the skin of a squat man. White undershirt, thick arms.
Black pants, rounded waist.
I land at his open door because he smiles, beckons. I am as high as his chest.
Can’t tell what’s inside.
Drawn to his piano. Sit beside him, as he presses the black and white keys.
I stay a moment. Leave easy. A new friend.
His second invitation, like the first, he beckons.
I remember a piano, sold from my bedroom before we moved when I was five.
Used to finger it, thrilled at the shuddering keys to the left.
To break the code of all 88 was my object.
Mama couldn’t teach me, but she would kiss me. Made everything better.
Always kissed me night-night on the lips before I went to sleep,
even the night after she sold the piano to pay a debt.
I had love for those 88 keys. I have a new friend with a piano.
Quick to the doorway, he’s seated, already making music.
Invites me to his lap. Holds my fingers to the keys. I press, sound vibrating.
His asphalt face, gap-toothed smile fills the room,
his lips, as he eases in to kiss.
Surprises us both how quickly I run,
a breathless escape through wide open doors.
Days later, he, in his doorway beckons, and I wag my head no,
bold, pointing, had told my Mama, “He lives right there.”
Surprises me how quickly
a man can disappear.
With him long gone, seems safe to walk black hills.
Westchester curves a sharp left, but it is the same street,
Rent is cheap around that curve and we move again.
Rooker apartments, in shouting distance.
Strange nuisance in Rooker’s shadows –
same barrels, sealed and squatting, wearing “CAUTION.”
Someone whispers, “It’s acid.”
Why dumped in northwest Atlanta?
Not a trace in the lily lanes of Chamblee, Buckhead – by the Governor’s house,
but a risk in our midst, poison on our asphalt streets.
This bully, his sister, another boy remove the wooden lid.
One drops in a jack stone. Another a penny. The bully lights a match.
I am asleep,
miss the explosion.
“You didn’t hear it? Shook the whole street.”
How quickly barrels disappear.
The bully bears the only injury. Visiting, I am all eyes
on his bandaged foot, pinky toe hangs by a bloody strand.
His mother smiles, hanging on.
Had she been at work…or sleep?
Acid spews an ignorant, fortunate child.
Can’t tell what’s inside,
in daylight, hidden,
Christine Tsen is a cellist and chamber musician performing throughout New England. She attended Eastman School and the New England Conservatory of Music. She is a published musician and poet. Her poems are or will be in THRUSH Poetry Journal, The Bark, and Eunoia Review among others. In her experience so much of poetry feels like music, and music like poetry ~ and to her one lights up the other! More: www.ChristineThomasTsen.com.
I have heard you serenading
since time began, seen you
looking up at my window with your ardent guitar
and I have felt your steady arm in my slow dance
through this ballroom where, even now
I refuse shoes
and you have ridden your bike alongside my own
ever-so-slightly airborne no helmets
splashed in road side birdsong and berries
leaves quivering in all colors, about to drop
and then they do
and it must have been you who rang the bell
many years ago, I remember opening it
gingerly, lifting my eyes
to rainwater dripping off your tipped hat
a pathetically water-logged guitar
and I asked you to leave it all behind
A summer requiem lights the air
with cindery scent
as we walk, Thoreau and I.
Leaves of mulberry fall
cedar damask spruce silk and spike.
I dip toes in swollen streams
where blossoming marmalade gowns
smolder at pond’s edge.
Here feathers are music;
Everything a heart’s rhythm.
I revel in his outrage of conformity,
“Yes, oh yes I do understand, and why
should we be within the confines of walls,
a roof?” I hear myself almost yell
over unceasing interruption of a drum
beating amidst crunch of leaves
wild hearts, libertine birds leaving
odd-fitting bits in overflowing cups
and I am in company of sages;
A lone loon crying…
(Never mind that your dirty laundry
you took from the wilderness
home for Mom to do.)
David Fraser lives in Nanoose Bay, on Vancouver Island. He is the founder and editor of Ascent Aspirations Magazine, www.ascentaspirations.ca since 1997. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Rocksalt, An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry. He has published four collections of poetry, Going to the Well (2004), Running Down the Wind (2007), No Way Easy, 2010, and Caught in My Throat ,2011 and a collection of short fiction, Dark Side of the Billboard (2006). In addition David has co-authored with Naomi Beth Wakan, On Poetry, an inspirational book on poetics and poetry. To keep out of trouble he helps develop Nanaimo's spoken-word series, WordStorm. www.wordstorm.ca. In October 2009 and 2010 he participated in Random Acts of Poetry, a national poetry program that brings poetry to the streets of Canada. David is a full member of the League of Canadian Poets.
We are Only Tending Here
We are only tending borrowed soil
although we have the paper stating
that we own this dirt.
We briefly own this dirt, but really,
we are moving rocks and earth, and
sculpting clay into garden dreams.
Our parents worried how
their old house after they had moved
had gone to rack and ruin,
was run into the ground,
rode hard and wet and put away
with no one tending to the barn,
but they too were passing through
like dirt and leaves through worms
that worked all winter
to clear the forest floor.
We’ve tended all our lives,
watched the forest grow,
changed the view of mountains
and the sea, but still the eagles,
gulls and siskins fly above the house,
the heron nightly returns to roost,
each year the herring spawn,
the California seals return to bark
upon the log booms down the bay.
All this will continue and someone else
will turn the soil in the garden,
someone else will complain of taxes,
sure enough and struggle
with the balance at the bank.
We are only tending here,
so maybe we should sing
in the damp spring rain,
and smile back when the sun
creates shadows on the pond,
and all the juncos feed beneath
the tassels on the Hazelwood,
while lily pads wait patiently
to unfurl their leaves.
We should be singing
for where we are, for what
we attend to is our hearts.
Snapshot of Happiness
If I could capture fleeting happiness
it would be a Sunday, late summer,
garden full of bees,
both of you in shorts and the sun
intense against Mrs. Roundtree’s
single car garage
where the peach tree grew
and all of us would be picking
putting peaches in cardboard boxes
on the cement back stoop,
the wooden porch stacked high
among the swirl of fruit flies,
smell of jam cooking on the stove.
Working in the Garden
Step into the garden
amid the chaos, and clutter
that ties us up,
go to the moment especially
in spring when blades,
curled leaves rise and unfurl.
The early flowers in their turn
come out. Fish lurk
below the lily pads.
You see their drowsy motion
searching for this year’s food.
Rocks have grown out of dark soil
once again for harvest.
Unwanted plants await your weeding.
All is tending the untenable,
last year’s clippings burn in the bin,
ash spreads through the smoke,
small wait for summer
when all the insects drunk in heat
spread seed, and fruit comes in all its forms
nuts, berries, apples, figs and others
that some small creature
holds his favorite before the cold wind
and sleep finds him gone.
It’s then the memory of smoke,
leaves crackling in heaped-up fires,
the dead stalks dry and flaming,
the quiet left, maybe this, without
the clutter that ties up our lives.
David Gershator was born on Mt. Carmel during the British mandate. He taught Humanities at Rutgers, Brooklyn College, CUNY, and the University of the Virgin Islands. He has translations, poetry, and reviews in numerous anthologies and journals. David was Editor, Downtown Poets Co-op (1970’s-80’s) and Associate Editor, Home Planet News. Recipient of NEH grant and NY State CAPS award. He has also co-authored seven picture books for children. Poetry books include Play Mas and Elijah’s Child . www.davidgershator.com
Grapes And Olives
My cousin, not seen for a lifetime,
works on me to settle down
on his commune near Mt. Gilboa
“Forget the diaspora and come home.”
My uncle, retired truck driver,
orders him to leave off
“He lives where he lives!”
I smile in the dark of the van
We drive from Ein Harod to the Sharon
and though I join in on the old songs
I live in a different language now
I can’t go home again like a homing pigeon
I can only visit the life I might have lived
and praise the grapes and the olives
I might have picked
if I’d chosen to return a lifetime ago
In Memoriam: Hook & Ladder 103
Seigel Street between no place and nowhere B’klyn
Right opposite the firehouse
my tenement burns
there’s no relief in August
2 alarms and counting
3 alarms and counting
4 alarms and counting counting
ding ding ding ding ding
counting alarms instead of sheep
counting on alarms instead of sleep
who counts sheep in Brooklyn
alarms alarms always alarms
the whole world’s burning
at all hours day and night
but the nights are worse
the flames don’t sleep they leap
they’re out of control they’re wild
and the flames draw near and nearer
eating and licking at your bed
laugh when you cry Bar-B-Que
that’s what the firemen say
wake up! how do you want it?
raw medium well done? gasping for air?
hook and ladder put the hook into you
and after all the years far from alarms
firehouse knocked down and gone
picks and axes still come through the walls
there’s fire in the old slum yet
water bursts from the hose
the roof caves in
the firemen never return
to finish the game
you inherit a pack of jokers
the pillow beneath your head soaking wet
Walls Walls Walls
Where was I educated?
through the walls
by the walls in the walls
learned my lessons
wall by wall
sex through the walls
death through the walls
peeling walls fire walls plaster walls
cancer walls demolition walls
rats in the walls
bass beat walls
holy holy holy walls
brick by brick walls
stone by stone walls
I don’t have to go to
Washington Jerusalem or China
for a great wall
I’ve got all the walls I need
right here in Nueva York
I’d like to kiss
all the famous walls
but what will I beat my head against
and what will I hit with my fists
it’s time for a wall
to honor walls old and new
wood stone glass concrete
sheetrock plastic steel
homes for wild graffiti
sparrows and rust
the best wall wins
a gold plated brick
from Wall Lovers of America
even the Wall Street Journal says
it’s time to invest in walls
D.N. Simmers has been published internationally in Van Gogh's Ear in Paris. Ascent and Dandelions in the UK. Splizz in Wales. The New Zealand Poetry Review and in the 125 Anniversary issue of Subterrain. He is in recent issues of the Prairie Journal and Jones Ave. In the current issue of the Storyteller in the States. Nomad Chair Poetry Review (NY) and the Iodine Poetry Journal (NC). He has been published extensively in Open Mic on Saturday Night.
"I can almost see the room--"
Like fingers from a forgotten night, rooms of a youth.
Little things were large and words were few.
More said slowly while the rat trapped behind
one room scratched again as if his mummy
was loose on a full moon night. He roams the halls
and between each finger.
Nana's room with her mid-night pot under her bed
pictures of her dead husband on her dresser.
The back room once rented and a few holes in the wall
from one drunken night of fists.
Back bathroom with the first tub, large.
Ceramic boat with chrome taps left up high.
What was is now, again.
The kitchen with wainscoting. Old table with
plastic 1950 chairs studded and a tile floor
patterned in squares.
Front room on a curvved porch, thick stone outer walls
build by a stone mason. Hardwood floors so thick
that three re-surfacings later,still thick and
squeaked with every earthly and ghost footprinting.
They are rooms, long gone. Now they are compartments
where memories linger like dust that flies
around with music in sunlight from an open porch
It had to be re-surfaced more as the skateboarders
moved in, crash their wheels on cracks
breaking up the mending compound.
Kids using the raised driveway as a ramp to
pick up speed while going down the long hill
a few blocks away.
They are just having fun and the driveway is over
thirty and has grown up with cracks and holes
from too many winters' heaving ground under it.
So at night when I am reading and hear the wheels
coming and turning away I think of a son who
would come up the driveway and do a spin
and then head down the hill.
Smiling I hope the wheels are good
and the skateboarder has a long and safe ride.
Elizabeth teaches middle schoolers near San Francisco the fine craft of writing, among other language arts subjects. She keeps chickens and occasionally plays the cello. An avid fan of the outdoors, she has hiked across Spain twice. Her work has appeared in America Magazine, Echoes Literary Journal and Sugar Mule.
we hunch around
a worn plastic covered card table
playing the games of
our grandfathers: pitch, pedro, canasta;
our mother hovers over a hot stove
from early morning
lost in her world of cookbooks
interrupting us with her questions;
we don’t know the answers either.
finally, we sit down
over a lace tablecloth, our names printed
on small cards telling us where to sit
she reads a short grace in english
slices the turkey, scoops out some dressing
passes the green bean casserole
strawberry jello with marshmallows
pumpkin pie and whipped cream
after, she wipes her hands and smiles.
we stare back at her
wondering where the polenta
fennel filled sausages, blue veined cheese
and warmed rice pudding were
on a day when we are giving thanks.
gift to mom
when i was six
i caught twelve butter
and put them in a jar
until you turned your back.
when you answered the door
in your faded housedress
drying your reddened hands
down your hips
cursing the interruption
i let them loose
in your handbag
and snapped the clasp.
at the supermarket the
next day, when you reached
for your food stamps, you
gasped at the deadness
in the satin folds
how did you know
that a six year old only
wanted to make you smile?
Gretti Izak was born in Bulgaria. After graduating from London University, she studied History of Art in Italy and in England. She has worked as teacher, painter, head of a multi-language translation program and editor. She has published five books of poetry and a collection of short stories. Gretti lives in Jerusalem.
The New House, the Claims of the Old
From the window
butterfly thin clouds,
copper–smoked roofs, tiled
indented patterns, angular lines,
the city’s bitter-sweet
modern locked horizon.
What the eye sees it verifies
with the back of the head
where memory amends the optic
nerve’s wavelength quickening emotion,
since it misses – suddenly I realized it -
that enticement of wonder -
the view from the Old House,
Mount Zion kindling at sunset
a spectrum of blues, allied
to indigo, magenta, cadences
of gold and silent straits of silver
when the surrounding soft light
echoes the never-ending tremor
that rushes mountains of lightning
to complement the ancient markings
on stones, veins on branches flowing
with the blood of the sun
alight in Jerusalem.
Still in the Making
illuminates this place,
ancient, wound by a filigree
drunk on the gifts
bring to her gates
her windows listening
to distant-playing flutes.
Along Romeo and Juliet patios
rivers of thought open door after
the clarity of water shines
in the light, rekindles yearnings
the wind weaving a new roof
for each generation -
lovely home of light
still in the making -
this fruit of a universe.
Ah, were it a house
where every room opens eyes
to the sea
all breathing the same substance
reminder how you cannot reproduce
in your own shape the truly blue
leaning on the horizon
the obligatory supplement to the edge
tension in the body assembling me
as an island that knows it is washed
by the tale of water
the milky lemon-green overplay
of light over the waves
curving them with the colors of the spectrum
simply as the sea-mist that cloaks the benign
the elevation of the coast where the sky
and the sea are mixed and the solid disappears.
As a Sunbird
The man and woman
heading out -
flashy red roses
a garden green background
every angel watching their exit.
Was it done in a dignified manner?
I assume that they tried to turn back.
Isn't this why rotating, flaming swords
guard the entrance?
When I was seventeen
my wish was to join a kibbutz.
I wanted to live the collective life,
pendulum-like days in equilibrium,
perfect as mathematical equations.
It took me half a lifetime to notice
the ever-busy sunbirds in my garden:
the male’s plumage a deeply green,
black metallic sheen catching the sun's
rays, his mate flying close to his side
(which always makes me envious) -
the resident blue jays, their nestlings
in spring, dependent on insects -
everything alive always
encumbered by uncertainty.
I look into the future.
What would I do if the entrance were cleared?
A confection of perfect flowers, planted with
geometrical precision, leading to an opening.
I see myself strangely agitated. Thinking
as a sunbird probably does:
....Should I?.... Shouldn't I?
Flexing wings, testing the wind,
terrified, exhilarated, praying:
Please let me enter Let me come home