On this page: poems by Ruth Fogelman, Maude Larke, Mimi Moriarty, Ruth D. Handel, Michael E. Stone, Naashia Mohamed, P. Sayword, Veronica Morgan, William Lewis, Mbizo Chirasha, Michael Estabrook, R.S. Read
The following works are copyright © 2012. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.
Ruth Fogelman is a long-time resident of Jerusalem’s OldCity and is the author of three books. Her poems, articles, short stories and photography have appeared in anthologies and various publications in Israel, and the USA, including Arc 22, Poetica, The Deronda Review,New Vilna Review, and International Literary Review. Ruth holds a Masters Degree from the Creative Writing Program of Bar Ilan University and leads the Pri Hadash Women’s Writing Workshop in Jerusalem.
Visit her website at http://jerusalemlives.weebly.com
We need to unclutter the house and must
sort through piles of photos and books
buried under stacks of cassettes and dust.
From under the bed we threw out old bars covered with rust.
We’ve already thrown out papers crammed into nooks,
for we need to unclutter the house and must
part with the old Polaroid – not worth it to adjust
or get it fixed; nobody would give it second looks.
It was buried under stacks of cassettes and dust.
There is little to steal from us; we have thrust
dozens of magazines into the bin. Not even crooks
will take them, but we need to unclutter the house and must
let go of stuff we’ve been saving for years, and trust
in the process, trust we’ll feel lighter, no hooks
to hold us buried under stacks of cassettes and dust.
We gave away a table and bookcase; just
see how much neater the room looks.
We need to unclutter the house and must
get rid of everything buried under stacks of cassettes and dust.
It’s not the ships
or kiddush cups
collected over decades,
it’s not the accumulation of books
or family photographs and collages
covering walls and shelves,
it’s not the eye-catching mural
painted across the living-room wall
that makes us call it home.
that in the frying-pan, love is mixed with eggs,
in the oven, acceptance stirred into cheesecakes,
and faith braided with challah dough
that makes us call it home.
The Problem With Books
The problem with books –
whether Wiesel, Agnon, Mishna
or An Anthology of American Literature –
they all have souls
and I can’t toss them out.
I can’t toss out Rashi’s Commentary,
a translation of Baudelaire’s poetry
or the Tales translated by Buber –
they teach, enrich, inspire, uplift
and I can’t let them go.
I must create space
I’ve no room on my shelves.
Oh books, I have no place to keep you
but I can’t live without you.
Maude Larke has returned to writing after years in universities, analyzing others’ work, and to classical music as an ardent amateur. She has been published in Bird’s Eye reView, the Syracuse Cultural Workers’ Women Artists Datebook, Naugatuck River Review, Oberon, Doorknobs and Bodypaint, the Society of Southwestern Authors, Flowers & Vortexes, and The Story Teller.
On Summer Sundays
on summer Sundays
the only activity
is breathing in breezes
and listening to the creak
of a child’s swing
are as silent
as bible reading
and the evening psalms
are distant motorcycles
and lawn mowers
and the rich, bursting sound
of green leaves
even the bird
with only one note
is welcome to sing it over
to the adagio
of a stretching cat
I had a vision
of thumbs caressing temples
and suddenly knew
that they were mine.
It was while
I was reminiscing
about the cat
and the caresses given
thumbs along her temples.
is a matrioshka shell
encased in the matrioshka shell
of my mind.
It makes her
identical to me.
Mimi Moriarty is the poetry editor of "Spotlight on Poetry," a column in The Spotlight Newspaper in the greater Albany, NY area . Her short fiction, poems, essays and articles have been published in many journals, magazines and newspapers, including Margie, Alehouse, SLAB, Thema, Chronogram, The Litchfield Review, Rockhurst Review, Connecticut Review, Peregrine and Irish America. Her second chapbook, Sibling Reverie, coauthored with her brother, Frank Desiderio, will be published by Finishing Line Press in the winter of 2012, and a third chapbook, Crows Calling, will be published by FootHills Publishing in the fall of 2012.
Who Will Water My Plants?
I have spent years maintaining my small cadre of houseplants,
bi-weekly watering, monthly fertilizing, pinching and severing
yellowed leaves, repotting the overgrown in new soil, turning
them toward the sun, the buds blooming, the vines trailing.
The way most people brag about their successful children, that is how
I feel about these plants, one in an antique pot handed down from my
grandmother, one a cutting from an ancient jade, all of them prospering
against the sunny glass, hovering on the warm side of brutal weather.
The African violet and the overgrown ivy need special care,
like a child with autism or a cranky parent with Alzheimer’s;
and the fertile spider plant with its careless offspring, the sticky
web of decisions about which ones receive pots of their own,
which one are aborted. I have become the moral center of plant
life; all this caretaking, as if I were in charge of a nursery
of bawling infants, a hospice for the frail and the elderly,
triage for wounded fronds and withering succulents.
I cannot bear the thought of these plants dying, their jutting
fingers wasting, browning, their roots twisted in agonizing
bundles, their cracked spines dilapidated, their soil rusted,
as woeful as anyone’s demise, seed to soil, dust to dust.
Ode to a Septic Tank
Praise to the anaerobic bacterial environment that develops in the tank
and to the decomposed waste discharged into the tank
Praise to the irreducible solids that settle and gradually fill the tank
Praise to the maintenance which prevents costly repairs when solids
escape the tank.
And of course praise to the 2000-gallon tank.
Bravo, oh inlet wastewater pipe and the leach field connected by a T pipe
Bravo, oh dual chambers, each of which is equipped with a manhole cover
Bravo, oh wastewater that enters the first chamber, allowing solids to settle and scum to float.
Bravo, oh liquid component flowing through the dividing wall into the second chamber
Bravo, oh settled solids that are anaerobically digested
Kudos to the excess liquid that drains from the outlet into the leach field
Kudos to the remaining impurities trapped in the soil
Kudos to the excess water eliminated through percolation into the soil
Kudos to the groundwater that eventually receives the excess water
Kudos to the root system of plants that eventually takes up the excess water
Kudos to the piping network laid in weeping tiles that distributes the wastewater
Kudos to the electric lift pump required by topographic considerations
Accolades to the removal of the waste not decomposed, called sludge
Accolades to the men who remove the sludge
Accolades to the truck that carries away the sludge
Accolades to the pit where the truck empties the sludge
Accolades to Wikipedia, which knows all things about septic tanks
but does not reveal the whereabouts of the sludge pit
or its treatment, explains thoroughly
the mechanics of the septic tank
especially in a storm
when the leach field is saturated
and the electric lift pump fails
and back-up into my recently
will surely occur.
Measles Outbreak in a Pew
We arrived with empty stomachs
to be fortified later with Easter fare
there would be fig preserves
and mint jelly, mischievous children
hiding under the table, operatic
voices scolding while chopping
this was our habit every Sunday
not just Easter, but this was Easter
when we zipped up new frocks
and donned bonnets with ribbons.
I foiled this ritual, communion
went unreceived, the lunchtime
table unset, it was as if earth’s gravity
let go, we floated home fussing
and fumbling to disrobe me
the fever breaking me into pebbles
of sweat, the pink speckles hardening
on my skin, I was deemed pariah.
Denied a second communion –
chocolate rabbits in the basket
those chalky, pastel eggs - I cooled
down on my grandmother’s sheets
they rippled a kind of healing,
she entered the room with a tray.
I do not remember what I ate, but
I remember the smell of lamb
from the kitchen, I remember the whoops
of children on the lawn, how they looked
as they played in the refracted light
From the Attic
First of all, I'm writing with a red pen,
which implies something twisted or slippery
or possibly a mistake when reaching into
the jar of pens, so there's that.
Then, the surface of the paper is empty of ideas,
reminds me of a second-grade classroom
in early September, me printing on dotted lines,
curves and slants, the sustained effort of literacy.
Then, the notebook itself, a history of grim musings,
as if my poems were Scandinavian or I were
depressed. In fact, I'm quite cheery outside
the poetry scene, some might snarl ebullient,
though the poems of last year have been squares
of debris, a collection of basement poems, dark
and musty, as if everyone I have loved has died.
I'm glad that's over.
I'm happy to report I'm developing a whole new theme-
attic poems. I'm standing in the eaves, looking through
a circular window at the world below. The dahlias
are in bloom, the bees are making honey, I'm happy
to report all is well. I'm doing so very, very well,
really, I'm feeling so much better, though someone
has removed the ladder on which I climbed to the attic,
and I can't seem to find another way down.
Ruth D. Handel
Ruth D. Handel is a poet, writer and teacher. She has published a chapbook, Reading The White Spaces (Finishing Line Press, 2009) and poems in a variety of journals including Common Ground Review, Westchester Review, en(compass), The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, Let The Poets Speak, Controlled Burn, Clockwise Cat, Contemporary Hiabun Online and Evening Street Review. She teaches poetry courses and workshops in poetry writing, gives poetry performances, and manages the Poetry Caravan, a volunteer organization of 30 poets who bring poetry to the community.
Seeing Cliff Palace
Landscape’s most crucial condition is considered to be space,
but its deepest theme is time - Rebecca Solnit
Green-tabled hills, sandstone outcroppings,
a blur of ocher under wide Colorado skies
coming into focus.
Glow of natural earth in the cliffside,
habitation built in, self-contained as a film set,
distant as Shangri-la.
A village: large circular kiva,
towers round and square, pathways, houses,
ladders to upper stories propped against the walls,
buildings so solid one expects to see
Anasazi people emerge from their apartments
or to catch sight of them inside the chain of rooms,
artisans in sandstone left by an ancient sea,
who farmed in peace until drought seared
the tableland and sent the builders south.
This is America’s ancient neighborhood,
older than the strictures of the Puritan settlement
or the certainties of colonial Missions,
this village in a spacious landscape,
more than one thousand years preserved,
this neighborhood of ancestral puebloans,
this peaceful polity, open in its density,
is the old free heritage of home.
Space the frame, time the deepest theme.
breaking the surface
of the water
your sun-blurred eyes
turning the flat
lake’s calm circumference
into blue yellow red
and if you turn back
even your cautious sandals
on the shore
coloring beyond reach,
that moment before
seems the possibility
of breaking through
to some place else
you are certain exists
despite the resumed
of your breath’s
from the earth
cannot tell whether
the blurred shadows
are tendrils underwater
or shapeless colors
on the surface
of the grass.
only that moment
the asphodels of hades
can she see
like a foetus
or flowering bulb.
and the mountain
you have been
at that moment
how you breathed
high above the fjord
at that moment
ripples in the firelight
when you remember
how dark fields
tongues of fire
the painted air,
and you recognize
or think you do
a welcoming glance
at that moment
you are arriving
at a place
of your own.
Michael E. Stone
Michael Stone has published poems in numerous literary journals and anthologies, as well as translations of medieval Armenian poetry. His poetic translation of Adamgirk', a medieval Armenian epic about Adam and Eve in 6,000 lines appeared with Oxford University Press. A book of his Selected Poems was published in 2010. He was born in England in 1938. His family moved to Australia, where he received his schooling. He holds the degrees from Harvard University and the University of Melbourne. He was Gail Levin de Nur Professor of Religious Studies and Professor of Armenian Studies at the Hebrew University for many years and is now retired.
He lives in Jerusalem with his family.
We lived upstairs once,
and ate down below.
So we put in a staircase:
two girders with
wooden treads stained
with yacht varnish.
We slept upstairs,
had studies up there,
but children and kitchen,
were down below and
the steps bridged.
The children are gone now,
and truth be told,
the stairs seemed steeper,
each year harder.
So we migrated the study,
the bedroom’s below now.
The stairs are still there,
but take you nowhere.
Home’s where we are,
and we live in life’s limits.
October 21, 2012
Living in an apartment,
no, a suite,
on the ninth floor
in Washington DC.
All plush, with service,
New sheets and towels,
Neither hotel nor home.
The broad streets,
empty at night,
full of people for whom
less plush apartments
It was not personal and
not quite impersonal.
But not home,
though you were there.
Naashia Mohamed lives in the Maldives, her native country. Her doctorate in Language Teaching and Learning allowed her to combine her passion for research, languages and teaching. She now teaches at the Maldives National University and works with teachers in schools to create powerful learning experiences for children. When she is not working, she is usually found at home with her two children, exploring her two other loves: photography and food. Naashia blogs at http://journallingthroughphotos.blogspot.com and is working on her first book.
the curtain sings
to the music of the wind.
the washed clothes in the basket
waiting to be taken upstairs
grumble about getting crumpled.
the chapters of the manuscript
waiting to be edited
let out intermittent beeps
letting me know of its existence
in the pile of papers waiting to be sorted.
the full sink,
fully aware of my shame
in having unwashed dishes,
screams out loud
humiliating me further
in front of unexpected visitors.
the house is quiet
except for the ruckus
of these lifeless things.
their noise too distracting
to concentrate on anything else.
i take the keys and leave.
weekday afternoon at 5pm
the tv blares something foul
girls in garish attire romping
on screen, seduction via cable.
transfixed, he sits unmoving,
eyes following undulating bodies.
head bowed, music tuned out,
oblivious, she rolls out bread,
uniform rounds of flat dough
for a silent meal they will eat
bodily together, souls disengaged.
despite the daylight, darkness persists
shadows hiding secrets, obscuring truth.
the one directional flow of words
masquerading as conversation for years
has ceased. this silence thunders.
what remains are vacant routines
performed unthinkingly, duty-bound.
lacking heart, lacking soul.
lifeless actions that no longer sing
the song of a genuine laugh.
smells defined her life
smells defined her life.
the ripeness of reincarnation
as yeast comes alive in warm water;
the pungency of cut onions
lingering on fingers,
like the damned spot of lady macbeth;
the heavy suffocation of untouched clothes
piled neatly on wardrobe shelves
gathering silent deadly dust;
the heavy sweetness of jasmine
from the perfumed candle in the bathroom
masking the remains of secret tobacco
inhaled in private;
the pure white mothballs rolling hollowly
in the dark depths of corners,
a gentle guillotine of unsuspecting creatures.
smells of mundane and routine and secret,
smells defining her life.
P. Sayword is a graduate of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts and worked for twenty-five years in public housing before retiring to devote herself to writing. With her long-time woman partner, she divides her time between a small farm in rural Western Massachusetts and a home in Ramah, New Mexico. Her poetry has appeared in Sanctuary, the Journal of Massachusetts Audubon Society; the Naugatuck River Review; An Anthology: The Zuni Mountain Poets and Adrienne Rich: A Tribute Anthology. Her chapbook, What Sleeps Inside was published in the summer of 2010. At present she is working on a new manuscript.
Art Show: The Way Home
A curtain of snow closes in, first far hills,
then closer, the valley gone, trees blotted out,
the sky pulls down fast and hard and a great flock
of pinyon jays is the only blue.
On Sunday afternoon people spoke of the way home
seeking direction through canvases of oil,
acrylic paintings hanging on the wall,
the naked coyote skull bright with nail polish,
to enter the smell of crimson paint and golden wax,
bones of the dead, the burnt fur of forgetting,
the hiss and cluck of our tongues as they run
over our teeth, our unspoken needs.
Is home where platters of steaming food
sit waiting on a wooden table, laid out with
careful hands, a woman humming softly
in the doorway of a white kitchen,
or is it in the blood on our knees as we crawl up
long stone steps to empty stars where
god and mary and all the angels
hide behind a crazed light promising forever,
is home what we imagine we remember
being held close to a beating heart,
our cheeks flushed hot with sweat,
blue rim of breast milk on our eager lips,
is it desire and delight as a lover stirs
between our legs, singing us beyond all the
words we ever knew, where panting and sated
we beg for something close to mercy,
or are the directions home slipped into a corner
of an old map where our handwriting is illegible
yet we understand its meaning, the colors staining
our fingers with a faith we thought we’d lost.
The pinyon jays move off, treetop to treetop
and still the snow comes in, thick with silence
a vast smudge of gray, smoky and dense,
layered over what remains of our lives.
Veronica Morgan, a graduate of the Boston Museum School and Tufts University, enjoyed a first career in architectural design and institutional planning, followed by many years renovating significant historic buildings. She now gives new life to architectural salvage, creating visual memoirs in the media of print making, Installation, water color and artists books with original poetry. Her studio, a renovated barn in Gloucester Mass, welcomes centuries of influence: Lascaux to Tapies. Her work is exhibited nationally with the Society of Layerists in Multi Media, the North Shore Art Association and other venues.
How I coveted the place!
Quirky antique half-house,
Waterfront on a tidal river,
banks obscured by lilac, willow,
honeysuckle claiming every fissure
in a granite boundary wall.
It saw me coming:
You look the type. Can’t say no
to peeling clapboard,
leaning frame, near-candidate
for tear down.
High on the steep-pitched
gable end, a hewn third-story
overhang, the cue-
17th Century! And that
panel with its good side
sealed behind a plaster wall?
Raised field, feather edge,
First Period….I knew.
What care I if abutters
share the land, their ancient
skiff abandoned on the shore?
Or the kitchen, dark and miniscule,
a questionable roof, the single
source of heat a gas log stove;
insulation?- vintage layers
of Daily News, and a
hammered-flat tobacco tin
to keep the mice at bay.
I’m young, a dreamer,
New England to the core.
And this is mine.
Mine each wavy window pane,
wooden gutter, sloping floor.
As Grandma conjured
wardrobes from a cache of
fabric scraps, historic salvage
fuels my alchemy, yields the
warm span of hand split lath,
an arc of rose head nails.
Such keen familiarity….
Yes. I’ve dwelled here before-
when fog-bound mornings
moist with salt
shrouded a craftsman’s industry.
W M 2 worked 40 years for NBC television, much of that time as a sound technician and videographer gathering news across the U.S. and around the world. Currently he continues his career in television working freelance for the NFL Network and NBC. He has squeezed writing and performing between working and providing since he became a parent at age sixteen. November 2011 he squeezed out his first book of poetry, Next Stop Nirvana (available through Amazon: http://ow.ly/bQfQ2) that focuses on art, love, spirit and passion.
Home is rest, work or play
Not scrutinized or criticized,
Guided by ones own mind.
Choosing to move
With heart as the engine
Love as the fuel
Music keeps time.
Color and shadows.
Nothing is hidden.
Nothing is lost and
Dark is measured
By distance from light.
Dance remembers each step.
First there is you.
Open heart, with me.
Or either of us for the other
Waiting to welcome
Home baby, welcome home.
Mbizo Chirasha is widely published in more than seventy-five journals, magazines, and anthologies around the world. He was the Poet in Residence of the International conference of African culture and development 2009 in Namibia. His poetry book Good Morning President is published in the UK and Whispering Woes of Ganges and Zambezi is published by an Indian/American Publisher Cyber Wit Press.
Children of Xenophobia
Children eating bullets and firecrackers
Beggars of smile and laughter
Silent corpses sleeping away fertile dreams
Povo chanting new nude wretched slogans
Overstayed exiles eating beetroot and African potato
Abortions and condoms batteries charging the lives of nannies and maids
Children of barefoot afternoons and uncondomized nights
Sweat chiselling the rock of your endurance
The heart of Soweto, Harare, Darfur, Bamako still beating like drums
Violence fumigating peace from this earth.
Michael Estabrook is a baby boomer who began getting his poetry published in the late 1980s. Over the years he has published 15 poetry chapbooks, his most recent entitled “When the Muse Speaks.” His interests include history, art, music, theatre, opera, and his wife who just happens to be the most beautiful woman he has ever known.
The Sun Splashing All Around
Waiting for my friend out
in the backyard of his house.
I notice the grass is cut short and neat,
and the wasp nests
that once hung like proud stalactites
from beneath the gutters
had been knocked down and smashed
into unregal piles of pulpy cardboard.
And he’d built a pretty wooden fence
around a lanky maple tree. There, listening
to familiar neighborhood sounds
of children and vehicles,
and slamming screen doors,
I recalled when I was a child
cutting grass in my grandfather’s backyard,
then resting on his stoop, sucking
on ice cubes left in the cold wet
lemonade glass, sniffing the air
as the smells of my grandmother’s sizzling
cooking drifted outside to mingle
with the fresh tangy warmth of
the grass clippings,
the sun splashing all around.
Out the back window I see, resting there
next to the mulch bin, topped
with light green watermelon rinds
and pale yellow corn husks
and shrunken orange pumpkins, a giant
Galapagos Tortoise, not moving or eating,
but simply resting, steady and sure
as the harvest moon, its two front legs
stretching out straight before it,
wizened, hoary head peeking at up me
from beneath its dark carapace.
But I know it cannot be a Galapagos Tortoise
because this is winter in New England,
a light layer of snow beginning to cover
everything, the yard and trees
and the mulch bin, too.
I rub my eyes, look out again see it’s only
the large rock at the end of the path
resting there sure and steady as Mars
shining fiery red in the winter sky,
and not a Galapagos Tortoise after all, watching
me steadily as a Roman centurion from there
alongside the mulch bin in the snow.
R. S. Read is a writer living on California's Central Coast with his Australian Sheepdog. He has traveled widely and earned a living by (among other things) being an handy man, attorney, roofer, judge, plumber, steelworker, teacher, counselor, and public speaker. His poetry has been published in a variety of journals. He is the author Shouldn't You Be a Healer.
Rioters set the West Side on fire.
In the summer of ‘68 we still call them Negros.
Our eyes sting from foul air,
but I’m immune to rage
absorbed by teenage heartbreaks
and heroic fantasies
resigned to schlep butter, eggs and milk
(urmilch, my boss calls it)
into the mouths of sleeping white folk.
Isaac shouts, “Hurry-up, young-blood!”
while he hunches over the steering wheel
urging me to circle faster from rear stoops to the green milk truck.
The dairy’s gold shamrocks stenciled on its splintered panels
give it the look of a medicine wagon from Oz.
Melt water gushes from the patches on its undercarriage.
Whenever I trip, Isaac gives out an emphatic snort
and from my basket, the bottles give me muffled applause
like a team of cheerleader in lace gloves.
He’s teaches me how to grasp the pick
jab the blocks at the faults
cradle butter and cheese on cubes
and –above all else– collect.
He draws a finger across his throat saying,
“Or your business dies, just like that”
a paternal effort to wake me
and seek my urmilch career, work as far above the clerks at the A&P
as the moon from these smoking streets.
One day as we relax under a sugar maple,
doors open wide, the morning gutter-washer long dead,
he offers me the entire outfit at a bargain price,
but from my dizziness, I erupt: “This can’t be my life!”
Rudeness I drive into him like the pick.
When he turns his back to me,
I can taste the ash.
To My Mother on her 90th Birthday
Everyone who knows these old ladies grinning into the camera --
Silver hair, gleaming dentures, rhinestones --
Will soon be dead,
But my siblings persist with photos:
You and Loren, his lump hand on your shoulder.
Ethel May and Eula Bates hand you bottles of pink bath salts.
Patty Johnson gives a box of chocolates,
Cameras flash as if you were a Queen.
In the kitchen, I pile silverware, half-empty tea cups,
Dinner plates scaled in chocolate frosting
Knowing the photos will be forgotten in bureaus and shoeboxes
Mixed in with busty cheerleaders, red haired boys on tricycles, girls in wedding gowns,
Aunt Isabel in her blowsy pastel dress
That summer she poisoned the family on rhubarb pie.
But here in Arkansas’s summer heat wave
We conceal every doubt
And do our best to get it right.
You hurry us along saying, “Time for Dr. Phil”
While I circle the dining room popping balloons with a fork
Afraid any photograph will betray my heart
Where the chambers collapsed so long ago
Those years you moved us from house to house
To conceal our under achievements
As if you could make a Rambler into a Cadillac by switching hood ornaments
The era you surrendered to Lawrence Welk’s orthodentia
When my need for a mother’s touch slumped in darkness like a dying miner.
Only an ear to my heart can hear our voices from back then
Trapped in those chambers
Fighting for breath
Struggling to find some arrangement
To bring you back to life.