How else would you know that I’m allergic
to bees, their fluttering stings?
Or how, that summer, I moved across the grass
barefoot to hang the laundry
when I stepped on one
as it hovered above the brightness of a dandelion.
See, we are all distracted by beauty.
But how much do you need to know
before you really know someone?
You could tell them they’re beautiful
in a dark kitchen after too many glasses of wine.
Or you could say nothing at all.
There’s a living room in Chicago
where he reached for my hand and we started slow dancing
while his family finished their breakfast.
Someone might ask: Where are you going?
There’s a shopping list on the sidewalk
that fell from someone’s pocket
with items crossed out—screwdriver, mustard, pantyhose.
It made me think about other people’s lives,
those things we have in common: how grief stuns us
like the bay window a bird strikes.
There was a day my mother walked me to the bus stop.
She knelt down in the road and urged me on.
Wouldn’t you say we’ve all lost things
we thought we couldn’t live without?
Say we’ll share a cigarette in the snow
when we get off the train.
Already I can see your dog’s paws slip on the ice
as she runs to your calling,
as she runs to what she recognizes as human.
Darkness chases the children down the street.
I will not forget the way your face looked, safe, in the rain.
We were shivering from the warmth we saw inside other kitchens.
The last time I saw your mother alive she bought me a pint of beer.
We laughed when the band played “California Dreaming” in the pub in Galway.
A taxicab left one of us alone on the sidewalk in the dark.
My father stood in the kitchen with his briefcase, tie loose like the corners of his mouth.
What have I done with my life?
My mother at the stove, her cigarette quietly burning.
Downstairs, football scholarships are tucked away in his old army chest.
The most dangerous thing I’ve ever done was not tell someone
I loved them.
It is as hard as it seems.
Bonnie Minick’s first chapbook Like the One Streetlight in a Small Town encloses poems that ask the reader to pursue the answer to the question, “What can be saved?” Minick leads the reader into poems of small towns, “the bare backs of dirt roads/ the moon hanging like a loose button in the sky”, towns that are poems of memory, love, and grief. This is what poetry is to Minick. Just as she poses questions in her poems, she does not hesitate to try to answer them. In the poem, “For the Lost” she tells us, “The most dangerous thing I’ve ever done was not tell someone I loved them. / It is as hard as it seems.” It is with this definitive voice that she takes on the subjects of her poems.
Minick’s poems have been published in a variety of literary journals, including Poetry International, Chachalaca Poetry Review, miller’s pond, and Daedalus. Minick completed her MFA in Poetry at Western Michigan University. She currently teaches English at Voorhees High School. In addition to teaching and writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son. She also devotes her free time to defending endangered wildlife.
These days she can’t discern
if she is moving toward something
or away. Airline itineraries
don’t help: To go north, sometimes,
she must first travel west.
And all the time she feels lost
on arrival. When one home replaces
another, does the body ever find rest?
Accustomed to being just gone,
she has forgotten the solid pain
of being present and at every gate
her greeters wait for her absence.
She likes it best in the air–
going anywhere–the checkerboard
pattern of the earth shifting
slowly beneath her. North, East,
South and West, she would smash
the compass glass if she could.
How wonderful to be just leaving,
always about to arrive.
Finding Home for J.M.
In Santa Monica she held
a string of beads to her throat
and I told her the blue
matched her eyes and the green
her tattoo, that dragon etched
into her foot. Years later,
she wrote me long letters
on cream paper in seasoned ink
telling of temptations,
her pain, and of its escape.
When I asked her to come home,
when I tried to persuade
the gold-craggy coast out
of her, she only said
New Jersey had gone gray.
She left behind our bare
beaches for the sunlight
that bleached her blond hair,
and slept on someone’s
rooftop for a month,
her face brightened
by windburn not sunshine.
But she was steadfast
about never coming back
to the winters she left
behind, and now that things
have gone bad again, I can’t reach
across the broken-bottle blackness
between us to bring
her home. California
is no place for her to settle
down, the bluest water
still deep enough to drown in.
In the hour before dark, a woman sits
on her front porch watching the geese
head south. She can’t endure
the ritual departure much longer
and feels, on her porch swing, unsafe
as if she is dangling and ready to fall.
If she dreams tonight, it will be of apples,
late in season, trees heavy with red fruit
too cumbersome for bent branches
to cling to any more. In the morning
the hard ground will be littered with them
and, if the air is right, she’ll pack a bag
and leave this town. She’s not running,
but winter is coming and this year has been
without tangible harvest. Maybe she’ll drive
far enough to find an orchard just in blossom–
fruit not nearly ready to be picked, consumed.
There, with the sound of wings overhead,
she will find a place to start from.
She wants to be more tree than fruit.
She wants to bear the weight of each
season and then be able to just let go.
Christine E. Salvatore’s poetry has recently appeared in The Cortland Review, The Literary Review, and The Edison Literary Review, and she is the recipient of a 2005 Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council of the Arts. She received her MFA from The University of New Orleans and is currently an Adjunct Professor of Writing at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and teaches English and Creative Writing at Egg Harbor Township High School.
In a house in the woods
we’ve had 50 years in our family,
a soft edged
rectangle of light
moves a few feet per hour.
Across the rug
across the tile
towards the wall
other times darker.
The room has
a breeze from the fans,
which rock and knock the pull chains
into the glass globe bulb cover
over and over and over,
but besides that, it’s silent and still.
But when your arm or leg passes
through the shaft of light,
you can remember
the hot, bright sun,
the burning sand on your feet,
the salt in your nose,
the roar and squeak in your ears
of crashing waves and scavenging birds,
just a few miles from the house.
Lights in the Snow
Snow brings a hush
that quiets the horn,
yet windows nearby
start to light.
A car lay on the roadside,
a two ton turtle
on its shell.
Sirens sound miles away while
open jowls gather.
Flashlights shine on
the snowy tracks that go
onto the curb and into the lightpole.
A little girl watches
the white turn transparent,
when the flakes, with a hiss,
lick the muffler.
He hangs in his seatbelt,
his hands sweep the roof,
while the people
stand and stare.
His eyebrows moved like seesaws
over wet and bloody bulbous eyes.
When he spoke,
the lips would stretch wide,
so you saw the
back of his tongue.
made his teeth
seem to float.
He worked the middle
of the sidewalk,
Moving, not stopping.
He’d shift his weight
bringing his body
into the path of each walker,
his face closely tilted into other faces.
His long arms,
well defined, slim,
stretched above his head,
moved in independent funnels,
then returned to his side,
swaying back and forth.
I’m just like Lazarus,
just like him.
Back from the dead,
Nickel or a dime,
what you can spare
you can spare!
I’ll pray for you, mister,
I’ll pray, cause hey, man,
I’m like Lazarus!
I saw one man
almost knock another over
just to go around.
put a hand in my pocket.
You’ll be saved, Mister!
Because Jesus watches,
He can see you
I brought out three coins,
all that I had just then,
a dime, a nickel, a penny.
As he walked to my right,
he cupped my hand
and threw it in the air.
Behind me, the coins fell.
He began to shout again.
I’m just like Lazarus,
back from the dead.
Bread on my table,
joy on your soul,
I only ask for your love
and a little change.
John LeMasney is an artist, designer, husband, father, technologist, consultant, writer, poet and open source evangelist living and working in New Jersey. John believes in the openness of thought, the transparency of ideas, and the sharing of everything. John feels personally that the best poetry is that which can be tasted, smelled, seen, touched, and heard. Great poetic work captures the beauty of the magic of everyday life without coercing you to believe in its magic.
Recalling Peter Pan On Derby Day
(for Judy Michaels)
The Fairy & Human Relations Congress will hold its annual meeting…the first weekend in May.
Wireless Flash (Weird News)
Do you believe in fairies,
smudged sparrow—will you hang on to toeholds
of light, those pinpoints darting
through the darkened hall?
These days you run through the green
mornings, each footfall a rebuttal
of cloud spots, liver spots, lung spots.
We missed War Emblem’s victory today.
Next year, we’ll get swept by the pound and gleam,
photo finishes and all the controversial dust.
We’re planning to wear gaudy hats
and let horses make divinest sense.
Last Derby Day, just before they were Off!
we explained the race to our Bengali waiter
as we watched it from the counter in that Manhattan bar.
You bet your peanuts on Keats, who faded early.
I put mine on the colt whose trainer saved his life
with a mixture of milk, turpentine and faith.
I don’t recall if he won or lost, but I’m shopping
for a comical hat, something bursting with spring
and belief, like the wires and pulleys I couldn’t see
when I was five—supports that kept the actors
flying out over the stage.
—after Rene Magritte’s “The Therapeutist”
Maybe he lost his body
and they healed him
with a cage.
Maybe his questions dissolved
Why is he called a survivor?
There is a brass drape
over the headless shoulder
and a bird who considers
entering its cage.
How peacefully the air
must flow through him.
He has opened the cage
and that fuzzy bird, his heart,
sits on the ledge looking in.
The head has sunk below
his shoulders, while on the far wall
a weapon oozes blood.
He has left a space
for the answers to our questions.
He has left a space
for the whispers of children,
for belief in humanity,
for our chance to take a stand.
The hand rests calmly
on its walking stick.
The children still have questions.
Where do their gazes go?
Why doesn’t he have a body?
How can he smell the air?
Today, in my sweeping, my Swiffer pulled out,
From behind the kitchen cabinet, a desiccated
Eggplant, shrunken and flattened down.
With the sunken stem curled in its center,
It suggested a plum on a Japanese scroll,
But I knew it was an eggplant
And I gave praise to the eggplant for keeping
Its form, even as it shriveled to this light
Porous thing—a dried vegetal discus
That I could flick across the floor.
Obeying laws of collapse there in the dark,
It had released no swarm of fruit flies,
No scent of rot or mold, into my unwitting air.
Secret nightshade, sucking in its cheeks,
Drawing the luscious skin down, emptying
Cells in slow abandon—it had kept itself
For me to discover, to pick up and test
The exquisite husk. It had transformed
Silently, and without obvious flourish,
Until I poked around and found the beauty of it.
Terry Blackhawk is author of two chapbooks and 3 full-length poetry collections — Body & Field (MSU Press), Escape Artist (BkMk Press), selected by Molly Peacock for the John Ciardi Prize, and The Dropped Hand from Marick Press. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Marlboro Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Florida Review and Nimrod, with reviews of her books in Calyx, Poet Lore, ForeWord and elsewhere. She received the Foley Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prize nominations and was a finalist for two Marlboro Prizes, the Paumanok Award and the Glasgow Prize, among others. She has received a 3-year artist-in-residence grant from Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs and a Teacher-Scholar Sabbatical Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities. A former teacher with Detroit Public Schools and a proud alumna of Antioch College, Terry is the founding director of InsideOut Literary Arts Project , Detroit’s writers-in-schools program with service to over 3,000 students annually. She lives and writes not far from the river in Detroit, Michigan. Please visit here and here for interviews with Terry.
I am 99.9% Positive
T-cell was a warrior
He fought off germs and diseases,
That infected the smallest components,
Immersed within the most minuscule vein
That once pumped stamina to his immaculate heart.
But his persistence was raped by the finest, sexually passionate
Needle of a parasite,
Who sucked life from an unknowledgeable spirit,
When he popped the rotten cherry with naked lips, that now
Craves admittance for weight loss, fevers and tiredness.
T-cell once flawless of deceitful falsification of intimacy,
Walks in man made puddles of fear, anger and depression.
His body, the temple of God, has now been scarred with the realization,
That he is now another number affixed to the germinate epidemic,
That can be prevented by abstaining from unwarranted exercise, of
Our inner thighs and our fruitless mouths, because there is no vaccine to
Rehabilitate the inevitable cause of death due to HIV.
60 seconds retains your future.
Open the door and secure your future,
With one shot that holds knowledge.
People ask me if I am sure.
I am 99.9% positive.
The rusted bars he has befriended.
The rock floor he lays his head.
Death wakes him up and puts him to bed.
The streets he’s known all his life.
Gun shots, stab wounds with a razor blade knife.
Rape, theft, burglary.
Money, cash, hoes,
All his eyes can see.
Next step, six feet underground.
Eyes closed, motionless – Shhh! Not a sound.
Second chance at correction,
I put a book in his hand here is your first lesson.
His mind convulsed.
Life flashes before his eyes.
No heart beat.
Incredulously, he opens the book and reads,
“Don’t take life and what it offers for granted.”
Water drips from his face,
A new seed been planted.
Praise Him(inspired by Mr. Laud Anderson)
They praise him as if he fed five thousand with
five loaves of bread and two fish.
They priase him as though he healed the boy with the demon, and
praise him as if he predicted the death of a man, then later
revealed that on the third day, that that same man will be raised to life.
They praise him as if he touched two blind men
and revived their sight.
They praise him as if he predicted Peter’s denial and
praise him as if he healed a man with leprosy.
Yes, his smile brings warmth to my body,
diminishing goose bumps that I acquire when he
winks at me.
And yes, I purposely walk the long way to class, just so I can obtain a
meager waft of his Armani cologne.
And yes, I droll a bit sitting behind him in math class, because the back of his
head is just as sexy as the front.
So yes its feasible the praise him because the terminology his name possesses
mandates praise and glory.
but, although he envisions life as a child of God
he does and will not retain the
entitlement only one identity subsumes.
But until the day he has the capability
to be killed and ressurrected from the dead,
I will solely laud God.
My name is Wendy Ekua Quansah. I once used to hide feelings under the palm of my hand, when I finally realized I could express occurences and my apprehensions of life through poetry. My poems are written to express, inspire and most importantly educate. All my poems are inspired by true life stories, occurences or individuals.Through my poetry you can better understand who I am as a person. Please visit my newest project located at YuShape.com. Thank you.
OKLAHOMA CITY, 1995
Pandemonium echoes through the heartland
We ponder the senselessness of the perpetrators
And the helplessness of the victims
Hate, the pseudonym for terror strikes
Division replaces cohesion
Anger and hate fills us all.
MANDELA! I HEAR THE FOOTSTEPS OF FREEDOM
What is the color of my eyes?
What is the color of my shirt…your dress…his uniform?
What is the color of my soul?
Why do you concentrate on only one color
On the one aspect of my being
That I can do nothing about?
Colored bathrooms, colored bus
Colored restaurants, colored this, colored that…
Tomorrow, I shall lend you my shoes
Promise that you will walk with me,
Eat with me, dance with me, sing with me,
And sleep in my shack
Promise that you will make me coffee
And hot chocolate
That you will wake my children up
And take them to the bus stop
Then ride a bus reserved for you
When you hear the sirens, do not run
Face the music and the anguish of the voiceless
When I hear your cry
I will open the door
I will do it because I harbor no evil
I have two cheeks
And I bear no grudge
I will certainly remember my painful past
But I have the courage to look into the future
What is the price of ignorance?
Pain, anger, hatred and prejudice
What is the cost of tolerance?
Have you walked far enough?
How do you like my shoes?
There are no people of color
We are all colored
John Anagbo is a Supervisor/Teacher of English at Montgomery High School
in Skillman, NJ. He also works as a Content Instruction Specialist in
English for the Program in Teacher Preparation at Princeton University.
In 1965, in his studio in Warsaw, Roman Opalka, a French born painter of Polish origin, began painting a process of counting – from one to infinity. All details have the same title, 1965/1-00; the idea does not date although the artist has pledged his life to its execution: ‘All my work is a single thing, the description from number one to infinity. A single thing, a single life.’
So many little things,
said one of the angels who pulled herself up
in the middle of a very large city
as a moon rolled down the street
chased by a tiny dog, barking loudly of course,
causing the birds to fly away, one group after another.
All that remains of a beautiful star:
a small girl with yellow hair.
She belonged to a constellation no one has ever seen.
She lives in a house that is too small
for her mother and too large for her father.
One of them will leave soon
and make her immensely sad.
Bent over an immaculate piece of machinery,
the semi-conductor physicist with golden hair
is viewing the smallest particles in the world.
Outside the clean room, the dust of ancient worlds
and enormous cities and small towns collect,
and beyond that, the smallest dreams and questions,
those too weak yet to take a plane
from Slovakia to the center of the world;
in spite, the little angel stands on tip-toes,
a bit of broken star, a bit of broken heart,
who by degrees, with the help of birds
and swollen moons, will one day exclaim,
the children think everything is too big,
that is why they are in such a hurry.
So many little things, she said, as she slipped
the head of a pin
into her electron microscope.
Poem For My Children
What does this brick want to be? It wants to be something greater than it is. – Louis Kahn
We’ve built the little walls and roof And made a lovely door, So tell us mother Wendy, What are you wanting more? – J.M. Barrie
I asked this paper what it wished to be.
It replied, A poem for your children, mother Wendy.
Darling boys I was lost
in a black and white movie,
a gray girl, the sky a paler version of my hair,
then out of the blue,
you gave me yellow,
my shoes blushing red,
the city up ahead
rumored to have a wizard,
two little boys sit at a breakfast table,
slipping the wedges of an orange
into their mouths to bare like teeth
My life was as quiet as a man reading a newspaper
until the moment I heard you cry–
it wasn’t my name you called,
but the most genuine word I had ever heard,
your cries for a mother filled the rooms
like the music of the great composers,
flowers from Holland made a garden of the house
(your tulips the most dear to me)
an itinerant ocean unfolded in the backyard,
as a wild horse galloped its grassy beach
to the astonishment of a local squirrel
and always me,
the girl who wanted to be ballerina,
my life that was once a brick,
is now a basilica;
to watch you jump in the driveway,
is to feel like Michelangelo, mug of coffee in hand,
stepping from the bright winter light into the sanctuary
to look up at his ceiling.
Wendy Wood Kwitny’s book, House of Affection, was published by The Sheep Meadow Press in 2004.
He did not understand dreams.
He liked numbers, logic, money.
He had made a life for himself
And wanted me to do the same.
Go to work in the company, make money,
Invest it well, make more, he said.
Be respectful on the surface,
Make connections, minimize bad press,
Push and pull, swindle if you need to.
Don’t ruin your name, our family name.
He doesn’t talk to me any more – about dreams or anything.
I did not understand numbers, logic or the rage for riches.
I had put myself in exile
And I didn’t want my son to do the same.
Go out in the world, experience things,
Take some risks, experience more, I said.
Look deeper than the surface,
Make friends, accept your faults,
Laugh and cry, listen to your heart – you need to.
Don’t worry about your name; you’ll make your own.
He is still figuring out his dreams
Between numbers, logic and the prospect of wealth.
He was still in school
And we’d told him different things:
Go work in the company, make money,
Take some risks, experience more,.
Be respectful on the surface,
Make friends, minimize bad press,
Push and pull, listen to your heart – you need to.
Then choose your name.
“La niña pobrecita,”
But her voice;
It is straining.
I can never be
AP French Composition
Its five o’clock in the morning
and my blood pressure must be soaring.
To a girl of seventeen
how could Madame be so mean?
A composition due tomorrow
and all I have is sorrow.
The page, now, is bare
for I have not a care.
This prompt confounds me:
a letter to one vieux ami.
The length of the page
puts me in a daze.
Prepositions, idioms, irregular verbs,
I do hope there’s a five point curve.
Oh, the woes of AP French
On such a gentle wench.
Sophia is thrilled to once again be apart of PPL’s poetry podcast! Her poetry has been included in Villa Victoria Academy’s Inscape, Creative Communications’ A Celebration of Young Poets, West-Windsor Plainsboro High School South’s Echoes and The Arts Council of Princeton’s UNDERage. She is a member of the Burlington County Poets and has written articles for harrypotterfanzone.com. Last spring, she participated in the library’s Voices and the Princeton Shakespeare Festival, and self-published a short story, Lilac and Gold, in conjunction with a charity, A Leg To Stand On. A member of National Honors Society, she is Assistant Arts Editor of her school paper, head of stage crew for this year’s school productions and a French teaching assistant. She will be graduating from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School this June and currently resides in Princeton.
A piece of the world is in a clay pot,
earth for which I will be the rain.
And the pot itself came from the earth, clay
a different density from the airy dark soil
that welcomes roots. Whenever I see cooks
mash potatoes now, or roll a crust to hold
the sliced honeyed apples, I see the tree,
I see the fruit, I see the earth that held the spuds,
I see the clay that made the pot that holds
my ferns, and the potter who kneaded clay
like dough, who rolled it, and molded it,
I see the earth itself a kiln
glazing balls of clay,
taking sand, melting it to glass.
WHAT I TAUGHT HER
My student refuses to argue about anything.
Her brother died young,
a terrible death she nursed him through,
of A.I.D.S.. Her husband’s brother
likewise died young
of A.I.D.S. I do not like
to correct my students’ grammar
or their spelling.
Everything is luck and choice,
and we can’t blame the past
for what a person chooses
to do with their lives, she wrote.
We all have many lives, I wrote,
as cats do, but a person, I wrote,
still chooses ‘his or her lives’ or life.
Please make an argument.
Do not assume everything
is without causality.
I did not write:
as your mother has taught you.
She wrote: Some nights
my husband and I
lie in bed wondering out loud
about our brothers,
and our son
who almost died in his first year
of lung trouble, which he survived.
Fight with words, I tell her,
as you fought for your son’s life.
She does. She learns to argue.
It is less important than how
she and her husband
found each other,
about which I know nothing,
or about what it means
to lose a sibling young
to sexual love
with such a kicker,
and if it matters
how a child dies young.
DOG OUTRUNNING PEOPLE
I saw today a woman who has a kind of chariot, now,
in lieu of legs that work on their own power,
she stands as she can, tall,
perched high on the platform of her rolling machine,
and her white dog races with her, she racing him
on her powerful motor, both running past Hilly’s Brook,
her second husband with her, then letting her go,
letting the dog exercise faster, on his lead, than anyone
our age could run for long on two legs.
She was laughing as she passed me,
stopped at Hilly’s Brook where the arched branch
completes a circle with its reflection.
The dog was panting, as dogs do,
instead of perspiring at the exertion,
as her writings have told for years
the effort of holding together
children, routine, school, space,
memory, her will to love,
start again unflagged and undeterred,
while everything broke
and she kept everything running.
Her face is hers, and beautiful,
her hands strong on the handlebar.
Her pleasure is too strong for her smile to hold it.
She is laughing as she passes and the white dog
looks back. She adjusts the controls and catches up.
Evenly they move away from me, still stopped,
to look at the slow flowing water, the tree,
the circle the branch makes with its reflection,
and I nod to her husband watching her far up ahead.
He is walking with delight, alone.
Liz Socolow won the Barnard Poetry Prize for her book length collection
Laughing at Gravity: Conversations with Isaac Newton, and the single poetry
prize for 2006 from Isotope Magazine, and in 2005 from CV2, Canada’s
premier poetry journal. She spent her work life in classrooms
teaching poetry and literature to students of all ages and is now doing that
work with the Evergreen forum at the Suzanne Patterson Center for Senior
Citizens in Princeton. She lives in Lawrenceville with hundreds
of plants and is the mother of two grown sons, and the grandmother of three
Poems Written in the Style of the Kokinshu
In each of the days’ rewritings
the night grows colder,
Day walks down the pebbled walkway of the night
where you toss like a flower,
still held to the stem of dawn.
You climb out of a long silent past.
You dissolve like steam
into the shirt of me.
I was an empty lotus shell
tied to the stem of longing.
I am an asterisk
stolen from the night.
Like the wandering
dreams of fire,
a strong desire to know you
wanders in, and eats up
all that I know of you.
Spring and Summer fall
all over themselves
to reach you, frail October.
In the light of your leaves,
the sun retreats,
and the moon takes on
too many shapes,
more than its thin crescent
without waxing bold all over.
In the ink winding through the inner chapters
there’s an occasional flamboyant spill—
I remember when you walked into me.
I stare at my umbrella
as if your sense were rain
actually touching the body
of where I am.
Close the Curtain quickly
Close the curtain quickly
while the day is still drawing
with its soft grey patches
–quickly, before the colors splay
or the patterned cloth
of our lives
will be unpinned.
We have come through
the open scissors of the day.
Emily Nguyen was born in Madison Wisconsin She has an MA in Comparative Literature and in Japanese Language and Literature and has been a member of US1 Poets since 1991. Her poem “The Hamlet Ophelia Letters” will come out in an upcoming issue of ARS-Interpres.