“War? Rumors of War?” “By John Guzlowski

Armentieres_after_Bombing,_May_1940_Art.IWMARTLD175

 

War? Rumors of War?     

 

     There’s been a lot of talk in the news about the possibility of war in Iran and the Middle East.  Some people are talking about why we need to go to war with Iran, and some are talking about why war with Iran is a mistake.  

     I’m tired of war.

     I’ve lived through the Korean war, the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, the second Gulf War, the war on Terror, the Afghan War, and the Iraq War. And this list doesn’t include all the little bitty wars I’ve lived through, like Panama, Grenada, Lebanon, and it doesn’t include all those other little bitty wars I’ve forgotten about and that only the dead remember.

     War is a terrible thing.  I think that’s one of the things I’ve learned from my mother and father and from writing about their lives and the experience of other Poles in World War II.

     In my poem “Landscape with Dead Horses,” I talk about the way the war began in Poland on September 1, 1939.  Here’s what I say:

War comes down like a hammer, heavy and hard
flattening the earth and killing the soft things:
horses and children, flowers and hope, love
and the smell of the farmers’ earth, the coolness
of the creek, the look of trees as they unfurl
their leaves in late March and early April.

     This is war for me.  This is the way I see war. There’s nothing pretty about war, nothing heroic, nothing epic or Homeric.  50 million civilians died in World War II. And you can bet that not one of those deaths was peaceful, not one was a death you would want to wish on your own mother or your father or your children.

     And what I hate to admit about war – but I have to – is that sometimes war is necessary.

     I’m glad that the US went to war against Hitler and dragged him and his soldiers and followers down and tried to bury every single one of them in an unmarked and unmourned grave.

     War, as I see it, was terrible and it was necessary, but the thing I can’t ever forget is that the Germans who fought for Hitler also thought the war was necessary and justified.

    That’s one of the problems with war.

     What brings us together finally – brings together those who don’t want war and those who want war – is that we all end up scratching our heads and grieving over the chaos and the loss.

 

About the Author: John Guzlowski’s writing appears in Rattle, North American Review, and other journals.  Echoes of Tattered Tongues, his memoir about his parents’ experiences as slave laborers in Nazi Germany, won the Benjamin Franklin Poetry Award and the Eric Hoffer/Montaigne Award.  He is the author of the Hank and Marvin mystery novels and True Confessions, a memoir in poems.

 

More By John Guzlowski:

Language and Loss

From the Ashes: An Interview With John Guzlowski

 

Image Credit: Edward Bawden “Armentieres after Bombing, May 1940″ Public Domain

 

“And on the Seventh Day” By Agnes Vojta

 

 

And on the Seventh Day

God had finished his work and thought
a rest day would be a nice change.
But he didn’t have anybody to play golf with,
because Satan was busy.
After the thrill of creating,
He wondered
what to do to amuse Himself.

So He figured,
let’s give those humans free will
and see what they do with it. Perhaps
watching them will be
a fun pastime.

And He settled down to watch
civilizations rise and fall
and humans slaughter each other,
and when the same stories played out
over and over again,
He became bored and
wandered off to
create another universe.

This time, He thought,
I’ll make one
without people.

 

About the Author: Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T. She is the author of Porous Land (Spartan Press, 2019). Her poems recently appeared in Gasconade Review, Thimble Literary MagazineTrailer Park QuarterlyPoetry Quarterly, and elsewhere.

 

More By Agnes Vojta:

Flotsam

 

Image Credit: William Blake “Ancient of Days” (1794)

“My Mother on Her Deathbed” by Bunkong Tuon

 

This is the sixth in a series of poems from a forthcoming poetry collection about raising a biracial daughter in Contemporary America, during this polarizing time of political and cultural upheavals where sexual harassment allegations abound, where a wall, literal and figurative, threatens to keep out immigrants like the narrator, a former refugee and child survivor of the Cambodian Genocide.

 

My Mother on Her Deathbed

Withered away in pus,
knowing that she’d leave
me, her only child.
My uncle’s body crouched in
fetal position on the red
dirt of the refugee camp,
heavy boots of Thai soldiers
thundering on his head,
back and stomach.  
Grandmother weeps
at night
for all her children,
alive and dead,
for her orphaned grandson,
for all parents haunted
by helplessness.
In America
I was the new kid,
a reminder of a war
that tore families apart.  
Saliva clung
to my tear-stained cheeks
and stuck to my hair.
Stephanie  
my first crush said,
“It’s nothing personal.”
But these memories
are wiped clean.
All is forgiven.
A flower blooms
in the desert
when my daughter
hugs me.

 

About the Author: Bunkong Tuon is the author of Gruel (2015) and And So I Was Blessed (2017), both poetry collections published by NYQ Books, and a regular contributor to Cultural Weekly  He is also an associate professor of English and Asian Studies at Union College, in Schenectady, NY.

 

More By Bunkong Tuon:

Ice Cream

Gender Danger

The Bite

Tightrope Dancer

Women’s March in Albany

 

Image Credit: Charles Aubry “Still Life Arrangement” (1864) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

“Eat Rain” By Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal

 

 

Eat Rain

We can eat rain
when our teeth fall
out; Mexican
beer from the bar.

The sky will be
the food mart; the 
sea as well. We
can eat a tear.

No one will care.
Not Washington,
not the food banks,
and not the clouds.

We can’t eat fire.
New teeth won’t grow.
Ice cubes are
hard. This I know.

I have eaten
up my own sweat,
a pool of tears.
I am human.

I get quite starved.
I love the clouds.
The rain they drop.
I wait under.

And I eat rain,
and I eat rain,
fabulous rain,
clear, falling rain.

 

About the Author: Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, born in Mexico, lives in Southern California, and works in the mental health field in Los Angeles, CA. His latest poems will appear in Fearless, Former People, Piker Press, Right Hand Pointing, Winamop, and Yellow Mama Magazine.

 

Also By Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal:

Dracula

When I was a Child

 

Image Credit: Claude Monet “Belle-Ile, Rain Effect” (1886) public domain

“Cycles of Grief Go On and On” By Jeanette Powers

 

 

Cycles of Grief Go On and On

In no good world is it right
for a mother to leave behind
two young boys when she dies
or for the family to fight
over her crumbs, her car
the paint by number of a white horse
the hand-painted sculpture
of a monkey, hanging
from a real rope
the raining oil lamp
with the naked woman inside
there’s no justice
in fighting over her wedding ring
while those two boys
sit in pews praying
for their mom.

There is no kindness in giving
your queer granddaughter
a bible for graduation
after fifteen years of her
hiding behind the pulpit
knowing she can’t be baptized
into the faith of her family
and cutting off her college fund
when she’s caught red-handed
with a woman at the movie theater
then sending her out into the world
without a safety net
unable to pray without
remembering being cast away.

For the abandoned
it feels like everyone
is beating on them for their whole lives
and they are the only ones paying the price
it seems like everyone
is just getting away with so much cruelty
dressed up as the Christian thing to do
and we, abandoned through grief,
loss, through being different
find our own solace
and too often in razor blades,
another dozen bottles
always bashing our heads
in prayer against a wall
we can’t find our way out from behind.

Are we raising a generation
of hungry ghosts, sleeping
with clenched fists, ready to punch back
at first waking, unable to be given
an apology they can hear
every reason just an excuse
always believing everyone
is going to be right at our throats
the second we show our self
our rage an impacted tooth
our memory a suppurating ulcer
the only cheek turned, always our own?

 

About the Author: Jeanette Powers: poet, painter, philosopher, professional party dancer and working class, anarchist, non-binary queer. Here to be radically peaceful, they are a founding member of Kansas City’s annual small press poetry fest, FountainVerse. Powers is also the brawn behind Stubborn Mule Press. They have seven full length poetry books and have been published often online and  print journals. Find more at jeanettepowers.com and @novel_cliche

 

More By Jeanette Powers:

Reflections in the Windows of Your First Car

 

Image Credit: Karl Blossfeldt “Dipsacus laciniatus” (1928) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

“When the Watched Pot Boils” By Kory Wells

 

When the Watched Pot Boils

You know time is getting by,
and you try to remember
all she told you:

Use both dark meat and white.
Save bone and skin and gristle
for the cat. Roll the dough thin
as a paper sack. Slice it into strips
no wider than your thumb.
You’d give up sweets for a month
to hold again her wood-handled knife,
its old blade so often sharpened
it was almost gone.

You think of these things
as you stand at the stove,
the kettle’s broth rolling.
Think of the stories she told.
That time a door-to-door peddler
tried to snatch her youngest.
That hot night she and her lover
broke every dish in the house.
That Sunday the kids ate
their own pet rooster for lunch.
Reminding you,
chicken and dumplings need
plenty of salt. You taste

that name passed down to her,
Tennessee,
and she is with you,
barefoot, stirring the pot,
one eyebrow raised.
That hard T, that soft S,
the irony she was born
in Georgia and lies now
all too soon, in Alabama soil.

Some things are never right.
Some things are not better with time.
But maybe her name was perfect.
After all, how many of the stories
she told had a happy ending?

 

About the Author: Kory Wells is a poet, writer, storyteller, and advocate for the arts, democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. In 2017 she was named the inaugural poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where she also founded and manages a reading series. Her poetry collection Sugar Fix is forthcoming from Terrapin Books. Read more of her work at korywells.com.

 

More By Kory Wells:

Untold Story

 

Image Credit: “Cooking spaghetti and frying chicken for a spaghetti supper at Grape Festival, Tontitown, Arkansas” (1941) The Library of Congress

 

Two Prose Poems by Mike James

 

 

Things I Hate

Things I hate mainly start with u. Things like newly upholstered umbrellas taking umbrage at the rain for doing what it does. Any ordinary person or day declaring herself unique. Special and different are matter-of-fact fine, but unique seems untucked from what is.

Of course, I make exceptions. I’m fine with whatever is ungainly. Even prefer it. And I have nothing against unicorns of saddled or unsaddled variety. If I were Ezra Pound, I would complain about usury. But I’m not. So I don’t. Borrowings don’t make me think of interest. Instead I think of theft. What starts as a favor, ends as a complaint. Such things don’t happen in utopias, but only princes live there. The plain world gets upturned more than twice a day. At any moment the sky might crack open with a new birth of tears.

 

 

Tribulations Down the Street From the Quickie Mart

So, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride into town and what are you doing, Mr. Sunshine, except licking a vanilla ice-cream cone and digging through your neighbor’s trash? Yesterday you were talking about all the things you wanted to do in the Falklands once winter vacation arrived. You planned to watch penguins and begin each day rousing your companion by singing God Save the Queen in the key of Sid Vicious. Now, all that will have to be postponed. And all the Horsemen have noisy and glittery spurs. It would be foolish to think they wouldn’t. And why is one playing a harmonica? And why does another have your name tattooed, with John Hancock style flourish, right above his heart? Each is busy doing what they came to do. And each is pretty good at it. Despite it all, that ice-cream is still delicious.

 

 

About the Author: Mike James has been widely published in magazines, large and small, throughout the country. His thirteen poetry collections include: Jumping Drawbridges in Technicolor (Blue Horse), First-Hand Accounts from Made-Up Places (Stubborn Mule), Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle), and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He has served as an associate editor for the Kentucky Review and Autumn House Press, as well as the publisher of the now defunct Yellow Pepper Press. He makes his home outside Nashville, Tennessee. More information can be found on his website at mikejamespoetry.com.

 

More By Mike James:

Grace

Paul Lynde

 

Image Credit:Heart of the Turbine” Lewis W. Hine (1930) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program