SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: RACHEL HEIMOWITZ


REFRESH
By Rachel Heimowitz

We raise them in lemons, in buttercream, in cornmeal,
we cut the crust off every loaf and serve blueberries
to those who can’t abide the crumbs. We let them

ride our arms like cowboys, and when their imaginations
cry elephants, we give them elephants, thick skinned
and wrinkled, but theirs. We sail them off due west,

into the froth of their own desires, tell them their lives
will roll like the hills behind the hills behind the hills
into a mist the color of tamarind and smoke. Lovely

parenthood, open and bright, sunlight through a window,
a hand smoothing sheets, Lego basketed in a corner.
The refresh button under my index finger, set to the local news site

pressed over and over and over to discover
if my child has gone to war.

 

Today’s poem previously appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Prairie Schooner (Volume 91 Number 4) and appears here today with permission from the poet.

Rachel Heimowitz is the author of the chapbook, What the Light Reveals (Tebot Bach Press, 2014.) Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Spillway, Prairie Schooner and Georgia Review. She was recently a finalist for the COR Richard Peterson Prize, winner of the Passenger Prize and she has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Rachel received her MFA from Pacific University in Spring 2015 and is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Southern California.

Guest Editor’s Note: This is a poem of immense restraint, power, and impact. How we are lulled by its lyric, set softly adrift amid its imagery, then gutted by its simple, brutal truth. How effortless the poet makes it appear to live this unbearable life, to write this poem.

Today’s poem is dedicated to the children’s lives lost to gun violence. It is offered as a battle cry as we take to the streets today with the #NeverAgain movement to save our children, to march for their lives. So that the next time this poem is written it does not end: “The refresh button under my index finger, set to the local news site // pressed over and over and over to discover / if my child has died at school.”

Want to read more by and about Rachel Heimowitz?
Rachel Heimowitz Official Website
Buy What the Light Reveals from Amazon
Atticus Review
Twyckenham Notes
Tinderbox Poetry Journal
Cutthroat
The Missing Slate

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. It is an honor and a unique opportunity to now share this series with a number of guest editors, and we’ll be hearing more from them in the coming weeks. Today’s feature, however, is a labor of love from yours truly.

Viva la poesia!
Sivan, Managing Editor
Saturday Poetry Series, AIOTB

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: NEW YEAR’S MORNING


NEW YEAR’S MORNING
By Helen Hunt Jackson

Only a night from old to new!
Only a night, and so much wrought!
The Old Year’s heart all weary grew,
But said: “The New Year rest has brought.”
The Old Year’s hopes its heart laid down,
As in a grave; but, trusting, said:
“The blossoms of the New Year’s crown
Bloom from the ashes of the dead.”
The Old Year’s heart was full of greed;
With selfishness it longed and ached,
And cried: “I have not half I need.
My thirst is bitter and unslaked.
But to the New Year’s generous hand
All gifts in plenty shall return;
True love it shall understand;
By all my failures it shall learn.
I have been reckless; it shall be
Quiet and calm and pure of life.
I was a slave; it shall go free,
And find sweet peace where I leave strife.”
Only a night from old to new!
Never a night such changes brought.
The Old Year had its work to do;
No New Year miracles are wrought.

Always a night from old to new!
Night and the healing balm of sleep!
Each morn is New Year’s morn come true,
Morn of a festival to keep.
All nights are sacred nights to make
Confession and resolve and prayer;
All days are sacred days to wake
New gladness in the sunny air.
Only a night from old to new;
Only a sleep from night to morn.
The new is but the old come true;
Each sunrise sees a new year born.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Helen Maria Hunt Jackson (1830 – 1885) was an American poet and writer who became an activist on behalf of improved treatment of Native Americans by the United States government. (Bio courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Wishing all who celebrate Rosh Hashanah this week a shanah tovah umetukah, a good and sweet new year. May today’s poem remind us that now is an opportunity for change, but that we must be the change we want to see in the world.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE NEW COLOSSUS

Yours faithful editor, with 14-month-old son in tow, visiting “The New Colossus” at the Statue of Liberty Museum, Liberty Island, NY


THE NEW COLOSSUS
By Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


The New Colossus: “In 1883, a young writer, Emma Lazarus, donated a poem to an auction raising funds for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. ‘The New Colossus’ vividly depicted the Statue of Liberty as offering refuge from the miseries of Europe. The sonnet received little attention at the time, but in 1903 was engraved on a bronze plaque and affixed to the base of the Statue. Still, it was only in the late 1930’s, when millions fled fascism, that the poem became fully identified with the Statue.

“Between 1886 and 1924, 14 million immigrants entered America through New York. The Statue of Liberty was a reassuring sign that they had arrived in the land of their dreams. To these anxious newcomers, the Statue’s uplifted torch did not suggest ‘enlightenment,’ as her creators intended, but rather, ‘welcome.’ Over time, the Statue of Liberty emerged as Emma Lazarus’ ‘Mother of Exiles,’ a symbol of hope to generations of immigrants.”

— “Mother of Exiles” historical marker, Statute of Liberty Museum, Liberty Island, NY

Editor’s Note: Forget the wall. Lift the ban. Let Lady Liberty’s torch, once again, be a beacon of welcome. You want to make America great again?

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THE HEART OF A WOMAN

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THE HEART OF A WOMAN
By Georgia Douglas Johnson

The heart of a woman goes forth with the dawn,
As a lone bird, soft winging, so restlessly on,
Afar o’er life’s turrets and vales does it roam
In the wake of those echoes the heart calls home.

The heart of a woman falls back with the night,
And enters some alien cage in its plight,
And tries to forget it has dreamed of the stars
While it breaks, breaks, breaks on the sheltering bars.


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


Editor’s Note: No matter who you voted for in the primaries nor who you plan to vote for come November, there is no denying that this was an historic week in American history.

In this vein, I dedicate today’s poem–written by a black woman in a white age–to Michelle Obama, a black woman running the White House who reminded us this week that: “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.” And I dedicate this poem to the fact that, for the first time in American history, a woman has been nominated by a major party to run for President of the United States of America.

Any (reasonable) reservations you (or I) may have about Hillary Clinton and our two-party system aside, this is a moment to pause and marvel, to appreciate what we have accomplished and to believe that this can–and should–be just the beginning of progressive progress. This is a moment to celebrate that the heart of a woman need not try “to forget it has dreamed of the stars,” for it need not break, break, break “on the sheltering bars.”

Georgia Douglas Johnson: A member of the Harlem Renaissance, Georgia Douglas Johnson wrote plays, a syndicated newspaper column, and four collections of poetry: The Heart of a Woman (1918), Bronze (1922), An Autumn Love Cycle (1928), and Share My World (1962). (Annotated biography courtesy of The Poetry Foundation.)

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: TWO MERMAID POEMS


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Editor’s Note: In response to last week’s feature, Saturday Poetry Series favorites Erin Lyndal Martin and Elana Bell introduced me to two more fabulous mermaid poems. These poems have been swimming through my mind all week, and are too fantastic not to share. Get a taste here, then follow the links below to read each of these stunning poems in full.



from FABLE OF THE MERMAID AND THE DRUNKS
By Pablo Neruda, Translated by Paul Weinfield

But having come from the river, she understood nothing
She was a mermaid and was lost
Their insults flowed down her perfect, smooth flesh
Their filth enveloped her golden breasts
But not knowing tears, she did not weep tears


(Read the complete poem as translated by Paul Weinfield.)



from LATE SUNDAY MORNING
By Elana Bell

I kiss

the puckered lips, taste
ocean breath and remember

myself, slippery and long
under sun-slanted depths, swaying

to the whine of boats overhead.
I did not need you then, my scales

shining in their pristine sea.


(Read the entire poem in Winter Tangerine.)



Want to read more?
“Sunday Morning” in Winter Tangerine
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” as translated by Paul Weinfeild
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” in English and Spanish via Susan’s Place
“Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks” on youtube, as read by Ethan Hawke



Today’s selections appear via Fair Use.

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: GEORGE MOSES HORTON ON LIBERTY AND SLAVERY

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ON LIBERTY AND SLAVERY
By George Moses Horton

Alas! and am I born for this,
To wear this slavish chain?
Deprived of all created bliss,
Through hardship, toil, and pain!

How long have I in bondage lain,
And languished to be free!
Alas! and must I still complain–
Deprived of liberty.

Oh, Heaven! and is there no relief
This side the silent grave–
To soothe the pain–to quell the grief
And anguish of a slave?

Come, Liberty, thou cheerful sound,
Roll through my ravished ears!
Come, let my grief in joys be drowned,
And drive away my fears.

Say unto foul oppression, Cease:
Ye tyrants rage no more,
And let the joyful trump of peace,
Now bid the vassal soar.

Soar on the pinions of that dove
Which long has cooed for thee,
And breathed her notes from Afric’s grove,
The sound of Liberty.

Oh, Liberty! thou golden prize,
So often sought by blood–
We crave thy sacred sun to rise,
The gift of nature’s God!

Bid Slavery hide her haggard face,
And barbarism fly:
I scorn to see the sad disgrace
In which enslaved I lie.

Dear Liberty! upon thy breast,
I languish to respire;
And like the Swan upon her nest,
I’d to thy smiles retire.

Oh, blest asylum–heavenly balm!
Unto thy boughs I flee–
And in thy shades the storm shall calm,
With songs of Liberty!


(Today’s poem is in the public domain, belongs to the masses, and appears here today accordingly.)


George Moses Horton: (1798–1883) Born a slave on William Horton’s tobacco plantation, George Moses Horton taught himself to read. Around 1815 he began composing poems in his head, saying them aloud and “selling” them to an increasingly large crowd of buyers at the weekly Chapel Hill farmers market. Students at the nearby University of North Carolina bought his love poems and lent him books. As his fame spread, he gained the attention of Caroline Lee Whiting Hentz, a novelist and professor’s wife who transcribed his poetry and helped publish it in her hometown newspaper. With her assistance, Horton published his first collection of poetry, The Hope of Liberty (1829), becoming the first African American man to publish a book in the South—and one of the first to publicly protest his slavery in poetry. (Annotated biography of George Moses Horton courtesy of The Poetry Foundation.)

Editor’s Note: As Passover is coming up this week, I have been thinking about slavery and freedom. About histories of bondage and those who are still wandering in search of sustainable freedom today. As we remember our own slavery this Passover and celebrate our own redemption, may these words from another Moses help us to also remember the experiences of those who have likewise suffered, and to advocate for those who are wandering the world today in search of life and liberty.

Want to read more by and about George Moses Horton?
The Poetry Foundation
UNC Documenting the American South
Academy of American Poets

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: KEETJE KUIPERS

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GETTING THE BABY TO SLEEP
By Keetje Kuipers


Sometimes the baby can’t reconcile
the self with the self: too hungry
to eat, too tired to sleep. I know

the feeling. O, America, on those nights
when you are too beautiful for me
to continue to forgive you any longer—

for allowing us to kill each other
with your graceless bullets, or exile
our neighbors across your fictitious

border, or argue over the ownership
of each young girl’s body as if its freedom
is a lie she must stop telling herself—

I go out into your radiant embrace.
The baby and I drive through your streets,
over the bridge and its light-chipped

waters, under a moon so big, so full
of itself that though I know it belongs
to the world, it can’t be anything but

American. I hang my arm out the window
and skim the air like touching skin.
I breathe you in, and the baby sleeps.


Today’s poem was originally published in
Blackbird and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Keetje Kuipers has been the Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Resident, a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and the Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College. A recipient of the Pushcart Prize, her poems, essays, and fiction have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best American Poetry. Her first book of poetry, Beautiful in the Mouth, won the 2009 A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and was published by BOA Editions. Her second collection, The Keys to the Jail, was published by BOA in 2014. Keetje is an Assistant Professor at Auburn University where she is Editor of Southern Humanities Review.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem absolutely blows me away. It is too powerful to contain, and yet it is perfectly wrought as if chiseled from marble. It is metaphor and life, politic and country, as near as a closely-held infant and as far as the moon. It is the American affliction: needless gun violence, our backs turned and hearts hardened against immigrants and refugees, our deep seated fear of women’s sexuality, freedom, independence. “O, America, on those nights… you are too beautiful for me / to continue to forgive you any longer.” Absolutely stunning. Heartbreaking. An outcry in the form of a quiet, contemplative drive, cruising America in an attempt to get the baby to sleep.

Want more from Keetje Kuipers?
www.keetjekuipers.com