SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: NOME EMEKA PATRICK

By Nome Emeka Patrick:


MONOLOGUE IN A ROOM WITH THE PORTRAITS OF MY DEAD BROTHER

You were my brother until your eyes wore a dragon’s breath until your hands grew into an orchard of blood until your mouth unwound into a coffin. May the blood that hums in our veins like a river knifing past a dark forest bear me witness. I love you brother with all the birds psalming in my bones. I love you o brother. In this sanctuary that’s my mouth, brother there’s a prayer burning wild –a lamp in the wrinkled hands of a monk searching God in a dark room. You were my brother until the ten o’ clock news says a young man walks into a market with explosives strapped to his body like a life jacket. On the TV your face appears like a surprise & so it is. A scar glitters like a promise on your neck & so it is. How you got the scar: we were god’s descendants in a garden one afternoon when you said let’s play a game –a game of stones. Everything always started with you even the morning fajr. You hurled your stone but I ducked. Mine stabbed your neck into spittle of warm blood. We both knelt like two unfurling hibiscuses. We both cried like a night wind behind a chariot until the ambulance came. & today the scar glitters on every neighbour’s screen. That’s your lips o brother where prayers & ablutions grew wings & flew into the heavenly nest of a whistling God beyond. O brother the dancing firefly in a dark museum. O brother the lonely lamb where the forest is wildest. Until your eyes wore the skin of night & your hands grew into a garden of cold fallen leaves, you were the vision I never had. You were all the places I always dreamt of. You were the only prayer I learnt to keep in my heart before opening it into Allah’s eyes. O you were my only dear brother. How do I pray for your soul when every song that leads me to you is a dirge stuck on a raven’s beak?



Reprinted with permission from the author. This poem first appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Flapperhouse.


Nome Emeka Patrick is a blxck bxy and student in the University of Benin, Nigeria, where he studies English language and literature. A recipient of The 40th edition of Festus Iyayi award for excellence (Poetry) in 2018. His works have been published or forthcoming in Gaze journal, Beloit poetry journal, FLAPPER HOUSE, Crannóg magazine, Puerto Del Sol, Mud Season Review, The Oakland Review, Notre Dame Review, Gargouille, Barnhouse journal and elsewhere. His manuscript, We Need New Moses. Or New Luther King, was a finalist for the 2018 Sillerman First Book Prize for African poets. Say Hi on twitter @paht_rihk

Guest Editor’s Note: In this poem, a river knifes past a dark forest, and a scar glitters; memory of shared experience becomes love, and a brother questions his own mourning in the wake of a terrible devotion in “a prayer burning wild.” The speaker addresses his brother and cries out for meaning in a senseless world that broadcasts the terror and disregards the humanity. The speaker talks of their kinship in the past, signaling its destruction at the moment the bomb exploded, leaving the speaker with an unresolved grief.

Original similes are sometimes hard to come by, but this poem surprises with each comparison that contains images igniting all of the senses and lines delving deeper into the emotions associated with a brother’s death. Remembering how they dealt with tragedy in their youth, the speaker compares them to “two unfurling hibiscuses,” kneeling and crying. The poem is a visual and musical lament that uses personal memory and imagery to convey intimate sorrow and grief, universal human feelings that rely on recollection to commemorate loved ones and keep close those times that define life in the living and not in its end.

Want to read more by and about Nome Emeka Patrick?
Gaze Journal
FLAPPERHOUSE
Vagabond City

 

Contributing Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus (Bibliotheca Alexandrina), Gluttony (Pure Slush Books), The Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, Random Sample Review, Into the Void Magazine, Allegro Poetry Magazine, and Rivet Journal.

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with two new Contributing Editors, including the one featured here today. I am now thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

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

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: AMY WATKINS

MURMURATION
By Amy Watkins

An osprey beats the wind with bowed wings,
steady till it drops and shakes in flight.
The wind catches and it rises again.
I watch from the porch where I’ve come early
to stop avoiding our father’s call. Last night,
I turned the ringer off then on then off again,
swiped down to ignore but texted back.
There are two birds in the tree across the street
and a third circling and circling, rising and falling
in the wind from a distant hurricane.
The phone rings. He wants to talk about you.

They say each bird attends to just seven others, and,
in this way, a thousand starlings turn together
like one creature. I’ll try not to make this a metaphor.
Once, you and I climbed the hills outside
Florence, Italy. Our dearest ones climbed with us
and, because we were few and each one loved
by all the others, I thought we made a kind of net
that might hold the breaking world together.
A murmuration of starlings unfurled like the aurora
borealis, a sheer curtain caught in wind,
twisting, tracing a path through twilight.

A hawk swoops low over the osprey nest.
I think it might land, but it doesn’t. You ask to meet
for coffee. Our father calls, and I don’t answer.



Today’s poem previously appeared in SWWIM and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Amy Watkins grew up in central Florida surrounded by saw palmetto and sugar sand and a big, close-knit, religious family: the kind of upbringing that’s produced generations of southern writers. She married her high school sweetheart, had a baby girl, and earned her MFA in writing from Spalding University. She is the author of two chapbooks forthcoming in 2019: Wolf Daughter (Sundress Publications) and Lucky (Bottlecap Press). Follow her on Twitter @amykwatkins.

Contributing Editor’s Note: Amy Watkin’s poem, “Murmuration,” is a coming together of worlds. First, there’s the easy mixture of nature and the modern digital world. She closely watches ospreys, how one “drops and shakes in flight. / The wind catches and it rises again.” and then “two birds in a tree across the street / and a third circling, rising and falling.” These innate animal behaviors echo her own modern-day habits with her cell phone—“I turned the ringer on then off again, / swiped down to ignore but texted back.”

She also employs the world of the sacred and the secular, which she hints at through controlled and purposeful ambiguity in word choice. For instance, Watkins selects the homonym “bowed” for the angle of the osprey’s wings in flight. When she decides to finally take a phone call from her dad, it becomes a holy act when she arrives “early / to stop avoiding our father’s call.” Her level of her control and precision is astonishing when, for a moment, she takes herself out of the poem and cautions the reader “I’ll try not to make this a metaphor.” Of course, this line has just the opposite effect and we focus more intensely on the rich metaphors throughout the poem.

Watkins pays pays off the title of the poem in grand style describing “A murmuration of starlings unfurled like the aurura / borealis,”—a startling and beautiful image that ties everything gracefully together. “Murmuration” is an emotional and beautifully crafted poem that works on many levels. The poem rewards deeply upon close reading.

Want to read more by and about Amy Watkins?
Red Lion Sq.
Burrow Press
Glass: A Journal of Poetry
Drunk Monkeys
Emrys Journal



Contributing Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.



A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of contributing editors, including the one featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

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

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: CL BLEDSOE

DREAMCATCHER
By CL Bledsoe

Her hair is a tangled field of sweet straw
knocked crooked in heavy winds, catching
any light that stumbles nearby. Maybe this
is why she radiates heat, when I’m trying
to nap, sick, on the couch and she perches high
on my side watching screaming cartoons. Dazzled
strangers stop us on sidewalks to remind us
in case we’ve forgotten: life isn’t always gray. It’s not.
Bees follow us to get at the pollen they can smell
trapped in the mess. I thump them away
when they get too close and scare her. If I had time,
I’d learn to collect their honey, walk her through
the sweetest fields, open a boutique to pay
for college. But I can barely remember to stop smiling
long enough to thank the policeman for the speeding
ticket most mornings. Brushes are an enemy to her,
the confining toil of hair ties lead to tears. Stickers lost
are found. Twigs. Fuzz. All of it down the drain with
the bath water. It won’t last.



Today’s poem previously appeared in Mockingheart Review and appears here today with permission from the poet.


CL Bledsoe‘s most recent books are the poetry collections Trashcans in Love and King of Loneliness and the novel The Funny Thing About… He lives in northern Virginia with his daughter and blogs (with Michael Gushue) at How To Even…

Guest Editor’s Note: There are not many poems full of unabashed joy and magic, but CL Bledsoe’s “Dreamcatcher” is one of them. The language continually surprises as it turns a little girl’s head of blonde hair into a dreamcatcher, full of wonderment and mystery. Bledsoe moves with alacrity and agility from the initial simile that describes his daughter’s hair “as a tangled field of sweet straw / knocked crooked in heavy winds, catching / any light that stumbles nearby.” Nothing in this poem feels forced, even though he never lets an opportunity go by without pushing the language and imagery as hard as he can, to capture the girl’s spirit as she “radiates heat” or “perches high” when “watching screaming cartoons” to reveal the joy he experiences simply by being open to the wonders of his daughter’s essence. This is a poem that truly shows us that “life isn’t always gray” and the wonder that occurs as “Bees follow us to get at the pollen they can smell / trapped in the mess.” Read it, smile, and bask in the sunlight that Bledsoe has captured.

Want to read more by and about CL Bledsoe?
Amazon Author Page
How To Even blog
Not Another TV Dad blog
Not Another TV Dad column





Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.



A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

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

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: CAROLE BERNSTEIN

By Carole Bernstein:

PASTORAL

Sunny with the intensity of dream.
Huge balloony graffiti covered the stone
wall at the end of Avenue M,
where Iris Bloom took me to smoke a joint
and we cut Orchestra, second period.

Avenue M—was that it? some
concrete promontory, secret, above the subway
where it burst up into the light—we watched it
racket a while among the green backyards
like a real train from a real place, not Brooklyn,
and sink again.
The passengers, blinking,
would be headed for work, starting their day . . .

What possessed me that morning? I never cut school.
But we would not play that day,
our oboes lying in cases by our feet and books,
the reeds not in our mouths,
the joint passed, sipped at with the breath,
tentative, a new thing to do.
I took off my jacket, the breeze moved over my arms,
we felt lean as boys, we were
dangerous, unsexual, unobserved.

And then returned to the low building
and entered it,
blinded for a few seconds, believing
ourselves altered—the blackboard fathomless,
the passing bell shrieking.
Dull-lipped seemed the faces of the uninitiated.

By three the sun had faded, but
our smoke, its animal warmth, I thought it
scented the spring wind.

BACK TO LIFE

Daughter, delivered by an attendant:
silent and watchful in your orphanage smock
with the cartoon dog, and pilled mended pants.
A smell of mildew came from your shock

of sweaty, cropped black hair. Stuck to your chest,
in English and Chinese a name tag read
Happy Springtime: a name pressed
upon you by no father, mother. Closeted

from the world before you came to us, as if
in an ancient tomb carving of a child
rising from the grave in a flowing shift.
Freed from the humid earth, she almost smiles.

You don’t remember, but love to be told
how they brought you through the doors and you were ours.
But buried in you is that place, still. Were you cold,
solitary, left wanting, maybe for hours…

Don’t go there, I tell myself. Instead,
I grab you and inhale your fragrant head.

Today’s poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Carole Bernstein’s second poetry collection Buried Alive: A To-Do List is forthcoming in Spring 2019 from Hanging Loose Press. She is also the author of Familiar (Hanging Loose Press)—which J. D. McClatchy called “an exhilarating book”—and a chapbook, And Stepped Away from the Circle (Sow’s Ear Press). Her poems have appeared in magazines including Antioch Review, Bridges, Button Jar, Chelsea, Light, Paterson Literary Review, Poetry, Shenandoah, and Yale Review. Her work has also been included in three anthologies: American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon University Press), Unsettling America (Viking) and The Laurel Hill Poetry Anthology (Laurel Hill Press). She lives in Philadelphia and works as a freelance writer and marketing consultant.

Guest Editor’s Note: Carole Bernstein’s work carries an honest and relaxed tone, even as she addresses sensitive and intimate personal experiences. Reading her work is like being invited into her world as a close confidante, if just for a few moments. In “Pastoral,” Bernstein describes the newfound and sensual freedom that came from cutting class years ago in high school, allowing her and a friend to be “lean as boys” and feel “dangerous, unsexual, unobserved.” She resists romantic or sentimental treatment of the most personal and sentimental moments of life. In “Back to Life,” she presents, with unadorned comfort, the immediate love for a new daughter that was accompanied by “A smell of mildew came from your shock / of sweaty, cropped black hair.” Both of these poems are part of a new collection of work, Buried Alive: A To-Do List, forthcoming Spring 2019.

Want to read more by and about Carole Bernstein?
Buy Familiar on Amazon
Poetry Foundation
Hanging Loose Press





Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.



A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

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

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: IRIS JAMAHL DUNKLE

DAPHNE’S BROKEN SONNET
By Iris Jamahl Dunkle


Apples are imagining themselves
onto hillsides – pink petals stick out their
tongues from the dark mouths of branches 
and the forest canopy ripens overnight
until it pulses like a green heart. Spring
frankensteins us all—softens our cyborg
brains (Admit it:  you were thinking about what
mysteries your phone will sing out!
) While your
body turns like a tree toward the light. Reader,
somedays it’s just too much: powder blue sky,
light wind stirring the leaves as if they are
waving, no, beckoning me to root 
and join in. How could I not give in? Trying
to find the song that’s buried in the soil.



Today’s poem first appeared in SWWIM Every Day and is reprinted here today with permission from the poet.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle was the 2017-2018 Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, CA. Interrupted Geographies, published by Trio House Press, is her third collection of poetry. It was featured as the Rumpus Poetry Book Club selection for July 2017. Her debut poetry collection, Gold Passage, was selected by Ross Gay to win the 2012 Trio Award. Her second collection, There’s a Ghost in this Machine of Air was published in 2015. Her work has been published in numerous publications including San Francisco Chronicle, Fence, Calyx, Catamaran, Poet’s Market 2013, Women’s Studies and Chicago Quarterly Review. Dunkle teaches at Napa Valley College and is the Poetry Director of the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. 

Guest Editor’s Note: The octave from the beginning of this beautifully imperfect sonnet presents pastoral images that set a mood disrupted by the use of frankensteins as a verb, an abruptly delightful and unexpected choice by the poet, reminding us of what humans have done to the natural world to which we are aching to return and how it has affected us. And yet, “It’s just too much” for the speaker who in answer to a final question becomes a tree, as the mythical Daphne did to escape Apollo just before he caught up to her. Escaping into the natural world is an appealing idea when faced with how things have turned out or how things are headed for disaster.

This melding of sonnet forms—traditional, modern, old, and new—offers two voltas, significant turns in meaning, and the first happens at the beginning of the sestet with a simile that compares the body to a tree as it turns toward light. This is where the sonnet leaves its mark on the reader, who is then addressed directly with an anguish of images that lure the speaker to dig deep “to find the song that’s buried in the soil.” The second turn is the speaker’s response to the leaves and their beckoning. Once the speaker has taken root, this “broken sonnet” ends in a line of perfect iambic pentameter, repairing itself.

Want to read more by and about Iris Jamahl Dunkle?
Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s Official Website


Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus (Bibliotheca Alexandrina), Gluttony (Pure Slush Books), The Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, Random Sample Review, Into the Void Magazine, Allegro Poetry Magazine, and Rivet Journal.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

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


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ERRIC EMERSON

By Erric Emerson:


MOTHERLESS

If I try eyes-shut hard;
recall the misty likeness of a stretcher
and air mask, a trailer lined with
ice-fangs in Napanoch, a red ball
I worshipped at three years old.

How your legacy sits in two boxes.
Poor math, crayoned stick-people,
tidy poems you wrote in the 80’s
             That are all
                                 formatted
                                                  like this.

Pour upon the wording, to have
known you. I scrounge your experiences
to exonerate my own.
The exactness of your malady, father’s
a How-To guide on being in one’s cups.

You get dry in centers and rooms,
found something God-like,
pressed petals between pages,
all piecemealed at my fingertips.

I’m faint praise as a pushing thirty
dry spell. Oh how our quenching throats beg,
didn’t and don’t they?

Pour upon the wording, to
know how. Yet, I’ll remain séance-less.
I’ve found something myself.

                                         How to speak.


TURNCOAT

I put my head on pillow
and wake up with the birds.

When I dream:

I’m adrift in a flowing sea
of rainbow-flavored liquor,
in a boat made from cheap cigarette
cartons, next to a whopper of an impression
of her, who loved my wrong,
who reminds me it’s 2007,
and promises I don’t have
to work tomorrow
or do anything else
ever again.



Today’s poems appear here today with permission from the poet.

Erric Emersony is a poet residing in South Philly, PA. He is a founding member of Duende literary journal for which he also served as poetry editor for the inaugural issue. He’s currently guest editor at Aji literary journal. Erric is a graduate of Goddard College’s Bachelor of Fine Arts Creative Writing program. His first collection, Counting Days, was published in December of 2017. He has published 40+ poems in 20+ magazines including: TL;DR, Crab Fat, The Black Napkin, The Disconnect, FIVE:2:ONE, Beautiful Losers, Prairie Margins, Neon, The Hungry Chimera, Control, Mead: Literature & Libations, Angry Old Man, Rat’s Ass Review, Gingerbread House, Willawaw, and Visitant.

Guest Editor’s Note: Erric Emerson’s poems build mood, feeling, and context by selecting precise details that tell deeply personal and emotional stories. In “Motherless,” Emerson combines distant memories–“the misty likeness of a stretcher / an air mask, a trailer with / ice fangs in Napanoch, a red ball”–with immediate sensations–“how our quenching throats beg”–to link a mother and son. Fragmented recollections from a harsh past and present connect mother and son without resorting to blame or sentimentality, creating a portrait of the two and their relationship both decades ago and today. “Turncoat” recreates a moment of waking when dream and reality combine in a guided wish for unconditional love from “her, who loves my wrong” with the need to escape–“promises I don’t have to / work tomorrow / or do anything else / ever again.” These poems and others in Counting Days are filled with fresh language and harsh realities that create moments and stories filled with deep emotion and angst.

Want to read more by and about Erric Emerson?
Buy Counting Days: Poems on Amazon
“Follow Suit” in Willawaw Journal
“Day One (Zero)” in The Black Napkin, Issue 6
“My Go-To’s” in Visitant


Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, it is an honor and a unique opportunity to share this space with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today. I am thrilled to usher in an era of new voices in poetry as the Managing Editor of this series.

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


SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: DEEP CALLS TO DEEP




From DEEP CALLS TO DEEP
By Jane Medved:


WINTER BURIAL

For the sky that reaches into its hushed pocket,
                                           for the bridle of winter waiting to be released.

For the ghost face which slips over everyone,
                                           for the tusk of the same white beginning.

For crystals that shape themselves while falling,
                                           for the storm’s icy laugh.

For the charred bars of the petting zoo,
                                           whose cages were made out of wood and went up fast.

For the twin goats trapped, for the small fire they turned their back on,
                                           the bread burning, the coffee.

For the one surviving goose housed in a Little Tikes kitchen,
                                           the black centers of his eyes and the string closing the door.

For the fenced-in storage area now zoned for a park,
                                           where there used to be patches of dried grass.

For the last time it snowed on the Jerusalem highway,
                                           and they wouldn’t let anyone in or out.

For the holiday makers who were stranded
                                           without fun.

For my niece’s baby who never woke up that day,
                                           she was an angel in her crib.

For they got her into the ground just before it froze,
                                           but no one knows where.

For the hidden ear of the tzaddik she is buried next to,
                                           for the cooing she drops into the ground where it melts.

For her small breaths, none of which are
                                           shaped the same.

For the soul, which cracks open the body,
                                           for the body, which is told what it must carry.

For when the ice let me back down the hill,
                                           I found my niece in her kitchen, forgiving everyone.



from THE LAST TIME I SAW HEROD

I. Women’s shelter, Miriam HaHashmonait St., Jerusalem

He was banging on the gate
even though there is no way
to know that we are in here.

He was looking for his wife,
aren’t they all, which is why
we make the children play

in the yard and of course
he knew her real name,
which makes me wonder

what’s the point of being
a princess if even that
can be taken away. I’m not

sorry he looked thin. I used
to feed my own husband
but I never watched him eat.

In my mind he was gulping
me down, tearing everything
apart so as not to miss a piece.



EVERYTHING WILL TELL ITS OWN STORY

sooner or later, coins, a copper lantern,
bits of colored glass, Napoleon’s diary
on loan from Harvard and the endless
lap of water at the world’s toothless edge.

These were found in the Phoenician port
where Napoleon threw his cannonballs
into the Mediterranean to lighten the load.
He wised up soon enough and tossed
his soldiers overboard instead.

The metal balls are shocked into rust
and stare like thick black eyeballs
from their shelf in the dusty museum.
History ignores the bodies though,
their bones turn to fine sand
that tricks the treasure hunters
with its unpredictable lapses. Never mind.

We are all one part ocean anyway,
which is why sex smells like fish, and waves
always come back to a dry river bed.

We are all one part earth, which is why
snow angels cannot fly but lose themselves
to the ground, only the children
leave a clue, a small piece of spine
that still remains even if they are forced into ashes.

We are all one part fire, angry
as a kidney stone, a fist, absolutely certain,
a blaze that hides for months in the smoking
roots of the rotem tree, waiting
to be lifted out, spoken into flame and taken.

We are all one part wind, did you notice
how birds spread out like notes
when they fly, faithful as radio beams
to their unseen connections.

I inhale the invisibility of it, using up
my appointed breaths, certain
that the air will always pass through me
cold and hot and justified.



WHICH IS TO SAY,

                               there is another way home.
                                                                                Just
yesterday, I saw the beating arc of starlings

who migrate to the Negev every year. It was late
and you have to take my word for this. They

became a single body that exhaled a melody
of startled scales made out of bones and feathers,

a flock of notes that scattered to swoop and play,
then reassemble in a different serenade, a fist of

sky squeezing its shape, or the curve of a swan’s
neck.
                   It was remarkable,
                                                      how soundless waves
could cart away the distance,
                                               and how I forgave,
in that moment, everyone.
                                                             Which is to say,

that the desert is a grave and lonely place,
where silence reappears as another kind of music.



Today’s poems are from Deep Calls to Deep (New Rivers Press, 2017), copyright © 2017 by Jane Medved, and appear here today with permission from the poet.


Deep Calls to Deep: “Taking its title from Psalm 42, Deep Calls to Deep explores the nexus between the depths of biblical history and the depths of the self, and the twin powers of faith and doubt that drive them both. Building from a masterful sequence exploring the legacies of Herod to a final richly lyrical sequence, Deep Calls to Deep becomes richer with multiple readings. With stunning formal variety and skill, it enacts not only the struggle to maintain faith, but to ground it equally in past and present, chaos and void, self and other.” — Leslie Adrienne Miller, author of Y and The Resurrection Trade

Jane Medved is the author of Deep Calls to Deep (winner of the Many Voices Project, New Rivers Press 2017) and the chapbook Olam, Shana, Nefesh (Finishing Line Press, 2014) Her recent essays and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Queen Mob’s Teahouse, The Tampa Review, The Atticus Review, The Cortland Review, 2River View and Vinyl. She is the poetry editor of the Ilanot Review, the on-line literary magazine of Bar Ilan University, Tel Aviv. She lives and teaches creative writing in Jerusalem, Israel.

Editor’s Note: “History ignores the bodies,” but Jane Medved does not. It is through her own determined lens on history that the poet shapes this stunning new collection. The history she embraces is personal and familial, ancient and deeply entrenched, a history of people and place, of nature and land, of violence and loss. One might approach this work like an archaeologist, gentle and sifting, knowing that “coins, a copper lantern, bits of colored glass” are all precious, that every word and artifact you come across has a story to tell.

Deep Calls to Deep is ambitious, provocative, heart-wrenching and sacred. Within its pages the spiritual commingles with the archaeological, and words lay bare lost treasures like a desert wind revealing fact and fiction from beneath centuries of sand. The collection is divided into four sections, each so distinct and compelling that I could only begin to give you a taste of the whole by sharing a poem from each.

How visceral it is to read this collection. How engrossing. How evident on every page the capable hand of the poet who wrought the work, her knowledge and skill as writer and reader, how in tune she is with the human experience. Deep Calls to Deep is a masterpiece of the lyric, overflowing with stunning language and accessible imagery, at once startling in its beauty and reassuring in its familiarity. “Which is to say, // there is another way home… Which is to say, // that the desert is a grave and lonely place, / where silence reappears as another kind of music.”

Want more from Jane Medved?
Buy Deep Calls to Deep from Amazon
Queen Mob’s Teahouse
Cortland Review
2River View

 

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: 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: HALA ALYAN

 

IN JERUSALEM
By Hala Alyan

Forgetting something doesn’t change it.
In Jerusalem a man blocked the door in front of a hostel

to tell me to unpin my hair. I did,
but then kept the story from anyone for years.

There are times I can see the bus stops clear as day,
the jasmine soap I bought from the Armenian quarter,

how I rewatched an episode of The Wire in bed
the first night, afraid if I left my room I would lose it.

That summer I was lousy with photographs—
church pews, skinny trees. A single one

of myself, peeking into a mirror. My hair over one eye.
Sometimes I wonder if the man even asked,

if I am misremembering, whether I am the culprit
of my own fear. But then I remember the two pairs of shoes

I wore through the soles that trip, how I finally walked barefoot
down the Mount of Olives until a cab stopped for me,

speaking in English first, then Arabic,
asking if I’d like to see photographs of his granddaughter,

telling me to write a story about him. The city was all men.
But he was kind and eager and me ka’ak

to eat, calling me asfoura when I picked it apart
with my fingers. Bird. You eat like one.

What should I name you in the story, I asked.
Land remembers like a body does. A city full of men

still has a mother. I told myself I disliked Jerusalem
but that was code for couldn’t shake it. I was capable of too much.

I cursed the heat and cried on the way to the airport.
There never was another story. When I got back home,

I cut my hair, then dreamt I buried my grandmother
under Al-Aqsa mosque, but she hadn’t even died yet.

 

Today’s poem first appeared in Thrush Poetry Journal and appears here today with permission from the poet.

 

Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American writer and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Guernica and elsewhere. Her poetry collections have won the Arab American Book Award and the Crab Orchard Series. Her debut novel, SALT HOUSES, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017, and was longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize.

 

Guest Editor’s Note: Hala Alyan’s “In Jerusalem” begins with a maxim: “Forgetting something doesn’t change it,” laying the groundwork for what is to come. In this poem of place, the poet sets out assured that she knows where she is going, and in the cascade of couplets, following her steps through her narrative seems natural and the conclusions the speaker draws instinctive. Cultural conflicts filled with contradiction arise in “A city full of men,” in which the traveler wonders “whether I am the culprit/of my own fear,” creating a distinctive turn and shift to a slight difference in tone and purpose for the reader and the speaker, ending with a dream of an act of preservation that could leave evidence that she had been there and remembered things as they really happened. She tells us that “Land remembers like a body does,” and her wish to bury her grandmother under the Al-Aqsa mosque is her way of wanting to add to the land’s memory what she knows to be true, that “A city full of men/ still has a mother.” Sensory imagery contributes to the veracity of the speaker’s recollections and to an understanding of her conclusions drawn from the experiences that, like most human experiences, are filled with conflict and uncertainty, ripe for introspection.

 

Want to read more by and about Hala Alyan?
Hala Alyan’s Official Website

 

Guest Editor Anne Graue is the author of Fig Tree in Winter (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and has published poems in literary journals and anthologies, including The Book of Donuts (Terrapin Books), the Plath Poetry Project, One Sentence Poems, and Rivet Journal.

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. 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 share this series with a number of guest editors, including the editor featured here today.

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

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: LITTLE CLIMATES

 

From Little Climates
By L. A. Johnson:

 

EPISTEMOLOGY

I never had quiet times in the kitchen
making an icebox cake.
I never inspected the back of the box,
folded wafers up with cream.

In the morning, you fix whatever
needs fixing. You make eggs
with toast. And in the afternoon, I walk
out far past the end of the acre.

Only then do the strays come
to the porch, looking for a dish of milk,
a can of fish left open. No arguing
or crying can be heard nearby.

In the evening, the walls confine
the regular angers. We listen
to the kettle sing on the stove
that nobody bothers to stop.

In the freezer, always, only the notion
of an icebox cake—its layers
softening to be like the real thing.
The icing, milk and smooth.

Stranger, if only things had been
a little different, I could be
old-fashioned in my happiness,
blushing and easy to love.

 

SPLIT-LEVEL

Today the six of us perform a funeral for a home—
we wreathe the doorway with lilies, carry
our possessions above our heads like caskets.

We scatter the enviable parts of our lives
across the lawn: a radio, ceramic bowls, a sweater

that never fit. Strangers stop by to look
at all our things, each one dressed in black.

Then with hammers, we begin the destruction.
Afternoon sun exposes the fine particles
of wool and fiberglass that kept us warm.

Behind the medicine cabinet, we find razor blades
rusted in a wall-hollow. In the vacant lot next door,

a ravine appears that no stray dog will cross.
We know in some towns, this demolition is modest

or even ordinary. A bulldozer loiters elsewhere.
In a future, this house will become honeycomb
and bees will make clear honey out of all our mistakes.

 

“Epistemology” previously appeared in the Antioch Review and “Split-Level” previously appeared in the Indiana Review. Both peoms are from the collection Little Climates (Bull City Press, 2017; copyright L. A. Johnson) and appear here today with permission from the poet.

 

Little Climates: The lyric poems of Little Climates address the divisions between the self and the world, the self and the lover, and self with the self. In her debut collection, L. A. Johnson examines of the disparate spaces humans occupy in relationships: together and separately, alone and as unit. Each partner’s past, how they’ve changed, how they dream of the present—these are the little climates.

 

L. A. Johnson is the author of the chapbook Little Climates (Bull City Press). She received her MFA from Columbia University and is currently pursuing her PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Southern California, where she is a Provost’s Fellow. She’s received scholarships and fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, The Iowa Review, Narrative Magazine, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

 

Guest Editor’s Note: I first heard L. A. Johnson’s poems at a reading the poet gave in Los Angeles. When I read Little Climates a few weeks later, I realized that her imagery is so acute and vivid that it had stayed with me. Johnson is an expert at creating poignant landscapes and visceral environments. At times, they are intensely familiar: “the notion/of an icebox cake—it’s layers/softening to be like the real thing,” but the poet also deftly moves in directions the reader might never have imagined; “In the evening, / the walls confine the regular angers.” The detailed, sensory world the poet creates builds into unforgettable landscapes that stay with the reader long after the pages of Little Climates have been closed.

 

Want to read more by and about L. A. Johnson?
L. A. Johnson’s Official Website
Buy Little Climates from Bull City Press
Buy Little Climates from Amazon
Read more poems via At Length
Read more poems via The Account

 

Guest Editor Alan Toltzis is the author of The Last Commandment. Recent work has appeared in print and online publications including Hummingbird, Right Hand Pointing, IthacaLit, r.k.v.r.y. Quarterly, and Cold Noon. Find him online at alantoltzis.com.

 

A NOTE FROM THE MANAGING EDITOR:

After nearly ten years as Contributing Editor of this series, the time has come for change. I am thrilled to expand my role to Managing Editor and provide the opportunity for fresh voices to contribute to this ongoing dialogue. Today and in the coming weeks, please help me welcome a series of guest editors to the newest incarnation of the Saturday Poetry Series.

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