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: 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: GILI HAIMOVICH


AND THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT SOFTNESS
By Gili Haimovich

People are still flirting
with trying to look younger,
to make each other laugh.
Their existence is softened
by the luxuries of having some time, some needs, met.
People are still eager,
not too tired of being keen,
I have found out
among the snow banks,
pushing
the stroller of my soft new baby.



Today’s poem appears here today with permission from the poet.

Gili Haimovich is an international poet and translator who writes in both Hebrew and English. She has six volumes of poetry in Hebrew, including her most recent, Landing Lights (Iton 77 Publishing House), which received a grant from Acum, as did her previous book. She also received a grant nominating her as an outstanding artist by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption on 2015. Her poetry in English is featured in her chapbook, Living on a Blank Page (Blue Angel Press, 2008) and in numerous journals and anthologies, such as Poetry International, International Poetry Review, Poem Magazine, LRC – Literary Review of Canada, Asymptote, Drain Magazine, Blue Lyra, Circumference, TOK1: Writing the New Toronto and Mediterranean Poetry, as well as main Israeli journals and anthologies such as The Most Beautiful Poems in Hebrew (Yedioth Ahronot Books, 2013). Her poems have been translated into several languages including Chinese, French, Italian, Bengali, and Romanian. Gili is also presenting her work as a photographer, teaches creative writing, and facilitates writing focused arts therapy.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem excels in the realm of wordplay. Double entendres luxuriate in a language that is as rich as it is simple, as straightforward as it is complex. The poet’s clear love of language — the sheer joy of it — culminates in a narrative of the unexpected, in a revelation that demands we enter the poem again and consider it anew. Delicate and layered, this poem is a labor of love that offers the reader the fruits of its bounty.

Want to read more by and about Gili Haimovich?
Poetry International Rotterdam
Mediterranean Poetry
Drain Magazine
Taylor & Frances Online
PoetryOn – Gili Haimovich’s Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ALEX BEN-ARI

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I ASK FORGIVENESS
By Alex Ben-Ari
Translated by Vivan Eden


I ask forgiveness of all the poems
Born misshapen because of my desire to write them
I ask forgiveness of all the people
Whose lives were disrupted by my desire to influence
And of the world
For the superfluous things added to it
And those unnecessarily severed
Because of my lust for symmetry
And happy endings.

I ask forgiveness of my mother
For not knowing how to love her in her misery
Of my children
For the moments when I don’t want them
Of my wife for every time I was too small
To contain her love.

I am lighter than a falling leaf
I am softer than grass
Now a small bird could
Build its nest in me.



Today’s poem originally appeared in Haaretz and appears here today with permission from both the poet and translator.


Alex Ben-Ari is 43 years old. His debut volume of poetry, Concealed Seas (Yamim Samuiim), was awarded honorable mention at the 2008 Metulla Poetry Festival and the 2015 Helicon/Ramy Ditzanny Poetry Prize. His second book, The Gatepost (Korat Hasha’ar), published in 2015, is composed of his original Hebrew haiku. His third book, planned to be published during 2017, is a volume of conceptual poetry.
Alex is one of the six members of the “Waning Moon” blog and publishing house dedicated to Haiku in Hebrew. He is also co-editor (with poets Gilad Meiri and Noa Shkargy) of Nanopoetica, a literary journal of short form literature.

Editor’s Note: Part personal, part pastoral, part ars poetica, today’s poem is emotive, honest, and raw. The poem’s I approaches the reader — and the page — seeking forgiveness. Free from false modesty, free from pride, the poem’s I is humble, admitting failings as poet and father, husband and son. The confessional, narrative nature of the poem is carefully constructed within the framework of the lyric, while the elegant, gentle translation midwives the essence of the poem as it crosses the borders of language. As the reader, we cannot help but be moved — to compassion, to transcendence, to forgiveness and beyond.

Want more from Alex Ben-Ari?
“Ripe Peach,” a poem from Concealed Seas (bi-lingual version)
Haiku poems from The Gatepost (bi-lingual)
Alex Ben-Ari’s official blog (Hebrew)
Ben-Ari lectures (in Hebrew) on music covers
Alex Ben-Ari on Twitter

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: MANISHA SHARMA

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Millions of girls continue to vanish pre-birth in India simply because they are girls. The following poems imagine these vanished girls.


DEAR DAUGHTER

In my mind I cradled you in my arms
            I didn’t cage you
you latched onto my breasts
             I didn’t siphon life into you
you mumbled bilabial sounds, m…p
yet my ears did not hear you speak
I know you exist
              waiting to be reborn as my son
then, I will cradle you in my arms
              let you latch onto my breasts
              siphon life into you
              hear you mumble Ma, Pa
              welcome you as the heir
              who will carry your father’s name


WOULD YOU STILL BLAME ME?

You were like circles of incense
It wasn’t that we couldn’t feed another mouth
It was the kind of feeding we would do
For every roti soaked in ghee for your brother
You would get only one not soaked
Every glass of milk that went down his throat
You would drink chai with a hint of milk
Every pair of new clothes he would get each month
You would only get one pair a year
He would utter complex phrases in English
You would say soft words in Hindi and the local tongue
He would earn fancy degrees to do something great
You would master fine skills to please others
He would walk with his head held high
You would walk with your head bent
For you are leased property
Returned to its rightful owner in two decades



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


Manisha Sharma: Born and raised in India, Manisha Sharma earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Tech. A graduate of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, she was a Spring 2016 poetry mentee in AWP’s mentorship program, where Shikha Malaviya mentored her. Her recent poetry and writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from TAB, a journal of poetry and poetics, New Asian Writing, The Bombay Review and The Huffington Post. More of her work can be seen at www.genderedarrangements.com.

Editor’s Note: Between 2000 and 2011 seven-to-ten million girls in India were prevented from being born simply because they were girls. With her important poetry and collaborations, Manisha Sharma tells research-based stories of these girls-who-never-were. Her work goes a step beyond giving voice to the voiceless. Sharma literally gives life — through her art — to those who never came into being because of their sex.

In today’s poems Sharma imagines these “vanished girls” from the perspective of the mothers who carried, but never birthed them. “I know you exist,” one such mother reflects, “waiting to be reborn as my son.” Another considers the gender inequity she wanted to spare her would-be-daughter: “It wasn’t that we couldn’t feed another mouth / It was the kind of feeding we would do/ For every roti soaked in ghee for your brother / You would get only one not soaked / Every glass of milk that went down his throat / You would drink chai with a hint of milk.”

It is heartbreaking to think of the lost souls whose sex alone prevented them from having a chance at life. But it is perhaps more challenging to consider the mothers who conceived, who carried the seeds of life inside them, and who made the choice — if they were given a choice at all — to terminate their pregnancies when they discovered they were carrying girls. One mother harbors no illusions as to the kind of life a girl child in India would have had to lead, while the other acknowledges that, despite the choice made, she suffered a great loss: “In my mind I cradled you in my arms.”

Want to see more from Manisha Sharma?
Gendered Arrangements
“Indian Girl Crumbling” in New Asian Writing
“#17”, “#18”, “#22”, “#23”, and “#25” in The Bombay Review

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: RUMI

Molana
THE GUEST HOUSE
By Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.


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


Rumi: (1207–1273), also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, Mawlānā or Molānā, and Mawlawī or Molavi, was a 13th-century Persian poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic. Rumi’s importance is considered to transcend national and ethnic borders. Iranians, Turks, Afghans, Tajiks, and other Central Asian Muslims as well as the Muslims of South Asia have greatly appreciated his spiritual legacy in the past seven centuries. His poems have been widely translated into many of the world’s languages and transposed into various formats. He has been described as the “most popular poet in America” and the “best selling poet in the US”. (Annotated biography of Rumi courtesy of Wikipedia, with edits.)

Editor’s Note: Thank you to long-time reader–and my beloved mother–Maya Elashi for sharing today’s poem with me so that I might share it here with you. May we welcome all that life offers, learn what we are able, and walk our true paths with the experience and the wisdom that we gain along the way.

Want to read more by and about Rumi?
Rumi.org
Poets.org
Khamush.com

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.