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: PATRICE BOYER CLAEYS

By Patrice Boyer Claeys:

Favorite Color
after Ruth Stone’s “White on White”

A yellow flag iris,
a lick of flame,
glass of Sauternes.

Blinking lights at intersections,
the bills of mallards, old knotty pine
paneling, sticky to the touch.

Lemon meringue pie,
spent elm leaves, the fish brought home
from the fair in its water-filled bag.

Caution tape to mark the murder scene,
the road to Oz,
a wobbling flan, chicken fat.

The burning hydrogen of Arcturus,
broken brooms,
xenophobic dread.

A cheesy joke, wheezy phlegm,
the running rheumy eyes and shaded
teeth of jaundiced men.

Mustard, pus and broken yolks.
The nicotine-stained fingers
of Johnny Cash and Vonnegut.

Slimy bile, old bruises, the pulsing
membrane on the poisonous gland.
The dusty, bitter sex of crocus throat.

 

Today’s poem first appeared in Volume 5, Issue 1 of Bird’s Thumb and appears here today with permission from the poet.

 

Patrice Boyer Claeys enjoys the freedom of the empty nest. She thanks her writing group, Plumb Line Poets, for keeping her chiseling away. Her work has appeared in Mom Egg Review, Found Poetry Review, Blue Heron, Avocet, ARDOR, the Aurorean, Beech Street Review and Bird’s Thumb, and is forthcoming in Nassau Review. She was featured in Light, a Journal of Photography and Poetry. She was nominated for Best of the Net.

Guest Editor’s Note: On the surface, the literal and the metaphorical are given equal weight in this poem by Patrice Boyer Claeys. Each item anticipates the next, and the effect is a list of things that are yellow that might or might not be favorable in spite of the title “Favorite Color.” The poet references Ruth Stone’s “White on White” to give some direction for reading, which feels like an excavation, a mining for truth in the scrutiny of the color, its denotation and connotations.

Each line of the poem seems innocuous until the fifth stanza which ends with “xenophobic dread.” This metaphor stops the speaker’s examination of the more benign imagery that includes mallard bills, knotty pine, and “Lemon meringue pie,” and illuminates the “blinking lights of intersections” that has become a portent of imminent threats.

The final three stanzas do not disappoint in providing perilous symbols of imminent dangers, both familiar and unfamiliar. The depictions of disease—the “wheezy phlegm,” the “rheumy eyes,” the “old bruises”—succeed in changing the tone and in producing a mood of ominous expectation. The speaker observes instances of yellow and presents those that are the most necessary to the theme which seems to be a warning and a lesson in keen observation and meaning in context.

Want to read more by and about Patrice Boyer Claeys?
RHINO Poetry
Blue Heron Review
Beech Street Review

 

Anne Graue

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. 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

 

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: THEY WERE BEARS




From THEY WERE BEARS
By Sarah Marcus:


PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN BEARS

You said you were afraid of bears—

we weren’t safe until there was ice
along the shoreline. I said we all need trauma,

and my heart breaks every Autumn, so we broke
ourselves against those rocks until the cave mouth opened:

a womb for blind crayfish,
a passageway harboring beetles.

I want you to reach into the depths of your backwoods
and remember our Winters. We need the bears, ourselves

ursine sleeping in dens—the caverns drip-stoned and stunning.
I was and still am in search of a great bear

because people have always known bears—
we will always be shelter for each other.

When we first met, I told you that a long time ago,
grizzlies came down from the Rockies—

they were poisoned on the range, trapped,
hounded, shot out—we found cranial fragments.

We still listen to those legends of bounties paid
to mountain men, harboring that ancient fear of

the bears that made meat of us, boar and sow,
mauled and gnawed away. Our bones resting in caves,

because you were born to hunt, and I was
born of hunting: a witness of great fires.



LOVE POEM

First snow of the season—
your eyes say
there’s not much oxygen
                  in the mountain air
.

I have never wanted someone
                  as much as I want you.

I devalued the damage:
you won’t belong—stay gone longer—

                  let it melt.


I’ve been thinking about you
                  because we cannot be separate.
The gravitational pull defies
                  the thousands of miles between us.

Even in the deepest woods,
                  we kneel beside the rill,
the river’s riffle,
the spruce’s mantle of rime,

                  until the point of rock
                                  swells tightly around us.

There’s a chant building in the forest: I won’t be your secret.

Everyone knows how to leave,
but I don’t know how to be
in this city
without you.



MYTHOLOGY FOR DESERT LOVERS II

These things are real:
you are a desert moon rising a hundred mornings away.
My horses paw a cracked Earth.
The air threatening Winter.
The solitude of sand.
We can smell the danger

of you and her
in that house.
In every house.

When you are so strongly connected
to another person, what did you call it? Rare?
It’s like the sunset.
No one can hold that kind of beauty
for more than a moment.

Our small ribs are thick
enough to take on a prairie panic.
The fear of too much open space.
So many acres;
we can never catch up.

You say I’m always on your side
and this will always mean more
to a woman.

I try to explain that love is a violence,
even when it’s beautiful.
When you enter someone,
you must also leave them.

And there’s always that moment of relief
when I realize that I’ve always known—
I am a hundred deserts.

I will wait for you or some version of you
to become sky.



Today’s poems are from They Were Bears (Sundress Publications, 2017), copyright © 2017 by Sarah Marcus, and appear here today with permission from the poet.



They Were Bears gives us a world that is intimate, complicated, and lush in its raw, brutal meditation upon the complexities of Nature, both within and beyond our grasp as both human beings and animals. These poems by Sarah Marcus channel what the world demands of us, and our bodies as we are guided through a startling cartography of desire, trauma, and memory that is both refuge and wilderness. Marcus writes, ‘I want to say that there are places I have to go, and you have to follow me…through all this orange light, every version of the color red, we betray ourselves for miles.’ With stunning craft and intuition, Marcus places her lyric power against the beautiful, terrifying bones in us where words often feel broken and impossible. Her poems expand through their stark and luminous discoveries to reveal a natural and psychic world too complex to ignore. Marcus gives us sacred breath in which to claim that world when she writes, ‘We inscribe the rocks/with our names, wanting a sign,/want the sky to say:/This is mainland. Solid ground./The place you’ve been looking for.’” -Rachel Eliza Griffiths, author of Lighting the Shadow


Sarah Marcus is the author of They Were Bears (2017, Sundress Publications), Nothing Good Ever Happens After Midnight (2016, GTK Press), and the chapbooks BACKCOUNTRY (2013) and Every Bird, To You (2013). Her other work can be found at NPR’s Prosody, The Huffington Post, McSweeney’s, Cimarron Review, Spork, The Establishment, Cosmopolitan.com, and Marie Claire.com SA, among others. She is an editor at Gazing Grain Press and the Series Editor for As It Ought To Be’s High School Poetry Series: Gender, Identity, & Race. She holds an MFA in poetry from George Mason University and currently teaches and writes in Cleveland, OH.


Editor’s Note: In the Jewish calendar, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a surreal and reflective time of reckoning. During these days we are introspective, coming to terms with our true selves before turning outward and asking forgiveness from those who we have wronged. It is in these Days of Awe that I come back to a collection I have been meaning to review for quite some time. It is in this magical time of brutal honesty that I dive deeply into a carefully-wrought world that is far beyond my comfort zone, with eyes and heart wide open to its savage and beautiful truths.

They Were Bears is one of the most thoughtful–if not the most thought-provoking–poetry collections to be released in recent memory. Rife with hunger and blood and animal instinct, this work pulsates at the intersection of nature and violence, family, sex, and love. They Were Bears drags us mercilessly back to our animal nature, honoring vulnerability and calling out sexual violence. This book pulls no punches, spares us little. What is reflected in its waters is our truest selves, as beautiful and terrifying as they are wont to be.

The tender, ravenous, brutal honesty of the book’s thematic spectrum is brought to life by the true craftsmanship of the poet. This is an absolutely stunning collection on every level–its words and images thrash and breathe, fly and tether. The poems are lush in their soundscape, and on the page they mark their territory distinctly. And the moments. The breathtaking moments. How true their revelation, declarations, and admissions: “because you were born to hunt, and I was / born of hunting: a witness of great fires;” “I try to explain that love is a violence, / even when it’s beautiful. / When you enter someone, / you must also leave them.”

Mazal tov to Sarah Marcus on this incredible work, and may we all start anew together in these Days of Awe.


Want more from Sarah Marcus?
Sarah Marcus’ Official Website

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: SUFGANIYOT BY RABBI RACHEL BARENBLAT

A version of this post was previously featured on the Saturday Poetry Series.

Sufganiyot homemade by your favorite Saturday Poetry Series editor

Homemade sufganiyot from the kitchen of your favorite Saturday Poetry Series editor


SUFGANIYOT
By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat

In oil, pale circles roll and flip,
doughy moons inflating.

The fun part: poking a finger
inside, giving a wiggle and twist,
pushing a dollop of jam
knuckle-deep, then two, ’til
the cavity gleams raspberry.

Latkes are pedestrian.
These puff like a breath held.

There, and here,
a million women finger
these cupped curves,
probe the soft center,
push the sticky treat inside.

We glance at each other, faces hot.
We lick the sweet from our hands.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in Zeek and was reprinted on the Saturday Poetry Series with permission from the poet.)


Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, named in 2016 by the Forward as one of America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis, was ordained by ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal as a rabbi in 2011 and as a mashpi’ah ruchanit (spiritual director) in 2012, and now serves as co-chair, with Rabbi David Evan Markus, of ALEPH. She holds a BA in religion from Williams College and an MFA in Writing and Literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She is author of four book-length collections of poetry: 70 faces: Torah poems (Phoenicia Publishing, 2011), Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013),Toward Sinai: Omer poems (Velveteen Rabbi, 2016) and Open My Lips (Ben Yehuda Press, 2016), as well as several poetry chapbooks.

Editor’s Note: Each year for Hanukkah I make sufganiyot. Measuring out the ingredients from my mother’s recipe, I will myself to have the patience necessary to wait for yeast to rise. I knead the dough with equal parts pressure and love then apply more patience, more waiting, before rolling and cutting “pale circles,” transforming them in oil into “doughy moons inflating.” Each year I make sufganiyot, and each year when I do, I think of this poem. It has been four years since I first featured this poem on the Saturday Poetry Series, and it has been with me each year since, an indelible part of my Hanukkah tradition.

As sensual as this poem is — as hot — it is very much a poem about tradition, about ritual, and about the coming together of women. For it is women who have traditionally ruled the domain of the Jewish kitchen, and women who, year in and year out since time immemorial, have applied their pressure and patience, their love and their care, to wright the delicious sustenance that is Jewish holiday food. And what, really, brings us together in our rituals and traditions more than food?

Each year as my best friend and I make our sufganiyot together, my mother makes the same recipe 2,500 miles away. Meanwhile, women all over the world are doing the same: “There, and here, / a million women finger / these cupped curves.” Each year, today’s poem reminds me of that disparate togetherness of women. This year I reprint this poem in honor of the women all over the world who do the work necessary to make the holiday season what it is.

May this season of light be a beacon in the darkness, and may the new year be better than the last.

Want to read more by and about Rabbi Rachel Barenblat?
The Velveteen Rabbi – Rabbi Rachel Barenblat’s Official Website

SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: ABRIANA JETTÉ


abeheadshotphtocredchrisjette


LIES OUR MOTHER TOLD US
By Abriana Jetté


I do not believe in the story of the virgin
but in the value of the human: the body —

because no matter what you were told
that soul is not yours. But the body,

the body is yours. The slight round
of the breast like the sun or the depth of your

toes to your crown: these are the ways
we measure ourselves. I do not want to

believe she was a vehicle. Tell me
there was pleasure; there were moans.

Tell me when she was fully grown
she remembered a wave a release an ecstasy

that entered her, that she could feel it in her
teeth. Motherhood means you are no longer

maiden but Queen. Tell me the story of the one
who smiled at the rustling of her sheets.



Today’s poem was published in the The Journal for Compressed Creative Arts, Spring 2015, and appears here today with permission from the poet.


Abriana Jetté: Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York Abriana Jetté is an internationally published poet and essayist and educator. Her anthology 50 Whispers: Poems by Extraordinary Women debuted as a #1 best seller on Amazon, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Seneca Review, River Teeth, Barrelhouse, The Moth, and many other places. She teaches for St. John’s University, for the College of Staten Island, and for the nonprofit organization Sponsors for Educational Opportunity.

Editor’s Note: And then there was the poet who reimagined the Virgin Mary. Not as virgin, but as human, as woman, capable of “a wave a release an ecstasy // that entered her, that she could feel it in her / teeth.” Advocating for agency, the poet insisted, “I do not want to // believe she was a vehicle.” Reverent of the woman’s transformation, she taught us that “Motherhood means you are no longer // maiden but Queen.” And we saw her as the poet saw her. And it was good.

Want to see more from Abriana Jetté?
Hermeneutic Chaos Journal
Truthdig
Abriana Jetté’s Official Website
Stay Thirsty Publishing
Barrelhouse Mag