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Dive Into Poetry

Dive Into Poetry

EVE

March 23, 2017

1.
Back in the garden:
Three stone slabs,
trees bending in close

but not too close.
Ranunculus flowers,
orange blooms.

A bird on a step,
a small creek below.
And beyond that,

an open green space
where my child
was playing.

I was so happy here,
finally home, my own
place, my own garden.

I called the child
to come, let’s follow
the stream.

It led to a street
we drove down,
a wasteland

of failed suburbs
dead-ending
at a concrete wall.

Both of my kids
and I agreed
not to go

that way again,
then turned back
to the garden.

2.
All day, I sat
in one place,
picturing paradise

lost in fatigued
thoughts about
buying and selling

and how lovely
it was to return
to where even

the fruit was free
for the taking.
I wonder now

if this garden
lives within me
or if someday

I will know it
when I see it,
exclaim out loud,

there it is
and make an offer
on the spot

where I was
given my name:
Chava, Eve.

National Poetry Month is right around the corner. Refuel your spirit after a long winter with Dive Into Poetry, a month-long celebration of poetry, April 1-30. Tiered pricing and all welcome!

Dive Into Poetry Writing Groups

Where Does the Sky Begin?

March 13, 2017

Photo: Murashkame

Where does the sky begin?
Empiricists say, “Right under your feet.”
For additional answers, look within.

Ask a child and you’re in for grin.
With that kind of logic, you can’t compete.
Where does the sky begin?

Or is it sky, anything that’s not skin —
invisible source of rain, snow, and sleet.
For additional answers, look within.

Science sends my mind to a tailspin.
Poetry moves the chaff from the wheat.
Where does the sky begin?

Me? I’d rather read the notes in the margins
than believe everything on the bubble sheet.
For additional answers, look within.

Come sit and ponder, before we turn in.
This time by the fire cannot be beat.
Where does the sky begin?
For additional answers, look within.

*

Written in the Focus on Forms group during Week 3: The Villanelle. 

Dive Into Poetry The Resistance

Expand/Contract

January 27, 2017

Jack Comstock: “The American Dream II”

“with every contraction there is an expansion” – Peter Levine

Yes there is the breath
Yes there is belly rising falling
Yes here is chaos and fear of chaos
Yes we clamp down – – effort – – control
Yes we say can we say can’t these are just
Yes these are just words until we feel in the body
where can lives where can’t lives how the stomach
clenches or the temples pound and the temple doors
open like a mouth saying come come in or close like a
renunciation of what you thought was safe blessed even
by a god whose name you were told was sanctioned by state
leaders but no that was not here that was not yes that was not
ours that was another time another place another person’s history
not ours surely we would be we were destined to be different
and by different we knew we really meant better better than
our predecessors our ancestors our mothers and fathers
after all wasn’t that the myth the fairy tale the storyline
we followed through privileged childhoods believing
we were special believing each generation goes
beyond the one before except oh not for those
people it’s different these rules don’t apply
to the ones who are poor or who were
not born into opportunity and ease
no for them this was never true
and they knew it even tried to
keep telling us through acts
of poetry and resistance
but we did not listen
and now it’s time
when the only
choice is to
say you
were
right

Dive Into Poetry The Resistance

Cloudy with a Chance of Global Uprising

January 20, 2017

For Aviva

Foul mood overtakes the afternoon
despite the laying on of hands
and all good intentions
Fire belly eclipses tender heart
forcing eruption of vitriol through veins
a revolt with no room for shame
a dam useless against this mighty flow
like blood flowing like pussy riot
like do not fuck with us women
like you can’t disappear us that easily
or at all like No means No like my body
my choice like Black Lives Matter like
I’ll show you my papers when you show
us your tax returns like no I don’t want to
hold hands across the aisle not today
not tonight not tomorrow where were you
reaching for mine for the last eight years
Exactly
Compassion and kindness do not mean
not angry no they mean angrier they mean
business they mean this is not a test
they mean we will not be silenced
they mean your lies will not protect you
from the people they mean we cannot
be bought or gaslit they mean light
so bright your darkness will swallow you
whole they mean we will rise up rise up
I was quiet all day
Didn’t watch the news was determined
not to give it my two minutes not to throw
in my two cents not to throw in the towel
on hope my anger rises because hope
and anger are brothers because my love
and my anger are fraternal twins
because I am a mother whose grandmothers’
cells live inside of me whose children’s
cells live inside of me whose grandchildren’s
cells live inside of me because weeping
and this anger are not opposite
and I will oppose I will defy I will cry
I will become something violent
though I thought this is not my way
I thought I am a peace seeker but how
can I seek peace when on Day One
you strip me from your pages
write us off write us out speak in shallow
teleprompted sentences to vapid applause
My daughter cried all day
because Business as Usual slapped her
in the face because climate change
is 50 degrees in January because her body
bleeds and you say she belongs to any man
who would I can’t finish that thought
Eclipse of positivity because good vibes
will not save us now no now it’s time
to listen to the people who’ve been saying
this for so long so long too long rise up
listen to us we will not become your sheep
nor will we satisfy you by tearing each other
apart no we have to come together
we have to channel this anger
that could power a nation
keep the lights on all night and through
the warming winters
energy coursing through the body
live wire current sweeping away with it
any last vestiges of playing along
an unwinnable game
gloves off let’s be all in all of us
all in and in it together

30 Poems in November Uncategorized

All the Forgotten Things

November 22, 2016

photo-1465805466987-1a52c4976a92
I’ve forgotten how to write.

Forgotten how to trust the flow of words. Forgotten how to be easy with my yeses. Forgotten how to reach out to heal old wounds. Forgotten how to write down my dreams. Forgotten how to care what others think. Forgotten how to believe it gets better. Forgotten how to give up the good fight.

I’ve forgotten how to look away.

From the water cannons. From the raised arm salutes. From the inexorable forces of corruption, greed, and power drunk superiority.

I’ve forgotten how to let sound come out of my mouth. Screams locked in my throat.
I’ve forgotten the address. Where do I send this scream? How much will it cost to get there?

I’ve forgotten how to tremble in fear. Something tells me I should, but I just can’t do it. Can’t or won’t? Can’t or don’t want to? Is there a difference?

I’ve forgotten how to sip from the fire hose of history. I’ve forgotten that I’m supposed to speak up in one breath and listen in the next. I’ve forgotten how to dance.

I’ve forgotten how to share a meal with strangers. This is the saddest part. I’ve forgotten
to give up trying.

I’ve forgotten how to make nice. I’ve forgotten how to act as if. I’ve forgotten how to live in a land of what ifs, for better or for worse. I’ve forgotten that Будь что будет sounds like suicide (que sera sera, whatever will be will be, the future’s not ours to see…).

I’ve forgotten that we are not hearing the real news, not even on the real news.

I’ve forgotten that Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a real thing, because this morning I decided it is a real thing.

I’ve forgotten that the imagination can be a brilliant and dangerous place.

I’ve forgotten how to have a nice morning with my kids without mentioning institutionalized racism. I’ve forgotten how to tune it out. I’ve forgotten how to live in a bubble. I’ve forgotten how to delineate between privilege and struggle. I’ve forgotten how to pick a fight, win a debate, or speak truth to power.

I’ve forgotten that white power is not a fringe thing. I’ve forgotten that alt-right is a euphemism. I’ve forgotten how to ignore the artists who risk their lives and the people whose bodies are on the front lines and the poorest among us who sleep out of doors without blankets. I’ve forgotten how to show up. I’ve forgotten how to shut up. I’ve forgotten how to make myself invisible.  I’ve forgotten how to power through the day without a nap. I’ve forgotten that love will never tear us apart. I’ve forgotten to hide. I’ve forgotten how to put my own interests first. I’ve forgotten to worry about perfection. I’ve forgotten to fit into any of your boxes. I’ve forgotten that I wasn’t Muslim. I’ve forgotten to fall down nine times, get up ten. I’ve forgotten to damn it all to hell again. I’ve forgotten sweetness and light. I’ve forgotten how dark it could get all up in here. I’ve forgotten to tear down the walls inside. I’ve forgotten to give a shit about factions.

I refuse to forget the past. I refuse to close my eyes to the present. I refuse to hand you my children’s futures on a paper plate for you to fold in half and trash. I refuse to forget how to be my brother’s keeper. I refuse to stop learning how to remember.

30 Poems in November Uncategorized

21/30 Poems in November: Do Something

November 21, 2016
article-2609265-1d2dc3ca00000578-986_634x491

A boy carries a girl after what activists said was an air strike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Qasr on April 18, 2014.

Boy with an oxygen mask.
Chlorine gas attack.
He’d been in a neighborhood
looking at the planes.
One dropped a barrel.
Then he was coughing.
Now he is crying.
Doesn’t know where his siblings are.
Asks if he will die.
Babies in incubators with tiny masks
over their mouths.
The hospital is hit.
Rubble and dust.
Do something.
Do something.
Do Something.

21/30

**

Q: What is #30poemsinnovember?

A: A literary fundraiser for Center for New Americans in Northampton, MA.

The Center for New Americans welcomes and serves immigrants in Western Massachusetts with free English classes and a range of support services. Participating poets aim to raise $30,000 over the course of the month.

Writers do their part by writing one poem each day in November. Friends and family do their part by donating to support this effort. Powerful new poems and financial contributions translate to community support for immigrants.

Please consider making a donation of any amount to help me reach my personal goal of $500.

30 Poems in November Uncategorized

20/30 Poems in November: Vow

November 20, 2016

photo-1477737978268-6ad68e8033c0I will not bicker or squabble.

I will stay focused on the work.

I will ease suffering where I can.

I will not participate in in-fighting.

I will not question those in need.

I will turn my pockets inside out.

I will not tolerate mere tolerance.

I will examine my own limitations.

I will listen to you when you hurt.

I promise not to leave the room.

I will let my anger be an arrow.

And justice be my target.

And love be my fire.

And fire be my words.

And words be my actions.

And actions be my life.

20/30

**

Q: What is #30poemsinnovember?

A: A literary fundraiser for Center for New Americans in Northampton, MA.

The Center for New Americans welcomes and serves immigrants in Western Massachusetts with free English classes and a range of support services. Participating poets aim to raise $30,000 over the course of the month.

Writers do their part by writing one poem each day in November. Friends and family do their part by donating to support this effort. Powerful new poems and financial contributions translate to community support for immigrants.

Please consider making a donation of any amount to help me reach my personal goal of $500.

30 Poems in November Uncategorized

19/30 Poems in November: Life Is but a Dream

November 19, 2016

photo-1474621829993-c411f0d8b5c5

Sometimes my life feels like a dream.
And I think I might wake up and be 80 years old,
like really old. 
And it will turn out
I was dreaming 
about being 10.

Maybe I’m dreaming, too.
Then you’re in my dream.
But how do you know?
You might be in mine.

Maybe we really are dreaming.
There’s no way to be sure.
What I don’t say is that
some parts of the dream

are more like nightmares.
What I don’t say is that I I want
to be there when you wake up
and yet this is unlikely.

What I don’t say is that there will be times
when you do wake up, when you see
things as they really are.
What I don’t say is I think you’re right.

In this dream, we have running water
from faucets.
We have clean clothes and everyone sleeps
in their own beds.

We have Thanksgiving dinner
and false premises and teetering traditions.
We have leased skis and no guarantees
of snow this year.

Some siblings your age in another country
far from this one scoop water with their two hands
from a few feet underground. They repeat this
every single morning before the sun rises.

In this dream, you don’t know about being
a refugee or about fleeing or hiding
or seeing your home turn to rubble
or rubber dinghies or rubber stamps or check points.

In this dream, Saturday brings a birthday party
at a circus studio, where you’ll swing
and jump and eat cake with kids who all speak
the same language as you.

In this dream, you will have to find your people.
Who will know who you really are?
Who will know who you dream of becoming?
This work starts early and believe me, keeps going.

In this dream, I ask you to wash your dish
when you’re done. We are so far removed
from the water keepers. You want to spit
in a cup and see where you’re from.

Can you please get me some water?

In this dream, we’re training children
to get their own water and to be warriors.
In this dream, we decry child soldiers
but hunger to read and bear witness to others.

In this dream, I tell you about swastika
graffiti but you’ve never heard gunshots
and you say you will stay inside for four years
before heading out to play in the yard.

30 Poems in November Uncategorized

18/30 Poems in November: Do Not Think Like Me

November 18, 2016
photo-1455037348028-ed7650360518We will not be afraid of the world. No.
We will go out into it, with heads covered
and long skirts or mini-skirts and combat boots,
with ink on our skin, with love in our mouths,
with sound and fury, we will go out.
We will not be afraid of the world. No.
We will go out into it, with arms linked,
pounding pavement, pounding headaches,
we will go tearing up your arrogance, tearing
down your ignorance, seeing that truth
and beauty always win and refusing
your terror dressed in suits and ties.
Give me a suit and tie, tie my hands
if you must, tie me to this chair and I will gag
on every order you give, I will denounce
your laws and my sisters will cut me free.
I will throw my body in front of theirs,
throw my body in front of a child’s,
throw my body in front of my brother’s body.
I will not be afraid of the world. No.
I will not stand for your accusations
of hysteria or overreaction. No.
I will not watch you drag away my neighbors,
deface my father’s door or wait for things
to get more severe before speaking out.
Will my home be marked or can I offer
safe harbor? This is not about saviors
but movements, but masses of voices
rising not in unison but in the dissonance
of dissidence. Do not think like me. No.
Think for yourself. Think with your feet,
with your eyes, with your money,
with your heart, with your conscience.
But just think. Because not thinking
is how being afraid of the world begins.
Not thinking is how we begin to close
ranks, close eyes, close hearts, close
doors. Do not be afraid of the world.
Go out into it. Go out into it now.
 

#18/30

**
#30poemsinnovember is a literary fundraiser for Center for New Americans. Center for New Americans welcomes and serves immigrants in Western Massachusetts with free English classes and a range of support services. For more information, please visit cnam.org This year, we aim to raise $30,000.

Writers do their part by writing one poem each day in November. Friends and family do their part by donating to support this effort. Powerful new poems and financial contributions translate to community support for immigrants.

Visit my personal donation page and help me reach my $500 goal.

30 Poems in November Uncategorized

17/30 Poems in November: Salt Cracker Girl

November 17, 2016

px00234_9I seem to be writing a lot of poems lately
about people standing behind me
in line at grocery stores.
(I must be one of those people
who’s always forgetting that one item —
paper towels, butter —
and running back to the store.)

Today, it was a young woman, alone.
I kept stealing
glances at her ghostly face
and expressionless eyes.
She was buying two boxes of crackers.
Salt crackers but not Saltines —
I didn’t recognize the brand

and it didn’t matter. What mattered
was the matted fur
on her black wool peacoat,
and how heavily it hung
on her concave frame.
She wore corduroys the color
of cat vomit
and though the coat came to her knees

I could see her legs
were stick thin.
I remembered
when my wife was so sick
we feared for her life,
how horrifically thin she’d grown
after living on rice
alone for months,
not by choice, because of disease.

But there was something
about this girl-woman;
it was eerie and sad,
how I could hear her thoughts
as she caught my backwards glimpse:
I imagined her thinking I thought
she was gross for buying
two boxes of crackers.

I imagined she intended to make
those crackers last a week.
That she’d dole them out
in painstakingly tiny bites,
not allowing herself more
than three a day.

I was making this up. I know
not all thin people are sick. But
everything in me — my younger self
swinging wildly between anorexic
and bulimic behaviors —
my older self, a bona fide Jewish mother
who no longer self-abuses
(at least not physically)

wanted to say something to her,
to gently say, “Excuse me”
as she exited the store
behind me. To say, “I know this

is none of my business, but –”
at which point, maybe
she would have cut me off,
deservedly so — “You’re right,
it’s none of your fucking business.”

Or maybe she would have listened.
Maybe her black, marble-like eyes
inside those deep sockets that looked
like she’d sobbed for hours
before cleaning herself up
to get the ritual crackers
would have filled with tears.

But I didn’t. Instead, I paid
and she paid. I walked to my car
and she walked to her car.
We will probably never see
each other again.

Maybe tonight she’s staring down
one of those boxes,
and the salt crackers are taunting her
but she tells herself she’s stronger.
Her cat nudges her calfs,
weaving figure eights around her ankles.

She reaches down to pet him,
flashing back to the woman
ahead of her in line at the grocery
who was lousy
at hiding her concern.

Keep your concern,
the girl
says out loud. Leave me alone. 

30 Poems in November Uncategorized

15/30 Poems in November: Pilot Light

November 15, 2016

scarfWhen I was a little girl, I had a friend
who was a grown-up woman.
This grown-up woman grew up in Brooklyn.

Her parents were immigrants.
She was schooled in lighting candles for ghosts
and reading cards for guidance.

Equal parts Russian scarves and leather jackets,
she treated me like a person.
Before we fell out, I’d take the Peter Pan bus

from Amherst to Boston.
One time I brought the new Los Lobos
album — so excited to have a gift for her —

La pistola y el corazón. 
South Station was no place for a teenage girl.
She’d be there waiting for me

and we’d take the T back
to her second-floor walk-up.
In my mind’s eye,  so much older

myself now than she even was then, 

I see the book of matches
on the stove top —

the pilot light was fussy — 
and another on the back 
of the toilet — to cover the smell 

of human waste.
We talked about dreams 
and death. Like I said, unlikely.

One day, 20 years after 
she broke my young heart, 
I received an email:

She never meant to cause harm. 
I believed her, 
having just caused some 

irreversible damage myself. 
Whenever I see a gas stove
with that flickering pilot light,

I think of her.