On this page poems by Fern G. Z. Carr, Helen Bar-Lev, Geraldine Green, Gretti Izak, Iris Dan, Jennifer Lagier, Katherine Burkman, Lynn Veach Sadler, Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld, Meir Weksler, Mercedes Webb-Pullman
The following works are copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the authors.
Fern G. Z. Carr
Fern G. Z. Carr is a member of and former Poet-in-Residence for the League of Canadian Poets. She composes and translates poetry in five languages. Carr is a 2013 Pushcart Prize nominee and has been published extensively world-wide from Finland to the Seychelles. Canadian honours include: an online feature in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper; poetry set to music by a Juno-nominated musician; and her poem, “I Am”, chosen by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate as Poem of the Month for Canada. One of Carr’s haiku is even included on a DVD currently orbiting the planet Mars aboard NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft. www.ferngzcarr.com
Trapped in a Car Wash
After having inhaled exhaust fumes
from the three vehicles idling in front of me
for twenty minutes,
Why is it taking so long?
I finally entered my wash code
and the vehicular chamber of horrors –
its gigantic metallic praying mantis arms
reaching out to rinse, spray, lather and
Five minutes… Ten minutes…
I check my watch – fifteen minutes gone.
Should I honk? How embarrassing.
Seems to be taking too long.
Definitely taking too long.
Time to honk.
Engine on, carbon monoxide – uh oh…
I can’t believe I’m trapped in a car wash.
Time to turn off the car and
No one comes.
I honk, honk, honk,
still no one comes.
Is this a trap? If I get out of my car,
will the praying mantis douse me in scalding water?
Hey, maybe I’m on some hidden camera TV show.
Why wouldn’t the drivers lined up
behind me waiting their turn
be calling the attendant by now?
I honk, honk, honk, honk.
Should I call 911?
Police, a car wash has digested me!
I honk, honk, honk, honk, honk
and then use my cell to phone home.
Home phones the service station attendant.
Attendant frees me with no apologies
and no conception of how irritating it is
to waste a Saturday afternoon
trapped in a car wash
only to leave with a vehicle
coated in unrinsed praying mantis slime.
Helen Bar-Lev was born New York 1942, She has a B.A. in Anthropology. She has lived in Israel for 42 years and has had over 90 exhibitions of her landscapes, 32 of which were one-person shows. Her poems and artwork appear in numerous online and print anthologies and on her website www.helenbarlev.com. Collections: Cyclamens and Swords and other poems about the land of Israel, and The Muse in the Suitcase, both with Johnmichael Simon, illustrated by Helen, In Moonlight the Sky Will Slide with Katherine L. Gordon. Newest collections: Everything Today, poems and illustrations about colours, Love Letters - the Alphabet Falls in Love with Itself. She edited and illustrated Canvas Calendar, a collection of poems by seven poets from Earth's diverse climate. Helen is Senior Editor of Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, former editor-in-chief of Voices Israel Annual Anthology, currently serves as Assistant to the President of Voices Israel.
The buzz of a saw
somewhere in the orchards
I am a jigsaw puzzle
trying to fit together
the pieces of myself
that scattered as I slept
all over the room
part of an arm, a toe,
an ear, my nose
perhaps I’d better
use a broom
a finger’s on the floor
my hand’s on the door
one eye’s on the ceiling
the other’s in my head
no wonder I can’t focus
beyond the bed
I think I’m coming
my heart, my tongue,
my God, I’m not young
this body will never reassemble
the way it was once
and now with my vertebrae
scattered all over
I’ll never figure out
the correct order
okay, jigsaw puzzle solved
I’m all one piece
more-or-less the way I was before
ready to get up and let the day begin
but my back protests
I’ve done something wrong
I think I’ll have to start
all over again
The Photographs on the Wall of the Emergency Centre
in memory of Dr. David and Nava Applebaum
On the wall of the Emergency Centre
opposite the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem,
are photographs, one is of a man –
the doctor-founder of this centre of rescue
and his daughter, beautiful, smiling, beside him –
in their eyes, the peace of people who know
the reason they have been placed on this planet
The frame is huge, the matt cut with expertise,
the photos, documents, centered perfectly
in a frame gold and olive green,
a commemorative not that unusual,
in a country where we honour donors
with plaques and photographs
We get closer, there are dates,
birth and death dates –
at first we notice only his – what a young man –
we do not yet comprehend
Then beneath his biography/eulogy,
his daughter’s, twenty at her death –
the same date as her father’s,
an automobile accident?
We look again, eyes follow from photo
to text to one more photo
to another document with facts, details
arranging pieces of puzzle into frames in our memory
And then, that shudder of remembrance
as it wakens from its shroud of blessed forgetfulness,
the date, yes, that date, the ninth of September 2003,
nighttime, sleeping, the explosion, Café Hillel,
the few minutes of utter silence
like a vacuum in which we heard nothing
but our own dread, confusion,
then the wails of ambulances,
the helicopters looking for accomplices,
their headlights shining into our bedroom window,
the horror the horror
We stand opposite this frame, green and gold,
the smiling father and daughter in vivid colour,
eyes shining with righteousness –
surely they weren’t aware of this –
around us babies crying, pain, moans,
and we wonder about her wedding the next day,
about his wife, her mother,
know that our deeds have been less noble
by many degrees than those of these people,
one day perhaps we shall understand
We leave the Centre, founded by that doctor,
beaming still in the photograph on the wall,
wonder about justice, about life-saving versus life-taking,
haunted by thoughts of him, his daughter,
victims of Fate’s ongoing game of terrorist roulette
UK writer Geraldine Green has five poetry collections. Her latest, Salt Road, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2013. Her work has been anthologized in the UK, USA and Italy. She is currently working on a pamphlet collection A Wing and a Prayer which will be published through Swarthmoor Hall in 2015. Green obtained her PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University UK in 2011. She has wide experience as a freelance creative writing tutor and mentor. Writer-in-residence at Swarthmoor Hall, Ulverston UK, she is an associate editor of Poetry Bay.
I now know who I am. I'm a limpet, hefted, clefted, clamped into place. In the smell and taste of mud. Black mud scraped. Under fingernails. Scraped under toes. Rubbed and rolled into and onto skin. Years of salt and mud-memories. 58 years of mud. Under nails. Into skin. Begin to turn full circled tide. Oystered. Catchered.
Knelt down unto mud. Scraped into mud. Bleeding mud scent smell tall and tangled. Unto mud we are returned. Birthed into skin of black salt tanged tailed tangled taunted. I am black mud. Sore and tainted. I am warm sea song. I am groaning. I am tall and marramed.
Tall and growing. Marram grass sprouts from my fingers. See! See the tall grass growing. See the Marram, green and spurting. Unto mud we do belong into mud we turn and throng. Feel the green sprouts elongating.
Burning Water, Hooking Clouds
Wrap this moment up each shell, each turn of the tide each swell, bob and snort of the seal, each tiny robotic movement, each daft dance of all of us, each snail, each spider in the bath, each crab-appled tree, each nook and crannied dream.
Wrap it up into a symphony, Mahler's 9th, perhaps, or Verdi's Requiem. Some green orchestral calling of wood pigeons their balancing act on copper beeches, snatching of beech nuts. Their knowledge of winter.
and always the song of freedom hung in the air above skylarks and bracken. Always migrating curlews passing through, landing briefly, to overwinter from moorland to coast and back again. Always the movement of quicksilvered sand. Always the changing seasons shapeshifting from black to white to red to brown to yellow to August, September, April. Always the movement of gulls swift acting. Nose diving. Always the patterning of possibilities, changing shape and skin. Autumn to winter skin. Spring to summer and back again. Always the shrill call of terns, defending their territory,. Flying of red kites over fell and estuary. Puncturing of clouds, thundering tides. Always the movement of birds and humans. Red to white, black and gold, silver and red, tawny skinned, wrinkled, smooth. Flesh of old. Flesh of young. Bright and dying.
Always The Flight
Gretti Izak studied History of Art in England and Italy. She has worked as teacher, head of a multi-language translation program and editor, She has published 8 books of poetry and her work won prizes and has appeared in various anthologies and publications in Israel and abroad.. Gretti Izak lives in Jerusalem.
The Wedding Ring
I seem to strain more and
more years of loneliness
through a wedding ring,
retouching lace and china
on a table laid for eternity,
the burnt time-particles
of our life forming a diamond
love-cluster that knocks at
the door of death
as you stand quietly somewhere
far beyond earthly life, learning
about my world of sand-castles
perched over a precipice
but how can I learn to decipher
the words that letter the clouds
telling me of your world?
Talking to the Dead
It is like having a huge
amazingly difficult puzzle
to solve this talking endlessly
to them in my head,
it is like when kisses make
you see signatures of fire
when the universe expands
studded with stars and galaxies
and great galactic clusters
bright celestial objects
that seem strangely familiar.
You try to stand next to them
and observe their brightness,
but find yourself farther out
in the dark of night,
their flaring pulsating
presence now fading,
a dimness of light like
the one that reaches earth
from the stars, a left-over
of a primordial explosion.
Iris Dan was born in Bukowina, Romania, in a family of Holocaust survivors. She grew up bilingual (German and Romanian), then studied Romance languages at the University of Bucharest, graduating with an M.A. in linguistics. She has been living in Israel since 1980. She is married, has a grown daughter, and works (quite happily) as a translator from and into a number of languages. From her (existential and professional) Babel Tower she sees the Mediterranean. She has written poetry for as long as she can remember, in English only. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in the Voices Israel Anthology, Magnapoets, Poetic Portal, Subtletea, Cyclamens and Swords, and Poetic Diversity.
Order and Chaos
she must be 11 or 12
body still childishly flat
yet with a curiously grown up
restraint of movement;
she is folding a bulky sweater
again and again
until she obtains an almost perfect
almost flat rectangle
which she slowly rolls
into a tight, almost perfect cylinder
carefully, tensely to be inserted
into a doubtlessly neat school bag
It seems a geometry lesson;
never have I seen
the rolling of a plane surface
into a three-dimensional shape
so clearly demonstrated
never have I understood it so well
I want to say: Child, don’t;
this is not an occupation
to spend a life, a childhood with
they will take advantage of you
(they most likely do already-
including your mother)
you will not gain their love
you will end up an object of fun
you will end up giving demos
on how best to fold a fitted sheet
I say nothing, of course: mainly because
it's none of my business;
and it occurs to me that perhaps
she has no choice; or else perhaps
her life is in such a mess
that folding a sweater to perfection
is the one sane thing that she can do.
When my mother was 21, she did all the packing for that trip over the Dnyester River she and her parents and all of their coreligionists from the picturesque little town in the Bukowinian Carpathians were officially invited to take. The invitation was conveyed by soldiers with drums. It was also posted on walls and on fences. It mentioned the date and time of the trip and the exact number of kilograms a person could take as hand baggage.
My grandparents knew nothing about trips to the east or about emergency packing. My lawyer grandfather expressed the opinion that the purpose of the trip was resettling. My schoolteacher grandmother was an unpractical woman. My mother had to do all the work.
She packed the allowed number of suitcases, then with some old blankets and belts she rolled up the neatest, smoothest and most presentable of backpacks. Her previous mountain-climbing experience must have come in handy.
Unfortunately, for their very smoothness, these backpacks fell into the Dnyester River when the travelers were all driven by the soldiers to get onto rafts. People fell into the water too, so the backpacks have to be regarded as minor casualties.
I wonder what my mother's packing criteria were. How did she decide upon taking this, and leaving behind that? Anyway, while they were all waiting in the freezing synagogue in Ataki, on whose walls previous travelers had scribbled "say kaddish for us" (at that point my grandfather no longer believed in the resettlement theory), with a sure hand she took out her parents' warm felt slippers, knelt down and put them on their feet.
Every moment of our life we are accompanied by two angels:
the Angel of Order and the Angel of Chaos
their attributions are limited to the uttering of a few words,
one of which is amen. They have no free will.
Whenever the Angel of Order finds the world in harmony
he says "May it remain like this forever and ever"
and the Angel of Chaos, although he would like
to stir things up, has to say Amen
Whenever the Angel of Chaos finds the world in turmoil
he says "May it remain like this forever and ever"
and the Angel of Order, much as he would like
to restore things to their rightful place, has to say Amen
Jennifer Lagier has published nine books of poetry as well as in a variety of literary magazines. Her latest book, Camille Vérité, was just published by FutureCycle Press and is available on Amazon.com. She taught with California Poets in the Schools and is now a retired college librarian/instructor, member of the Italian American Writers Association, co-edits the Homestead Review, maintains web sites for Homestead Review, Monterey Poetry Review, Ping Pong Literary Journal and misfitmagazine.com. She also helps coordinate monthly Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Visit her website at: http://jlagier.net
A dying Syrian child
took it upon himself to restore order
in his parts of the world.
“I will tell God”
he promised his family.
But God who is free will
chooses to eclipse himself
to deal with other matters
of the world He has created.
San Simeon Hiking Malfunction
Around me, invisible lizards crackle
through meadows of dead rattlesnake grass.
Giant eucalyptus, stunted oaks encroach
upon snarled blackberry bogs.
I scale an adobe trail along parched ridge,
debate tackling a less extreme route.
Instead, I commit to solid landmarks:
willow-clogged creek, huge tree-cloven rock.
I climb, then descend; a hawk spirals
above doubt and fog canopy, sails overhead.
There is a river of possibility just beyond
tall grasses, fallen branches, storm-scattered logs.
Curiosity seduces me onto fainter trails.
Exertion reveals more impenetrable scrub.
I discover only dead-ends and nettles,
barbed wire, a sheer canyon drop.
The red tail hawk
enthroned on a hydrangea,
thinks only of descent,
apprehension and capture.
Fierce eyes glare, swivel
from me to open ground,
seek juicy squirrels
too far from their burrow.
My approach interrupts her kill.
We freeze, contemplate
each other’s intentions.
She screams in frustration.
Who will initiate
the determinate move?
On this turf, she is predator;
I’m the annoying invader.
Katherine Burkman is a Professor Emeritus from The Ohio State University. She has published widely on Harold Pinter, Samuel Beckett, and other modern dramatists as well as publishing plays and poems.
You spend your whole life collecting them
They begin to fall away
Sliding off the side of the world
As if it were flat
Words. Like cavernous, contagious, cantankerous
But it’s the proper nouns that go first
Gwendolyn, Gerald, Thomas
Then the nouns
Buffalo, Brownstone, Bigotry
The adjectives, the adverbs
And alas, finally the verbs, the center of the action
To incorporate, to encompass, to elaborate. . . to encapsulate
Sometimes a companion will restore one to you
A husband, a friend, a brother-in-law
They will take a good guess at what you are seeking
And be right
“What you wanted to say is glacier,” they say
“Ah, yes, of course,” you reply
But then they too begin to lose them
Their words too slide off the side of the world
Right off the side of the world
as if it were flat
Lynn Veach Sadler
Former college president Dr. Lynn Veach Sadler has published, in academics, 5+ books and 72 articles and has edited 22 books/proceedings and three national journals and published a newspaper column. In creative writing, she has published 10 poetry chapbooks and 4 full-length collections (another in press), over 100 short stories, 4 novels, a novella, and a short story collection (another in press) and written 41 plays. As the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet 2013-2015, she mentors student and adult poets.
Mother Ferocious shakes her daughter:
“I’m taking you to one more ride.
Then I’m gettin’ your ass outta here!”
Monster Male beats tiny son
for Infraction Whatever.
Diminutive Mother stamps her foot
as she boxes her daughter on the head
with sharp little fists:
“Don’t you ever do that again!
You heard your father tell your
brother not to do that,
and you deliberately told him to do it!”
Father Berating accuses
crying little blond boy,
who looks down at his feet:
“You are one sorry-assed little brat!”
A step-child or step-child-to-be
caught away from his mother?
Everyone here seems to have gone ape
I’m too harsh.
In the land of children,
children are under siege.
If ever Someone needed to
“suffer the little children to come unto,”
it is here.
But the Someone isn’t.
And neither are any poor children.
The price of admission insures against that.
I segue to the beautiful green
park-like spaces everywhere,
the benches, the bathrooms, the food.
Tourists are pampered here,
but I see no homeless or poor,
children or adult.
Wonder how they keep them out?
I’m too harsh.
Adults are merely grimly determined
to show children a good time
if it kills them all.
All Mickey’s horses and all Minnie’s men
can’t put these children together again.
In the Fortunate Isles for children,
children are under siege.
The Moreska Sword Dance of Dalmatia Through a Woman’s Eyes
The Black King (probably ugly)
has abducted (but never ravished)
the Beautiful Princess,
who eloquently avows her love
for The White King (assuredly handsome).
The Black King, of course, does not listen,
certainly will not relinquish Beautiful Princess.
(One could hardly blame him.) Rather,
The Black King threatens
to savage Beautiful Princess
and all interfering parties, most particularly
The [Handsome] White King.
The armies of their respective kings
(a cast of thousands, to be sure)
engage—in The Moreska Sword Dance,
extinguished in all the world but here—
Korcula Island, Dalmatia.
The Band that plays is non-partisan,
though I’m sure you can guess
how the fight turns out.
I would have liked to know
why The White King is dressed in red
and why the fight must always be fought,
The Moreska Sword Dance always be danced,
outside the southern gate.
Shock and awe a-plenty, but my great surprise
was not hearing that this
Battle of Black and White
was how we derived 101 Dalmatians.
(Women, My Dears, may always have
a touch of Dodie Smith’s Cruella de Vil
but always have Pongo and Missis Pongo’s
view of the world.)
Marjories Stamm Rosenfeld
Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld is a former U.S. Navy analyst, SMU Press manuscript editor, and SMU English instructor. Her poems have been published both nationally and internationally, in journals and anthologies as well as on the Internet. A poem of hers is in British author Patrick Dempsey’s 3rd book on the Holocaust, Babi Yar, along with only one other poem, Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s “Babi Yar”; and a poem of Marjorie’s is in Adam Zych’s Revised and Second Edition of The Auschwitz Poems, available from the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Marjorie’s poetry chapbook, "Fringing the Garments", was published in 2013 by Pecan Grove Press.
Last Possible Chance
There were the starlings then.
Six of them
dropped down our chimney. Coming home,
we saw them strewn on the floor
like the dark petals
of failed, astonished flowers.
Gingerly picked up, buried,
as when a child,
perched in a parked car,
waits for her father. He is gone
into a house where no one lives
she knows, waits for a long time.
Now she is ten. In the purple evening, silence
rises like smoke. He comes from the house,
and no one says a word
she knows. Ashes of words
hang in the air. Wings beat against her face.
He turns the key, and they are going home,
she knows. And it's all right. She thinks
of her mother waiting there. She knows.
And she is flying home with him,
the houses fled from them on either side,
a bright shaft opens the road in front of her,
and she perceives a dark chimney.
The Consolations of Civilization
Mistress of the House
on the edge
of an overstuffed settee
big enough to hold
all of them (children, father).
Guest in the easy chair
across, balancing china,
white gloves at her side—
no one ever allowed
to leave that house
coffee, something sweet,
“Your husband and I
are in love,”
the guest announces.
Mistress of the Husband
says she has come
to offer condolences.
“You have, I swear it,
all my sympathy.”
The singing clock
is striking the quarter hour.
Mistress of the House
The only sign:
one naked hand
grips the other.
She is also
a white-glove lady,
to be kind. Sheers
at the window blow
ever so slightly.
Late afternoon light
is muted. Outside
a car slams into a dog,
tosses it 15 feet. Inside
the singing clock ticks on.
Born, educated and married in Brazil. Immigrated to Israel in December 1972 to pursue Ph.D. studies in Physics at the Weizmann Institute of Science. Graduated 1980 and joined the High-Tech arena. Graduated (M.A., 2013) from the Shandy Rudhoff Creative Writing Program, Bar Ilan University, under the orientation of Prof. Zisquit. Had one poem published in the Medical Journal of Australia, January 2014. Father of four sons.
Bus Line Three Two Eight
There are swarms of flies and mosquitoes in Rio. Also taxis and buses, tens of thousands roaming the streets, threatening, their blend of metal, whooshes and beeps, and the sweat all around. You don’t take a bus in Rio unless you have no choice, or you are obsessed to tell others about it. Raimundo took bus line three two eight, rush hour. He felt like sailing a crowded boat in stormy weather. Fast. The bus juggled up and down. Too fast. Raimundo’s eyes were fully open. They started up the overpass with fury and honks, the curve at the top, wrong side of the swing, the safety bar at the edge, not strong enough. Flipping, floor to ceiling. Raimundo’s eyes were two question marks. They flew fifty feet down. Silence blew all the ears around. Raimundo’s eyes closed.
(homage to Gilad)
That night in October it was warmer than usual. He dreamt. His lips even shaped a smile, swallowed in the slippery of freedom.
like a nut shell,
long ripe to be picked,
by whom if not death,
or worse, her friend, despair.
hanging on through empty eves
and dark dawns, in hunger
for the sting of love, in thirst
for knowing daily things.
his eyes are rusty slits
of a hiding mind, a dry,
forgotten meadow, no sky
touch, no sprouts, no sparks.
In the morning they boasted – “we’ve got 1,500 mujahideen for you”
to fly away
through heavy bars;
not even the walls could hold
his rocking body.
Mercedes Webb-Pullman: IIML Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand. MA in Creative Writing 2011. Work online, in print (Turbine, 4th Floor, Swamp, Reconfigurations, The Electronic Bridge, Otoliths, poetryrepairs, Connotations Press, The Red Room, anthologies, books (Ono, Looking for Kerouac, After the Danse, Numeralla Dreaming, Food 4 Thought, Tasseography and Bravo Charlie Foxtrot) www.benchpress.co.nz
a quarter sun
smiles from the top left corner
the family, all too tall
for the front door
still can't reach the windows
they can't see the red
or the giant chicken
beside the house
the fence got tired
and laid down along one side
above it an empty cloud
rests on a hill like
a jigsaw puzzle piece
the mother is very angry
her face is green
the little girl doesn't look like anyone
the father hums nervously
Slam the immigrant
This is for the immigrant whose eyes
ask questions in languages
we don’t speak here.
This is for his life, a ticket issued
worlds away where eroded stone
mustaches ride road-slipped highways
along his upper lip. This is for the diary
he keeps; his teeth are tiny pages,
some have been torn out.
This is for his shoulders, scales
that struggle to find balance, and wrap
his skinny arms around the mass
destructive missile of his chest.
His voice sounds of nails scraped
along a blackboard, his hands could be bombs
tossed through a window, his wrists
the pale skinny necks of children.
This is for his legs, remnants of a
tsunami. This is for his feet,
illegal boats abandoned
in the ocean. This is for his shoes,
coffins floating in a flood.
This is for his jacket, a passport
with no visas, his pants
his country’s flag. He huddles
like a toppled tyrant’s statue
and his eyes ask questions
we don’t want to hear
because we know
we can’t bear the answer.