Two Poems in Red Ink: International Journal of Indigenous Literature, Arts, & Humanities #NoDAPL

“Threatened by Beads” and “The Color of Your Skin”, two of my poems in Red Ink: International Journal of Indigenous Literature, Arts, & Humanities, on the topic of Native Americans, racism, colorism and prejudice. Pick up a copy, as there are many great artists and writers yet again in the Winter 2016 edition. Just got my contributor’s copy this week!

 

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Poem: “Siblings” & The Story Behind the Words

SIBLINGS

A wall-eyed young girl in a party dress
with carefully combed dark hair,
brushed tears away from a narrow pretty face
drawn with misery.

Maybe the cause was a word spoken,
or a series of them, a mentioned memory, person or place.
Maybe it was all of those things for

After giving a deliberate satisfied speech
from which she sat back with a faint smile,
her straight sighted twin regarded her dispassionately
on the warm, fine summer evening bus ride.

–Written 8 July 2014

 

When a few moments viewing of a young girl’s fight to hold back tears guts you, when you want to know what caused it: what words said, what fate contemplated and dreaded forthcoming. But those are things I thought afterwards as I forced my legs to move, to walk away from her, to not follow her and see how I might help, if I could help in some way.

After a long hot day at work, I was riding the same bus I usually do, standing at the back as I usually do, only occasionally watching other commuters as they intermittently moved or conversed, such things. I had vaguely noticed two young girls, probably 11 or 12 years old who sat facing each. I had noticed them mostly because of their wavy dark hair, which reminded me of my son, along with their light tan skin. “Must be twins” I said to myself, for their bearing and countenance was nearly identical.

My thoughts returned to other things. A few minutes passed, and the upcoming stop would be my own. When I glanced back at the scrolling “next stop” marquee at the front of the bus, I noticed the obvious siblings again, as one rose to get off. The “twin” who’d sat across from her didn’t move save to take off her glasses, hold her face in one hand a moment before looking back up towards the window. The dejection, the abject expression of misery on her face, in the lines of her shoulders and slope of her narrow flat chest.

The skin around her eyes were reddened, as obviously she’d been crying or about to. And her eyes, one looked down at her lap while the other wandered elsewhere, the wall-eyed condition so often mocked, which I know personally, for it runs in my family, and I’d had mine corrected as an infant. The dispassionate eyes of the standing sibling turned back to the seated twin with a trace of latent triumph. Something hurtful had been said without doubt.The wall-eyed young girl finally forced herself to move.

As we were all getting off on the same stop, I forced myself to also move also because my body felt leaden for her hurt was so strong, so poignant, I had helplessly absorbed it. I found that I could barely walk. My legs felt numb. I didn’t want to embarass her, to look at her as she still struggled with controlling her feelings, as she dropped back behind her mother and other siblings as we waited for the crossing light. When it turned, I made myself stride ahead away from them, but as soon as I crossed the street and they moved in another direction, I dropped in pace and had to stop. I literally had to gather my composure in order to continue.

I was an often solemn child, except with certain people, seldom smiling in any photo, always somewhat removed from any grouping. I thought of myself, of what I carried in my mind and heart back at the same age, and what it did to my spirit then and sometimes now. I thought of all the things that could make that child look so hurt and alone.

It could have been any city, any bus ride, any family, any child.

Poem: Her Children

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Her Children

 

When you were the little boy

in the white dress scattered with lilacs,

which was no different than

your pirate costume with the fake mustache,

 

You pretended to faint when the young man

from your favorite story appeared at

the height of our field with the brilliance

of the sun at his back and Amaterasu at his side.

 

With the ancient spirit’s blessing, he took your hand

so that you rose to your feet with a smile,

and it was then that your father became my father

and the part of myself I knew I had to put away,

 

Yet which I had never truly been

though never understanding why,

only now knowing this aspect had to die,

for it served no purpose anymore, not to you or I.

 

The old letters and leaves

of my words slipped from my grasp,

scattering upon the narrow but deep meadow stream

with my lamenting sigh.

 

“It is as it was meant to be”

my mother said softly to me

in mild rebuke, and noting my surprise,

“I am always nearby.”

 

This person who had never changed

from time’s beginning and who would

continue to bear and nurture far more

children of the Earth than  I.

 

As they melted into the water

my words upon the paper

became part of the circle again,

and she who had only ever seen a child

looked at us with new pride.

–Red Haircrow

September 2013

One of my Influences: Yevgeny Yevtushenko & his poem “Party Card”

It’s one of the few physical books I carry with me when/wherever I travel, whether I have just a rucksack with my stuff in it or a suitcase: a book of selected poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

From famous poets & poems website, the author bio: “Born in Siberia near Lake Baikal in 1933, Yevtushenko is Russia’s best-known living poet, attracting huge stadium audiences (30,000 at one reading). He has also written essays and toured the world as a speaker, currently spending half of the year teaching at Tulsa University in Oklahoma.

His most recent work is a novel, Don’t Die Before You’re Dead (1991) which follows the Soviet Union from the end of World War II through the early 1990s. Although he was sometimes held in disfavor during the Soviet years (once labeled “the head of the intellectual juvenile delinquents” whose poems were “pygmy spittle”), Yevtushenko has been immensely popular from the early 1960s until the present.”

Although he has more well-known and critiquely acclaimed poems such as Babi Yar, Momento and Epistle to Neruda, this is my favorite. The simplicity of meter and pacing, yet the profound emotion and images envoked always quiets and moves me to contemplation.  It reminds me of the pragmatism needed for survival in extreme circumstance if you are to remain sane and continue to do good and believe in and be able to see good in others…and yourself.

Party Card by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

A shot-up forest full of black holes.
Mind-crushing explosions.
He wants some berries, he wants some berries:
the young lieutenant, lying in his blood.
I was a smallish boy,
who crawled in the long grass till it was dark
and brought him back a cap of strawberries,
and when they came there was no use for them.
The rain of July lightly falling.
He was lying in remoteness and silence
among the ruined tanks and the dead.
The rain glistened on his eyelashes.
There was sadness and worry in his eyes.
I waited saying nothing and soaking,
like waiting for an answer to something
he couldn’t answer. Passionate with silence
unable to see when he asked me,
I took the party card from his pocket.
And small and tired and without understanding
wandering in the flushed and smoking dark,
met up with refugees moving east
and somehow through the terribly flashing night
we travelled without a map, the priest
with his long grey hair and his rucksack,
and me and a sailor with a wounded arm.
Child crying. Horse whinnying.
And answered to with love and with courage
and white, white, the bell-towers rang out
speaking to Russia with a tocsin voice.
Wheatfields blackened round their villages.
In the woman’s coat I wore at the time.
I felt for the party card close to my heart.

My own series of poems written for and inspired by Russia, its history and its many people will be included in my poetry collection CORE, and individually in Sibling Rivalry Press’ Assaracus magazine, which will publish some of my work in 2013.

Thank You to Assaracus Magazine, Sibling Rivalry Press: For Acceptance of My Poetry

It’s part of a writer’s life, more so than non-writers or those who’ve never submitted or aimed to make writing a profession:

R-E-J-E-C-T-I-O-N, all caps.

For every one acceptance you receive, most writers have had hundreds of “no’s” for that same work(s), even some of the authors who’ve gone on to be listed as some of the greatest in modern history. I am someone who doesn’t need or want a critique of the work simply because publishing and likes and dislikes are subjective. What one person likes, another doesn’t.

I also know the publishing industry to a moderate degree that just because you get a rejection sometimes, it is not based on the quality of work, but on what the house is looking for at the time, what they have enough of, and personal preference, that too. When you write across genres as I do, often on some topics people continue to not wish to face head-on like child abuse or whatever…you will get even more of your share of “no’s.”

With poetry, it is even more subjective, because most aren’t telling a story like with a novel, or a person’s life or some event or historical period of time like in non-fiction. Poetry is so…difficult to describe in substance, I believe. It can be so many different things, and it is more about raw expression than built-up scenes. Imagery over setting. The personal versus the general. My poetry, like my other work, is very personal to me, even more so than most in that whatever I am writing about it is based on my life, my experiences, my emotions and those I have intimately observed or experienced with others. My poetry is especially thus.

When I received the message from the editor at Assaracus Magazine that eight of my poems, all I had submitted were accepted, it was a strange relief. Someone got it. They additionally added: “Your work is unique with an interesting voice and I can’t wait to bring it to our audience. Congratulations, and welcome to Assaracus! This was our heaviest submission period to date. The cream rises to the top.”  The poems will be released within the magazine in 2013.

A pre-release reviews of some of the works (thank you): “Some poems completely wrenched my heart and took me on a wild journey. How you manage to say so much with so few words and yet convey worlds of meaning is incredible to me.”

One of the poems which will be included:

REQUIEM

One day I will walk

down to the sea,

unfurling my robes

from around

my quiet body.

Launching into the surf

I will swim as far

as endurance lasts

then drive, making

the final descent for

the deep waters,

forsaking sun and sky for

the silence of great depths.

As thoughts flicker like

an old reel film through

my brightly flashing

consciousness,

the last breath will escape

my lips and the crushing waters

will send light from

my fingertips.

About Assaracus Magazine, a journal of gay poetry, from Sibling Rivalry Press’s website:

“BEST NEW MAGAZINE” – LIBRARY JOURNAL (May 2012)

ASSARACUS (ISSN 2159-0478). Our gay-themed print journal, Assaracus, (pronounced ASS-uh-RACK-US) continues in the tradition of Ganymede – but with an underground feel – similar to Mouth of the Dragon and other influential publications of the 70′s and 80′s. Named for Ganymede’s earth-bound brother, the journal provides a grand stage for gay contemporary poetry. We want for you to have a new favorite poet at the end of each issue. We want, decades from now, people to look back and see how we lived through how we wrote. Each issue of Assaracus, a quarterly publication, features a substantial collection of work by a small number of gay poets. Says Matthew Hittinger (who was included in our first issue), “The fun thing about Assaracus (aside from its, ahem, “cheeky” name…) is that rather than feature fewer poems by a multitude of people in one issue, it focuses on a smaller number of poets and devotes more pages to their work, creating mini-portfolios.”

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I recently did a review of one of the many great collections on their site, When The Only Light Is Fire by Saeed Jones. 5 stars.