Tag Archives: life

zeina hashem beck | spring

There are poverties and there are poverties       Adrienne Rich I hear your neighbor has trouble sleeping, trouble eating, that she changes her door locks every week and has brought all her plants indoor, hid her Bible under the mattress. Though the streets are not safe, you say, you still go out every night to forget— or is it to remember? Am I exaggerating? I hear Hamra is not the same anymore: Syrian refugees on the streets, men begging, children selling roses, selling roses, why are the doomed always selling roses? You say you don’t know whether to fear for them or fear them. I hear these borders have been failing, have failed, will fail, these fake borders will shift like continents, I wonder whether memory could go back to the supercontinent, tell me who is holding the big crayons this time, and what color will our share of sky be, to which God will it be forced to answer? There is exile, my friend, and there is exile. My husband, he keeps telling me the Salafis are coming, the Salafis are coming, says we should sell the house and buy one here, in this exile, this desert, because home is no longer the home we knew when we were young, and I shout, I laugh, I break something, tell him home was never the home we knew, the one we wanted, the one we imagined when we were young and didn’t listen to the evening news, heard only the absurd voices inside us, those voices with big hands that pushed us fully-clothed off high rocks and into the icy water, our arms beating like wings to fly back up from its dark depth for breath. I tell him I believe, I still believe, I repeat myself like that broken CD of ours that got stuck on “will always,” “will always,” but he has burnt holy books, newspapers, manifestos, a long time ago, like one who’s lost in the woods and wants to scare away the wolves. He wakes me up in the middle of the night, hand brushing my breast, and tells me to look, listen to that Palestinian guy from Gaza, he’s the new Arab Idol, he used to sing at weddings, never got paid, crossed borders, climbed walls, smuggled his dream, just to feed a little prayer into this microphone. There is religion, my friend, and there is religion. You say the theaters are still open, and I see red wooden doors, and people eager to watch that play enacted by the inmates of that horrible prison, and that play by the patients in the psychiatric ward, and that play about a woman who wakes her husband in the early morning to tell him she might have stopped knowing how to trace the aroma of her coffee back to their occupied house. I hear we are still running marathons and exhaling shisha smoke, I hear we’re still diving in this polluted sea, diving in this polluted sky, looking for our black hearts like precious pearls, singing songs that are either about love or our country, and better still, about love and our country, for we want them both to open their arms and take us into their mud, their pain. There is longing, my friend, and there is longing. I tell you the shooting is heavier in Tripoli this Friday, that people are afraid of prayer day now, they’re afraid of prayer; will the sound of the azan never be pure to my ears again? Listen, the shooting is heavier in Tripoli today, so don’t take that roundabout, the one with the word Allah painted green, it’s probably blocked, all motorcycles and black smoke, tires burning, people cursing around it in the name of this stone-God erected in its middle. I gulped Tequila shots and danced until dawn, until the phone rang and I was told my daughter was feverish, no Panadol would do, and I knew it was another kind of fever, the kind that a child who longs for her mother burns with, the kind the exiled longing for their houses burn with, the kind that could fill mountains with hate like lava, turn them into volcanos, these mountains that never wanted anything but a little sun, a little air, a little grass. There is guilt, my friend, and there is guilt. I hear your friend in Damascus who has three kids hasn’t left, crosses herself many times a day, convinces herself life is fine, life is fine and doesn’t care who wins, really, she just wants her boys to play football in the street again. I tell you, See? Egypt hasn’t given up, I knew it wouldn’t, not Egypt, no, and of course I exaggerate but who cares about the Second Coming now that we have a Second Revolution? You say the word revolution also means turning around something else. I ask you about that tree with beautiful leaves across the street, is it still there? Does the wind still release the song of the sea from its branches? You say it’s strange that I only seem to remember it in spring, you remind me that the leaves I listen to every year are different leaves that have replaced the fallen ones, that they have no memory of you and me on this street, perhaps it’s better to look for ourselves in the brown ones rustling on the floor. You say we might be on the verge, on the verge of another civil war, and what on earth do we do if it comes, how long can one pretend to exist outside of this, when blood might flood the streets instead of rain? What flowers will grow then? And where will we bury our dead? There is Spring, my friend, and there is Spring.
Pushcart nominee Zeina Hashem Beck is a Lebanese poet with a BA and an MA in English Literature from the American University of Beirut. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Poetry Northwest, Nimrod, Folio, Cream City Review, Copper Nickel, Crosstimbers, Quiddity, Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry, and Mizna, among others. She lives in Dubai with her husband and two daughters, where she regularly performs her poetry.

jim spurr | the advice of mrs. tubbs

There is a simple and safe way to shed a sweater. First you free the arms. Then take both hands and pull it over the head. Always get the arms free first. That is the most important part.
He crashed through the rear screen door with his arms and head locked up in a pullover and he fell into a bed of freshly watered day lilies. And she had gone across the alley to visit. He couldn't get up on account of the mud. He suffocated face down with his feet in the impatiens. She mourned a respectful length of time then married a skinny fellow and they had two children by 1940. He died soon after in the war on a Pacific island. Whose name I forgot. Unlike the first husband his death had been heroic and predictable. She never married again. In honor of her second husband she dedicated the remainder of her life to working for world peace. But, as lacking in glory as her first husband's death was, awkward man, she maintained, in his memory, all her life, a small backyard garden. Consisting mainly of lightly watered impatiens and day lilies.
from Hail Mary, On Two. Village Books Press, Cheyenne, Oklahoma, 2011.
Jim Spurr is an Oklahoma poet. "In the mid fifties I was 18 and a paratrooper getting ready to make my first jump and I thought, 'someday I gotta write about this.' Every poem I have ever written ever since has been a failed effort to capture that brief but glorious instant."

johnie catfish | ghost stories

( Visions create psychosis, psychosis creates visions. Psychiatrist’s mantra) When you see a ghost Try not to become bewildered Unsure of whether or not It is real or just imagined. They don’t appreciate Your disbelief or indecision. Be afraid or not afraid, But always be polite. Try not to tell the ghosts What they are, Who they are, Or why they are. They don’t care. They want to know What you are, Who you are, And why you are. Don’t try to tell them. They know you don’t know.
catfish-photoJ. C. Mahan, Johnie Catfish, is a poet, hairstylist, potter in Edmond , Ok. He has 6 kids, 7.5 grandkids, 8 peacocks, 25 geese, 50 chickens, 3 ducks, 3 dogs, 6 cats, 1 turkey and 1 pot-belly pig. He has self published 5 books of free verse and has had several poems and sketches published in local journals. He believes life is all about partisapation.

elizabeth raby | at the peak

Above smoldering caldera, from the rim of the volcano long gray slopes of cinders still hot and smoking, nothing alive but the fire inside. It’s hard to believe that this barren beginning will in time nourish so much green, so much life. The wildebeests graze on the richest grass on earth nourished by minerals forced out through fire. Our earth has done it again and again and so have we, I guess. Churned and ruined land at Verdun, bones of 600,000 bodies collected, piled in the grim hump of the ossuary, most of the bombs from that battlefield gathered too. Almost one hundred years later, although the ground is still prone to detonate from unexploded ordinance, trees have grown tall. How many times can we do it to each other and the earth? How much ruined land, corpse-littered, can regenerate? We wait for the super volcano, the asteroid, the force that will finish us. Perhaps if sentient life evolves again it will be better, finer, kinder, deserving this magnificent chance.
Elizabeth Raby is the author of 3 full-length poetry collections, This Woman (2012), Ink on Snow (2010), and The Year the Pears Bloomed Twice (2009), all published by Virtual Artists Collective and of four chapbooks. She worked as a poet-in-the-schools and taught poetry at Muhlenberg College.