THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER OPERATIONAL. PLEASE ENJOY WHAT IS HERE, AND DO LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH. NORTH CAROLINA'S NEW POET LAUREATE IS CATHY SMITH BOWERS. SHE WILL SOON HAVE HER OWN WEBSITE THROUGH THE NORTH CAROLINA ARTS COUNCIL SITE. I WILL BE SHIFTING MY ATTENTION TO HERE, WHERE I AM, (SEE SIDEBAR)USING IT TO DRAW ATTENTION TO WRITERS WHOSE WORK DESERVES ATTENTION. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT ME THERE. For a video of the installation ceremony, please go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xAk6fOzaNE.
We should have a beautiful sunset this New Year's Eve. The sky has been completely clear, with fierce wind sending our dogs terrified onto the porch, eager to come in. Me, too, hurrying in with table cloths and other laundry from the line, having left them overnight, forgetful as always. The trees on the ridge looked about to come tumbling down. A lawn chair fled across the lawn. Branches creaked and thrashed.
Safely inside, I looked up Frank O'Hara's poems and wanted to share a couple of stanzas from "Animals." I don't plan to watch the big Times Square celebration tonight. And I don't really like champagne. What to do? Read poetry. Maybe Frank O'Hara.
"Have you forgotten what we were like then when we were still first rate and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth
it's no use worrying about Time but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves and turned some sharp corners..."
Time is the sunset fire we burn inside. That burns inside us. Around every sharp corner there it is.
The last few days have settled atop me like a dreary blanket. If only the sun would shine. If only I could be walking along a beach with bright blue stretching beyond me. Somewhere in the gloom rise up a few lines from the Hungarian poet Sándor Kányádi, whose work I've promised myself to read in the new year. Not that our Blue Ridge Mountains have been icy, as Sandor describes the Carpathians. But lately they have seemed gray and overbearing. Or is this an internal landscape I'm describing? Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.
And then my husband turns on CNN and like Kányádi I want a gulp of light and color and hope, more than one gulp, actually. The reference to the Spanish Poet Federico Garcia Lorca, his voice a broken string, murdered in an olive grove by fascists, makes me want to call out, despite everything, with this Hungarian poet about whom I know nothing, to a place within a country suffering its own internal horrors---Cartagena, Cartagena!
And I marvel, yet again, at how a poet from another country, writing in a language indescribably difficult and unknown by most English speakers, could move me at a time like this--the beginning of another year with its unknowable terrors and challenges. How the voice of poetry continues to call out to us, beseeching us to answer, however we can.
"one gulp of your light and color will be plentiful enough in the icy Carpathians to gild my remaining years with love"
Brief Encounter with Cartagena (Románc)
Composed by a Hungarian traveling singer on a broken string of Federico Garcia Lorca
Plowing water with one wing the airplane started flying low till among lagoons it came upon a landing strip aglow; the sky was brightly bubbling blue, the ground became a green concave when the plane bumped down to land letting its engines roar and rave, the tiny little huts on stilts tucked their scanty shadows in, rattling like flea-market toys, wind-up frogs, made out of tin, earth in sky and blue in green, each lived in the other’s face with a drunken-love embrace, and the sign said: Cartagena. A noon like that I’d never seen, fired by a flaming sun, in it bushes, bays, and huts mingled in erotic fun; the plane stopped there a half an hour, the time it takes to birth a child or inter an unknown dead found abandoned in the wild, but in that time you seduced me and since then kept me in your thrall, I dream of life in one of your huts, forgotten by and forgetting all; atop the staircase rolled up to the stranded plane I plainly saw that your earth and sky, green and blue, were mine to drink, oh, Cartagena. Taking off I felt quite sure the vibration of each hut had a loving couple in it, belly to belly, butt to butt. Oh, why did we have to part, why didn’t you tighten your embrace? Now every season is a winter and snow surrounds me every place. I’d give my soul, my salvation, for just one of your sultry nights, I’d gladly exchange eternity for one moment of your delights! This love has made a fool of me, a loving fool who sobbingly writes about his fear he’ll never see his love again, oh, Cartagena. But one gulp of your light and color will be plentiful enough in the icy Carpathians to gild my remaining years with love; what we have is but a pale imitation of your sun, it rises and sets reminding me of the brightness now long gone. Oh, your blue and green, you Siren of the Caribbean Sea, your blinding light has forever etched your magic name in me; to gringos you’re a travel poster but to me a love come true, I often catch me calling you, Cartagena, Cartagena.
Going through old computer files yesterday, I found these Christmas poems, originally part of the manuscript that became BLACK SHAWL. I saw Mary in these pieces as being here in the NC mountains rather than being a young girl in Nazareth over 2000 years ago. The reader at LSU Press suggested they be dropped, that they functioned better as a small chapbook of poems to be published later. They've waited ever since. As well as I can remember, they were first printed years ago in a journal whose poetry editor was my friend Janice Townley Moore. The Georgia Journal, I believe was its name. Anyway, here they are again, two days before another Christmas. The photos come from sunsets in S. Georgia and holly bushes, as well as waxing and full moons, here in the mountains.
is her color because it was always the last thing she saw through
her window before losing count of the heddle’s beat. Blue hem
beyond reach, she dreamed herself wearing it, skirt flaring
out of the narrow glass where she saw turning and turning her own image
till in a swoon she might gather up into the blue lap of heaven
the stars and the moon as if they were no more than the first fruits of May,
the wild strawberries she loved to eat as she carried them home to her table.
This wind! She cannot hold her bonnet against it and lets go the sashes. A kite of blue calico sails away over the fields while a child laughs and points at the spectacle, blustery March making light of her modesty till not a hairpin’s left clinging, her heavy braids tumbling like bell-ropes around her. So here she stands, skirt swelling forth in its manifold emptiness, as if she’s come to the edge of a sea and hears far out a voice calling, gull maybe, though she lives nowhere near water and she knows her name is not BEATA.
OH MARIA, MARIS STELLA
what have we made of you, when you were happy enough to be suckling your baby, ignoring the tumult of heaven, the scuffle of shepherd’s feet. Wise men on camels meant little to you, their frankincense, myrrh. You could take it or leave it.
What good what it do you whose only concern was the milk you felt slowly beginning to thicken your breasts? Or the worry that Joseph had not eaten, you should have brought along more of your grandmother’s journey-cake, more of her dried figs and almonds.
No seafarer's daughter, you grew up to quail at the stories of drowning men merchants brought back from the sea ports, for you were no braver than most women. You liked to think of yourself as a drop in the Lord’s deep and, save for a scribe’s error, you might have stayed "stilla maris" forever. You had no desire to be star
to whom mariners cried out for centuries, struggling to grab hold your sleeve as they’re sinking.
looking out at the straggle of sheepherders leading their flock to the hovel where you are still groggy from childbirth. You wish they would go away, seek out some other to worship, for you are too tired to look blessed. But it is expected of you. Now and for two thousand years you must lift up your eyes from your infant and hear us out, bearing such words as could almost make you believe you are beautiful.
And what of you, Joseph? Still lost in the barn shadows, stroking your beard while the curious goats crowd about her, as if they have already guessed who she is, not just any poor country girl born
to the tending of livestock. When she calls, you do not go near. Is the sight of such bringing forth more than you fear you can bear? Not to mention her blood and the odor of animal everywhere.
All night you stand in the dark stall pretending your name never crosses her lips. How much longer before you will go to her, man enough at last to look upon God in His baffling dependency?
This poem by Langston Hughes has inspired poets, especially young ones, by the dozens. If you go to my October post on The Basketball Poets in Supply, NC, you will find Alyssa Miller’s poem inspired by this particular piece. I suggested students take this poem as a model and see what they themselves could bring to their own poetry. Liz Cronan’s 5th Graders at Sugar Loaf Elementary School in Taylorsville accepted the invitation and soon I received 48 poems in response. Here as one long post are their poems, preceded by Hughes’ poem.
Bring me all of your dreams, You dreamer, Bring me all your Heart melodies That I may wrap them In a blue cloud-cloth Away from the too-rough fingers Of the world.
--by Langston Hughes
Thought keeper Bring me all your thoughts, you thinkers. Bring me all your brain storms, that I can put them in a safe. Only for you to see. -SD
Moon keeper Bring me all your craters. Keep away all the cold memories So I can be free of nightmares, That haunt me at midnight. -AB
Bring me all your happiness, you happy people. All your happiness will come to me. I will wrap it in a green cloth, So I can keep it away from the hands of the sad. -LS
Bring me all of your beliefs Bring me everything you believe in. So I may wrap them up in a green cloud cloth, Away from the bad minds of the world. -ES
Bring me all your madness. Bring me all your bad memories. So I can lock them in a dark jail cell. So you can carry on with your life. --DS
Faithkeeper Bring me your faith, You religious people. So I can put them in a box. Where only God can see. -MW
The Laughkeeper Bring me all of your warm laughs, You laughers. Bring me all of your feelings, So I may wrap them in a soft yellow cloth Where only hearts who see happiness may see. -LW
Bring me your happy thoughts, Bring me the fun times. So that I may wrap them in cool feelings and be in peace from the world. -PT
Bring me all your faithfulness, Bring me all your warm memories, I may take them away to a World of freedom so you may keep all. -MC
Bring me all your beliefs, you believers. Bring me all your desires, so that I can soak them up with a gentle touch of feeling and no enemies will lay eyes on these faithful gifts. -KC
Bring me all your braveness, Bring me all your good times, So I may wrap them in a brown cloth and keep them away from the darkness. -ZD
Bring me all your hopes, you hopers. Bring me all your heart beats of hope. That I may wrap them in a deep red cloth, Away from the rejecting souls of the world. -CB
Bring me your courage, The fall of your faith, The wish of your commands, however the small act of kindness. I shall wrap them up in the crystal cloth And they shall stay mine. -KL
Bring me all your thoughts, Bring me all your ideas, So I can put them in a box Away from the evil world. -SW
The Wishkeeper Bring me all of your wishes, Bring me all of your hopes, So I may pack them in a small brown box, Where only the person who seeks them may see. -HF
Bring me all your wisdom, Bring me all you know. So that I may hide them from the world, so no one else can see. -LO
Bring me all your courage, Bring me all of your braveness, that I can cover them, away from evil. -NR
Bring me all your knowledge Bring me all your wisdom, So I may wrap them up in bly sky cloth Away from those untrusted. -TS
Bring me all your worries, Bring me all the bad ones, So I may wrap them up in a light blue cloth and replace Them with good thoughts. -AB
Bring me all your warm memories of your hearts’ desire. Bring me all the sweet melodies That I may wrap them in all the hearts’ love Where no one will see. -AM
Couragetaker Bring me all your courage, Bring me all your bravery So you can have it when you need it, To climb a tree. -MC
Bring me all your love, Bring me all your sadness, Bring me all your hopes, Bring me all your failures, So I can lock them all away, From the negative world around. -KB
Bring me all your beliefs in politics, So that I may fix them to be right And cast the wrong ones in fiery depths So the world can be fresh with Republicans. -CGN
Bring me all your knowledge Bring me all your wisdom So I can wrap them in a cloud cloth, Away from the hands of the world. -CR November 12, 2008 11:54 AM
Bring me all your happiness, Bring me all your laughter, So I may wrap it in peacock feathers, Where good people can see it. -JF
Bring me all your love, Bring me all your kindness, So I may wrap it in soft black and white cloth, Where only people that deserve it can see. -JC
Bring me your beliefs, Bring me your faith, So I may keep them in my heart, Where only I can see them. -TD
Bring me all your secrets, Bring me all your thoughts, So I may lay them in a pink blanket, Where only worthy ears can hear them. -KB
Bring me all your happiness, Bring me all your joy, So I may keep it safe, Where I can listen to them. -JL
Bring me all your respect, Bring me your honor, So I may respect other people, Where I can be respected too. -DD
Bring me all your memories, Bring me the best memories you've ever had, So I may keep them in a little box, Where no one will ever see them. -KC
Bring me your memories, Bring me your thoughts, So I may wrap them up Where I can keep them safe. -MF
Bring me the memories of your heart, Bring me all your happiness and all your sadness, So I amy wrap them up in a red cloth, Where I will keep them for all my hearts desire. -MF
Bring me all your hopes, Bring me all the things you are dreaming of doing, So I may lock them away in my heart, Where only I can see them. -JeF
Bring me all your angry feelings, Bring me all you madness, So I may wrap them in a black cloth, Where no one can touch them. -HD
Bring me all of your sweet love, Bring me all of your lost love, So I may spread it throughout the world, Where everyone can experience it. -KE
Bring me all your feelings, Bring me all your happiness and sadness, So I may wrap them up in a purple silky cloth, Where others can't get to them. -CB
Bring me your feelings, Bring me your sadness, happiness and love, SO I may wrap them in soft yellow sun, Where only you may seee. -AC
Bring me all your happy thoughts, Bring me all your memories, So I may keep them warm and safe, Where anyone can't see them. -MM
Bring me all your sadness, Bring me all your bad feelings, So i may make them into great feelings, Where only happiness can grow. -JacB
Bring me all your love, Bring me your heart, So I may respect you, Where ever you are. -CD
Bring me happiness, Bring me all your joy, So I may wrap them in an orange cloth, Where I can give it to Jesus. -HB
Bring me all of your sunlight, Bring me all of your warmth, So I may keep it Where I like best, in a blanket of safeness and warmth. -DB
Full moon says look I am over the pinebreak, says give me your empty glass, pour all you want, drink, look out through your windows of ice, through the eyes of your needles observe how I climb, lay aside what you weave on your looms
and see clouds fall away like cold silk from your shoulders, be quiet, hear the owl coming back to the hayloft, shake loose your long braids and rise up from your beds, open windows and curtains, let light pour like water upon your heads,
all of you women who wait, raise the shades, throw the shutters wide, lean from your window ledge into the great night that beckons you, smile back at me and so quietly nobody can hear you but you, whisper, "Here am I."
by Kathryn Stripling Byer, from BLACK SHAWL, LSU PRESS, '98
(Image from Amazon.com, but go to an Indie Bookstore instead!)
Margaret Maron is the author of twenty-four novels and two collections of short stories. Winner of several major American awards for mysteries (Edgar, Agatha, Anthony, Macavity), her works are on the reading lists of various courses in contemporary Southern literature and have been translated into 16 languages. She has served as president of Sisters in Crime, the American Crime Writers League, and Mystery Writers of America.
A native Tar Heel, she still lives on her family's century farm a few miles southeast of Raleigh, the setting for Bootlegger's Daughter, which is numbered among the 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association. In 2004, she received the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for best North Carolina novel of the year. In 2008 she received the North Carolina Award for Literature.
(go to www.margaretmaron.com for more information about the author) ----------------------------
[In the following passage, Judge Deborah Knott watches as her father paints the name and date on a rock that will serve as a grave marker for the house dog that died that day.]
The stone that Andrew had brought for Blue’s grave was about the size and shape of a five-gallon bucket. Daddy sat on a nearby rock and pried up the lid of the paint can. With the rag, he brushed the dirt away from a fairly flat area on the stone and dipped his brush in the paint. “Do you believe in a life after this?” I asked him from my perch on a rock that marked the grave of Aunt Sister’s ugly pet goat. “In heaven?”
“Wings and halos and streets of gold?” He smiled and shook his head. “Naw, that never made much sense to me.” “What do you believe in then?”
He shrugged. “Just because I don’t believe in heaven don’t mean I believe there ain’t nothing after this. We can’t never know, can we? I used to study on it, ’specially when your mama was dying. Now I’ve quit worrying about it. If being alive’s a accident, then we’re the luckiest accident in the universe, ain’t we?”
He finished lettering Blue’s name and the day’s date, then capped the can and leaned back against the fence to watch the sun slip lower. A light breeze brushed our faces and ruffled his white hair.
“You ever think about them stories your mama used to read y’all? Stories from all over the world about old gods?” “The myths?” I asked, surprised that he recalled them.
“I reckon. One of ’em was about a chief in one of them cold countries where they have mead halls. Adam wanted to know what a mead hall was. Your mama said it was where they had big feasts, with singing and laughing and beer made with honey.” I smiled, having no memory of this.
“Anyhow, somebody asked the chief if there was anything after this and the chief pointed to a moth up near the roof timbers that’d got in and was flying down the length of the mead hall. He said that moth was like life. It comes in out of the darkness, it stays a while to see the feasting and laughing and song-making and story-telling and then it flies back out into the darkness. We can’t see in the darkness, but the moth flies on like there might be something better a little further on out there.”
“Is that what you believe, Daddy?”
He stubbed out his cigarette with the toe of a scuffed brogan and smiled over at me. “Well, shug, I got to say it makes more sense than angel wings and streets of gold. The sun sank below the horizon in a blaze of reds and purples and oranges. “But for right now, this is one mighty fine mead hall, ain’t it?” =
Becoming Billie Holiday A fictional verse memoir By Carole Boston Weatherford Art by Floyd Cooper
The world knew her as Billie Holiday, but first she was Eleanora Fagan--neglected by her parents, raped by a neighbor, and sent to reform school. She scrubbed marble steps, drank bootleg liquor, smoked then-legal weed, worked in a brothel, and found her voice--all before leaving Baltimore. She hit New York just as the Harlem Renaissance gave way to the Great Depression. Luckily, Eleanora had a voice. She began her singing career as a teen and, by age 25, had not only fronted the era’s hottest bands, but recorded her signature song “Strange Fruit.” Poems by Weatherford trace the singer's journey from B-girl to jazz royalty. Cinematic, sepia-toned art by Cooper completes this fictional verse memoir.
Baltimore-born and -raised, I composed my first poem in first grade and dictated the verse to my mother. My father, a high school printing teacher, printed some of my early poems on index cards.
Since my literary debut with Juneteenth Jamboree in 1995, my books have received many literary honors. Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led her People to Freedom (2006), illustrated by Kadir Nelson, won a Caldecott Honor, the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration and an NAACP Image Award. Birmingham, 1963 won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, the Jane Addams Children's Literature Honor and the Jefferson Cup from Virginia Library Association. The Sound that Jazz Makes (2000) won the Carter G. Woodson Award from National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) and an NAACP Image Award nomination. Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins (2005) and Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People (2002) both won the North Carolina Juvenile Literature Award. Dear Mr. Rosenwald received a Golden Kite Honor from the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. And, in 2007, I received the Ragan-Rubin Award from the North Carolina English Teachers Association. More about my books.
I earned a Master of Arts in publications design from the University of Baltimore and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. I teach at Fayetteville State University and live in High Point, N.C. with my husband Ronald and our college-age son and daughter.
Three poems from BECOMING BILLIE HOLLIDAY
YOU GOTTA SHOW ME
After-hours jam sessions were a crash course in jazz. Every chance I got, I saw beside piano players, studying their fingers striding the keyboard, striking sharps and flats and major and minor chords, trilling syncopated melodies. I trailed their fingers for octaves as they charmed the secretsof swing. Piano masters offered up music's mysteries. I put myself in their hands.
HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN?
Without the microphone, there would be no spotlight, no band backing me with buesy swing.
My voice was small, barely an octave, but the mic enlarged my songs, let me hold listeners close.
With the microphone, my voice was an ocean, deep as my moods, and audiences dove in.
I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU
I guess I'm a sucker for a sad-eyed pooch 'cause I was a stray myself, running the streets, going from pillar to post as a girl, not sure when or where Mom would pawn me off on neighbors or distant kind.
Someday when I settle down, I'm gonna get a dog to wag its tail like a metronome when I come home and nudge me with its nose. I'll take my pooch everywhere-- clubs, restaurants, even church-- and dare a soul to throw us out.
Dillingham, Nancy and Celia H. Miles. CHRISTMAS PRESENCE. North Carolina: Catawba Publishing Company, 2008. 221 pages. Trade paperback. $18.00.
From Celia Miles: "This anthology features writings about the Christmas season from 45 western NC women writers, some published (Sherry Austin, Susan Reinhardt, Julia Nunnally Duncan, for example); others published in local venues and anthologies, and some published for the first time. We did a quick count when finalizing the bios and saw that the contributors have over 45 books published (Nancy and I account for 10 or 11); counties represented range from McDowell to Swain, with Buncombe and Henderson having the most."
(The editors--Celia Miles and Nancy Dillingham)
For orders, send to these addresses: Celia Miles-- 104 Clubwood Court Asheville, NC 28803 or Nancy Dillingham: 48-A Dunstan's Rd. Asheville, NC 28803. Email: email@example.com
“Christmas is a special time, an intense season when emotions are heightened, memories are made, hearts are warmed or broken, illusions blanketed or shattered. Relationships reveal their soft and sharp edges; joys are magnified and so are losses. These stories, memories, reflections, and poems by western North Carolina women shine with the sincerity of a Christmas star and glow with the warmth of a winter’s fire. They invite you to come into the presence of Christmas.”
-----Joan Medlicott author of "Ladies of Covington Series"
"You'll smell the cedar, feel the warmth of a fireplace, watch snowflakes twirling through the mountains, taste gingerbread, and hear "Jingle Bells," in CHRISTMAS PRESENCE. This is a wonderful collection of stories, essays, and poems by 45 western North Carolina women writers. Many of these contributors describe the Christmas customs of mountain people during the Great Depression."
--Brenda Kay Ledford, from blueridgepoet.blogspot.com
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Glenis Redmond --Presence Sherry Austin ---The Edge of Night Nancy Purcell ---I’ll Be Home for Christmas Penny Morse ---Grandpa and the Snowsnakes Dare Freeman Ford ----Colored Angels Barbara Ledford Wright ---Purple Violets Jeri Senor --The Eve of Christmas Lana Hendershott-- Rhella Jobe Susan Reinhardt-- An Open Letter to Mr. Claus Mary D. Marsh-- Memories of Wartime Christmases Carole R. Thompson --A Bag of Sugar for Paula Glenda Barrett--The French Harp Jessica Heriot --Jewish Christmas Nancy Dillingham --At Christmas Janice Norman --Solace of Solstice Marian Gowan --Connections Brenda Kay Ledford --Miss Bessie and the Christmas Biker Sonja Contois --The Year of the Socks Nancy Sales Ca The Christmas Catalog Cecily Hamlin Wells --Southside Diner Louise K. Nelson --Most Memorable Christmas Celia H. Miles-- And the Animals Knelt Marijo Moore --Western North Carolina: Winter’s Silent Theatre (in ten acts) Pam Shuford Murray-- O Holy Night Cynthia Stewart --The Doll Who Came to Christmas Dinner Mona Rae Miracle --Where’s the Spirit? Mary Louise Welther --Elves in Our Attic-- June Bare --The Midwife of Bethlehem Polly Kent --The Magic of Snow H. Byron Ballard --A Season of Light: How We Celebrated a Hillbilly Yule Cheryl Dietrich --Mavericks Sherry W.Boone- The Silk Handkerchief Pat Riviere-Seel -My Mother, in the Last Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, Comes Home Christmas Day Beverly Ohler -Tannenbaum and Stollen Martha O’Quinn -Christmas in July Karen Luke Jackson -Elves for Santa Peg Rhodes -A Copper Christmas Pot Exie Wilde Henson -A Logging Camp Christmas Gwenda Ledbetter -Not Even a Mouse Joan Blessing- We Didn’t Do Christmas without You Susan Snowden -A Hair-Raising Holiday Joan Crook- A Tiny Red Stocking Tonya Staufer -I Believe Cecily Hamlin -Wells Weathering Christmas Nancy Dillingham -Santa Redux: Afterthoughts on Giving Dee Dee Parker -The Yellow-Haired Doll Julia Nunnally Duncan- Experience to Fiction: A Christmas Memory
poems by Glenis Redmond Main Street Rag Books ISBN 13: 978-1-59948-133-3 140 pages, $14.95
Glenis Redmond is a 2005-2006 North Carolina Arts Council Literary Award recipient and a Denny C. Plattner Award winner for Outstanding Poetry sponsored by the Appalachian Heritage journal. She has been inducted in the Mt. Xpress' Hall of Fame for Best Poet in Western North Carolina after winning for over seven years. She is a Kennedy Teaching Artist and her work has aired on National Public Radio. She is a past winner of the Southern Fried Slam and a finalist of National Poetry Slam.
She has been published most recently in Meridians, African Voices, EMRYS, The Asheville Poetry Review, 2006 Kakalak: A Journal of Carolina Poets, Appalachian Heritage and the Appalachian Journal. Glenis is a native of Greenville, South Carolina. She presently resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her twin daughters Amber and Celeste.
UNDER THE SUN is the long awaited birthing of poetry with purpose, a muse claiming and renaming seasons, needing no permissions, no namesakes. Glenis Redmond's word womb has burst leaking truth, grace, healing and celebration. The ground of her literary newness becomes more sacred as it receives this powerful afterbirth… libations of anointed ink.
Jaki Shelton Green
for more, go to http://www.mainstreetrag.com/GRedmond.php
☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ Six poems by Glenis Redmond
Name every nighttime shadow. Call them out from every corner, every crevice of the past. Fill yourself with the power named survival. Your voice will flower silver into a circle blooming of compassionate witnesses, burning trembling lights. In the brightness my voice becomes your voice, your voice becomes mine. Together, our voices form a tight constellation of hope, a calligraphy written in stars.
I stand at the door reverberating spring hundreds of quiet mouths pink mouths speaking, April’s here the month of the poet. So they too gather blaring hard wrung words even harder wrung feelings. Congregations gather to hear hums of love And richters of sorrow. Each poem opens the heart. This is the work of poets and flowers centerpieces punctuating passages keeping the door open during death and bliss. Blooms silent with beauty, bards lit with language witnessing both joy and grief testifying in full bloom.
A Simple Act
Tribute to Fannie Lou Hamer (1917 - 1977) There is power in a simple act, an intelligent step, overriding the ignorance of labor to no end. When did her deliverance take hold? Spirit quaking sending a wave through the whisper of the song she sang, we’ve come to know so well. This little light of mine I’m gonna let it shine. On that day, what was the particular? Was it the white-hot summer sun or one piece of cotton adding up to one too many on her back? Adding fuel to a spirit ready to jump free of the land that tied her by slight of hand. Was it the wisdom of God? I believe it was singing to her bones humming a freedom she only dreamed but never knew. She became a vessel full of the Holy Ghost or ghosts of ancient sisters and brothers singing. It is time sistah, keep the faith, rise. She could have remained planted there, her heart and spirit yoked like solid mounds. Instead the burning bush came to her in the field. Turned her into the Rock of Gibraltar, moving, wrestling with fate in downtown doors leading to white marbled halls— ready to vote take pass any test cross the line Where God done signed her name.
The doctor says, disc deterioration. In other words, my father is losing his spine. My next thought is the children’s song that teaches the anatomy of bones, the terrain of the body the thighbone connected to the hipbone the hipbone connected to the backbone the backbone connected to the.... My next thought quiets my singing in one solid knowing moment, I realize my father has been losing his spine a little all along. If this poem were about forgiveness, If I knew where his pain began, I would take my index finger, trace it along that beginning of the Ivory Coast. At the base of his head, the Medulla Oblongata, I would sing it into being on that Virginia Plantation. Along the Thoracic vertebrae I would call him out of that slavery, release the yokes and chains of his sharecropper past. I would chant Cherokee, Sioux and Seminole out of the chakra of his throat. I would follow his trail of tears leading down the curve of his back, the Lumbar and the Sacral regions, and walk along flanks of cotton in his Jim Crow history. I would stand next to him, that malnourished man-child at the Air Force recruitment office as he spreads the poison spiriting himself away all with the signing of his name until he is only a misted ghost. I would be there calling him back from all the torn places, rattling bones, blowing smoke into this shadow of a shadow, balancing the forces of air too harsh for one already prone to breaking. Maybe just maybe this signing was his one holy act; bench pressing the family, and the whole of his past beyond any weight he lifted before. Maybe this was the beginning of bones breaking. But [comma out here] he picked them up anyway, his shape skeletal and bare. He configured himself into the shape of leaving, an internal dowsing rod, a compass pointing magnetic north, anything leading away to take him from before. A drought of rain is severe. A drought of marrow is devastation. If my weight could hold it, I would lift him to a tender liquid light like the others, who looked on him from his youth, and called him Sonny Boy. He, a good looking slender man with hope in his eyes. I’d spy that slim child placing his polished boot upon promise. I would pour into him his calcium-spent self where ivory keys could not fortify. Taking him down dark alleys into the pool-shark dens no matter how many gigs played and clubs inhabited. The spirit knows bones feed on calcium and light. Tender fingers slid over keys eventually leading to bars, leading to his favorite amber liquids of Jack Daniels and Jim Beam. Maybe he tried to be present both there and here. Maybe the slave in him revolted, the Indian in him rose up, the pianist within him began to play tunes. But he is sitting now sitting with the weight of all that soldiering, he believed to be a pocket guide for better living. Marching him through straight rows of cotton corn tobacco into pouring stiff drinks of Old Grand-Dad, Crown Royal and handed him a case of Black Label. Taught him to raise hell all night, as long as he was straight and squared away in formation by 0600 that morning. Our nights and weekends, his second job. Our house on alert with the Sergeant in him in command, and the liquid amber out of control. He patrolled the halls of our lives on midnight shifts cloaked with the wrath of Jack and two types of Jim. With battle fatigue we addressed the casualties of war. A son visibly wounded in the fight, wearing scars to school like a uniform no second grader should have to bear. The teacher reports to the base commander, the base commander barks orders “study war no more in the home or be dishonorably discharged.”
What they caught and taught they didn’t treat. Fist turned instead into verbal missiles launching into our deepest centers. Yet we carried on like soldiers on a tour of duty with a sense of purpose, standard operating procedure. Survival our greatest mission. We were hemmed in by heavy-handed creases, lost in the spit-shine of shoes and high polished brass, living between the stiff finger salute, standing at attention for inspection. Our straight backs gave way to gradual wear and tear of never being at ease. Our familial bones breaking, a slow de-ossification. If this poem were about forgiveness, our foundation would begin to mend [comma out] where it never took hold; our sergeant in charge leading the way, a crooked man walking with wings.
She for Katie Latimore’s Birthday, 101
Staring into Katie Latimore’s eyes I go straight into heaven, rest in a blueness not here on earth. With her I feel a certain mercy I have never known. She who grew hollyhocks, hibiscus, hydrangeas and drew every stray cat in the county. She who when not pickin’ cotton, grew vegetables in her yard, fished in her spare time. Rachel’s daughter, her mother born a slave, bore sixteen children. She in those desperate dangerous times held aspirations beyond the third grade but never made it to that one-room schoolhouse. Her knowledge was of another understanding, a candle lit by the Almighty. When I am wise I sit there and study her blue flame. She smoked her Winston 100’s, inhaled a little, letting the ash grow until it fell like withered dreams beneath her feet. She drank her Coca-Cola like medicine, loved her potatoes sweet. She made me thru my mother thru and thru ‘til I am what I am which is why even now, I have a penchant for all things old; never been particular about the new. It is why I gave birth to two incredibly old women. I called them the Delaney sisters. They came that way. It is their spirit not their age. She, my mother’s mother, I am not calling a saint but is there anybody living who would want to walk in her shoes? She has earned the glory of these words, any respite they might bring. She with her jet black ambition tied to her hands, her running feet running thru cane fields, cotton fields always somebody else’s sharecropped land. She deserves to run, fight, do battle no more. Lay it all down by the riverside. But she is in the nursing home with a fire, a rage burning bright. I know because sometimes, she won’t let no white hand touch her. When I leave there, She whispers, “Loves everybody, Chile, no matter how black, how blue, how brown, or how white, loves everybody.” For in those times she was running water clear, clean in that ingrown South where revolution never happened, not even now. She was IS the point of my inspiration, showing me the revolution is in staying alive. I don’t know what happened to her 101 years of living in the south. I only know She is closer to God than anyone I have ever known. Coming from a shattered past, imagine heartache after heartache, outlasting the death of almost everyone, lasting 101 years of living. What are we gonna say to that black woman? We gonna look around pretend she not there? What we gonna say to 101 years of having no monuments erected in her name? The only thing resurrected daily was the struggle and the fight. What we gonna say to all those years of living? If we want to be well, we sit down and listen with more than our ears.
The Unbearable Heat of South Carolina for Langston Hughes
When I get to be a poet I am going to pen poems about the unbearable heat of South Carolina and I am gonna put the color of the Carolina sky in it, that perfect tint of springtime blue wafting the perfume breeze of the yellow Jasmine, calling to the Carolina Wren to rise. And I am going put the frilly froof of the Mimosa in it and thick generous Magnolia blooms and the magenta of the Crepe Myrtle trying to reach its [apostrophe out] twisted sister, lavender Wisteria turning on its vine. And I will talk of cotton, corn and tobacco, too. But mostly cotton. And of those crooked tree trunk fingers that picked the fabric of our lives and how those large plantation foundations were laid firm on humped and curved backs. And I will put some gospel songs in it, laced with the fire of West African chants, singing of how these haunted beauties dwarfed the shotgun shacks next to sharecropped fields and factory mills. And I will write down the chain of broken black white people making a living on prayers-- Whispering the words, get by anyway you can. And I will stand next to this quiet Palmetto faith and understand the thunderstorms of the past grounded in red clay. And I will release my own prayers of gravity and hold tight to the belief they will rise like the morning sun and the nighttime crescent moon. I will stand fast to the faith that carries my pen across blank pages and I will sweat strong sweltering lines of both celebration and woe when I get to be a poet and pen poems of the unbearable heat of South Carolina.
Souvenirs of a Shrunken World Holly Iglesias 104 pages, 6 x 7" paper Price: $13.95 ISBN 13: 978-1-888553-26-0 (korepress.org)
Kore has been publishing women’s literary art as an imperative since 1993, after choosing a name which symbolizes the idea that women are agents of change. Kore (kor-ay) is Greek for "daughter" and another name for Persephone—the goddess taken into the underworld whose re-emergence above ground caused the changing of seasons. We hope the writings we bring to light elicit change, both for writer, reader, and the bigger, collective public mind. By providing this forum for established and emerging voices, as well as writers fundamental to history, we are seeking to keep alive change-making expressions of literary passion, experiment, and collaboration.
------------------------- Holly Iglesias is the winner of the 2008 Kore Press First Book Award. She is a poet and translator whose work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Prose Poem, Arts & Letters, Barrow Street, Margie, Crab Orchard Review, Massachusetts Review and Spoon River Poetry Review. She has been awarded fellowships by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Edward Albee Foundation. She is the author of two chapbooks, Hands-on Saint and Good Long Enough, winner of Thorngate Road’s Frank O’Hara Prize. A critical work, Boxing Inside the Box: Women's Prose Poetry, was published by Quale Press. She teaches at University of North Carolina-Asheville and at Warren Wilson College.
"This moving mosaic of the 1904 World's Fair carries the poignancy of an old family album, a presence at once here and gone. Through the poet's pitch-perfect ear and keen eye for the voices, vantages and scraps of the actual, come souvenirs of real lives transfixed in the glare of a triumphant technology's artificial light." Eleanor Wilner Samples from the book:
RUNNING FOR THE FAIR, A STEREOGRAPH
Shaken from a dream about hoboes, a boy hightails it through the garden toward the tracks, his stride lengthening with the pace of escape—hen house, slop pot, ice box, cheese cloth—past and future neck and neck.
Air expanding with yeast in the kitchen, a girl cools her pulse at the pump and stares at the rhubarb, the peas, the sausage casings in a basin. She hears the train, bolts to watch it pass, cars strobing the corn fields into a picture show.
Her mouth led her here, her milky mouth, her souring in the sun mouth. And where will it all end with the Incubators closed for the day? Half faint, she had hoped to see the infants behind glass, the porcelain cases warmed to the temperature of a womb. To stand behind a velvet rope and guess which among them might be hers. Fifteen, tomorrow remote as the moon, she moves on, her shoe glancing against a soap-baby souvenir, dusty as a mulatto and just the size of her pocket.
SWAN BOAT GONDOLIER
Embarking, they mouth soft words to the ladies—lagoon, woozy, wop—men with eight bits and an hour to kill. I am to sing as we float along, a quaint air to soothe the nerves of these princes of shoe leather and liver pills, these brewmeisters with old money stuffed into new pockets. They have paved their streets with the bones of our backs, scorned our saints and old-country hats. Walking home from our Saturday baths, we spit on the gates of their private streets, scowl through the grates at their children who are pale as dolls.
I roamed the grounds for days like an Arab in the desert, searching for something just right for my wife, stuffing my pockets with buttons, pins, calendars you could lose in a breeze, till I tossed them in the rubbish. Each trinket felt smaller than experience, too cheap for the weight of our time apart or the cruel quiet of her confinement. Twelfth birth in ten years and who can say if the tiny soul will make it to winter, or when she might allow him a name. I would heap the mantel with souvenirs of a shrunken world to amuse her—gunboats, telephones, geisha girls, canoes—but I fear she is beyond diversion. My present hope fits in my hand, a silver-plate walnut with a clasp, inside a fan of vistas reduced to a bearable size.
Joanna Catherine Scott is the author of the novels The Road from Chapel Hill; Cassandra, Lost; The Lucky Gourd Shop; and Charlie; the nonfiction Indochina's Refugees: Oral Histories from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; and the poetry collections Breakfast at the Shangri-la and Fainting at the Uffizi. A graduate of the University of Adelaide and Duke University, she was born in England, raised in Australia, and now lives in Chapel Hill.
I wept over this book. Every one of us has known a young man or woman who has gone out and got drunk and killed themselves. In telling the story of one, Night Huntress speaks for all. And yet there is no preaching or hyperbole. The story is told simply, in language so controlled and elegant that a brutal misadventure becomes transformed into a thing of melancholic beauty. A shocking but at the same time a comforting and healing book.
Scott succeeds in giving us not just an evening’s disaster, but the story of an entire family and the rings of joy and sorrow that surround it. Starting with what is, in fact, a compressed novel told in the heightened language of poetry, she expands outwards into a series of meditations on grief and healing, ending with the lovely benedictory "In the Dawn Valley," the title itself evoking a new beginning.
HOW THEY INSIST
It is good, this quiet, this getting away to sit by a pond with a small waterfall and a frog squatted on a rock beside it, early sunlight flashing off the wings of dragonflies. It is good, after everything, after the funeral, with its eulogies and weeping, and the terrifying silence of the mother looking down into the grave, not to think about my daughter's voice, taut and trembling on the phone. 'There was nothing left,' she says, 'just a leg, nothing else was left of her, the leg with the scar, the one she got playing soccer. Remember, Mother, how that big girl kicked her in the leg?' Her voice is high and breaking. I do not know how to comfort her. 'She'd been drinking,' my daughter says, 'and now there's nothing left of her. He is in the hospital. He's all smashed up and they haven't told him yet. They don't know if he'll live and his father is beside himself. Remember his father, the one who runs the sports store and the summer soccer camp?'
She did not say if the boy had been drinking too. I did not ask, and now it does not seem to matter. Either he will live or he will not live. If he lives, he will either blame the girl or he will blame himself, or else he will become a saint, and carefully, watchfully, for the rest of his careful, watchful, sainted life, he will blame no one. On the other hand, he may do none of this, either blame or not blame, because when his head was smashed, and his ear ripped off, and all the beautiful expensive orthodontics of his perfect American smile smashed along with his jaw, something happened to his brain... .
THE BOY AT THE NIGHTCLUB
The boy at the nightclub does not remember. He had been drinking, he says, and cannot swear the girl in the back seat of the convertible was real.
Pressed, he is certain she was there, her blond head glistening in the artificial light.
But he does not remember her inside the nightclub, or in the parking lot, although he remembers he came out to be sick.
He does not remember her opening the car door, or climbing in, although, he says, and there is fear in his eyes, she was there, she was there.
He recalls the color of her hair, how its blondness had a green cast, how it flowed around her as the car shot off, like seaweed, he says, like something swaying underwater, something tossed about and eddied by a violent current.
He has seen such things, he says, because he is a diver, had been out that very day, was caught in a rip, and, frightened, came home to have a drink.
That is how he puts it, although when he had drunk one, he drank another, and another, until the girl appeared, her skin luminous as shallow water underneath the street light and her pale hair swept about.
She turned to him, he says, and beckoned, although he cannot remember her face, he was too busy being sick.
He is weeping, and the two policemen asking him questions look at each other over his bent head, shrugging slightly, telling each other he is no good as a witness, that he was having visions, telling him sternly he was lucky not to have gone with her, lucky to have fallen face-down in an ocean of his own creation, floated until morning amongst brightly colored fishes hot as blood.
Softcover: $8.95 (ISBN 978-1-932158-85-4) Published by High Country Publishers/Ingalls Publishing Group Publication date: January 2009 Available from Ingalls Publishing Group 828) 297-7127 firstname.lastname@example.org www.ingallspublishinggroup.com
Julia Taylor Ebel celebrates nature, heritage and cultural history through stories and poetry. Her books include Orville Hicks: Mountain Stories, Mountain Roots; Addie Clawson: Appalachian Mail Carrier; Walking Ribbon, and most recently, Dresses, Dreams and Beadwood Leaves. The earlier three received North Carolina Society of Historians book awards. Over 50 of her nature poems are published in children’s magazines. Julia leads programs and workshops on keeping stories and on poetry. She lives in Jamestown, North Carolina, but a part of her heart is in the North Carolina mountains, where she finds inspiration for much of her writing.
--------------------------------------- Rosa May wears dresses made from feed sacks, but her earthy knowledge of roots and herbs gives her hope of owning a store-bought dress and feeds her dream of wearing nurse’s white. Dresses, Dreams and Beadwood Leaves sets a girl’s journey to mold her own self esteem within the cultural history of the North Carolina mountains in the late 1940s, where root and herb gathering has offered many mountain people a way to meet both needs and dreams.
Dresses, Dreams and Beadwood Leaves includes delicate pencil sketches and end notes on root and herb gathering.
(from website: www.juliaebel.com
This description from Julia Ebel's website is only the beginning of a story told in verse that will entertain and move you. Rosa May works to gather beadwood leavees to make enough money to buy a "store-bought" dress. She learns some important lessons about growing up in the process.
In August, roots and herbs add up but not enough to buy a dress and the shoes I need too. So I choose.
I open the catalog to the page with the red plaid dress. Mama measures me and helps me choose the right size. “You’re getting to be a young lady,” she says.
Mama watches me address the envelope to Sears, Roebuck and lick the stamp.
And she watches me skip to the mailbox with my order in hand.
One week, two weeks, three weeks— how long will it take to get my package? I watch each day for the mail.
Daddy comes in grinning. “Got a good price on beans today. Enough to buy flour, sugar, and cocoa powder.”
At supper, we celebrate with chocolate gravy on biscuits.
Just in time— the package came, wrapped in brown paper, but the package held no plaid dress, bright as autumn trees.
I’d changed my mind and ordered shoes to wear with the dress Mama and I made, blue calico with white buttons, tucks, and grosgrain ribbon trim— prettier than the one at Mr. Kelsey’s store.
Someday soon I’ll order that plaid dress.
Someday I’ll wear white.
In Dresses, Dreams and Beadwood Leaves, Rosa May gathers beadwood (witch hazel) leaves to earn money. The following is from the book's end notes on herbs and herb gathering.
Witch Hazel is a deciduous native shrub or small tree, growing 20 to 30 feet in height. Leaves are asymmetrical and shallowly lobed, 3 to 5 inches long. Witch Hazel grows commonly in moist, rich hardwood forests of Southern Appalachia, but its habitat extends through most of the eastern United States.
The term “beadwood” comes from the hard bead-like seed capsule. When dry, seeds explode from the capsule.
An extract from Witch Hazel leaves, bark, and twigs has long been used medicinally as a mild astringent.
from ROOT AND HERB GATHERING IN SOUTHERN APPALACHIA
The Mountain Environment
Traditional Home Uses of Roots and Herbs For centuries, people have used native plants as food sources. People also have eased their pain and soothed illnesses with teas and salves made from roots and herbs. Mountain people knew these herbal remedies. They respected local “herb doctors,” who shared knowledge of plants’ healing powers. As trained doctors and modern medicine became more available in the mid 1900s, people used herbal remedies less.
Gathering Many Appalachian people learned to recognize the native plants. They spoke of these plants with common names, like beadwood (witch hazel), life plant, and turkey corn. They gathered roots and herbs and passed along knowledge of wild plants to their children. By the age of six or seven, children could help with root and herb gathering. Mountain people first gathered roots and herbs for personal use. Later, they sold these plant materials. Families bought school clothes and shoes for the children with profits from root and herb gathering. Native plants provided the primary income for some families. Money from the sale of roots and herbs not only bought clothing but also helped pay electrical bills and property taxes.
The End of Eden: Writings of an Environmental Activist by Thomas Rain Crowe, illustrations by Robert Johnson (Wind Publications trade paperback, Oct., 2008, 179 pages, $16). http://windpub.com/booklist.htm
The essays of Thomas Rain Crowe combine with the stirring illustrations of Robert Johnson to produce a prophetic vision of the world in which we live--a vision of what we have and what we stand to loose through our careless disregard for the Earth and its finite resources. A kind of activist’s handbook, this is one man’s attempts at saving his homeland from mindless hedonism, outside invasion, and outright denial--writing as if there might be enough universal truth to be of some use to others experiencing similar incursions in their own locales.
THOMAS RAIN CROWE Tuckaseegee, NC was born in 1949 and is a poet, translator, editor, publisher, recording artist and author of twelve books of original and translated works. During the 1970s he lived abroad in France, then returned to the U.S. to become editor of Beatitude magazine and press in San Francisco and one of the "Baby Beats" and where he was co-founder and Director of the San Francisco International Poetry Festival. In the 1980s, after returning to his boyhood home in North Carolina, he was a founding editor of Katuah Journal: A Bioregional Journal of the Southern Appalachians and founded New Native Press. In 1994 he founded Fern Hill Records (a recording label devoted exclusively to the collaboration of poetry and music).. His memoir based on four years of self-sufficient living in a wilderness environment in the woods of western North Carolina from 1979 to 1982 (Zoro’s Field) was published by the University of Georgia Press in the spring of 2005. He currently resides in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, where he writes features and columns on culture, community and the environment for the Smoky Mountain News. Several books of his poetry have been published, most recently by Main Street Rag. His literary archives have been purchased by and are collected at the Duke University Special Collections Library in Durham, North Carolina.
For more about Thomas Rain Crowe: http://www.newnativepress.com/ Send e-mail inquiries to: NewNativePress followed by @hotmail.com http://wnc.us/newnativepress/about_trc.html -----------------
There are many Thomas Rain Crowes--Baby Beatnik, Sufi mystic, Celtic anthologist, bio-regionalist--that's what makes him so much fun. Crowe, the nature writer, achieved a great publishing success in 2005 with Zoro's Field, his Thoreau-like account of living simply off the land in Polk County. The End of Eden brings together essays that serve as a musing prologue to either Eden or environmental Armageddon; and then gains bite when Crowe discovers that his idyllic existence in Jackson County is threatened by development. "When I moved here in 1993, I truly felt that this place would sustain me in these kinds of ways for the rest of my life." Since the day he spotted a Florida company's surveyors working at the edge of his property, Crowe started talking with activists and experts, "trying to get a realistic picture of exactly what has been happening to Jackson County during my long idealistic sleep." Smart Growth, a pro-beauty media campaign, farmland preservation, conservation purchases, and the local food movement become Crowe's focuses for the remainder of his book. -----Rob Neufeld, The Asheville Citizen-Times, The Read on WNC
From the Book ---
It's the end of October and I’ve still got tomatoes on the vine. Native, June-blooming rhododendrons are flowering again. Hummingbirds are still here and coming to the feeders. Walnuts hanging from the leafless walnut trees like Christmas tree ornaments, not able to drop. Yellow-jackets still coming and going actively to their underground nests. Raccoons still coming into the corn patch thinking that August must have come ‘round again and that there is corn. Following the wettest summer on record, we’re in the midst of a draught. Here in Tuckasegee, it’s only rained twice in the last two months. I’m having to hand-water the heather, just to keep them alive. With my woodpile ready for the winter, I’ve not even thought about starting a fire. Strange days. . . . . . . . . . .
MORE THAN FRIENDS: POEMS OF HIM AND HER (Boyds Mills/Front Street). This book, sure to spark lively discussion among the young men and women who read it, springs from a two-year e-mail correspondence between poets Allan Wolf and Sara Holbrook. As Allan and Sara's poems flew madly through the electronic ether, a fictional teenaged couple began to emerge. Many of the poems in this collection use traditional poetic forms (i.e. sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, and tankas) to explore teen subject matter that is anything but traditional. The result is a book that traverses, in poetic form, the gap between the genders--a gap that is sometimes vast, sometimes nonexistent.
By Maureen A. Sherbondy Main Street Rag Books ISBN 13: 978-1-59948-108-1 Poetry chapbook, 40 pages, $10
What a thought-provoking collection for a Jewish audience! Moving from the concrete details of Jewish rituals to their spiritual implications, Sherbondy is full of wisdom and surprises – sometimes ironic, often dark, full of yearning for the tikkun olam seamstresses to stitch the broken world back together with their needles and threads. And what a treat, in the midst of the spiritual struggle, to find in the poet’s contemplation of a praying mantis that has landed on her prayer book, one of those rare, transcendent moments when “God’s long fingers are reaching, guiding us toward a promise.” These tough-minded, deceptively lovely poems yield up more of their considerable power with each successive reading.
-- Ellyn Bache
Maureen Sherbondy grew up in Metuchen, New Jersey, and now resides in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and three sons. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including Calyx, Feminist Studies, 13th Moon, Cairn, Comstock Review, Crucible, The Roanoke Review and The Raleigh News & Observer. Two of Maureen's poems were chosen as finalists in the 2006 William Faulkner--William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. Other poems have won first place in: The Deane Ritch Lomax Poetry Prize (Charlotte Writers' Club), The Lyricist Statewide Poetry Contest, and Gin Bender Poetry Review's 2004 Contest. Main Street Rag published her first chapbook, After the Fairy Tale in 2006. Her poetry has also appeared in many anthologies. Maureen has had fiction published, has written a novella, and is currently working on a novel.
Praying at Coffee Shops in the South
What are these public interludes with God? Two men at Starbucks holding hands bent over in prayer, leaning into the invisible.
This is not church or temple, but an invasion into my caffeinated space -- these murmurings of Lord, God, Praise Be spiraling into my melodious Sirius radio tunes.
I want a beverage jolt, not a lightning strike of prayer -- Hallelujah, Holy Ghost, Jesus.
My mother said no kissing in public places but here they are -- pressing lips against java-infused air, searching for the mouth of God.
I cut the fish, lift fleshy pink sliver to my lips.
How many sins have you swallowed dead salmon.
Jews toss transgressions into the water.
Breadcrumbs of infidelity Pebbles of lies Pocket dust of indifference
I chew and swallow hope my body stays free
from what I have eaten.
How do we live with our sins that return;
a small pebble caught in the back of our throat.
(Note: Tashlich refers to a ceremony in which sins are cast out by throwing them into a body of water.)
--------------------------------- At the Mikveh, Age Four
For weeks my brothers flooded me with tales of drowning, said the special pool was where young girls sank and did not rise again.
When we appeared at the mikveh -- attempt to quell the swell of non-Jewish blood swimming through our veins, I planted myself upon a bench refusing to budge from my position.
Wanting to live no matter the future cost. In my heart I was a Jew, this I knew, no ceremony could make it so.
Better to stay than to go. While brothers and mother vanished under water and prayers rang out in the other rooms, Alone, I remained wordless, prayerless still and silent as a stone.
AFTER THE FAIRY TALE poems by Maureen A. Sherbondy ISBN: 1-59948-065-4, 38pps, $7 Main Street Rag Books
For years she’s felt awkward in her own girly body, those frilly dresses and skirts, the pink bow in her hair. The sameness of everyday life nudges her into a state of yawn and nap.
Other girls play hopscotch and jump rope, swing for hours at the park while her eyes envy birds and planes, bright balloons released into the clouds. One day she leaves the school yard but doesn’t return home; instead she abandons the small Jersey suburb, journeys into the woods.
When she bumps into a cottage she lets herself in; every open door is an invitation, an opportunity, she reasons. No thought is given to trespassing or danger.
Bowls of Cream of Wheat leave her unsatisfied, chairs and beds in different colors and sizes are not enough to comfort or engage, and the three bears that greet her with huge bear, middle bear and little wee bear growls only bore her.
She tries out other cottages deeper into the woods: the circus people cottage built up in an oak tree, the beaver cottage near the dam and even the tiny insect one. At Kafka’s cottage she is most at ease with Gregor who was suddenly a cockroach. While Gregor waits to become human again, Goldilocks, never comfortable in her own human skin, waits to turn into a golden bird.
She sits by the warm fire with Gregor, his dark thorax sprawled out on the floor, her girly body leaning against his hard shell, dreaming of the day she will wake with feathered wings and fly.
Sleeping Beauty in Old Age
At Whispering Woods Nursing Home mirrors reveal the truth of time, beauty faded into the years. All she wants to do is descend into sleep, but attendants pester her into crafts, jewelry making, flower arranging classes. She has no use for such things. Her Prince died years before, a heart attack while riding his horse across the golf course. The monarchy had ended, he was a token Prince, all title, no power. He left life insurance, but not enough. They never had kids because Rosamond didn’t want to ruin her perfect size two figure. She dreams about castles, and fairies, spinning wheels, but when she wakes all that remains is a sterile room, a view of the busy street, other old faces wheeling by in the hallway waiting for darkness filled with seamless sleep".
ISBN 978-1934999103, 80 pages, $17.00 A Temple Looming by Lenard D. Moore is a series of portraits, painstakingly rendered, that capture the nuances of the African-Americans whose lives inspired them: (www.wordtechweb.com/moore.html}
Splendid in uniform, the barrel-straight stare of his pure black face shines like a bullet.
Imagine he’d not returned from the Great War, leaving a void in his family, and in this picture.
Moore’s artistry preserves what might otherwise be lost: human lives, and their world.
“A Temple Looming is a caring look into records of our African love, our will to life. Moore is ever the guardian, watching the darkening way, listening for our song.”—Afaa M. Weaver, Editor of OBSIDIAN II
“John Milton said ‘poetry should be simple, sensuous, and impassioned.’ Cousin Lenard is surely in that tradition of prosody and hope. Read on.”—Michael S. Harper
Lenard D. Moore was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina. After graduating from high school and attending two years of college at Coastal Carolina Community College, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and had basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. He later earned a B.A. from Shaw University, and an M.A. in English and African American Literature from North Carolina A&T State University. Moore is a former Writer-in-Residence for the United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County. He is the founder and executive director of the Carolina African American Writers’ Collective and co-founder of the Washington Street Writers Group. He is President of the Haiku Society of America. He is the founding editor of The CAAWC Newsletter. He also is the executive chairman of the North Carolina Haiku Society. Moore has taught at Enloe High School, North Carolina A&T State University (Greensboro), North Carolina State University (Raleigh) and Shaw University, and now teaches at Mount Olive College, where he is an Assistant Professor of English and directs the MOC Literary Festival and advises The Trojan Voices (former known as The Olive Branch), the MOC literary journal.e. He was also the publicity He lives with his wife in Raleigh, North Carolina. (For more about Lenard Moore go to the Wordtech site listed above.)
The woman in the photo looks like Aunt Muriel: fair-skinned, thin nose, full lips, broad brows, flat forehead, and hair long on both sides but curled at its ends. Her poised body, so full of pride in a house-cleaning world, wears a checkered cotton dress the way Aunt Muriel did. The scene is somber: she is so square to the camera, just right in time’s lilac deepening for claiming kin nearly forgotten.
I like the way you sit: sideways, legs crossed, cotton skirt tight below knobby knees, left hand on the higher knee, and right hand on the chair’s round back.
I like the way you pose: twisted around on the chair, without words; stiff, head tilted towards the left shoulder; no lines, no circles below the eyes.
I like the way you wait: wearing a straw hat ringed with white flowers like it ain’t nobody’s business; lips glossed and puckered as if they were fixed for a kiss; white shirt, matching jacket, sweet baby, as if you were kin to me.
A family of four poses, close enough to keep out light, two girls, little, wholly thin.
Mother smiles, child in lap, rests chin on daughter’s head is unearthly, could praise and sing until notes, one by one, burst plum red.
Father has his right hand on other girl’s shoulder. She leans against her sister whose hands are clasped. Mother leans toward her husband, could take wing.
The man tilts toward his wife, not fully touching; yet, a gleam in their eyes baits and burns out strife.
-------------------------- THE OLD SYCAMORE’S LIMBS
hang over the one-lane road I walk. Leaves lie scattered, wind stirred. Over the rise across the lane: a stand of longleaf pine, spaced just enough to hold ghosts behind an uneven fence.
Up the road, morning light whitewashes everything, creates a brilliant tunnel. I wonder if the road remains a bed for autumn-brown leaves on the daystar’s other side.
No animals, no houses between the pines. Mist settles everywhere. Only the sycamore is old enough to know what might have been. How its curved arms scratch the bright blue sheet of sky, wait for whatever spirit comes to enter its dark rings.
University of Arkansas Press 5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 100 pages $16.00 paper ISBN 978-1-55728-879-0 | 1-55728-879-8
Before the standard Press Biography of Dannye, let me add that she has been one of the guiding lights of Southern Literature for many years. That she is also a writer of stunning poems makes her well-nigh indispensble. She has enriched my life with her energy, her humor, and her flair. I might also say that I envy her shawls! Every poet should have a Dannye shawl, even the guys! KSB
________________________ Dannye Romine Powell is the author of two books of poetry, At Every Wedding Someone Stays Home and The Ecstasy of Regret, both published by the University of Arkansas Press, and Parting the Curtains: Interviews with Southern Writers. The Ecstasy of Regret won the Brockman-Campbell Award and the Oscar Arnold Young Award and was a finalist for the Southeastern Booksellers Association Poetry Award. Powell writes on life in Charlotte and the Carolinas for the local section of the Charlotte Observer. She was the newspaper's book review editor for nearly twenty years.
When He Told Her
and she knew from the beginning he must one day tell her, she thought of that banyan tree -- he would remember the one -- and how over the long years it had fastened itself to the earth and the earth beneath the earth, its long roots once suspended in air now anchoring an orphanage of limbs, the leaves beneath the leaves marshaling the dark, as if to say, Come, I will hold you, you and your tears, so dense was its shade, so bold the branches, so ferociously attached.
You Can’t Write Off the Dead
A friend wrote me off once, as did a cousin, and I was as good as dead to them but infinitely better because I kept my distance. The dead don’t. They’re invasive, like those scilla I’m still digging out of my garden, wheeling the clumps across the street onto city property, where they’ll bloom their blue heads off long after I‘m gone. The dead won’t go across the street. They hate city property. True, you no longer have to trim their thick toenails or yank the stiff hair that grows straight out of the chin. But you remember how you lofted the tweezers to the brazen light, triumphant, while the stunned air radiated pain.
Please click on the following poems to increase their size. Sorry about that.
Staying Blue poems By Gibbons Ruark Retail: $11.75(paper, perfect bound) Publisher's Discount: $11.00 + Free SH (http://www.losthillsbooks.com/book-stayingblue.html)
Go to www.english.udel.edu/ruark/ruarkgen.html for more information on Gibbons Ruark's distinguished career.
Gibbons Ruark's poems have appeared widely for nearly forty years in magazines like Ploughshares, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and Poetry, and in various anthologies and texts. They have also won the poet frequent awards, including three Poetry Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Pushcart Prize. Previously collected in A Program for Survival, Reeds, Keeping Company, Small Rain, Forms of Retrieval, and Rescue the Perishing, seventy of them appear in Passing Through Customs: New and Selected Poems, Louisiana State University Press, 1999.
(Gibbons Ruark is available for public readings. He may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by writing to 1805 Warwood Court, Raleigh, NC 27612.) ____________________________________________________
Words to Accompany a Bunch of Cornflowers
Those beads of lapis, even the classical Blues of dawn, are dimmed by comparison. When I hand you this bunch of cornflowers The only other color in the room Illumines your eyes as you arrange them.
They are the blue reflection of whatever Moves in you, serene as cool water tipped Into crystal, oddly enough the willing bride To a cloudy head of melancholy So deeply blue it could prove musical.
This is the blue John Lee Hooker’s gravelly Voice in the sundown field was looking for. This is the unrequited dream of an iris. Ice blue, spruce blue, little periwinkle blue— Nothing else that dies is exactly so blue.
Little Porch at Night
Pull up a porch chair next to this chaise longue. Tell me the empty dark will fill with voices And talk to me before I end my song.
A summer night, and something has gone wrong To rob the mild air of familiar faces. Pull up a porch chair. Next to this chaise longue
A mother should be standing with her long Hair tucked into a bun. Unwind those tresses And talk to me before I end my song.
That vacant angle where a hammock hung Adopts the whole moon in its loneliness. Pull up a porch chair. Next to this chaise longue.
Summon the fireflies, matches struck and gone, The Morse code of the stars who’ve lost their places, And talk to me before I end my song,
For down there in the shallows should be strung A taut line from a father to the sea he fishes. Pull up a porch chair next to this chaise longue And talk to me before I end my song.
Some things happened every year, no matter what: The air cooled down a little after a storm, The fireflies rose and fell in total silence, Unlike those mournful gnats along the river In that poem the lovelorn teacher read us We were every one too young to understand. The berries fell from the chinaberry tree And left the back yard slithery underfoot. But this was the year of Mama’s polio, The summer when the epidemic kept us On the block, then under the trees, and then, When she came down with it and went away, Behind the head-high railings of the balustrade. Next door was the church, high sunlight angling Through the steeple’s stained glass, unfolding then Like a flickering board game on the floor. I stood on the steps and hollered “Polio!” Then came the parade of openhearted aunts, Spelling each other, stern and sweet by turns, One not caring if we saw her naked, Since we were only children, after all. Beautiful and young, an Army nurse in the war, Milk-pale except for the dark touch here and there, Did I dream she made us buttered toast and eggs Before remembering to put her clothes on? She died in childbirth, fifty years ago, And I have wondered at her all my days. When Mama came home, there was the wheelchair, Strange, like a marvelous oversized toy, And then the crutches and the metal braces. Crutches I knew, big boys with football injuries, But the braces were hinged and ominous, Not Mama’s legs, not anything like them. Only late at night could you not hear her coming. Then she lay down and they were taken off And stood till first light in a bedroom corner Like parts of a skeleton, and she slept As we all did, swimmers floating in a salt pond. In those hours nobody needed to walk, Unless you had to pee or the house caught fire.
I've lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since 1968, though I'm a native of SW Georgia. My paternal grandmother was born in the Blue Ridge, and I grew up wanting to live here. Where I am.
I've published five collections of poetry, the most recent 4 being with LSU Press, and have published poetry in magazines ranging from The Atlantic Monthly to Appalachian Heritage. But I also hike, bang pots and pans around in my kitchen, and love several dogs who leave fur all over my carpets. I write poetry because it's my way of singing back to the world both within and without.