Leo Tolstoy

 

Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”

Leo Tolstoy

I am Homeland

I am Homeland
Twelve Korean-American Poets
Edited by Yearn Hong Choi
New from Poetic Matrix Press
Available on our website

By Doo Hyun Chung

An Empty Tomb

In the midst of fire shell of the Korean War,
Vanished

My father, missing
No traces to his death

My mother,
Her husband,
Built a tomb for her husband’s missing
Or death
Without his remains or ash

That was her last dedication to her beloved husband

Buried in the empty grave of my father,
The last scene of his back walking out

Inside the empty grave,
Echoes of his last footsteps in October 1950

She passed away, and so
Passed an ideological war of one generation

Do not say, it
is empty  Never

Never, never, never

Doo Hyun Chung is a medical doctor (radiologist) in Maryland.  Poet, painter and sculptor.  His poetry book is Reincarnation of Budapest (in Korean).  He received the Overseas Poet Award from the Yoon Dong-ju Memorial Group in Seoul.

Poems by James B. Nicola

Touch Red

 
Touch red
Ouch
Touching red is like knowing you
But can you touch red at all?
 
Is it the red of the red
            Or the red of the thing
That makes touching red
            Touching red?
 
The bright and the blare
            And the brass and the boom
And the bomb are like
            Knowing you.
 
Is it the feel of the red
            Or the feel of the sting
That makes knowing you
            Touching red?
 
I don’t know
So I burn
Touching you
 
Touching red.

If I had x-ray vision

 
If I had x-ray vision
     I’d see
in the sea of souls
 
like whitecaps in the glitter of the sun
     but glimmering through the surface
from the depths
 
hearts
 
 
hungry as a field
     of blood-red
poppies.
 
 
But I don’t
     and so attend
this grand chorale
 
of mouths agape
     red as rows of
poppies, and—
 
listen
James B. Nicola, winner of three poetry awards and a Pushcart and Rhysling nominee, has published almost 400 poems in Poetic Matrix, Atlanta Review, Tar River, Texas Review, &c. A Yale grad and stage director by profession, his book Playing the Audience won a Choice Award. First full-length collection: Manhattan Plaza scheduled for 2014.
 

Poems by Erren Geraud Kelly

Buffalo Girl (Annie)

Knew a chic named Annie
Who wrote poetry
Later taught herself to play
Guitar and discovered she was
Pretty good at it
I met her in a coffeehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
One night, when I was reading
And looking to score some
Boodah
Annie told me she left
Buffalo because living there
Was like slow death
And the factories made
Ya old
Before your time
Annie’s face was a map of
Sicily
Her eyes like dark
Olives
You couldn’t stop looking at her
Her mother was 100 percent
Sicilian
Annie hated being pretty
And did things purposely
To make herself look plain
She didn’t want guys lookin’
At her
She said she wanted to be
More than just a pretty
Face
Annie would dress down sometimes
Wouldn’t wear any make up
But her Sicilian face didn’t
Really need it
Annie used to joke
If I broke her heart, one of her uncles
Would break my legs
But she gave her love freely like the
Wind
Didn’t matter if it was a man or a woman
A lover was a lover to her
Once, Annie showed me her breasts
In a private spot
At the Brooklyn botanical gardens
They were the size of honeydew
Melons
I nearly fainted
She joked they were her best features
They were her calling card

Her songs were protest songs
Which was to be expected of
Folk songs
And it’s always weird
To see white people
Rage against the machine
When they are the machine
“But Italians aren’t really white,”
Annie said
Annie was always trying to get
Me to come to the Communist
Party meetings
I would always refuse
I’m not patriotic, but I’m not an extremist
I’m for nothing, I’m against nothing
I fight only for the things that matter
To me
But I think Annie was about sex
More than anything else
She believed those myths about brothas

Annie started out by selling cd’s on her website
She figured came out better
Than being on a major label
She had more control
And made more money

The way Annie and I
Broke up was absurd, comic maybe
Things had been tense between us
The last few weeks
We got into a fight at a Chinese resteraunt
And I accidentally knocked a
Glass of water over
She started screaming something
In Italian
And then stormed out

I never saw Annie again after
That

A friend told me Annie had
Looked up an ex boyfriend
And wanted to play rerun
Again
I think Annie just wanted to do the “rock star“
Thing
And she didn’t want to deal
With a nobody
Or maybe I was just a rebound fling
Something to help her get her self esteem
Back?
I hear her albums from time to time
She’s come along way
From the coffeehouses in Brooklyn
But I’m always cautious
Of olive-eyed Sicilian women
Who give their
Love like the
Wind

Shoulder length and longer

If a woman’s hair
Could be a flag
Hers would be the
Freak flag jimi
Sung about so proudly
Her hair would be the
Star-spangled banner
On steroids
Her hair doesn’t scream
“fuck you” so much
As proclaims
“this is me, deal with it”
Like she stole a peacock’s attitude
And co-opted it
All those long brown locks
Are the united states of
Her

Ebony Body

She chills to pac p biggie bone
Because black pride is a special thing
And aping one’s culture
Makes her feel less guilty about her
Own
She is rail thin stocky pleasantly
Plump
Around the middle sometimes
Down home pail with freckles
Rarely Hollywood tan
Maybe new England alabaster
Just enough accents around the breasts and hip
To make a brother get his game
Tight
Get him thinking about getting in that wet
A mutation god never finished
She’s down (some say she’s dumb
Say it’s more hip to be square
But she’s a square peg
In a round-holed world
God never got around to finishing
Her properly
Ebony soul trapped in a white body

Fourth Of July

i don’t know
what the crowd
watched more
the fireworks:

or me

in my danger
educated blackman
t-shirt

exotic

“you’re not really exotic anymore,” she told me
“there’s nothing about you
that’s unique or marketable.
your only real talent is
you know how to work
a cliche.”

“angry black poets are a dime a dozen
these days and the ‘victim’ schtick
is getting old.”

but that was what i always wanted:

to be black on my own terms
not be a black man the way the whites
or blacks
wanted me to be
but be a black man in my own way
i’ll never be a prisoner
to anyone’s stereotype
or be confined to a fill-in-the-blank
on an application

so, if you’re offended
that i like “catcher in the rye”
more than “the autobiography of malcolm x,”
too damn bad

if you’re pissed off cos
bach, rachmaninoff and bob dylan
move me as much as miles, jay-z and al green
i have no apologies

i’m nobody’s black man but me

What Use Is Poetry?

I found this article recently and it seemed to speak to what we as poets might be up to even though we often don’t know what we are up to and may not even understand our own words until sometime later.  I offer it and elicit your comments.  There might be something here that is important, maybe.   John

 

worldliteraturetoday.org

by Meena Alexander

In an address to the Yale Political Union on April 23, 2013, Meena Alexander began with a line from Shelley’s 1821 essay, “A Defence of Poetry.” The… Continue Reading »

In Malala’s Spring Dream – Lyn Lifshin

In Malala’s Spring Dream

the pond is a
dark blossom
unfolding. If she
were to move to
the window in the
dream, there
would be white
lilies thru blinds,
suspended
instead of a
moon.
Fog lips on roots
and willows
filtering into
dreams of swans.
The light polishing
water, connecting
what was behind
her to what’s
ahead

 
 
Lyn Lifshin is a prolific poet sometimes know as the Queen of Small Press poetry. Poetic Matrix Press published her 2010 book Katrina. This poem is excerpted from her upcoming volume, Malala.

When I was Young and Proud – Raphael Block

When I was Young and Proud

 
When I was young and proud
   owner of a lawn
      it would have caused offense.
But now, singing dandelions
   innocently declare summer’s height
      while couched between
thrive purple petaled lights—
   morning glory untouched
      by the whirring blade of notions
for Queen Anne’s lace
   and soft bare feet
      to sink and rise
with violet-green swallows’
      first chirruping flights.

 
 
Raphael Block is a poet living just outside of beautiful Sebastopol, California, north of San Francisco. This poem is from his book, Spangling Darkness, which is being published as part of our Spring 2013 Season of Poetry.

Men and Women I’ve Kissed – Brandon Cesmat

Men and Women I’ve Kissed

Sometime during my second year at college, Eva comes to a party
    at our apartment while her boyfriend was studying.
    I fall behind the couch and she falls on top of me.
    When I leave school at the end of the semester,
    I fail several ways.

Grampy sat in his car at my freshman football practice
    while he was out of the hospital for two weeks.
    On the way to the locker room, I leaned in his window
    to kiss his cheek. The guys, sweaty and winded in pads,
    just carried their helmets around us.
    He passed during wrestling season.

In kindergarten, I had a crush on Julie Snyder,
    who lived down a ranch road on the way to our house.
    She and her mother wore white go-go boots
    like Goldie Hawn’s on the forbidden “Laugh-in,”
    which I watched while hidden behind the couch.
    Mom said Julie’s parents were hippies and
    wasn’t surprised when they divorced.
    Julie moved away with her mother. In our class photo
    she stood between Alfonso Ruiz and Ricky Bradley whom
    I couldn’t help kiss
    as I kissed her when no one was looking.

“When I get old,” I ask my youngest son, “will you still kiss me?”
    Without taking his arms from around my neck,
    he says, “You’re old now.”

When my sons are in grade school, Grandma takes me to lunch
    to tell me, no matter what my father says,
    ”You can come to my house anytime.”
    She holds my arm on the way to her car and tells
    about a kid hitting him in the head with a board.
    When we kiss good-bye, she cries and
    says, “Be kind to him.”

The more seniors who graduate, the better an underclassman’s chances
    of getting a girlfriend. One February night in my junior year,
    Andrea and I sat at the lifeguard stand at Little Solana,
    high winter tides on the bluff below.
    Soft kisses, gentle on her braces that a moment later
    hooked on my sweater.

On the chair in my dorm at College of the Siskiyous,
    a pink ribbon and a note:
    ”Bring this back to me if you want. Monica.”

It was two summers before I would have a driver’s license.
    I spent July at my Aunt’s on Mission Bay but
    not with my Aunt. Under the diving barge,
    I held onto a crossbeam and Shira held on to me,
    her legs wrapped around me under the water.
    Her older sister swam out and said
    her father would kill me if
    he could swim.
    Shira spent the rest of the day on the beach,
    crying on a blanket with him.
    had a mustache like Omar Shariff’s.
    I stayed in the water up to my knees until they left.

Brandon Cesmat is a poet, teacher, and musician living in San Diego County, CA. He is active in California Poets in the Schools, and has won two San Diego Book Awards for poetry – in 2003 for Driven into the Shade, and in 2010 for Light in All Directions, from which this poem is taken. Both were published by Poetic Matrix Press.

From the Empress Hsi-Ling-Shi – Joseph Zacardi

From the Empress Hsi-Ling-Shi

The mulberries will soon bear white fruit.
On thin branches silkworms
feed on heartshaped leaves.
In early summer they will spin their silken
threads, spin silk threads as a gift.
We will take the coccoons, boil them,
and after throwing, weave fine coats,
embroider them, wear all the colors
of snapdragons, chrysanthemums.
In the court of the Yellow Emperor.
In the court of the Red Emperor.

 

Joseph Zacardi is a poet living in Fairfax, CA, where he is the associate editor of the Marin Poetry Center Anthology. His 2009 book, Render, was published by Poetic Matrix Press.

Kings River Canyon – Joe Milosch

Kings River Canyon

This old, bald pine has to know it’s dying.
Maybe it over heard the whispers
of evergreens, growing on these
glacier-sheered cliffs, or maybe
the pine knows it intuitively
as it knows yearly it has to manage
to squeeze out a thin ring
between heart and bark.

Only in the middle does this
old tree show any green.
The top ten feet are marked
entirely by dead branches.
In the lower twenty feet,
bees nest in a charcoal scar
from an old fire.

They form a blossom, brushing
back a ribbon of sunshine
that threads itself through
shade and ground fog.
At its base squirrels abandon
old tunnels to dig new ones. Yet,
this tree still roots down in the face
of winter, in the face of a spring thaw.

In the grip of summer’s
morning breeze, it creeks
as it stands solitary and cinctured
by a semi-circle of saplings
too supple to creak.

 

Joe Milosch is a retired highway inspector and MFA-trained poet. His 2005 book, The Lost Pilgrimage Poems, was published by Poetic Matrix Press. His upcoming volume, Landscape of Hummingbird and Woman, will be published as part of our Summer 2013 Season of Poetry. This piece is a selection from that manuscript.