RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—September 25

Della Rowland

 My River, My Flood

The Great Flood of ’37 was lore.
I heard about it from Dad,
how 16 inches of rain in 11 days, then an ice storm and a couple feet of snow
hit Evansville, helplessly tucked up on an oxbow in the Ohio.
The river climbed 19 feet above flood stage to cover 13,000 square miles,
and spread to 25 miles wide at points.
The next year, the dam and locks and levees were built
to keep the river away from the businesses and grand homes downtown
and the shacks along Pigeon Creek.

The family Sunday drives always ended at the floodwall
that stood stout against the waters’ surges,
where the entertainment was watching the river, now in its proper place.
Dad would point out second-story water lines on the McCurdy Hotel,
where coast guard cutters had docked to bring supplies to the stranded.

Dad wasn’t alive in 2018 when we had the wettest February since 1897,
and the river again jumped its banks
just four uphill blocks from his last house in Newburgh,
an antique town five miles from Evansville,
on the high cusp of the oxbow,
where I stay sometimes.
Huge tree trunks churned down stream to the gravel yards,
their roots sticking up in the urgent current, waving like drowning arms
trying to grasp onto one of the coal barges
that trudged up and down, day and night.
The brown water licked the knees of the white stone benches
on the Water Street walkway, and snuck in
the backdoor of the houses built on the view line
to snort at their sump pumps and taste fresh foundations.
I took pictures like a tourist.
I hoped like the devil the drizzle would never let up.

My flood!

A child watches out the front room window of her house,
waiting till the rain lets up to dash out and swish up and down the swollen gutters
after a summer thunderstorm has choked the street drains.
A girl runs through her Grandpa’s vineyard like a wild animal,
wet arms and hair akimbo,
ignoring her Granny’s frantic cries to come inside, to be safe from the lightening.
A high school girl dives off her boyfriend’s family boat
to swim in the muddy current, wearing a new baby blue two-piece swim suit.
Her sister takes a picture of her leaning against the boat’s rail,
jaunty cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth.
A young woman lies under the fall night on the river’s far flood plains with Bud,
who loves her and is dying of leukemia.
Four adult children pour their mother’s ashes into the Pacific.
A woman listens to her father recollect the flood of ’37
and how it tattooed its high watermark on the posh stores
and overturned Posey County farm houses.

I am held by rain, by water, by this river.

After a good month, the 2018 floodwaters in Newburgh settled down,
seeding the banks with driftwood, soggy sneakers, plastic trash.
Fancy homeowners surveyed their optimistic basements and sun decks.
Citizens once more strolled the walkway on Water Street
towing toddlers and dogs,
and teenagers on skateboards swerved between them
wearing blue tooths that drown out the river’s voice.
Then, right before Spring,
one night when the moon was full,
more snow came,
and I wanted the waters to will out once more,
to rise past the moon’s reflection
with a shared resentment for dams and locks,
for things that thwart and interrupt passage from childhood to leaving.
But the river had already gone back to its bed
with not enough snow to entice it to swell up and swallow homes
or revive its appetite for concrete.

O River!  O, wide muddy Ohio!
A little girl sits in the back seat of the family’s Buick
holding a dripping ice cream cone,
watching you flow,
believing you have flowed forever, magically,
with all your gallons.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—September 18

Mark Fogarty


To give her credit, Jessica Lynch said what all survivors
Say: If you’re looking for a hero, don’t look at me.
The Humvee driver, Lori Piestewa, there’s your hero.

Jessica Lynch got all the flash when we raided the hospital
To bust her out: pretty, blonde, fighting for Uncle Sam.
A little polish off the apple when the topless photos came out.
But I think someone who was captured can be a hero, too.
All soldiers take their shirts off on hot days.

I hate wars, but I don’t hate soldiers.

Technically the Hopi, where Piestewa’s people are from,
Doesn’t touch the United States. It is totally surrounded
By the Navajo Nation, both sovereign countries,
Though also part of the U.S. But Indian people
Are touched by something, some fierce love,
That makes them volunteer for our wars in huge numbers.

In the fog of war her convoy got lost. Piestewa drove the Humvee
At high speed, evading murdering fire
Until it was hit by a rocket grenade. Dying,
She was taken prisoner by the Iraqis,
Who declined to operate,
Buried her in a guilty grave behind the hospital.

Piestewa volunteered to serve after 9/11; she left two small children.
America must be great to be loved so well.


Lori Piestewa didn’t make the TV news much,
But she has never been forgotten.
The Hopi and the Navajo, unfriendly neighbors,
Came together to grieve her.

The Hopi is a high place.
I drove there once, from Tuba City on the Navajo,
Where Piestewa grew up in a trailer park, and now is honorably buried.
It is like riding into the sky.
Thin, dry air. Lots of sunshine. Old ways.
Their holy men are consulted on the important things.

So naming a high place after her makes sense.
Piestewa Peak used to be known as Squaw Peak.
Ugly word, it squawks and smears.
Its definition, close as I can tell, is cunt.
We name things Cunt Mountain in our ignorance.

Instead, there is something holy there,
Something more important than a bad desert war.
Lori Piestewa soldiers on against ugliness.

Piestewa Peak is located within the city limits of Phoenix. The latest remembrance of Lori Piestewa came at the 2018 Lori Piestewa Native American Games July 20-22 in Phoenix. Its honorary chair was Jessica Lynch, who frequently comes to events where Piestewa is honored.

GV – It’s Here! Red Wheelbarrow 11 Launching

Front cover_2018-RGB

The Red Wheelbarrow 11 is launching at GainVille Café on Friday, September 28, 2018, an event hosted by Mark Fogarty. Mark hosts the GainVille Cafe reading series and is one of The Red Wheelbarrow’ three managing editors.

The feature at both launches is all the poets we are publishing. As your work is in The Red Wheelbarrow # 11, we would be delighted if you join us and read from your poems that we’ve published.

Each year’s Red Wheelbarrow spotlights and presents an in-depth look at the poetry of one of our community’s members. We are very excited and happy to announce that The Red Wheelbarrow # 11’s featured poet is Jim Klein. It is a delight and a true honor to showcase Jim’s work this year. Jim is a true poetry hero, the father of our Red Wheelbarrow community, and a master poet at the top of his game.

An $9 cover includes coffee/tea, dessert.

7 PM, GainVille Café
17 Ames Avenue

RWB Workshop Poem of the Week— September 11

John Barrale

The August Moon—

I am an old man
with old man eyes
and a flashlight.

I point the beam
on the tall grass

hoping to see
where the grasshopper sits
and plays.

I’d give all my nickels
to find him.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—September 4

Poem of the Week 09/04/18

God Give Me Strength!

Janet Kolstein

Sometimes, my mother stood
in the gap
between the counter and the cabinets,
pulling the sun-dried laundry
in through the window.

The pulley and the clothesline
chirped like the birds in our fold.

Before my double-paned glass,
I face a wider scene.

But, high above the telephone poles,
the trees, the pools,
and the flat tops of roofs,
I hear no birdsong.

I see my mother rolling dough for a pie,
standing at the stove, a wooden spoon in her hand,
and through the chaos of five kids,
surviving the wild years.

In defense against the siege,
she implored the Lord,
God give me strength!

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WCW-Roger Sedarat

Williams Readings-Sept2018.indd

September is National Translation Month! Join us at the Williams Center to celebrate. Our feature this month is the Iranian-American poet and translator Roger Sedarat who will present a dramatic performance based on his recent poetry collection Haji as Puppet: an Orientalist Burlesque, which interrogates and challenges the western gaze toward the Middle East.

For over 15 years, Sedarat has been performing poetry and translation as Haji, a Persian punk persona based on the 19th century stereotypical picaresque British novel The Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan by J.J. Morier. The translation backstory of this novel has real relevance to Sedarat’s Haji project. The first translator to bring this novel into Persian actually re-appropriated some of the Orientalist depictions. To this end, with Haji, Sedarat attempts to expose American assumptions of Iran and the Middle East. This promises to be a fun and memorable show not to be missed!


“Not since Ali Hakim, the Persian peddler in Oklahoma!has a minor Middle Eastern character lit up the grand stage.
—Roger Ailes, Former Fox News Chief

“Heh heh heh. Heck of a show!”—George W. Bush, Former American President

“O, O, O, that Rumi rag. It’s so erotic. So exotic!”—Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran

“With so much trouble in the region, it’s great to let go and laugh at it all.”—Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State

Join us on Wednesday, September 5, 2018, 7:00 PM at the William Carlos Williams Center, One Williams Plaza in Rutherford NJ.

Admission is free and there is an open mic with generous reading times.

RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—July 24

Poem of the Week 7/24/18

Della Rowland


A plane bound for Teterboro airport may someday crash into my backyard,
onto my house, onto me and the cat,
onto the dense line of trees that forms the back property line
and the north-east corner where the picnic table and grill sit on the patio,
onto the side porch of the house, with steps
going down either side to both front and back yards,

which on that day will be in flames.

The white plastic fences, guaranteed for a lifetime, no painting required ever,
will melt,
curve concavely, coquettishly into my yard,
fold neatly into the burning fuselage,
which will blaze brightly,
as suddenly splendid as lighter fluid on charcoal
when a wooden strike-anywhere match
swiped across patio slate is thrown into the barbeque grill.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—July 17

Poem of the Week   7/17/2018

Don Zirilli

A Message from Me and My Care Provider to All the Romeos

Dear broken jar of honey,
I’m writing from the savage sting
reflected in your cracking glass.

Dear desperate bugs

lighting up July,
my fireworks are all prescribed.

Dear love-starved wanderer,
I wrote the recipe for your tears.
I made them taste like ocean.

Dear empty room with slashing light,
I’ve got no space for cribs,
no paint for rainbows.

I’m a doctor of remaining.
My bedside manner
burned the beds.

Dear hands-on Casanova,
when you find out what it really means
to walk on air,

you’ll hold me as tightly as I hold you.

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