Archive for the ‘Poem of the Week’ Category


RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—August 13

August 14, 2019

Arthur Russell

The Harmonica

In this poem, my mother is my mother,
and the harmonica is the Hohner 
chromatic harmonica she’d been saving 
to give me on the last night of Hanukah.

The candles in this poem are the multi-colored,
crayon-shaped candles I arranged 
in the menorah so the colors went 
blue, white, yellow, blue, white, 
with a white one slightly higher than the rest,
in the menorah
on the white Formica countertop
in our kitchen when I was sixteen,

and the flames in this poem
are the flames on those candles,
the tallow-smelling yellow, black, 
and orange flames 
I’d lit after saying the prayers,
and really, it’s the flames
that connect us to the distant past.  

The underwear in this poem
is the pack of white Hanes briefs
wrapped in holiday paper
that my mother excused herself
a moment to bring in 
through the dining room door
as her gift to me 
on the fifth night of Hanukah.

The tantrum in this poem
is the fit I pitched when 
I unwrapped the underwear,
one of the first in a line of angry fits
I pitched at her from 
time to time through 
youth, adulthood, and marriage,
through her own widowhood,
until she died forty-five years later.

Any effort to reconstruct
the logic of any of those fits
would be embarrassing,
and I’d be happy
to be embarrassed that way 
if I could remember the logic,
by which I mean the trigger,
but all that’s left in memory
are the fits I’d pitch
and the knowledge 
that whatever caused them 
still lives in me like a cramp.

The stairs in this poem 
are the beige, carpeted stairs
my mother ran up to get the harmonica, 
frightened, maybe panicked,
by that young male anger. 
Who knows what she thought of, 
who she remembered,
what fears of her own were triggered
by my meltdown, 
maybe as far back as Brighton Beach
and the chaos of her own teen years,
the brutal anger of boys and men,
even though I can’t see my grandfather among them, 
maybe only as far back as my father’s
secret, bully machismo, hidden under that calm
undertone I heard coming from their room next to mine
the nights when he didn’t get what he wanted
and her whispered entreaties broke into shouted “no.”

She ran to get the harmonica, 
but only in the way that she would run 
to get a towel if a pipe burst,
panicked and calm,
and handed it to me.

The peace in this poem is the peace 
that overwhelmed my anger 
when I held the harmonica in my hands,
a peace as deep as morphine 
it was, and, for that moment,
and, maybe for the last time,
it brought me all the way back
to loving her.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—August 6

August 7, 2019

Zorida Mohammed


I was coming up for air
from the loss of my mother,
when Pretty Boy, my pup
chased some sparrows into the street.

Dinner plate hibiscus were in full bloom
when my spritely boy laid motionless in the street.
I covered him with pink blossoms
before I covered him with earth in the backyard.

The dogwood seems to begin turning
color earlier and earlier each year— 
the nondescript brown, 
like a parasite, overnight
on the green leaves.

Tending the garden beds,
grown so wild and prolific,
it prompted a gardening friend 
to blurt, “Lowe’s has got nothing on you.”

August is a weighty month.
Even perfect days are overlaid with lack luster.
Nothing, no thing counterweights
the weight of August.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—July 30

July 31, 2019

Frank Rubino

Changing a Battery

My brother-in-law Laszlo who was the family engineer
and Hungarian, rewired our furnace ignition during Hurricane Sandy.
Working with laconic deliberation, 
connecting the leads with his needle-nose pliers 
and voltage gauge according to the rehearsed steps in his mind, 
he reconfigured our ignition switch to draw power not from the dead house feed,
whose riverside PSE&G sub-station transformer the Passaic had flooded,
but from a green extension cord he passed through the basement window. 
I daisy-chained it to my other cords from Christmas to reach across the street. 
The guy who lived there, Dr. Paul Wicherburn, 
suffered from a degenerative nerve disease
that was killing him over a ten year period,
but he was out of his wheelchair, 
and walked around back through the snow 
to show me where to plug into his generator 
to ignite my furnace and warm my house. 
A few days later, more snow fell, 
and the township plowed the street, 
ripping out Laszlo’s extension cord,
and inside our house it was cold again. 
We felt like squatters, running the dark hallways in our headlamps and parkas, 
and saw our breath indoors, and felt the itch of our armpits in our dirty clothes.

I figured my son’s no-start was connected 
to the alternator they had replaced 
without analyzing the root cause. 
When we popped open his hood, 
his battery looked shot, 
with sea-green corrosive salt crusting the posts. 

In my derelict Mazda was a new battery, 
and we could swap it into my son’s car, 
and we would start his car 
without bothering his Uncle Laszlo for once.
We had to knock all the corrosion off with a wrench,
and hope the nuts weren’t locked in with rust,
and hoist it out of the compartment 
to make room for the replacement, 

and it was then that my son’s great strength, 
his wide shoulders and broad chest,
filled me with gratitude for his youth, 
and I stopped faulting him 
for all the damages he had done to our various cars,
among which had been the disastrous 
front-lawn off-roading that left my Mazda 
with no working capacity except its battery charge. 

With his vigor, he extracted his dead battery— 
a fifty pounder shoed-in with a hidden bracket— 
and thudded it into the curb grass 
in front of Dr. Paul Wicherburn’s house, 
where we happened to be working,
as it had been a convenient place to roll 
his disabled vehicle in neutral— him pushing,
me steering. 

When his disease finally did kill him,
Paul’s wife, Molly, told me that Paul 
had loved to watch our family’s antics
on bad days, through the window, 
from his wheelchair.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—July 23

July 25, 2019

Marc Pollifrone
the transorbital mustang

into fine lines of unfocused un-finite
hurling towards we are not
we are knodding on ether

how withers hastened
how lies too lest asleep
how much north matters
even yellow can pray
remember the brightly pink shaking
remember the some some of dreams is drenched
drenched in the squeaks of souls
in hallways of every waiting waiting
for the evisceration of weighting

it is always there
to hang you
in the fishing
of your leathers

drinkable on side tables
from the
fifties people call you
about gluten but not about toe nail clippers

remember milkshakes
mausoleums marooned on the
dastardly side table things

in time find stares at the belly of 
mad mad
visage softly softly the crane sleeps
sleeps about midnight sugar coaxers
of incongruent powders from latrine sunsets

only light is pink
when you speak
of birthdays birthdays of all things birthdays


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—July 15

July 17, 2019

Arthur Russell
That Couple the News Had Followed

I saw us as that couple the news had followed 
during the seven years it took the wife to descend
from adorable goofball to a head slumped in the wheelchair. 

I thought of us when the cameras found him 
on the sofa’s edge admitting he wasn’t up  
to staying with her till the end. He was haggard. 

He lowered his voice so she wouldn’t hear. 
She was in the kitchen, at the Formica table, 
sitting on a metal tube kitchen chair 

with a vinyl seat cover and furniture tacks. 
She had a terrycloth bathrobe on. The collar
was up, so she looked elegant gazing at the sink. 

I love you just like that, that much, that broken way. 


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—July 9

July 11, 2019

Zorida Mohammed
The Spirit of the Pines Still Haunts Me

I first set eyes on the two pines
in their adolescence.
They were so robust and so ferny and green.

They kept pushing upward
at such a rapid rate
I could almost see them grow.

The two pines became part of my woodwork,
always in the background of my daily life.
They billowed out, taking up a large space
on the ground and against the sky.
They seemed determined to poke a hole
in the sky.

They kept me company
when I made my 2 a.m. pee.
Avert my eyes upward, out the bathroom window,
and there they were,
always waiting, always welcoming.

Then came the gnawing drone of saws —
saws are always droning in the neighborhood.
The sound went on for two days.
First, the pines were defrocked of all the branches.
The two giants with their fresh wounds stood
as if in the town square, denuded and ashamed.
I could bear to look no more.

When my eyes did fall on that spot in the open sky,
phantom pines appeared and melted in my eyes.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—July 2

July 3, 2019


Whenever you talk about stable housing,

I think of horses, she says.

When my mother was my age,

She used to break horses on the res,

What a badass! I could do it, too, bareback.

You make friends with the horse first,

She’s cantering around, spooked,

You whisper in her ear how beautiful she is,

She with her straight hair and you with your angled,

You lean your hair against hers, and she knows.

You ask her permission to swing up on top,

Feel the rocket strength of her between your legs

Where I am strong, too, where I carry my people’s beauty.

Then you grab her by the mane

And ride, fast, through the long, green grass of the res.

And then you slow, slow until it’s logical to get down again.

Except for the horseshit, she says, I don’t think I would mind stable housing.


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