Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category


RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Apr 9

April 12, 2019

Della Rowland

Pork Pie Hats            

We are all wearing knotted neckties and porkpie hats in the photograph,
very butch.
We are in the subway.  No flash, TriX pushed to 800
like Garry Winogrand and I’m Garry taking the shot
because I’m not in it,
just Louise, in the foreground, half turned to the camera,
her cheekbones, sharp as a cattle catcher, slightly blurred,
and Catherine, in soft focus, as she always liked, the gentle lighting,
her mouth pursed in a pithy comment, looking sideways
at Erin, who is pulling down the brim of her hat
to hide a cigarette.
God, did we know how to smoke then,
how to make the most of every cigarette gesture,
when and how long to take to light one up,
to take a draw, to blow the smoke out of our mouths
or let it drift up and out the nostrils,
very French,
how to use the cinder-tipped white wand like a conductor before sex
and stand behind the swirl of smoke like in b/w movies,
like in b/w film, TriX pushed to 800 to have natural light in subways
or dim, loud clubs, light natural so you could hear the glasses clink
or the silk lining in a jacket swish.

I found Erin again, some 20 years after she lost her accounting business to coke
and married Flora, a photographer.
Louise stopped sculpting and stopped talking to Erin and Catherine
and sometimes me, for ten years once, but always to Brigit,
who wasn’t with us.
Catherine, a designer, talks to everyone.

Where were we going on the subway? Max’s Kansas City?  Jimmy Days?
A party uptown at Brigit’s?  She rented two apartments
and removed the wall between.  Were we high already?
The only time I danced after eighth grade was at Brigit’s parties.
Maybe we were going to a play? We went to a lot of plays when they were cheaper.
We saw Langella in “Dracula” and had to run out to the lobby
at intermission to smoke and stroke our necks, he was so sexy.
Did we just have to ride the Staten Island Ferry to see some horizon?
Mid-westerners need that once in a while after moving to The City.
If we were going to Chinatown, we’d have already been to a club
and we’re headed downtown for chow fun
in our thrift store jackets, knotted neckties, and porkpie hats.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Apr 2

April 3, 2019

Claudia Serea

When I got back from the Gulag, my father says

I was so skinny,
skinnier than a thread through
a needle,

almost a fold of air,
a shadow,
a soft cough.

We were let out by the thousands:

a sudden call,
here are your belongings,
sign here,
a pressed button,
the open gate.

I walked slowly
as if still shackled,
startled by dogs
and any noise.

Through the train window,
I looked at the world, wondering
if anyone knew where I come from,
if they would let me back in.

I had no illusions:
they wouldn’t.

When I got back to my mother’s house,
I scared her more than any ghost.

She rushed to cook,
but I refused the food.

For days, I laid in the shade,
trying to forget what I’ve seen,

those hands,
those desperate eyes,
those semi-human beings,
so starved,
they risked being shot
for a watermelon rind
picked up from garbage.

I couldn’t tell my mother
why I couldn’t eat.

I just wanted to sleep
without being chased
by German shepherds,

and caught,
and brought back
each night.

I just wanted to sleep,
hidden in a crease of earth,
curl in the ground like a pebble
and forget.

I wanted rain to fall over me,
and leaves,
and snow.

I just wanted
to be forgotten.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Mar 19

March 28, 2019

Bobbie O’Connor

Maywood Memories

It wasn’t illegal to burn leaves
or have open fires, back then.

Every once in a while,
we’d rake up a huge pile of leaves
from our big oak trees on Fairmount Ave.

We’d bring them
to the end of the dirt driveway,
on the Coles Street side:
no sidewalks there.

The grownups would light the leaves
for a big bonfire.
It was usually early evening.

The neighborhood kids
would begin congregating there.

Soon, a few of the moms
would appear with lawn chairs,
one or two with a cup of coffee.
A couple of dads would meander over.

Someone would show up with a few hotdogs,
and some would bring marshmallows.

Quite a few would disappear
and be back shortly with a couple of potatoes,
which they’d stuff into the leaves
around the base of the fire, to bake.

The grownups would sit around,
talking a little.
We kids would hang around,
poking the leaves with sticks,
listening to the grownups talk.

Every so often, an acorn would pop.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Mar 19

March 20, 2019

Mark Fogarty


5. Warm

It’s warm in my house, overwarm even.

That makes me remember the raw day we visited the Wilson Ranch.
The Wilson Ranch is where Wovoka lived in Nevada
as a boy, under the Christian name Jack Wilson.
It was so generous warm in the sitting room I commented on it.

“The ranch is always warm,” said the lady of the house.
“I attribute that to Wovoka having lived here.”
Jack Wilson had lived at the ranch more than one hundred years before,
a long time to keep a place warm.
From there he proved out to be Wovoka, a great medicine man, a rain maker,
a bit of a trickster wearing a big hat until struck by a dream
that made believers call him the Messiah.
People came from all over to his part of Nevada to see him,
even me, eventually. They brought back his prayer dance to where
the soldiers gunned down his dreamers at Wounded Knee,
false-gold soldiers scared by a dream
that joined the Native and the Christian soul so beautifully.

They couldn’t tell it was a miraculous dream rather than a war dream.
Twenty of the soldier-butchers won the Medal of Honor.

The buffalo have come back, I have seen them,
he didn’t misdream that. His ghost dance
may be used again, some day. The great flood Wovoka saw,
to carry off the base invaders, to bring back the ancestors,
could happen any year now, with the climate change.
Maybe we should dance to ward it off,
feet bloody in the snow until we fall down spent.
Maybe that devotion would save the world we have,
that is on the point of ending as surely as the one the Indians knew.

I think we should; I think we should pray.
I should like to see my mother again. I should like to see my father.

They say if you looked inside Wovoka’s hat,
you could see the entire universe.
I don’t think he was bogus,
though he might have seeded the trees with ice
before he made the rain fall.
I can say I will call a white horse
down from the mountain, as he did,
but I don’t know if one will come, as one came to him.
I have felt his warmth one hundred years later,
a miracle if you like, and I take my hat off to him.
White horse, white horse. That
was a powerful dream, a warm dream for a cold day,
a dream that would make us all one people.

It is sleepy warm in my house this morning.
But that’s from the radiators, not me.

Maybe God is a magic God, a trickster God,
who zaps us with dreams so vivid
we rise into the air and know our true purpose. Maybe he likes
white horses and the warmth
of an oasis in the Nevada desert.
Maybe creation is only clear when we dance.
Maybe the old people do come back, and see through our eyes.


The Paiute medicine man Wovoka (ca. 1856-1932) had an apocalyptic vision in Nevada around New Year’s Day, 1889, inspiring the Ghost Dance religion which spread rapidly through the indigenous tribes of the West until its Lakota adherents were gunned down in the Wounded Knee, SD massacre of Dec. 29, 1890. The frenzied devotional dancing of the Indians made authorities believe they were planning an outbreak of hostilities. Wovoka (the name means “cutter” or “woodcutter” in Paiute), was also called by his Christian name, Jack Wilson, and was often referred to as the Paiute Messiah because he believed the proper performance of the Ghost Dance would resurrect the ancestors of the Native peoples. He is remembered by modern Paiute as a transformational holy man, and the Ghost Dance remains one of the most powerful manifestations of religious spirit ever seen on this continent. I once had the honor of hearing his granddaughter sing songs Wovoka taught her when she was a little girl.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Mar 12

March 14, 2019

Janet Kolstein

Uber Man

Perhaps he wasn’t expecting
a woman in a wheelchair,
a puffy down coat thrown over
a pair of burgundy-red
plaid pajamas.

Leaden sky above, Hudson to the East;
it was a quick lift, a half-mile up the street.

The Uber driver could not read the sign
that said “Ambulences Only,”
and so he tried to decipher
the esoteric code for the keyboard
on the wall by the doors
which, of course,
would not open.

“Around the corner,” the ailing woman
repeated and repeated,
“Pull around the corner,” she said,
hand gestures and all,

so, he got back in the car
and drove to the other
“Emergency Entrance”
where he kindly offered
to wheel his fare
up the slight incline
which, at first,
she thought to decline,
not wanting to be
a bother.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Mar 5

March 6, 2019

Claudia Serea

The clarinet

When my grandfather walked into the room,
shorter and much older
than I remembered him,
playing the clarinet
with a group of musicians,

I was cooking six large mums
in a sweet and sour heart sauce.

I couldn’t see their faces
obscured by their woodwind
and brass instruments,
fat saxophones,
oboes, and duduks,
trumpets, trombones, and tubas,
gleaming like gold teeth.

When did you learn to play the clarinet?
I asked,
but he didn’t answer.

I served him the mums
and the bleeding hearts
and went outside to hang
silhouettes of unborn children
on the clothesline.

It was early spring,
freezing and raw.

My grandfather and the musicians
played their wind instruments
at the funeral of the century

and walked slowly over the hill
behind the truck with the coffins
until they disappeared.

Only the clarinet kept wailing
in the cold wind.


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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Feb 26

February 27, 2019

Don Zirilli

Several Well-Marked Colors Are Commonly Seen in Zinnias

for Mike O’Brien
“Thoughts of absent friends.” -Language of Flowers, 1884

White. Not just you, your knowledge, gone.
That’s why most of history’s pages are blank.
Sulfur. That’s why cities burn more than once.
Yellow. You’ve sunk below the horizon
and your night is permanently affixed
to my calendar. Golden yellow. All I have
is a counterfeit of you, forged
by my unlawful mind, but I know its value
more dearly than I knew yours. Orange.
I have a sphere of cloves. The fruit they pierced
disappeared as secretly as years. Scarlet-Orange.
It was like a slow embarrassment:
your blush took months. Scarlet.
Imagine how silly a volcano looks
to its mountain peers. Flesh-Color.
The twinkle in your eye was really
the achievement of your entire face. Lilac.
Hanging dangerously over a railing to photograph
a hummingbird moth, but that’s just a story
I heard about you, and I’m the moth,
dumbly hovering, imitating a grander species.
Rose.You preferred sauvignon blanc.
Magenta. But you were a passionate barrel,
while I can’t get myself out of the car
to see your body. Crimson. A man is just
a highway for his blood, an oxygen parade.
Violet. I don’t want to see your closed eyes in a face
with no fat or fluff. Let’s just plant you already,
please. Purple. We’ll never know how Alexander
conquered all those countries. No one
will ever make your chili. Dark Purple.
I miss you so much it’s like I’ve already lived
the rest of my life without you.


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