Archive for the ‘Poets’ Category


RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Mar 28

March 30, 2017

Poem of the Week 3/28/2017

Janet Kolstein

The Bright and Shadow Years

When The City was new to me,
I swung Chagall-like through the streets,
coffee shops, nightclubs,
and one-of-a-kind boutiques,
as if strangers were accessories
to my fantasy.

Sometimes, I was a lonely mouse
in a Twinkie factory,
hustling around the pine floors
for crumbs and a foothold
in the post-industrial door.

I had to find a job, a new job,
a society of apple-picking experts,
a hand-painted company of cards,
an historic date, fleshy and ripe.

Dirty pay phones reached their pinnacle.
Go-sees and meet me’s
with cherry-red canticles,
the libertine’s sewer breath
perfumed as ambition.

Invaders flashing smiles
were unsure of what to do,
leaning into the gilded lanes
on the oily fluid of rapid change.

How is it after years spent running
for a bus, a taxi, a subway,
a dollar, a dime, a dream,
I finally became concerned
with the pace of my slow ascent,
and barely even made a dent
in the vaulted ceiling.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Mar 21

March 23, 2017

Poem of the Week 3/21/2017

Stuart Leonard

Rite of Passage

The day after my Bar Mitzah, my father took me
to the Sunday morning meeting of the men’s club
at our temple, Shomrei Torah.

I was a man. A short, skinny, squeaky-voiced man
who joined the jovial wise-cracking elders
in a feast of bagels, lox, smoked whitefish,
and pickled herring in cream.

We stuffed our faces while they discussed
the spring trip to a Yankees’ game,
which turned into a debate over who
was the greatest Yankee ever.

I stole away to the synagogue,
where, the day before, I chanted Kings 3:16
in Hebrew, without screwing up.
The great rite of passage fulfilled,
the rest of life seemed to wait
for me to stroll on through.

The big wooden doors
opened into the dark sanctuary.
Daniel Abramowitz, the liquor salesman
who lived around the corner from us,
came out of the shadows.

He walked up to the bema, his head bowed, whispering.
The glow from the eternal flame
flickered around him.

I was glad he did not see me,
and ashamed that I was glad.

He was one of those my parents talked about
with a hushed reverence, a survivor
of that terrible thing I was just coming to understand.

I was afraid of them, these survivors,
whose presence seemed immense and holy,
the Holocaust alive inside them.

He turned and walked down the aisle,
saw me there, and my eyes met his.
Sitting down beside me, he smiled,
and patted my cheek.

That was the first time I realized
a smile could be sad.
So you are a man today – he said
– Do you feel like a man?
I looked down, and shook my head.
Nothing had really changed, except
I could read from the Torah,
which, as it turned out,
I never did again.

I was surprised that he replied
– Good. It’s too soon to be a man.
Be a boy. Manhood will find you soon enough.

His voice sounded kind and very serious,
I felt the distant moans of some chained horror
beneath his words.

He patted my head and left.
His expression never changed.
I went back downstairs to the men’s club.
Apparently, DiMaggio had won again.


I went to his grandson’s Bar Mitzah
thirty years later, five years after
Daniel had died.

The breaking voice of the nervous boy
chanted a passage from the holy scroll.
As his parents beamed with pride,
he became a man.

The reception was at the best of halls,
music played, liquor flowed, the shrimp ran out.
The boy and his friends were in their own world
of laughter and dancing and fumbling flirtation.

I sat beside Barry, the Bar Mitzvah boy’s father,
not quite an old friend.
We had the table to ourselves,
everyone else was doing the Electric Slide.
Maybe it was the drink,
the memories of my own passage;
I told Barry about the encounter
with his father so many years ago.

We clicked glasses and drank to the man.

Then the son of the survivor told me,
with the same sad smile as his father,
that Daniel was in Treblinka
the day he became a man.

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GV – Jim Klein! Plus The Fire Catchers

March 22, 2017

Join the Red Wheelbarrow Poets for music and poetry Friday, March 31. Musical guest will be The Fire Catchers (featuring our own WAYNE L. MILLER on percussion). Featured poetry is by Red Wheelbarrow editor and workshop leader JIM KLEIN, reading from his manuscript The Dumb Have the Advantage. An open mic follows.

$8 cover includes coffee/tea, dessert

GainVille Café
17 Ames Avenue


WCW – Andrei Codrescu

March 15, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017, 7 p.m.

Williams Center for the Arts

Plus the words of William Carlos Williams
and open readings from the floor


ANDREI CODRESCU’s new poetry book is The Art of Forgetting (Sheep Meadow Press, 2016). He is the author of poetry, fiction, and essays, and the founder of Exquisite Corpse: A Journal of Life & Letters ( He has broadcast weekly essays for NPR since 1983, has received a Peabody award for his film Road Scholar, and reported for NPR and ABC News from Romania (1989) and Cuba (1996).

If I feel anything stronger than this

I might have to have something stronger than this.
Poison or a seizure or a slide down a forgotten insult
to the island where those things are building courage
to go out and be seen and easily become a nation.
That is, to quote the enemy, “any community that contains
in itself the ability to make war, is a nation.” If that
is still the case, and it mostly is, I want you to let me out
somewhere unsavory with a brown paper bag and a view.
There must still be some of those places.

Contact: John Barrale –


RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Mar 7

March 9, 2017

Poem of the Week 3/7/2017

John Barrale

The Hadal Zone

I can’t let go of the waters behind the stars.

The idea of oceans, unseen,
and there above,
and to the left
or right
of the Milky Way
amazes me.

I’ve even gone so far as to invent scientists
who can calculate the distance to there,

and who write papers about how awful
the pressure would be
in the dark depths under the sea
behind the stars.

So heavy an atmosphere, the scientists agree,
the fish swimming there
would have no skeletons,
and just be transparent,
floating ghosts.

Oh no, says the Sufi mystic,
Not ghosts. Angels.

* * *

In the desert, I search for fossils,
especially those
of whales.

At night I stop to pray looking up
at the ten million stars visible
in the twenty-five miles
of unbroken sky.

My Sufi friend whispers:
Can’t you feel the ocean breeze
coming down from above?

* * *

Given chemosynthetic life, we swam up
looking for the sun.

And still we would journey out
to the waiting arms
of our mother stars.

We travel across, but not under, the sea.

My Sufi friend says we are afraid of the leviathan
because it is our soul, ravenous, and at home
in our father’s cold, unwelcoming world.

* * *

Kismayo is a port in the southern Lower Juba province of Somalia. Kismayo
is famous for its magicians, and the refreshing breeze blowing off the Indian Ocean.
In the Middle Ages, Muslim travelers, many who were nobles and Kings, went there.
In 1414 AD, Zeng He and the Great Chinese Fleet stopped at Kismayo.
Portuguese traders built a fort and established a colony in Kismayo during the 1700’s.
The Omanis drove them out. From 1836 until 1861, Kismayo was ruled by the Sultanate of Muscat, and later became part of British East Africa.
In 1925, Jubaland was ceded to Italy as a part of Italian Somaliland. On July 1st 1960,
the region, including British Somaliland, became the republic of Somalia.
Since 1991, Kismayo has been a battleground. Al-Shabaab, Kenyan militia,
and Ethiopian, United nations, and American forces have all fought there.
There are no shortcuts to God in Kismayo, only the road up from the beach
that winds past the minarets of still standing. A handful of burnt out churches
and synagogues also litter the way. They are the husks of alternate plantings
that thrived when Kismayo was a garden.
I have heard of, and read about, Kismayo, but not seen it. It is no more or less real,
much in the same way as one knows of distant cousins he has never met.
Microbial life at the bottom of the Hadal Zone are the distant cousins of the life
that rose from the depths to become us.
This life waits, as we did, to become abundant. A million years or more to wait,
under countless unseen sunrises and sunsets in the sky miles above them.
Such is the rhythm of life. Such is God’s will, my Sufi friend whispers.
There are tears in his eyes.
My imaginary Sufi’s friend’s name is Abdul Muta’Ali which means servant
of the Exalted. He was born in Kismayo in 1949, the same year I was born.
He is one of my secret alter-egos. He says you can set sail for the waters beyond
the stars from Kismayo’s port.
I sponsored Abdul Muta’Ali’s immigration to the U.S. for humanitarian reasons.
I heard of the waters beyond the stars in the canticle “Benedicte Omnia Opera” (A Song of Creation): O ye Waters that be above the Firmament, bless ye the Lord: praise him and magnify him forever.
Abdul Muta’Ali and I often chant the canticle.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Feb 28

March 2, 2017

Poem of the Week 2/28/2017

Michael Mandzik

Molten Pools

World peace contested, every place infested, clichés amiss,
armed forces distracted, filthy masses disinfected.
Welcome to Hideous City, home of the Most Heinous Anus,
whose elemental wholeness and eye weakness news
draw uncrossed vision to interpret the Lost Keys.

Place the SKELETON under the overpass
next to the CHURCH.
Open the GARAGE
without the CODE.
Wander amidst the mangrove swamps.
Wait for, then watch, the sunset.

Move, then remove, your collected phone books.
List numeric landlines as they cloud supremely
the world’s lost judgment.

Seriously, cloth is not clothes.
Close is not closed.
Tree shadows on Garret Mountain
drip silkworms into paddies east
of eaten at the Hot Grill.

Ingot we trust.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Feb 21

February 24, 2017

Poem of the Week 2/21/2017

Jennifer Poteet


—– What makes the engine go? Desire, desire, desire. “Touch Me” – Stanley Kunitz

I don’t remember the name of the first boy I kissed
in the year of our nation’s bicentennial—
just his sour smell—like firewood,
and that he lived in North Arlington, New Jersey,
a town I had never seen, but thought was beneath me.
He was available, eager
and, indeed, a faint spark passed between us
as I met the tinder of his lips.
I was at summer camp, and twelve.

Later that night, Eric Gruber strolled his way
down to me, past a line of girls,
white tee shirt sleeves rolled.
Eric smoked. He was from many towns.
We kissed and caressed
on the assenting grass by the lake
until our lips and hands burned.
We were thirsty with lust; it was late August.

And now, October, some forty years later.
In my backyard, blanketed under the elms.
I don’t know what happened
to either of those boys, but I am still
that open-mouthed girl.
The leaves careen; I listen as the wind picks up.
It teases; it promises: Yes.

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