Archive for the ‘Poets’ Category


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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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Feb 19

February 20, 2019

John Barrale

My Mother’s Cancer

All the years
of her unhappiness
finally blossomed,

the wild flowers spreading
in sepia clusters,

in sepia clusters,

in sepia clusters,

(so many clusters)

(so many clusters)

the wild flowers spreading

from the soft pockets
of her bones,

from the soft pockets
of her bones,

(so many pockets)

(so many bones)

all her summer coins

in the pockets,

in the pockets,

in those pockets.

The light,
so many colors,
so many coins,
she whispered.

Frank Rubino


Our four, you never knew what was next.
We made our house twice as big and gave them all rooms
when we got married. We added bathrooms too.
When I was their age, we had one bathroom
for five people. A small nook with a tub
and toilet crammed in. A plunger in the corner.
I remember the narrow door, how I used to
bastion myself in there for hours with books.
I still read many of the same books
in the bathroom: I kept them all these years.
My mother used to say of the poetry,
“You are so much better!”

Dad’s aluminum coffee pot was three pieces stacked.
I could draw you a diagram today of the pourer
on the bottom with its nose-sized spout,
the basket set on top of it
where we’d scoop Maxwell House,
and the topmost piece, the dripper reservoir
that set in the basket pressing down the grounds.
I believe an understanding of this coffee process and its equipment
trained my mind to create global computer networks.
Most people can understand coffee,
but they don’t think they know
anything about computer networks.
Somehow I do. Somehow, they do.

With the drywall off, we found the original studs of our house
were all stained blue. The builders had never seen that
on any other job: I think that is what they said, in Spanish.
Barbara expected me to understand them.
Now we know every day there is a blue skeleton,
blue heartbeat. It makes sense for this family.
Our son went out this morning for new tires.
He’s going to expect a zoomy, new-sneaker feeling
like when he first tried skating, expecting to fly around the ice,
but his knees shook and his legs collapsed and he cried.
It took him years to try again; he showed me
a phone video, him finally steady on rented skates
at South Mountain Arena, his girlfriend’s voice in the background.
I put my hand on his shoulder, felt his strong chest: “You skated!”
Right now, he’s driving home on new tires.

Something else during construction: we had a big soft cat
who liked to hide in clever places. One wall that had been open
to blue studs was closed that day and the cat was missing,
and putting my ear to the closed wall I discovered
she was hiding back there behind the nailed in, spackled
dry-board. With claw hammers, we cracked through to free her.

The workmen saw the ragged hole next day and laughed,
making cat jokes in Spanish I only half-caught.


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WCW—Frances Lombardi-Grahl & Melene Kubat Mar 6

February 19, 2019

Williams Readings-Fran-Melenie-Mar2019.indd

For the month of March, the Gang of Five is excited to co-feature Fran Lombardi-Grahl and Melene Kubat, two NJ-based poets of exceptional talent.

Please join us on Wednesday, March 6th, 2019, 7:00 PM at the William Carlos Williams Center, One Williams Plaza in Rutherford NJ to hear Fran and Melene.

About our features:

Fran Lombardi-Grahl’s poetry explores family and relationships with wry wit, gentle humor, and above all with great beauty. In Fran’s own words: “ My poetry is based on family memories and relationships that have shaped my life. Poetry has always been a way of both rejoicing in nature’s gifts, as well as recording those small daily acts that make up our lives”.

Melene Kubat’s poetry, like a fine diamond, draws us into a multi-faceted center that is a blend of many truths. While often contemplative and serious, Melene’s poems are also playful. Her inspiration comes from the natural and spiritual worlds, and the sorrows and joys of the human condition, and at sometimes, her poems perfectly express the resilience of the soul by allowing Melene’s keen sense of humor to have the last word.

Please note: We must now pay $100 per month rent for the use the Williams Center for our readings. This is in addition to the $100 per month rent the Red Wheelbarrow workshop must pay for the use of their space in the Williams Center. 

We need your help to survive and continue to hold our monthly readings. We will be asking for donations. A $5 per person donation is suggested. If we all contribute, we can pay the rent!

You can follow everything about the Red Wheelbarrow, its events and poets at these sites:
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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Feb 5

February 8, 2019

Arthur Russell

To Sarah

When you are old and gone of mind
and I am dead, animal dead,
keep this rent-producing property,
and please, collect the rents.

Go out, if you must,
in your pink house slippers
with fur on the instep and
your shepherd on a leash;
mutter that stuff about your mother
at the bus stop; pick up empty bottles
from the street and do without
combing your stiff grey-yellow hair,

but, please, Sarah,
stomp up and down the stairs on the first
so they hear you coming,
shave-and-a-haircut knock and call out landlord
with your eye against the peephole.

Don’t trust Grudin the plumber, he’ll
sell you your own toilet, but Harold
is good for legal. Also, Sylvia at Citibank.
She’ll try to get you to buy an annuity,
but otherwise good.

So much has gone wrong
in the kitchen and the crutches
and Elliott with his asthma,
and the sex thing between us,
and, I’ve been so bitter,
the books in the back bedroom
are strangers to me now.


Remember the Kandinsky,
that skinny book of Kandinsky prints?
That was such a happy day.
It’s in the back bedroom,
in the shelves under the window.

Now, I’m only Goldberg the landlord with crutches,
and you are Goldberg, the landlord with crutches’ wife.
I can’t help that, but I do love you.


When you die, Russell, the guy
who owns the car wash next door,
will buy this building from your estate,
and then he’ll send his son,
that pretentious, intellectual prick,
to clean out our apartment,
and he’ll smoke a cigarette
in our back bedroom and look out
through the accordion gates
east on Church Avenue
towards Boro Park, where
we first met outside the candy store
when you asked me to buy you
a Pepsi.

He’ll throw almost everything away.
He’ll find the Kandinsky book;
he’ll sit on the bookcase, smoke his cigarette,
look out the window, read the introduction,
stare at the pictures, and

keep it for a souvenir of how he suffered
working for his father,
or as some kind of perverse proof
that he is superior to all the mercantile idiots
like his father and me, who worked
for what we have.

He’ll keep that Kandinsky on his bookshelves
when he goes to graduate school in Syracuse;
keep it in his apartments in Brighton,
Park Slope, Greenwich Village, Chelsea;
keep it when he gives up his fucked-up dreams
of becoming an artiste — he never had talent —
to become a lawyer, get married, move to Jersey,
have a kid and bookshelves,
bookshelves everywhere he went,
twenty, thirty years of schlepping the same books,
college books, grad school books,
his wife’s Elizabeth George mysteries,


until, one day, after his wife leaves him,
he’ll remembered you, Sarah,
and your garbage-sniffing shepherd,
and me, with my two amputated feet
lost in a trolley car accident, swinging
on polio crutches from one property
to the next, shave-and-a-haircut knocking,
calling out landlord,
and he’ll reimagine us as holograms
that capture the sense of style and loss
that he compassions, the way
that what you wanted as a kid
can be shunted into tedious commerce,
the way the past can evanesce,

and he’ll go down to his basement
and pull out that Kandinsky book,
and see how the show was mounted
in May of ‘45
just months after Kandinsky had died,
and he’ll picture us, Sarah,
when we were young and hip
how we went up to Harlem
to see Lucky Roberts play
stride piano,

how we went to see Kandinsky
at the Museum of Non-Objective Art
before it was called the Guggenheim,
being in love before the trolley,
before Elliott and his asthma
made me a bitter puss,
buying that book on the last day of the show —
and it was such a big deal for you,
you said Please, Morris, please let’s get the book,
and your voice made my sternum hum
so I had to buy it for you,
and what would later become
your stiff grey-yellow hair
was beautiful brown, and down to your shoulders,
in waves I used to compare to Barbara Stanwyk,
and you’d say No, I don’t look at all like her,
but you did.


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A Tribute to Michael O’Brien

February 7, 2019


We are very saddened to announce the passing of poet, mentor, and teacher Michael O’Brien who joined the poetry workshop in another dimension on Sunday. RIP, Mike, you will be missed by all.

Posting this piece by Jim Klein in O’Brien’s honor.

Finally a Decent Guy in Grad School

We are teaching assistants at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, in the late sixties registering freshmen. I get manic and silly. I have good fastball, a curve, and a change-up going right away. Then I start mixing in the junk: a screwball, an emery ball, and this guy with horned-rim glasses and a trimmed black beard, O’Brien, he stands in there and rattles one down the left field line, goes into the gap in right with the next, bloops one over first base, and then pulls a low, outside pitch over the left field wall out onto Waveland Avenue.

We had a powerful effect on each other, found ourselves acting as one. We left together yakking and started walking somewhere we each thought the other knew where we were so busy talking. Finally, a decent guy in grad school.

After a while we got organized enough to find our cars and buy a case of beer and go to my trailer. He and his wife would come over for supper. Here was this great guy! Our wives, who had never met, couldn’t catch up. Voices blurred and the night ended with O’Brien and me staring at the cold chicken and potato salad as they tried to make conversation. It was embarrassing. The next couple of years we even passed a few times pretending not to notice.

In 1969 I had a fellowship and began working on John Barth, specifically Giles Goat-Boy, full time. I had a library carrel, but before work I’d drink coffee and read the Chicago Sun-Times in the K-room of the Y with a few friends, now including O’Brien. As the year wore on I got into the habit of leaving my reading in the middle of the afternoon and wandering over to Room 206 in the English Building, a huge room with about 60 desks. I was struggling with Barth, and without the release of teaching I had a backlog of things to talk about. If one of us hadn’t read something, we said so.

He had read a lot more, and I had read some things better. While I talked into a critical dither, he would sit there looking into the middle distance through his horned rims, smoking Pall Malls, playing with his beard and dropping modifications and new leads into my spiel. Sometimes it worked the other way. But he had a little speech glitch, and I wasn’t one to give people an extra count in an interesting conversation. He was more metaphorically-minded, and I could tangle his metaphors together. We complemented each other beautifully. Together, we were one genius.


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