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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—August 27

September 4, 2019

Mary Ma

Nothing tastes the way it used to

I can’t find any hair ties,
and I have two unfinished sewing projects 
and one untouched first draft,
and we need to take out the recycling.

Instead, I’m trying to write something new
and, I swear to god, every barista 
behind the counter 
is zoning out 
in my direction.
I zone out too.

I keep thinking of this house 
on our block. I pass it on the way 
to our car. The front is all garden,
no lawn.

The patch of grass 
between the sidewalk and the curb 
is filled with large stones. They’re warm 
and round. 

In the patch, there’s a small path 
barely wider than my feet. 
I like to walk on it the same way 
I like to grab the leaves 
when no one is looking.

When you’re born, there won’t be much green,
but we can visit the stones.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—August 20

September 4, 2019

Arthur Russell

No One In My Family


The ordinary violence of family life
is the sawyer’s craft, making planks out of people.

My dad was the tablet Moses broke.

No one in my family ever spoke to god
or called out to their mother
in the night as adults.

After an evening of tongue twisters,
the big black bug’s black blood
was on all our minds for days.

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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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WCW—Anton Yakovlev and Yuyutsu Sharma—September 4

August 12, 2019

September 4, 7 PM—The Williams Center, Rutherford, NJ

Poetry in translation reading


The Williams Readings hosted by The Gang of Five in Rutherford, NJ, celebrate National Translation Month featuring poets and translators Anton Yakovlev (Russian) and Yuyutsu Sharma (Nepalese).

Please join us on Wednesday September 4th, 2019, 7:00 PM at the Williams Center, One Williams Plaza in Rutherford, NJ, to hear Anton and Yuyutsu.

About our features:

Anton Yakovlev‘s Russian translations have appeared in National Translation Month, Exchanges, The Stockholm Review of Literature, Lunch Ticket, KGB Bar Lit Mag, and elsewhere. The Last Poet of the Village, a book of translations of Sergei Yesenin, is forthcoming from Sensitive Skin Books in October 2019. Yakovlev’s poetry chapbook Chronos Dines Alone (SurVision Books, 2018) won the James Tate Poetry Prize.

Praise for Anton’s work:
“When Keats read George Chapman’s translation of Homer, he felt like an astronomer when “a new planet swims into his ken.” This is how I felt in reading Anton Yakovlev’s superb translations of some poems by Sergei Yesenin. Yesenin is an icon of early 20th century Russian poetry, communicating the vastness of Russia as a country and a culture, but he is not well known in the Anglosphere. Yakovlev’s translations strike this non-Russophone reader as a triumph of craft in combining a “peasant” simplicity that seems deeply and authentically Russian with piquant, always-tasteful touches of idiomatic American speech. These versions are a gift to readers of English in bringing across the quality and qualities of an original and unforgettable artist.”
—Daniel Brown, author of Taking the Occasion and What More?

Yuyutsu Sharma is a world-renowned Himalayan poet and translator. He is the recipient of fellowships and grants from The Rockefeller Foundation, Ireland Literature Exchange, Trubar Foundation, Slovenia, The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature and The Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature.

He has published ten poetry collections including, The Second Buddha Walk, A Blizzard in my Bones: New York Poems, Quaking Cantos: Nepal Earthquake Poems, Nepal Trilogy, Space Cake, Amsterdam and Annapurna Poems. Three books of his poetry, Poemes de l’ Himalayas (L’Harmattan, Paris), Poemas de Los Himalayas (Cosmopoeticia, Cordoba, Spain) and Jezero Fewa & Konj (Sodobnost International) have appeared in French, Spanish and Slovenian respectively. In addition, Eternal Snow: A Worldwide Anthology of One Hundred Twenty-Five Poetic Intersections with Himalayan Poet Yuyutsu RD Sharma has just appeared.

Currently, Yuyutsu Sharma is a visiting poet at Columbia University and edits Pratik: A Quarterly Magazine of Contemporary Writing.

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 Poets at these sites:
Blog – https://redwheelbarrowpoets.wordpress.com
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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—August 6

August 7, 2019

Zorida Mohammed

August


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

1.
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.

2.
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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