RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – April 15, 2015

John Barrale

Cat in the Moon

The moon is curled up in the sky.
Tonight she is African, a leopard
with a tail of clouds.

I detect a smile on her golden face.

Is it because she knows
I’d leave it all for her?

Sexy cat. I smell rain.
Your cloud tail swishes yes.
Let’s get wet and romp
in the night sky jungle.

Are you hungry?

One by one and real slow,
I can feed you the small animals
that hide in my soul.

* * *

The Cat in the Moon wakes me
by reaching under the covers
and wiggling my toe.

Let’s hunt, she purrs.

I take her paw
and slip like a ghost
through the grass.

We catch and eat ten mice.

Now you know where the little ones hide,
she says.

In the morning, I remember everything
and regret nothing.

* * *

She is so bright, just to look at her
makes my eyes hurt.

Unhurried, she hunts me.
I am the mouse cut cold.

Her paws
fill the night.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – April 8, 2015

Janet Kolstein

An Early Spring Fog

The swirling blankness
is a resting place,
an excuse,
the cadence of a slow waltz.

I wonder how the fog seduces
with her chilly hand,
her command for silence.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Mar 25, 2015

Zorida Mohammed

Which Ordinarily Are Not Gaudy At All

I saw what looked like a mass of gaudy
apple blossoms, which ordinarily are not gaudy at all,
or white magnolia petals
under a small tree at the side walk.
But all it was,
was someone taking to a pile of snow
and trampling it around
until it made a circle almost,
resembling fallen blossoms.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Mar 18, 2015

Mark Fogarty


I’m in Couer d’Alene, must have been the meeting
of the multifamily housing developers,
and I just stepped out of the hotel
to see stormclouds over the mountains.

I had lost my sunglasses in Spokane,
where I had a cocktail in a formal hotel lobby
with a woman from an Indian version of the Magic Flute.
Well, I didn’t have a cocktail, but I enjoyed the way
she enjoyed her drink out of the heat of the summer sun.

I remember the Julyamsh pow wow, looking for Francis, the emcee.
The woman’s daughter called this place “the land of Francis.”
There were vendor tables, drum groups, arbors for shade,
a place for the horses and riders who rode in, and a campground.
The shawl dancers must have been wilting
in the hallucinatory heat, but they wouldn’t let on.
I’ll stay out here with you, forswear
the air conditioning of the raceway.

Mozart’s Indian flutes play coolness on even the hottest day.
They didn’t have any green-tinged sunglasses,
so I bought, for the first time, a pair of rose ones.

I didn’t see Francis the whole of that shadowless day,
didn’t meet the emperor of his own gaudy realm.
When I left, though, someone was standing by the exit
in the red and white weaves of the afternoon, smiling.
“You must be Francis,” I said.

Lake Couer d’Alene is one of the beauty spots of the world.
After they invented cars, but before they built the bridges,
people would try to drive across the frozen lake in winter.
You can see the ruins of the Duesenbergs and Model Ts
if you can get down to the bottom.

I know a way.

I hate it when the sun deserts me while I’m traveling.
I put on the rose-colored glasses anyway.
Half the sky is filled with the fists of the thunderheads.
I could tell you a story or two about multifamily housing.


The following article was originally published at

A grand entrance at Julyamsh

Mark Fogarty
The Julyamsh pow wow dancers enter the arena five and six abreast in blazes of color – the men revolving like slow kaleidoscopes and the women stately and proud, moving slowly to the steady heartbeat and insistent vocals of lead drum Black Lodge. They keep dancing in until there are hundreds of them in the infield of the Post Falls, Idaho race track, in a long brilliant horseshoe that throws back to where they entered.

I’ve missed the sensational horse and rider entrance, the decorated ponies and their riders galloping up to the review stand and back out again, but the Grand Entry of dancers is in itself an awesome and emotional event.

Though it is 100 degrees and the sun is bearing down from a thin blue Idaho sky, none of the dancers, from the oldest to the youngest, shows any discomfort or gives any signal how hot it must be under their bright and vivid outfits, the feathers, the bustles, the leggings, the jingles.

The Coeur d’Alene tribe, whose summer encampment this is, has come back to its traditional homeland for this celebratory weekend. I can sense a palpable feeling of joy in the air, a happiness that goes beyond their traditional July hunting and fishing meetings (and later July 4 celebrations).

They are reclaiming lost territory, coming back into their traditional place and strength. And the dancers, from near and far, seem to respond to this. In their prayerful regalia, in their quickfooted pride and strength, in their obliviousness to the heat, they are wonderful and beautiful.

Master of Ceremonies Dale Old Horn proudly shows off each group as it passes the review stand and the drum tents. There are the Eagle Staff bearer, the American and Canadian flag bearers, a veteran with a POW-MIA banner, the Head Man and Head Woman dancers (Spike Draper, New Mexico; Dine, six-time Julyamsh dance champion; and Tisa Pinkman, Nez Perce), and Marcy Williams, Miss Julyamsh. Then parading past are the elders, Golden Age dancers, Northern and Southern Traditional dancers from Oklahoma and the Northern Plains, Grass dancers, Women’s Traditional dancers, Men’s Fancy Feather dancers, Women’s Fancy Shawl dancers. Old Horn is especially fond and proud of the oldest and the youngest of the dancers.

As the opening ceremonies begin, rafts of umbrellas spring up in the stands to stymie the sun, and a stiff wind whips around the American flags and ribbons that decorate the pow wow grounds like displays of living energy. There are words from the tribal chair, Ernie Stensgar, an Honor song, a Flag song, acknowledgement of VIPs, and the spectacular feather pickup that starts the dance competition.

Here, in a Northern Plains tradition, four veterans in regalia make a square around a feather placed on the ground. They dance in place for what seems to be a very long time, the tension building, and then they make three exquisite passes before one of them finally picks up the feather.

Though the dancers are uncomplaining on the sunny field, I am not as durable. Retreating to the air conditioning of the interior grandstand, I see the pow wow ground laid out before me.

The horseshoe of the arena is surrounded by several other semicircles, the first made up of reviewing and spectator stands. Around them are wedges of booths, craft vendors to the left and food vendors to the right, plying such traditional pow wow foods as frybread, Indian tacos, curly fries, elephant ears, corn dogs and buffalo wings. Loosely attached to the proceedings are the tents, tipis and trailers of the encampment.

A long red streamer whips around in the hypnotic wind, and in the hot trance of the day I can see that beyond the prosaic greyhound track that has been so changed for a short time it’s easy to imagine a natural horseshoe of surrounding land that runs back to the framing, heart-stopping mountains of Idaho. The perfection of it dawns on me slowly- the semicircles of the pow wow ground fit into the larger, natural one like coins into a slot.

And the perfection extends, generously, beyond the enduring dancers working and blending into the clarity of a spectacular Idaho summer afternoon. It extends to each of us there, no matter what background or condition, no matter from how near or far away.

We all have our place in a beautiful universe, and it is a good day to be alive.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Mar 11, 2015

Milton Ehrlich


Executioner of my soul,
you once were my phantom of perfection.
Now my heart no longer somersaults
at the sight of your curvaceous body,
and my toes no longer curl at your embrace.

Recalcitrant lady, I never mastered
the push-me-pull-me theme of your drama.
You never could decide if I should stay or go.

You never stopped talking about your turmoil
when I yearned for stillness to reign.

Was it all a dream when I drummed on pots
and slapped a tambourine while you danced
the fandango with snapping castanets?

I urged you not to be afraid of the dark.
You wasted time searching for omens
that flattened the brio of our romance.
No omen has more wisdom than the heart.

I shield my eyes from no longer
seeing you as my world.

And, thanks for reminding me,
not to forget to die.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Feb 25, 2015

RWB Workshop Poem of the Week (2/25)
Richard Greene

Here’s a translation of Catullus’s famous funeral poem known as “Hail and Farewell”. I’m a believer in translations that stay as close to the original as possible. Sometimes departures from the original are necessary because of differences of usage in the languages involved, to maintain the flow, music, of the language, or if the original poem rhymes and one chooses to rhyme the translation, since there may be no translation of the original wording that produces rhymes.

Places where I’ve departed from the original for the first two reasons are highlighted in the translation, below. Rhyming wasn’t a problem, since the original didn’t rhyme.

Following the translation is a literal translation of the original, and following that the Latin original and a pre-modern, rhyming translation by Aubrey Beardsley.

Hail and Farewell

Through many lands and over many seas,
I come, brother, to this sad ceremony,

to confer on thee this final service to the dead,
and address in vain your mute ashes.

Since fate has taken thee from me,
Oh, brother, torn away too soon,

I give thee these last offerings,

blessed by the tradition of our fathers.

Accept them, though sodden with fraternal tears,
and, for eternity, brother, hail and farewell.

Literal Translation

Carried through many peoples and many seas
I come to these sad funeral rites, brother,

that I might confer on thee the final service of death
and address in vain your mute ashes,

since fortune has taken thee thyself from me.
Alas poor brother unfairly carried away from me!

Still now meanwhile these gifts, which by the ancient rites of parents
are given as a sad duty at funerals,

take them dripping with much fraternal weeping
and in perpetuity brother hail and farewell.

Original Latin

multas per gentes et multa per aequora vectus 
advenio has miseras frater ad inferias 

ut te postremo donarem munere mortis 
et mutam nequiquam adloquerer cinerem 

quandoquidem fortuna mihi tete abstulit ipsum 
heu miser indigne frater adempte mihi 

nunc tamen interea haec, prisco quae more parentum 
tradita sunt tristi munere ad inferias 

accipe frataerno multum manantia fletu 
atque in perpetuum frater ave atque vale

Aubrey Beardsley Translation

By ways remote and distant waters sped,
Brother, to thy sad grave-side am I come,
That I may give the last gifts to the dead,
And vainly parley with thine ashes dumb:
Since she who now bestows and now denies
Hath ta’en thee, hapless brother, from mine eyes.
But lo! these gifts, the heirlooms of past years,
Are made sad things to grace thy coffin shell;
Take them, all drenched with a brother’s tears,
And, brother, for all time, hail and farewell!

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Feb 18, 2015

Claudia Serea


My childhood bike was bright blue
with a shiny bell I used to ring
to make the bullies snarl.

I named it Peggy,
from Pegasus, of course,

and rode it everywhere,
thankful for empty streets,
smooth asphalt,
and small freedoms.

Two lives later,
I find it in New York,

chained to a pole,
buried in snow.

I wish I could hop on it,
I wish I could
hop on it and be
12 again, I wish
I could ride it downtown
as if I rode the wind,

I wish Pegasus
would get back its wings,

and I’d ring the bell,

and suddenly
it would be summer.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Feb 11, 2015

Zorida Mohammed


This skin I live in,
that I was born wearing,
can teach elastic a thing or two
about resiliency and stretch.

It has gone from covering a mere 6-7 lb. babe
to a chubby blubby 150 lb. teenager,
then settling into a svelte 115 lbs.,
premarital, lyric of a girl-woman.

This forgiving skin stayed in idle at 125 lbs.
until madam menopause levied her hand
in my late forties, pushing me off the scale
into territory approaching 130 lbs.

At 60, things are still nicely intact but,
I can see that any false moves
and wrinkles will graduate into little folds,
and the whole old skin will hasten
its downhill trend as sure as if it were
conforming to something larger than itself,
something imbedded in the very fabric of skin,
in the beginning,
even before I was born.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Jan 28, 2015

Richard Greene

Remembering Vientiane

Known among early European visitors
for their gentleness and insouciance,
they lingered in a backwater
of this turbulent century.

I lived in their capital
near the broad Mekong
on a dirt lane
bracketed by old wooden temples,
unpainted and weather-stained,
with their muffled bells
and slow traffic of orange-robed monks.

Only roosters
disturbed the peace
until tanks came
clogging the narrow streets,
grinding them under ridged treads,
spewing manic metal
onto roofs and shutters,
like the rhetoric
of clashing ideologies.

And bodies erupted
from the river’s smooth surface.

RWB Workshop Poem of the Week – Jan 21, 2015

Janet Kolstein

Samson and Goliath

Outside my fourth story window I could see for miles.

The sky lay softly on the low mountains,
the country and the city not so far apart,
and the sea not so very far away.

I used to imagine living in a foreign country,
just not like this.

Samson and Goliath dominated the horizon.

My doctor had pointed out
the two mighty cranes,
sometimes appearing as still
as an ancient colossus.

If I looked down, I could see
an unused swimming pool,
and, out towards the street and the traffic,
I saw a couple young medicos
with somewhere, quick, to go,
their white coats flapping
with the wintry air.

There would be work to do,
a lot of lifting and lowering of spirits,
and expectations,

a resetting of goals,
an activation of steel.

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