Poems- by Prerna Bakshi

What’s the name of your pind?

(First published in The Ofi Press)

 

He asks me which pind

do I belong to?

Confused, I respond by telling him

the names of my grandfather’s and grandmother’s village.

He interjects, her’s not necessary. Your belonging, your identity, your pind is traced through the

pind of your father and his father and so on, you see.

I say nothing, and just nod.

In the blink of an eye, my grandmother’s history was deemed irrelevant. Erased.

History belongs to victors, they say.

Clearly, she had lost.

Her past, torn

like it was an unwanted page from the book of history.

Her clung together memories

got flushed down the toilet like a clump of hair stuck in the comb.

What is her pind, then?

What is her home country?

Or is she a traveling soul?

A wandering Sufi?

An escaped soldier?

An absconded convict?

A fugitive?

A refugee?

If she had no home to claim as her own,

which borders did she cross then?

To what extent did she even cross any, if at all?

What was her supposed ‘home’?

Or was there even any?

 

 

Visiting Kolkata after 15 years

(First published in Cafe Dissensus)

 

Kantha saris.

Macchi markets.

Tangy puchkas.

Yellow taxis.

Pulled rickshaws.

Trams.

Old Victorian buildings.

Goddess Durga’s pamphlets plastered on the walls.

Mosaics and murals all around.

Everything looks the same

since I last visited.

Including the hammer and sickle

graffiti on the walls – faded or

turned brighter red instead…

not sure.

 

 

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Prerna Bakshi is a writer, poet and activist. She is the author of the recently released book, Burnt Rotis, With Love, which was long-listed for the 2015 Erbacce-Press Poetry Award in the UK. Her work has been published widely, most recently in The Ofi Press, Red Wedge Magazine, TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism and Peril magazine: Asian-Australian Arts & Culture, as well as anthologized in several collections. More here – http://prernabakshi.strikingly.com/

 

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Poems- Yuan Changming

The Inner Journey

Legs crossed

Sitting straight

Still in chan meditation

Upon a lotus flower

Newly blossoming on my inner pond

I perceive myself transforming

Slowly but steadily

From a monstrous yellow-skinned frog

Into an ever bigger, brighter Buddha

Until my whole being inside out

Bursts into trillions of individual cells

Each being an other self of mine

Like a star beyond the skyline

Blinking, whispering

As if all chanting in unison

In a universal prayer

For harmony

 

Snorting over the Clouds

Flying between sea and sky

Between day and night

Amid heavenly or oceanic blue

I lost all my references

To any timed space

Or a localized time

Except the non-stop snorting

Of a stranger neighbour

Then, beyond the snorts rising here

And more glooming there

I see tigers, lions, leopards

Together with many hanger-throated gods

Darting out of every passenger’s heart

Running amuck around us

As if released from a huge cage

As if in a dreamland

 

Time vs Space

Divided into narrow cars

Time is where

All men and women

Get on or off

As the train keeps

Running forward

Along the rails of

An endless space

Except one butterfly that can fly

Freely from one car to another

 

Overtaking

An anchored lamborghini first

Then a line of taxis

And finally several big buses

In this one way road

Have I been driving all the way

Only to find a dead end

Here and now?

 

Along Our Journey to the West

Let us take all the long time we need

To wake up from our overdue dreams

Get out of the bed, and stretch our

Limbs as far as possible for a new morning

Let us take all the long time we need

To listen to the first song of the birds

Watch the rise of this summer sun, feel

The breeze combing each tree with tenderness

Let us take all the long time we need

To enjoy being together with our beloved

Exchange a smile so that they can stay with

Us just a few seconds or even minutes longer

Yes, let’s take all the long time we need

To drink this tea, to chat about this weather

To look back at the road we have travelled along

To think, to cry, and to die in lingering twilight

 

Stopping Awhile During My Journey of Life

How I hate jogging every morning

As mechanically as a robot, eating

Vegetables only like a damned pig

Taking more pills than a patient, avoiding

Fat, salt and sugar as if they were real poisons

Brushing my teeth twice a day, and doing

All kinds of stupidities right against my will

Just to live a few days longer or, to be more

Exactly, to turn a bit more food into waste

Like a stinking shit-making machine! Indeed

How I am tired of living such a life that is never

Enjoyable! Is this daily examined life

Of mine really worth living at all?

 

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Yuan Changming, 9-time Pushcart nominee and author of 7 chapbooks (including Wordscaping [2016]), published monographs on translation before moving out of China. With a PhD in English, Yuan currently edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan in Vancouver, and has poetry appearing in Best Canadian PoetryBestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review and 1209 others across 38 countries.

This Life- by Jeffrey Zable

This Life

by Jeffrey Zable

The problem with it is that too many things can go wrong

when you least expect it, from a gust of wind blowing a wasp

into your mouth while you’re on your way to the market

to buy a loaf of bread, to tripping on a three-quarter inch

sliver of poodle shit that an elderly lady missed because her eyesight

is no longer what it used to be. It’s a precarious journey any way

you look at it and even though the safest place to be is probably in bed,

there is always the possibility you could turn the wrong way,

fall to the floor and crack open your skull,

wind up in the hospital with bills that your insurance company

refuses to pay because it was your own damn fault—

like being born in the first place. . .

 

The Maiden’s Lament- by Randel McCraw

The Maiden’s Lament

Heterosexual, employed, and not too weird—

Is that too much to ask? Isn’t there someone,

Somewhere, who just wants a wife and kids?

Let me tell you about my last few dates.

First, a guy who asked me to keep his dog

While he went to visit his former wife.

Looking back, that’s not so bad compared to

The one who wanted pictures of me nude,

Gagged, with a turkey sausage up my ass.

Or the one who wanted a threesome, with me

And his Burmese python. I said no thanks.

Or the one who wanted me to dress up

As a Franciscan nun, and spank him hard.

Best of all, the one who asked me to join

His commune, and seventeen other wives.

If you’re a normal guy with a tongue, call me.  Please.

 

Randel McCraw Helms retired from the English Department at Arizona State University in 2007, having taught classes in the Romantic poets, the Bible as Literature and contemporary literature there for thirty years.  He is the author of five books of literary criticism, including “Tolkien’s World,” “Who Wrote the Gospels?” and “Gospel Fictions.”

Making poems is his lifelong avocation, and now he has time to write them as much as he wants. He is preparing a book of poems to be entitled “Matters of Life and Death.”

Poems- by Stephen Mead

Detonations

Whale at a submarine—-

Dear deep mariner, what do you hear?

Is it people milling about, snoring bunkmates or

busy machinery, the beeping meter’s pop?

If you can, to that porthole, put an eye, look around.

Are you interested?  Does it make sense?

How I wish I could read your thoughts, become some medium

in order to understand all this complexity going on.

These beings aren’t puppets, are they?

And their consoles have a purpose—-

Exploration, correct?

So what’s shooting forth?

Whoosh, such a fathomable

propellant, such a beautiful

bombshell whizzing through foam, schools  of fish, strips

of plankton to hit some, some——

What

is it

just child’s play

with the weight of earth

oceanic

suddenly on backs?

How

to stomach, digest, breathe

belly upward?

Meanwhile, in some desert, for research, another device

goes off.

 

Circle Of Poison

This is mercury.  This—-

flesh, flesh in the water—-

children, cattle, washerwomen—-

Something to clean, drink, make

bodies rafts

moving through

moving through…

How’s it taste?  Smell?  Better re-

settle.  Don’t tell

the press what’s common

knowledge  hereabouts.

Here, about right here

the dumping took place

& the burial

turning

up   up

in many ailments

unexplained

in a lot of food

imported back.

 

The Aesthetics of Brutality

Last night when this floor bristled with boot soles

I thought of El Greco’s martyrs

With all perspective pushed forth.

That’s how it felt, foreshortening inversed,

Extreme, no depth to the siege.

We hadn’t done anything, but try and tell

These soldiers that.  No comprehendo.

Pretend this fear is surreal.  Better cooperate.

Once I saw a film of WW II bombers dropping

Their missiles the way certain insects lay eggs.

After the reels ceased spinning and the lights

Came back on, people grabbed their coats, left

In silence, filled with an eerie apprehension

Of the point where war is mundane.

As blank and able to be killed, we are business to be

Taken care of.  No, this round up, of course,

Isn’t personal, except as a symbolic gesture:

The old crippled Jew shot, his wheelchair glittering

Down to the seas…

Later, in the press pics, perspective will

Get shoved back to its carved rightful place:

An angel’s wail from El Dorado, the torn city of tanks

 

Nightmare 4 A.M.

Are screams in sleep audible?

Then, dreaming a terrorist, his

shadow, hunched, gun, ready, his

ski mask a kind of bandage

for The Invisible Man——-

Suddenly it fills everything.

Eyes gape, are mechanisms, the

pupils, two slots, remote, blank,

registering a face of

deliberation extreme.

They widen, absorb sights,

a black hole’s consumption

magnified as sound.

Waking, the body shudders,

jarred as if by a rifle

striking the head from

behind.

Windows greet stars, blinds

streaming light, brilliance,

a vestige, clean, nearly

spirituous, after

violence takes leave.

 

Nuclear Diary   (Thanks to Andre Carothers)

I light a cigarette,

little tobacco tube,

strange squared-off phallus.

Smoke stacks too, only without

smoke, in the distance, rise.

The flats leading to them

should all be mahogany.

Flats-

here a wheat field, there

an oat, the tall stalks

which might gleam,

the steams, the soil

alive with a silent

tick tick tick.

Most citizens left sense it.

How could they not?

The houses of photographs,

fabrics, flesh

busy with signals, the amok

transparent termites

waving cell-like from eyes,

from milk into bottles,

bottles to mouths…

White sound & bravery badges,

banner smiles & too aware faces

with rarely enough money

to get away, convince

a government chlorine burns

more than it cleans.

How angry, how fed up

can patient waiting turn?

How despairing, how atomic

when living in levels

science, coerced, swears

are not harmful, not as much

as thought?

Not as harmful say,

as a bullet that’s left

the gun.

One’s wound just overreacts.

One’s blood should just

stop bleeding.

One’s children

should get down from towers,

find beds hidden away,

let tongues, diseased,

quiet on waves.

Sea pleats, field sheets,

nature’s grand green,

the design of peace

finds a ship, finds

a rig & a plant-

1,2,3: test

4,5,6: dump

7,8,9: bury.

I put out my cig, & finger

the sweet pistil of a lily

in the passing window of this train.

 

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A resident of NY, Stephen Mead is a published artist, writer, maker of short-collage
films and sound-collage downloads. His latest P.O.D. amazon release is an art-text
hybrid, “According to the Order of Nature (We too are Cosmos Made)”, a work which
takes to task the words which have been used against LGBT folks from time
immemorial.  In 2014 he began a webpage to gather links of his poetry being
published in such zines as Great Works, Unlikely Stories, Quill & Parchment, etc., in
one place:  Poetry on the Line, Stephen Mead

Poems- by Soodabeh Saeidnia

A Sun in a Puddle

The day before yesterday

A glorious bright yellow sun

tiptoed on the sleepy horizon

and fell into a turbid puddle

The puddle wondered

if it’s going to dawn again

Yesterday

A puddle swallowed

a dismissing sun

and started to blaze

to laser-cut the eyes

who was wondering if

it’s going to dawn again

Today

How dreary a sunburnt sun

slipped into a greedy puddle

and wept until we all

cried and wondered

if it’s going to dawn again

Tomorrow

People say a wounded sun

is going to be executed

inside a puddle

and we all know that

it’s not going to dawn again

The day after tomorrow

May a sunny puddle

bleed to die or distill to dry

May a reborn sun

go up the ladder of the sky

and never set in a nefarious puddle

 

Wall

I am a wall and I am not

I was made of data bricks. I was never built up

I never had the windows. I had a window

with a bitten apple on it, opened toward another wall

I was a female wall and I was not

I was never male nor female

nor did I have any sexual affinity

I belonged to a writer. I did not belong to anybody

I was a wall right on the borders

between understanding and doubting

between the Exons and Introns of a DNA

when it goes to be copied in the body

and Introns must be removed by splicing

during the maturation of the RNAs

I was the interpretation of those borders

The ancestors needed a reason for boundaries

I was that reason in lack of the science but

I am not a reason for any border-walls

in the third millennium proposed by

anybody even you Mr. Trump

 

I was a wall built for segregation

in between prisoners and freemen,

the eastern and western towns, the northern

and southern countries, Jews and Muslims

I was always a wall. I used to be a wall

in need of an opened window

toward an apple garden. I hate the walls

I never hate anything or anybody except a wall  

*Published in a British literary journal: “I am not a Silent Poet” March 2016

 

 

Touch of a Butterfly

Every night, in my dreams

I see you can’t fly like a mosquito

trapped in a spider web

and I always come forth

to catch you

and throw you deep in my dungeon

A dungeon made by accumulated revenges

by rusted rods of unfairness

and dirty bricks of rage

by disgusting mosses of old

unforgettable mistakes

but always a butterfly comes

and lands on my shoulder

and wakes me up

 

Anonymous

I wasn’t there

I wasn’t anywhere

Once, a sound whispered my name

My name woke up but found itself

beyond me and living on a poor planet

so left me behind

The sound and my name merged

into an echo, traveled

and passed through the space

Then, the space bent toward the time

For that, the echo is still spreading

while I am living on Earth, an anonymous

whose time is running out

 

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Soodabeh Saeidnia was born in Iran (1973) and received her Pharm.D. (1997) from Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, and also Ph.D. of Pharmacognosy (2002) from Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS), Iran. She has worked as Visiting Researcher and awarded a Foreign Researcher Fellowship to work as a Research Associate both in Kyoto University, Japan (2002-2003 and 2005-2006), as well as Assistant and Associate Professor at TUMS (2007-2015) and Visiting Professor at Saskatchewan University, Canada (2013-2014). She has written roughly 150 scientific papers for various academic journals, as well as academic books and book chapters in both English and Farsi.

She is also interested in English literature and poetry, and has published a collection of her poems, Harfhaee- Baraye- Khodam (Words for myself), in the Farsi language. Now, Soodabeh is living in New York and her poems have been published (or a head of publishing) in the American magazines and literary journals including Squawk Back, Sisyphus Quarterly, Paradox, TimBookTu, Bobbling of the Irrational, SPINE, American Writers Journal, Tuck Magazine, La Libertad, Tiny Poetry, Indiana Voice Journal, The Pen, 352 degrees and the Great Weather for Media. A number of her poems have been printed in the books Where the Mind Dwells and American Poet by Eber & Wein Publishing as well as Moonlight Dreamers of Yellow Haze by Johnson Publications and Artistic. Her newest books, Street of the Ginkgo Trees and Voice of Monarch Butterflies are now available online on Amazon.

 

 

THE BOX- by Don Tassone

The Box

by Don Tassone

He was on his way home from baseball practice when he spotted it between the Asher’s garbage cans and the curb. It was a wooden box, about two feet long, a foot and a half wide and a foot and a half deep.  It had a brass handle on top, two brass latches on the front and three brass hinges on the back.

The boy skidded to a stop and and hopped off his bike for a closer look.  Squatting down, he flipped up the latches and pulled back the lid. There was nothing inside except for a sheet of mottled, yellowed paper along the bottom.  He closed the lid, refastened the latches and picked it up by the handle.  It was heavy.

He’d been looking for a box to store some of his stuff.  This one might do nicely, he thought. The boy rode his bike home and walked back down the street to the Asher’s.  He felt a little funny taking it.  But there it was, out on the curb on garbage night.  Free game.  He grabbed the box and carried it home.

“What do you have there, Bobby?” his mother asked, as he lugged it through the back door.

“Just a box,” he said, setting it down on the braided, wool rug in the center of the family room.

“Where’d you get it?”

“I found it out with the Asher’s garbage.”

“And you want to keep it?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“I want to put my stuff in it.”

“What stuff?”

“My important stuff.”

“Like what?”

“Well, like my ball glove and my baseball cards.  You know, my important stuff.”

“Let me have a look,” his mother said, squinting her eyes and kneeling down beside it.  Bobby got down on one knee next to her and opened it.  His mother peeked inside.

“It’s dirty.  If you want to keep this, you’re going to have to clean it first.”

“Okay, Mom.  What should I use?”

“Well, that looks like pretty good wood.  Walnut, I think.  I’ve got some wood soap.  You can use that.”

Bobby ripped the dingy paper from the bottom and scraped off several spots of crusty glue with a putty knife.  Then he scrubbed the box inside and out.  He even found some brass polish in the garage to shine up the fixtures.

His mother bought some blue felt to line the inside of the box.  She helped him measure it, cut it and glue it to the bottom and the sides.  His father applied a coat of varnish to the outside.  Bobby was thrilled to see the wavy grain of the wood come to life.

Then he began gathering his treasures and carefully placing them inside.  Beyond his ball glove and baseball cards, he put in his coin collection; a red, scale-model 1939 Chevy; a metal Band-Aid box with $7.26; a cast-iron cap gun; a Hershey bar; his Cub Scout handbook; his First Communion rosary; a geode he had found in Mammoth Cave; and a penny postcard his cousin Bill had mailed him from California.

Bobby’s dad was a printer.  He made him a sticker for his new box that read:  “Bobby’s Most Important Things.”  Bobby happily affixed it to the top. As he got older, the box got crowded, filling up with trophies and yearbooks.  Bobby had to constantly rearrange things to get them to fit.

He tried to wedge in his mortar board and diploma from his high school graduation, but they just wouldn’t fit.  So he jettisoned his baseball cards. When he got married, he brought the box with him.  He needed room for special gifts from his wife.  So his cap gun and coin collection had to go.

Once he started a family, he had to lose his old ball glove and the Chevy to make room for his kids’ drawings and birthday and Father’s Day cards. He kept all his children’s high school and college graduation programs.  So his own diplomas had to go.

When he retired, he gave up his high school yearbooks to create a slot for a hefty plaque from his company. When his first granddaughter was born, he carved out a new space for her pictures.  Same with grandchildren number two, three and four.  To make room, he ditched his retirement plaque.

He began to save Mass cards from his friends’ funerals.

When his parents died, within a year of each other, he added their framed wedding picture.  To make room, he gave up his last baseball trophy.

When his wife passed away, he got rid of everything but their wedding picture and her ring. Then he scraped off the sticker his father had made for him so long ago.  It was no longer legible anyway. Now he is 89 years old.  He still has the box.  The other day, he was showing it to his great granddaughter.  He opened the lid, and she peeked inside.

“It’s empty, Grandpa.”

“I know.  I’ve given everything away.  Emma, would you like to have this box?”

“Oh, Grandpa!  I’d love it!  I have so many things I want to put in it.”

 

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Don Tassone lives in Loveland, Ohio and teaches public relations at Xavier University in Cincinnati.  His stories have appeared in a range of literary magazines.  They’re posted at http://dontassone.com