Goodbye M’baye: by Adina Richman

•February 27, 2017 • 2 Comments

For M’baye Diagne*

There are so few heroes in a war zone
Especially in a struggle no one wants to name
Military action, civil skirmish, rebel uprising, genocide, not my problem –
Whatever its name or non-name,
Hard to be a hero
In a place where each exhalation is occupied with the business
Of measuring itself, calculating how much fear is safe to expel and
Each inhalation a well-timed sniff, testing what stench is floating about.
In these times where one must breathe like a snake flicks his tongue to taste the air,
One hundred times a minute, because things can change
It is not easy to be a hero

Those who knew him
This Senegalese cowboy
describe three things:
His stride, his smile, his cigarettes
Always one step ahead, moving forward
His beacon grin
Incandescent in the night,
casting light on your face, and his;
Glowing
As if he’d swallowed the moon
Anything was possible with the power of the stars, the force of the heavens
Beaming from his gut.
He walked with purpose
Lassoing all in his orbit
With that toothy smile
He drew up the slack and pulled in close
Making friends with his moonman laugh
Alien amidst screams, wails, the chop of the machete
To offer you something –
Strength, courage, confidence
A joke, a smoke, a sandwich
A fingernail of time, just long enough
To hang on or let go
The space to decide

He did what he did
Again and again
Crossing terrain from which it’s best to flee.
Laughing with men who didn’t try to hide
Blood spots on their white shirts;
Rotting flesh on the soles of their shoes.
Never allowing even the smallest scent of fear
No fragile tendril of disgust
To waft from between the spaces in his teeth.

No, he laughed, while under the back seat of his Jeep huddled
Bony shoulders clacking on floorboards
Three children stifle their cries
Wishing it was yesterday
When there was still a guarantee of tomorrow

And that was how he did it
No guns, no soldiers, no strategies
Playing the stars, playing the numbers
Three children here, five people there
Twenty-two checkpoints in twenty-four hours
One hundred days, a thousand hills to the Mille Collines,
800,000 corpses and then we stopped counting while
He did what he did
Again and again
One hero, impossible
The man on the moon
Or the moon in a man
His courage light years away from our trepidation
Our feigned ignorance
Our refusal to act

Good bye, M’baye
Peace unto you that persevered in patience!
May you dwell in the Gardens of Perpetual Bliss
Promised in your Qu’ran
Breathing ginger and jasmine
Instead of blood-metal and corpse
Tasting fruits with no thorns
Instead of fear bile and smoke

I wonder- will your heaven be flat, like Senegal-
You can see what is coming for miles-
Or dense, lush, like the forests of Rwanda
Hiding what is always just beyond
The next moonlit mountain
Another chance – there’s always another chance
To be a hero

• M’baye Diagne (1958-1994) was a Senegalese military officer and a United Nations military observer during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. He is credited with saving many lives during his time in Rwanda through nearly continuous rescue missions at great peril to himself. There is an excellent documentary Ghosts of Rwanda, and a BBC News article, “A Good Man in Rwanda” that might be of interest to the reader.

copyright 2016 Adina Richman, all rights reserved

To find more poems by Adina Richman on this blog, click HERE.

Fear: by Liliane Richman

•February 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This is my nightmare
I know the right way
Even if I am scared
Let’s say you knocked at my door
Dripping with blood
In the middle of the night
Would I open up?
Claim I’m afraid?
Say it’s Halloween
Some spooky disguise?

I’m smelling some trick
You might want to rape, kill me
Even if you were no mere stranger
You, my neighbor,
With your safe face
Begging shelter

Would I find the courage you need
Or would I desist
Trembling, wishing
I were in training
To be
Super Woman, undoing evil

 

To find more poetry by Liliane Richman on this blog, click HERE.

Liliane Richman’s recently published memoir, “The Bones of Time” can be found HERE.

Raining Mud: by anonymous 20th century poet

•February 25, 2017 • 4 Comments

On the day that I found a brass crayfish figurine at the Pound Store
(It was missing a cheliped,
but I figured that happens in real life too,
so I bought it.),
the day started overcast and windy;
then, it was overcast and really windy with minimal visibility due to blowing dirt;
then, it was overcast and really windy and raining,
which means it was actually raining mud,
which seemed bad enough…
until a video post
came across my Facebook news feed
of a Palestinian family
being assaulted by Israeli police.
First, I watched it without sound
because I always forget that most of the videos have sound,
but that you have to turn it on yourself.
Then, I watched it with sound,
but I couldn’t watch it all the way through,
so I scrolled away,
but the sound,
the screaming,
continued.

When I was four,
I found a photograph in a magazine
of Vietnamese refugees boarding a plane.
I must have had a grown-up read the caption for me.
In their panic,
these people,
families,
were trampling each other
to death.
I did what I always did with images from the Vietnam War;
I cut it out
and included it in a collage
of similar images,
which I pasted,
facing out,
in my bedroom window,
facing the street,
with a dictated letter,
inviting all those suffering,
to come to my house,
for prayer.
I would come to wonder,
in time,
why no one came.
My mother explained that it probably wasn’t visible
from the street.
I suggested we make a big sign then.
She didn’t go for that.
I wonder if the mailman read my letters
when he walked by my window
to deliver the mail?
I wonder what he thought?

I went looking for that image,
wanting to look with now adult eyes
at the image that had rendered me so horrified
as a four year old child.
I didn’t find it,
but Google images offered up refugees,
past and present,
previously unimagined.
Was it the child’s body,
washed up on the shore,
lying face down in the sand,
the unending stream of refugees
walking past a field of the discarded dead,
the man trying to pull his wife from beneath the feet of the panicked
that demolished any sense of personal potence
to effect the state of the world,
so overwhelming a task it seemed?
At four,
I believed,
with my whole heart,
that with prayer,
I could correct the world’s ills.
At sixteen,
I made a promise to God
that I wouldn’t pray
until I knew whether I believed in his existence
or not.
I still don’t know.
I still don’t pray.
What then is to be done?

To hear more poems by anonymous 20th century poet, click HERE.
To read more poetry by anonymous 20th century poet, click HERE.

The Noise Never Stops: by Helen Martin

•February 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The noise never stops
It radiates in our brain
In our ears and lungs

Think, say, do it now
Make your mark it’s not too late ~
And help the ‘Children’

Wipe out poverty
Follow the rules, make your own
Be a friend, be a wife

Create an Empire
But never brag about it
Watch your step, people see you

The noise never stops
Don’t do that, this is the way
That will never work

Bombs, gunfire, glass, blood
That will work, join the Chaos
The noise suffocates

And drowns out the birds
I can’t hear them, did they stop?
Are they singing ~ I can’t hear.

 

To find out more about Helen Martin, visit her professional website HERE.

To enjoy hearing a reading of other poems by Helen Martin, click HERE.

SISIFO: di Luca Maria Antonini

•February 23, 2017 • Leave a Comment

non so più quello chepensa il mio pensiero, non capisco più cosa vuole pensare, se quello che il mio pensiero pensa sia giusto o sbagliato, o buono o cattivo o qualcos’altro, io non posso più controllare il mio pensiero, penso senza sapere pensare, il mio pensiero pensa quello che vuole e io non posso più pensare a quello cui voglio pensare, penso solo a quello cui pensa il mio pensiero, a quello che decidelui, e non decido quello cui il mio pensiero debba pensare ma il mio pensiero fa quello che vuole, non mi considera, non so più quello che pensa, o come pensa, o perché (perché il mio pensiero pensa senza che io possa pensare), il mio pensiero pensa a quello che vuole indipendentemente da me, e io non ho controllo sul mio pensiero, il mio pensiero mi sovrasta, è avanti, è laterale, trasversale, compiaciuto di se stesso, incontrollabile, e io non so se quello che pensa sia vero e sensato, perché pensa solo lui e perché il mio pensiero non è mio ma è il pensiero del mio pensiero, e io non penso il mio pensiero ma è il mio pensiero a pensare me, a osservarmi con sufficienza, dall’alto al basso, e il mio pensiero mi controlla e giudica mentre lavo l’insalata in bilico sul lavandino.

 

Ascoltare una lettura qui sotto, la musica è stata composta e arrangiata per Sisifo da Igor Sciavolino:

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An English translation of this poem can be found below:

SISYPHUS

i don’t know what my thought thinks anymore, i don’t understand what it wants to think, if that which my thought thinks is right or wrong, or good or bad or something else, i can’t control my thought anymore, i think without knowing i think, my thought thinks what it wants and i can no longer think about what i want to think, i just think about what my thought thinks, about what it decides, and i don’t decide what my thought should think but my thought does what it wants, it has no regard for me, i no longer know what it thinks, or how it thinks, or why (because my thought thinks without me being able to think), my thought thinks about what it wants independent from me, and i have no control over my thought, my thought dominates me, it’s in front, it’s beside and through me, self satisfied, uncontrollable, and i don’t know if what it thinks is true and reasonable, because only it is thinking and because my thought is not my own but is the thought of my thought, and i don’t think my thought but it’s my thought which thinks me, observes me with condescension, up and down, and my thought keeps an eye on me and judges me while i wash the lettuce balanced on the sink.

(translation by Matthew Broussard)

2016 ATE (After Trump Election): by Adina Richman

•February 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I have to say
The prognosis is grim
The pulse is erratic
Breath has become labored, thready
The circular in and out replaced by panicked gasps.
Constricted windpipes wheeze long, hopeless sighs
Nope, it doesn’t look good.

Worse still,
It’s going to be a slow death
Indignities suffered
Humiliation and Outrage, twin, piercing icebergs
Slow melting glaciers,
Until we are all awash in a flood of self-pity
Each wishing, hoping
I am Noah!
Knowing
We haven’t been that good
And we won’t be that lucky.

Of course, we will still rally.
When our blood pressure rises
We will brace ourselves to fight, be vigilant
Outsmart the insidious cancerous squid ink squirt
Leaking, surreptitiously at first, from a tear
A rotted carotid
Later, inevitably,
Pumping, hemorrhaging boldly, aggressively, vigorously.
We had always known it was in our veins
But thought we’d outlive it

We might not
Without fail, we grow weary
Weak with worry
Our will sandpapered
Even the mighty heart is compromised
And something’s not right in the head

Still, there are so many plans to make
Upturned faces to wipe clean
Documents to be put in order
There are always taxes to pay

It would be easier
Better for us all
To just relax, let go
Unplug
Decant…

But, no, no, we all know what that means!
Do not go gently! No,
No rest for the wicked or the righteous,
We must
Put on a brave face
Keep calm, Keep on trucking
We shall
Keep the faith
Fight the good fight
Do it for the children
For the good of us all
We will
Hold on, be strong…

It’s all we can do, right?

But…
It’s looking pretty bleak from here….

 

copyright 2016 Adina Richman, all rights reserved

To find more poems by Adina Richman on this blog, click HERE.

From Left to Right I Ponder Politics and Kanji: by Robert Okaji

•February 21, 2017 • 7 Comments

In the evening I pour wine to celebrate
another day’s survival. My motions:
up to down, left to right. Glass

from cabinet, wine to mouth.
And then I return to the page.
The character for stone, ishi,

portrays a slope with a stone
at its base, and I take comfort
in knowing that as my knee aches

at the thought of climbing, ishi exists
in descent only. A volcano belches,
producing hi, fire, rising above the

cone, while earth, tsuchi, lies firm
beneath the shoots pushing up,
outward, and ame, rain,

consists of clouds and dotted
lines and the sky above. But if
wind is made of insects and

plums, do I assemble new meaning
without fact or wisdom, form
or assumed inflection, left to

down, up to right? Consider water,
its currents, its logic and needs.
Consider truth. This is how I think.

Listen to a reading of the poem by the poet:

You can find more poetry by Robert Okaji on this site or on his blog HERE . A collection of Robert’s poetry is available in his chapbook “If Your Matter Could Reform” which was published as part of the the National Poetry Month series by Dink Press 

 
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