Hair (who’s happy with it?)

A Poem by m.e. ziegler 

White girly natural
Braid, rag curl, perm
Straighten, color, com

Brush, shave, strip
Leaving all to wonder
Why can’t we leave it

Alone
Everywhere I go
People want to change
Natural to unnatural

Who told me
I’d look younger
Red, black, blonde
Anything but gray!

Singing “I want to be curly
I want to be straight “

Ain’t nobody happy
With the mane
That they hate

Rosie’s got wigs
New hair everyday
Be whatever color
Or style that you may

Pixie or bob
Afro or braid
She’s never tied in
To decisions she’s made!

NEIGHBORHOOD WALK

A Poem by John Grey

All it takes is a walk.
And a walk is first person nothing in particular,
everything in detail. .
Sidewalks are carved with the tetragrammaton
of those who were young when the cement went down.
Squirrels dart across streets, duel with traffic.
Crows caw the name of their god
ten thousand times a day
Meanwhile, an oak is alone
with the scriptures of its leaves,
the hard rock of its trunk.
the monotheism of deep roots
Mockingbird song, wind gust, sun-rays…
a lack of cohesion among worshipers.
But who cares as long reverence gets done.
A familiar face ends my exile.
“Good morning. Nice weather.
The fertility god has been good to us.”
Doctor says I need to lose twenty pounds.
Twenty pounds of kitchen, bedroom, parlor
he doesn’t say.
Twenty pounds of being in the house,
on the couch, immersed in the two dimensional
All it takes is a hearty stroll through neighborhood bric-a-brac.
White fences, kabbalist mystics, dogs, Rosicrucians,
Spanish families new to the area, refrigerators on pavement,
alms to the garbage trucks.
I was immersed in a book not an hour ago.
Existence was nothing but me and Gatsby lazing by his pool.
But now a kid on a bicycle is in on it.
A young woman pushing a pram.
And here comes George in his motorized wheelchair.
No sign of-him in 1920’s Long Island.
But all it takes is a daily constitutional,
an hour or so, up the hill, down the side street,
along the main street, then through the college.
Woman on bench feeding pigeons,
it was either you or Daisy Buchanan.’
All it takes is a walk. It’s you.

Beauty of Seeds

A Prose Piece by Nayeli Guzman as told to Beverly Bell

Damn, I should have brought my beans! I wanted to show you my collection. One of my favorites is called powami, a Hopi ceremonial bean. There’s a really beautiful one called Maine Yellow Eye, which is all white and right at the part where the bean sprouts, there’s a little yellow moon on there. There’s another one called Provider. When you put it against the sun, it looks like an oil spill from your car. Man, those beans are so beautiful.

We cooked some red Mexican beans for the harvest festival, and everyone loved them.

It’s always good to be able to give food. It’s the best, dude. We don’t think of what we’re producing in terms of money, but just in terms of health and food for our families.

Farming was in my prayers for a long time. This land is my teacher; it’s my altar. It’s at the heart of my culture. We’ve always done that. We’ve strayed so far from it that I feel we have to go back, no matter where we come from. I’m just being responsible to the struggles my ancestors went through. They fought for tierra y libertad, which means land and liberty. In fact, we’re still going through that struggle today, with our food and even our genes being colonized.

May Your Days Fill Themselves With Wonder

A Poem by Michael H. Brownstein

May your crosswalk always say brilliant at the light
May the wind at your back always be full of warmth,
May you always find a ripe apple on a tree by your home
And thick groves of dandelion greens along your bushes,
May you always find a beauty in love, a fullness of joy,
A grand bouquet of gratitude and balloons of happiness,
May you always walk with your eye on the possibility
And your thoughts on creativity and everything good,
May your world be one of peace and graciousness,
And your beach full of all that is wonderful and glad,
May your hike in the forest full you with contentment,
May your night sky take you to places no one has been,
May your daily errands introduce you to intelligence,
May your car always start, your lights always come on,
Your phone always be charged, your windows clear
And honest, and the breeze through your screens healthy
And soothing, loving and comfortable. May sickness
Never enter your abode, and everywhere you go
May life be a luxury hotel with the sounds of nature
Greeting you openhanded with the music of wind and air,
Tree and brush, bird and insect, compliments and insight.
May you always wake to sunshine and clear weather skin,
And may you always arrive at the stoplight when its green.
This is a thank you poem. May you always be full of thanks.

A Christmas Poem

A Poem by Michael H. Brownstein

Four days from the start of winter, five days from the great Ursid meteor shower,
six days after the temperature climbed into the sixties, rain fell, froze on contact,
changing everything to white ice, clean and smooth, clear and crunchy.
The man and woman stand outside their small home, logs burning in the fireplace,
candles lit in darker corners, thick sunlight heating everything through thin windows.
It is cold outside. They listen to the scents around them, see the sounds of shadows,
smell the fresh breeze swinging through the bare trees, arms around each other,
scarves across their throats, hats light on their heads, heavy jackets open to the day.
Christmas comes in the morning, he says. I know, she answers. I never asked,
he continues. I did not ask either, she replies. I do not need anything, he says.
Nor I, and she smiles and pauses and lets out a fog of air. We are not like that,
he begins again. We are not like the air you see in this weather when you breath.
We have something stronger and we have something greater. She turns her head to him.
A glitter of light flashes through a nearby evergreen, its needles ripen with sunshine,
each branch flickers and stops—a pause in wind. I know, she answers.
We have all we need. We have a flower blossom and an agate and he kisses her lightly.
That is all I have ever needed and will ever need, he says, the flint strong within him,
the day blue-lit, the forest strong and healthy, rainbows slipping from the eaves.

Love is created in many ways. This is but one of them.

Faith–A Hanukah Poem

A Poem by Michael H. Brownstein

Do you see the lights in the distance?
The fog erased outline of the station?
Are you comfortable with your name?

Late afternoon, a spit of sun, sand,
A triumph after the last bloodletting.
Where do we want to go from here?

The temple not destroyed, but desecrated,
Blood graffiti, carcasses of pig,
The ark wide open, spilled oil, broken lamps.

We will not wait until tomorrow to clean,
We are comfortable with who we are,
The mirage of light in the distant our legacy.

One days supply lasts eight days,
One prayer resonates in song and psalm,
One mount, one name, a household of praise.

September 11th

A Poem by Richard D. Hartwell

–On reading of the illness and death among first responders:

To me, September 11th is the
color of yellow, a
color of anguish, a
color of sadness, of
dust and smoke.

It is no longer the
color of blood, the
color red, or of
tongues of flame.

It is no longer the
color of sky, the
color blue, of a
beautiful background.

It is no longer the
color of purity, the
color white, of an
unconsummated wedding.

For me, September 11th is the
color of ocher, not of
red, white, and blue, not of
waving flags, but of slo
rot, sickness and death.

The Waiting Room

Literary Non-Fiction by Richard D. Hartwell

Again at the VA Emergency Room. The denizens change little and their complaints rarely at all.

Triage over – a far cry from a combat zone prioritization – the emergency department returns to bored normalcy; not excepting the older alcoholic pissing himself in the corner vacated by those more sensitive to offensive odors and lack of decorum, or the young man rocking back and forth in withdrawal. Most take a seat in one of the GSA-provided, plastic chairs, looking much like a mix-and-match herbal garden, but with the weeds left untouched.

All wilt from some form of mental trauma, disease, or financial handicap; why else be willing to wait five hours or more to confirm the flu, or try to con an increase in prescription opiates to fertilize the mind, or to find a place to sleep.

The television remains tuned to reruns of Gunsmoke, Bonanza and other macho fictions.

Some wear their wounds externally: amputations, scarifications, canes, walkers, wheelchairs. Others bear theirs internally: PTSD, general malaise, substance abuse, homelessness. There is a taint of some war, a subtle scent, that is not medicinal and not always obvious, yet all – all have been affected.

Many suffer an accumulation of accidents, otherwise they would not still be here, still waiting. Here, where they wage another war, a visual combat of braggadocio, armed with baseball caps bearing each veteran’s venue: Pearl Harbor Survivor, World War II Vet, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. Some emblazoned with additions: unit designations, multi-colored theater ribbons, armed service declarations – Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force.

The old mix with the young and an increasing number of women, many scarred by wounds of sexual trauma for which they may receive some compensation, but never a Purple Heart. This could be the case with the newest patient to the ER …

A woman, a mother, perhaps wife or girlfriend, is brought in on a gurney by two paramedics. A man, a father (?), perhaps husband or boyfriend or whatever, along with her, as well as Joe-Joe, about 8 or so, who is promptly told, “Go have a seat, Joe-Joe!” by the father or step-father or boyfriend or whatever.

He – the husband/father, etc. – affects a tone of disinterest toward both the woman and the boy, conversing only with the paramedics and the male admissions’ nurse, all three in their pastel uniforms. The woman is either unconscious or has decided not to actively participate with anyone in this triage process, including the boy. She does not respond to the emotionless pat on the hand administered to her by the nurse, any more than she does to the other man’s ongoing berating of her and, presumably, her actions.

Eyes closed. Arms crossed. Lying on her side. Encircled by loose straps, if not by love. The paramedics want to plant her somewhere and return to their van. She is wearing a wedding band, which may actually signify little – except perhaps to the boy, who, still seated, continues to play a game on his phone – and she has long, silver, glistening fingernails and the mien of a high-class woman fallen on harder times than she expected.

My mind constructs her attempted suicide, for no real reason than the slack straps lightly hugging her cocooned posture and flecks of vomit on her pinked lips. The three males surrounding her – four if you can count the boy – seem to have been here before, if I am judging correctly by their relative lack of interest. This appears confirmed as the nurse addresses her “Jill! Jill, can you hear me?” but without a response.

If SHE is the veteran, I want to know the backstory; if HE – her male non-companionable consort – is the veteran, then I want his story. But too late, the nurse directs the paramedics to take her back into the bowels of the emergency room. The man and the boy follow slowly, reluctantly.

The occupants in the seating area return to more hours of normal, waiting somnolence. With dawn the air conditioner comes on with a roar much like that of an oven in a crematorium. I continue to wait with those left behind in the waiting room.

A Summary of Torah

A non Jewish individual comes to Hillel and asks, with the obvious intention of provoking him, to be taught the whole Torah while standing on one leg. Hillel answers, “That which is hateful to you, do not unto another: This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary — [and now] go study.”

–Hillel the Elder

Greeters

A Poem by Michael H. Brownstein

We are the official wavers of the trains.
This is what we do.
Twice a day we come to these tracks to wave.
Sometimes those in the train wave back.
Sometimes they do not.
And we always smile.
Yes, even in the rain and cold we are there.
We greet the passing of the train

Yellow Sub

A Tale by extetsjoibe

My mother, when my eldest brother Osman was born, nursed the eldest Khan, Abu Nutsal Khan. Then she nursed the second son of the Khan, Umma Khan, and reared him; but Akhmet my second brother died, and when I was born and the Khansha bore Bulach Khan, my mother would not go as wet-nurse again. My father ordered her to, but she would not. She asked: “Should I again kill my own son? I will not go.’

Then my father, who was passionate, struck her with a dagger and would have killed her had they not rescued her from him. So she did not give me up, and later on she composed a song . . . but I need not tell that.

Hadji Murad grew thoughtful. He remembered how his mother had laid him to sleep beside her under a fur coat on the roof of the saklya and he had asked her to show him the place in her side where the scar of her wound was still visible.

He remembered the fountain below the hill when holding onto his mother’s sarovary (loose Turkish trousers) when he went with her for water. He remembered how she had shaved his head for the first time and how the reflection of his round bluish head in the shining brass vessel that hung on the wall had astonished him. He remembered a lean dog that had licked his face. He remembered the strange smell of the lepeshki (a kind of flat cake) his mother had given him – a smell of smoke and sour milk. He remembered how his mother had carried him in a basket on her back to visit his grandfather at the farmstead and left him there. He remembered his wrinkled grandmother. He remembered all of this. But he remembered most how his mother would wake him with her bright sun even after she was long gone, turning down the path away from her parent’s home without even a look backwards.

Where is your mother now? someone asked.

My mother is now in Shamil’s hands, he answered, and she must be rescued. When he smiled, he captivated everyone around him.

No, one of the others said. This was long ago. She is no longer in his hands.

Yes, I know, he said. I just want to see the scar one more time, that’s all. I want to see how her scar became a bright yellow sun.

Cowboy Jake

A Poem by Author unknown

Jake, the rancher, went one day,
To fix a distant fence.
The wind was cold and gusty;
The clouds rolled gray and dense.

As he pounded the last staples in
And gathered his tools to go,
The temperature had fallen;
The wind and snow began to blow

When he finally reached his pickup,
He felt a heavy heart;
From the sound of that ignition,
He knew it wouldn’t start!

So Jake did what most of us would do,
Had we been there
He humbly bowed his balding head
And sent aloft a prayer.

As he turned the key for one last time,
He softly cursed his luck.
They found him three days later,
Frozen stiff in that old truck.

Now Jake had been around in life
And done his share of roaming.
But when he saw Heaven, he was shocked –
It looked just like Wyoming!

Of all the saints in Heaven,
His favorite was St. Peter.
(Now, this line ain’t really needed,
But it helps with rhyme and meter)

So they set and talked a minute or two,
Or maybe it was three.
Nobody was keeping score
–In Heaven time is free.

“I’ve always heard,” Jake said to Pete,
“That God will answer prayer,
But one time when I asked for help,
Well, HE just plain wasn’t there.”

“Does God answer prayers of some
And ignore the prayers of others?
That don’t seem exactly square
–I know all men are brothers.”

“Or does he randomly reply,
Without good rhyme or reason?
Maybe, it’s the time of day,
The weather or the season.”

“Now I ain’t trying to act smart,
It’s just the way I feel.
And I was wondering, could you tell me —
What the heck’s the deal?!”

Peter listened patiently,
And when old Jake was done,
There were smiles of recognition,
And he said, “So, you’re the one!!”

“That day! Your truck; It wouldn’t start,
And you sent your prayer a flying,
You gave us all a real bad time,
With hundreds of us all trying.”

“A thousand angels rushed,
To check the status of your file,
But you know, Jake,
We hadn’t heard from you, in quite a long while.”

“And though all prayers are answered,
And God ain’t got no quota,
He didn’t recognize your voice,
And started a truck in Minnesota!”

Fingernauks

A Poem by Michael Estabrook

She’s sad I know but I don’t know what
to tell her to ease her anxiety we’re all in the same boat
just noticed my fingernails are dirty how
did that happen all I do with my hands is type in here
and work the remote so weird where did the damn dirt come from
there have been plagues in the past I tell her
all over the world and they have fizzled out eventually
this one will fizzle too just needs
a little more time

Myth

A Poem by A. J. Huffman

With fire hovering
just outside my fingers,
my eyes began
to smoke. I was the flame,
fabled gift, stolen. From gods
I reigned, a vision of destruction,
of deception, of severance.
Faith dispersed:
ash
to dust
in wind.