Giving

When a white reporter asked Sitting Bull why his people admired him so much, Sitting Bull asked the reporter if a man in his culture was respected for having a lot of things—a big home, for example. The reporter answered by telling him that in his culture, yes, having many things made you more respected.

Sitting Bull then answered, “My people respect me because I keep nothing for myself.”

The Tower and the Man

A Poem by David Lander

The man, I believe it was a man,
dove from his apartment on the fiftieth floor
and like a sack of wet vegetables, landed hard.

At that moment he stopped being a man.
He stopped being anything and vanished.

The fire that had driven him from his home
continued to burn terribly.

The crowd that had gathered in horror at the spectacle
of the tower in flames, continued to gasp.

But the man who had landed so hard and heavily
was not with them or the fire or his body any more.

I do not know his name.
I do not know the number of his apartment,
or how he had decorated it or who he lived with
but I know this man.

He needs no name.
He needs no number.
He needs not love minimalism or shabby chic,
for I know who he is.

He left behind blood, flesh, bits of bone, water, chemicals, gas.
He left behind binding things, releasing things, gripping things
and washing things.
He left behind books, that, I dare say, others will have read,
music that others will have enjoyed, old photographs, perhaps,
clothes, plates, cups, a stove and a fridge.
They are now cinders.

By chance it was him who dove fifty floors.
who chose to lean out, to stare into a smoking space,
to look down at the upturned faces,
to glance at the stars, and it was he who chose
to lean out, as if to test gravity.

Perhaps, he said ‘Come on, show me your power. End this for me.’

And then leaned that bit further so his blistered fingers
on the hot metal behind slipped and he began his plummet.
Was he calm? No.

He was terrified, if he was, at this point, even a he,
or a human.
So terrified, he was beyond fear as we who survive know fear;
the fear of public speaking, the fear of farting, the fear of rejection.

He gave away balance, released his grip and was now in the hand of gravity,
that cold, relentless master, who called him silently down, and down and down,
moving progressively faster so that he hit the pavement hard and vanished.

I know who he was.
I know everything important about him.

Like me, he breathed.
Like me, he was alive.
And now is not.

Our Close Knit Town

A Poem by Pat St. Pierre

We hold fast in our cocoon.
Like the caterpillar
waiting to shed his thin chrysalis;
we remain insulated.
Our children mingle with their own kind;
few blacks or minorities pass us
on neighborhood streets.
We accept the falsehood,
believing we’ve made progress.
As another generation follows
in our footsteps
nothing will alter our suburban cocoon
unless
we uncover
something to rip away the walls
forcing true equality.

From the Grandfather Series

Two poets–one Vietnamese and the other American–and in both languages. Michael H. Brownstein translated both poems from English to Vietnamese–his first attempt at translation.

A POEM BY NGUYENVAN LUAT

Capella Evelyn, Nick name Bao La
Bao La!
Cháu gái bé Bao La

Từ bên kia trái đất

Chào đời! Chào cả nhà!

Chúc An khang Thịnh vượng!
Bao La tình nghĩa Mẹ – Cha!

Bao La bông lúa củ khoai tình ngườii!

Bao La bừng sáng bầu trời:

CHÂN – THIÊN – VIỆT-Mỹ đời đời Bao La!
Grand Father’s Bao La


Capella Evelyn, Nick name Bao La
Immense!

Baby girl Bao La

From the other side of the earth

Born! Hi all!

Chúc An Khang Prosperity!
Loving Mother Love – Father!

Bao La cotton rice yam yams love!

Bao La bright sky:

CHAN – THIEN – VIETNAM – USA forever Bao La!
Grand Father’s Bao La


A POEM BY MICHAEL H. BROWNSTEIN

Anh Sáng Ban Ngày
Tôi đánh thức sấm sét từ bên trong,

một cuộc đụng độ khác,

ngân hàng khóc vì thiếu,

công ty điện thoại sủa,

hàng rào xuống cấp và sau đó

một trong những con chó của chúng tôi nhảy qua

và tôi không thể tìm thấy cô ấy ở đâu cả.

Tôi phải đi làm, tôi có

việc vặt và việc làm và giấy tờ,

nhưng điều này sẽ cần phải được giữ,

Con chó được tìm thấy, an toàn. Một kiểm tra

với hàng hóa, tôi sửa hàng rào, kéo

một vài cỏ dại, một cây bắt đầu,

và tăng cường nghiêng.

Đã có hàng trăm người ở bên ngoài,

ánh sáng mặt trời đằng sau độ ẩm của mây,

và rồi tin tức đến qua—

một cháu gái, sinh ra bốn giờ sáng,

sáu cân, khỏe mạnh, đã đẹp—

và mặt trời xuyên qua lớp mây,

những bông hoa rực rỡ bởi bức tường phía xa

mở khuôn mặt vàng xinh đẹp của họ,

bụi hoa hồng mở miệng đỏ,

những bông hoa nhỏ màu trắng, hoa tử đinh hương,

bồ công anh, mulberries chín

và tất cả đều đúng với thế giới của tôi.

DAYLIGHT

I wake to a thunder from inside,
another clash of infection,
the bank crying about a lacking,
the phone company barking,
the fence degrading and then
one of our dogs jumps over
and I cannot find her anywhere.
I’ve got to go to work, I have
errands and deeds and paperwork,
but this will need to be put on hold.
The dog is found, safe. One check
to the good, I fix the fence, pull
a few weeds, a beginning tree,
and reinforce the leaning.
It’s already a hundred outside,
sunlight behind a humidity of clouds,
and then the news comes through—
a granddaughter, born four AM,
six pounds, healthy, already beautiful—
and sun breaks through the cloud cover,
the sunlit blossoms by the far wall
open their beautiful yellow faces,
the rose bush opens its red mouths,
the tiny white flowers, the lilacs,
the dandelions, the ripening mulberries
and all is right with my world.
So fresh and so clean.

Our Father’s Day Tribute

Poetry by Michael H. Brownstein

I CUT THE GRASS WITH MY SON

My son, no longer a boy, tall and taller
Leans into the lawn mower on the hill,
The last quarter acre of land, the grass
Tall, too, lanky like him allows itself
To shape shift, the first days of September,
The sun on fire, the air on fire, I am melting,
My hair loose over my face like a wet mop,
My shirt discolored with everything pouring
From me, but there is shade and somehow
A light breeze. My son is as composed as can be,
Pushing the mower up the hill for another pass.
When he is done, he asks what’s next.
The silk trees, I point, growing everywhere.
And the vinko vines leaching into tree trunks
We wish to keep healthy. There’s a strand
Of poison ivy. The evergreen needs a trim.
So we work and the weight of the work
Grows heavy within me, but he is not wet,
His hands are not dirty, and yet the silk trees
Fall, the vinko vines disrupted at their roots,
The poison ivy cut at its source. Next?
He asks, but I need a break, our gallon jugs
Humid in the heat, and I am hungry, too,
So we enter the house where his baby girl
Leans into her mother, already knowing strength,
And my son who is no longer a boy
Lifts his child carefully in his large hands,
Kisses her gently on the forehead once, twice, twice more.
We have to do more, he tells her. When we finish,
We’ll take a walk downtown, visit the library,
And maybe get a bite to eat. What do you think?
And he kisses her again, on the top of her head,
Rubs his hand through the soft silk of her hair,
His strong hands containing all of her, his baby girl
Making baby sounds, and my son blue skies happy.

I THINK ABOUT MY SON WHILE I CUT A QUARTER ACRE OF LAWN

The father trims trees; his son trims trees–
they stand together before a mosaic of large bark,
new blossoms, a glitter of leaf, each one
holds a clipboard and a small golf scoring pencil,
their heads bent towards each other discussing
length and circumference, distance and height,
dry rot, the mulberry growing out of the maple,
the small tree forming in the elbow of dogwood
and I cut the grass in long rows thinking of my son,
the flea market twenty dollar mower grunting
one line after another, steep hills, roots,
the remnant of an old wall now revealing itself,
rock and brick, tree debris, clumps of earth,
the sun warming me to sweat and brine,
knowing he is cool in his lab researching herbs
and a multitude of plants, degrees in botany,
grants to travel to Vancouver, Scotland,
the the north of Viet Nam near the Chinese border,
to Missouri and his farm of figwort and moss,
then Chicago to his office, a portrait of his son and wife
on the wall above his desk, a photo of his mother,
the air conditioner blasting, his equipment singing
soft hymns, his computers opening pages of notes.
He will be coming to visit late August, the grass
not as tall, the rocks and debris gone,
and he will wake after his first night in his old bed,
come down for breakfast, his family still recovering
from their long trip, and say to me,
“Let’s cut the grass?” and I will answer, “Yes.”

Pray Little Girl

A Poem by Fabrice Poussin

A dancer as Degas may have once painted you;
misty in a corridor bathed in a subtle light,
you seem to waltz as you skip from tile to tile.

Not a sound, just a hazy envelope of light,
surrounded by a dream, nothing could be more real;
eyes semi closed, a heart softly murmurs a praise.

Giddiness is not a question to be pondered,
every fiber of your being floats in a tenuous dance;
your dress shapes a skin of pearls, diamonds and gold.

Your lips, your soul, your every breath a subtle smile,
gently your chest heaves a life you generously share;
a gift few can comprehend, fewer are able to make.

Continue on your path little girl, a fall is unlikely;
come closer, it seems the universe leads you forward,
inexorably as it was meant to be when the world began.

Insecurity

A Poem by Chris Butle

People pass on memes
in preference of their genes,
a used username
and padlocked password,
to preserve the account of our lives
and our millions of foreign friends
in pictures on indisputable proof,
covering up with makeup
the everyday truth.

r

The Textures

A Poem by Maik Strosahl

When I recall the moments
I cherish most,
they were not just clear skies,
perfectly stilled forests
and mirrored lakes.

I treasure the textures:
the wisps and shadows
of clouds as they menace
then pass over the horizon;
the bend and release
of a breeze against
the ever green,
the sycamore,
a blade of grass;
the waves as they crash
onto a rocky shore,
the wake as it wobbles the bobber,
the memories that flood with ripples.

Fiji Musume (The Wisteria Maiden)

A Poem by Michael E. (Maik) Strosahl

In Kabuki,
the actor is the wind,
swirling his long hair
as a branch alive with blossoms
and he becomes her,
the wisteria
dancing the birth of spring,
the rise of her spirit
sweet upon the air.

In my garden,
the wind is the actor,
pulling at her flowers
and it is the maiden’s flight,
the wisteria
out across the goat pasture,
the scent gathering divine
in the evening’s warmth—
the crowd is enthralled.