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POETRY SWAP MEET: Poetry we don't usually know about, or?

jade tiger
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Juliet Latham


What if the retina
jolted by a light
sent its obligatory signal

to the brain and formed
a woman
and that woman is me

a floater
which my doctor tells me
can be very normal

just a fiber clump
in the vitreous gel
that inhabits the eye

I learned early
this trick
of suspension

how to dart away
from any gaze
held too long

just until
it is unclear

if what you watch
is the world you have left
or a tunnel you might enter

the things an eye
can see from this height
my mother’s face

hiding poison
only meant
for me

the lover on Chestnut
all charm in light
bullets by dark

business trip, an elevator,
strange man’s mouth
doors sealed hard

too many floaters
and a flash of light
is an emergency

my doctor says
I’m high risk
for retinal detachment

quizzes me on symptoms
to see if I’m listening
I tell her acute episodes

of imaginative replacement
floating, looking out
when I should be looking in

the presence of any magic
holding up the body
in lieu of trust

perhaps she’s warning me
about blindness because
she doesn’t know

I’m floating here
beyond her pencil of light
asking if this eye

is all there is to see.

—from Ekphrastic Challenge
March 2019, Artist’s Choice

Comment from the artist, Betsy Mars: “This was a unique opportunity to be on the other side of the selection process, and I am hereby swearing to never again second-guess anyone’s choice. The range of subject matter, style, and length was breathtaking. A gutsy, succinct very short poem vs a heartfelt and well-written three-pager. Some touched on the futuristic aspects of the image, some took the vibe and went with it in a more indirect manner. It may have been the most arduous work I have ever done outside of childbirth. I admired all, but in the end chose this because I love the extended metaphor and the way that the poet blurred the line between the literal and the symbolic. The sense of alienation and detachment was so palpable in the writing. I have felt that kind of out-of-body experience when looking at my own life, and I think the poem aligns so well with the emotions conjured by the image. Plus, I am mildly at risk for retinal detachment.”

jade tiger
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Michael Mark


So I get up from the metal benches
walk the concrete path around the ball field to watch
updates on my phone and a small man coming—
he has a big potato nose and those thick glasses
and I do what walkers do—step a half step over
make room and smile. He touches his heart
with his palm, holds it over his pale polo shirt
above his wide belly—

my legs keep their pace so he doesn’t see
the tears he made me make. He makes the bullets
the people real makes me a mourner a witness maybe
a human an us a them.

The temple is only 15 miles away
on this beautiful Saturday, Shabbos.
Beautiful girls and boys playing tee-ball.
He touches his heart makes the bullets
real the faces screams.

I know he is a Jew. His size his shape
the thin gold chain around his neck thick
Jew’s neck. If that’s wrong of me then
I’m wrong.

I can’t see it’s not a cross or a star
or dead wife’s ring hanging from a chain
like my father wears. He is a Jew who knows
I am a Jew.

The next time we meet up on the path
I don’t know if I should—I want to—touch
my heart back. I know I need him to. He does it again.
Slow pats, like slow heart beats.

What if it has nothing to do with the shooting
the murdered woman the three injured so far reported
the automatic weapon our history. It’s just
his way of saying showing me this is my heart
it’s right here under my chest. Maybe he does that
to every person he sees? That’s how he says good morning
every morning hello at the grocery store, at the dentist.

He walks so slow. Maybe he is sick maybe
his feet hurt maybe he is tired maybe
it’s the mourners walk maybe
he is walking with the dead he’s dead
maybe. He is a Jew.

I don’t want him to leave the park.
I turn as he passes, his loose pants, slump, still going.
The third time we meet I see his hands
don’t have a ring I want to see him pat his heart
but he doesn’t. He gives a thumbs up
his fist wrapped around his tissue.

And I know what he means, I’m sure,
We’re still here.

We are at the ball field
at the middle school. The wrong place
on Shabbos. We’re such Jews.
We’re still here.


Michael Mark: “On Saturday, April 27th, the holy day of rest for the Jewish people, a day of prayer, no work, no playing sports, a man entered a San Diego temple and fired his automatic weapon into the worshippers, killing and wounding because they were Jews.”

jade tiger
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Richard Beban


like the one about the man who
walked down the street
& turned into
a drugstore.

There was some secret in the moment
of that turning—when he was one thing,
became another—
that I return to again & again.

The day she stopped being
grandma & turned into
that madwoman.

The day my sister stopped being
& never came back. Perhaps there
was an instant between her sweet sleep

& the moment the fever struck,
from which she could have been plucked.

Do not make that turn, I want to say to the man
who becomes the drugstore; to the woman
who dies insane; to my sister;

to the boy who became an adult
the moment the cell door slammed shut.
I want to freeze-frame each instant of turning,

unfold in slow motion the moment of callous
change. Perhaps the secret’s in the man’s
intention; in the list in his pocket of mundane
nostrums he was sent to fetch home.

Or perhaps I’ve got it wrong,
perhaps there’s a soda fountain where they all sit—
the man, my grandmother, my sister, the boy—

& drink nickel root beer floats, look back
on that fateful turn, and laugh among themselves
at the rest of us, who took it all so seriously.


Richard Beban: “I came to Casablanca for the waters, and to poetry for the money. In both cases, he says, he was misinformed.”

jade tiger
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Amy Miller


If it still stands,
find the bench on the bend
of Crystal Springs trail with a view

of the cold lake
and cormorants. We were idiots,
but we liked this. Also cats on our belly

at night. Taqueria
windows white with steam.
A certain shade of lilac that painted

the hills
for a single week in May.
We had a saying about the meek,

but the crops
failed all of us equally,
the Earth so democratic for a moment.

We kept writing—
bless you if you’re reading this—
because to stop would have been death

before death
before death. To know
the mistakes we made, with everything,

made a long
and foolish memoir.
And what was there to do but write it?

We are
so young. Tonight
white blossoms blaze outside the door,

a scent
like spring has lost
its mind and pumped out all

the pheromones
in the arsenal. We are
so in love as well—this place—

three deer walk
down the center of the street,
lit for a moment, then crossing to the dark.


Amy Miller: “The United Nations report released a few days ago, predicting that a million plant and animal species will soon face extinction due to human civilization—possibly causing catastrophic harm to our food and water systems—cast a pall over everything this past week. Like many, I’ve had even more thoughts than usual of mass extinctions, famine, and despair, along with a glimmer of hope that a finding this frightening may finally persuade governments to take radical actions to turn the tide. As a writer, I constantly wonder whether writing is worthwhile—I mean, will there be anyone around to read it in a few generations? I keep thinking of the line in William Stafford’s poem ‘Waiting in Line’—‘the chance / to stand on a corner and tell it goodby!'”[/i]

jade tiger
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Meghan Bell


Today, your personality is, I’m renovating
Again, punching out the wall of the bathroom
And installing a hot tub outside under the deck
You look down on the city from.
I wonder if I’m obsessed with dark and messy things
Because you kept the house so clean
You couldn’t even tell people had lived there
Like how Dad once wrestled me to the ground
To show me how to remove blackheads and then
In high school the boys voted me “best skin.”
Why are we so ashamed of being human, Mom?
You’re 125 pounds and talking about how
I inherited your pot belly again. You gifted
All the basement furniture to a friend, again
And I act unimpressed even though
I’m wearing your hand-me-down boots and
My apartment is filled with things you purged
After the divorce. You have hundreds of friends
And they’re all here for the party. You’re mixing
Gin and tonics ‪at 12:01 p.m.‬ with a woman who told you to
Pull the bootstraps up over your grief.
Your personality is, I have a new couch and if you
Press this button, a footrest slowly rolls out.
Your personality is half-hour vacation slideshows
From your trip to New Zealand with your new husband
Who will get the house and its perfect walls in your will.
Your personality is always smiling or running,
Arms stretched out at the top of a mountain
After a long hike. Your personality is decorating summer homes
With overpriced kitsch saying, This Is the Life
We Don’t Skinny Dip We Chunky Dunk
Life Is Better at The Beach. You’re always telling me
You just want me to be happy, but by that you mean
You want me to help you continue to believe I’m happy
Like how every Mother’s Day you asked for my brother
To stop beating me up, and for me to stop telling you about it.
I want to know, Mom, where do you think we go
When you close your eyes?
You’re always telling me to come over when
There’s a gap in your day-planner.
You’re always trying to set me up with
Your neighbors’ sons who went to business school.
You’re always warning me not to sing because
I inherited your voice. Did you know
I never liked my face until I left for university and learned
To smile in response to joy instead of a camera?
I became so much more beautiful that day, Mom,
I wish you could see it, the way my eyes light up
Like I might even be alive.


Meghan Bell: “In response to Mother’s Day in late-stage capitalism. This is for my mom, who never understood why I couldn’t just smile.”

jade tiger
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Cambra Koczkur


My first-grader pours his own cereal.
He stands on a stool so his elbows
have room to bend, but still needs help
from mom if the milk bottle’s full.

My girl, five, wiggles as I weave quatrains of
gold on yellow ribbon through her hair and
speak our rhyming poems into the mirror.
“You carry my love with you,” we say.

Every weekday morning is the same.
I write couplets, hand draw cartoons,
put the notes atop nutbutter sandwiches,
fill bags with cracker-schools of fish.

After drop off, I turn on the news
and pray my children’s school
won’t be the one today—beg God
to protect my kids from your inaction.

Four million dollars is power past my reach,
so I send poems into the world, then hope,
like dandelion seeds they will take root
wherever they may land. This is yours to keep.


Cambra Koczkur: “This poem is written in response to the STEM school shooting in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, last week and addressed to one of our current US senators who has taken $4 million from the NRA.”

jade tiger
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Carrie Shipers


Because this isn’t a formal visit, he prefers
to let the day unfold without a schedule.
Please memorize the attached draft,
make each event spontaneous and fun.
His tour will avoid all areas with leaks,
the second floor unless that smell recedes.
Make sure your desks are neat but not
overly so—perhaps a legal pad and a few
files, a printout flagged with sticky notes.
When introduced, please include
your job title, commitment to the mission
posted in the restrooms for review.

We’d planned a catered lunch but learned
the CEO loves potlucks. Avoid carbs
and condensed soup in covered dishes.
All desserts should look homemade.
When he puts down his fork, discard
your plates and pull your seats into a circle.
If he refers to challenges, uses terms
like shift or swerve, don’t let your faces
show alarm. He’s already said
that he can’t answer process questions,
and we don’t want our guest to feel
uncomfortable. After he departs,
we’ll reconvene to dissect his remarks.

We can’t overstress how vital this
occasion is. It’s rumored there are big
cuts coming, that our office is at risk.
We need to show the CEO why he
should overlook our recent losses,
products we failed to launch on time.
If he enjoys his visit, finds us not only
competent but also warm and kind,
he might decide to fire someone else.


Carrie Shipers : “Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the so-called ‘corporate’ poems I’ve been writing in the past few years are drawn from my experiences in academia. In this piece, I wanted very much to capture the voice of those responsible for planning the CEO’s visit—how even their most obnoxious instructions are actually inspired by good intentions and desperation: if they plan everything exactly right, and also if they can get the ‘you’ to cooperate for the day, then perhaps—perhaps—they can save everyone’s jobs. (For the record, the potluck, the refusal to answer process questions, and the mission statements in the restroom are all true. The happy ending is that I now work elsewhere.)”

jade tiger
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Anders Carlson-Wee


I’m alone, sipping water in a café
when the barista says, Excuse me,
sorry, someone asked me
to give you this, and hands over
a fifty-dollar gift card.
There must be a mistake,
I say out of shame. But I know
it’s for me. It’s like Aladdin’s,
the thrift store where I hunted
deals for months before realizing
Moonflower, the owner,
was making up discounts
out of pity, because I was looking
so hard. Or the time a stranger
found me sifting through a Walmart
dumpster, newborn baby
strapped to her chest, snowflakes
catching in his wispy
black hairs, and passed me
a wad of twenties, saying,
I’ve been where you’re at. No,
I wanted to say. You’re the one
with a baby. But as quickly
as she came, she cupped
the newborn’s head and stepped
across an ice patch
toward her car, and I said
the only thing there is to say.


Anders Carlson-Wee: “As the son of two Lutheran pastors, I grew up on sermons. I tried hard to not listen, especially during my teen years, but I couldn’t resist a good story: my parents both preach in a personal narrative mode, telling stories of daily human experience as a means to evoke the sacred. This preaching style has had a large impact on my writing style. As for why I write—if I understood that, I don’t think I’d have the drive to spend the energies of my life pursuing it.”

jade tiger
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Larry D. Thomas


Against a backdrop of blue heaven
and mesas hot as blacksmiths’ anvils,
still stunned by the musk of men
who castrated them as calves,

they blanket the bleak range
like an unrolled scroll of reddishbrown
parchment scrawled with a savage
calligraphy of horns. Tails lash

hides so sunstruck they’re tanned
alive on racks of ribs
guarding hearts and the grand
bellows of lungs. The nubs

of grass they grind with giant molars
are but straw they burn to fuel
their hellfire breath. The lavenders
of the evening ahead are cool

foreshadowings of their fate
of cold storage lockers on whose dim
hooks they’ll sway as sides of meat,
drooling the mouths of those who fed them.


Larry D. Thomas: “I have written poetry consistently for over 35 years. I write it first because I must and secondly because I love the challenge of working with language at its highest possible level: poetry. Since the age of three, when I made my first words with wooden alphabet blocks, I have viewed words as threedimensional, perfect building blocks for structuring into the towering cathedrals of poetry.”

jade tiger
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Sarah Colona


for Sarah Huckabee Sanders

We’re ancient. Can trace the “H” ending our name all the way back
to antiquity. And as I type this, Princess, I admit we can be vicious
when questioned. It’s our delivery, that lack of sweetness greeting
pressure. But that’s your gig, isn’t it? The Press. How their weight dips

between headlines. An alligator with a knife in its head is swimming
a lake in Sugar Land, Texas: drawing neighbors, yet untroubling experts.
That anatomy, its bony plates and antibiotic blood, insures resilience.
We armor ourselves similarly, collect our epithets like gems. Ending

any story is a challenge: one sees grit within the grifter. Another purls
thundercloud to thundercloud just to survive. I’ve known many Sarahs
who wear their genesis with indifference. On others, it juts out like a stooge,
an off-tooth begging to be pulled.


Sarah Colona: “The Texas alligator unfazed by a knife sticking out of its head seemed to me a perfect metaphor for Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her tenure as White House Press Secretary.”


jade tiger
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John Gillespie McGee, Jr.

High Flight
( written a few months before the author was killed: 1941 )

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.


Fire of Insight
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Mahmoud Darwish's 'Lesson from the Kama Sutra'.

Wait for her with an azure cup.
Wait for her in the evening at the spring, among perfumed    roses.
Wait for her with the patience of a horse trained for mountains.
Wait for her with the distinctive, aesthetic taste of a prince.
Wait for her with the seven pillows of cloud.
Wait for her with strands of womanly incense wafting.
Wait for her with the manly scent of sandalwood on horseback.
Wait for her and do not rush.
If she arrives late, wait for her.
If she arrives early, wait for her.
Do not frighten the birds in her braided hair.
Take her to the balcony to watch the moon drowning in milk.
Wait for her and offer her water before wine.
Do not glance at the twin partridges sleeping on her chest.
Wait and gently touch her hand as she sets a cup on marble.
As if you are carrying the dew for her, wait.
Speak to her as a flute would to a frightened violin string,
As if you knew what tomorrow would bring.
Wait, and polish the night for her ring by ring.
Wait for her until the night speaks to you thus:
There is no one alive but the two of you.
So take her gently to the death you so desire,
and wait.

A reading can be found here ... http://www.liamguilar.com/the-poetry-voice/2019/5/13/mahmoud-darwishs-lesson-from-the-kama-sutra with some (scant) details of the poet.

jade tiger
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John Philip Johnson

for Mike Allen

Feeding on the living is good,
but feeding on the dead is better.

Nestle your offspring in the rancid.

The air is heavy; let it work for you,
but fly only until you find beauty.

Shit is beautiful.

Rub your hands together before you eat.

If you land on the wrist that holds the swatter,
consider yourself lucky, not clever.

Remain humble, if you think of anything.

You only have a few days;
stay simple.

Breed when you are able.

And when you are licked
by the frog’s tongue,
or swallowed by a songbird,
or felled in a cloud of nerve gas
and lie twitching, unconcerned,

know that it is the honor of a fly,
it is its purpose,
to die.

John Philip Johnson: “I went to ReaderCon in 2011 to meet Mike Allen. He was the editor of Mythic Delirium, a magazine that, along with Goblin Fruit, had liberated me from the academic poetry tradition. I had learned to have fun with poetry, thanks to them, and I wanted to meet Mike and learn more. He gave a workshop on genre poetry in which he mentioned flipping perspectives. He made a stray comment about flies knowing their purpose was to die. I mulled that line over for years, and this came out one summer afternoon. I was sunning myself, in my wife’s garden. I had my notebook with me, as I usually do. There were flies around.”

jade tiger
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Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad


The voice of running water
from the tap’s brass throat
echoing in the empty sink
comes before the azan in Isfahan.

My grandparents who still wake
before dawn to pray on time
take turns interrupting the stream
to wet their foreheads and forearms.

A few days into my visit
and the rustle of this ritual
is my daily alarm, my two eldest
relatives moving softly downstairs.

They tell me often
how they always pray for me;
divine perks I receive
as the first grandchild.

So I bear this gentle way
at this early hour, their ascent
from the sweet temptation of sleep
to say good morning to God.

Their devotion is so unassuming
it isn’t televised, so inside
that I shouldn’t use all these guarded
words here to narrate their wuzu.

From wasu, to wash, to become
beautiful, from âsu, to rise.
Land of the sunrise: Uh-si-yah
is how we say Asia. Why

is western synonymous
with civilized—to start, the sun

Mehrnoosh Torbatnejad:“As is all too familiar for Iranian-Americans, whenever Iran-U.S. relations escalate and become trending topics, we hold our breaths. Not only do I worry of course for my family members in Iran, but bearing the nonsense that some pundits spew on television and online is insufferable. It’s devastating when warmongers seem to think that American lives are inherently more valuable, and easily dismiss and even encourage the potential loss of Iranian lives. I wrote this poem to offer a tender moment in the ordinary life of an Iranian family, and to take a stance against the belief that anyone’s life is innately superior to another’s by virtue of their nationality.”

Fire of Insight
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BY THE old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
"Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay! "
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay ?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

'Er petticoat was yaller an' 'er little cap was green,
An' 'er name was Supi-yaw-lat - jes' the same as Theebaw's Queen,
An' I seed her first a-smokin' of a whackin' white cheroot,
An' a-wastin' Christian kisses on an 'eathen idol's foot:
Bloomin' idol made o' mud
Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd
Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed 'er where she stud!
On the road to Mandalay...

When the mist was on the rice-fields an' the sun was droppin' slow,
She'd git 'er little banjo an' she'd sing "Kulla-lo-lo!
With 'er arm upon my shoulder an' 'er cheek agin my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an' the hathis pilin' teak.
Elephints a-pilin' teak
In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
Where the silence 'ung that 'eavy you was 'arf afraid to speak!
On the road to Mandalay...

But that's all shove be'ind me - long ago an' fur away
An' there ain't no 'busses runnin' from the Bank to Mandalay;
An' I'm learnin' 'ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
"If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed naught else."
No! you won't 'eed nothin' else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay...

I am sick o' wastin' leather on these gritty pavin'-stones,
An' the blasted English drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho' I walks with fifty 'ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An' they talks a lot o' lovin', but wot do they understand?
Beefy face an' grubby 'and -
Law! wot do they understand?
I've a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
On the road to Mandalay...

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin', an' it's there that I would be
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay,
With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
O the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin'-fishes play,
An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay !


Kipling isn't fashionable anymore and hence deserves a place in this thread.  Also,  ... I read the above and find it extremely beautiful.  It invites personal introspection as to why I'm sticking where I am instead of going on the road to Mandalay.

Lifted from here http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/poems_mandalay.htm there's also a link to notes on the poem.

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