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

jade tiger
Tyrant of Words
United States
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Joined 9th Nov 2015
Forum Posts: 4385

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
Tyrant of Words
United States
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Joined 9th Nov 2015
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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
Tyrant of Words
United States
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Joined 9th Nov 2015
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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
Tyrant of Words
United States
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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
Tyrant of Words
United States
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Joined 9th Nov 2015
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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
Tyrant of Words
United States
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Joined 9th Nov 2015
Forum Posts: 4385

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.”

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