Admission of Guilt and Hope
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Heather Smith Meloche is a Pushcart-nominated poet and writer whose work has appeared in Spider, Open Minds Quarterly, and Young Adult Review Network (YARN). She has placed twice in the children’s/YA category of the Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition and won first place for Hunger Mountain’s Katherine Paterson Prize in 2011 for a short story in verse. Penguin Putnam released her debut novel, Ripple, a contemporary young adult novel, in September 2016. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two boys.
I arrived at her house with absence
and sadness, pliant with fear. Stood
beside avocadoes and Doc’s
special chicken, cold on a plate,
as she pulled circles of dough outward
and flipped them to bows,
making something called taiglech,
which she dropped like bullets into hot-
bubbled honey. Nearly midnight,
she let me be tired, but I stirred
and she whisked until we were trading
in syrup, our hands sticky and gesturing
above boiled nectar. We shaped
conversation in the noise of particulars,
the complexion of night, and grease-
ripe pleasures left to dry on white
paper towels. The dark-haired woman
smiled loosely and I listened –
to her, instead of my maelstrom
of worry. Everything I needed was seeped
in phrases about menus and tables
and long loaves of bread. All that happened
was cooking, the room so alive
with acts of alchemical desire,
where dark didn’t froth. In that place,
that October, where I tasted sweet
with my dad’s new lover, where she
tempted me back to my assertive sense
by asking nothing, where she let me retreat
and consume both the ginger and honey,
and kept me away from the burn
while extending the sugar.
This poem was first published in The Perch.
Audio recording of the poem can be found here:
Lauren Camp is the author of five books, most recently Took House (Tupelo Press). Honors include the Dorset Prize and a finalist citation for the Arab American Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Poetry International, Witness and Kenyon Review, and been translated into Mandarin, Turkish, Spanish, and Arabic. www.laurencamp.com
I grabbed the dictionary and flipped more pages and all kinds of things seemed to be verbs: “to be a hill,” “to be red,” “to be a long, sandy stretch of beach” . . .
Robin Wall Kimmerer, on learning Potawatomi
Who is being an apple tree? My friend
over there with the shady leaves.
My sister with white blossoms in her hair
apples temptation, sweet-fleshed and comely.
Apple sister roots herself, entwines
with honey pear cousin, dips into mycelium
buzzing news of the forest.
Who is being a forest? Who shades the moss?
Who wears the lichen mantle stands sentry
at the mouth of the river. Who is the river?
Did anyone ask to become the summer
evening air sedulous with dew?
Who dews in clear globes remembering
cloudburst she will do, has done,
will do? Who am I breathing tree breath
if not tree kin? If not apple and worm,
bacterium and spore?
When I was rhizoming, the mineral-rising
surged through, while you were beaning
nitrogen into the soil, which earths
tirelessly—for so long, for so long--
but what glad work it is!
You can view the video of the poem reading here:
Cleveland Wall is a poet, mail artist, and librarian in Bethlehem, PA. She performs with poetry improv troupe No River Twice and with musical combo The Starry Eyes. She is the author of Let X=X (Kelsay Books, 2019) and many small, handmade chapbooks.
Ribbons in Your Field
no matter how much rain falls
you will be all right
where nature whispers to a waiting field
where all hopes faithfully soak
nudging a belief in growth and change
in peace sowing trust
like a monk dropping seed
blessing its fairness
seasoning a waiting field
while keeping that final vow
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Antoni Ooto is an American poet and abstract expressionist artist living in New York State. His poetry has been published globally in journals, anthologies and online.
Ode to the First Peach
Only one insect has feasted here,
a clear stub of resin
plugs the scar. And the hollow
where the stem was severed
shines with juice.
The fur still silvered
like a caul. Even
in the next minute,
the hairs will darken,
turn more golden in my palm.
Heavier, this flesh,
than you would imagine
like the sudden
weight of a newborn.
Oh what a marriage
of citron and blush!
It could be a planet
reflected through a hall
of mirrors. Or
what a swan becomes
when a fairy shoots it
from the sky at dawn.
At the beginning of the world,
when the first dense pith
was ravished and the stars
were not yet lustrous
coins fallen from the
pockets of night,
who could have dreamed
this would be curried
from the chaos.
Scent of morning and sugar,
bruise and hunger.
Silent, swollen, clefted life,
remnant always remaking itself
out of that first flaming ripeness.
First published on pages 58 – 59 in Like a Beggar by Ellen Bass. Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press 2014.
Link to the video -- https://youtu.be/kMCN6D6Dkjw
A Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Ellen Bass' latest book is Indigo (Copper Canyon, 2020). Among her awards are Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and her poems regularly appear in The New Yorker and other journals. She teaches in Pacific University's MFA program.
We All Rise Out of Love
First published in the SONKU Collective “Family Legacies”, 2020
My tongue twists and turns
trying to fit the cookie-cutter in a land unknown
words put in my mouth
like the small portions -those morsels
made by warm supple hands of my mother
gently waiting for the next one
Her fingers always doused by the fragrance of the bay leaves
turmeric tainted, the various shades
as she kneads the flour
and dispense the life lessons
in the kitchen on a warm summer day
She taught me, kindness comes from the heart
but hunger pierces a man the most
so learn to soothe hunger
the lingering pain,
as she puts all her strength to knead the flour
into a dollop of the milky moon.
My language is different than yours
I try fervently to explain to my son
who keeps correcting my pronunciation
as I teach him the basics of love
kindness and purity of heart.
Sometimes I wonder,
How this world
marred and demarcated by the boundaries
those twisted pronunciations,
would look beautiful kneaded together?
Like the lump of moon
sitting in the copper-clad plate of my mother
waiting to rise out of warmth.
Video recording -- https://youtu.be/St6b0yzITBg
Megha Sood is an Award-Winning Poet, Editor, Author, and Literary Activist based in New Jersey, USA. Associate Editor at MookyChick (UK), Life and Legends (USA), and Literary Partner “Life in Quarantine"; with Stanford University, USA. Chapbook (“My Body is Not an Apology”, Finishing Line Press, 2021) and Full Length (“My Body Lives Like a Threat”, FlowerSongPress,2021). Blogs at https://meghasworldsite.wordpress.com/ and tweets at @meghasood16.
cut fast getaways
from street people who provoke guilt
with hunger that angers
The Voiceless crouch clean forgot
in fast-paced apathy, marooned
with crude cardboard confessions,
dismissed by dog-eat-dog drivers
who insist hungry is a hustle.
Unlike corner beggars,
homeless women and kids run
from street corner scrutiny scramble
for anonymous shelter
from hit-and-run humanity.
Outside White are welcome.
Dirt-colored rags and races
are deprived in ditches –
failed schools, prisons, slums, colored walls.
The tired, the poor, the huddled masses
yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse and homeless…
welcomed by the Statue of Liberty
no longer wanted.
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Patsy Asuncion, Ed.S., published poet - Cut on the Bias 2016, second collection pending, twenty+ anthologies, including The Sixty-Four Best Poets of 2019, all reflecting her slant as a bi-racial, first-generation immigrant. Patsy promotes diversity via her open mic (21,000+ YouTube views),
community initiatives, regional/national presentations, print/online publications.
What My Father Ate in the Slave Labor Camp
He ate what he couldn’t eat,
what his mother taught him not to:
brown grass, small chips of wood, the dirt
beneath his gray dark fingernails.
He ate the leaves off trees. He ate bark.
He ate the flies that tormented
the mules working in the fields.
He ate what would kill a man
in the normal course of his life:
leather buttons, cloth caps, anything
small enough to get into his mouth.
He ate roots. He ate newspaper.
In his slow clumsy hunger
he did what the birds did, picked
for oats or corn or any kind of seed
in the dry dung left by the cows.
And when there was nothing to eat
he’d search the ground for pebbles
and they would loosen his saliva
and he would swallow that.
And the other men did the same.
Link to the video -- https://youtu.be/ao_gBD6dQH0
John Guzlowski’s poems and personal essays about his parents’ experiences as slave laborers in Nazi Germany appear in his memoir Echoes of Tattered Tongues. He is also the author of the Hank and Marvin mysteries and a columnist for the Dziennik Zwiazkowy, the oldest Polish newspaper in America. His most recent books of poems are Mad Monk Ikkyu and True Confessions.
Taking the Bait: Guilford, Connecticut
fat-back, hard-headed shad.
These fish had it all figured out, death in a cornfield,
mashed together with all their fellow menhaden
in a place called Menunkatuck,
down-river from the Quonnipaug,
just east of the Quinnipiac,
south of Walgreen’s,
some human skeletons piled on top,
nothing finer than the grass of Guilford Green,
a shad casserole, the soft ground
underpinning the tombstones,
a hint of alewife near the town hall,
the bug fish congregating on Water Street,
all the shoes in the shoe stores properly oiled,
by-product of the black and blue whitefish,
slim pickings now in the Sound,
out of the hands of fisherman
into the jaws of factory grinders,
making fish fertilizer instead of bait,
feeding the fields but interrupting
the food chain, the industry floundering.
You know we are sunk when the fish
themselves are hungry.
Link to video -- https://youtu.be/ECY2F1kuDrE
Sharon Olson is a retired librarian originally from California who currently lives in Annapolis, Maryland. Her book of poems, The Long Night of Flying, was published by Sixteen
Rivers Press in 2006, and her second book Will There Be Music? (Cherry Grove Collections) appeared in 2019. Her poems have appeared in many journals including Off the Coast, String Poet, Arroyo Literary Review, The Curator, Adanna, Heron Tree, New Verse News, Cider Press Review, and Rat’s Ass Review. Her blog is at https://slopoet.blogspot.com.
The poems that follow are powerful evidence that Poetry Speaks Back to Hunger!