Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cups of Misery

Cups of Misery
Jan Marin Tramontano

The streets paved in gold are pitted; cups of misery fill deep ruts. No haven for an immigrant philosopher with waning hope of refuge, resisting the slip into familiar despair. Too poor to afford bus fare home to see his beloved more than once each month.

He bargains with an invisible power to teach him how to live well, to shed the coat of many colors that make him foreign—

Like the young boy on the ship, he nourishes a tidal wave of desolation, an interior rage burns steadily. He fans embers of disappointment that belie his quiet exterior.

Is it too much to ask at the end of a protracted day to have a meal Sophie cooked,
stretch out at night, nuzzled next to her warm, soft body, awaken to the aroma of her coffee?

He imagines this as a kind of paradise, a place where loneliness is checked at the door.


Jan Marin Tramontano, a writer living in upstate New York, is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Woman Sitting in a Café and other poems of Paris and Floating Islands, a memoir about her father, I Am a Fortunate Man. and her poems appear in her poetry collective’s anthology, Java Wednesdays. Her poetry, stories, book reviews, and interviews have been published in numerous literary journals, magazines, and newspapers. Her first novel will be coming out later this year.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Genealogy and the Refugee

Genealogy and the Refugee
Phyllis Wax

I know who my people are.

And there are some back home
who know my people too,
down to the seventh son of the seventh son
and hope to make me
the final son. I know

my lineage
but will not write it down
or chart it on software
lest they find me here.

My family tree must float on damp breath
from mouth to ear
parent to child
parent to child
like an orchid thriving on air
trailing names
and memories
and tales

because when it is safe to speak it aloud
and map it all out on paper,
there will be no archives to check,
no birth records or marriage
registries. Our neighbors
will all be dead, our homes in rubble.
And history will have been revised so many times
only my children’s children
will know.


Phyllis Wax writes in Milwaukee on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. Her poetry has appeared in Ars Medica, Verse Wisconsin, Your Daily Poem, The New Verse News, Seeding the Snow, A Prairie Journal, Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar as well as other journals and anthologies, both print and online. Travel, nature and the news inspire much of her work. She may be contacted at

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Same Fire

Same Fire
Jed Myers

I lost my name half a century before
I was born. Across the Atlantic
a ship came, bearded man on the deck,
same fire in his chest as mine,
preparing himself to give up
whatever can be forsaken, shaved,
stripped, or hidden away nameless
in his nervous marrow, to save
that spinning flame (he doesn’t know
it’s there behind his awareness, the harbor
too bright with churn and wake, tugs
and heaving crowds, too loud
with horses, groaning docks, men
unlashing crates—too much crashing
at his senses, for him to sense
the roar under his breath, the engine
that drives him to this shore). He stands
and waits to answer the cold uniform
questions that will pour through the grating
in the clearinghouse down the ramp,
where he will further unknow himself,
his tongue will fail his grandfather
glaring at him through the east wall,
his curls will splash out from under
the black wool hat, he’ll forget
to mouth the familiar blessing
for this moment of his arrival
in the new wilderness. He’s willing
to lay down the white silk of his ritual
fringes on the concrete, to walk over it
if this is his pathway to the street.
He’s already sold his prayer book
at a dark shop in Leeds, he’s told himself
as if in prayer, over and over,
he comes from nowhere, and practiced
the melodics of all the accents
flooding his ears. The blaring
clanging stomp-march of boots
and carts, hooves, horn-blasts, gears,
government stamps pounding the blotters,
the howls, cheers, and chatter
of the ten thousand tramps
awaiting official passage into chaos
and all its chances, is the music
to which he chants (devout
as the sons of Aaron who disappear
into fire) into the empty
basin of his processor’s face,
his new name, by which he will go
where the fire takes him. Here I am
Great-Grandfather, one burning
branch of your profane devotion.

Same Fire was previously published in California Quarterly


Jed Myers is a Philadelphian living in Seattle. His poems appear in Prairie Schooner, Nimrod International Journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and in the new Rose Alley Press anthology of Northwest verse, Many Trails to the Summit. He is a psychiatrist with a therapy practice and teaches at the University of Washington.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What Serves

What Serves
Patricia Budd

With rag and pink crème,
I polish the silver
for Sunday dinner;
place settings, sugar bowl,
and footed creamer.
I rinse each piece
in a pan of hot water,
buff with a linen tea-towel.

The patina of the knife blade,
broken by scrolled letters:
M. J. G. from Almon. 
Stamped on the back
of the ornate handle,
a single word: COIN
A matching fork,
tine-tips pronged
like the beak of a hawk,
the better to serve slices
of butter in cracked ice. 

Martha, wife to Levi Gilman,
Great Great Grandmother,
passed it up the family tree,
branch by branch, to me.

But who was Almon:
a spurned Lothario?
doting uncle?
the man behind the faint smile
that plays on Martha’s lips
in her daguerreotype? 

What need in us is served
to churn the legends
clabbered from cream
spilled so long ago?


Patricia Budd graduated Sarah Lawrence, 1959.  She is a retired professional computer engineer, lives in Portland, Maine, received an MFA from Stonecoast in July, 2006. She teaches at the Osher Institute at USM. Her poems have been published in MARGIE, Alehouse, The MacGuffin and among other journals and websites.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Remember my Granny Whiting

I Remember my Granny Whiting
Cathy MacKenzie

My Granny Whiting I remember so,
Lots of true friends, never any foe,
Happy to take whatever life brings,
Dear to my heart, gave many things.

So faithful to many, always so true,
Sometimes in pain, sometimes blue,
A quiet voice, no fuss would she make,
In her great world, she did not take.

She loved her God, prayed to him,
In her Church singing lovely hymns,
A beautiful voice that she had,
She sang many solos, makes me sad.

Her arms now lay upon her chest,
Her dreams of yesterday at rest,
She had feelings of love so strong,
Once she, too, did yearn and long.

She can now forget the hurting pain,
That must have left a lasting stain,
Upon her happy heart so long ago,
Burdens that God gave her to stow.

Her long life perhaps did unfold,
Like the open pages of a book so old,
I’m sure she had daily pressure,
And life secrets she did treasure.

Her life so fine a dream as mine,
Is over now, frozen in time,
The scattering of the dust
Leaves shadows in the dusk.

In Memory of my Granny Whiting
(Elsie May Phillips Whiting, 1902-1992)


Cathy MacKenzie finished an 800-page genealogy on her MacKenzie family in 2007. She now devotes her time to writing poetry, essays and short stories. She also paints, pastels being her favourite medium and her grandchildren her favourite subjects.

She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with her husband, and they spend their winters in Mexico. More information on Cathy (as well as upcoming ebooks) can be found at WritingWicket

Monday, April 4, 2011

Grandmother's House

Grandmother's House
Anthony A. Lee

“Are you my real grandmother?"
my brother asked,
amid living room bric-a-brac
after dinner,
dust thick on the chairs and carpets,
magazines scattered on the floor,
busy Persian carpet,
yellow light from the Tiffany lamp
in the dim room—just
grandma and her husband
there, except us—
his eyes wide, mouth curled.
He was eight and old enough to know better.
I, ten, told him silly questions were not polite.
She narrowed her eyes.
“No. I loved your baby father
just as if he had been mine.”
She didn’t move.
Grandpa pretended not to hear.
My dad turned away, looked down.
The room got darker.
On the ride home, we said
nothing. My brother broke
and said: “What was your name
before you were her son?”
“I don’t know,” the only answer
he could give.
It was midnight.
We were all orphans.


Anthony A. Lee, Ph.D. teaches African American history at UCLA. He is the winner of the Nat Turner Poetry Prize for 2003 (Cross Keys Press). His first book of poems, This Poem Means, was the winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award for 2005 (Lotus Press). Some of his translations have been published in Táhirih: A Portrait in Poetry: Selected Poems of Qurratu’l-‘Ayn (Kalimát Press, 2004). He teaches a poetry workshop sponsored by the Creative Arts Center, City of Manhattan Beach, Califonria.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

We Are Seven - William Wordsworth

We Are Seven (1798)
by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

A simple child...
That lightly draws its breath
And feels its life in every limb,
What should it know of death?

I met a little cottage girl-
She was eight years old, she said;
Her hair was thick with many a curl
That clustered 'round her head.

She had a rustic, woodland air
And she was wildly clad;
Her eyes were fair, and very fair;
Her beauty made me glad.

"Sisters and brothers, little maid,
How many may you be?"
"How many? Seven in all," she said
And wondering looked at me.

"And where are they? I pray you tell."
She answered, "Seven are we;
And two of us at Conway dwell
And two are gone to sea."

"Two of us in the churchyard lie,
My sister and my brother
And in the churchyard cottage, I
Dwell near them with my mother."

"You say that two at Conway dwell
And two are gone to sea,
Yet, ye are seven! I pray you tell,
Sweet maid, how this may be."

Then did the little maid reply,
"Seven boys and girls are we;
Two of us in the churchyard lie,
Beneath the churchyard tree."

"You run about, my little maid,
Your limbs they are alive;
If two are in the churchyard laid
Then ye are only five."

"Their graves are green, they may be seen,"
The little maid replied,
"Twelve steps or more from my mother's door
And they are side by side."

"My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit
And sing a song to them."

"And often after sunset, sir,
When it is light and fair
I take my little porringer
And eat my supper there."

"The first that died was sister Jane;
In bed she moaning lay,
Till God released her of her pain
And then she went away."

"So in the churchyard she was laid
And, when the grass was dry
Together round her grave we played,
My brother John and I."

"And when the ground was white with snow
And I could run and slide,
My brother John was forced to go
And he lies by her side."

"How many are you, then," said I,
"If they two are in heaven?"
Quick was the little maid's reply,
"O master! We are seven."

"But they are dead; those two are dead!
Their spirits are in heaven!"
'T was throwing words away; for still
The little maid would have her will
And said... "Nay, we are seven!"

My Grandfather's Yahrtzeit

My Grandfather's Yahrtzeit
Marian Kaplun Shapiro

8:15 LA Time. 31 May, 1955. Dead. Declared.
Pronounced by The Doctor. Name: Edward (Issak) Kaplun
DOB: 18 April, 1880. C/O: Russia. Data entered.
Filed. Printed on request, for a small fee.
Birth/ Immigration/ Marriage/ Divorce/ Death.
You were There. You were Here.
You were Gone.
Did you know you were going? Did you leave
by starlight, on a golden comet? by flying
carpet? by galleon, sailing into the celestial fog?
As a fantastic dreambird playing Mendelsohn
on your violin? Or chanting the Shema, answering
the sweet tenor voice of the ancient cantor
come to lead you out?
I have my own story. I think
you took the red eye all the way to me,
sleeping in The Bronx. I think you blew
on my forehead. I think you whispered that
you loved me, that you would go with me
in every note I sang, or played, or heard. Live,
you said. Live.


Marian Kaplun Shapiro is the author of a professional book, Second Childhood (Norton, 1988), a poetry book, Players In The Dream, Dreamers In The Play (Plain View Press, 2007) and two chapbooks: Your Third Wish, (Finishing Line, 2007); and The End Of The World, Announced On Wednesday (Pudding House, 2007). As a Quaker and a psychologist, her poetry often addresses the embedded topics of peace and violence, often by addressing one within the context of the other. A resident of Lexington, she was named Senior Poet Laureate of Massachusetts in 2006, in 2008, and in 2010.