“Syrian refugees go about their business in a refugee camp in Mafraq, Jordan…”
Ropes on poles, jeans & shirts flapping in wind.
He sits on a giant bag of rice, head in hands.
Too much or too little, rips & bursts & furrows.
Something seared in a pan.
If you knew a mother, any mother, you would care
for mothers, yes? No.
What it is to be lonesome for stacked papers
on a desk, under glass globe,
brass vase with standing pencils,
How quickly urgencies of doing disappear.
And where is the child from the next apartment,
whose crying kept him awake
these last terrible months?
Where do you file this unknowing?
Copyright © by Naomi Shihab Nye. Used with the permission of the author.
I was going to write about a crescent
of honeydew melon. An artist told me
she paints grids when she isn’t
certain how to begin. A grid of steel
stores nuclear fuel below the surface
of pools in temporary rooms
with red railings. I glanced at one image,
then checked my email, my nightshade
tank top wet against the dip in my spine
you might like to touch
and say, Stop. Have a glass of water.
There once was a structure three-stories tall
built on an island Japan surrendered.
This building was a bomb.
At its center, liquid hydrogen filled a thermos.
We nicknamed it after an angel
appearing in the Bible, the Torah, and the Qur’an.
Or maybe the name could have come
from a football player of the Fifties
we might remember on Trivia Night.
I think how hammers strike the thinnest
wires inside a piano. Hard.
Once, we evacuated the coral shore
my grandfather flew over
in a B-17—the typed label of his photo
half torn. The Department of the Interior
Master Plan shows where the people will live.
I swallow vomit after watching
the island wart into an orange bulb. Just before,
birds glanced off the shimmering water.
Copyright © 2014 by Tyler Mills. Used with permission of the author.
Among the blight-killed eucalypts, among trees and bushes rusted by Christmas frosts, the yards and hillsides exhausted by five years of drought, certain airy white blossoms punctually reappeared, and dense clusters of pale pink, dark pink— a delicate abundance. They seemed like guests arriving joyfully on the accustomed festival day, unaware of the year's events, not perceiving the sackcloth others were wearing. To some of us, the dejected landscape consorted well with our shame and bitterness. Skies ever-blue, daily sunshine, disgusted us like smile-buttons. Yet the blossoms, clinging to thin branches more lightly than birds alert for flight, lifted the sunken heart even against its will. But not as symbols of hope: they were flimsy as our resistance to the crimes committed —again, again—in our name; and yes, they return, year after year, and yes, they briefly shone with serene joy over against the dark glare of evil days. They are, and their presence is quietness ineffable—and the bombings are, were, no doubt will be; that quiet, that huge cacophany simultaneous. No promise was being accorded, the blossoms were not doves, there was no rainbow. And when it was claimed the war had ended, it had not ended.
By Denise Levertov, from Evening Train. Copyright © 1992 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
Mum sent me a photo
of a sign near Jam Tree Gully
that’s been peppered by
shotgun pellets. It’s become
a recurring image in poems
written in separation,
but tuned to zeitgeist.
But what I’ve not drawn
out of sublingual and tangled
syntax of observation
is that I have been with shooters
who’ve pierced, decorated,
illustrated or condemned
signs to damnation,
and that I have myself,
as a teenager, shot at one.
I am not sure if this
is confession, nor am
I sure it was a rite de passage,
being on my own at the time,
drunk and lonely and curious
to see if a twenty-two would
more than dent the heavy-gauge steel.
A single shot into the centre
of a crossroads sign—a desire
to bullseye, to mark ambiguity
where there was no ambiguity.
There are rules for traffic,
even where traffic is rare,
where braking on gravel
could have you slide
concurrently to a dead centre.
I listen for that pinging
of symbols and emblems,
‘instruction’ and ‘information,’
and it sounds less like a bell
than a warning shot.
Copyright @ 2014 by John Kinsella. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on June 13, 2014.