Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Posts tagged ‘Izzy Wasserstein’

Prayer — By Izzy Wasserstein

I.

 

A comfortable radical, an academic writing careful verse

in a warm office, what would I do

if fascists rose again, slaughterers with perfect death machines?

I cannot say.

There is no answering that day

until it comes, nor knowing what bells one will strike in warning,

what knotted words of compliance

slip too easily from the tongue.

I have no faith in my bravery, less than in the god revealed

only in silence. Oh, One Who Moves Behind the Facade,

the doors gaping to three-walled houses,

let the illusion-breakers not come for me.

But if they must, grant that I remember Garcia Lorca:

These fields will be strewn with bodies.

I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to Granada.

 

II.

 

Show an affirming flame:

words renounced,

called back, called back,

as though they had not

echoed through the canyons

before they returned.

    And if my words

become ugly, if I recant

every last kind thought,

if the lines of my face

twist in cruelty,

may these soundings

outlast me.

~ Izzy Wasserstein

Izzy Wasserstein is the author of This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, a 2013 Kansas Notable Book. Izzy teaches at Washburn University, runs long distances slowly, and shares a home with a cat and three dogs.

Guest Editor Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the author or editor of two dozen books, including the recent poetry collection Following the Curve, and collection of prose Everyday Magic: Fieldnotes on the Mundane and Miraculous. Founder of Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, where she teaches, she leads writing workshops widely, and loves watching the poetry of others rise and glow.

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Report to William Stafford — By Izzy Wasserstein

…tell me if I am right. — “Report to Crazy Horse”

You lived long, and carefully.
You knew the prairie wind,
how it can call all through long January nights,
how sometimes settlers would listen
and step from their houses, thin topsoil crunching
under boots or rising to meet bare toes,
and in the morning there would be no trace
of their passing. The storm does this.

 

I have listened to the wind’s song, and I think
I will not live so long. It does not concern me.
But this: I matured in a decade
of madness, assaults on an enemy
we were told was hiding in desert ratholes
or mountain caves, where people hold
centuries-old ways, and older
grudges. (the ones who say this think we are different.
I do not know who they mean by we.)

 

They fight a concept,

 

a tick growing fat on assassinations, uranium shells,

 

drone strikes (this is a convenient way of killing
as impersonal as any strip mall).
No one can tell me if they believe they will win,
if they think fighting makes them strong.

 

You have been gone twenty years now, more than twenty.
They award Peace Prizes to men who have done nothing,
and worse than nothing. The wind does not care
about Mr. Nobel. It does not care about you, Bill,
or me. It is the wind.

 

I do not know if monsters can be overcome,
if the new great extinction can be halted, or slowed.
I dream of that gleaming face, at times.
Will you tell me what this means?
Yesterday, at dusk, a cold front came battering
against my door, sweeping from the West,
striking bare branches against windows,
stirring the dog as he watched the fire burn low.
A shriek. I rushed in terror to the window.
Two children chased each other in circles, laughing.

~ Izzy Wasserstein

Izzy Wasserstein is the author of This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, a 2013 Kansas Notable Book. Izzy teaches at Washburn University, runs long distance slowly, and shares a home with a cat and three dogs.

Guest Editor Tyler Robert Sheldon is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of First Breaths of Arrival (Oil Hill Press, 2016), and Traumas (Yellow Flag Press, 2017). His poetry, fiction, and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in such venues as Quiddity International Literary Journal, The Midwest Quarterly, Coal City Review, The Prairie Journal of Canadian Literature, The Dos Passos Review, Entropy Magazine, and others. He earned his MA in English at Emporia State University, and is now an MFA candidate at McNeese State University. View his work at tyrsheldon.wixsite.com/trspoetry.

You Can’t Write Poetry About Things That Happened a Week Ago — By Gary Jackson

one of my students tell me / during a class exercise / it’s not a statement / but one of those half- questions they sometimes ask / wondering / if I’ll reaffirm or challenge / their still-blossoming understanding / of what they can / cannot do / it’s like comedy / if it makes people laugh / it’s as simple as that / that’s one answer / here’s another / when evil Captain America picks up Thor’s hammer / the crowd goes wild / with rage / how can the newly-christened fascist / nazi / hydra / hate-monger / be worthy / be righteous / imagine 1941 / Captain America socks the Fuhrer / Captain America tosses his shield / through nazi death machines / Captain America’s on the front line in Normandy / America liberates the POWs / the camps / America comes home / to parades and comic strips / America’s frozen in ice / America / thaws out / America socks Iron Man / America body slams the Red Skull / Hitler’s clone / America fights / the war on terror / America cleans up the debris / America points his red mesh glove towards the next jaw to punch / America’s fighting the good fight / America dies / comes back / will be / great again / America patrols the border / America visits the Middle East / America stops the terrorists / America stops the plane / America forgets his name / America hails hydra / like magic / America turns / America socks Iron Man / America kills / America doesn’t want you to know / America wants a secret empire / America’s gonna make record sales / America is just what you thought he was / would be / could be again / America happened a week ago / America was never your favorite hero

Gary Jackson , born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, is the author of the poetry collection Missing You, Metropolis, which received the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Tin House, Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of both a Cave Canem and Bread Loaf fellowship, and an associate poetry editor at Crazyhorse. He currently teaches in the MFA program at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC.

Izzy Wasserstein is a Lecturer in English at Washburn University. Izzy is the author of the poetry collection This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, and has published in Crab Orchard Review, Flint Hills Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Izzy shares a home with Nora E. Derrington, a cat, and three dogs, and believes in the power of resistance.

Blueberries — By Annette Hope Billings

Awash in deep color,

settled in ceramic bowl,

they lay full ripe and succulent,

skins pressed against glazed sides of dish.

Ready to burst open, spill,

with slightest provocation,

to imbrue fingers, color mouths

of those who adore dark berries.

 

Content to wear midnight blue,

they consider themselves radiant,

and insist they are a hue

to which even blatant red must bow.

 

Not inclined to sweetness,

they revel in approaching tart,

and only when they fancy,

give consent to be plucked,

juiced, blended, crushed—

to allow their contents to be spread.

 

Opulent indigo orbs,

gathered to sate desire.

While anxious hordes

in crisp business whites,

give generous berth,

I scoop great handfuls,

eat, eager to be entirely stained.

~ Annette Hope Billings

Annette Hope Billings is an poet/actress/playwright, who has written two poetry collections. In 2015, she stepped away from four decades of nursing to writing full-time. Her most recent collection of poetry, A Net Full of Hope, was published last year, garnering her a readers’-proposed title of “Maya of the Midwest.”

Izzy Wasserstein is a Lecturer in English at Washburn University. Izzy is the author of the poetry collection This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, and has published in Crab Orchard Review, Flint Hills Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Izzy shares a home with Nora E. Derrington, a cat, and three dogs, and believes in the power of resistance.

Santa Fe Trail — By Chris O’Carroll

The Conestoga wagon wheels that rolled

Through here more than a century ago

Left scars still visible, so I’ve been told,

Ruts I might make out if I squint just so.

Peering at prairie grass, I fail to find

The tracks laid down when history passed this way.

What if those marks are figments (like that line

In Casablanca Bogart doesn’t say),

Ghost imprints on collective memory,

Where folklore’s legend-laden wagon train

Detours or shortcuts past reality

While an imagined soundtrack plays again?

Yet a nearby ground-nesting meadowlark,

Unseen, is trilling notes that bid me mark.

~ Chris O’Carroll

(originally published in The Chimaera under the title “Santa Fe Trail, Kansas“)

Chris O’Carroll is a writer and an actor.  His poems have appeared in 14 by 14, Light, Literary Review, Measure, The Rotary Dial, and other print and online journals, and in the anthologies The Best of the Barefoot Muse and 20 Years at the Cantab Lounge.

Izzy Wasserstein is a Lecturer in English at Washburn University. Izzy is the author of the poetry collection This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, and has published in Crab Orchard Review, Flint Hills Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Izzy shares a home with Nora E. Derrington, a cat, and three dogs, and believes in the power of resistance.

West of Here — By Lisa Hase-Jackson

I wake in my mother’s guest bedroom

beneath stormy skies and diminishing rain

 

that so often characterize mid-summer

in Kansas City. It is the first of July.

 

Outside, varied configurations of limestone

homes & tree-canopied walks,

 

welcome me as if I belong here,

if only for the morning, as surely as the walnut
tree in front & the crack in the sidewalk

gaining prominence each year I visit. Tomorrow

 

I’ll travel west across prairies dotted

with round bales & abandoned farmhouses
past ditches peppered with wildflowers,

botanical names lost to a former self, a vague past.

 

Friends wait in Topeka, restless with resentment

or divorcing. I go to visit David, dying

 

of liver failure, a gift from the Goodyear plant

to supplement his early, if brief, retirement.

~ Lisa Hase-Jackson

 

Lisa Hase-Jackson earned her M.A. in English from Kansas State University and an M.F.A. in poetry from Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Her award winning poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals, anthologies, and online magazines including The Midwest Quarterly, Kansas City Voices, Kansas Time and Place, Fall Lines, Sin Fronteras, and is forthcoming in I-70 Review. Born in Portland, Oregon and raised primarily in the Midwest, Lisa is a traveler at heart and has spent her adult years living and writing in such locations as Anyang, South Korea, Albuquerque, New Mexico and Spoleto, Italy. Her current perch is Charleston, South Carolina where she teaches Introduction to Poetry and Honors English at the College of Charleston. Lisa is managing editor for ZingaraPoet.net and 200 New Mexico Poems, a project she initiated while living in Albuquerque.

Izzy Wasserstein is a Lecturer in English at Washburn University. Izzy is the author of the poetry collection This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, and has published in Crab Orchard Review, Flint Hills Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Izzy shares a home with Nora E. Derrington, a cat, and three dogs, and believes in the power of resistance.

You Will Come Up Short — by Izzy Wasserstein

wasserstein_selfieAlmost every time.

You will run for 24 hours, run until your calves burn

and your feet are a ruin of blisters,

and reach your destination fifteen seconds late.

The sandbags you stack through the night

will not hold back the floods.

You will look at the rubble of your life.

You will come up short.

The future you work for will always be the future.

The war you rallied against, prayed against,

shouted against, screamed against–

the war you beat your bloody knuckles against

until your arms gave out–

the war will come. The men who started it will grin

over the ashpits of your despair.

You will come up short.

The walls you build around yourself will crack.

The poem you write will fail.

This poem will fail.

Your song of protest will not sway the President,

nor the mayor, nor the mayor’s dog.

You will pull apart your pockets seeking change,

and finding none, you will give up the milk, or the eggs, or the flour.

You will leave the tying run stranded at third base,

and they will laugh and celebrate their triumph

and hope you do not notice they were born there,

on third base, while you fought to take your first swing.

They want you to come up short

because of the color of your skin, or the dirt

caked to your palms, or the shape of your genitals

or the self you need yourself to be,

or whom you love or lust after,

because you do not sound like them,

because you were born elsewhere

because you were born at all,

because you see their lies,

or because they hate everyone

but themselves, and maybe especially themselves,

and so they cannot stand to see you succeed.

They will leave landmines in your path,

and when they do not know your path,

they will leave landmines everywhere.

They will threaten what you love.

They will promise you a runner-up trophy

if only you stop now. They will take away the trophy

you earned, and if they cannot take it away

they will tell you it was never yours, or never existed,

or that they let you have it.

They will have you thinking since you first crawled

that your legs were theirs,

that your arms were useless to you.

They will cut your tendons.

They will tell you that you are safest if you are silent,

tell you to keep your head low

and your eyes on your folded hands.

They will offer you baubles

and tell you that you can only win

by joining them

and then they will place you in the stands,

far, far up, so you may cheer their triumph with your bloody mouth,

they will tell you that you can be one of them

if only you put the hammer down,

if only you take up their flag

and their knives

and put them to use.

You will come up short.

They are counting on it.

They have built the world to ensure it.

Almost every time, you will look back and see the long line

of failures and their way will seem appealing, so much easier.

Just put the hammer down,

they will say.

And then you will see the fear lodged back far behind their eyes,

the pulsing fear, the fear that is a mechanical fist, always constricting,

and the only way they can loosen it

is to make it grasp you.

And you will know you do not need their fist.

You will come up short.

The blow you strike with all your strength

will not split open the bars.

The alarms will shriek contempt, the hammer will drop

from your hands.

Look at it closely. See the way the grip

was molded for your dirty palm. The edge is chipped

but it is strong. The callouses you have earned

serve you now. Reach down.

The hammer is as heavy as it needs to be.

It was made for you.

Strike again.

~ Izzy Wasserstein

Izzy Wasserstein is a Lecturer in English at Washburn University. Izzy is the author of the poetry collection This Ecstasy They Call Damnation, and has published in Crab Orchard Review, Flint Hills Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Izzy shares a home with Nora E. Derrington, a cat, and three dogs, and believes in the power of resistance.

Guest editor bio: Annette Hope Billings is an author/actor whose published works include a collection of poetry, A Net Full of Hope, and a collection of affirmations, Descants for a Daughter. Her poetry, prose, and short stories have appeared in a number of publications. She resides within the delights of being mother to one, grandmother to two and friend to many in her village of Topeka.

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