Poetry of Love, Resistance, & Solidarity

Posts tagged ‘Izzy Wasserstein’

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.

109. Stepping Into The Woods

Turn around. The woods have swallowed

you already. The way in is easier

than the way out. Obey these rules:

 

stay on the path. Do not follow the lights

that flicker on the edge of sight.

Do not eat the bread crumbs,

 

or listen to the voices, though they echo

through you like the promise of home.

Begin to forget that word: it’s only

 

a place you return to and find

no longer exists. Like a cabin

braced with candy canes, lovely

 

to see, dangerous to touch.

You’ll meet strangers on the way.

Speak to them if you must,

 

but give them nothing, tell them nothing.

What sharp teeth they have.

Others have come here

 

before you, but few have left. Curiosity

can consume you. You may think

you see your parents, your lover.

 

Do not run to them. If you come to a cabin

with legs, walk past it. The skittering

behind you may grow distant in time.

 

Try not to dream of what may have been.

Distrust what you see. Remember the tale

of the girl who took the stranger’s

 

generosity, how he dragged her

through the streets in a spiked barrel,

or chewed her bones clean. Learn

 

that trust can kill, and that death

is not the worst thing that can happen

to the young. If you must sleep,

 

do not dream. The woods enfold

you now, thick as blankets. I tell

you the truth: they are patient

 

as wolves, hungry as winter.

— Izzy Wasserstein

Israel Wasserstein was born and raised on the Great Plains and currently teaches at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. He received his MFA from the University of New Mexico in 2006. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Flint Hills Review, Blue Mesa Review, Coal City Review, BorderSenses and elsewhere.

61. Highway 54: Controlled Burn

Eastern Kansas, hills pungent

with controlled burn: my eyes

sting, black clouds rise

 

into angry evening. All about me,

ribbons of flame unspooled

by grim-faced men with rusty

 

pickups. Sunglasses

conceal their eyes

as they watch the sky,

 

the night clear,

free of portentous clouds.

Rain will not come.

 

And if it did, they would still

burn, unwilling to risk

disaster, fires twisting

 

from these fallow

fields those newly planted.

Sharp-lined faces know too well

 

mercy’s cost, destroy

what they must to save

the rest. One man turns

 

his head to watch me pass,

glasses black as his hair

outlined against red flame,

 

orange sky. He nods,

I nod, accelerate

toward home, towards

 

whatever still remains.

— Izzy Wasserstein

Israel Wasserstein was born and raised on the Great Plains and currently teaches at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. He received his MFA from the University of New Mexico in 2006. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Flint Hills Review, Blue Mesa Review, Coal City Review, BorderSenses and elsewhere.

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