December Poem of the Month – Yvonne M. Estrada

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From My Name on Top of Yours

Read the writing on the cinder block wall:
Joker, Jasper, Dopey, Termite, Tokes, Crow.
It’s not an “is it art?” debate, at all;
these are the monochromatic zip codes
of my gangster, tattooed, sharp-creased, cousins.
Scribbled in black on a bus bench, strangled
names crossed out, over names crossed out again,
red under yellow under green tangled
like wire. Memo, Cowboy, Flyboy, Topper.
Neil Armstrong planted a flag on the moon;
it can’t be seen from their clearly marked world
where, if you don’t live there, you better run.
Tight fence of paint, like barbed wire that’s hidden.
Trespassed borders end lives, I’m not kidding.

 

Yvonne M. Estrada’s recent chapbook, My Name On Top of Yours, features both poems and original photographs: http://tinyurl.com/mzx7fd9. Her poetry has been published in Catena; Mischief, Caprice & Other Poetic Strategies; Pulse Magazine; GuerrillReads.com, #8; Verse Wisconsin; and 2011 Poem of the Month Calendar.

 

Apologies for being CRAZY LATE with this, and no disrespect intended to the poet or the poem. — TW

 

November Poem of the Month — Kim Dower

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WHAT THE WIND DID

She hears it in her sleep
Ruining each dream like
The punchline of a bad joke
Sweeping of Santa Anas
Branches flying over the roof
Sparrows driven from their nests
Patio furniture tossed like confetti
Garbage flying like chunky crows
She wakes up to the drain pipes moaning
Remembers a night of falling through
Noise, shaken through her dreams
Let’s go see, she tells her dog
Let’s go look. Let’s see
What the wind did

Kim Dower’s new collection, Slice of Moon, in which this poem appears, was published in September this year.  Her first collection, Air Kissing on Mars appeared on the Poetry Foundation’s Contemporary Best Sellers list. Kim’s work has appeared in Ploughshares, The Seneca Review, Barrow Street, Eclipse, and Two Hawks Quarterly. http://kimdowerpoet.com.

 

 

October Poem of the Month — Mary Fitzpatrick

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HEART OF FIRE, HOUSE OF SMOKE

The heart of the spirit world
lives and churns and its wake
is a house of smoke rising
and billowing out of the ground
The walls of the house
are scrim for the pantomime
silhouette — folly, vanity, lust —
and a little box is lit
like a lantern at the heart
of the house of smoke. The box
flickers and wavers, stays lit,
is tended by my fox, fox
color of smoke, fox whose tiny
fine features belie
a boundaryless burst of tail. What
in the spirit world wants us
this badly? over and over to come
churning up from the ground?…
I carry the little box lantern
from place to place in the house;
It shows shapes that build
then dissolve in relenting
intentions. Smoke heaps
and gathers, then loses
resolve. I clean my whiskers,
lick my paws
hold the lantern, snap
my jaws. I want
what the spirit world wants:
another chance, another chance.

Mary Fitzpatrick’s poems have been featured in Mississippi Review, Agenda, Dos Passos Review, ASKEW, Georgetown Review, as well as in A Bird Black as the Sun (Green Poet Press) and Cancer Poetry Project 2 (Tasora Books). She holds a BA from UC Santa Cruz and an MFA from UMass Amherst. wordfitz@aol.com

September Poem of the Month —Alicia Vogl Saenz

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TOWARD DISAPPEARANCE

It started during the fires.
Northeast city crested in flames.
Door to your house is open, you stand
framed, shock of white hair.
Smoke has infested the walls,
we’re slightly light-headed. And
in the blue of your bed, we fall just how
I fall into that Sam Francis painting
I’m in love with. Toward Disappearance.
Wall of canvas, mostly white, except
a vertical movement of blue,
with moments of red and green thrown in.
It does seem Sam threw paint in one simple
gesture. But it is never as easy as that.
Oil paint translucent as the blue glass
of water you hand me. Or the deep saturation
of paint in cell shaped forms moving on canvas.
It had to have taken months.
Which is how long it feels this afternoon,
us here, in this house of refuge while the hills
burn and the fan overhead moves September heat.
I have loved you for fifteen years,
you say. I know that isn’t true and I don’t care.
You’re here to end the dormant years, just
how last time you woke me in the sad years.
There’s a low murmur from your yard,
barely audible. Blue agave is witness.
Out of the black char on the hills, seeds germinate,
burst painfully from their hulls, reach for the sun.

Alicia Vogl Saenz’s poems have appeared in Grand Street, Blue Mesa Review, and Mischief, Caprice, and Other Poetic Strategies. She authored the chapbook, The Day I Wore the Red Coat. Most recently, her translation of Spanish poet Mariano Zaro’s book, Tres Letras, was published. She has been a practitioner of Shambhala Buddhism for 7 years.

August Poem of the Month — Pam Ward

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NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH

        For Trayvon Martin
        with respect to Cypress Hill   

Here is something I can’t understand.
HOW ZIMMERMAN CAN KILL A MAN!

I’m just walking home from the store
Crazy Ass starts a civil war
Hoodie’s on cuz the street is chill
Seventeen, trying to get some Skittles
But, here is something I can’t understand.
HOW ZIMMERMAN CAN KILL A MAN!

Crazy Ass thinks black skin is whack
Calls the cops, they tell him, “Stand Back!”
Girlfriend tells me to “Run away!”
“Hell no,” I say, I ain’t afraid!
But, here is something I can’t understand.
HOW ZIMMERMAN CAN KILL A MAN!

Duck and hide, ditch behind a tree
Don’t want no Cracker tracking me!
Finds me, fight but he won’t let go.
Neighbors Watch but nobody shows
“Come on, man why you sweating me?
Daddy lives in this community!”
Struggle hard when I hear
Blam!   Blam!    and…
Zimmerman just kills me, man.
Zimmerman just kills me, man.
Zimmerman just kills me, man.

Pam Ward, author of “Want Some, Get Some,” and “Bad Girls Burn Slow,” Kensington, is a writer/designer. Her “My Life, LA: The Los Angeles Legacy Project” documents black Angelinos in poster/stories. www.pamwardgraphics.com

July Poem of the Month — Andrew Wessels

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An Older J.A. Sitting on the Covers in a Tropicana Guest Room Watching
a Re-Run of Bones & Praying

I.
Give me the strength to walk Heaven
across the casino floor with the strength
of the room attendant carrying my cheeseburger and beer.
I watch myself in the ceiling mirrors trace seams
on the bedspread. I should be decorated with flowers.
How does it matter whether I sleep?
The mountains outside the window surprise me, turn
to watch my friend walk into the bathroom
his towel dropped to the marble floor.
Now all is different without having changed.
When I will be that: hard
like the daisy and white like the stone.
When I will be the cleanliness of picked bone.
In the end there was fire and in fire the whiteness of bone.

II.
Where the young man is now, pushing
more grilled steaks up the service elevator
or taking his break at the slot machines in the next hotel.
Now all is different without having changed.
Mud on the shoes leads to the beginning
what we find in the end. The body was mummy
in a funhouse discovered by a boy. Look me<
into this death, discover the reason, explain me
into a report. Write me into the words of this world.
Anything happened. We are beautiful
in the mirror. Wool-dyed flowers. Plastic flowers. Plastic
flowers. The original cover peels back
a scented sock. The fast-moving station car.
Call me this man in a room, bones, as if he knows I am watching.

Andrew Wessels splits his time between Istanbul and Los Angeles. His poems, translations, and collaborations can recently be found in VOLT, Witness, Fence, and Colorado Review. He is the managing editor of Les Figues Press and edits the poetry and poetics journal The Offending Adam . This poem was previously published in Handsome, Vol 4 Issue 1. Photo by Zeliha Sahin Wessels.

 

 

June Poem of the Month — Mehnaz Sahibzada

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APA’S PAINTING

1.
I ask my mother about Apa’s painting
in English, she answers in Urdu, then it’s
my turn to speak, but there at the crosswalk
between Lahore and Los Angeles, I pledge
allegiance to nothing though sometimes
I mix the two languages, even throw in a little
high school French, or the Arabic I learned
reading the Quran, my nine-year old head draped
in a scarf pulled from my mother’s dresser.
I peer up at the canvas: ocean waves thrash
an archipelago of rocks.  My mother tells me
Apa painted it before I knew how to say
fish or pani or Pakistan, before I became
this chest of torn up maps.  In my body the Pacific
edges into Islamabad, Hollywood’s lodged
in the throat of the Punjab.  My grandmother’s
painting lives in this garage in Woodland Hills,
propped up against a box of fashion magazines.
The image speaks in twelve shades of blue,
like a storm of languages without a tongue.
The sight engulfs me, unpledged.
The coastline shadowed–no words, no light.

2.
The coastline shadowed–no words, no light.
The sight engulfs me, unpledged.
The image speaks in twelve shades of blue,
like a storm of languages without a tongue.
My grandmother’s painting lives in this garage
in Woodland Hills, propped up against a box
of fashion magazines. In my body the Pacific
edges into Islamabad, Hollywood’s lodged
in the throat of the Punjab.  My mother
tells me Apa painted it before I knew
how to say fish or pani or Pakistan, before
I became this chest of torn up maps.  I peer
of rocks.  I ask my mother about Apa’s painting
in English, she answers in Urdu, then it’s my turn
to speak, but there at the crosswalk between Lahore
and Los Angeles, I pledge allegiance to nothing
though sometimes I mix the two languages, even
throw in a little high school French, or the Arabic
I learned reading the Quran, my nine-year old head
draped in a scarf pulled from my mother’s dresser. 

Mehnaz Sahibzada is a 2009 PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow in Poetry. Her chapbook, Tongue-Tied:  A Memoir in Poems, was published by Finishing Line press.  She lives in Sherman Oaks. “Apa’s Painting” previously appeared in the Journal of Pakistan.