Wholesale displacement may be inevitable; but we should not suppose that it occurs without disastrous consequences for the earth and for ourselves.
– Scott Russell Sanders, Staying Put, Making a Home in a Restless World
My father, when lost, sought Polaris – star-shine surpassing luminous sun – his symbol of love and home. Polaris, sighting my father, set him to “making a home in a restless world” – what would be his life-long labor of love. An architect under St. Patrick’s wings, he transformed with Mayo the hospitals into homes redolent with Rumi gardens and hospitality’s arts.
Imagine being a young teen from Korea awaiting your sixth open-heart surgery in green garden’s affectionate arms and returning this touch by touching red velvet Austen Rose petals while beholding “Earth’s Children,” the sculpture of hands and feet held around the globe and knowing that your two best friends in Seoul are holding your hands and feet.
Or imagine being a widow confined yet buoyed by lazuli-blue-bright sky, erasing four walls, to set sail with Chagall’s dream of floating up, up, up into the cosmos of your wedding day with your lost, now found beloved – pausing on Beethoven’s island of trembling Spring‘s Sonata Number Five and forgetting completely the tatters of your torn life. Or imagine the sculpted Rodin-like Asclepius whose Polaris-arms surrender to uplifting you above desires and loathings to behold true cosmic north – home – homeostasis – hospitality – front-line of health, liberty, happiness, all besting the sapphire-hot joy of distant Icarus (once reliant upon Daedalus-wax-and-feather wings) now dancing joy’s frenzy, not to forget how fragile we all are, but to remember our strength – our wise and medicinal innocence and our calling to make of our hearts a home to have and to hold, to liberate and to love what shines through all the bodies that cannot last.
M. Ann Reed
Ann Reed is a poet, Chinese calligrapher-brush painter and professor of English Literature and Theory of Knowledge. She has taught in Malaysia, Ukraine, Bosnia-Herzegovina and China, where traditional cultures regard literature a medical art. Her postdoctoral research studies the mending arts of Early Modern English and Contemporary Poetry. Her Chinese calligraphy and brush paintings have been exhibited in Portland, Oregon and at the Shenzhen Fine Arts Museum in China. Her poems have been published in various literary journals, including Burningword Literary Journal.
We were like slowly awakening pears,
lasting into winter, desert pears,
dry and ripening slowly.
During those last 3 years,
I learned to talk to you gently, you learned to listen,
to ask me about my poetry.
I think of you when there’s thunder out there,
but it still doesn’t rain.
The night it did rain, and the power went out,
we sat on your bed in the dark, talking of our childhoods,
46 years apart, how thunder
used to scare you, how daddy and you
would make love until the storm passed.
The other night, I bought fish and knew what I wanted:
you would have been proud of me, buying the way you used to buy,
asking questions, talking with the fish man–
I’m past 50, finally self-assured.
Think how much you could have taught me,
if you could have slowed us down with a kiss,
in the kitchen, in the store saying,
this is a strong fish, this one bakes or broils well . . .
Yesterday I put on the T-shirt that young Hillary
made for you with your name in bead letters;
I wanted to wear what had been yours next to my skin,
wear your name next to me all day.
Schooled in pain, but born to laugh at the same time,
I have a part of your smile,
and know how to do small stitches.
Having found you and lost you—
other deaths may be easier.
I keep your will, your leather wallet,
your bowl with the fine crack in it, your favorite knife.
The disappointments I wanted you to forget,
may they have been burned to condensed ashes, like many of your bones;
a year ago in snow, we sent you down the stream.
May what I should have said follow you,
may it knit you back together in transparency,
may the light shine through you,
may we go our separate ways in peace,
may we pass in deep silence, Mother.
Mary McGinnis, blind since birth, has been writing and living in New Mexico since 1972 where life has connected her with emptiness, desert, and mountains. Published in over 70 magazines and anthologies, she has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has published three full-length collections: Listening for Cactus (1996), October Again (2008), See with Your Whole Body (2016), and a chapbook, Breath of Willow, published by Lummox poetry contest (2017). Mary frequently takes part in poetry readings in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico and is available upon request for readings and poetry workshops.
He looks like a more drunk, shorter Santa Claus, minus the charm & good cheer
except he’s got a fresh gash under his left eye that’s bleeding Christmas red & every word from his mouth is buckets, & I mean buckets, of cheap fifths of gin. This white homeless man, first asking then demanding a dollar from me & the woman I love in front of the pharmacy on the corner of 8th & University. I raise my hand, silent apology offered
as we move toward the door to find a birthday card for a friend. It’s people like you,
he says, catapulting his five-foot-four-and-a-half-inch frame into a monument of self-
righteous fury, and I’m talking to YOU, he barks the spit-laced words, calloused index finger nearly touching the raw umber hue of my fiancée’s clenched jaw—You’re not even
human, he says, you fucking monkey.
I knock him the fuck out—feel the sting
in my index & middle knuckles, relish
that crunch from when I sledgehammered
his jaw. His face becomes Mr. O’Reilly
telling me to stay out of trouble when
I came back to visit freshman year, it
becomes the mutiny of my body on
a dark street passing a man in a low-
pulled hoodie, it becomes my father’s
slight accent & my fifth grade friends
who giggled whenever he said the word
womens, it becomes my deeply buried
relief at knowing a cop protects me,
the time I carried my drunk hallmate
home in college, held her hair back
while she threw up for three hours, how
a hallway of mostly white faces still
assumes I fucked her.
When I write the story
in my head, I am always
the hero. In the old ones,
I was always the victim.
I easily have twenty pounds of muscle on this dude, not to mention
thirty years, seven inches, & one less extended tour at war—
not to mention enough light-skinned privilege of my own, enough
class benefit-of-the-doubt. I could pummel him into a coma
with a gang of NYPD officers nearby, explain why & have them chuckle,
nod, & say, Don’t worry, pal. We get it. Just clean up afterwards.
He follows us, my love in tears, as she retreats into the closest aisle.
I turn & face him: You just called my future wife a ‘monkey.’ Why?
You’re better than that. Imagine someone said that to a person
you love. And his eyes suddenly arrive—no longer
in Vietnam or his uncle’s basement in fourth grade chained
to a radiator or three decades’ worth of park benches—histrionic tears
start to drown the haphazard whiskers on his ruddy cheeks, as he pulls
sheets upon sheets of stolen frozen crabmeat from his tattered backpack,
his arms extended to her, offering them up as penance. The irony,
the allegory of this white man offering cold seafood to a Black woman
with a shellfish allergy.
A broken man has bullied the woman I love & anything I do will make me his bully.
I ask her, What would Darnell or Maurice do? What would Dr. King do? What would a ‘good man’ do? What should I have done? And again, the world demands answers from her but then mutes her response, silent as her voice in this poem, asking her to answer for something she has never owned nor sought. She’s between sobbing & punching the next man who talks, trying to busy her hands with Hallmark cards she can’t read through tears.
I imagine the scenario again, except this time while holding the hand of our six year-old
daughter & I am convinced that what just happened was either the bravest or most cowardly thing I have ever done.
I lie awake until we finally talk – she’s angry still,
the ache fresh as the gash on that hobo’s left cheek:
Honestly, fuck your social worker bullshit. He was
more important to you than me.
But, baby, what was I supposed to do? Beat his ass? What would that have done?
I don’t know, she says, I guess sometimes our options are only what is
At rest upon a body
of water without life
at the bottom of the earth
wedged between two peaks
in the middle of the Middle
East, serene resort
in the midst of a cluster
of ubiquitous crisscrossing
wars that are now just
landscape: two bodies
learn how to float again
for the first time. Two
best friends. Close
enough to the end to no
longer keep track of hours
or days. They carry
nearly two centuries
of stories and losses
and secrets between them
into this stinging cold
that refuses to let them
sink. Each refusing
to release the other’s
arthritic grip, knowing
they came here today to
let go—and so the lake
becomes a sea of schoolgirl
giggles hijacking their hoarse
throats, now laughing as
their scars make them
into glowing quilts beneath
the sheen of heavy salt. I see
only them in this sacred
pool that is closer to hell
than any other, called Dead
because nothing is able to
survive its grasp for too
long and yet here they are:
two old ladies who’ve defied
Carlos Andrés Gómez
Carlos Andrés Gómez is a Colombian American poet and the author of Hijito, selected by Eduardo C. Corral as the winner of the 2018 Broken River Prize. Winner of the Atlanta Review International Poetry Prize, Fischer National Poetry Prize, Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry, his writing has been published, or is forthcoming, in the New England Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Yale Review, BuzzFeed Reader, The Rumpus, Rattle, CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape (Simon & Schuster, 2012), and elsewhere. Carlos is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.