The Poetic Hill - May 2017

Join us at the Poets’ Corner at the Literary Hill BookFest on Sunday, May 7, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the North Hall of Eastern Market. Then cross the street to the patio at Tunnicliff’s Tavern for Poets’ Corner @Tunnicliff’s, our second annual reading and open-mic event. To share your poetry, sign up at the BookFest or, after 3 p.m., on the patio. Everyone is welcome – to read or simply to listen to some of the most creative voices in the DC literary scene. Here’s a sampling.

 

Yermiyahu Ahron Taubis the author of five books of poetry: “The Education of a Daffodil,” “Prayers of a Heretic,” “Uncle Feygele,” “What Stillness Illuminated,” and “The Insatiable Psalm.” He was honored by the Museum of Jewish Heritage as one of New York’s best emerging Jewish artists and has been nominated four times for a Pushcart Prize and twice for a Best of the Net award. Visit him at www.yataub.net.

Where Once Were Cherry Blossoms

You should have come in spring.
A light translucent scalloped the noonday lake.
The water tranquil pummeled the barricades of our winterness.
Coy fish caressed our limbs free of care.
Brightly, we drifted on seagrass gondolas.
The echoes of anise arias trilled from weeping willows onshore.
Nymphs arrived to usher in the season of dance.
 
You should have come in spring.
Fragrances leaped from the hearth over flagstones onto the village green.
Perhaps of mimosa or peppermint. Perhaps of purple pears?
Loaves laced with crunch and cliffs lined sideboards and tables alike. 
Intoxicated, we nibbled on bliss morsels until the moon slipped away.
The poor came to partake.
And still there was more.
 
You should have come in spring.
We walked the meadows glistening; hope we chanted into rain:
Esperanza!Esperanza! To farmers we called out silkily of harvests
to come and the gilding of tomorrows. We spooned gnarled oaks;
eagerly, we embraced branches discarded over lanes once impassable.
We dozed under the crackling of crows; the gaze of the jackal could not
diminish our gratitude. Our barn doors were ajar.
 
You should have come in spring.
Then you could have floated with us, then you could have dined with us,
then you could have rejoiced with us.
Now you have arrived, stumbling, into an era of whispers and weeping,
with its tangle of gray,
its residue of accusation. 
Now look how you have landed into the epicenter of emptiness.
 
If you had heeded our call, you would have seen Mother descend
the staircase with her smile and her symphony. 
You would have felt her touch, papery with purpose.
You would have felt her kiss against the remnants of your sorrow.
Come you instead to this bed, with its whiteness so fleeting and these
whimpers emanating from depths we could never have foreseen.
Come offer witness to the fruit of your delay.

 

Hayes Davis, a Philadelphia native, moved to the Washington area in 1998 to attend the University of Maryland, where he earned his MFA and won an Academy of American Poets Prize. His work has been published in “Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade,” “Bum Rush the Page: A Def Poetry Jam,” and Toi Derricotte’s “The Black Notebooks.” He is a former Bread Loaf working scholar and a founding member of Cave Canem, a workshop and retreat for African-American poets.

Route 1 North, Philadelphia to Highland Park
Your father has given you the wheel.
The mostly-empty highway offers
your 17-year-old road eyes no distractions,
and the Firebird descending the on-ramp is red.
 
The left turn signal isn’t instinctive yet,
nor is the glance that checks your blind spot
before the lane change. But as you settle
back into the forwardfocus of highway driving
 
your father’s handcovers your gearshift-perched
right, his mouthcurling before opening, “Good job.”  
He doesn’t remind you that sharing the road
with newcomers is less instinctual for you
 
than your blind-spot check. He is all praise,
and when the therapist asks, ten years later,
what you miss – how you imagined him
feeling when you pictured handing over
 
the grandchild he will never know – you remember
that he never held praise too tightly, that he
knew confidence as a vested commodity,
its installation as vital as anything fathers give sons.

 

Mark Fishbeinmoved to DC from New York seven years ago to complete a project on organic textiles. He has since retired from the apparel industry and been “reborn into poetry.” Currently head of the DC Poetry Workshop, he is getting certification as a poetry therapist “to serve the community.” He and his wife live on Capitol Hill, which they sometimes refer to as “Sag Harbor on a Wednesday.” He hopes that the poem below, “so different from most I write, [and] very in tune with our current crises,” will resonate with readers.

Spring on the Hill, 2017
The bloom has scented the shaded row houses.
In silence, some solitary strollers and bike riders
Crisscross at the crosswalks in the warming breeze.
There is a stillness of thought in slow motion.
The only sounds are an indifferent radio voice
Faintly prophesying war from a passing car,
Amid loud screams from the hidden birds.
 
So this is how it must have felt in the ages past
On the eve of the march to the distant battlefields,
Again to make this war the war to end all wars,
To add more zero columns to the casualty stats,
And roman numerals to its name like a Super Bowl,
While all about are gardens in flourishing abundance.   
 
In the nearby halls of the pillared Senate
O Senatus Populusque America
The eager press core take their notes –
“Fear not, as this will be a fast one,” they say,
As always for the godforsaken campaign.
  
Half a world away the millions brace for torment
Having endured the turbulent times and burnt cities –
How fast does death and torture become habitual?
How sleep will abandon the night to a restless panic
For those who survive another day, and another.
 
How do we prepare for the pronouncements
Each more atrocious, staggering, and depraved?
Our breathing will be in soft gasps accompanied
With fresh video of the burning and suffocating,
In the proud age of live coverage combats. 
 
We have pledged our allegiances and vows.
We who live on the Hill with our roots in this nation;
How it was plundered by the winter storm.
And now the emperor collects his legions
For the crowd, infected with amnesia,
Addicted to the opiates of paranoia.
Yet how fast history will forget our causes.
 
The Hill has known all the nation’s peoples,
Home of the stately great dome of hopelessness;
The emperor’s orators are not Plato’s men!
They are witlessly sworn to protect the homeland,
Above all, and feed the furnace of hell erupting,
And then restore the world to its knees before us!
 
You, stranger, on these aged streets and tuileries,
What are we to feel as the prophetic news
Of nuclear annihilation is so stoically debated?   
When the swords are drawn and the martyrs called,  
Knowing how sick we will be, and how the grief
Of history is getting closer and closer to our door? 
 
Here I make my home among this mesmerizing zone.
Here, in this unblemished perfection of springtime,
Some children play jump rope in the shaded gardens,
And I remain impossibly fused to the moment.      
 
But how grotesquely strange this feeling of calm,
Before what holocaust to be unleashed,
While loudly the birds scream at us in disbelief?

 

If you would like to have your poem considered for publication, please send it to klyon@literaryhillbookfest.org. (There is no remuneration.)


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