Kyiv at War

1

Western faces crowd Kyiv's underground,
illuminate the holiday commute,
dotted sequential, on big-knotted wire
(wrap it around the pine and plug it in).
They shine like annual Christmas cheer,
the merry green and red lights, blinking
in and out, winking, pages from my life:
her, a leisurely Madison Ave stroll
some summers back, in the heat wave.
The heavy blond child practiced math,
now builds quantum circuits for MIT.
But a wavy-haired Porsche stuck on LA's
four-oh-five transforms, struck by Einstein
Stalin to a cheap-coated tremble-mouth,
swaying in the black fake leather boots
his Red-Star grandpa kicked in Army
while grandmother was raped by the sea.
An old lady chairs reference at New York's
public library by prehistoric, formal ferns.
She wears a fearful expression to work:
hair tight, shoulders flat, chest thrust so,
quoted by Thursday evening anchors
on lonely news-channels, real estate's up
doesn't mean her plants can’t rage or hurt,
(ancestral seeds grazed by saurian beasts),
her fur coat’s sly nod, hung by an open door—
antediluvian clocks and ferns can't wilt
on Kyiv's red metro line, and New York
seems more improbable by the meter.
People shift, stretch, nod, dissociated,
await the sick, wailing train to nowhere,

I've been seeing these faces my whole life.

A garbage bag filled almost to bursting,
gripped in the square-knuckled hand
of a professor I heard lecture in college
about Gatsby and Jean Toomer, and
modernism's futuristic fascist tic—
now bound for Kontraktova Ploshcha,
traditional marketplace of Kyiv's Jews,
while pretty young lovers from Brooklyn
embrace below his clutching, bale stare.
The plastic sack crinkles with malice,
while his other hand, sinister, plies its
secret trade below a Sam Browne belt,
just like home. Demented Maine men,
hardscrabble Virginia coal transplants
in San Francisco, Montana or Texas
European eyes in a melted iron pot,
screeching underneath steel wheels
and corrugated, rusting track, such metal
marking minutes subway clocks prosperity,
dapper urban doppelgängs, redeemed
by morose Ukrainian mongrel clones,
our European twins—sybaritic, hostile
amoral, our poorer, undestined selves.

2.

The president is late. All rise. Tap your antique cap,
Sink your neck, bend the submissive knee, wink wide.
Alexander spears friends for less-hacks jobs, cuts lines,
He doesn't wait, our president. Nor she. All rise, hail
The ram's horned leader, cucked, dirtied, deified,
Reified on coins and bills, for all to see: they said
She shouldn't do it, swore it was an acrid plan,
Who dares laugh, now? All rise, amen, be seated.

Telling us like it is, straight,
lists odd-textured hats:
Felt and wool and silk,
Here's a thinking cap in
purple, grandfather smells
Weak again. The cap lies,
Says pro bono won't work,
Says make me too big,
Over people the system
With administrators. Hats
And caps and baseball brims,
Too many to revise--
Pick your favorite team.
Then: root, root, root until
The band comes home.

Honduras was bad, we cleaned it up
With Venezuelan help, and Mexican,
Who were bad, or were to be—ergo
China, Japan, Africa, Iran, Iraq.
A loaded word, that last.
Like frying onions, or football,
Or clean groomed Vets' Day lawns,
Happy kids and meat-filled pants

Two boys imprisoned by their arms
interlocking, back-to-back, a flag
wind whipped, causes them to look
away, and down--what danger waits
To feast upon their twinned complaint?
Chains nor handcuffs keep them set,
is it their mutual apathy, warm comfort
of another human's soft frail touch
that keeps two shirts plastered tight,
taut against a storm's elemental fury?
Or a more assertive force, an active hope,
perhaps certain backs were made to meld
and merge, cannot avoid doing so, apart—
like Ukraine from Europe. A baby screams.

3.

Partly made buildings loom, antique
and incomplete in the winter dawn.
Grotesque, they seem to me, devilish,
warning against imprudent spending,
incautious investment, misplaced trust.
I wander the morning streets of Kyiv
bedazed, I tongue my chapped mouth,
wetly whistle forbidden martial tunes
blow air before me in wide pearl bursts,
like a frigid fiend from hell's ninth circle.
Below, a train screeches its arrival at Metro
Minska, filled with fur coated, slash-mouth
trembling penitents. No forgiveness there.

Dead construction cranes cage the sky
and skeletal, keep me from the clouds
I once aspired to call my heavenly home.


Adrian Bonenberger is a veteran of Afghanistan, where he deployed twice as an infantry officer with the U.S. Army. His poetry has appeared in The Southampton Review, and his nonfiction work has been published in The New York TimesThe Washington PostForbesForeign Policy, and Deadspin, among others. Along with four other veterans, he co-edits The Wrath-Bearing Tree. Bonenberger's war memoirs, Afghan Post, came out in 2014. And he co-edited and contributed to The Road Ahead: Stories from the Forever War, an anthology of original veterans’ fiction.

Issue number: 
2.1

Noon Lockdown

We ask if it is real and the cell phones
say yes. Some students soothe themselves,
some panic. Write, I tell them. But
they write about Columbine, how they
came back from lunch and heard the news.
More texts come in: men with guns
two floors down, swat teams,
nine police cars. We plan what to do.

We say we will throw desks and bags.
I tell them our chances are good, so many
rooms in a building. We talk to someone
who struggles to breathe. We are
into Lamaze now to keep her
from shaking apart. Two students
turn the flimsy teacher desk over,
their only shield. One is angry because
her mother failed to text love,
so I kiss her head as I would kiss
the heads of my own grown children.

Then suddenly it is over: ROTC fake guns,
a simple mistake. No apologies.

Later, I visit my mother whose mind
loses everything, whose mind has turned
to lace.  I hold her hand as if
there is nothing to say. We rock
in our chairs with the women. I don’t
tell her a thing she will forget.


Tami Haaland is the author of What Does Not Return, forthcoming in spring 2018, and two previous books of poetry: When We Wake in the Night and Breath in Every Room, winner of the Nicholas Roerich First Book Award. Her poems have appeared in High Desert JournalConsequenceAscentThe Ecopoetry Anthology and many other periodicals and anthologies.  Haaland’s work has also been featured on The Writer’s AlmanacVerse Daily and American Life in Poetry. She has served as Montana's Poet Laureate and teaches at Montana State University Billings. Haaland writes, “In 2010 I was teaching a creative writing class when a lockdown occurred, and text messages from students' friends and parents confirmed that men with rifles had been sighted in our building. Though it eventually became clear the guns were not real, the incident caused much anxiety and panic.”

Issue number:
2.1

Since You Asked Me

“If he knocks at your thin door, let him in”
Adam Zagajewski

If he knocks at your door
let him in
the man who teaches
young soldiers how to survive
in Iraq, in Syria,
all those bloody places
where helicopters and hope
are shot out of the sky.

If he knocks at your door
let him in
the man of ex-wives and ex-addresses
the man who is always packed
who travels light.
He’s the man the general calls
when our side is losing.

He’s the man without a uniform
who like a man in uniform
saves and rereads your letters
unfolding them in airports, taxis, silent rooms
when he is between assignments, time zones, continents.
He’s the man who remembers you
lush in your plush bed.

If he knocks on your door
let him in
the man you cannot count on
cannot even locate in space
who drops
like a paratrooper into your life
hurt in some way you can’t find.

If he knocks on your door
he’s a refugee
from the world and our wars.
Take him in.


Rachel Michaud is a prize-winning poet and essayist. Her essays have been published in The Washington Post and the Hartford Courant, and heard on WAMC-Northeast Public Radio. Her poems have appeared in several literary journals. Rachel made her living as a literacy teacher, and later as a researcher and writer for non-profit organizations. She divides her time between Washington, DC, and Cambridge, NY. Michaud writes, “I am the wife and mother of physicians who treated wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Hospital. They brought the cost of war home with their discussions of cases and the blood stains on their white lab coats. Still, when my girlfriend asked, ‘Should I keep seeing this fellow?’, my answer surprised me.”

Issue number: 
2.1

Refugees

Forced to wander without
            language,
those memories leave
            footprints,
the kind that made
            you tremble
and hide, try to still
            the klaxon
thudding of your heart,
            stifle
the animal rasping in
            your throat.
Those silenced rhizomes
            shoot out runners
to snare and trip you at
            ordinary moments:
meat searing on a stove,
            an infant’s cry,
a whiff of dank mud
            after rain.
You sleep with the light on,
            but still
the wordless ones fasten
            clammy fingers
around your throat.
            You wake,
gasping syllables of
            that tongue
you locked away, those
            expressions
your children will never know,
            those words
nobody here can understand.
            You refuse
to recognize them.


Sheryl Slocum lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she teaches English as a second language at Alverno College. Her poems have appeared in numerous small press publications, including BluelineThe Anglican Theological Review, and The Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar. Some of her poems are informed by her Peace Corps experience of living in a country torn by civil war and by the conflict experiences of her refugee students. A Pushcart nominee, Sheryl is a member of the Hartford Avenue Poets and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.

Issue number: 
2.1

Snipers on the Roof

            Washington, DC, April, 1968

Tourists fresh from Wyoming
to a closed-down capital,
we made a game of counting them:
43, white like us,
in fatigues—no cowboy hats,
long guns resting carelessly
on knees or in the crook of an arm.

I was too young to know
there were more
behind the opaque windows
of those graceful buildings,
and my father too trusting
of military self-control,
and all of us too ignorant

to understand why
the black family
in the car from Illinois
followed so closely behind
and did not seem to be counting
the snipers as a souvenir
or a game.


Sheryl Slocum lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she teaches English as a second language at Alverno College. Her poems have appeared in numerous small press publications, including BluelineThe Anglican Theological Review, and The Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar. Some of her poems are informed by her Peace Corps experience of living in a country torn by civil war and by the conflict experiences of her refugee students. A Pushcart nominee, Sheryl is a member of the Hartford Avenue Poets and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.

Issue number: 
2.1

Dear Judith Wright

My daughter had that nightmare again
(this is five nights in a row now),
and when I ask her what it was about,
she lacks the words to tell me
or maybe she remembers only the fear
and the waking and her all alone.
I tell her it is only our past and future
troubling your sleep
, then she nods
and I wipe away her tears because
that is all we can do in this moment.

* Judith Wright (1915-2000): Aboriginal land rights; author of A Human Pattern: Selected Poems, selected by Judith Wright (Fyfield Books, 2011); italicized words taken and altered from “The Trains”


Lisa Stice is a poet/mother/military spouse who received a BA in English literature from Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University) and an MFA in creative writing and literary arts from the University of Alaska Anchorage. While it is difficult to say where home is, she currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, daughter and dog. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of a poetry collection, Uniform (Aldrich Press, 2016). You can find out more about her and her publications at lisastice.wordpress.com and facebook.com/LisaSticePoet. Stice writes, “For several months, I read collections by poets who write/wrote in times of conflict, and Judith Wright's A Human Pattern was among them. Wright wrote in support of the people with the least amount of power: indigenous tribes, women, and children. I wrote "Dear Judith Wright" to the spirit of Wright, knowing she would empathize with the military children who are too young to really understand or express their feelings.”

Issue number: 
2.1

First Warrior

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Laura Madeline Wiseman teaches writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and 24 Pearl Street. She is the author of 26 books and chapbooks and is the editor of two anthologies, Bared and Women Write Resistance, selected for the Nebraska 150 Sesquicentennial Book List. She is the recipient of 2015 Honor Book Nebraska Book Award, Wurlitzer Foundation Fellowship, and an Academy of American Poets Award. Her book Drink won the 2016 Independent Publisher Bronze Book Award for poetry. Her latest book is Velocipede (Stephen F. Austin State University Press), a 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist for Sports. Wiseman writes, “I wrote “Easy” and “First Warrior” after many years of practicing yoga. Mythology, legends, and the historical have long fascinated my work. These poems are in part a response to the physical practice of yoga, but also to the larger stories we tell about the body, athletics, and those who serve.” 

Unopened

by Nicole Yurcaba

Unopened
           for my father

we are told not to look
we are told this never happened
we are told to clean it up

eight hundred feed short jumped
turns a man spins him face-forward
smelts flesh bone blood fluids
crunching sand

disjointed unrecognizable wooden doll

what was his name?

we are told to forget it
we are told this never happened
 


Nicole Yurcaba, an instructor of English at Bridgewater College, is the daughter of a Vietnam War-era combat medic. Much of her current poetry focuses on the experiential translation of combat veterans' experiences. Yurcaba is the third place winner of Virginia's Skyline Poetry contest for her poem “Kenova.”

Issue number: 
2.1

While Sitting on the Bus to Airborne School

By Nicole Yurcaba

Alseep
against
the pane
of a window
locked
to not
lower.


Nicole Yurcaba, an instructor of English at Bridgewater College, is the daughter of a Vietnam War-era combat medic. Much of her current poetry focuses on the experiential translation of combat veterans' experiences. Yurcaba is the third place winner of Virginia's Skyline Poetry contest for her poem “Kenova.”

Issue number:
2.1