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poetry

A Question of Ownership by Ellen June Wright

A Question of Ownership | Ellen June Wright

Apostrophe I

If I say you’re mine 
as in I own you, 
I want to own you, 
to possess you—
is that love or 
something darker?

Apostrophe II

If when you die 
you leave everything behind 
did you ever really own anything 
or did all those things own you 
until they were done with you?

Apostrophe III

When a man owns another man 
enslaves him for life and his children 
and his children’s children 
is that a type of twisted love? 

Is obsession with the other 
with the dark stranger 
the sinewy foreigner passion?

If you’re compelled to mix 
your bloodline 
with your black slaves’ 
bloodline 
are you owned for eternity?

When you sell your child 
are you selling a part 
of yourself you will 
never get back?

If I am yours 
and we are bound together 
when will it ever end? 

 

About the Author:

Ellen June Wright was born in England of West Indian parents and immigrated to the United States as a child. She taught high-school language arts in New Jersey for three decades before retiring. She has consulted on guides for three PBS poetry series. Her work was selected as The Missouri Review’s Poem of the Week in June 2021. She was a finalist in the Gulf Stream 2020 summer poetry contest and is a founding member of Poets of Color virtual poetry workshop and recently received four 2021 Pushcart Prize Nominations for poetry.

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poetry

What They Carried With Them by Ellen June Wright

What They Carried With Them | Ellen June Wright

They carried everything one can bring 
             when one can bring nothing.

They carried everything they knew:
             languages and dialects, songs mothers taught them

as babes and early blues sang as prisoners of war,
             memories of their home’s terrain: mountains

and valleys, grasslands and vast lands,
             recipes for how to cook everything

they had ever eaten—recipes locked inside 
             of how to prepare these peas, that rice grain.

How to stew this meat and for how many hours.
             What they brought with them was everything

they were—not material. They brought their culture.
             The part that mattered: religions and mathematics

and knowledge of healing locked inside plant and bark,
             knowledge of the stars, memories of love and family,

children and grandchildren, parents left behind
             homes they would never see again.

What they brought with them was everything
             that one can carry when one is in fetters

the seeds of children to be born in exile.
             What they brought with them was everything

that one can bring when one can bring nothing
             but one’s genius for survival.

 

About the Author:

Ellen June Wright was born in England of West Indian parents and immigrated to the United States as a child. She taught high-school language arts in New Jersey for three decades before retiring. She has consulted on guides for three PBS poetry series. Her work was selected as The Missouri Review’s Poem of the Week in June 2021. She was a finalist in the Gulf Stream 2020 summer poetry contest and is a founding member of Poets of Color virtual poetry workshop and recently received four 2021 Pushcart Prize Nominations for poetry.

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poetry

Imelda by Cristina Legarda

Imelda | Cristina Legarda

When I was seven 
a black sedan appeared 
in front of our house. 
My mother and I were spirited away
to Malacañang: they wanted her hands
and eyes, her stethoscope on a baby girl. 

The corridors were mapanghi 
(they smelled of urine). 
Madame herself toured us around. 
Yes, the shoe closet. An imposing quart 
of Chanel No. 5 on the dresser.
Mosquito net over the giant bed 
like a gargantuan bridal veil.

I wondered if visitors had to talk to her 
through the tulle, or if they sat with her
beneath that gossamer tent, to touch up their nails 
or gossip with trays of coffee and cake, 
ants and roaches and flies be damned

The mosquito net stretches, unnoticed, 
to shroud her abode – sitting room, palace wing, 
even the smelly corridors. She admires 
her own jewels. She makes speeches 
to friends about beauty and love.
She picks up a cake knife, tells the lady 
in the blue sash beside her  “So-and-so 
was sent to prison yesterday. People 
are so careless with their words. 
Would you like another slice?” 
The lady acquiesces with a smile 
and a bow, careful 
with her obsequy, 
a mosquito 
trapped 
in a giant 
white 
web.

 

About the Author:

Cristina Legarda was born in the Philippines and spent her early childhood there before moving to Bethesda, Maryland. She is now a practicing physician in Boston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in America magazine, The Dewdrop, Plainsongs, FOLIO, HeartWood, Coastal Shelf, and others.

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poetry

6-poetry

Issue #6 ~ Winter 2022
Poetry

What They Carried With Them | Ellen June Wright

They carried everything one can bring 
             when one can bring nothing.

They carried everything they knew:
             languages and dialects, songs mothers taught them

as babes and early blues sang as prisoners of war,
             memories of their home’s terrain: mountains

and valleys, grasslands and vast lands,
             recipes for how to cook everything

-Read More-

A Question of Ownership | Ellen June Wright

Apostrophe I

If I say you’re mine 
as in I own you, 
I want to own you, 
to possess you—
is that love or 
something darker?

-Read More-

Felis Ellipses | Jack Phillips

Cat tracks make ellipses on snow like a poem when they stop the silence goes deeper. Funny that Felis Rufus slinks up frozen creek beds passing unseen and that our un-bobcat-like stomp and skitter finds around each bend her spoor. We take our prompts from native snow…

-Read More-

Imelda | Cristina Legarda

When I was seven 
a black sedan appeared 
in front of our house. 
My mother and I were spirited away
to Malacañang: they wanted her hands
and eyes, her stethoscope on a baby girl. 

-Read More-

Declarations of Hunger | Reed Smith

                        after A. E. Backus

He paints a bird and a snake. 
                        It is midday 
in a field. One glistens cruelly. One tries not
to give itself away.

The fractal swath of deliverance
glitters in the ocean’s current. 

-Read More-

Other Good Stuff…

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poetry

Truth at the Delicatessen by Brian Yapko

Truth at the Delicatessen | Brian Yapko

An hour after I told them they tried 
to pretend everything was normal. 
We went to Canter’s, three bagels,
cream cheese, lox, apricot danish. 

Their grim faces stared into their 
coffees as if the future could be 
written in the pale swirls of cream or 
the sugar spilled from its envelope

which littered the table like grains 
of sand. Yes, the doctors were sure.
There were things they could do 
for the pain but not prolong… 

To their credit they held it together.
It was only when she came back 
from the ladies room that I saw how 
red her eyes were. The waitress 

came by. Carrie her name was. She
had worked there my whole life. 
She said it was a gorgeous day outside 
what could possibly make the three 

of us look so glum? They looked up 
at her stricken. Carrie’s nod was 
imperceptible. She put her hand on 
my shoulder — she could feel how 

bony it was.  I saw her look at me 
and know, just know. Before we got 
the check, she brought out strawberry
cheesecake – she remembered my

favorite. The staff gathered and sang 
happy birthday while my folks 
tried to not let me see their tears.
You see, it wasn’t my birthday. 

 

About the Author:

Brian Yapko is a lawyer whose poems have appeared  in  Prometheus Dreaming, Tofu Ink, K’in Literary Journal, Sparks of Calliope, Wingless Dreamer, KAIROS, Gyroscope, Cagibi, Penumbra, the Society of Classical Poets, Grand Little Things, Chained Muse, Abstract Elephant, Poetica and a number of other publications. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico with his husband, Jerry, and their canine child, Bianca.  

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poetry

Oath of Assimilation by Soo Yeon Chun

Oath of Assimilation | Soo Yeon Chun

I hereby declare 1
that three years ago, I was born again, 
as a mellow-skinned immigrant
with slit eyes and twisted tongue. 

At the airport, I hugged my mother—
“I believe you,” she beamed, 
her words soaking my bones
like the permanent smell of kimchi. 
I left her body cold 
as an oath & explained the difference 
between “believe” and “believe in,” believing
that I could become America’s own,
absolutely and entirely. 

In America, I first learned to renounce and abjure
my distaste for cheese, 
to embrace its nauseating slide down my throat
and its strange weight in my stomach. 
Swallowing a spoonful of mac and cheese
in a forceful gulp, I swore all allegiance and fidelity t
fixing my spice-stained, rice-ridged palate,
until I was overcome 
by the familiar nausea—this time, 
not at cheese, but at myself.
 
In America, I learned to translate 
강아지풀, 나팔꽃, and 연꽃 2
not into puppy grass, trumpet flower, and kite bloom 
but green bristlegrass, morning glory, and lotus,
which is to say, I learned to conceal isolation 
behind blossoms of language
& wear the glazed petals on my chest 
like a foreign prince 
as badges of heritage. 

In America, I learned to become a relentless potentate 
over my alien body, punishing 
every stare held a second too long,
every taboo state of mind,
or every gesture out of place. 
I exercised sovereignty over my parents’ 
shame, scoffing at mother’s failure to curl her r’s, 
wincing at father’s tearful attempts to tell 
the store employee, in broken English, 
that he had lost his wallet, 
swearing that I will never be 
unbearable—like them. 

In America, I learned to support and defend 
people who called me “refried” 
& bared their effortlessly pale skin 
like a secret. I learned to admire 
the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America
as models of order, perfect 
even in its imperfections, 
and fought against all enemies, foreign and domestic, 
including the red, rancid creature
that strained against my eyes’ glossy veneer 
at every condescending gaze
and silent judgement. 

In America, I promised that I will bear
the haunting question:
“how did you learn English?” 
My answer: the same way I learned to tear myself
away from my mother’s arms 
in a single wrench
on behalf of the United States.

In America, I swore that I will perform work
well beyond what others expected 
of a dog-boned immigrant
with a voice as soft as overcooked rice,
that I will become a figure
of national importance
in other words,
that I will either cave completely 
under America’s hand, tender yet unforgiving, 
or inhale shallow breaths of resistance,
pleasant and civilian,
pointing America to the right direction 
rather than creating fundamental change.

Now, America, I must confess 
that I take this obligation freely,
as you tighten your grip around my neck 
like an eagle’s talons curling around its prey
without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion,
until blood drums in my ears,
until stars explode in my vision,
until a blue-red flame bursts forth from my lungs—
so help me God. 


  1. The italics are excerpts from the Oath of Allegiance that one must take to become a naturalized citizen
  2. Korean terms for different plants, which literally translate into puppy grass, trumpet flower, and kite bloom 

 

About the Author:

Soo Yeon Chun is currently a senior at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. Besides writing into the midnight hours, she enjoys listening to music and practicing drums. An alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop, she is a lover of all things strange and in-between. Previously, her works have been recognized by Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, Jack London Writing Contest, and Live Poets Society of NJ 23rd Annual National H.S Poetry Contest. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Passengers Journal, Inlandia: A Literary Journal, and Rigorous, and others.

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poetry

Summer Elegy II by Todd Robinson

Summer Elegy II | Todd Robinson

Nebraska’s bare branches
paw at skies full of pointless

blue, mercurial daymoon.
Powerless like me

or my disabled wife
wobbling our broken

palace in cashmere 
and bracken. She wants

to be a florist deep
in daylilies, scatter pages

with green ink, memorize
iterations of birdsong, 

but instead buries her sores
in blankets, paddles Lethe

toward the waterfall we all
fear, rejecting the premise

of a soul but still hoping, 
the way moths burn 

in a lamp’s ziggurat of light.

 

About the Author:

Todd Robinson’s poems and prose have found the (web)pages of Cortland Review, Prairie Schooner, A Dozen Nothing, North American Review, The Pinch, Sugar House Review, and Hummingbird. He has published two books of poetry, Note at Heart-Rock (Main Street Rag) and Mass for Shut-Ins (Backwaters). He received his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and is an Assistant Professor in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. 

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poetry

Another April by Katherine Kubarski

Another April | Katherine Kubarski

Today I end the long cocoon-ment, drop the burlap 
itch and scratch for a pink puffer jacket.
Remember how pretty feels. 

Novel to be with a man I hardly know, to walk on April snow 
just inches above the hard ground, talk nothing deeper 
than winter’s last covering. 

Landscapes in scattered, snow dusted stones. Elk antler scrapes on
aspen bark. Grouse tracks arrowing into the woods. A tumbled rock
neatly snailed in a jelly roll of snow.  

Like a wild animal, I feel his approach, tense as he hugs me from the side. Still 
my body draws toward warmth, forgotten yet familiar
beneath layers of feathers, fleece and flannel. 

Unwrapping my strange shyness, I bare my face, to be touched again 
by breeze, by breath. With curious eyes, he surveys my pale, weary terrain
but says next to nothing, only “It’s all right.” 

 

About the Author:

Katherine Kubarski has been working her magic as a grant proposal writer for over three decades.  A Relax & Write retreat on the sacred island of Molokai coaxed her into creative writing, something she had long wanted to do.  Her work has appeared in Mountain Gazette, Santa Fe Literary Review, Santa Fe Reporter (awarded first prize in the 2019 Poetry Contest), and Snow Poems Project.  In search of post-pandemic inspiration, she is headed with her laptop to a cabin in the forest of Chilean Patagonia where the world’s tiniest deer and other surprises await her.

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poetry

American Diorama by Naomi Ling

American Diorama | Naomi Ling

              after Ocean Vuong

              “I am an American; free born and free bred, where I
              acknowledge no man as my superior, except for his own
              worth, or as my inferior, except for his own demerit.” 
              Theodore Roosevelt

Let this be a story of light. Tonight the TV 
              speaks little tragedies into 
existence, throws 
                            home across faceless soil. 
I want 
              nothing more than 
a home / body / girl 
                            to call my own. We can 
be our own flag 
              and anthem: Flesh is not a prayer, 
but let me sing it into creation. 
              Myth or memory, 
                            you decide. 
              
If myth, say anthem of immigrants. I hear 
American Dream and believe 
              bullets-becoming-a-war-cry, 
              bullets-biting-breasts, 
              mountains-leaning-into 
              -a-mother, into anything, everything beautiful. 
The news holds my head 
              against a bright 
                            blue square—propaganda. 
              Good citizen. 
The sky blanches open 
                            over us. So proud & 
              worshipping. 
              
              Back in the day we 
wanted to make clouds. Packed powder 
like a promise and 
              cocked it towards the
sky. It fell like rain. Killed like
              history. The air hewed 
into a thousand choked breaths— 
who would believe us? 
                            They say America was born 
              from a womb. 
There are far too many 
              casualties 
                            for rebirth. 
              
Let us dream our history into 
              hope. My mother tells me of men 
measuring the land with their 
teeth, mistaking the earth for 
bread. Hunger will make every man
              into resilience. Or at least, 
              into everything 
                            we weren’t meant to be. 
              
I say speak and mean anything our tongues
touch. Language: another form of life. To
                            which we love and are 
loved. What I say is 你好 / 안녕하세요 /
                            ہیلو .What I say is 
we are more than our hands. Birds: our wings
                            plucked or unfolded; 
              our wrists 
                            some small act of creation. 
              
America unfurls from patriot to pixels—
you were not born 
              from a womb, 
a dynasty, 
                            a lineage. 
Every man and woman leveled 
like dust. Yet we are not 
              finished. This can be a chapter 
an elegy 
              or sacrifice. We of belonging. 
We of cities that mute themselves
              too late. 
                            What I’m saying is 
not every story 
                            has a storyteller. We live 
              only for our bodies 
not imaginations. 
              
On the news, the ground 
                            proclaims itself a patriot. 
I’m ready 
              to call it home / anything. 
              /

 

About the Author:

Naomi Ling is a student writer on the East Coast, USA. Her poetry most often grapples with growing pains and identity. In her free time, she enjoys eating as many dumplings as she can. 

Categories
poetry

From the Stem by Daniel J Flosi

From the Stem | Daniel J Flosi


Charles Darwin hypothesized that language emerged from a song-like proto language. 

look! down the misty hillside 
our ancestors 
work the soil 
while soughing trees 
prattle on about their mysteries 
seed laden grasses 
rustle in the breeze 
twin streams of birdsong ripple 
rows of wheat 
teasing apart the meaning 
from the music 
all the while our thoughts pull 
pull the precious memory 
from the stem

 

About the Author:

Daniel J Flosi is an apparition living in a half-acre coffin in the township of Rock Island, IL within the V between the Mississippi and Rock Rivers. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prometheus Dreaming, eris & eros, and Wild Roof Journal. Drop a line at https://entertainedamerican.com/