Table of Contents:
Akwe Amosu | New citizen
Judith Baumel | Irij
Elizabeth Metzger | Talking to Jean about Love
| Talking to Jean about Love II
By Akwe Amosu
For three chill days in March
windows of a train became my eyes
taking in the harsh truth of the prairie.
Lakes and ditches frozen thick, leafless trees
leaning away from empty homesteads, panes
punched out, car bodies half-sunk in deep grass.
In each small town, a grain elevator, a gas station
and in one late afternoon’s half-light, a casino’s
flickering call-sign, luring the lost to the reservation.
Freight trucks pounded into the night, their tail jewels
streaking blood crimson against the black; greasy yellow
neon flared like fiery gold, stretched by the speed
that was also tugging at me, my body fearing to fall
behind, threats strung out along the undulating wires,
mind trying to keep up, hang on, stay on track.
The sleeper car attendant hovered in the roomette
next to mine, his TV show whispering through the wall.
Rostered coast to coast a third time this week
he was non-committal, clouded by 37 years of answering
the call button, the customer always right, his dark spirit
tired of that, wanting out. Faced with stony stares
in the observation deck, I too felt unwelcome
and lacking options, took the whisky back to my post
searching the horizon for what might assuage doubt
or clarify my purpose, yet all I saw was the gaping hole
America needs to plug, wider than Montana, hope draining
into it, suffering leaching out, our common fate inescapable
even as we got up speed and tried to outrun it. We were
in it, it was in us. What a new American needed to know
was riding the train all the time. The simple task
not to look away.
By Judith Baumel
For now, let us choose not to remember
who said History repeats as Tragedy then Farce,
and who else repeated such nonsense
with variations because, friends, allow me
to be pedantic, just this moment. History repeats
as Tragedy more than once. Many times, in fact.
And Farce appears only briefly in the interacts.
In the main acts we find great and strong
winds that rend the mountains and break
them into pieces. In the main acts we find
earthquakes. In the main acts we find fires.
God passes by all of this and leaves
a still small voice in which we hear
what we need to hear, if anything at all,
and through which we wonder what we
are doing where our mothers and fathers
died and where, before they died, they built
a language that became a nation and that nation
a story and that story a home which we carry
along. It’s where the white storks return
from migration to find their nests destroyed
and they are homeless but still protagonists.
Talking to Jean about Love
By Elizabeth Metzger
You laugh, as real as the semen
he won’t let me touch. He throws it away
in a jellyfish.
The jellyfish I do love.
I’ll paint my fingers in it while he pees.
That’s called starting over, your laugh
clatters serious as a kitchen
with no one to cook for.
Some sex. Long after life.
Free to be made up!
Dying is hushing the world
back to bed, you say,
you won’t mind as long as you can be found
like the peacock at St. John.
Talking to Jean About Love II
By Elizabeth Metzger
I brought you this photo.
What is it of?
We both lean so hard toward the lit square between us
we have to hold back our own shoulders.
Who took this?
Sometimes I think I didn’t.
Sometimes I still want to have taken it
more than I wish it were good.
Are we both too polite to admit there’s nothing?
Your front teeth meet a biscuit crumble:
Do you still love him?
Your chewing translates: could you bear his never eating you again?
I don’t know.
I said need not eat.
How do you know how I heard you?
You waver like a ferry: with me or without him
you are still getting somewhere.
Akwe Amosu is a Nigerian/British poet. Her poems have appeared in South African journals Carapace, New Contrast and Stanzas, and US journals, Illuminations and The Common, as well as African anthologies. Her book, Not Goodbye, was published by Snail Press in South Africa in 2010 and she was a featured poet at the Franschhoek Literary Festival in South Africa in 2014. She is based in New York working on a project to support human rights leadership around the world. She previously worked at the Open Society Foundations and before that as a journalist and editor with the BBC World Service, the Financial Times and allAfrica.com.
Judith Baumel’s book are The Weight of Numbers, for which she won The Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets; Now; The Kangaroo Girl; Passeggiate and Thorny. She is Professor Emerita of English and Founding Director of the Creative Writing Program at Adelphi University. She has served as President of The Association of Writers and Writing Programs, director of The Poetry Society of America and a Fulbright Scholar in Italy.
Elizabeth Metzger is the author of Bed, selected by Mark Bibbins for the Sunken Garden Chapbook Prize, published by Tupelo Press in 2021. Her first book The Spirit Papers received the Juniper Prize for Poetry and was published in 2017, and her second full-length collection Lying In will be published in 2023 with Milkweed Editions. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker, Paris Review, Poetry Magazine, The Nation, American Poetry Review, and Poem-a-Day, among other places. She is a poetry editor at The Los Angeles Review of Books.