"Love Letters From Pompeii" - Elsa Russo

"Love Letters From Pompeii" - Elsa Russo

I lost you in Pompeii
When the air caught on fire
Your hand was ripped from mine
I thought I had caught it again
Imagine my fright when I turned and didn’t see you
But just some other frightened soul
I tried to turn back
I promise, I tried to turn back
But like a fish trying to swim against the current
I was battered and bruised and burned
Finally so weak that I had no choice

The next morning I went to look for you
I swear, I went to look for you
The bodies of those on the ground so mangled and burned
Any one of them could have been you
I traced our steps back to where your hand lost mine
It seems you only made it another two steps

I saw you again across the dinner table
Of a party I was at
You were a slave pouring the wine
And I was a Roman general
Someone tore your skirt
And I flew across the table in a rage
I didn’t mean to frighten you
On my honor, I didn’t mean to frighten you
But I did
My subordinates staring at me confused
As I took the jug and poured their wine so you could mend your clothes

I saw you as we rode away
Peering through the window
I thought I saw you recognize me
For a moment, I thought you recognized me
But you turned away
The moment gone
I rode out for Jerusalem

I thought I found you again
On the pilgrimage roads to Lhasa
We walked three days together
We ate and drank and prayed together
You laughed at my singing
And you held my hand like you used to
I thought I had found you
By the stars above, I thought I had found you
Until I saw you
Walking out of the city
As I walked in

You saw me for a moment
You saw the hand in mine
You smiled
I think you smiled
And walked past me
And the one who would be my wife

I finally found you again
As my ship sailed the Red Sea
In pursuit of Mecca
To destroy it
I saw you at the helm of the Muslim ship
I saw you at the helm of the Muslim ship
And you saw me
And you saw me

I looked up from the executioner’s block
You had tears in your eyes
And I whispered to you not to cry
Please, don’t cry
I’ll find you again
Next time around

I started seeing you everywhere after that

You were the first to die of the plague in our village
As I leaned over you in a long-beaked mask
You collapsed on the ground in Strasbourg
As I sawed away at my violin
You grabbed my hand by accident
As London burned around us
Caught in the fire and smoke
We looked just as we once had
A millenia and a half ago now

You shot me in the head
When we tried to invade Russia
(I’ll forgive you that one because of the snow)
You shot me on the barbed wire
As I climbed out of my trench
(I won’t forgive you that one because we played soccer the day before)
You leaned over my cot
When you and your men liberated our camp
(This time I’m only sorry that all you found was a shell of what I once was)

I haven’t found you this time
36 years hasn’t been enough time to find you
And no, I haven’t searched every holy site
And no, I haven’t visited every battlefield
And no, I haven’t gone to whatever place it is that I need to go to find you
We have appeared in so many places now
I have no clue where you will be
Or where I should be

So this is an sos
A radio call
Tapped out across the airwaves
In some kind of mad desperation
Where the hell are you?
Where should I look for you?
Because I am dying to find you
By all the gods above, I am dying to find you
Because it is getting cold out here

And I don’t want you to find me too late

"Her Rage" - Aralee Strange

"Her Rage" - Aralee Strange

If anybody can save this world she’s a woman
and is she pissed
pre-fabricated domesticated deformed and suppressed
underdressed depressed obsessed with herself
seduced made ashamed and treacherous
made less.

She will raise her voice in hallelujah
she will raise her eyes and equal to
she will raise her fists if she needs to
she will know how.

And she will ask:

How if we waste the children who will lead us
shall we endure?
Why must they atone for the sins of the fathers
who sacrifice to their false gods all life
for the sake of pride and poor judgment
for who owns what
who own nothing
who know nothing
who would have us murder and destroy
them and how many of us
to save face
to prove whose god is great
who owns the night
whose mighty fist is biggest?

And she will say:

Let my will be done
for a change
my ways my means
my benevolence my praise
my rage
my rage.

"Poem for Bob" - Aralee Strange

"Poem for Bob" - Aralee Strange

If I said I saw you dressed in a long coat
mingling with other angels dressed similarly
on the mezzanine of the public library
who would believe me?

If I said it was proof you got your heavenly due
eternity among books
am I nuts or was it a dream
something I saw in a movie?

Is this what they mean by blind faith?

I have rattled your bones.
I know where your earthly remains lie
and whose hearts broke when you died
and took off flying straight to glory.

I tried to pray.
I tried to say goodbye.
I groped rock bottom and mortal
found no way to accept your disappearing.

I stare at the picture of you again
and our friend Arthur reading there
in the cold white light of Christmas past
the last page of a book poetry no doubt
but that was then and you are not and
what took you and why is not the point.

How can life comprehend oblivion?

But if I said that was you transfixed in ethereal
spirit free amongst flocking celestials
floating happily ever after for all time
pure cloud across a blue sky
I’d be right wouldn’t I?

While widely published in literary journals during her lifetime, The Road Itself marks the first overview of the late Aralee Strange’s poetic works. It is a tour de force that moves from the urban blight of 1980’s Cincinnati Main Street to the pastoral solitude of Adams County, OH to the Southern charms of Athens, GA while remaining forever rooted in the heart of America, exploring in equal measure the implied complexity of its inherent beauty and tragic flaws. Her unmistakable, even voice simultaneously pitched between Old Testament scripture and The Street, these tough, restless poems aspire to and attain a clarity of language and personal spirituality. Included inThe Road Itself is her seminal poem cycle, “dr. pain on main,” which captures the total fabric of city life, its complications and many textures, as well as the meditative poem-psalms that she composed on Peach Mountain in Adams County, Ohio that led Strange to write and direct her feature film, This TrainThe Road Itself also includes art by Jay Bolotin, Frederick C. Ellenberger,  Kathy Prescott, Michelle Red Elk, Art Rosenbaum, Mary Seguin  and Jim Wainscott, each piece inspired by Strange’s life and work. Edited and with an afterword by Mark Flanigan, and with a foreword by Pauletta Hansel, the poems in The Road Itself seek truth in all of its hiding places, much like its author.

Haiku and senryu - David Oates

outdoor concert
after everyone’s gone
calls of tree frogs

alone in the house, 
little dog startles, then listens
answering machine

as we drive
down the highway she says, 
“All of this is an illusion.”                    
I say, “Still, I’ll keep my hands 
on the wheel.”

at the red light
three waiting drivers, all dance 
in their seats

from a pickup window
graceful bare feet 
with dirty soles

in the doorway 
at tap-dancing class
mother tries a step

little daughter watches 
as he rubs Rogaine on his skull –
“It’s not working, Dad.”

finishes her candy bar –
even on her back, 

small town South
 “Ah men” congregation
with an “Ā men” preacher

Athens, Georgia--
outside pawnshop 
he opens the car’s trunk
gets his bass drum

Ritalin kicks in
I want to alphabetize
my spice rack

David Oates is tonight's featured reader at tonight's open  mic at the Globe. Sign-up for open mic is at 7 pm and readings begin upstairs at 8 pm

"There Is No Time" - Lou Reed

"There Is No Time" - Lou Reed

This is no time for celebration
this is no time for shaking hands
This is no time for backslapping
this is no time for marching bands
This is no time for optimism
this is no time for endless thought
This is no time for my country right or wrong
remember what that brought
There is no time
there is no time
There is no time
there is no time

This is no time for congratulations
this is no time to turn your back
This is no time for circumlocution
this is no time for learned speech
This is no time to count your blessings
this is no time for private gain
This is the time to put up or shut up
it won't come back this way again
There is no time
there is no time
There is no time
there is no time
This is no time to swallow anger
this is no time to ignore hate
This is no time to be acting frivolous
because the time is getting late
This is no time for private vendettas
this is no time to not know who you are
Self-knowledge is a dangerous thing
the freedom of who you are
This is no time to ignore warnings
this is no time to clear the plate
Let's not be sorry after the fact
and let the past become our fate
There is no time
there is no time
There is no time
there is no time
This is no time to turn away and drink
or smoke some vials of crack
This is a time to gather force
and take dead aim and attack
This is no time for celebration
this is no time for saluting flags
This is no time for inner searchings
the future is at hand
This is no time for phony rhetoric
this is no time for political speech
This is a time for action
because the future's within reach
This is the time
this is the time
This is the time
because there is no time
There is no time
there is no time
There is no time

There is no time

"My Father Is a Retired Magician" - Ntozake Shange

"My Father Is a Retired Magician"
(for ifa, p.t., & bisa)

my father is a retired magician
which accounts for my irregular behavior
everythin comes outta magic hats
or bottles wit no bottoms & parakeets
are as easy to get as a couple a rabbits
or 3 fifty cent pieces/ 1958

my daddy retired from magic & took
up another trade cuz this friend of mine
from the 3rd grade asked to be made white 
on the spot

what cd any self-respectin colored american magician
do wit such a outlandish request/ cept
put all them razzamatazz hocus pocus zippity-do-dah
thingamajigs away cuz
colored chirren believin in magic
waz becomin politically dangerous for the race
& waznt nobody gonna be made white
on the spot      just
from a clap of my daddy's hands

& the reason i'm so peculiar's 
cuz i been studyin up on my daddy's technique
& everythin i do is magic these days
& it's very colored
very now you see it/ now you
dont mess wit me
                 i come from a family of retired
sorcerers/ active houngans & pennyante fortune tellers
wit 41 million spirits critturs & celestial bodies  
on our side
              i'll listen to yr problems
              help wit yr career     yr lover     yr wanderin spouse
              make yr grandma's stay in heaven more gratifyin
              ease yr mother thru menopause & show yr son
              how to clean his room

YES YES YES       3 wishes is all you get
     scarlet ribbons for yr hair
        benwa balls via hong kong
           a miniature of machu picchu

all things are possible
but aint no colored magician in her right mind
gonna make you     white
        i mean
        this is blk magic
you lookin at
          & i'm fixin you up good/ fixin you up good n colored
& you gonna be colored all yr life
& you gonna love it/ bein colored/ all yr life/ colored & love it
love it/ bein colored/

Spell #7 from Upnorth-Outwest Geechee Jibara Quik Magic Trance Manual for Technologically Stressed Third World People

"Wild Prayer" - Ciera Durden

"Wild Prayer" - Ciera Durden

An apology now starts to form
When I mention I still believe in something holy.
The acknowledgement of that week’s list of horrors shared through whatever media bubbles up,
And I find myself almost defensive,
Like I’m protecting a cruel friend.

There is always the “despite of” that comes before
Explaining how I can still feel the divine
Run up the hidden veins in my legs when I touch the earth,
How some miracle splits the sky open every morning,
Even in the middle of all this pain. 

At this point, belief is nearly embarrassing,
And I find myself avoiding prayer because of it. 

At this point, not even sure what method could I cast out into
The great, wide what-have-you
To be heard.

On hopeful, naïve days, this scene of confrontation becomes
A quiet knock on the door
To ask whomever is crowded in the house of the universe’s center
To come out for a walk with me
And talk things over. 

I might begin,
“You have done some really beautiful work here.
The cold fog rising up at dawn saved my life today.
And last night, I kissed someone who loved me as much as I love her.
I know you did that, 
But why this mess over here?
Why that suffering, that grief, that death?”

On other days, this scene falls apart,
The trap that prayer
Has never been a stroll in the park
As much as it has been tossing coins down the well,
Words bouncing in cheap copper plinks into the dark mouth
Of something that only gapes mutely back.

But this too falls apart
In the infuriating, but honest moments
When I feel something did answer back—
In how the car swerved that day and righted itself,
In the unexpected but certain press of comfort from a friend long-past,
In how you and I met that night, despite all of it,
During these times, I know
Just as I do not speak every language of every bright soul I meet,
Or understand immediately what the dog wants
In his wordless but earnest twitch of body—

Maybe this, too, shapes differently,
And to expect what or who made this all,
Every way to speak, to signal, to reach out and gather,
To answer in my one, small way
Is not how any of this works.

This is not the old excuse—
God works in mysterious ways—
This is not the final answer or any answer
To what evil we all felt yesterday.

This is only turning everything that the unknown made in me
Back to it
In love, and in fury,
Prayer a whole-body experience,
Worship a life of seeing and seen,
Every breath a question mark,
Every gesture a waiting, open hand.

It's time to celebrate fall at October's open mic! Featured will be poet Ciera Durden in a welcome visit back to Athens Word of Mouth.

Ciera has been a member of Athens Word of Mouth since 2011. Currently, she lives in Anderson, SC, and is looking to tap into the poetry scene in the South Carolina area. Her poetry focuses on confessional pieces, as well as themes on sexuality, religion, gender, and mysticism.
Open mic sign-up at the Globe is Wednesday October 3 @ 7 p.m. and readings begin upstairs at 8 p.m. See you there for this special night! [Photo by David Noah]