Category Archives: Poets

Inspirational Poetry

Black-Jewish Podcast: Poets Speak

MAY 2021 BLACK-JEWISH DIALOGUE

Marilyn Kallet

Marilyn Kallet recently served two terms as Knoxville Poet Laureate, 2018-2020. She has published 18 books, including How Our Bodies Learned, The Love That Moves Me and Packing Light: New and Selected Poems, Black Widow Press. She translated Paul Eluard’s Last Love Poems and Benjamin Péret’s The Big Game.

Dr. Kallet is Professor Emerita at the University of Tennessee. From 2009-2020, she mentored poetry groups for the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, in Auvillar, France. Her poetry has appeared recently in Plume and American Diversity Report.

Black-Jewish

Maria James-Thiaw is a poet, performer and an educator from Central PA. She has written three poetry collections and her poetry has been published by Cutthroat Journal of the Arts, Love Your Rebellion and other journals. Her choreopoem, Reclaiming My Time: An American Griot Project debuted in Summerdale, PA in 2018 to 6 sold out audiences. She won the Art of Protest Poetry Prize from Penn State for works from that production. In 2020 she created a Zoom version entitled RMT 2.0. This performance poet attended Marilyn Kallet’s workshops in France in 2011 and 2015. Maria is a graduate of Goddard College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and she is the Program Coordinator of Creative Writing for CASA, Capital Area School for the Arts in Harrisburg, PA.

Dialogue Partners:
American Diversity Report,  Chattanooga News Chronicle, Mizpah Congregation, Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, C.U.R.B. – Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda.

See October 2020 Black-Jewish Dialogue

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Last Night I Was Child Again – by Finn Bille

After Corey Mesler

Last night I was a child again
in Jutland, Denmark, nineteen forty-two.

My mother’s milk surged as I suckled
and kneaded her distended breast.

A growing roar shook windowpanes,
her dripping nipple swung away.

She shuddered, looked outside and up
as dark things in a wedge crept by.

She wept and trembled, crushed
my face into her breast as engine noises dimmed.

I sucked in eerie silence, blissful, unaware
that German mothers and their children
soon would suffer, starve and die.

Author’s Comments: Corey Mesler’s poem, “Last Night I Was a Child Again in Raleigh,” was published in his book, Among the Mensans by Iris Press, 2017.

According to family legend, British bombers flew over the hospital when I was born on March 7, 1942 in Nørresundby on the north shore of Limfjorden in northern Jylland (Jutland). They would probably have been headed for the German naval bases and industry around Hamburg, Germany, where many civilians would be killed.
We were relatively safe in Denmark under German occupation.

Image credit: British fighters, bomber escorts, superimposed on Pablo Picasso’s painting, ‘Maternity’

Edge of the Echo – by KB Ballentine

After Amergin

I am the wren psalming the rising sun
I am the foam of the sea rushing the shore
I am the deer that leaps through woods,
I am the purple thistle, velvet and sting,
I am the otter romping the river,
I am the raindrop that sweetens the spring,
I am the red fox, tail brushing the field,
I am the moss that furs the bark of the oak,
I am the dolphin whistling in the waves
I am the hawthorn, berry and blossom, blush in the hedgerow,
I am the quicksilver moonbeam,
I am the center of the eye, pursuing the horizon,
I am the breath of God – stardust and song.

Editor’s note: The poem is in the style of the “Song of Amergin” (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amergin_Gl%C3%BAingel and http://celticmythpodshow.com/Resources/Amergin.php)

Image credit: A willow wren with a wide distribution in Ireland [Photograph by marliesplatvoet (Pixabay)]

Born into Legend – by KB Ballentine

We come to the coast – broken,
bruised – we reach the edge
of our world. Waves stretch, winds
shift – freedom in the West.

Waked, we want a different,
new beginning. Instead, death clings
like barnacles on our ships.
Anchored in murky holds, this damp womb
chokes us.

              We’re birthed
through narrow stalls. We knot
in cages, pens – stench and sickness
dock at the harbor.

                        Finally permitted
into cities, towns, we’re strangers
among strangers. Kerchiefs swapped
for aprons, brogues swallowed in shame,
even God is different here.

What do we keep, what to abandon?
Tied to our past, memory beckons.
Nightmares from the Old Country blur
into dream. Ancient enemies –
hunger, poverty – they’re here, too.

Orphans from that old world, our families
become rooted, grow in this one.
How many tides have turned since our fathers,
our mothers crossed the sea,

leaving behind an ocean of graves?

Editor’s Note: See http://www1.assumption.edu/ahc/irish/overview.html about the Irish immigration and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholera_outbreaks_and_pandemics about the cholera outbreaks.

Image credit: Irish emigrants on shipboard in the River Mersey in Liverpool, England, about to embark for America, c. 1846 (Assumption College, ‘The E Pluribus Unum Project’.)

I have always loved – by Patricia Hope

Long summer evenings
Weekend mornings
The blue of the sky unmarred by a single cloud
Blooming pear trees
Pink dogwoods
Easter sunrise
The second snowfall of the year, when you’d collect bowlfuls to make snow cream
Peach cobbler
Strawberry shortcake
Vanilla fudge
Rice pudding
Making mashed potatoes
Robin Williams and Harrison Ford movies
Captain James T. Kirk guiding the Enterprise through space
Etta James and Sam Cook
Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”
The Carpenters
“Unchained Melody”
Seventies music
Musicals
Singing Christmas carols for shut-ins
Reading Taps for Private Tussie and Watch for a Tall White Sail
Taking nature photographs
Shooting pool
Bangle bracelets
Porcelain plates
Hand-stitched quilt squares
Purple sweatshirts
White wedding gowns
My brother’s humor
My mother’s skin
A baby’s giggles
Walks with my dog Roxie
Sharing poems with wonderful friends

Image credit: Photography of a coneflower with a bee is by Patricia Hope.

Disembodied – by Jonel Abellanosa

After The Night Cafe, by Vincent Van Gogh

Night is our only refuge, when bigotry,
racism and intolerance are asleep.
Hate has been stalking us who aren’t
like most people – by birth or by choice.
We find sanctuary in a place where there’s
no need to speak out.

The doctor would stand next
to the billiard table, one hand in his
lab coat’s pocket, reminding us to be
unhesitant in returning for refills.

First time I see the couple
near the doorway – lady with brown
shawl looking stunned by the spoon
she’s bending without touch,
gentleman with a hat and Anton
LaVey’s eyes. The schizoid is
here, nuns disguised as men staring
at the doll on their table. I’m both
in my room and here to dry up
and cry, invisible.

Image credit: Vincent van Gogh painted ‘The Night Café’ (original French title: Le Café de nuit) in Arles in September 1888), courtesy of https://www.vincentvangogh.org/

Dancing – Poem by Michelle Young

When we have waltzed to cherry blossoms,
tangoed to tulips and daffodils,
jived to peonies and irises
and Spring has scattered her vestments to the wind,
it is time.

We meet beneath the Callery pear
and you shake her branches
while I pirouette in petal rain,
twirling and giggling
until I fall into your arms.

 

Image Credit: The “Lovers- Dancing -Silhouette” (designed by Vexels) has been colorized and superimposed on “Cherry Blossom Tree For Your Garden” (toplandscapedesign.com)

May – by Shloka Shankar

May

India’s hottest month,
table and ceiling fans work overtime,

never catching breath
as they drown out conversation.

I grow shadows, push
amorphous shapes down my mouth.

Children pitch tents in my uvula,
teach me how to be alive again.

May arrives each year
granting me permission to
slink away from the past,

finds me
gathering up skeletons
of discarded seconds.

Citation: Mumbai skyline (Rinsol.com) is superimposed on abstract art of Steve Johnson (Unsplash.com)