Wakoski and Smith-Ferri
“Frisked For Butterflies”
by DIANE WAKOSKI
It felt so frivolous to be patted down,
not for weapons or drugs,
but for some hitchhiking Lepidoptera, who might
cling inside our coats,
tucked restless under a collar,
nestled into an end of winter cuff or boot top.
Passing her wand over us as if she were smoking bees,
the Butterfly Guide could not help but smile
as she explained how a foreign species might get loose and change
Michigan’s eco-system, how coming from
the immensity of jungle,
dense hesitation and slow watchfulness of green,
we might not be aware
of how a small thing could change the world,
but I was aware
of how unchanged in beauty we were,
how unlike huge-winged blue moths emerging from cocoons.
Instead, I thought she might be smiling,
as I was, that such care was given here at the Butterfly Habitat,
in contrast to a world that we both knew
had never before in history
been careful. Not careful of systems or species–
destroying or transplanting
That, in fact, some historic attempts to keep
become, in fact, holocausts or genocides.
But perhaps she
was thinking of Loosestrife, Michigan’s most common and
certainly one of its most
beautiful wild flowers, pink spikes of it glowing
or blazing in marsh and field.
Loosestrife is an escapee and invader, a non-native,
crowding, overwhelming, taking over from some other less
flashy, local species. We all had smiled, being patted down, but I left
feeling a little sad,
knowing I was carrying nothing with wings,
no menace of escaped beauty to invade my
“Helmets of Bronze”
by DIANE WAKOSKI
“And on their heads they placed helmets of bronze, gleaming terribly, and the blood-red crests were tossing. And half of them rowed to turn, and the rest covered the ship with spears and shields. And as when a man roofs over a house with tiles, to be an ornament of his home and a defense against rain, so they roofed over the ship with their shields, locking them together.”
p. 175, THE ARGONAUTICA, by Apollonius Rhodius (Jason and his sailors preparing to fight the battle against the birds of the island of Ares)
He doesn’t know that the freeway he rode
with his father twice a week
after his parents got a divorce
is an American highway offering
mythic adventure, that
little boys in our time
don’t grow up to be cowboys or soldiers or even
mullet fisherman. He’s
got man parts, but he knows no more than that little boy
riding in his father’s Chevrolet with the windows rolled up, even
in summer; he likes to talk, has little to say, but his eyes like
Frisbees, throw their glances across the room — a game or missles? — he tells
us of the kid games he played
in that car, driving the regular route,
hating to leave his mother
but wishing that he could live with
his father. They are so damaged, these boys,
not even interested any more in toy soldiers or plastic
guns. Walk or ride, he doesn’t know
what journey he could take
unless it’s standing on a stage with a microphone and lots of girls
yelling his name. Why should he read poetry or think about
the voyage of the Argonauts? He thinks getting famous is what
it’s all about, not the wisdom acquired
when we see kings and heroes fail.
I could tell him he’s wasting his time,
but even that he should somehow
figure out for himself. Surely all those trips
in his father’s car, retracing the route between Detroit and
the suburbs, represents some kind
of modern journey?
Sometimes I see him, like a rooster, his hair a crest, coxcomb, a macho
target for others who are old enough,
(–from ARGONAUT ROSE, Black Sparrow Press)
Diane Wakoski is one of the pillars of the Beat Movement in American Literature. Hers is a major voice in contemporary poetry. Her next collection of poems, “Bay of Angels,” will be published by Anhinga Press.
“After-School Class: Kabul, Afghanistan”
by DAVID SMITH-FERRI
Every day the children come
in threes and fours
linked like drops of water moving downhill
and pooling in the makeshift classroom
on the ground floor of this house
in western Kabul.
The children of war,
some of them defying gravity
flow up the stairs
to pulse and pool around Abdulhai,
pulling at him,
trying to carry him off.
They climb Boqir like a tree
and nest in his arms, on his shoulders,
sample the fruit of his smiles, his laughter.
They sprout like flowers at Hakim’s feet,
gather themselves into bouquets for Firhas and Faiz.
Every day they come like late-afternoon rain
to this desert,
and we drink—
like rainfall in the dark when there is no other sound,
and we listen—
like oxygen-rich air to this mountain city,
and we fill our burning lungs—
like a sea breeze across this land-locked country,
and suddenly we stand on shore
looking out over great distances of salt water.
We see a far-flung horizon
and take its measure.
David Smith-Ferri has been an active member of Voices for Creative Nonviolence since 1999. He has traveled to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Jordan to build bridges with ordinary people, to investigate the consequences of US military actions, and to report from the region. The author of two books–Battlefield without Borders (2007) and With Children Like Your Own (2011)–his new book of poetry, Where Days Are Stones, is due out in November.
Guest Editor: Gary Steven Corseri has taught at universities in the US and Japan, and in US public schools and prisons. His books include collections of poetry, novels and a literary anthology (edited). His dramas have been performed on Atlanta-PBS, in university venues, and elsewhere. He has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library and Museum. His prose and poems have appeared at The New York Times, Village Voice, Redbook Magazine, Georgia Review, Counterpunch.org and hundreds of periodicals and websites worldwide. He “chose these poems because they capture the Zeitgeist and because they are eternal.” Contact: Gary_Corseri@comcast.net.
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