Thirty Three Twenty Nines
by JOSÉ M. TIRADO
for Oscar López Rivera
Thirty three twenty nines
Too many May 29s,
For us, to remember you is
To learn about us-
To remember a people denied.
To remember you is to reflect:
We are a people denied the right to remember.
They took what we had, then took
Who we are.
I need to remember, Oscar.
I´ve forgotten so much…
I´ve forgotten much of my tongue,
Wet with passion and sexy vowels,
I´ve forgotten the swing of the hips to dance to the light of our music,
I´ve forgotten the sad urges that pushed our people to leave
Their green country for the stale city bricks
Built by the soulless people who
Turned our rich green countryside’s flesh
Barren of fruit for our tables
But swollen with green for theirs.
I have forgotten that, passed to me was more than a name,
More than a culture,
More than a tongue,
More than the tropical music of the forest coqís
Or the dulcet ripeness of our food.
I have forgotten me.
I am part of a history denied.
A people denied.
A culture denied.
We have even our own now
Who deny us
Kissing the feet of their masters,
The ones who deny us from outside,
Yet who are part of us, denying us from within.
They cannot continue to deny us for much longer,
And they want to deny you.
I have forgotten so much, Oscar.
But thirty-three twenty-nines are enough.
José M. Tirado is a Puertorican poet, and writer living in Hafnarfjorður, Iceland, known for its elves, “hidden people” and lava fields. His articles and poetry have been featured in CounterPunch, Cyrano´s Journal, The Galway Review, Dissident Voice, The Endless Search, Op-Ed News, The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, and others. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by JARED CARTER
Then I entered that place of metallic corridors
and hallways, of iron bars chipped and repainted,
of hands that reached out through dark portals
Of bright overhead lights that never dimmed,
of bare floor, lidless toilet, cantilevered bunk,
of sounds and odors issuing from unseen bodies
Yet everywhere I saw peering out the faces
of those who had learned to survive, no matter
what they had done to bring them to this place
In this way they resembled misshapen stones
plowed from a field, and carried to a fence
and left in a pile, one stone on top of another
Has it been worth it, I wondered, to survive
here, where there is no rain, no sunlight,
has it been their good fortune to linger here
Rather than be subjected to harsher measures?
What news could I carry back to those thinking
of new retributions, or ways to achieve closure?
And what would philosophy say, or religion,
now that these persons are consigned to live out
their lives in this way? Does any of it matter now?
But there was no answer, only the endless clang
of heavy doors being bolted and unbolted,
locks spun and revolved, then locked again
And the anthem of voices singing to no music,
voices stifled and silenced by the stone, the walls,
the bright lights on the asphalt, the barbed wire.
Jared Carter’s work has appeared in The Nation, Pemmican, Stand, Witness, Wheelhouse, and Animal Liberation Front. His sixth collection, Darkened Rooms of Summer: New and Selected Poems, is available from the University of Nebraska Press. He blogs at www.the-growler.com.
Gabryella’s America the Beautiful
by CHARLES ORLOSKI
I heard when alive and a little girl,
you liked to help neighborhood people
during The Great Depression,
and now, so down, on Lexapro meds,
I need someone to pour me stiff drinks –
Can you teach me how to sing
America the Beautiful?
I heard your father died of cancer, 1940,
a heavy smoker, he worked the Pine Coal Mine,
and mother had bad asthma, ulcerated legs,
she could not work much,
and you became Lashinski family ‘Caretaker.”
How could you never attend school,
forsake the three R’s, instead,
tend to five sisters and one brother’s needs?
How at 13 years old, 1941, you worked
in a Scranton clothing factory,
made pants for US Army and Navy?
And now, so down…, my cap and gown
doesn’t fit anymore,
and I need Gabryella to stitch buttons
upon my “Sunday Best” fatigue shirt.
I heard how Dr. Mazaleski taught
you how to administer insulin shots
to three suffering Minooka neighbors.
As non-certified First Aid training,
Doc Mazaleski used grapefruits,
and for practice, you plunged needles
deep inside the fruit,
until deemed competent, capable to inject.
And now, so down, blood sugar count
and food price spike,
grapefruit juice spills all over me,
and I need your steady hand in mine.
I heard a handsome “Big-Shot” from
Scranton’s Chevrolet Company
once “Came a courting.”
He offered to take you to a fine dinner,
you replied, “No thanks, I had a big supper,”
and blew the fellow off.
And now, so down, gas gauge on empty,
I need to sit at your table, observe,
taste homemade holupki which nourished you
enough to resist fleeting charms like mine,
continue forever, rare selfless care.
I heard how you were Chief Cook,
at annual family reunions.
Gave kids balloons, Crackerjacks,
alone, you staffed barbeque pit out back.
When you unexpectedly died, age 63,
July 4, 1980,
many people cried upon quilts you made,
three Catholic priests attended funeral.
And now, so down, but somehow grown up,
an acute awareness, and had I tried,
I too could have been a little like Gabryella,
and knowing NOW, too late (?),
there’s nothing nobler in American life
than piercing one’s amber colored and
highfalutin balloons, like practice needles
into Dr. Mazaleski’s spacious bygone skies
and beautiful grapefruit.
Author’s Note: Gabryella was my wife Carol’s beloved aunt. Carol’s mother Florence, 86, often tells stories about sister Gabryella’s extraordinary simple life, and although never married, she became an honorary member of bygone days, the respected Mothers Club. Yesterday, Florence emphasized that without Gabryella’s endless care and NOBLENESS, she and siblings “would have been orphans.”
Charles Orloski lives in Taylor, Pennsylvania. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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