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Poets’ Basement

by JARED CARTER and KYI MAY KAUNG

Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath
by JARED CARTER

The 1971 photograph at the center of Minamata, a photo essay by W. Eugene Smith, on the effects of mercury poisoning due to corporate negligence in the fishing village of Minamata, Japan.

Tomoko is in her bath, where she is lifted
by her mother, Ryoko
Ryoko cradles her daughter in her arms
and will not let her go

This is a mother holding her child
and spreading water over her limbs
This is a mother cherishing her daughter
in the darkness and in the light

It is Ryoko, Tomoko’s mother
it is Cleva, my own mother
It is Selene, my daughter, it is all of us
lifted and brought together

Look on this scene, you masters
look on this inalienable moment
Look on this water so full of shadows
know what it is that gathers here

First published in Pemmican.
 

In the Military Park
by JARED CARTER

At dawn, near the parade ground,
in the shadow of the obelisk,
where the fountains have not yet
been turned on, you can look out

and see the youthful instructor,
sometimes a man, usually a woman,
following five paces behind the one
who is blind, who is being taught

how to walk with a long, thin cane
that is swept from side to side
across the empty paths. They come
early, there is never anyone else

in the park at this hour. Immediately
after you drive by, you are not sure
you really understood what you saw.
It seems mixed up with something else,

some old, half-remembered story
that comes to you now, at the stoplight –
how she yearned to reach out and take
his hand, how he kept pressing ahead,

beyond the shadows, into the sunlight,
while she fell farther behind, and in
another moment, he will turn, and
there will be nothing, nothing at all.

First published in Pemmican .

 

Jared Carter’s work has appeared in The Nation, Pemmican, Stand, Witness, Wheelhouse, and Animal Liberation Front. His next book of poems will be A Dance in the Street from Wind Publications in Kentucky. He blogs at www.the-growler.com.

 

War on Roaches
by KYI MAY KAUNG

Declared.

First a roach killer in a spray

to set down boundaries in this

un-roach-proof house with a gaping lower right

corner.

Set up the four cuts

cut support cut food cut water cut communications

still see stray guerilla roaches, though all food including edible trash

carefully removed or wrapped

in plastic.

 

So far have caught five big roaches, black and brown and hairy

with big legs, with my bare hands

declare “I will kill you,” and dispatch, by pinching off their heads

my hand encased in half a kitchen towel.

This morning awoke

to open the blinds on the window to the back yard

site of my war on squirrels to find

a roach hidden in the tin for guava jelly that I use as a cache pot for

my blotched orchid in intensive care.

Roaches, who will survive after nuclear warfare.

Burmese rep from Myanmar challenged by news of N. Korean vessel taking missiles

to Rangoon, while he was at ASEAN meeting in Washington DC. Rep said Burmese being picked on unfairly. Still, N. Korean ship stopped near Rangoon, dead stop, then

reversed tracks and returned home. Got the message.

This roach ran – first behind the plate draining stand, stainless steel on counter just beyond where, my right arm with a the hurting muscles or maybe dislocated socket or arthritic joint, just cannot reach. It clicks simultaneously with the pulled muscle. I mark where he is. Can’t tell though may be a she. Never learned to differentiate, gender in roaches.

Youngest child saying, “Mom, you are full of anger, do you know that?”

As Scallion Shoot says, to her children, “Either be traditional or modern, but

you can’t have it both ways as a mix. It’s a package deal, Burmese or American.”

My children only understand either/or and drive me crazy like their black and white

I go to turn on the washing machine with its medium load, including clothes recycled

my late Aunt Anouk.

The roach now is hiding, trying to be inconspicuous.

In the seam underneath the white kitchen cabinets and the dun beige formica back

splash. I consider my arm extension weapon carefully.

It must be light, it must be lethal

quick strike, roaches are nothing if not fast and sly.

Cannot be the roll of kitchen towel, cannot be Candy’s fake bone that she does not

care to chew, now she’s getting, human treats from me all the time, even getting spoiled.

One second and I have the ideal weapon.

I press the roach lightly with the edge of my lightweight plastic cutting board which

efficiently slices

off its head but the body is still wriggling.

I’m the human being with the bigger brain.

 

I have to win.

I wipe away the roach juices on the back splash and counter

with half a cheap kitchen towel, economizing.

For good measure, squeeze, all the vital juices out of the roach body

try wriggling now, you roach!

Dispose of the body now crushed in the trash can.

City will pick up the trash with a truck with robot arms that will tip the bin and empty

the trash, into its own or accompanying truck bed. There!

I wash the cutting board carefully so no contamination of roaches remains.

I am the human being, I must win.

Is genocide like this?

Kyi May Kaung has published two poetry chapbooks, been awarded the William Carlos Williams Award of the Academy of American Poets.  Her poetry has been anthologized in Norton’s Language for a New Century, The New Republic and Amnesty International’s Fire in the Soul, and on Museum of American Poetics.  

 

Editorial Note: (Please Read Closely Before Submitting)

To submit to Poets’ Basement, send an e-mail to CounterPunch’s poetry editor, Marc Beaudin at counterpunchpoetry@gmail.com with your name, the titles being submitted, and your website url or e-mail address (if you’d like this to appear with your work).  Also indicate whether or not your poems have been previously published and where.  For translations, include poem in original language and documentation of granted reprint/translation rights.  Attach up to 5 poems and a short bio, written in 3rd person, as a single Word Document (.doc or .rtf attachments only; no .docx).  Expect a response within one month (occasionally longer during periods of heavy submissions).

Poems accepted for online publication will be considered for possible inclusion of an upcoming print anthology.

For more details, tips and suggestions, visit CrowVoiceJournal.blogspot.com and check the links on the top right. Thanks!

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