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Wakoski and Smith-Ferri

“Frisked For Butterflies”

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

Passenger Pigeons,


Native Americans.

That, in fact, some historic attempts to keep

systems pure

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,

some say,

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,

nothing wingèd,

no menace of escaped beauty to invade my

pale life.


“Helmets of Bronze”



“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,

failed enough

to carry


(–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”


Every day the children come

in threes and fours

holding hands,

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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