August 2020

Gaia’s Lament: A Call to Awaken

Page 5

“Gulfs of War” by Parthenia M Hicks (Poem)


tell me about smart bombs
and small bones
falling like burned-out stars
ground zeroed to infinity

check the air for the ashes

Kurds, Rwandans,
Estonians, South Africans,
Afghanis, Americans

check the TV guide for complete listings

tell me of mothers who
murder children to save them
the ones who take the load
swallow the stones
to the bottom of the lake
and don’t bob back up

check the riverbed for the depth charge

tell me of girls who
bleed to death but
never reach menses

check the flowerbed for dust
and defoliation

close your eyes and count
to one million and more
say out loud the numbers, the names:
Nijla Coskun, Adebanke Mafume, Gentiana Gashi

check the grounds for the body
check the body for the wound
check the wound for the prayer
say the prayer

check your mirror for my shadow
check your throat for my silence
check your mouth for my tongue

stick out your tongue
taste the ashes


Nijla Coskun, age 15

tell me of a Kurdish girl
who gives up beauty and
takes up arms

makes her bed
leaves her Tellitubbies
forgoes apple blossom shampoo
doesn’t brush 100 times
or floss

douses the curling hair
the unmade face
the blooming breasts
the lanky balletic limbs

with petroleum distillate
hydro carbonic pledge
to make a tender point

before Spring in London
its budding roses and bleeding crocuses
forever entwined with bitterroot
skin grafts, mesh bandages
tight enough to hold flesh to flesh

the girl who will be forgotten
passed over for sexier stories
at dinner time, sound bytes and
all we can eat

Adebanke Mafume, age 11
tell me of an African girl whose hands are taken
chopped through the growing bones
a woodcutter’s fury

at night she dreams of them
does not see them with violin bow
tennis racquet or writing home
she sees the tender fingers embrace a hair jewel
twisting bits of cloth and bead into braids
she sees the bowls of a thousands meals washed at the river
a ballet of fingers and hands swirling in a circle of pottery
or finishing a hem at night

Gentiana Gashi, age 11

tell me of a Serbian girl who returns
in midsummer shower to Kosovo
through fields of poppies red
to charnel house to pick through charred remains

the daughter who will not paste pictures into
scrapbooks, will not color pages
or skip the ropes that tied the village men together

the girl who seeks her father by touch
finds the back she rubbed for years
lifts the parent who looked back once

tell me of the child who digs her father’s grave
to spare her mother
Gentiana, who will not be asked to tell
and will not bleed on time
who will bury a thigh, a rib, amid the howling of
stray dogs and the shadow of Olympic pride

Note: “The Gulfs of War” won the 2007 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation Prize

“Borders” by Robert S. Pesich (Poem)

The air remains hot and dry
our face shrinking
into the fist of our luxury.

Even the color blue in our breath is indicted.
So many people saluting cracked bricks
in order to continue their story.

Satellites monitor our choice of roads
but they do not see the river
rising in its dry bed.

Some of us begin there
where there are shells
larger than an infant’s face.

Listening to them, we can hear
our names breaking
open on the edge of the new world.

“The heart is a river as well as a perch,”
says the broken staff in the tide.

May the falcon reappear from the nothingness of blue
may she circle the border sniper, his bloodied fists
twisted bars of a cage.

“She, Without a Home” by Lara Gularte (Poem)

among people who live nowhere,
in her suitcase, mylar, a tin cup, and old letters.

She takes her own hand, leads herself around Sactown–
roams roads, spends days looking through trash cans,
lets the wind and rain have their way with her,

find her on B Street amid layers of refuse,
plastic bags and broken bottles.

She’s without a home in this republic,
stateless in a bad economy of love and liberty.
Her world of bungalow, gate and garden gone,

a feral woman in a lost migration,
her life of shelter, food, and warm hearth, a holy memory.

Sky white with winter, she suffers migratory bird grief
grows arm feathers, rises skyward–
a tired swallow on a long flight to find home.

“Bay Area Rapid Transit” by Parthenia M. Hicks (Poem)

You said
I wish everyone in the world
would get down on their knees

I didn’t want to hear
dismissed your fretted voice
its jagged edges
hooking where they could
You saw me look away
open my umbrella, hide

and pray for just one minute

I never wanted to meet you
indigent, alcoholic, or hungry
harmless perhaps but trouble
easier to give a dollar than to listen

You said
this would change the world

I didn’t want you to sit
across the aisle see
my canvas bag, black

cat’s silhouette drawing you in
reminding you of your mother’s
long fingers gracefully weaving
sewing one-of-a-kind bags
for women to carry through the world

You said
Pray three times a day pray now

I didn’t want to see the sly
smiles of passenger relief
that poor woman stuck with him
too bad, but better she than me

someone invisible is sitting beside you

I didn’t want to be bothered
angular body in its tired Tweed jacket
wiry hair sticking out like
silver beams of light
bluing crystal eyes
illuminating your jetted skin

You said
I’ll pray for you tonight

who knew that before we reached
San Leandro I would need you next
to me would be digging into a napkin
with leaky ballpoint pen trying
to get you

You asked
would I give up my life for you tonight?

who knew that at your Lake Merritt exit
we would hold on tight

You said
I will never see you again but let’s meet in heaven

someone invisible
sits beside me

“Who We Are” by Grace Cavalieri (Poem)

“The cry did knock/against
                my very heart…”
The Tempest

we do not feel the hungry children in Biafra
looking at tourists taking their pictures,
then we are the camera.
We are also the neighbor
in West Virginia who shot his cat.
See our hands on the trigger, no matter the gun.
We are the karmic seeds of Viet Nam
running ablaze with fire on our backs.
We’re the hummingbird
flying the Atlantic in March.
Now we are Katrina
because clothes were soaked, and when
there were no more, when no help came,
we were the empty verbs.
These are the tears that come for Mozambique,
its children in the trees,
waiting for rescue helicopters. All this,
when there were other possibilities.
Don’t you feel the heartbeat
of the earth, the knob we could turn,
the magical tree we could put back
in the rain forest? Can you count
the number of women sold to slavery
we could wrap
in warm cotton and bring back home?
Riding an idea is like riding the wind
unless we harness
its lonely tumult.
We are the sun on the cold hungry dog
in the streets of Chile,
the disfigured man in prison,
the mass deaths in Bosnia,
their thunderstorms.
We are the shame of the soldier who thought he should
die instead of his buddy. We are the broken clock of
the widows of war.
their last dreams filled with absence—
If we are the ones who did not feed, comfort or save—
            we are the grave.

“Contact tracing” by Robert S. Pesich (Poem)

her fevers never good enough
to get her admitted and social had been cut

she left for the Crossroads
shelter on International and 76

had chills and sweats all night here
where she scratched herself open

left behind blood-stained linen
like a map of some country

we took it all out
and burned it in a ditch

“Refugees” by Grace Cavalieri (Poem)

At sunset
they do not fold their
tents like tourists in Aruba.

How shall we dress our children
for their first fine day at school—
The refuged do not worry about
a dress, a suit, a fine day
at school.

And look at the photos
of the African child dying in the camp
with flies on his eyelids.
He has no wish for the teddy bear
sent from UNICEF.

Did you read about that child
in Arizona
beaten to death
for soiling his pants?

Did you see that mother
outside the post office
hurl her one-year-old by his arm
into her SUV?

So you dreamed last night about a baby
that you forgot to feed.
It’s not a dream the refugees
can afford to dream.

This is why you write a poem.
In fact, it’s all that you can do.
You cannot know more, unless

you are that child with a broken arm,
or, the Mother with
a baby crying at her drying breasts.

If you are not among the exiled,
captured, stripped and sold, then
you are the one who must write this poem.

“River of Reward” by Grace Cavalieri (Poem)

(We must love each other or die… W.H. Auden) 

In this pure boat together
I know what you’re thinking,

That each of us should ask
One favor of the other or

We will kill our hearts,
That to keep from feeling sorrow

We must place
A hot iron on our chests,

That we are simple machines
In search of a semaphore,

Something that will explain to us
What grief saves so we can stay,

To shield the child from the blast,
To shelter the last lost dog in the hot streets.