Poets Tell What Life Feels Like Now
These poems were created this season in the Writing Life poetry workshop Write What Life Feels LIke Now with Esther Cohen.
The world has order
The pain matters
It will lead us out of this
Then I must forgive
He who started the pain
But I do not want to
If only someone loved him for him
Without expecting in return
As if going back to the past could fix the present
Perhaps that is what we think will
Make us great again
A return back to the point of possibility
Before we went astray
Before we needed forgiveness
But we are marked by the present
There is no back
Only falling forward
I am marked by pain
I try to forgive
But I fail
I could be him
With hurt overflowing
You have no need to forgive
You just laugh
I laugh with you
Without even knowing why
You are the point of possibility
What is my role in the pandemic?
A container that holds back the ills
Build the wall to ebb the pain
Unmask the chaos inside
Close the thorny lid of recognition
Choose now the future life worth living
J. H. Loyal grew up on the hills of Ohio and the flats of Florida, and now calls Brooklyn home.
I refute Heraclitus.
I step into the same stream each day.
The days are poured
Into identical moulds
And spill over the sides
And blend together and go on
And into the next
And I try to count how long it has been
But I can’t find the edges.
Jennie Devine is a writer, educator and librarian living near Milan, Italy.
Thanks for the Memories
Mary K O’Melveny
Thanks for the memories.
Or so they say. Especially
when someone dies or leaves
the scene prematurely.
Personally I prefer thanks to grieving,
to the sound of keening disrupting
the echo chambers of wanting
more, needing more.
Today, people are leaving by the
thousands – dying for lack of
attention, lack of care, lack of
resources, lack of community,
lack of empathy. How will we
remember them? I wish we
could bring them all back, even
for a moment. Back to say thanks
for all you did or meant to do
or would have done if fate
had been kinder or luck
had held out a little longer.
Since doing that is not an option,
I want to say thanks to everyone who
has managed to remain, to stay among us,
flawed but well-intentioned. We are
lucky, all of us, even in our divided state
of being, to be breathing still. Let’s take
advantage of our great good fortune.
Let’s remember how thrilling it is
to see a sunrise, hold a hand, walk
near water, hug a friend. Let’s surround
ourselves with memories of kindness.
Mary K O'Melveny, a retired labor rights lawyer, lives with her wife in Woodstock, NY, where she writes poetry about politics, memory, nature, aging and the antics of humans. marykomelvenypoet.com
I thought we were on an upward
Climb, all would get better
More equity, each getting what they
Need clean air water skies
Less trash less violence on TV
The way we treat each other
more gentle, less coarse
In my twenties and working my eyeballs
Out, driving a beater car, knocking on
Doors, talking to strangers
I thought the sum of all our work
All the good souls I knew and more
I didn’t, would move us to lightness
That we were on a road up a mountain
And there would be no backsliding, no slipping,
No turning around
I figured it out.
We are a gyrating people
A cyclone, a spiral of out and in
Up and down, inside and out
And once I realized
You are still there with me.
Reena Bernards is a family therapist, writer, diversity trainer, activist, mother and wife living in Maryland.
of my favorite people ever
a bar in Harlem cleaned houses
raised children many friends lives
a life wherever she is lives
a mobile home in upstate New York
invites us all in Delores
doesn’t mind her missing body parts
ok about aging and various diseases she
enjoys her doctors some good looking
Delores looked beautiful at dinner
new silver shoes she said sometimes
I don’t feel all that good
I wake up to birds
Esther Cohen is a writer and poet in New York City. She also teaches and is a cultural activist. Most days she posts a poem at esthercohen.com.
when I was a shy child with red-rimmed eyes my sisters and I
didn’t know that some families talked laughed kissed goodbye
that kindred and friends visited & whispered secrets played cards
some families invited others to have a beer in the backyard
or dinner with roasted chicken mashed potatoes buttered rolls
I did know that one summer next door neighbors kind souls
invited us for ice cream the drum-beat summer heat
had retreated and we sat at their wooden picnic table for our treat
the ice cream was strawberry rampant with bright pink
fruit icy paradise in my mouth too soon darkness began to sink
like a sheer curtain over the neighborhood’s yards lights
came on in windows children dogs were called inside
we walked home stuffed with new knowledge
happy as princesses
Uncle Bill for giving me my Smith Carona typewriter on my 16th birthday and encouraging my studies
Aunt Alice for my first birthday party at age 12 where we played Spin the Bottle
Bob my brother for the graduation charm of a hat and diploma to wear on my charm bracelet
Mom for giving me life even though we could not share and enjoy it together
Grandma Ida for making the best chicken soup and stewed peaches I ever tasted
Mrs. Klein my third grade teacher for all that nurturance and praise
Linda for being my very good friend for your continuous support and friendship although miles away
For the doctors that saved my life many years ago
For my first love for boosting me high and the laughter even though we parted
Marilyn for the countless humorous cards and sentiments you sent me through the years
For all the strangers I met traveling and showed me the right road to take
Is how you treat people
however they may treat you.
Not everyone is Mrs. Hervey,
Unscarred by war or sorrow,
Strong enough to start again,
Seeing the light in a stranger,
Sharing what little she had.
Claire Marcus (IG @clairebmarcusart) is a book and paper artist who has exhibited her work nationally and internationally.