Library Blog

Poets Tell What Life Feels Like Now

Monday, November 30, 2020

These poems were created this season in the Writing Life poetry workshop Write What Life Feels LIke Now with Esther Cohen.

J.H. Loyal

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

But you
My child
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.

Jennie Devine

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.

Reena Bernards

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.

Esther Cohen

Delores one
of my favorite people ever
she owned
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
but then
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

Tana Miller

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

Betty Samuels

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

What Matters
Claire Marcus

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.

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