The Poet’s Eye: Summer ’11

The Poet’s Eye: Summer ’11

As the U.S. approaches a decade of war, what are feminist writers and artists thinking? On The Issues Magazine Summer 2011 probes peace activism and war reality.
In our Summer ’11 edition, THE POET’S EYE features “NO” by Lisa Suhair Majaj, “Horse and Fire Dream” by Kathy Engel, “piestewa, lori” by Meg Hamill and “All That Is – Washington, DC” by Carmen Calatayud; from Poetry Co-Editor Sarah Browning.

NO by Lisa Suhair Majaj

There’s no poetry in it,
but I need to say something about No,
how it stands up, no matter how unpopular,
in the face of injustice. Maybe it can’t
thwart history: the powerful have always known
what they can do, and they do it.
No can’t stop an avalanche.
But No could be a retaining wall
built of rough stones wrested from the earth,
carried one by one up the hill on someone’s back.
No might be a tree in the middle of a village street:
traffic shifts to flow around it, its presence
a reminder of what used to be, what won’t be
forgotten. No is the perimeter of stubborn cactus
springing up around destroyed villages.
You can bulldoze houses, evict or kill the inhabitants,
but the thorns of memory can’t be eliminated.
No is steadfast. It knows what it’s like
to have nothing in its hands but dignity.

Lisa Suhair Majaj is a Palestinian-American writer living in Cyprus. Her poetry, creative nonfiction and critical essays have appeared across the U.S., Europe and the Middle East. She is co-editor of three volumes of critical essays on women writers (“Intersections: Gender, Nation and Community in Arab Women’s Novels;” “Going Global: The Transnational Reception of Third World Women Writers,” and “Etel Adnan: Critical Essays on the Arab-American Writer and Artist).” Her poetry volume “Geographies of Light” won the Del Sol Press Poetry Prize.

Horse and Fire Dream by Kathy Engel

I race this frenzied mare
night after fire night; she chases
her foal, its scant fetlocks

singed, thin wavering
whinny. Who holds the reins?
Did war never end? Did marching

in circles dizzy me? Who did
my good life incarcerate? Did
my daughters get

lost? What is lost? How much time
left to perform memory
transfusion? The metaphor

walks, twists. Perjurous.
I kick this dream over
like a kerosene can,

galloping flame. I reach
for medicine, sleepless mare.

Kathy Engel is a mother, activist, poet, teacher, co-founder with Alexis De Veaux, of Lyrical Democracies. She teaches in the Art and Public Policy Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She spent most of her adult life working somewhere in the nexus of imagination and social change and has come to believe that story is always the starting place, and poetry is medicine.

piestewa, lori by Meg Hamill

piestewa, lori— the first american female and native soldier killed in iraq was found dead along with seven other bodies of us soldiers in a hospital during the rescue of american pow jessica lynch piestewa of the hopi nation one of several indian na- tions who declined us citizenship when it was given to them in 1924 through the indian citizenship act in favor of retain- ing sovereign nationhood hopi who have refused to acknowledge that the citi- zenship act is in any way binding upon them and continue to engage in such ex- pressions of sovereignty as issuing their own passports piestewa is survived by two young children by her mother and father in lieu of flowers jessica lynch who was a long-time ally and confidante applied to abc’s extreme makeover home edition to fulfill lori’s dream of a home where her entire family could live together and be happy and so while the piestewa family was sent off on a paid vacation to disney- world ty pennington and his crew went to work purchasing land and building a home for them when a hopi is deceased she comes back to the home mesas said wayne taylor the tribal chairman as snow- flakes coated his shoulders on a special saturday afternoon the spirit returns to the community and the family in the form of moisture and this is lori coming back

Meg Hamill is the author of two books of poetry: “Death Notices” (Factory School Press, 2007) and “Trillions and Trillions of Heartbeats” (Resonant Books, 2009). She received her MFA in Poetry from Mills College in 2005 and is currently a Poet Teacher with California Poets in the Schools and Poetry Inside Out (a program of the Center for the Art of Translation). Meg also works as the Summer Camp Director for LandPaths, a community-based environmental nonprofit. She lives in Santa Rosa, California.

All That Is Washington, DC by Carmen Calatayud

There is misery by the busload. Mothers scrounge
for bits of bread. Children lose the race with flames.
We can’t make sense of paper, rock or scissors
or velvet political games. We lose a day each night,
tending to the problems of the world in our dreams.
We can’t help but contemplate this sinking earth.
We bulge with stories that don’t belong to us.
But they are ours as much as they are theirs. The tribe
that is kicked & the tribe that does the kicking.
We seek escape with every refugee. Far from here,
the border wall is a waste and the trails are overgrown.
We pick our own pockets & chew on chunks of grief.
So if a cleaning woman gets run down by the bus on 17th,
awaken again. She is us & them & all that is.
There’s no telling how much time we have. Really.
This is your chance to run head-on into angels &
salvage some wings. There might be a bus ride to peace.
A way to put the fire to rest.

Carmen Calatayud is a poet and psychotherapist in Washington, D.C. Born to a Spanish father and Irish mother in the U.S., her poetry has appeared in journals such as “Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review,” “Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts” and “PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art.” Her poems are anthologized in various collections, including “DC Poets Against the War: An Anthology.” Her poetry manuscript “Cave Walk” was a runner-up for the 2010 Walt Whitman Award, and she won a 2003 Larry Neal Poetry Award. She is a poet moderator for Poets Responding to SB 1070, a Facebook group that focuses on Arizona’s controversial law that legalizes racial profiling. This poem was first published at “La Bloga.”