Every room is another room. a poem by Dave Lewis

Dave Lewis

Every room is another room

It didn’t take long for you to go, not really, although it felt like a hundred years.
Watched you sleeping in that tiny room with nothing in the wardrobes or drawers.

After it was over though I started on the clothes,
holding each shirt close for the smell of you in healthier times.
I made a bonfire in the garden of your precious perfumed papers
then felt guilty, like Isobel. I filled bag after bag with things
you hadn’t thought about for ages;
your yellow foreman’s helmet,
tomato seeds still in their packets,
dented trophies that they gave you
for winning at skittles.

I moved house just as fast as I could after promising you I never would.
But what could I do? Imagine that hill without your comfortable blue car,
my arms aching with groceries.

I do miss the mountain at the end of the road, the soft stream that we’d cross every night.
And the cups of tea and twice the washing up, the times I would escape from your ranting
at the TV, when I’d take my knitting or a book to another room.

Now every room is another room.

Sometimes when I’m falling asleep, I think of kisses on Mediterranean beaches,
the bunches of flowers, the gold and the silver,
the sun on our faces, the strawberry picking
and the long drive back from Hereford.

In the garden I struggle with the weeds, so much harder now it’s not a competition.
Each night those stairs seem to get steeper. I’m so lonely while I’m lying awake
that I pray sometimes for a burglar to slither his lock pick into my door,
then lay down beside me and breathe the bouquet of warm beer
onto my wrinkled old neck, turn the page of the sheet
and fire the cold dead hearth.

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Dave Lewis is a working-class writer, poet and photographer from Cilfynydd. He read zoology at Cardiff University and has always lived in Wales apart from a year, teaching and volunteering in Kenya. He founded the International Welsh Poetry Competition – the biggest in Wales. He also runs Writers of Wales, the Poetry Book Awards and book publishing company Publish & Print. He has published many books. His epic poem, Roadkill, deals with the class struggle, while his collection, Going Off Grid, outlines the dangers of digital capitalism. Resolutely untrendy he is shunned by the literature establishment in Wales.

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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3 poems for Ukraine. by Elizabeth Boquet

Elizabeth Boquet

February 26, 2022

L’horreur…

For What
For the world, standby,
as Ukraine stands alone.
For the boy, bullets,
for his toy gun one act play.
For the girl, rape.
For her guinea pig, freedom.
For the parents, cocktail time.
Molotovs.


 
March 3, 2022 

Kyiv Train Station Interview, on the Rachel Maddow Show

From a cracked window 
in a packed unsmoldering train

ready to roll towards Poland
an undead girl 

with an unsevered head cries, 
“Cherish the blue skies!”

and waves her attached hand
at the unbroken camera.

 
March 4, 2022

President Zelensky is the voice of Paddington the Bear
in the Ukrainian version of the film “Paddington.” Of course, he is.
Yesterday, he gave a long news conference somewhere, somehow, and inspired this poem. 

Volodymyr the Bear
When I see your war-whiskers filling in
day by day, I cannot help but picture you
entirely covered in your wild fur, hunted
under Ukraine’s cold rainy snow.
Before reporters, you remain polite, tame,
and answer impossible questions, despite
the draining reign of terror inching its red
way across the map – red, like your hat.
I wish I could pat your pelt, as you stand
there like a good little Paddington, in your
blue slicker with sunflower yellow toggles,
and show you the way back home.

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Some people grow up playing checkers, or the cello, Elizabeth Boquet grew up playing poetry with her mother and never stopped. On her website, you’ll find some of her award-winning poetry, as well as over thirty pieces that have been published in various literary journals and anthologies. Born and raised in New Hampshire, and after years in France and China, these days, she lives with her husband, a watchmaker, between Lausanne, Switzerland, and Pézenas, France.  www.elizabethboquet.com

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Eastern European Dawn. a poem by Claudia Serea

CS_Author photo_square (1)

Eastern European Dawn 
  
My father tells me over the phone 
he’d emigrate even now, in his old age. 
  
It’s good to have your daughter in America. 
I’m his insurance policy against history. 
  
He thinks about me late at night 
when he hears the news 

about tanks in the distance, 
a pack of dogs barking on the border. 
  
The night bleeds its edge into dawn, 
a dawn he recognizes, 

one he has seen before:
its color, carnivorous rose.


First published in The Healing Muse, 2015

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Claudia Serea is a Romanian-born poet with work published in Field, New Letters, Gravel, Prairie Schooner, The Malahat Review, Asymptote, RHINO, and elsewhere. She has published five poetry collections, most recently Twoxism, a poetry-photography collaboration with Maria Haro (8th House Publishing, 2018). Serea is a founding editor of National Translation Month and a co-host of The Williams Poetry Readings series in Rutherford, NJ. 

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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Night in Ukraine. a poem by Frank Joussen

Frank Joussen

Night in Ukraine

I am night –
giver of peace and quiet
but I am not myself
in Ukraine tonight.

My head aches – crisscrossed
by mutated mosquitoes
that send lightning
through my veins
which tears up my belly
and wakes up the children
pursuing their dreams
of happiness there.

My ears hurt – pierced by noise
to mock my tranquility
with explosions
that turn my darkened homes
into illuminated graves.
My feet are shaken
by man-made earthquakes.

They’re raiding – robbing me
of everything that I am
till I go to pieces which
fall
     	down to reveal
the debris
          that the world
and I
     	have become.

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Frank Joussen is a German teacher and writer, member of a one-world group. His publications include two selections of his poetry, one of them being a bilingual collaboration with Romanian poet, Ana Cicio. He has co-edited two international anthologies of poetry/fiction in India and one of short stories in Germany. His poems and short stories have also been published in a variety of literary magazines and anthologies in India, Australia, G.B., the Republic of Ireland, Germany, Romania, Malta, the U.S.A., Canada, India, China, Thailand and Japan; some of them have been translated into German, Romanian, Hindi and Chinese.

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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Ukraine Memories. a poem by Lauren Friesen

Lauren Friesen

Ukraine Memories 

My ancestors walked here
Among trees heavy with apples,
Plums, and cherries
Carrying baskets year in and out
For canning or asleep on screens
To dry for winter’s tastes.

My ancestors worked here
Along trenches filled with water
Pleasure rafts and fish
Conjuring new life 
From deep soils rich 
In food for the soul. 

My ancestors loved here
Amid strife and endless wars
Promulgated by empires 
Conditioned to preying
On the hearts and lives
Of ancestors who toiled here. 

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Lauren Friesen‘s poems have appeared in Dark Waters (University of Washington), Poetry Nippon, Mississippi Valley Review, Arena, and Madrona Review. He has two collections of poems “Prairie Songs”, and “The Fallow Field.” He is the recipient of the Kennedy Center Gold Medallion for excellence in university theatre. 

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Don’t Look Away. a poem by Michael Schein

Michael Schein

Don’t Look Away

Putin tracks the value of the ruble
a barrel of crude
then ruble then crude
his thin lips wet with drool.

Here is the bread line in Chernihiv, simple human hunger strafed
by Putin’s pawns, & the mother of three warming soup for her children
when shrapnel tears out her throat. Putin LOOK, as her children were forced to look.
Lash the beast to the mast of humanity. Make it see what it has wrought.	

Putin, horror movie supervillain, sits
at the head of a long table of boot-lickers
barking orders barking mad
at Europe who flicks her skirt and shivers.

The youngest corpse still has the umbilicus attached …
	the mother, pelvis shattered by a missile aimed at the maternity hospital
	cries “kill me now” to save the baby who cannot be saved.
	Putin, is this what you mean by denazification?

Vladamir searches Volodymyr
curses the comedian who revealed the mighty He
to be a scared little shit riding shirtless 
on the wild horse of history.	

	Look: there’s an old woodcarver laid in the street under a blue tarp,
	shelter from a nation’s tears. There’s someone’s lover 
	legs neatly bound with yellow ribbon, left by the cratered street
	where in summer she grew watermelons.

Hollowed with hunger, Putin
licks his spittle, searches Stalin
but there’s no longer any signal
just a dark ocean swimming with monsters.

Don’t look away: there’s 16-year-old Iliya
whose legs were blown off
while playing football at school,
now stacked with her friends in a mass grave.

Putin wipes blood
from his bloodless hands,
fingernails scraping the chalkboard of
missile-scoured playgrounds.

	There’s the Mariupol Theatre, CHILDREN in Russian blazed in front & back
big enough for bomber pilots to read. Where Romeo kissed Juliet, 
choirs sang songs of peace, scared children cried, were told you are safe now …
wiped their tears, hugged their stuffed bears & died.

Putin your wife is gone your mistress fears you
your tanks are charred & frozen
alone
you wander frigid Russia

land of icy mirrors
nuclear silos, leaking dread
a long-suffering history of
history herself forbidden. 

Putin look: here’s 18-month-old Kirill
	fatal shrapnel wound to the head
	& a 6-year-old in unicorn jammies, dead.
	What lies do you tell your children, safe in a Swiss Chalet?

Putin in bed with the dead
while the living whose mouths he sealed shut
cannot sleep, cannot wake
from his terror, his haunted vision,

his insatiable cruel
ambition.

Lash the beast to the mast of humanity.
Make it see what it has wrought.

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Michael Schein wrote Liquid Perishable Hazardous (2019) (poetry), John Surratt: The Lincoln Assassin Who Got Away (2015) (historical), The Killer Poet’s Guide to Immortality by AB Bard (2012) (hysterical), & historical novels Bones Beneath Our Feet (2011) & Just Deceits (2005). Schein edited Poets UNiTE! The LiTFUSE Anthology (2015). His poetry appears in many journals & has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times. Schein is the founder of LiTFUSE Poets’ Workshop (litfuse.us), & has taught at Port Townsend Writers Conference, Write on the Sound, & elsewhere. Spirits inhabit earth & sky. Poetry is everywhere. Write on! michaelschein.com

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2 poems for Ukraine. by Janice Kulyk Keefer

Janice Kulyk Keefer

Skala

The village where my mother, her mother,
her mother's mother, were born
is no good to me.

The house where my mother was born,
the thatched house pierced
by the branch of a walnut tree:

torched in the war. Most of the village
was levelled, then—the remains
of my mother's childhood—church, schoolhouse,

cemetery—hold out no hands to me. I crave those
old-fashioned books of outlined images:water brushed
across the page, colours sprung from invisibility.

Skala lies to the north of my mother's village,
on the same river, the Zbruch, once the border
between Poland and Soviet Ukraine. Skala

has the ruins of a castle or fortress—it's hard
to tell which—and a street of shops, a market place
and a scattering of ancient houses along treed paths.

Corrugated tin in place of thatch, exposed wires.
Patchings of grimy cement the shade of asbestos:
regulation ugliness of the workers' paradise--

but what arrests me now is this strut of blue:
iron gates painted turquoise,|
the sleepy azure of stucco'd walls

and concrete windowsills. A slash of acid-blue
jilting fresh whitewash and, steeped in aqua tears,
the slats of wooden fences.

Stranded in Skala I would not last|
an hour: here for the weekend, a guest
on a guided tour of someone else's past,

I could stay forever. Everything
enchants me: grapevines smothering
chain link fences, improvised shutters

on a window stuck in a brick wall starved of mortar.
Shutters made of hoardings from a tailor's shop:
painted jacket, sketch of a fur-collared coat.

Kalyna grows wild along the roads of Skala.
In autumn's damp, mild air, women wear floral dresses
over sweaters and trousers, powder-blue plastic mules

or else men's shoes to navigate the mud. Geraniums pile
like refugees behind window glass, downspouts
overflow with tin flowers and prinked edging—like

the market vendor in her fog-grey jacket, lodged
between poles of onion, cabbage; lighting
the chrysanthemum's yellow fuse.





A Bellini in Kyiv

1.Provenance

Bellinis belong in Venice,
or any other western-European habitat.
Are no oddity in Manhattan, or in any of the insanely
endowed Gettys in Miami or L. A. But what
miracle brought this Bellini to Ukraine; lodged it
in a Renaissance-style palazzo built
on syndicates, peasant sweat and sugar beets?
From the Urals to the Caucasus,
Petersbourg to Tashkent:
an empire of sweet tooths. And at the root,
Kyiv’s sugar barons, among them
the Khanenkos (Bohdan and Varvara)
with tastes beyond Worth or Savile Row.
Zurbaran, Velazquez,
Guardi, Bellini: crated and shipped
from Adriatic to Aegean; through
the Dardanelles, then north
to the Black Sea coast. Rowdy stevedores
loading crates marked fragile onto barges,
past the Dnipro’s rapids all the way to Kyiv.

Palazzo still smelling of sawdust and putty,
each window swagged with velvet heavy
as a baby elephant. Up a rainforest’s worth of stairs,
the servants tote them: a still life, an Infanta,
the Grand Canal, and a stern Madonna
with her sleepstruck son.

2. God and His Mother

Refugees, owning nothing
but the clothes on her back, the cushion
under his head. Banished
from a city built on salt to one
propped up by sugar. Kidnap victims, or even
slaves, you might say, dragged off
from the auction block.
Naked under a gauze of holiness:
the blindly sumptuous sleep
of a well-fed child. She holds him
the way you’d grasp a precious, borrowed thing:
too huge to carry, too delicate to drop. Behind them
crimson curtain, sword-edged mountains, storm-slashed sky.

 3. Damage
Imagine the Khanenkos
on winter afternoons in the snow-hushed house
conjuring Venice from gold-pricked
blue, or the splurge of spotless linen
round the Virgin’s face; trying to read
the future from fictive battlements round a
phantasmal city clinging to the mountains,
from the warmth of a child’s bare skin.
A world war, a revolution, a death.
In her husband’s memory, Varvara,
forced from her palazzo to the lodgings
of her maid, gives forty years of art-collecting
to the city of Kyiv in the new Ukrainian SSR.
Bitterness of loss feeds the cracks halving
the Virgin’s eye; splits her elbow. Wood, like faith
being prone to warp, and all too often flame-consigned.

4. mirabile dictu

Though its owners die, the palazzo remains:
a cloth of honour, backdrop
for the puzzle of this homebound stray.
No commissar flogged it abroad,
no prankster drew moustaches on it
in an Atheists’ Museum.
No gallery director or attendant, starving
on the Occupation’s sawdust bread
bartered it for horseflesh; no looters
molested it, no Nazi connoisseur
packed it off to Dresden or Berlin.
Still housed in Kyiv--that reborn nest
of oligarchs, some of them
sugar barons, still--this refugee Bellini.
The Khanenko’s palazzo still a museum, studded
with babushka’d dragons guarding the trance
of this child, this mother.  Trance 
of witnessing; withstanding;
embodying beauty scarred, yet undefaced.

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Janice Kulyk Keefer was born in Toronto in 1952, to Ukrainian immigrant parents. Among her publications on Ukrainian topics are two novels, The Green Library and The Ladies’ Lending Library, and a family memoir, Honey and Ashes. She is Professor Emerita at the University of Guelph, where she taught for many years in the fields of English and Creative Writing.

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3 poems for Ukraine. by Carol Hamilton

Carol Hamilton

Heritages

I believe Dostoyevsky never had 
a grandmother to tell him fabulous tales
of the past as did Fuentes, Allende, 
those of rich heritage. What flashed
through his mind awaiting
the firing squad's fake bullets? 
during his father's beatings?
He lived the past he wrote us,
as did Tolstoy. And what will
our grandchildren tell of our times?
Children!  May I …
	Please  …
       text you a story? 
 




The Artists' Skies

Did Picasso care? I think not,
nor front and center for Renoir.
But this morning I look at
the agitated heavens by Van Gogh
in his later days, swirly, squiggly
clouds and nailclip of moon,
wild motion echoed on earth, think of 
the Winslow Homer Sea stormscape
still on my walls, though in a back room,
the one we ordered when grad school newlyweds
with 25 cents and a Gleem toothpaste box top,
or the Georgia O'Keeffe in the living room
of a stark blue, cut with a sliver of raven wings,
painted on the day that Stieglitz died.

Here on the prairie, we own wide expanses
of this that is rationed and dear
to city life, brag of our brilliant, 
dust-filled sunsets, so few things
ours to own. Two friends, one 
of Armenian heritage, the other Polish,
have mailed me sketches, preliminary 
squares of watercolor or oils over the years,
John's from a Cleveland garage apartment
filled with works stacked and hung
everywhere, and Jurek's Scotland skies
near or over the North Sea, skies
so full of many things. On my desk,
(a TV tray, really… do they still make
such things?) I found a stray scrap
John sent when still alive, 
and I knew his heart that day.

Do even we, no brushes or paint pots
at hand, fill space, the sky that holds
our small worlds together, pinions us
in place with what has filled our hearts,
tell the world of our wonders?
I say to myself that I must try.





Vigils
"I answered you in the secret place of thunder"
				Psalms 81:7

I have best known thunder heard from my tent 
or coming from an open window of childhood,
chasing its own voice off, off,
smaller and smaller to some distant
place of its disappearing, perhaps in a thicket 
of full-leafed summer bushes,
they deaf to its shaken but dying airs…
or in through a girl's raised window,
she alive with the full longings of youth.
But are any of us waiting and listening now?
Oh, there are always the deep night dreams
of youths' delusions and there is always
a world full of those praying for an answer
to come from those long hours
of our silent watches through the night. 

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Carol Hamilton has retired from teaching 2nd grade through graduate school in Connecticut, Indiana and Oklahoma, from storytelling and volunteer medical translating. She is a former Poet Laureate of Oklahoma and has published 19 books and chapbooks: children’s novels, legends and poetry. She has been nominated ten times for a Pushcart Prize. She has won a Southwest Book Award, Oklahoma Book Award, David Ray Poetry Prize, Byline Magazine literary awards in both short story and poetry, Warren Keith Poetry Award, Pegasus Award and a Chiron Review Chapbook Award.

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War Crimes. a poem by Lisa Reynolds

Lisa Reynolds 1

WAR CRIMES

After discovery of Mass grave of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine
(Source: CNN, April 4, 2022)


Deny, deny, deny

That’s what he does,
Tells others to do

But bodies are unearthed
Bagged, tagged - in daylight

No tents, no screens
No deception, no deceit

War is war is war
Crime is crime is crime

The two should never meet

Yet here we see
All he has unleashed 

There is no undoing 
WAR CRIMES

Evidence will speak
For the dead

Ukraine will speak
For the dead

And those mourning,
Will soldier on

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Lisa Reynolds is Canadian writer of poetry and short stories, holding degrees from York University. Her works are published internationally in anthologies, literary journals, and magazines. Publication credits include those by Anti-Heroin Chic, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Pure in Heart Stories Literary Magazine, Pure Slush Books, Ravens Quoth Press, Sledgehammer Lit, Spillwords, Sweetycat Press, The Wild Word (Berlin), Valiant Scribe, and WordCity Literary Journal, among many others. Translations of her poetry are scheduled for release in 2022. She is a member of The Ontario Poetry Society, the Writing Community of Durham Region, and an associate member of The League of Canadian Poets. She lives in a waterfront community east of Toronto, Ontario.

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2 poems for Ukraine. by Gordon Phinn

GordonPhinnPhoto

The Family Man
 
Wars come and go
As do the politicos
Who sell them to the public
Under pressure from the generals
 
And the bankers beneath them.
You keep your sons clear,
Steer your daughters to safety
As the budgets for destruction
 
Outstrip all their critics.  You
Learn that life unfolds
According to some pattern
You can’t quite explain
 
But can easily discern
In those drink fueled discussions
That deepen the discursive evening.
Finding safe harbors for your family
 
In the turbulence of time
Is about all you can manage
Until pensions pave the way
For wistful wanderings abroad
 
And the respites of regret
Between them.  And here comes the
Grave, not a moment too soon, the
Gallant rescue from relentless desire.
 
Oh let me sleep till I wake, and a
Family needs another man
To make ends meet in some middle.
 




The Political Man 
 
Heads of state often pretend
To have their heads up their ass
As a clown act can often keep
The masses amused, while the
 
Adroitly unannounced burrows
To its apogee while peeling
Plums for the applicants
Licking its waste.  Tents full of
 
Mishaps are trucked around
For photo ops that can outshine
The shabby hollows of refugees
Hiding from History as heinous
 
Has its way.  And believe me, I’m
Not parsing the herb garden
When I say there are bribes
In the affairs of men.  And yes,
 
Now that you ask, I shall stay
On message even if the content
Is poison.

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Gordon Phinn has been writing and publishing in a number of genres and formats since 1975, and through a great deal of change and growth in CanLit.  Canada’s literary field has gone from the nationalist birth pangs of ’65 – ’75 to its full blooming of the 80s and 90s, and it is currently coping as well as it can with the immediacy and proliferation of digital exposure and all the financial trials that come with it. Phinn’s own reactions was to open himself to the practices of blogging and videoblogging, and he now considers himself something of an old hand. His Youtube podcast, GordsPoetryShow, has just reached its 78th edition, and his my blog “anotherwordofgord” at WordPress continues to attract subscribers.

Phinn’s book output is split between literary titles, most recently, The Poet Stuart, Bowering and McFadden, and It’s All About Me. His metaphysical expression includes You Are History, The Word of Gord On The Meaning Of Life.

WordCity Literary Journal is provided free to readers from all around the world, and there is no cost to writers submitting their work. Substantial time and expertise goes into each issue, and if you would like to contribute to those efforts, and the costs associated with maintaining this site, we thank you for your support.

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