2 poems by Mansour Noorbakhsh. WCLJ poet-in-residence

Mansour-Snow-2020 (resized)

The Meaning of Joints

The night,
grapples with the buttons of my garment 
in the repetition of a battle between the meaning of 
my fingers and the numbness of the cold.

I am not afraid of death
My fear is the repetition of death and its multiplication.
I have died many times before
in the teeth stained with blood and pain that 
have repeated a single word.
Like the farewell kisses.

Like chewing the cold
and the tremble of 
numb fingers.
That prevents recognition of 
the buttons from the night.





Beyond The Flight
A poem for Kian Pirfalak and all children of the "Woman, Life,       Freedom" movement. 

In the fence of darkness
where only the bullets
have chance to shine
the singing of a child
opens the windows
and resonates in the depths of life.

Bullets buried his hands
and his eyes too.

What was never imprisoned 
by the walls of darkness
was his song for those trees 
that will be growing in the light.

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Mansour Noorbakhsh writes poems and stories in both English and Farsi, his first language, and has published books, poems, and articles in both languages. His book length poem, In Search of Shared Wishes, is published in 2017. He tries to be a voice for freedom, human rights, and environment in his writings. He presents The Contemporary Canadian Poets in a weekly Persian radio program. Mansour’s poems are published in WordCity Literary Journal, Verse Afire, Parkland Poets, several anthologies, and other places. His poems are translated in Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Serbian, Macedonian, and Chinese. Mansour Noorbakhsh is an Electrical Engineer, and lives with his wife, his daughter and his son in Toronto, Canada. Mansour is WordCity Literary Journal’s Poet in Residence.

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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Birth of a Girl. a poem by Fatema Akhtar. translated by Bänoo Zan

Fatema Akhtar photo by Nilofar Zohuri Rahoon

Birth of a Girl

Among desert-roaming nomads
one evening the downcast sickly-yellow Sun
collected her wares, gathered her skirts
and hurried towards the dark

The tent was black, the woman in pain,
her soul on fire, consumed, yet cold
Once more, it’s a girl—What an end 
to nine months of fear and hope

Not a gunshot to announce good news
Nor a torch to grace the space
The midwife—not rewarded—
cast a shadow on her face

I was that unwanted girl
the disgrace of the tribe
For my ancestor, the chief,
a girl was cause for shame

An infant boy, though headless,
was better than—God forbid—a girl
Ashamed of my creation I was
a woman lost with bleeding heart

Nine months of fear and hope ended
Pain and sorrow increased two-fold
Not welcomed (head covered in black)
Mother was shamed for her birth

I first learned inferiority 
from beings and being and life
Merchandise I was—for exchange—
a loser in the bargain—woman 
فاطمه اختر
تولد یک دختر


در خیل کوچیان بیابان گرد
یک شامگاه زار و نزار و زرد
خورشید با شتاب بساطش بست
دامان کشید و سوی سیاهی جست

غژدی سیاه بود و زنی از درد
آتش به جان و خسته و اما سرد:
این باز هم پسر نه، که دختر شد
نُه مه امید و بیم چو آخر شد

نه یک شلیک خوشخبری برخواست
نه مشعلی به نور فضا آراست
هم ناگرفته مژده ی خود دایه
با دست خود فکنده به رو سایه

آن دختری نخواسته من بودم
قدر قبیله کاسته من بودم
جدم رییس ایل و تبارش بود
دختر به خانه منشه ی عارش بود

نوزاد اگر پسر و که بی سر بود
به گر - خدانخواسته - دختر بود
از خلقتم خجل شده من بودم
مبهوت و خون به دل شده زن بودم

درد و فسردگی دوبرابر شد
نُه مه امید و بیم چو آخر شد
خوش آمدش نگفت (سیه سر شد)
از زادنش خجل شده مادر شد

آموختم نخست فرو دستی
از کائینات و بودن و از هستی
جنسی به یک مبادله من بودم
بازنده در معامله زن بودم

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Fatema Akhtar was born in Herat, Afghanistan, and has lived in Canada for the last 34 years with her 3 daughters. Fatema studied law at Kabul University and was a Prosecutor for 8 years. She has published 4 books of poetry and is currently working on a collection of her work from the last 20 years.

Bänoo Zan is a poet, librettist, translator, teacher, editor and poetry curator, with more than 250 published poems and poetry-related pieces as well as three books including Songs of Exile and   Letters to My Father. She is the founder of Shab-e She’r (Poetry Night), Canada’s most diverse poetry reading and open mic series (inception: 2012), a brave space that bridges the gap between communities of poets from different ethnicities, nationalities, religions (or lack thereof), ages, genders, sexual orientations, disabilities, poetic styles, voices and visions. Bänoo is the Writer-in-Residence at the University of Alberta, Canada, Sept 2022-May 2023.

Bänoo Zan by Rahma Shere

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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Golden Paradise. a poem by Yuan Hongri. translated by Yuanbing Zhang

Yuan Hongri

Golden Paradise
 
Golden birds ah!
Flew above my head
A golden ribbon
Spreading out to me from the sky
I saw the golden mountains
Smiling at me in the distance
The layers of airy pavilions and pagodas
Standing in the purple-red clouds
The gardens in the sky ah!
The exquisite pagodas 
The bridge of golds and gems ah!
Arched across the vast expanse of the Milky Way
I saw a giant
Waving to me in the sky
Stood on the propitious clouds
Shining millions of rays
 
The huge figure ah!
Like a high mountain
The golden dragons!
Fluttering around him
 
A round of sun ah!
Shining above his head
The golden robe ah!
Burning in the halos
 
I saw his magical eyes
And couldn't help thinking of the remote past
Ah,hundreds of millions of centuries ago  
We once got together happily
 
You were both my great teacher 
And also my close companion
We created together
The countless heavenly paradise
 
Your golden smile ah
Made my heart beat lightly
The glistening tears ah!
Lingered in my eyes
 
Your holy hands of giant ah!
Hold tightly with me
You dressed me a golden robe
Which was embroidered with dragons and phoenixes 
 
The words of gold ah!
Flew in your breast
And turned into the mysterious light
Shining in your eyes
 
I understood your gleamy words
And my heart laughed brilliantly
A round huge sun
Burning over my head
 
You opened the city gates of gold for me
And watched me crossing the huge garden
A lofty palace
Shone in front of my eyes
 
In the transparent white jade railings
Carved with the beautiful patterns 
The steps made of the rubies
Reflected the smiling face of the sky
 
The huge column of gold ah!
Carved with the wonderful flowers
The layers of eaves were hight above the sky
Like the golden birds spreading in the clouds
 
A holy old man
Stood majestically in front of the palace
His body was as transparent as the flame
Sending out the resplendent red light
 
Your bright eyes ah!
Contained the purple-gold flames
There are golden dragons 
Circling around the golden staff in hands
 
Your high forehead ah!
Rose like the mountains
The layers of purple-gold flames ah!
Wreathing around your body
 
The golden lightnings ah!
Shining in your bright eyes
I saw the rounds of sun
Burning in your head
 
You opened the door to the palace
And took me into it
A huge palace
Smiling at me in the sky
 
I saw the books of gold
Arranged in walls of the palace 
The lines of gold words ah
Shining the charmingly light
 
The holy old man ah!
Let me sit in the palace
To read the books of gold
And drink the good wine of wisdom
 
He raised the golden staff in his hands 
Sent out the golden lights
The huge books of gold
Flew into my chest
 
The light were shining before me
And I saw another sight 
The countless gold giants
Flying lightly in the sky
 
The multicoloured transparent sky
Many airy pavilions and pagodas
And the happy girls
Dancing and singing in the sky,
 
A young giant
Hold up a sun 
In a transparent mountain top
Sending out the bottomless light
 
An old man with gray haired
Step on an auspicious cloud
And stood stilly in the sky
Smiling at the giant
 
A huge golden mountain
Which was transparent and gleamy in flames
Turned into a palace
And a exquisite gold pagoda
 
The young boys and girls
Riding the colorful husbands and wifes
Shed the multicolouredflowers
And which turned into the gardens
 
I heard an intoxicating tweet
A huge phoenix
Carried a roll of golden book
Flying towards me from the clouds 
 
The lines of mysterious words
Like the stars
Arranged into the singular figures
Shining before my eyes
 
A huge white crane
Turned into a young girl
And which opened a treasure casket
Flashed a golden sword 
 
A round piece of jade
Carved with the dragon designs
And there were the lines of words
Flashed the dazzling light
 
A old man with gray hair
Rode a kylin
Walked leisurely in the sky
Carried a sword on his back
 
A huge sun
There was a golden palace in the central of it
A young Prince
Reading the golden books in the palace 
 
A huge mirror
Flashed in front of my eyes
A bolt of lightening
Awakened me in my dreams
 
I went back to the palace again
The magical old man
Still held the golden staff
And stood in front of my eyes
 
The golden books ah!
Still shining on the walls
But the words of gold ah!
Singing exactly in my chest
 
The huge golden statue ah!
Flashed the dazzling light
The holy old man ah!
The kindly smile appeared on his face
 
The layers of purple-gold flames ah!
Surround me all around
The stars with much light ah!
Shining in my body
 
I saw a huge golden crown
Few out of the old man's hand
And turned into a sun ah!
Which was embedded in my forehead
 
Suddenly a flash of lightning ah!
Went into my eyes
I saw a gold pagoda ah!
Shining in the sky
 
A golden giant 
Stood with smiles in front of the pagoda
A gold garden
Embraced the golden pagoda 
 
The holy giant
Took me out of the palace
A white crane was called in
And flew to the sky with me
 
It's like a white light ah!
I came to the pagoda in the twinkling of an eye
The huge pagoda of gold ah!
Was higher than the mountains on earth
 
It's about more than ninety thousand floors
The height of each floor is ten thousand meters 
It's like a universe
Contains the countless worlds
 
The countless suns ah!
Shining on the floors of pagoda 
The multicoloured stars ah!
Constituted these wonderful designs
 
The countless dragons and dragons ah!
Flying around the huge pagoda
The lines of wods of the stars
Shining in the transparent walls of gold
 
The golden giant ah!
Wore the diamond armor
Smiled at me briefly 
And opened the door of the pagoda for me
 
On the huge door that carved with gold 
Mysterious patterns were convex and concave
Like the countless stars ah!
Spinning in the golden space
 
A golden palace ah!
Were full of wonderful giant flowers
The huge gold tripods
Burning in the raging flames
 
The giants were sitting
On the purple-gold pavilions 
They smild at me joyfully
Like the long time parting families
 
The golden winding stairs
Coiled round the columns of the palace
Like the huge golden dragons
Flying into the sky with head held high
 
I saw a huge ball
Which was in the middle of the palace
Like the clear and transparent crystal
Rotating the golden pictures 
 
There seemed to be countless worlds
Fashed leisurely in the crystal
The golden paradises
Made my eyes drunken
 
The wonderful bells
Suddenly sounded in my ears
Those giants who were sitting 
Singing the thundering songs
 
The songs were like the golden lightning
Shining in my body from all quarters 
My heart was empty suddenly
And saw the things billions of years ago
 
Originally I myself builted
The huge pagoda of gold 
The lines of stars on the golden wall 
Just were the poems that I have written
 
The smiling giants ah!
All of them were my former partner
The huge crystal balls ah!
Just is a golden universe
 
The golden pagoda with more than ninety thousand floors ah!
Contain countless the times and spaces
Like a golden staircase of time ah!
Link up with the countless heavens
 
Into the stars that been turned by time ah!
It's the sacred words
Each of golden poems
Created a paradise
 
The huge golden tripods ah!
Burning the flame of time
Smelted out the countless stars
Formed the universes
 
The countless giants were sitting 
On the transparent pagoda of gold
The light of their songs
Turned into the rounds of sun
 
I saw the crystal sky ah!
Rotating outside the golden pagoda
There seemed to be countless golden pagoda
Shining in the sky
 
I seemed not to exist
And turned into the boundless light
The countless huge pagodas of gold
Just were in my luminous chest 
 
The countless giants who were sitting up!
Smiled at me on the golden pagoda
Their dazzling smiles ah!
Flashed the golden eternity
3.22.1998 


黄金乐园
 
  远红日
 
黄金的鸟儿啊
在我头上翻飞
一条黄金的飘带
从空中向我展开
我看到一座座金山
在远方向我微笑
一层层的亭台楼阁
矗立在紫红的云间
一座座空中的花园啊
一座座玲玲的金塔
黄金和宝石的桥梁啊
横跨  辽阔的天河
我看到一位巨人
在空中向我招手
站立在祥云之上
闪耀出万丈光芒
 
巨大的身材啊
像一座高山
一条条金龙啊
在身边飘飘
 
一轮太阳啊
在头上闪耀
金色的长袍啊
在光环中燃烧
 
我看到他那神奇的眸子
不由想起久远的过去
在亿万个世纪之前啊
我们曾在一起欢聚
 
你是我伟大的师长啊
也是我亲密的伴侣
我们一起创建了
无数座天上的乐园
 
你那黄金的微笑啊
让我怦然心跳
晶莹的泪水啊
在我眼中萦绕
 
你那神圣的巨手啊
和我紧紧相握
你为我披上了一件
绣着龙凤的金袍
 
黄金的词语啊
在你胸中飘飞
化成了玄妙的光芒
在你眼中闪放
 
我听懂了你那光芒的词语
心中灿然欢笑
一轮巨大的太阳
在我头顶上燃烧
 
你为我打开了黄金的城门
目送我穿过巨大的花园
一座巍峨的金殿
闪耀在我的眼前
 
透明的白玉栏杆啊
雕刻出美丽的图案
红宝石砌成的台阶
映照出天空的笑脸
 
巨大的黄金的圆柱啊
刻满了奇妙的花卉
一层层凌空的飞檐啊
如云中展翅的金鸟
 
一位神圣的老者
在殿前魏然站立
身体透明如火焰
发出灿烂的红光
 
你那明亮的眸子啊
含着紫金的火焰
手中的一根金杖啊
有金龙环绕盘旋
 
你那高高的额头啊
像山岳一般隆起
一层层紫金的火焰啊
在你周身缭绕
 
一道道金色的闪电啊
在你的明眸中闪耀
我看到一轮轮太阳
在你的头颅里燃烧
 
你打开金殿的大门
带我向殿内走去
一座巨大的金殿
高高地向我微笑
 
我看到一部部金书啊
在金殿的四壁内排列
一行行黄金的词语啊
闪耀迷人的光芒
 
那位神圣的老者啊
让我在殿内端坐
阅读那一部部金书
畅饮智慧的琼浆
 
他举起手中的金杖啊
发出一道道金光
那一部部巨大的金书
飞入了我的胸膛
 
我眼前光芒闪耀
看到了另一幅景象
一个个黄金巨人
在天空飘飘飞翔
 
五彩透明的天空
一座座亭台楼阁
一个个欢乐的少女
在空中起舞歌唱
 
一个年轻的巨人
手托一轮太阳
在一座透明的山巅
发出万丈的光芒
 
一位白发的老者
脚踩一朵祥云
在空中静静站立
向着巨人微笑
 
一座巨大的金山
在火焰中透明闪光
化成了一座金殿
和一座玲珑的金塔
 
一个个少男少女
跨着七彩的鸾凤
洒下了缤纷的花朵
化成了一座座花园
 
我听到了一声醉人的鸣叫
一只巨大的凤凰
衔着一卷金书
从云中向我飞来
 
一行行玄妙的词语
像一颗颗星辰
排列成奇特的图形
在我眼前闪耀
 
一只巨大的白鹤
化成了一位少女
打开了一只宝匣
闪现出一把金剑
 
一块圆形的玉器
镌刻出龙的花纹
还有一行行词语
闪出耀眼的光芒
 
一位白发的老者
跨着一匹麒麟
在空中悠悠走过
背上一把宝剑
 
一轮巨大的太阳
中央一座金殿
一位少年的王子
在殿内阅读金书
 
一面巨大的镜子
在我眼前闪过
一道闪电
把我从梦中唤醒
 
我又回到了那座金殿
那位神奇的老人
依然手持金杖
站在我的眼前
 
那一部部金书啊
依然在四壁闪耀
可是那黄金的词语啊
就在我胸中歌唱
 
那座巨大的金像啊
闪出耀眼的光芒
那位神圣的老者啊
面含亲切的微笑
 
一层层紫金的火焰啊
在我周身环绕
一颗颗光芒的星辰啊
在我的身体内闪耀
 
我看到了一只巨大的金冠
从老者的手中飞出
化成了一轮太阳啊
嵌入了我的前额
 
倏然一道闪电啊
化入了我的眼睛
我看到了一座金塔啊
在天空闪耀光明
 
一位黄金的巨人
在塔前微笑站立
一座黄金的花园
怀抱着这座金塔
 
那位神圣的巨人
带我走出了金殿
召来了一只白鹤
载我向天空飞去
 
仿佛是一道白光啊
我转眼来到了塔前
这座黄金的巨塔啊
比人间的山岳还高
 
大约有九万多层啊
每一层高达万米
仿佛是一座宇宙啊
包含了无数个天地
 
无数颗太阳啊
在一层层塔上闪耀
五光十色的星辰啊
构成了奇妙的图案
 
无数只龙凤啊
环绕着巨塔飞翔
一行行星辰的词语啊
在透明的金壁上闪耀
 
那位黄金的巨人啊
身披钻石的铠甲
向我微微一笑啊
为我打开了塔门
 
黄金雕刻的巨门啊
凸凹着玄妙的图形
仿佛无数个星辰啊
旋转在金色的太空
 
一座黄金的殿堂啊
开满了奇妙的巨葩
一座座巨大的金鼎
燃烧着熊熊的火焰
 
一座座紫金的楼阁啊
端坐着一个个巨人
向我欢喜地微笑啊
仿佛是久别的亲人
 
一座座黄金的旋梯
盘绕着殿堂的圆柱
像一条条巨大的金龙
昂首向天空飞去
 
我看到一个巨球
座落在殿堂中央
像清澈透明的水晶
旋转着金色的画图
 
仿佛有无数个世界
在水晶内悠悠闪现
一个个黄金的乐园
迷醉了我的双眼
 
一阵阵奇妙的钟声
在耳边倏然响起
那些端坐的巨人
唱起雷鸣般的歌声
 
这歌声如金色闪电
从八方向我照耀
我心中顿然空明
看到了亿万年前
 
这座黄金的巨塔啊
原是我亲手建成
那金壁上的一行行星辰
是我写下的诗篇
 
这一个个微笑的巨人啊
都是我当年的伙伴
那一颗巨大的水晶球啊
是一个金色的宇宙
 
这九万多层的金塔啊
包容无数的时空
像一条时光的金梯啊
通达无数个天堂
 
时间化成的星辰啊
是一个个神圣的词语
每一部黄金的诗篇
创造出一座乐园
 
那一座座巨大的金鼎啊
燃烧着时间的圣火
熔炼出无数颗星辰
构成一个个宇宙
 
这座透明的金塔啊
端坐着无数个巨人
他们的歌声的光芒
化成了一轮轮太阳
 
我看到了水晶的天空啊
在金塔外旋转
仿佛有无数座金塔
在天空中熠熠闪耀
 
我仿佛不在存在啊
化成了无际的光明
那无数座黄金的巨塔
就在我光明的胸中
 
那无数个端坐的巨人啊
在金塔上向我微笑
他们那灿烂的笑容啊
闪耀出金色的永恒
 
1998.3.22北京

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Yuan Hongri (born 1962) is a renowned Chinese mystic, poet, and philosopher. His work has been published in the UK, USA, India, New Zealand, Canada, and Nigeria; his poems have appeared in Poet’s Espresso Review, Orbis, Tipton Poetry Journal, Harbinger Asylum, The Stray Branch, Acumen, Pinyon Review, Taj Mahal Review, Madswirl, Shot Glass Journal, Amethyst Review, The Poetry Village, and other e-zines, anthologies, and journals. His best known works are Platinum City and Golden Giant. His works explore themes of prehistoric and future civilization.

Yuanbing Zhang (b. 1974), is Mr.Yuan Hongi’s  assistant and translator. He is a Chinese poet and translator, works in a Middle School, Yanzhou District , Jining City, Shandong Province, China. He can be contacted through his email-3112362909@qq.com.

Yuanbing Zhang

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.

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

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2 poems by Anne Sorbie

Annie Sorbie

Promise of Birch

Below winter’s crust
the earth gestates
the kind of life we’ve 
come to expect of her

We see her anticipation
in the arms of trees
reaching east and west 
embracing the most 

wuthering winds 
accepting their dull roar
as they have for centuries
Their roots 

umbilical by nature
grow beneath the protection
of ever greening cedars
The birch knows

birthing and rebirthing
brings forth life 
in spite of
difficulty or danger

offers boughs of hope
unfurling sweet buds of joy
even though the danger
of annihilation lurks

The birch knows
her most difficult
challenge 
is living

	under the threat
	of blight
	climate change
	war 

And still she gives rise 
after 		
birth
to spectacular silver shimmer

arrays of leaves
that applaud her existence
her resilience
her bravery


Her earthly bearing
depends upon
her steadfast 
vascular fan

a subsurface braiding
outspread and reaching 
for the circumference 
of her verdant crown

and its otherworldly promise
of spring’s delight





Horizon of Hope
(For Ukraine)

What if the birch 
arced her canopy
creating an arbour
from our boreal

forests to yours?

Sung to the Virgin
Beech of the 
Eastern Carpathians
Serenaded her sisters

from their caves in the Taiga

Drew divine 
directions
in the shape 
of celestial crowns?


She’d birth a new
geo-sphere 
from zero point
in our ‘Serengeti’

of the north
Create a shadow 
reaching long 
to the south pole

Her horizon 
an ascension
of millennia: 
future present past.

Birch to beech 
to deciduous 
decision makers
who will outgrow 
fear 
and lack 
of engagement—
brutalist architecture.

Mother of all others
positing the poetry 
of possibility 
Greening curator

of care
experience
memory
story

Enlisting 	still 
unspoiled witnesses 
who show us beauty
in the face of dark truth.

Even the short lived
pregnant poplars
who give rise to willow

will join forces with her
unite latitudes
forever at the 
horizon of hope.

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Anne Sorbie is a writer and editor who lives in Calgary, Canada. Her latest book (her 4th) is (M)othering, an anthology of poetry, prose, and art which she co-edited with Heidi Grogan (Inanna Publications, 2022).  She is currently working on a series of poems focusing on our boreal forests.

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2 poems by Michelle Reale

Michelle Reale

                              CATALYTIC

Swimming upstream is a talent. Movement abstracted from a particular situation is an exercise and not a particularly useful one.  For instance, when I was born , a man leaned over me with a silver dollar on his chest. It gleamed with possibility, I was told. Intention counted for something then. His disappointment shone brighter than currency, which my mother tried to temper. She waved her hands as if shooing a flock of jewel –like birds , which had nothing better to do than flap wildly with bird-like exclamation.  My father dozed with his eyes at half-mast, a characteristic we’d become used to and for which he was known.  The blood red Trillium along the border of the narrow house, he’d cultivated for two generations. If he was lucky, there would be a third. Even pre-cognitive, the smell of death wafted my way. It would always be like this. I could discern the timing of things. They called it a gift. The variables were always shifting, but I managed to find the right angle to things. That egress window was a portal to safety or it was nothing at all.  Decorative was not in our nature.  I would have given my life for the idle abstractions of my own family history, a way to do it properly, or just end it all together, but the story dictates we were always ever on our own. Assurances sucked noisily on a wayward breast.  There is a ghostly foreshadowing linked forever to the the knife that is sharp, but destined to rest in the linoleum lined drawer, no matter what it is capable of.





                               VOLPE


I wonder what she might have thought of my penchant for wishful thinking, my magical mindset where a situation could change simply because I willed it. I wonder what she would have thought of me hunched over the glow of my phone in the early a.m. , self soothing, eyes wild in the night. How often I felt like St. Sebastian, with the sharp end of everyone’s opinions and points of view piercing my soft spots. How would she feel that I turned out to be the one who wears trauma like the coat she’d let me borrow– old, hooded and smelling of apprehension?  It hung on an ornate hook someone placed in that dark cellar way a century before, at the ready.   She grabbed that coat every time she hung clothes and remorse on the line, where they would freeze with indignation.  What might she have to say now, the seer, who predicted her own death to the hour?  I want future flowers for honest endeavors. A voice that never quite hits an adequate pitch might bring fortune, however wayward. My hands are open. She could persuade me to stimulate my memories to influence my further moral decline.  Or maybe she just affected the stony wall of so many silences that formed the backdrop of those formative years and beyond. There is cunning beyond what the spirit can imagine. Some might reject the mythology of the good omen, but not me. That screeching fox at the screen door had my attention. I imagine you watch dilemma’s unfold from your unique vantage point in another dimension. Watch the drops of someone’s precious blood scatter like quicksilver, catching the light, spreading across the shrink and expansion of time.

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Michelle Reale is the author of several poetry collections, including  Season of Subtraction (Bordighera Press, 2019) and Blood Memory (Idea Press, 2021) and Confini: Poems of Refugees in Sicily (Cervena Barva Press, 2022). Her prose poem collection, In the Year of Hurricane Agnes , has just been published by  Alien Buddha Press.  She is the Founding and Managing Editor for both OVUNQUE SIAMO: New Italian-American Writing and The Red Fern Review. 

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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left or right. a poem by Gabriel Bates

Gabriel Bates

left or right

it doesn't
really matter
which side
of the circus
we each choose
to stand on
because either way,
the donkeys
and elephants
will just end up
trampling over
everyone.

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Gabriel Bates is a poet living in Tiffin, Ohio. His work has appeared in several publications, online and in print. Keep up with him at gabrieljbates.blogspot.com.

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Requiem for Edwin Chiloba. a poem by James Coburn

James Coburn

A note from James Coburn on Edwin Chiloba:

Gone too soon

Life is not a four letter word. Neither is a tear, love, or the gift of the late Edwin Chiloba. His fashion design and precious spark of life resonated with a celebratory tone for humanity. Chiloba is gone too soon.

On January 6, police found the rising Kenyan fashion designer, model and LGBTQ activist, Edwin Chiloba, 25, smothered to death. His body had been placed in a metal box and dumped on a Kenyan road near the town of Eldoret.

News of his death was met with international outrage and lament. Five people were arrested including Jackton Odhiambo, his roommate and alleged boyfriend.

Chiloba’s friends have described him as kind. Tributes describe him as an “iconic fashion designer.”

“There are so many things I’d want to remember him for; the night outs, the smile that won my heart or even the fashion he so well presented but I remember more is the love,” said Chiloba’s friend, Julius Muriithi of Nairobi, who knew him well.

Hundreds of people mourned Chiloba as he was buried on the grounds of his family’s home in Sergoit village, Keiyo North, Elgeyo Marakwet.

Requiem for Edwin Chiloba

Some whom he loved 
banished him for years.
Do they think of him
now with tears?

Petals spread
before smashed to ground.
For hideous reason
his body was found.

Yes, his body was found
in a metal box, dumped like trash
on a Kenyan road
by a sick mind to implode.

He was born the son 
of LGBTQ mirth.
He found a family
by fashioning earth.

I didn’t know him.
I hope his hope
will come true,
for human beings to
live and let live
with all to view
the life of innocence
he knew
that did no harm.

No need for anger
or snare of alarm.
  
News of your murder
exposes a great divide
on a planet imploding
in hateful pride.

Young boys grow to men
to be cast out alone
by indifference
tossing stone.

From wingless birds
pecking at air,
what does love have
to bear?

The wind will come
and grass shall bend,
until violence makes
amend.

I didn’t know you
and yet your story, I did.
Your voice meant something despite fear.
Your rainbow colors
arch far and near.

There’s a conversation
in my head about cruelty
toward the dead.
But when I search,
official words bring 
nothing new, 
while waiting for justice
to come in view.

Chiloba, love had found
beauty in you.
“Father forgive them, for 
they know not what 
they do.”

Return to Journal

James Coburn bio: I cannot separate the definition of my art from the 4-year-old boy picking a purple wildflower. Soft petals touched my nose beneath the summer sun that unfolded them.

The remnant prairie field beside my boyhood home was met by cross timbers canopy of oak over a shallow stretch of Deep Fork Creek. I was curious. Raindrops seeped into creek flowing to a river, and the river an ocean.

Now that I approach my 68th year, I face my morality with a sense of continuum as time distills moments filtered by that small flower known as Wine Cup.

I was a child of desegregation when waves of white flight swept families into suburbs and away from my home beside the field. I learned through the years that bigotry is based on lies.

My eyes became the lens of a Nikon camera as I documented the lives of the dispossessed, the plight of the homeless in New York City, Boston, and Oklahoma City. I loved New York City but returned to Oklahoma City to be near my mother who had survived her first battle with breast cancer a few years earlier.

So, I began my nearly 35-year career at The Edmond Sun. The newspaper was shuttered in 2020 during the C0VID pandemic. However, I remain a regular contributor to Oklahoma’s Nursing Times having wrote more than 2,000 profiles about the nursing profession.

Credits include twice winning the Associated Press Sweepstakes Award, and being inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.

Poetry writing includes anthologies celebrating the life of Woody Guthrie. In 2016, ten of poems against terrorism and to save the Sunderbans (wetlands) were published in “Onnyodhara” (The Alternative Way) Eid-special issue festival edition in association with “Anushilon” (The Culture & Literature Society) the National Literary Organization of Bangladesh. Poems have appeared in Dragon Poetry Review, Oklahoma Poetry Society, Tuck magazine, Brave Voices poetry journal, Time of the Poet Republic, and the 2021 international anthology, Poetry for Ukraine, published by The Poet, among others.

The 2021 poem, Silenced Cries, was part of the University of Central Oklahoma’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa, Okla. massacre of more than 300 black innocents who had lived in the (Black Wall Street) Greenwood district of Tulsa.

Books include Metaphors of the Rainbow, a collaboration with Zimbabwe poet, Mbizo Chirasha; and being an Oklahoma Book Award finalist for Words of Rain.

*

A few words about James Coburn and Edwin Chiloba, provided by John Echem.

James Coburn, the Oklahoman literary big name and a seasoned poet, is studied for his
inconsolable voice and empathy for the mistreated. His meditation on the ennui and
cheerlessness of life, vouchsafe his corner, in a system with many-sided emotional makeups.

In the poetic output, ” Requiem for Edwin Chiloba “, a depressing mood or feeling is intensified for Edwin Kiprotich Chiloba, the Kenyan gay rights activist, fashion designer, and model who was found dead in a metal box on 6 January 2023.

The poet sustains a dolorous mood and shames man’s inhumanity to man. In other words, human ecology has become a scare to humankind as a consequence of intolerable bigotries that are choking the world systems. Dogmatic revulsion by social sects and their irreconcilable social values has made man a snare to fellow man. It is on this ground that the poet fears for mankind, the risk of social conjugation, such as the homicide of Edwin Kiprotich Chiloba, as a consequence of his social value.

The lexical and figurative choices deployed in this output are of a unique category that poses a challenge to writers of threnody as they engage the mental faculties with an ineluctable grasp. The olfactory, thermal, optical, and auditory capabilities are persuasively summoned in the most introspective power for the assessment of the horrendous homicide of Edwin Chiloba.

In conclusion, the poet’s allusion to the pietistic words of the Messiah on the rood; dispenses his virtue as a man of peace.


“Father forgive them, for
They do know not what
They do “

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 by gabor g gyukics

gábor g gyukics

in the swimming pool  

he jumped headfirst
but before each length
he read a stanza from a poem
and during each fifty meters
he engraved each stanza in his brain

as many stanzas
as many lengths 

when he finished
he recited the poem
to those present
at the pool’s cafeteria

he left damp pages
from his notebook
in the locker room trashcan




 
not stopping short at two in one

a selftought artist who made
a consciously forced close up of your eyes
might think that

your arching unibrow eyebrows 
should be able to
persuade him as a gullible photographer

not to stop relieving his smarting incentives  
as if they were accepted balancing acts
or overabundant majestic moments

that would ridicule adjacent blanket bans
manipulative vetoes and backfired missile attacks 

after participating at nuptial-weddings
of several lot lizards in midwestern truck stops 

with cameras hanging from his neck

he wants nothing from you
only a photograph
of the iris of your eyes



 

Bluebeard, see it?

Behold the imperfect city,
with your guilds
the illusion of organic waste
around the corner
blind pencil-salesclerk
her name is Eris
a moist shy host
her eyelashes are canned matchsticks
you'd take her in a whim
if you could

what is the origin of your being
you might think you’re charming
full of spiritual strength
if you're wrong
you could slip on your city’s
guild of bloody arias sang sidewalk

See?
all the faces are obvious
these are the invisible faces of the crucified
they bow their heads 
when you look at them
earth’s born from the battle of music
it’s not an ordinary cavalcade
and if you do not open
your guild will fall
can’t you see?

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gabor g gyukics (b. 1958) poet, literary translator born in Budapest, Hungary. He is the author of 11 books of original poetry, 6 in Hungarian, 2 in English, 1 in Arabic, 1 in Bulgarian, 1 in Czech, 1 book of original prose, and 19 books of translations including A Transparent Lion, selected poetry of Attila József (2006) and They’ll Be Good for Seed, a Contemporary Hungarian Poetry (2021) and an anthology of North American Indigenous poets in Hungarian titled Medvefelhő a város felett (2015). He writes his poems in English (which is his second language) and Hungarian.

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 by James Kowalczyk

James Kowalczyk

Orison

our memories
spread across 
uneven eons 
a second-hand tapestry of woes

naked shame 
clothe thy name

genuine prayer can drill 
a sacred screw into the poisoned blood 
like viscous iron
smelting the night

between the eyes 
it climbs a fence
like caged ivy

on Vena Cava Lane 
even Joey Gentile drops
her digital pacifier 

awakened
we charge thee
with apocryphal bible belt bullshit 
in the south 

rumor consumer ads
squirt like fish through an endless 
stream of consciousness

heading north
 




Overture

before the first ending fractured               the
amplitude's erosion                                and erosion 							imagination gene                            emauled the 
millenial mind 

and 						                                                                         tongue-tied language to telepathy             with
aqua-turtles and nuclear babies            shedding
dead tears                    	   diluted by living 
room rain	              conjured by miasmas and Mohawks

at curtain 			               the 
bankrupt skeletons 	                    confess in a 
decrpit church of                    dream hoarders 
inside a pile of spiders                 yet, when they 
get home yesterday                blood juice will flow 
backward
  
                                               a chore 
to ignore for sure                       as dragonflies 
helicopter                   through irrational rashes 
of tangled truth






Snarky Ignorance

4:oo am eggs and coffee and out the door                                                                                                       Junior the shoeshine ma                                                                                                                                  age sixty-five                                                                                                                                       walks from Amsterdam Avenue to Lexington Avenue                                                                                    and catches the #4 to Grand Central Station                                                                                                                                   his box concealed in a backpack                                                                                                                           along with expertise in handling                                                                                           Balmorals, Blüchurs, Cap Toes and Wingtips
locating the subtle depression his box has made in                                                                          the marble floor over the years                                                                                                             he settles in                                                                                                                                                  the new snot-nose regular waiting for him
“you’re late Junior” from behind The Wall Street Journal                                                                                                hiding a smirk                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    like a teacher who secretly enjoys                                                                                                issuing detention slips
subway ain’t what it used to be                                                                                                              Junior remarks to the headlines                                                                                                   maybe we need Mussolini in this city                                                                                               make them run on time
who?                                                                                                                                                    Junior smiles and shakes his head
11:00 am                                                                                                                                           brunch and white wine and margaritas                                                                                             Domingo the waiter                                                                                                                      hurriedly bussing the alfresco table                                                                                                                        for trust-fund hipsters                                                                                                                  chatting about organic berries                                                                                                            and quoting lines from Hamilton 
“hey you                                                                                                                                                                               just forget it                                                                                                                                            you’re taking too long                                                                                                                                   we’ll sit inside”
                                                                                                                                                                               9:00 pm                                                                                                                                                             after his triple shift                                                                                                                                                                  Domingo walks from Columbus Avenue                                                                                                                              to Central Park West and catches the A train                                                                                down to West 4th Street                                                                                                                                                                                                             walks over to the Lower East Side                                                                                                          a new art gallery opening                                                                                                                where his paintings are are being displayed                                                                                      across the room Domingo hears 
“I absolutely must have this!                                                                                                                                     it’s post-postmodern                                                                                                                                 a bit of kitch and yet authentic social critique                                                                                     subversive executed as high art                                                                                                                                             I absolutely must have this!      
it is the new Eurotrash Domingo served at brunch earlier                                                                   he walks over to the small crowd now standing in front of his painting                                       to the loudest Eurotrash he says graciously I couldn’t help but hear you admiring my painting, for you $1000                                                                                                                           I’ll take a check 
“you painting this?”                                                                                                                                       yes Domingo replies with a smile                                                                                                         “bullshit”  after the stunned silence                                                                                              a voice in the back of the crowd bellows
if that loser doesn’t want it-I’ll take it                                                                                               who do I make the check out to?
you’re late Junior                                                                                                                                     he says                                                                                                                                                              to the shoeshine man                                                                                                                    feigning perkiness                                                                                                                                  like the teacher                                                                                                                                        who secretly                                                                                                                                                         enjoys                                                                                                                                                  giving detention 
The New York Times  								                  hides a smirk                                                                                                                                             from the shoeshine man      							authentic malice

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James Kowalczyk was born and raised in Brooklyn but now lives in Northern California with his wife, two daughters and four cats. He teaches English at the high school and college levels. His work has appeared both online and in print.

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3 poems by John Grey

John Grey

YOU ARE NOT A BIRD

Sorry
but your bones aren’t air-pockets.

You’ve no beak, no claws,
No wings or feathers.

A leap of three feet in the air
is followed by a similar drop.

You’ve not the lightness
to keep your ascent going.

And your descent
is like your life.

It will never break
with gravity.





SUCH A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP

And now it's your exercise kick,
jogging around the neighborhood
early summer mornings,
winter evenings on the treadmill
coached by a weary video of Jane Fonda.
Gray sweats have come into our life together,
along with assorted vitamins, strange sodas.
You've made a pledge with yourself
to live better, live longer.
But what does that leave for me,
seduced into the rim of your world
by grilled chicken, fish,
more vegetables, less pizza.
You should know by this
that based on your forays
into religion, yoga, Armenian cooking,
origami, chair refurbishing and bonsai gardens,
only you can occupy
the center of your life.
All the perspiration is dripping from your pores.
The aches, the twinges, are the indignities
of your joints alone.
You can tell me all you want
about how you haven't felt this good in years.
So what about those years
when you felt less good.
How much better was that.





ST. ANNE’S CEMETERY

This is where all the people went.
Some to shrines, large and small.
But most merely prop up plain stones,
at the sides of the winding pathways, 
in the weeds by the rusty fence.

The sky stirs 
in a way the earth cannot.
It is darkening.
This soil is always dark.

The first few drops
send scattered mourners
to their cars.
A scrawny stray dog
seeks the shelter of the willow.
It’s been another fruitless day
spent searching for its master.

Bones and brass,
rosewood and embalming fluids,
so much is underfoot.
But only rain 
is buried in the sky.

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John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Washington Square Review and Floyd County Moonshine. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in the McNeese Review, Rathalla Review and Open Ceilings.

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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