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Daniela's Appearances

"The future of religion is in the mystery of touch"

--D.H. Lawrence



New York Night (C) 2002 by Daniela Gioseffi. All rights reserved.

Part I: Poems Selected by Daniela Gioseffi

Click on poets name below or scroll down to read all, please.

Part II: Hugh Seidman, Daniela, Gioseffi, Philip Appleman, Stephen Massimilla

Rick Pernod | Ann Hutt Browning | Angelo Verga |
Maria Terrone| Maria Mazziotti Gillan | D.H. Melhem|

Rick Pernod

The worst poetry


is born of the head.
The best, from places lower:
the neck, the crackling sternum.
Or even lower: great poetry of the feet
thrills me, calloused and sour, syllables
entering the soles of the feet like broken
glass, rising to temper the ankles
and transfigure the calves and thighs.
Spanish poets have been known
to scrape the soles of their feet for
inspiration, and sometimes
draw up through the bowels
a resin that is released
from their sloe-black eyes.
And the poets of the minor organs,
these are the experts on what is aged in the liver
and spleen, each with its own
different colored vinegar.
Poets of the head are like
sparrows in a burning house,
flying up into the attic, darting
madly into a skylight ruined
with feathers, streaked with red.
Whereas poets of the chest,
and the dumb-bell belly,
sing from the cold femur and hot
saddle of hip, burrow down the paths
they rose from, and disperse
in all twelve directions under
the moon and turbulent sun.

Rick Pernod is the founder and director of Exoterica, a Bronx-based literary organization. He currently teaches creative writing at City College in New York. Rick has won The Alice B. Sellers Award from The Academy of American Poets and the 2002 BRIO Award for poetry from The Bronx Council on the Arts. He has work appearing or forthcoming in The New Orleans Review, New Voices: The Academy of American Poets Anthology, The Alaska Quarterly Review, The Paterson Literary Review, Rattapallax, The American Book Review, and Poetry in Performance. He is also the leader and vocalist of the spoken word band, The House of Pernod, which recently released a CD on Aperetif Records.

Ann Hutt Browing:

AN ORDINARY LIFE


When she awoke in the morning
She threw back her all cotton sheet,
Cotton woven in a far off country
By a dark skinned girl chained to her large loom.
When she went into her kitchen
She ground beans to brew her coffee,
Beans grown, roasted in a far off country
Where the tall trees were cleared off the land
For the coffee bushes to be planted
And tended by boys not in school and men
Old before their time and where all the waste
From treating the beans is flushed and dumped
In the river, adding that detritus
To the human waste and chemical run
Off already there in the gray water
And where downstream others used the water,
That dark water, for cooking and bathing.

After her children boarded the school bus,
Wearing clothing made in the Philippines,
Mauritania, Taiwan, a hodge-podge
Of imports from other worlds, far off countries,
Where sweat shops flourished,
Filled with child workers,
She went shopping:
Guatemalan cantaloupes, Mexican tomatoes,
Chilean oranges, California lettuce,
Carolina rice, Michigan peaches,
Blueberries from Maine, all bought because
In her garden she grew hybrid tea roses,
Siberian iris, cross-bred daylilies in six colors,
Held down by pine bark, chipped in Oregon.

Then she roamed the market aisle marked
"Special," and bought a basket, its colors
Imitative of Mexican folk art, made in China,
The price suggesting child or prison labor
Dyed the fronds of grass, wove the basket
And attached the label.

She ate a quick lunch of a hamburger,
The ground beef from a far off country
Where the virgin forest was burned off
So cattle could graze on tropical grass,
The bun made from Canadian wheat
And the ketchup, again those Mexican tomatoes.
She drove home to prop up her feet
On the foam cushioned sofa, turn on the TV,
Assembled in Nicaragua,
In a maquiladora by a woman
Who rose at five a.m. to walk three kilometers
To the bus, who then rode twenty-five miles
To the factory in the tax free zone,
Who worked from eight to five
With a quarter of an hour to eat
Or use the toilet,
Who got home at eight o’clock
To bathe and feed her three children,
With eighteen cents an hour in her pocket
On good days.

The woman on the sofa
Watched two soap operas
As usual on a week day,
And ate ice cream,
American ice cream.
She liked American ice cream.
She lived an ordinary life.

____________________________________
AFTER SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

What happens now,
In the moments of our nights,
In the continuity of our days,
Shall be written in blood lines
Of darkened hearts, in the liquid
Gold plate of our broken souls,
In the long ligaments of naked limbs,
In the marrow of our fractured bones.
We stumble on with hesitant bodies;
We fall back, floundering.
How many are victims,
How many witnesses?
Can reason comprehend
The horror of explosions,
Lost lives of ordinary persons
Going about their ordinary work.
Hands touch and grip fast,
We embrace for soul’s sake.
Bond now and breathe together.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Take breath from autumn trees,
From ripe tomatoes on brown vines,
Grown old now, just as we
Are grown old
Before our time.

Ann Hutt Browning has two master’s degrees, one in psychology and one in architecture, four grown children, three grandchildren, and one husband of 43 years. Born in England, raised in southern California, she attended Radcliffe College, and has lived in Missouri, Kentucky, France, Macedonia, Chicago, Virginia and now Massachusetts. She and her husband, a retired English professor, operate Wellspring House in Ashfield, Massachusetts, a retreat center for writers and artists. Some of her poetry has appeared in the Carolina Quarterly, the Southern Humanities Review and the Dalhousie Review.

Angelo Verga:

78

The news story here: a bus-truck crash
On a thoroughfare near the Wal-Mart downtown,
The driver of the bus: dead.
56 years old, same age as me.
Married, nice guy, good worker
His passion, childlike, model trains.
Everywhere it is always the same.
The deceased was a family man
Much loved as a friend.
Did we expect only evil
People die? Did we dream
Everyone we love dies old, quiet
And asleep? Do we suppose
Our machines will always
guard over us?
The front-page picture
Is of a trauma team gathered
At the accident scene,
Hands on hips.
I can almost hear them
Shaking their heads in disbelief.
This is less than a month in advance
Of The World Trade twin towers
Collapse, 5 hours away, in my city.
Do we believe our cogs & gears
Will be deflectors? or, tell me,
does metal attract metal?
__________________________________________

WHAT A YOUNG BLACK MAN SAID TO ME
AS I BACKED AWAY FROM A TOKEN BOOTH
AT GUN HILL ROAD @ noon ON September 11, 2001

The niggers drop two buildings & the Pentagon with planes
And you want to take the subway into Manhattan today?
Excuse me, mister, but are you a freak,
Dumb, or crazy?

__________________________________________________
2-18-02


Chambers Street
after we sign
our lease

late winter
afternoon,
sunset hitting
the top of the
gold Municipal Building
temple to a yellow lineup of
bank gods, a carved inscription
says eagle-eyed white men
grabbed this defensible tip
of Manhattan in 1664.Hence the name "Wall" Street,
the stockade to keep out the primitives whose land it had been.
and
in all 3 watery directions "Battery" meant
canons trained to control the sea
against cousins & raiders.
We walk north & west
hunting for food.
What we find
among the soldiers & the tourists
taking snapshots of what's no longer there
are sidewalk sellers of small black velvet
'Lincoln's & "Elvis's & dust from
the former twin thrusts of
The Center of World Trade.
and then pungent takeout stands & narrow
store fronts of dark
ethnic food places: Sushi,
Thai rolls, Kashmiri breads.
The enemy within: falafel, grape
leaves, garlic, pita. Hunger,
servitude,
greed,
the void, emptiness
the absence of
what matters.
none, no one, not even we who eat,
wants to deal
with that.
_______________________________________________________

august 28, 2002

you're not exactly proud of yourself, are you?
you are standing in City Hall Park
surrounded by pigeons and paratroopers
preoccupied as always with baseline burdensome bullshit
trying to figure out how to reduce your tax bite
a better way to segregate dark socks from light
how to attract females with perky nipples
and it happens, it happens again, the papers
fall from the sky as they do now and yet again
for almost a year falling, the papers flutter from the sky
you guess from the explosion that atomized the avaricious towers
the collapsing of their floors one after another
the folding down of their walls in smoke & roar
the almost sonic boom that hurled their electrons --
where? to outer space, no, thru a door that opens & closes
as if by devil's whim, the caprice of this one lives, this one
dies, this one can't make it to an elevator
and the glowing doorknobs are so far away there's no turn in them
and the tickertape parade papers stick like butterflies on a pot of honey
a little this way a little that, and you reach for one
the one that lands on your mercury & asbestos laden shoes
your ridiculous tasseled loafers
and sticks there like blood, like an order
by the local military governor, and, and
it's blank, blank on both sides, and perfectly white
like a Saigon or Hanoi gluey death reminder
and it smells of plastic & iodine
and it leaves a powdery footprint on your long-lined palm
like an invitation to something you won't be able to find
yet can't help but squint for, a gravesite with your name on it.


____________________________________________________
2005


after the executions began in Yankee Stadium
it was harder to fill the spaces
in which we used to converse, the intervals
between platitudes became unjumpable
and even those of us who talk for a living
(bartenders, door people, beggars, teachers)
fell silent, like dogs that had seen a murder
or the children of bad marriages.
the executions themselves were crude
the naked criminals were electrocuted
as the crowd roared and planes flew
overhead, this always in the day light
so as to not interfere with baseball
or rap concerts or wet T-shirt contests
or papal visits, Babylon in 300 languages.
the criminals were terrorists
of various sects: sons, grandmothers,
sun glass vendors, people who copied software
turbaned cripples, those discovered without their TV sets on
people who prepared meals at home,
biologists who had gone anarchist or free-lance.
seats for the executions were rough duckettes
to get: scalpers and lotteries drove the prices up
but some bleacher benches were given away
on talk radio programs for callers who correctly guessed
which of the brown countries we were at war against this week.
sun glass vendors, people who copied software
turbaned cripples, those found without their TV sets on
people who prepared meals at home,
biologists who had gone anarchist or free-lance.
after the executions in Yankee stadium
it was more difficult to fill the spaces
in which we used to talk.
silent, like dogs that had seen a stabbing
or the children of bad marriages,
grilled pieces of Babylonian beef in center field.

Angelo Verga's poems have appeared in scores of journals including The Village Voice, Poetry Motel, Rattle, The Brooklyn Rail, The Massachusetts Review, Chiron Review, Home Planet News, The New Orleans Poetry Forum, Blue Mesa Review, Paterson Literary Review, Graffiti Rag, New York Quarterly. He has three collections: Across The Street From Lincoln Hospital (New School, 1995), The Six O'clock News (Wind, 1999), and forthcoming A Hurricane Is (Jane Street Press, 2002). He received a Bronx Council on the Arts BRIO grant, is a founding member of Against the Tide: Poets for Peace, and curates the numerous Cornelia Street Cafe readings in New York City. Verga was a 2001 Saltonstall Foundation Writing Resident (for poetry). He is the poetry coordinator for the Clearwater Hudson River Revival Festival. Information on his readings series is at: www.corneliastreetcafe.com

Maria Terrone

WHAT CANNOT BURN
--"My waiters just stand around, stationary like candles."
--Chinatown restaurant owner, two weeks after 9/11
--
quoted in The New York Times


I stand wherever I find myself,
a secret soldier wearing pain
across my heart like a too-tight bandolier.
Half a mile away, the ground still smolders;
on the world's far side,
the sky flares and burns down.
But I stand wherever I find myself,
a statue in churches' shadowed niches
after all the crowds have gone,
wooden watchman
on a winter's graveyard shift,
sentry rooted at the back of sidewalk shrines.
I just stand around like an unlit wick,
a frozen stick surrounded by flame.


Maria Terrone's first book of poetry, The Bodies We Were Loaned, was published by The Word Works last Spring, and her work appears in The Feminist Press anthology, The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Writers on Food and Culture. Recipient of the 2000 Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize and the 1998 Allen Tate Memorial Award, Ms. Terrone has had work in magazines including Poetry, The Hudson Review, and Poet Lore.


Maria Mazziotti Gillan

DEADLINE

"From a remote blip
on a radar Screen, it has grown
to the size of a cancer."
Janunary 15, Midnight, 1991
Radio Bagdad reports that Saddam Hussein says
"We are ready for anything."
All diplomatic initiatives have failed.
War is inevitable.
At the peace rally, a marcher
waves the sign "War is patriotic."
The announcer seems disappointed
that the war deadline passes
without a shot being fired
though he gives us a count
of tanks and missles
on each side, and of young men and women
waiting in a desert so many miles from home.
Behind the announcer, Bagdad is exotic
and beautiful.
The war machines shift
and move into high gear,
A young black soldier says
"There's no question in my mind;"
this is where I want to be."
"People are scared," says the blonde soldier
with the large blue eyes.


In the mosque, they are chanting.
The air is cold, clear;
there is no sign of a gathering storm
though the deadline approaches.
I think of how the moment
when a war begins
is like any other.
In my Hawthorne living room,
I would not know it had happened,
the sound of the first shot
would not reach me
except through the screen
that I watch compulsively
and in fear
for all those young people
from Dubuque and Bellville,
Lafayette, and Mobile
who have perhaps never been away
from their cities and towns
and who now hunker down
in the desert to wait.


Old men in Washington decide
what will be and not be.
The gong of the past
clangs and clangs.
We walk into quicksand
with our eyes wide open.
We are sure we will prevail.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan is the Director of the Creative Writing Program at Binghamton University-the State University of New York where she teaches poetry. She is the founder and the Executive Director of the Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College. She has publishedseven books of poetry, including The Weather of Old Seasons (Cross-Cultural Communications), Where I Come From and Things My Mother Told Me (Guernica).She is co-editor with her daughter Jennifer of three anthologies published by Penguin/Putnam: Unsettling America, Identity Lessons, and Growing Up Ethnic In America and is the editor of The Paterson Literary Review. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Poetry Ireland, The New York Times, Connecticut Review, and Rattle, among other journals and anthologies. She has won the Fearing Houghton Award(2001), the May Sarton Award from the Poetry Club of New England, and two New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowships in Poetry. Herlatest book is, Italian Women in Black Dresses (Guernica, 2002.)

D.H. Melhem

SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, WORLD TRADE CENTER, AFTERMATH


1.
Under a hard blue sky
a white shroud rises.


Uptown
air turns acrid.
I close my windows.


Cloud messages
from the plume of hell,
I breathe you, taste the mist—
concrete dust, chairs, shoes,
files, photos, handbags, rings, a doll,
upholstery, breakfast trays,
body parts and parting words
and screams.


Blood of workers, passengers, police—
O firemen running up stairs
past people streaming
from a tower poised to crash—


I breathe you flowing
into the ceaseless sacrifice
of innocents.


My TV exhales frantic images:


Have you seen her? Have you seen him?
Everybody loved her. He was my friend.
Anybody seen them?


Anger rolls over grief and prayers.
"Vengeance!" echoes from toxic caves.


Like spores of a giant fungus,
rage races through the air.
"Vengeance!" the people cry.
All die again.


2.

Union Square Park, Two Weeks Later:
A Pilgrimage


Sunday,
a day as sunny as that other.
Slowly, beneath the trees,
along wire fences garlanding the grass
with flowers, candles, prayers,
love messages on colored papers, photographs,
I walk with vigilant mourners winding past.


Level with branches, George Washington,
astride a horse, carries a fireman’s flag
and a peace flag tipped red with a Valentine heart:
"One people."
Invocations anoint his pedestal:
"Love One Another, Give Peace a Chance."


Seated before him on the ground,
Buddhists in unison strike their prayer drums.
Nearby, a couple collect for the Firemen’s Fund.
Across the park, pipers and drummers
march past Abraham Lincoln,
proclaim "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."


Later, in a drug store stocked with filter masks
I buy a box. Each one disclaims protection
from toxic dust and poison gas.


Drawn to my City’s visible wound
I go downtown.
The subway’s nearly empty. I climb
into streets without traffic, buildings powdered white.
Tourists and residents aim their cameras.


On Fulton Street
I join the pilgrimage downhill.


Mask ready, I taste the faintest breath
of acrid smoke, invisible incense
of cries and clamor
still peopling the air.
A woman pulls a suitcase,
a man pulls his.


Which one returns to a ghost apartment,
which one flees?


I reach the crowd and Broadway barricades.
Girders, twisted and wrenched into a pile,
lie helpless beside a jagged crater.
Distant survivor buildings at the rim
face the great square of chaos
a sixteen-acre graveyard. Earth
must have birthed canyons like this,
quaking tectonic rage.


A yellow crane poises high
in homage to the standing shell—
that spire, that Coliseum,
Tower of Pisa leaning grief
against a phantom Twin.


Ground Zero, ground of martyrs, crushed and burned,
their screaming blood bones ashes pulverized
into cement clouds wind carries
through the city to the world.
The crowd, in hushed and rumbling awe,
slows down to get a better view.
"Keep moving!" a bullhorn shouts.


Into the roiling space
an old sign on a building calls:

A GOOD TIME TO INVEST!


A policeman who had been there from the first
explains to a visitor why people jumped from windows,
those whom a child had witnessed
as birds afire. I wonder if
they’d wildly hoped for flight.


We speak of gratitude.
"I feel the love," he says.


The air falls heavier.
I press a mask against my nose.
My eyes smart a little.
I pass the glass façade of an empty store.
On pedestals, new shoes
display their dust.
A lone pub signals with a scrawl,
"We’re Open!"


My skin begins to hurt.
I need to find a subway
and take home
my heartload.


The train shuns regular stops.
At 96th Street
I find a trash can,
throw the mask away.

 

Epilogue, Earth Speaks:


You blast omnivorous graves
where millions in memory lie,
you foul my pleasant air,
you level my mountains of ore.


With greed your guiding law,
and vengeance as your creed,
your justice is suspect,
your mercy is select.
All life deserves respect.


Confront the suffering
you mutually inflict.
Share your crusts of bread—
loaves will multiply.
Staunch my terrible wounds
and heal your own thereby.


Let barren hearts accept
seeds from compassionate rain.


Love is the sternest prayer.
All life deserves respect

D. H. Melhem. is the author of five books of poetry, including Country, a book-length poem sequence about the United States, and Rest in Love, an elegy for her immigrant mother. Publications also include a novel, Blight; two scholarly works, the first comprehensive study of Gwendolyn Brooks and an introduction to six Black poets (both from Univ. Press of Kentucky); a musical drama based on her poems about the West Side of Manhattan, and over 50 published essays. Editor of three anthologies, her Notes on 94th Street was the first poetry book in English by an Arab American woman. Among her numerous awards for poetry and prose are a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and an American Book Award for Heroism in the New Black Poetry: Introductions and Interviews. In 2001 she received a C.U.N.Y. Ph.D. Alumni Association Special Achievement Award. She serves as vice-president of the International Women's Writing Guild. (Web site: <http://dhmelhem.home.att.net> These poems were first published in The World Healing Book, Beyond Borders: Iceland, 2002

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