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Photo: "Cover Up" © 2006 by Rochelle Ratner

Poetry guest edited by Sharon Olinka

with Photos by Rochelle Ratner

Click to: Introduction: "Rich and Poor "by Sharon Olinka

Poems by Paul Zarzyski+ Ray Gonzalez+Rochelle Ratner+John Flynn+ Edwin Wilson+Fred Voss+Wang Ping+Claudia Williams+Wanda Coleman+Julie Kane+Philip Levine+Alev Adil+Daniela Gioseffi+ D.Nurkse +Sharon Olinka

Click names below to poets' poems & bio.notes, or scroll down.

Paul Zarzyski |Ray Gonzalez |Rochelle Ratner |John Flynn | Edwin Wilson |Click to more poems by Fred Voss...D.Nurkse...etc.

RICH and POOR: Feature, 2006-07

Manners by Paul Zarzyski

On a morning when your northern breath smokes
you shake hands with the weathered
old rancher wearing gloves. They hold
what little heat his bones still stoke,
cushion the vicious bite
of rheumatoid arthritis. Boisterous
greeting billowing
into a huge plume, your blue steel-jawed paw
gets the quick-draw drop on him. You are not
yet seasoned enough to know pain’s drumroll
rousting you long before dawn
seven days a week, the same cadence
he is lucky to work or walk off
by dusk. Yellow and red cotton,
his chore glove cocoons your hand
in a warmth that flashes you
back to thick wool
mittens your mother knitted. Didn’t they soothe
you beautifully until cruel puberty
bamboozled you into becoming cool,
into swapping soft for macho? His soft words,
delivered almost invisibly,
barely a whisper of steam behind them,
surprise you. Excuse the glove,
he declares with the air of a knight
still in armor after his long ride
home. You nod without knowing
what you are bowing to
is wisdom, the lyrical kinship of skin
against skin, two hands together in one
clasp of applause and nothing but
hard work’s firm grip in silence in between.

Paul Zarzyski has received a Western Heritage Award for Poetry from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. He has performed his work at the Library of Congress, and on Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion." "Manners" is from Wolf Tracks on the Welcome Mat (Oreana Books, 2004) His website is www.paulzarzyski.com

The Dream of Tamales by Ray Gonzalez

The dream of tamales came back. I was hungry but I wasn’t as my sister and I waited I in my father’s car while he went inside the tortilla factory to buy dozens of fresh, hot tamales. When I stood on the car seat, I was buried in the steaming smell of oily masa, mounds of tamales rolling at my feet, covering me up to my chest, one or two moist husks clinging to my shirt like fresh wounds. The dream of tamales suffocated me but my sister and I sat in the car alone and ate them. We loved the pie of abandonment and the red chili, the spiced clay from hands that fed us in that waiting car when our father did not come back. When I woke, my sister’s plate was empty and mine was full, a dozen more tamales waiting for me to get out of the car and cross the busy street into the tortilla factory to search for my father. As I sat up, my greasy fingers peeled leaves to take the first hot bite, the meat burning on my tongue that loved what was fed to me

Ray Gonzalez is the author of nine books of poetry. His most recent collection is Consideration of the Guitar (BOA Editions,2005.)He has received numerous awards, including a PEN Josephine Miles Award, and is a full professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

New York Harbor by Rochelle Ratner

“Because of high refurbishing costs, the city has rejected a plan to place homeless families on refitted cruise ships anchored in New York Harbor.” -- NY Times, June 2003

Hate to say this folks, but the free ride’s been cancelled. There’s too much ice in Alaska, The Bahamas are too hot. This ship’s been leaking water, drop by drop, for nearly fifteen years. You wouldn’t want to sleep here, anyway. Sort of has that musty smell. Not good for those tossing and turning, either. Please now, be good boys and girls, and leave, don’t make us chase you off. What do you think this is, Disney World? To be honest, you’re the ones who smell. Go sleep in the park, but don’t forget to leave by the midnight curfew. Or find a dirty blanket and curl up on some church steps. I recommend Presbyterian. Better yet, take the kids and go sleep in the public assistance office, you know, the building two blocks down on lower Broadway, right next to Liberty Travel.

Rochelle Ratner is the author of two novels and thirteen books of poetry. Her latest poetry collections are House and Home and Balancing Acts (Marsh Hawk Press, 2004, 2006.) She is the editor of Bearing Life: Women's Writings on Childlessness (The Feminist Press, 2000) and more info and links to her writing can be found on www.rochelleratner.com

Leo, The River, And A Doughnut by John Flynn

That old fire station built sturdier than an oak tree,
they want to pave it and put in another drive-through doughnut shop,
and why the hell not? Doughnuts are what we really want.
And for no explained reason every spring
fish are extinguished in the river, dead perch and sunfish and gar
bubbling to the surface bloated silver aglow, their white bellies shining.
And up one side of the riverbanks and down the other
paper signs are stapled to telephone poles.
Skull and crossbones and that big word: Forbidden.


Forbidden. Yes.
I’ll buy a doughnut so I’ll feel kingly.
I’ll buy a pole so I can fish for myself.
If only there were fish in the river.


John Flynn is an ESL teacher who was in the Peace Corps in Moldova. He also writes fiction, and is the author of A Dozen Lemons in Autotropolis (Pudding House Publications, 2005) and won an award from the New England Poetry Club.

Charlestown by Edwin Wilson

Itching to fish
with ‘gunna’ Bill
at Charlestown,
in a corrugated shed
reserved for chooks,
my dinkum mate
flicked clay
at passing cars,
was often chased
but never caught –
returned to live
beside his lake
on chemo less than
once a month,
still barra-dreaming
of his next escape –
and at the pump
he looks like Tidge,
we share a heartland
of the separate –
the crackling heath
of Evans Head,
the green hills
round Goonellabah,
and I have workman’s hands.

Edwin Wilson is an Australian poet, born in 1942, who grew up in rural poverty in New South Wales. His "portrait of the poet as a child," The Mullimbimby Kid, was published in 2000 (Woodbine Press.) His Anthology: Collected Poems 1967-2002 was published in 2002
(Kardoorair Press.)

The above poems: Copyright © 2006 by their authors. All rights, including electronic, are reserved by the authors and may not be used without permission..

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