Welcome to Issue four of Word Soup. This issue's art includes photography by Rhode Island photographer Jan Armor. Jan has this to say about himself on his website:
I am a fine art photographer and educator professionally involved for over thirty years.
I love the medium as much now as I did when I was a teen.
I have a seeking eye.
I love beauty and form and shape and line and texture.
I love motion; I also love symmetry.
I love color and contrast: black and white, sharp and soft, happy and sad.
I love thoughtfulness and intention.
I love the effort to communicate something profound through photography.
I am known for my easy going but fully committed teaching style.
My workshops are informative experiences that will challenge participants.
Contact me for details on a particular event, or to schedule a tutorial in your home or down on my lake.
8 Indian Trail North, Wakefield, RI 02879 Ph: 401-783-8232
Jan is not only a superb photographer, but he is also a superb human being. These photographs were taken at his own expense to document the hunger problem in Rhode Island and to celebrate the folks who volunteer at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank to sort food for recipients. I love the camaraderie the photos illustrate. We are all together in this world. We must help each other with the basic human need for food. Thank you to Jan for his allowing me to use his work for this issue. Take a look at Jan's other exquisite work on his website: http://www.armorphoto.com/ and his exquisite slide show: http://www.armorphoto.com/-hunger
So with no further delay, let's jump right into the terrific poems for this issue. Poets include Colette Tennant, Jeff Burt, Frank Geurrandeno, Richard Kempa, and Miriam Weinstein.
Plenus by Colette Tennant
I don’t want to see body parts on my food –
no eyes staring blankly at the meringue ceiling,
no tail missing its slow sway through salty water,
no fins, directionless and still.
No feet please,
and no feather remnants or
quills singed and sky-less.
Even pigs, bless them,
no snouts or curly tails tucked in plastic
in the 70s Winn Dixie meat counter,
no pig feet pickled away
from the soft squish of earth,
no concrete reminders
of how much hunger costs.
Colette Tennant’s first book of poems Commotion of Wings was published in 2010. Her poems have appeared in Natural Bridge, Southern Poetry Review, Dos Passos Review, and others. One of her poems is currently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
A Man Wakes to the Sound of the San Lorenzo River by Jeff Burt
A man wakes to the sound of the San Lorenzo River
and his second-hand sleeping bag moist
and his face rancid from touching it
and he doesn’t think of love, he doesn’t long for love,
he doesn’t expect that love like a cutout on the page
of life will be restored by a patch of paper
fallen at his feet, he rises and wants a cup of coffee
and a day-old bagel that hurts his teeth to pull
and a dry pair of socks and a place to wash.
He hears words of love gushing from the songs
of singers, preachers, and advocates
like rain from a roof with oversized gargoyles
but love will not gush from anywhere for him, not in words
and not in flesh but in the slight and offhand manner
in which a society can afford to remember.
Let me withhold words of love that are empty of it.
Let me put my hand on his shoulder and steady his hands
around the cup and say his name, say only his name.
Audio version: https://soundcloud.com/user787213206/a-man-wakes-to-the-sound-of-the-san-lorenzo-river-by-jeff-burt
Vapor by Jeff Burt
His curled breath twisted into dawn,
a writhing transparent vapor,
told me he’d been working hard
all night to stay warm,
a cup of coffee would keep the shivers
down he said, but he looked like glass
that trembles when a door shuts,
that keeps quivering until you touch it
to still the visible vibrations,
to quiet what one more hard slam will shatter.
Audio version: https://soundcloud.com/user787213206/vapor-by-jeff-burt
The Calling by Jeff Burt
If I can plunk the planks like piano keys,
make balance beams of iron tracks
until the earth has lost its daily dances;
if I can tramp the rail so far I’m alone
to things; if I can make the string of boxcars
on the spur like a home in the ubiquitous dark
by squatting in the dust and rust and dirt
of cold metal walls and wooden floors,
curling like fingers to a palm for warmth
and dream the locomotive of dawn, its bright
celestial clack in the cold black
medium of space, dream the dipper,
the drinking gourd, the California here
I come--when I wake and cannot see the sun
can I not rise and walk and risk the heart
to go out into confusion, and speak
to crows, gather wild lilies, spiderworts,
phlox, chicory, and ox-eye daisies,
everything which grows toward me,
shed the bondage and bandage of fear
for the rapture and rupture of joy,
burn as surrogate for the solar train,
the raucous roaring delicious imbecility
of creation, living an obligation to be light
Audio version: https://soundcloud.com/user787213206/the-calling-by-jeff-burt
Jeff Burt works in manufacturing. He has published in Thrice Fiction, Mobius: A Journal for Social Change, Star 82 Review, and other publications.
Trinity by Frank Geurrandeno
My mother must have drunk desert sand
out of the tin flask in her black leather purse
because the blood wouldn’t stop
coming out of her mouth.
She coughed and became a fountain
of crimson red and spotted yellow.
She was shaking
and shaking and shaking
her hands, as if begging to be set free.
Perhaps, as she used to starve,
it would be better than being here with us.
Frank Geurrandeno is a Roanoke College undergraduate studying Creative Writing and a columnist for The Brackety-Ack newspaper. Early in his career, he has found success with poetry and short fiction in various print and online publications, including The Rusty Nail for his short story "The Interlock," Dark Matter Journal for his short story '"The Robin's Birth" and poetry in The East Jasmine Review, Haiku Journal, and 50 Haikus. Frank also is featured in the anthology Voices from Smith Mountain Lake. During his breaks from college, Frank resides at his sister's lake-house in Wirtz, Virginia where he experiments with his writing.
Change in the Evening Commute by Mark Danowsky
It’s that point in the evening commute
where volume bottlenecks
or that guy who yells
(though no one ever responds)
Today there is no loud music
with the wrong words or feel
or the maddening unpredictability
of hearing only the yeller
or yelled at on the phone
Today the man on the highway median
stands taller, his eyes less vacant--
still, he bears a scrawled sign
HOMELESS VET – NEEDS FOOD – GOD BLESS
Today is different
because all drivers slow down
and one after another
hand this man a folded bill
Audio version: https://soundcloud.com/magikmark7/change-in-the-evening-commute
Pride or Prejudice by Mark Danowsky
After days, then years
headless and armless
rifle through dumpsters
I carefully package goods
in a brown paper bag
staple it shut
write “FREE” in bold
then leave it nearby
the dumpster, as if
this makes it obvious
this is almost trash
but not for you
by which I mean
it’s for you
but it’s trash
and then surprised
no one opened it
no one dared to
like the sealed box
marked “Home Depot”
must have fallen
off a delivery truck
even me, who
can’t let go
managed to let it
remain a mystery
but wasn’t that the point
in Mulholland Drive?
probably no one knows
except maybe my old neighbor
who said she was an original
Gray Panther, prowled nights
setting up makeshift housing
for strays in the worst
of winter, like the retired tenants
in Four Freedoms
who fed local strays
and still feeds them
even after the one year
management tried to stop them
by poisoning a whole litter
Audio version: https://soundcloud.com/magikmark7/pride-or-prejudice
Mark Danowsky’s poetry has appeared in Apiary, Alba: A Journal of Short Poetry, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Red River Review, Right Hand Pointing, Snow Monkey and The New Verse News. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Mark currently lives in a van down by the Susquehanna River. He works for a private detective agency and is assistant copy editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal (svjlit.com).
The One Among the Many by Richard Kempa
I’m striding across the main room in Penn Station
to get a bagel and coffee for the train ride home
when a voice, made familiar by my weekend in Manhattan,
falls upon my ears: “Any change to spare, sir?”
The answer’s out before I even see him: my hand
a shield between us, “sorry buddy, not this time,”
and then I see him: brown curls framing a thin nose,
pinched cheeks; clear forehead, clean eyes, pink lips--
like the John the Baptist painting in the Met, I think
surely the one among the many I should give to!
But my feet, not having slowed one bit, have past him.
I’ll catch him on the way back, I resolve, but of course
two minutes later on the way back he’s gone.
In and out the ticket lines, bathrooms, phone booths,
shoe-shine stands I weave, the silver hot in my pocket.
Oh, I’m ready to give. Where are you when I need you?
But nowhere in the vast antechamber can I find
any of the wretched of the earth
to indebt themselves to me.
Audio version: https://soundcloud.com/rick-kempa/the-one-among-the-many-by-rick?utm_source=soundcloud&utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=email
Rick Kempa lives in Rock Springs, Wyoming, where he teaches writing and philosophy at Western Wyoming Community College. For additional information, please visit rickkempa.com
We Called Them Bums by Miriam Weinstein
When I was young, the misfits
scattered around town. Caught,
during the day
on a park bench,
at dusk into the forest-like
swath of land brushing
the railroad tracks, emerging
at daybreak to pick through trash,
scavenge in the alleys, appear
out of nowhere, and ask: loose change?
Today, the hopeless and the homeless
are a regular sight, at street corners, store fronts,
and freeway exits. They stand silently, hold
cardboard signs with penciled appeals
and God Bless signatures.
This morning, the thermometer registers
minus three degrees. Stopped
at a traffic light, I look
at a man standing
on a strip
of trampled snow
four feet from me.
and bare handed,
he clutches a sign written
in a child-like scrawl: Hungry--
His eyes meet mine. I reach for my bag, hope
the light will turn green. Extending my arm, I offer
a few bills. Thank you ma’am, almost lost,
between the rumble of idling engines.
Best Friends by Miriam Weinstein
Whose idea was it to open that new box of felt tip
Magic Markers? I yanked out the red one, Sally pulled
at the blue one, then, all the markers slid
onto the floor of the Ladies Room, and in a frenzy
of fun we decorated the toilet stalls: Sally loves Joey
with a big red heart around the letters and an arrow
piercing it. True Love with an identical design.
Oblivious to the commotion we caused,
who heard the door fly open, who saw the uniformed
clerk enter. Marched up stairs to the manager, told:
Actions have consequences. Mom, so ashamed,
I never expected such behavior from you.
It was clear Sally was the problem.
Actions have consequences buzzed like an angry
bee all night long. Saturday morning at Woolworth’s,
cleaning supplies in hand paid for with next week’s
allowance money, we scrubbed the entire
bathroom, all signs of our pre-teen love
Sally went on to meet trouble. With boys,
with alcohol, with work as a stripper
at a bar across town. Sally went on to forget
actions have consequences. Plagued
with an untethered temper, she turned friends
and fellow workers to foes; plagued
with untreated mental illness, she fueled fires
in her family. When Sally took unpaid
leave to care for her terminally ill mother,
she was terminated. Sally flared, raged
out of control and plunged. Fifty dollars left,
she told me last week. Eligible for disability,
she never applied, eligible for social security,
she’s clueless what to do. Food stamps
won’t pay for toilet paper.
Awake before dawn I see Sally
homeless and on the street. Shards
of glass surround her feet.
Miriam Weinstein has had poems published in the anthology The Heart of All That Is: Reflections on Home published by Holy Cow Press, The Chinook Book, and "The Quotable", Issue 11: Memory. She is a recent graduate of the Loft Literary Center (Minneapolis, MN) two-year apprenticeship program in poetry and her mentor was Jude Nutter.