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WHERE AM I?

Consider the space / place / room / wherever you slept in last night. (If you didn’t sleep last night, or didn’t sleep indoors, consider the last night you slept indoors somewhere!) Consider where you were while you were asleep—the light, or darkness, the walls, the floor, the roof. Now, wake up. It’s the same place, but it’s not 2021 anymore. It’s 1921. What is this place now? Is it still there? If so, who’s in the space with you now? If it didn’t exist…well, something did. That spot on the map existed then. What was there? As you describe (in as much sensory detail as possible) your vision of that past that you inhabited in the future—that past that couldn’t likely imagine you…but you can imagine it (because you’re a poet!)—describe where YOU were in 1921.Describe where you were (this is imaginary, I suppose, unless you know!) in 1921. Was it a place? If so, describe it, too, in as much sensory detail as possible. If it was NO place, describe it in even more sensory detail. Then, describe in as much sensory detail as possible your last sleeping place, and yourself, and where you are, and who is in that space, in the year 2121. Use a word from this freewrite as the title of your poem.

Mitti, BY RUSHABH SHAH

2021
I never thought about sleep,
except for the fact that it always came.
I never thought about it because
it was always calm and peaceful
and something I never had to do on an empty stomach.
I was happy and
I was lucky;
To sleep in a snow white bed with my laptop beside me,
(the tv series I was watching miraculously paused)
with the AC temperature at 16 degrees,
in my own room in a duplex in a building
in the richest area of the richest city in the country.
My curtains were drawn and my lights were
resting. Thus, darkness engulfed the four corners of
my bed.
I was happy.
I was lucky.
(I fell asleep)

1921
(I woke up)
There was mitti1.
And before the first layer of cement
or the first brick had been laid,
for 40 years that mitti would breathe.
It would soak in the rainwater and
sprout flowers that were tall, thornless
and had the most desirable of plumages,
the kind that even the vultures above,
with their bass voice and majestic beak,
would be jealous of. The mitti,
even after long summers, would not crack.
It remained resilient, but would not lose its tenderness
such that when the tiger stalked,
her claws would sink in the soil;

when man tried to hold it,
it would slip, like silk, between his fingers;
and when the fruit fell from the tree,
it would not fall and split into two,
but land, gracefully, upon the Earth’s natural cushion.

I was there too.
Not exactly there, but I was someplace with mitti.
It gently brushed against my scales, from head to tail and
my skin felt cold as I meandered aimlessly until…
I couldn’t see it, but I could smell the metal;
Then,
I couldn’t hear it, but I could taste the smoke in the air.
My senses didn’t catch it, but I had sensed it,
right before it pierced through the venom that coursed through my veins.
I was in pain.
I was unlucky.

2121

The building had run its course,
and I found it in a heap of rubble.
It ablaze and the sky lit up by a red moon,
It had been torn down and it hadn’t been subtle.

From the corner of my eye,
I saw a small, dismembered man emerge.
With two bullet holes for tattoos
and blood in which his face was submerged.

As I walked up to him I eerily reminisced,
of a rusty smell, a smoky sensation in the air.
He said he was in pain and he said he needed help,
but something hissed in my ear, “leave him there”.

It hadn’t been misfortune and it hadn’t been luck,
because caring is a strength and ignorance costs.
Respect breeds respect, be good and you will get,
but we treated it like a game, a game that we just lost.

* 1 mitti: The uppermost layer of the Earth’s surface. Translates to soil.

 

 

Bearly Yiddish

A black bear greets me when I waken
feeling warm, then feeling shaken
off the sand where I was bakin’.

“No shvet ,” in Yiddish said the bruin,
“you haven’t landed in a ruin,
just shlofed the shlope of Shleping Bear Dune.”

--Hank Greenspan, UM emeritus

Sleeping Space by Jodi Ann Korte

Goose-plucked grey
Good hard frame
Softened, not
Silent floors
Simple ceilings
Slumber stands by
Desires counted
Dreams projected
Clasped hands
Cold feet
Buffered body heat
Between solid sheets
Dissimilar windows
Dawn or dusk
South-faced, east
Sun and moon
Soul shine
Same seasons
Separate centuries
Fortunate past
Future forecast
Now and then
Natural flow
As always, assured
Anchored time drifts
What has been
Will always be
Secured seams
Steady, we.

See sleep covered stars?
By S. Atticus O.

Time - 20

Washington tonight,
Hazeclouds pat down lights
name, number, state, little
streets lit: a DC semi-grid.

Clear evening, hazeclouds
Few stars show. Praise no.
Clarity above for individuals,
little hazecloud window: uni-verse,
further look across, less can see.
Together no. See it yet? No.

Starcovered rainlesssky
stained honeylessmoon,
Only (we I you us can tell)
Explain hazeclouds now.
Did they not know a hundred years
Or many more ago. Hazeclouds
did not write guestlesshouse Rumi
not paint starlessnight Van Gogh.
So go tell it on the mounain why I
Us we cannot see the stars
When they said all clear.

No view for all humanity.
For any. For filled is this horizon.
Puff on last bit of cigarette butt,
Know its bad but play roulette
Doing part to fill the atmosphere
and put it out hazeclouds
in that little jar there
little stars on the side,
and stumbly little self
find the way to bed.


Time - 19

Wake in the night.
Dry. Gasping ‘water’
Walk to the kitchen
Try to fill a glass.

It tastes murky, dirtyclean
The kinda found in streams
That run too close to town
Smaller city. Smaller than now.
Look at it - ‘old my glass’.
Look around - ‘old my house’
Old chipping paint unchipped
Doorframes and windowpanes
Wavy, dirtyclean wavy look
Out into the dirtyclean street
In Columbia Heights, familiar
Spanglish rises to the dirtyclean
At three in morning, louder,
Less upities yelling back.

Openning to seemingly
New balcony est. 1921
Outfits of strangers are zootsuits
Not sweatsuits. Oxford boots
Not beanboots. The lamps
On 13th street flicker, bickering.
One blows out, flames licking.
Quieting the street as people
Disappear. Peering down last
Oil lamp flicks out, the sound
Of silence drawing focus
From street to stars.

Multitudes more. Whoareyou?
dirtyclean from the chimneys cannot
Cover you yet, teensy April stars
Blanket the capital in twinkles
Bless you we need it, twenties
Are hard, feed us please stars
There are wouldacouldas there
In nights home we all share
Starynight in AmericaParis
Guesthouse in USPersia

Reach for a cigarette
Its a nightcap, dirtyclean excuse

To stay a teeny longer to chat
With the tiny suspended sky lamps.
Must roll your own dirtyclean
a hundred Years ago before
no more stars come out….
Roll. Light. Sad. Stop. Put out.
Stumbly tiny self, go back to bed.


Time - 21

Wake up in a room tinted chrome
Looks like home but chrome
Still dark through window
Mini, round, un-open/close, same
As airplanes but plated chrome

Rush back to the sink chrome
Drink water out of chrome
Open that door. Chrome.
Outside, no words but chrome
No people, no spanglish
No sounds, no smoke.
Low lights colored chrome
Low flying chrome drone
Knows you’re awake
Far less noise less now
Than when you sleep.
Look up to the sky dome
No stars, no clouds,
Lessstarlessnight Van No
Lessguestlesshouse Rumiless.

Bubblechrome around capital
Only moaning air filters
Keep out polluted world
Flailing in distress. See it yet?
Pick up cigarette pack
Chrome plated case.
Coulda gone back to sleep.

Don’t worry, death cured
Cancer before the world
Cured itself of human race.