What Catches the Light | poem

What Catches the Light

I press the handle of a knife into his hand
and he scrapes the shimmer of salmon,
the red flesh face down against his palm,
where the scales collect like sooted snow.

He speaks with a voice low like dusk,
wipes the blade clean with his fingers
tells a story of the Red Sea, thick with fish.
When he mentions his father, his heart

thickens in his throat, and when we get to his own blood
count how many years we’ll have together.
A sea of blood, his blood, antibodies
swimming in his veins.

I can’t remember the names of the fish,
only how he scrapes with a surgeon’s precision,
feeling for what he cannot see but knows is there

preparing this meal for us
while the sky silvers outside the window
and he talks about death
but I think he is talking about love.

[With gratitude to the editors at Red Paint Hill Journal, who originally published this poem.]

“Valentine”

The mail has come, as I was thinking of you

I was wondering about the man that delivered your letter

 

when the dogs barked, I didn’t think anything of it

was his day suddenly made inexplicably better

 

but I meant to say earlier that I didn’t miss it

when your letter fell into his bag 

 

when you said I should watch for the mail,

perhaps his shoulders suddenly happy and relaxed 

 

only I didn’t know quite what you meant

and the dog down the street didn’t jump the fence 

 

I just held onto it, slipped it into my pocket carefully.  Now

I bet his wife suddenly called and said something kind

 

I have a sweet mouth that is a little on fire –

the rain held off and he could even turn off the heat 

 

it must be all the way up into my eyes as I write this.

because it warmed up more than predicted.

 

Chocolate, chilies, cherries.  I can hardly write.

Now his feet don’t hurt and he’s even humming a tune

 

But if I could get to you right now, if I could get to you,

he hasn’t thought of in years- probably jazz– 

 

I would surely kiss you all the way to next week,

and he hums and smiles and maybe whistles, too

 

until your lips were raw, ‘til you begged me to stop

even when he turns the corner

 

to let you breathe, to let you eat, or speak

he keeps smiling, his heart light

 

and you will taste like chocolate and chilies and cherries, too

all the way, all the way, all the way home.  

 

***

First published in Pine Song. Winner of first place for the 2016 Thomas H. McDill Award, judged by James McKean, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

***

 

 

 

Congratulations to Iman Dancy, 2017 North Carolina Poetry Out Loud Champion

I’ve just gotten back from the 2017 National Finals for Poetry Out Loud, held on April 25-26, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at the Renaissance Dupont Circle and Lisner Auditorium on the GWU campus. What an incredible event.

With Sharon Hill, Arts in Eduction Director at the NC Arts Council, Iman Dancy, Juliet Shepard.

Our North Carolina state champion, Iman Dancy, did an excellent job performing her poems. (“Learning to Love America” and “On Virtue.”) In the regional semi-finals, she made the first cut and had the chance to recite her third poem, “I am Offering This Poem.”

I was inspired to select “Learning to Love America” because it really allowed me to step into the shoes of someone vastly different than me. As an African-American sixteen year old living in twenty-first century North Carolina, it can be difficult to imagine or relate to the experiences of an immigrant mother living in California during the latter twentieth century. But getting to recite Lim’s poem gives me a look into her life that I would not be granted otherwise. I selected “On Virtue” and “I Am Offering this Poem” because the light, positive writing styles (and beautiful simplicity of the second poem, especially) really drew me in. — Iman Dancy

She did not advance to the finals but did an outstanding job in the regional semifinals. For a first appearance at nationals, she held her own with her tremendous talent and poise.  We look forward to many great things from this amazing young person, and also congratulate Samara Huggins, the national winner from Georgia.

Watch Iman recite “I am Offering This Poem, by Jimmy Santiago Baca.

Poetry Out Loud is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. There are many, many partners who work together to support this transformative program, and the kids who get involved often say that the experience touches so many places in their lives, helps build their confidence and gives them opportunities they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

We are already thinking toward next year’s state championship. If you are a North Carolina high school English or theater teacher, consider this worthy program for your students. Read praise for this incredible program, and here’s a handy FAQ to see how Poetry Out Loud can fit in your classroom and lesson plan.  Feel free to contact me with your questions.

 

 

Pleased to be included in North Dakota Quarterly 83.1

I’m thrilled and honored to have a poem included in the latest issue of the North Dakota Quarterly. NDQ is a fine journal with a sterling reputation — please subscribe to them here.

This issue’s cover features starkly beautiful photography, and the content within is equally gorgeous yet harrowing.

North Dakota Quarterly is pleased to announce the release of our newest issue, Volume 83.1. Chuck Kimmerle’s lovely black and white photographs point to the chilly and sometimes chilling themes found in this Winter issue. On the cover, lines of leafless trees stand against the bleak backdrop of snow covered fields near Grand Forks, North Dakota. Stories and poems often echo that motif. [More.]

Deepest thanks to NDQ poetry editor Heidi Czerwiec.

cover-83_1

Essay Contest for H.S. Football Players on Domestic Violence

Jacar Press Logo

In order to bring more awareness to the issue of domestic violence within the football culture, and open up the conversation with young players, Jacar Press, a community active press, and Women Writers of the Triad are teaming up to host an essay competition for high school football players on “Why Domestic Violence is Wrong.”

Student essays may be submitted in the body of an e-mail sent to jacarassist@gmail.com.  While there is no fee to enter, we suggest a $1 submission donation. Winning essay will be awarded a $75 prize, and all proceeds raised will go to the local domestic violence shelter in the winning writer/athlete’s hometown.  Submissions are open from September 30-November 30.

Donations can be made here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards

or mailed to:
2014 D.V. Essay Competition
P.O. Box 4345
Cary, NC 27519

________________________________________________


Submission Guidelines

1. Deadline for submission is November 30, 2014.

WHITE_FB_ProfilePicture_WWOT_JUN42.  There is no submission fee for participation, but a $1 donation is suggested. Please use the Paypal “Donate” button above.

3.  Any U.S. high school football player is eligible to enter.

4.  Essays may be sent in the body of an e-mail addressed to jacarassist@gmail.com.  (No attachments, please.)

5.  Winning essay will be awarded $75.00, and all proceeds raised through donations will be given to the local domestic violence shelter in the winning writer/athlete’s hometown.  Author retains all rights to the work, but we will ask permission to also send a copy to local newspaper(s) and/or relevant blogs.

Send any questions you may have through the form below.

The 2014 Citizen Diplomacy Summit and Building Cultural Bridges in the Social Media Age

Imagine if everyone got involved?

I’m honored to have been invited to the panel last night for the 2014 Citizen Diplomacy Summit  in Cary, North Carolina, at The Cary Downtown Theater.  The panel was moderated by Dr. Calvin Hall from NCCU, and included Leila Bekri, who works in promoting diplomacy and cultural exchanges for an international leadership program, Leslie Huffman, who founded LOL Marketing, and Wesley Lo, an international student exchange advocate from NC State University.  The panel theme was Building Cultural Bridges in the Social Media Age.  Learn more about the panelists here.

“Citizen diplomacy is the concept that the individual has the right, even the responsibility, to help shape U.S. foreign relations, ‘one handshake at a time.’ Citizen diplomats can be students, teachers, athletes, artists, business people, humanitarians, adventurers or tourists. They are motivated by a responsibility to engage with the rest of the world in a meaningful, mutually beneficial dialogue.”  –The U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy

And it was terrific to learn more about this program.  The centerpiece of the summit was the video competition that ran this year, free to entrants ages 18 to 25 and living in North Carolina.  Congratulations to grand prize winner, Ilayda Yigit (North Carolina School of the Arts), who received $500 for her film MeetCute, and Misha Tobar (NCSU), who received 2nd prize and $250 for her film, Citizen Diplomacy in France.  Both videos were publicly screened at the beginning of the evening, and had two different takes on the meaning of citizen diplomacy. MeetCute is an abstract take on the television/film term, meet-cute, which is a scene in film, television, etc. in which a future romantic couple meets for the first time in a way that is considered adorable, entertaining, or amusing.  Citizen Diplomacy in France features a montage of multi-cultural scenes, including food, music and dance, from a trip to France, edited with energetic music pumping in the background.  Judges for the film competition were Alan Buck, Lorenzo Collado, Joan Conwell, Terry ‘Doc’ Thorne.  Read more about the judges here.

This was the sixth annual Citizen Diplomacy Summit, which is co-sponsored by the Sister Cities Association of Cary and the Town of Cary.  The Sister Cities Association is a non-profit association that, according to their website, strives to further global understanding and to encourage and assist sister city relationships between the citizens of Cary and cities throughout the world, especially Cary’s four Sister Cities, Le Touquet, France, Markham, Ontario, Hsinchu, Taiwan, and County Meath, Ireland.

The evening started out with networking over terrific food, with perhaps 40 or so people in attendance.  Dr. Hall opened the discussion with the question, How has people-to-people diplomacy changed as a result of social media?  This is an exciting time with technology outpacing use, our governments and laws, and we are only beginning to scratch the surface of how to use it to affect real change. Our definitions of the word tribe are changing, opening up, to include a global community.  Wesley told the story of when he was tasked with the opening of a building at N.C. State, and so he created a short, one-minute video, and uploaded it to Instagram and sent it around in e-mail.  The next morning, there was a line outside that building to get in.

And that’s the point.  Social media is a tool, a powerful tool, in connecting us all.  We have ideas and tools and we can use them for the greater good.  But be careful we do not leave others behind.  To the notion that “if you’re not online, you’re irrelevant,” I say that it’s not a good idea to lose track of people with wisdom or experience or knowledge just because they may not be online, and it is incumbent upon those of us who have a platform to speak for those who do not, or can’t.  One of the challenges we all face is reaching people who are not connected, especially in other cultures. And we must be mindful of how we use social media and those who would abuse it, or any government that would try and control its citizen’s access.

The exchange between audience and the panel was fantastic, highly interactive, and the young people in the audience shared their stories and perspectives with us. I loved that part, honestly. There was so much of a spirit of collaboration and community in those moments, and it made the evening really special for me.  Topics ranged all over the map, including B Corporations (businesses who are part for-profit and part non-profit, with a social or altruistic goals as part of their business plan), citizen journalism, cyber-bullying, Net Neutrality, and global citizenship. And we didn’t get to talk about crowdsourcing and the video trend as part of social media, but that’s a significant piece of the next steps.

Imagine if everyone, EVERYONE, got involved?

Consider a neighborhood food co-op that wants to grow the food to feed its community.  Or a crowdsourced scholarship fund for the NC Foundation for Alcohol and Drug Studies, dedicated to a lost loved one.  Or a writing project for cancer patients to provide them both with the healing power of writing, and beautiful and personal headscarves.

It was a meaningful conversation, and everyone agreed that it should continue.  By social media, perhaps.  🙂

Thanks to the organizers and sponsors for putting such a wonderful event together, including Sister Cities Association of Cary, the Town of Cary, RTP Global, and the Cary Chamber of Commerce.  And very special thanks to Joanie Conwell and Birgul Tuzlali for inviting me into it.

xo

Writing for Peace

writing_for_peaceI have proudly accepted the role and honor as a member of the advisory panel for Writing for Peace.  If you are not aware of this fine organization, run by Carmel Mawle, here is their mission statement:

Through education and creative writing, Writing for Peace seeks to cultivate the empathy that allows minds to open to new cultural views, to value the differences as well as the hopes and dreams that unite all of humanity, to develop a spirit of leadership and peaceful activism.

Writing for Peace is currently accepting submissions for the 2015 anthology Dove Tales, An International Journal of the Arts.  The theme this year is Nature.  Learn more about the submission process and the type of work that will be included here.

I am very proud to be involved with this fine organization, and want to express my deep gratitude to Carmel Mawle for the invitation.