Sunday, February 22, 2009

Poem of the Week #60 and #59


I offer this passel
of words for your pleasure.
They dilly in rhyme
they dally in measure.
They come in the colors
of things once seen.
They stand up straight
for what they mean.
You can stack them,
crack them, bake them
in pie; ready reminders
of ocean and sky.
Poison when needed,
when need be, balm.
Words that clamor,
words that calm.
A must for teachers
and preachers and lovers lost.
My words are shiny,
with just the right gloss.
They fall from my pen,
cheap, late at night;
are more costly at dawn
or by candlelight.
So pay up now,
while the deal is on,
while the price is right.
Put a small sum down.
Leave your guard
at the door and let my words
wrestle you, gently,
down to the floor,
where they can smooth
you over and rough you up
just a little, just enough
to lure you tomorrow,
hungry for more.

Lisa Vihos


My Day, My Poem

I promised you I’d write a poem today
but then reneged, no pen touched paper.
I promised it would carry you away,
but now, it has to wait ‘til later.
My breath, my very day became my poem.
I breathed it in and out, a silent ruse.
At times I have no bread and am alone,
without a resting place, without my shoes.
I cannot always give you what I want,
but always I can give you what I can.
My words will rise and fall, independent
of the bodies they describe or plan.
I seek the verse that rights the mystery.
Some day, I’ll graft it onto history.

Lisa Vihos

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Poem of the Week #58

The Trouble with Young People

The trouble with young people
is that they are so darn young
and energetic. They know the value
of an ideal. And they have not lived
long enough to see their dreams
dashed to pieces on the rocks
of hearth and commerce.
They jingle like loose change
and can afford happy-go-lucky.

The trouble with young people
is that they have minds of their own—
much to our chagrin—but fortunately
for the planet and all its inhabitants,
they never falter in their quest for harmony
and truth. They would like to see us not fail.
They aren’t very wise, and they can do things
that are incredibly stupid every now and then,
(didn’t we?) causing us to shake our heads
and say, we told you so.

And yet, and yet….
There is something to them,
these smooth, shiny, young people. I think
they are on to something. Because they abhor
injustice and neglect, and they are always at the forefront
of new thought. They take to invention like ducks to water.
If there is a better way to do something, you can bet,
a young person will find it, whereas, an old person—
as wise and experienced as we are—
will generally do the same
thing over and over
until it kills us.

If you see them laughing too much
or strutting a bit, or exposing too much skin,
if you see them with wildly colored hair
or funny clothes, or small pieces of metal stuck
through their body parts, do not condemn them outright.
Think back to when you were young:
how anything went, how the world was your oyster,
how far and distant, death’s horizon.

The trouble with young people
is that they remind us
how old we have become:
a little too set and sedentary
a little too complacent on the couch of life.
The closer we come to the end,
the more we must be
like young people:
fight for a cause,
explore a new world,
strut our still-sexy stuff,
expose some part of ourselves
to them and ourselves and each other.
If not our delicately-creased skin,
then maybe our still-beating hearts,
the things we have come to treasure,
the things we yet desire.

Lisa Vihos

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Poem of the Week #57


The time for words has drawn to a close. Action needs to desperately take its place.
Actor/activist Don Cheadle

Where do words end
and actions begin?
When is enough enough?
200,000 dead or 400,000?
2.1 million displaced or 2.5?
Should we wait for a few more
in Darfur to be slaughtered,
raped, and forcibly moved, before
we look up from over the top
of our People magazines
and the latest scoop on
who is marrying who
and who is having who’s baby
and who is out of control
with drugs and alcohol?

Is a wall of 37 kinds of potato chips
in the grocery store enough,
when a child on the other side of the world
has never seen a potato, never felt a potato,
never heard a potato sing its nourishing, hissing
song when lovingly boiled and buttered?

And if a potato, a tuber,
a deep root vegetable connected
to the quiet brown earth
could give us a word
for this day in Darfur,
this time, this atrocity,
what would it say?

A word coined in 1943
by Raphael Lemkin.
Dear Rafal, a Polish-Jewish
legal scholar, whose father
was a farmer, and whose mother
was a painter/linguist/philosopher
who inspired in her son
a love for languages.
With her help, he mastered
nine of them by the age of 14.

Rafal, you should
know, having lost your mother
and 48 other relatives to the Holocaust.
You studied the massacres
of the Assyrians and the Armenians
and you went straight to the root,
yenos in Greek, meaning race,
and cide in Latin meaning killing—
the systematic killing
of substantial numbers
of people on the basis
of race, ethnicity
religion, politics, social status
or some other particularity:
people who like the color blue,
kill them;
people who take walks early in the morning,
destroy them too;
people who simply want to go about the business
of making a life, raising a child, tilling the soil
for a bit of food
yes, all of them, too.

Lisa Vihos