Alicja Maria Kuberska

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Alicja Maria Kuberska (1960) born in Świebodzin a small picturesque city in the midst of woods and lakes, close to Zielona Góra and one hundred kilometres from Berlin. I now live with my family in the beautiful city of Inowrocław, which is a health resort. My full time occupation is working for a local bank and in my free time I carry out welfare work in society Pro Arte and in the Society of Sisters -Cities Inowrocław (Poland) and Bad Oyenhausen (Germany) whilst also actively engaging in charity work.

Poetry is an essential part of my life allowing me to release emotions and thought’s, they are my second, subjective, secret life.

My poems are mainly published on the internet which allows for live and spontaneous contact with their readers. The internet is something that I would describe as a miracle of life and I am always interested in hearing from people and appreciate their remarks and comments. The honest exchange of thoughts is very inspirational and assists me with my ongoing personal development in poetry.

I am a member of a poetical society E-literaci,Poezja and E-poezja London and sometimes collaborate with a Polish poet called Barbara Mazurkiewicz, who is also my friend.

Occasionally I insert my poems on my profile on facebook written both in Polish and English and I am happy that my poems are read in the USA, Republic of South Africa and other countries. I am very thankful to my friends from the United Kingdom, USA and Republic of South Africa who help me to translate my poems.

Interview

I do not remember exactly when I started to write my poems but it was about twenty years ago when I started writing as a means of relaxation. My approach to poetry changed a few years ago as a result of my illness and other personal experiences. During this period in my life I changed my approach to life and found great satisfaction in other past times like participating in charity work. During this period of life I realized that my poems were an important part of who I am. It was also at this time that Barbara Mazurkiewicz the Polish poetess ,encouraged me to publish my poems and become more active in this field.

2. My poetry allows me to write about myself and express my feelings, observations and deepest thoughts. I am interested in music, art, philosophy, psychology and contemporary scientific discoveries. People and society fascinate me. All of these elements are included in my poems. My style of poetry is too often written in the simplest way possible, focusing the attention of readers on social problems or different aspects of human life. Sometimes I would like people to notice the beauty of the world around them.

3.Leo Tolstoj, Honore de Balzac, Aleksander Puszkin and Wislawa Szymborska are my favourite writers. Tolstoj and Balzac wrote about society in the XIX century and I find their books personally fascinating. I am very interested in this period of history. My favourite book is “Anna Karenina “.It is special for me because it is directed against the rules of society. Karenina was punished by her class of society as she decided to show her real feelings and emotions. Aleksander Puszkin wrote wonderful poems. I can speak Russian ,so I am able to notice and feel their beauty .The poems of Wislawa Szymborska are very wise and they force me to think about my life and things ,which are important for me. She writes about ordinary affairs but her poetry allows me to see them in the new light .

4. As I mentioned above I am interested in the modern society and I try to fight with the prejudices through my work. It would be simply fantastic if people could begin to know and understand other customs, cultures and religions. The lack of knowledge causes intolerance. Some bad myths still exist as a result of wars and conflict that that have taken place over the course of history. Today we are trying to change it with Polish and German families becoming friends. I also help musicians and artists to create performances and arrange the exhibitions. This activity is not connected to my profession and it is work that I undertake to make the world I live in a better place.

5. I often like to chat with people who write to me about their feelings and how my poems can affect their emotions and I really enjoy their spontaneous reactions and as such I would like to write for many different people. Some of the topics in my poems come directly from other people who have inspired me. Their positive opinions encourage me to continue writing and give me real satisfaction. The internet opens a whole new world of possibilities and contacts and thanks to internet my poems will be enclosed in New Mirage Journal. I doubt if the internet will cause the disappearance of hard copy books and believe that the e-books and printed books will exist alongside each other. They individually fulfil different needs. I love books and in my opinion the classical book can be like a piece of art. It is a real pleasure to keep a book in the hand and I intend to print my new poems this year.

6. I do not particularly like group meetings preferring to meet with individuals so that I can concentrate on the person and their emotions. I like to have a presence on the internet so that I can be in touch with other writers. Whilst we live in different cities and internet help us to discuss our poems and exchange our views, I am closely connected to Barbara Mazurkiewicz and her group.

7. All poems live in my mind and I don’t think that it is hard work to write them down as long as I write them down as and when they come to me. Inspiration can happen at any time and as a result I often find poems that I have written on different pieces of scrap paper. I try to have a pen and sheet of paper with me at all times but when caught short I will write on wrapping paper or serviettes. Sometimes I can write a few poems in a day and sometimes none.

8. I would be happy to make personal recommendations of other poets from my country to American readers, I hope that they will like the contemporary Polish poetry.

http://www.poemhunter.com/wislawa-szymborska/

http://www.kazlinda.republika.pl/

http://e-literaci.pl/news.php

http://www.twojewiadomosci.com.pl/content/barbara-mazurkiewicz-poetk%C4%85-roku-0
repost from NMJ 2011

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Dariel Suarez

Dariel Suarez

Dariel Suarez was born in Havana, Cuba, where he lived until 1997. He now resides in South Florida with his wife. He holds a B.A. in English from Florida International University, where he was the recipient of five literary awards. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in over twenty publications, including SmokeLong Quarterly, The Coachella Review, JMWW, Sliver of Stone, Blue Lake Review, The Florida Book Review, and The Acentos Review. Dariel is currently at work on a poetry chapbook and a collection of stories set in his native country.

Interview

1. How do you go about finding publishers for your work? Do you use Poet’s Market, online databases etc?

When I first decided I was ready to send out my work, I did a lot of general searches in websites that offer lists of literary journals and magazines. There are a few databases out there that I find to be very helpful. Some even help writers keep track of their submissions. But, in my opinion, the best way to find the right fit for one’s work is reading journals and magazines. I subscribe to as many journals as I can afford. I also spend a lot of time reading work online and browsing through the material available at bookstores and university libraries. I do this primarily because I enjoy reading contemporary literature, but it is definitely useful in the submission process.

2.  Why did you leave Cuba? Were you able to publish your poetry in Cuba?

Well, I was only fourteen years old when I left, so writing and publishing were not something I personally did at the time. However, my father was a writer, so I grew up in an environment where literature and writing in general were things to be admired. My father published short stories, poetry, and articles regularly, and I remember feeling very proud of him. As for leaving Cuba, my family, like a lot of others in Cuba, was having severe financial difficulty, aside from all the social and political oppression that exists there. We knew that life wasn’t going to get better any time soon, and rebelling against the regime only landed you in jail, or worst. So we decided to come to the United States for all of us to build a better life.

3.  How has your heritage and experiences in Cuba influenced your work?
My heritage and experiences are currently the main influence on my work, perhaps even the backbone of what I write. I’m working on a poetry chapbook that contains mostly poems about my childhood or what it’s like to live in Cuba, and a collection of stories whose premises are taken, for the most part, from the real life experiences of people I or my parents knew. Cuba is an interesting place; it’s a tropical island, and its music, food, and geography embrace this energy, but there’s also the communist component, influenced by countries like the old Soviet Union and China, which give it an entirely different makeup. This complex mixture is something that fascinates me and I like to explore.

4.  Can you tell more about you new chapbook? What are the major themes or ideas?

As I mentioned, the chapbook is largely composed of poems that attempt to capture what it’s like growing up in Cuba. Whether it is memories, images, ideas, or particular situations, each poem delves into an aspect of Cuban life that, hopefully, will be intriguing or enlightening to the reader. Some of the pieces are not so overtly about Cuba, but I’m hoping that when all is said and done there will be a cohesive story or progression that invites the reader to go on a journey, though not always the most uplifting one.
5.  Have you studied writing formally? Taken part in writer’s workshops?
I have, as a matter of fact. I finished my undergraduate work in English about a year ago, and as a student I took several creative writing courses in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. The workshops gave me the chance to look at my work from someone else’s point of view, to see what they had to say about my characters, images, etc. Some of my professors have also been extremely helpful in challenging me to always want to improve and encouraging me to trust my voice. Though there are some aspects of creative writing workshops that I don’t necessarily like or agree with, I think in the end it’s constructive for a writer to study and discuss writing as a craft and have peers critique their material.
6.  Why do you write? Was there a particular poem or poet in your childhood who inspired your interest in poetry?

I write because I love it. There’s just something about crafting pieces of writing that I find enthralling. It’s very similar to the feeling I get when I read great literature, except I feel even closer to the work. Now, there are other elements at play, such as the fact that writing allows us to explore the human condition and offer a voice to cultures that otherwise would be silent, but at the core of it all writers write because there’s nothing they rather be doing. In regards to poetry, I must admit that it wasn’t until later in life that I began to read and write poetry. “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats was the first piece of poetry I came across that lingered in my mind days and weeks after I’d read it. I remember wondering how such a short piece of writing could stir up so many emotions and thoughts within me.

7.  What is the biggest struggle you have with your writing? Is it harder for you to write poetry than prose?

The biggest struggle I have is definitely with language. Although my English vocabulary has expanded throughout the years, there are still some moments when I struggle to find the right word or phrase. I’ve had people tell me that they don’t notice this in my work, but that’s probably because of the hours I spend revising and sharpening my writing. And yes, it is harder for me to write poetry than prose. Due to its brevity, poetry demands a level of precision that sometimes can be intimidating and taxing, plus I’ve always felt that my natural writing voice is more narrative. Nonetheless, I value and am thankful for both genres equally.

Poetry

After the Grapes

When I was a child, a grapevine grew
at the back of my family’s apartment,
a curious display of marble-shaped purple
dangling in unbridled temptation,
the leaves dancing to their own rain-like
melody when grazed by the wind.

This aromatic wonder thrived in a neighborhood
of toppled bricks and battered paint jobs
in central Havana, a place where even nature
had modeled itself to the city’s decay,
where the once-graceful green and yellow of trees
had resigned to shades of melancholy gray.

The vine belonged to our neighbors,
who never cared for the succulent
grapes that fell like delicate gifts
into our hands every year, fruits that provided
a touch of distinction amid the monotony of our lives.

Then, without warning, we awoke one morning
to find the grapevine gone, leaving in its place
a fractured, unbearably slanted stone wall
covered with dark blots and the pungent scent of moss.

After all these years, the wall has yet to crumble.

On Watching Field Workers

A regiment of men with bodies
like weathered stones enters the fields.
Their faces gleam in misleading sunshine
like that of my grandfather, who back on the island
worked on borrowed ground, scrounging with dignity
because his country owed him that much, that leniency.

He was a proud man, a kind of entrepreneur
who hid dreams of exodus and treated the land
with just enough vehemence. Secretly he talked
of the North as if it were a healing paradise,
a divine cure to our communist ailment,
a place where a man could own and keep and sell.

Here the grunting men feed their crates with ripe tomatoes,
carry them with short steps, dried-up mud clinging to their soles.
I see Grandpa’s face play in the hunched crowd
like a restless child, appearing and disappearing
with every stretch of a back, every rise of a head,
closer to his paradise than he’d ever imagine.

Island Fields, Memories of a Cuban Youth Labor Camp

I remember the fields, the red and brown earth
heaving beyond barbwire fences, rising in mounds
like deep-ocean waves, the furrows acting as crests
resilient against the autumn wind.
I watched, from the tired road, good men, defeated men,
work the land without fervor, without the rage it deserved.
Malnourished oxen and wheezing tractors
scarred the ground without purpose, its earth
capable of the finest fruits, of crops so hearty and plentiful
they could lift a country’s spirits.

Copious earth, I remember when I first held you,
vigorous in texture, fertile to the touch, the lumps graining
inside my curious fists, your form cool and damp in the morning dew.
I remember my first steps, soil clinging to my boots
as if trying to overtake my body.
On your fields I learned to question,
that forgotten custom of our people,
and on my bed, enclosed by mosquito nets,
experienced my first loneliness.

Decades later, I’m still possessed by the smell
of your gardens: grass and ripe tomatoes,
beets and slimy cloves of garlic,
each clove planted two fingers apart in long furrows
hurting my back, the burlap sack loyally following
less stubborn each passing hour.
I see my hands rough and blistered,
proud in their accomplishments, ritual of manhood,
forging character by replenishing and weeding,
no gloves and no tools, just a vicious battle
between roots and feeble muscles, between survival
and newfound will.

I can still hear, behind closed eyes, my comrades’ laughter
as we pressed forward like little soldiers,
thinking of quotas, longing for oily bread and a cold shower,
eating cucumbers right from the vine, drinking
warm water in dented aluminum glasses, gulped
in a frenzy during short breaks.
I can hear us cursing the ruthless sun
as it whipped and scorched our necks,
ruthless as the demanding voice of a teacher,
or the unattainable norms, or the inexplicable absence
of parents, who wept hidden in their dark city kitchens
and came to visit us once a week.

Though stern orders bruised our bodies
and tarnished our tender ages, you, undying earth,
bestowed upon us the gift of maturity and remembrance,
of never forgetting or wanting to forget.
And after all, we were baptized
in the heart of island fields, where we swam in utter bliss,
with ragged clothes and heavy limbs,
defying for a single moment something more
than just a set of rules, engulfed in the soothing waters
of some shallow and unnamed river
on the last day.
After the Grapes

When I was a child, a grapevine grew
at the back of my family’s apartment,
a curious display of marble-shaped purple
dangling in unbridled temptation,
the leaves dancing to their own rain-like
melody when grazed by the wind.

This aromatic wonder thrived in a neighborhood
of toppled bricks and battered paint jobs
in central Havana, a place where even nature
had modeled itself to the city’s decay,
where the once-graceful green and yellow of trees
had resigned to shades of melancholy gray.

The vine belonged to our neighbors,
who never cared for the succulent
grapes that fell like delicate gifts
into our hands every year, fruits that provided
a touch of distinction amid the monotony of our lives.

Then, without warning, we awoke one morning
to find the grapevine gone, leaving in its place
a fractured, unbearably slanted stone wall
covered with dark blots and the pungent scent of moss.

After all these years, the wall has yet to crumble.
On Watching Field Workers

A regiment of men with bodies
like weathered stones enters the fields.
Their faces gleam in misleading sunshine
like that of my grandfather, who back on the island
worked on borrowed ground, scrounging with dignity
because his country owed him that much, that leniency.

He was a proud man, a kind of entrepreneur
who hid dreams of exodus and treated the land
with just enough vehemence. Secretly he talked
of the North as if it were a healing paradise,
a divine cure to our communist ailment,
a place where a man could own and keep and sell.

Here the grunting men feed their crates with ripe tomatoes,
carry them with short steps, dried-up mud clinging to their soles.
I see Grandpa’s face play in the hunched crowd
like a restless child, appearing and disappearing
with every stretch of a back, every rise of a head,
closer to his paradise than he’d ever imagine.

Island Fields, Memories of a Cuban Youth Labor Camp

I remember the fields, the red and brown earth
heaving beyond barbwire fences, rising in mounds
like deep-ocean waves, the furrows acting as crests
resilient against the autumn wind.
I watched, from the tired road, good men, defeated men,
work the land without fervor, without the rage it deserved.
Malnourished oxen and wheezing tractors
scarred the ground without purpose, its earth
capable of the finest fruits, of crops so hearty and plentiful
they could lift a country’s spirits.

Copious earth, I remember when I first held you,
vigorous in texture, fertile to the touch, the lumps graining
inside my curious fists, your form cool and damp in the morning dew.
I remember my first steps, soil clinging to my boots
as if trying to overtake my body.
On your fields I learned to question,
that forgotten custom of our people,
and on my bed, enclosed by mosquito nets,
experienced my first loneliness.

Decades later, I’m still possessed by the smell
of your gardens: grass and ripe tomatoes,
beets and slimy cloves of garlic,
each clove planted two fingers apart in long furrows
hurting my back, the burlap sack loyally following
less stubborn each passing hour.
I see my hands rough and blistered,
proud in their accomplishments, ritual of manhood,
forging character by replenishing and weeding,
no gloves and no tools, just a vicious battle
between roots and feeble muscles, between survival
and newfound will.

I can still hear, behind closed eyes, my comrades’ laughter
as we pressed forward like little soldiers,
thinking of quotas, longing for oily bread and a cold shower,
eating cucumbers right from the vine, drinking
warm water in dented aluminum glasses, gulped
in a frenzy during short breaks.
I can hear us cursing the ruthless sun
as it whipped and scorched our necks,
ruthless as the demanding voice of a teacher,
or the unattainable norms, or the inexplicable absence
of parents, who wept hidden in their dark city kitchens
and came to visit us once a week.

Though stern orders bruised our bodies
and tarnished our tender ages, you, undying earth,
bestowed upon us the gift of maturity and remembrance,
of never forgetting or wanting to forget.
And after all, we were baptized
in the heart of island fields, where we swam in utter bliss,
with ragged clothes and heavy limbs,
defying for a single moment something more
than just a set of rules, engulfed in the soothing waters
of some shallow and unnamed river
on the last day.
Reposted from NMJ 2011

Afric McGlinchey

Afric pic for New Mirage

Irish-born Afric McGlinchey grew up in various countries in Africa, returning to Ireland in 1999. She was the 2010 winner of the prestigious Hennessy Emerging Poetry Award. Her poems have been published in seventeen journals, including the SHOp, Acumen, Magma, Moth, Southword, the Independent and the Sunday Tribune.
Other achievements include being awarded a Fellowship by the Faber Academy, having poems shortlisted in several other competitions and being nominated by New Mirage Journal for the Pushcart Prize.
A poetry reviewer for Southword and for Sabotage, Afric also reviews books for the Irish Examiner. She is a book editor and teaches poetry online at http://www.creativewritingink.ie Her début collection, The Lucky Star of Hidden Things, to be published by Salmon, is forthcoming in May.

Which genres do you write?

I write poetry, but I have also written one thriller (I’m working on a rewrite before sending it out) and one book of non-fiction, called Through Ireland’s Revolving Door, which tells the stories of immigrants.

How many books have you published?
Salmon will be publishing my first poetry collection in May of this year. It’s called The Lucky Star of Hidden Things.

How long did it take you to find a publisher for your first book?
I was very lucky – I won a prestigious award in Ireland, and was promptly contacted by two publishing companies for my manuscript, which I was still working on. I think it’s the best way to attract the attention of publishers – to enter competitions and hopefully win one!

Have you ever or would you consider self-publishing a book? What advantages do you see in self -publication? What disadvantages do you see in self-publication?
I have self-published two small gift books, called Advice to a Daughter and Advice to a Son. I’m already on the third reprint for both, so it has been worth it in my case. I’d still prefer to find a publisher for them though, because I’d get a wider distribution and better marketing. There is a stigma to being self-published, but on the other hand, you have complete control, and also all the profits go to you. I heard on the radio yesterday that one self-published author had just sold her millionth book, so it’s definitely an option worth considering.

How many awards have you won for your writing? Has this honor(s) helped you develop as a writer?
My first break came in 2010, when I received a Fellowship from the Faber Academy to do a six-month poetry course, which was equivalent to a Masters in focus and intensity. After that, I won the Hennessy Award for Emerging Poetry, and that opened up all sorts of opportunities for me. I was invited to read at festivals, not only in Ireland, but in England too. I’ve also been asked to adjudicate competitions, and it’s helped my work as a poetry tutor. As well as these awards, I’ve been shortlisted in a number of other competitions, and come second in one. And thanks to New Mirage, I’ve also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize! Thank you so much. It’s all helped to raise my profile and create opportunities for me.
What is your new collection of poetry about? When will it be available for purchase and where?
My début collection, The Lucky Star of Hidden Things, will be published by Salmon Poetry in May this year. Their website is http://www.salmonpoetry.com/
The poems are essentially about the experience of growing up and living on two different continents, about being nomadic, and how that affects my perceptions, relationships and identity. The title is a translation of the name of a star called Sadalachbia. Traditionally, when this star appears (in spring), it signals the end of hibernation, and prompts nomads to pack up their tents and seek fresh pastures. I relate to it as I have moved about forty times in my life, and have even lived in a tent for three months!

What do you hope people will take away with them after reading this new book?
I hope readers will gain a sense of what it is to be displaced, and feel an increased interest and empathy for those who have left their place of origin. The advantage of experiencing other cultures, of course, is that you gain insight about different ways of living and being in the world. I feel immensely privileged to have lived such a life. As a writer, being an outsider is quite an asset – you can make more acute observations.

Would you call yourself a professional writer? Or Is writing more of an emotional/spiritual calling? Why?
In the sense that I am also a freelance journalist, yes, I would consider myself a professional writer. But where my poetry is concerned, it’s definitely a calling. It’s a compulsion for me to write, and when I’m not writing, I’m editing. Writing poetry, for me, clarifies my responses to what I see and experience. It also gives me the opportunity to inhabit a world of my own creation, and no matter where I am, this is the constant in my life.

Who are your favorite Irish authors? Why?
I returned to Ireland in 1999, so it’s only since then that I’ve been reading Irish poets. Yeats, of course, for his imagery, rhythm and diversity of content; Derek Mahon for his exquisite control, purity of language and the fact that he too, is in exile from his home place – I feel a strong connection especially with his later work. Younger poets who inspire me include Leontia Flynn, Leanne O’Sullivan, Grace Wells, Pat Cotter, Michael O’Loughlin. And of course many other poets from all over the world!

Do you spend time each day writing? What do you need to write?
I write at various times of day and night – sometimes I wake up out of a dream and jot things down. I have ideas all the time, so the problem is selecting which one to focus on! I sit down to write every day. If a poem doesn’t flow immediately, I will do some editing. Most poems are redrafted at least a dozen times before I’m happy with them. What do I need to write? My notebook and a pen if I’m on the move, or my computer at home. It’s easier to edit as you go when you can delete, cut and paste etc.

What advice (given to you by a teacher, mother etc.) has helped you develop most as a writer?
It was Derek Mahon who told me not to write so much, to slow down and take longer with each poem! To redraft ruthlessly and make each word earn its place in the poem. That was a big help. I received similar advice from Ciaran Carson. Paul Perry, who was my tutor on the Faber course, also advised me to be more sparing with my images – less is more, I’m discovering!

Red letter day
(i.m. three unknown refugees)

Sky and light
from this height
so startling and clear

Tied by tribe
and fear,
they stand on the ledge

choose a final freedom –
fly through a hundred
feet of air

catenated by the wind-
slowed red tape
of final warnings,

to slip
the net closing in
on their safe haven.

All that’s left,
dusty footprints
on a window sill

torn safety net
fluttering
on Red Road.

Darkness
wraps round
a Glasgow morning.

Did the outweighed sun
close its eyes
for that brief moment?

Scraps

It has been drifting in icy tides,
its feathers peeling,
like stitches unpicked

from a mucky cloth,
dangling from the lip of a wave
before dipping below water.

Our rudder rubs against
the skinny corpse – to find its life
not quite extinguished.

Further out, we discover others;
a trio, clustered
up against a rock,

butting bodies, beaks and orange legs;
scrambled concoction
fetched up by the slick.

A quiet curse.
Bent heads droop over the side,
trail nets, scoop flesh.

There is no rescue. Just silence in a boat
in the black heave of water,
men and their staring eyes,

one arm reaching with a boathook;
another arm holds mine, while I film:
collecting scraps.
Late

They call us
in the tokoloshe hours

to take mrs jimmy
to have her baby

but mrs jimmy has already
had her baby

by the creaking gate
where the cattle come in

grief-witted, arms tight
as rope, she rocks;

baby fingers curl in the dirt,
pale as a bleary sun

No need

No need to tell me
that endings
are a moment of transcendence,
and all that is solid melts into air;
no need to remind me
of the eyeblink tales of life,
like furniture and fridge snacks that stack up,
then vanish in a flame-lick.
No need to challenge me
to walk the high wire,
or to drag me to a party with all the wrong people,
where men take up space with knuckles on hips,
and there’s barely elbow room.
No need to show me
I’m in safe hands –
I’ve seen your scar
and know what you’re made of.
No need for you to hold up
a cardboard cut-out sun:
I remember how it looks, how it feels.
Or to suggest
that I’m more stone than heart:
what do you expect?
I’m still half a couple from ark days
pickling memories in a jar.
No need to say
that love will return some day
like speech after long silence;
that’s dirty talk.
White sky

Outside, the sky is white as snow,
but there is no snow in Africa today,

not in Accra, Djabouti, Entebbe,
Addis Ababa or Zanzibar.

It’s an impossibility, the idea
of blizzards, gales, aberrations

of cold and ice, while we sit here,
hugging the heat to our pores.

The board flicks names: Brazzaville,
Lilongwe, Kinshasa, Babouti…

Umbali wa mwisho wa safari-
Have a safe journey –

says my screen. On the map,
our destination, engulfed in white.

Newsflash of an earthquake in Haiti – all over
our spinning planet, weathers, shudders, rocks, cracks.

Fields of cloud, banquets of pattern
hiding the stories below.
Valentine

Maybe
you’re right, and I do
rose-tint life;

don’t want to
face the shadow side: seals
stockpiled on a pier;

a pregnant woman’s
bayoneted womb;
vehicles bouncing over

corpses; skinny kids
split in the dark,
twisted with gin and dagga,

then sent out
to vent their hurt
with matches, fuel and guns…

But
when you smile at me
I feel my blood suffused

and all weight lifts:
front page, clouds,
the day, my heart,

and I hope
that’s not too flowery,
my Valentine.

reposted from from NMJ 2012

Edith

This cannot be true! Thoughts swirled in my head like crazy. Why me? Why?
Eva sound asleep, nice. A lamp over the sink was blinking steadily. Water was dripping from a tap annoyingly. After all, no one cares about patient’s peace. Tomorrow is Friday. Tomorrow is my big day… my operation. The nurse brought me some pills. She said that I will sleep better after taking them. Images of the last few days flash through my skull like flickering pictures under closed eyelids.
Monday morning’s medical visit commenced with smart arsed comments from the head doctor – “You are pregnant, and you do not need a husband to be pregnant” – he said main pointedly looking at the accompanying doctors – “am I right or not?”
My explanations didn’t help at all. My protestations – “I am a faithful wife” even amused him.
“ I have examined you, haven’t I? The results are clear to me. You’re ten weeks pregnant.”
“ And I tell you for the hundredth time already that it is impossible!” – I was screaming with tears rolling down my cheeks.
“ Sister, make an ultrasound appointment, asap, please” he said, raising his voice in front of the accompanying staff.  “And how do you feel?” – he asked a woman in the next bed – thus ending the conversation with me.
And than I sat, just waiting… waiting endlessly. My children came with my mother in law to visit me about two o’clock, and I looked like I had one foot in the grave. There were dark circles under my eyes and over the past three weeks I had lost two stone in weight. Constant pain and horrible loneliness had been my companion whilst Martin was away on the contract in Libya. We had spent nights talking about the possibility of his trip and at the end I gave him my permission to go – he had already been gone for a few months.
“Only one year my love” he had said. “It’s only a year. I t will go by soon, you’ll see, and we can finally rise up from the bottom and start to live like human beings. We can buy a car, nice furniture, whatever you want.”
Just a month after he left, I started to feel bad. Dizziness and abdominal pain, vomiting. Like a nightmare. My gynaecologist said that it was most likely the stress after my husband leaving, but it was getting worse. A week ago he gave me a referral to a hospital for the end of May. The days were so beautiful outside that I promised my girls a trip to the zoo, and later I can go to the hospital. But life wrote a different scenario for me. On June the 1st, I got such severe pain at work that I lost consciousness. My boss called an ambulance. Lying on a stretcher I begged my friend, Christine to phone my parents in-laws and asked them take care of my children. So far, no one has ever helped me in childcare. I never imagined separation from them for even a little while, but it happened now.
In the afternoon my mother-in-law came to visit me in the hospital. She looked so worried.
“What’s wrong with you?” – she asked. “The nurse told me that you are pregnant. How is this possible? Martin has been in Libya for a few months already. Who is the father?
“Mom, I’m not pregnant” – I said with tears in my eyes –“I’m not pregnant.”
“I’m just repeating what the nurse said to me. The girls are with us. Do not worry. Do you think you will be in here long?
“I do not know. I really do not know.”

Later that day my girls come. They were so polite. Standing by my bed , both looking so scared. I had put on my makeup, blusher and lipstick so that my pale face would not scare them. My Father returning from Wroclaw took Danusia to his place. She was a second class schoolgirl and needed to have someone help with her homework. Helena was with my parents in-laws. My father and parents in-laws lived in the same neighbourhood, so the girls could see each other daily.
“Mrs. Edith May?’ the nurse called as she entered the room.
“Yes, I am Edith.”
“Do you feel strong enough to walk with me for the ultrasound investigation or would you like me to bring the wheelchair ? We have ordered an ultrasound for you. The doctor is already waiting.”
“I’m a little  bit weak but if it is not far I can probably manage.”
“Ultrasound is on the floor above us. I’ll get the wheelchair than. Wait for me.”
A few minutes later I was sitting in a wheelchair in the ultrasound faculty. There was another woman waiting for investigation as well. More waiting. Waiting and waiting.
The woman tried to make conversation with me. She began to tell me about her health problems. I had enough problems of my own and was not keen to hear about other people’s health issues at all. . Maybe I was rude but I told her straight out that I did not care.
At the end I was asked to come in. The room was dark. The doctor was sitting by the computer with his back to me. Without turning my way he asked me to lay down on the couch and uncover my abdomen. In the meantime he started add my data to a computer.
“Mrs. Edith, please tell me what’s going on with you?” As he spoke he turned towards me. “I have a feeling that we know each other, do we?”
“Yes! We were in the same class at high school” I said a little embarrassed.
The last thing I had expected here was to meet someone from my past, especially a boy from the same class.
“Lie down comfortably. Do not be afraid, I wont hurt you.” He smiled at me continuing the conversation “Tell me what have you been doing since high school?
“I got married right after graduation. I have two wonderful daughters. A good husband. Nice job.”
“That’s great, so what brings you to the hospital?”
“Oh, I see. For several months I have been in constant pain. The leading gynaecologist insists that I’m pregnant, and I know that he is wrong.”
“Well then – let’s see what’s going on.” He smeared my stomach with a cold gel. He was holding the camera, which he placed on my stomach at the same time looking at a computer screen.
“What do we have here? Well, well. The follicle bubble is about to burst which means that at any moment you will start menstruation. Greatly enlarged left ovary. It seems that there is a large cyst. Shadows in the uterus, it may mean that there are cysts or fibroids but certainly there is no pregnancy.”
Tears flew down my cheeks. What I heard did not sound optimistic.
“Edith, I am so sorry for you. I will send a picture with a description to a head doctor.
In the evening my doctor came to see me again. He sat next to me on the bed. He grabbed my hand and looking into my eyes said with soft voice.
“Edith. We need to talk about the operation. It is inevitable. You do have cysts on the ovary. I will try to do everything to save it. You’re still young. Maybe you want to have more children in the future. There is also something in the uterus. These shadows look to me like a cyst or muscle. We’ll be sure to take a close look during the operation. Your blood results are a little bit disturbing me to be honest. I must warn you that when we open your stomach, if we see any cancerous changes, we will transport you instantly to the oncology hospital. This is a very pessimistic scenario but we have to take everything into consideration, I’m sorry.”
“What do I tell my children? What shall I  tell my father?”
“Just tell your husband what I have already told you” – he said.
“My husband is not here. He is in Libya on contract“ – I squeezed doctor Kasprzyk’s hand and sobbed.
“Well, you actually have a very dodgy situation” – saying that he was wiping my tears. “Please rest now. I’ll go to talk to the main doctor about the date for your operation.”
The next day the main doctor didn’t come for a morning visit, but Doctor Kasprzyk told me that the operation would be next Friday. After morning round the anaesthetist come to see me. Late in the afternoon, Doctor Kasprzyk visited me again.
“I hope you feel a little bit better now you have the information about your operation.”
“I have to admit that this pessimistic scenario made it hard to sleep. What if I have cancer? What will happen to my children? They are still so young.”
“Edith, please think positively. I’ll see you tomorrow. I’m on call all weekend. Please feel free to come to me when you feel you need to talk.”
It is easy to say. I remembered my neighbour. She was not much older than me, when diagnosed and had only a year before she died. Everything happened so fast. Her husband is a drunk now. Her little girl is now so scared and neglected. The poor little mite must be very lonely, the whole family lives abroad now.
I told my father and mother in law about the operation and forbade medical staff to give anyone information about me. I lied to my family telling them what I thought they wanted to hear. I told my children that I have something bad in my tummy, that really hurts and that the doctor will open mummy’ tummy and cut it out to stop the hurting. I do not know how much of it was understandable to them, but at least they stopped asking questions.

On Wednesday my neighbour was discharged home, and in her place a woman my age was admitted. She was waiting for some research. She had been married for several years and was trying to have a baby but with no luck. Preliminary studies have shown that everything was fine but the child still remained a dream.
Somehow we managed to establish a common understanding. Her husband visited her several times a day. He was very worried about her. He became friends with my girls over the course of his many visits and they reciprocated.
It seems to be the start of a beautiful friendship. Eve and Slavek were from the beginning very close to me. Eve was a Hungarian. Slavek was a few years ago on a contract in Budapest. There he met Eve and they fell in love. After they were married and at the end of the Slavek’s contract they came to Poland. Eve spoke Polish with a nice accent, which only added to her charm.
“Edith, are you afraid?” – asked Eve.
“I’m afraid, very much afraid.”
“You’ll be fine. You are young and strong. You’ll be fine.”
During those sleepless nights spent staring at the ceiling, I tried to sort out all that I needed to organize and made some notes. I tried to read to help chase away the dark thoughts, but failed dismally.

On Wednesday the ward sister told me that a list of operations for Friday is ready. She also said that I was third on the list. Procedures are long. Third on the list meant that it was late afternoon before I hit the operating table I was waiting, counting down the hours.
On Thursday, the girls spent a little more time with me. Slavek brought a wheelchair for me, and we all went outside to the gardens. It was lovely. This is not the same as watching the sky through the window. It was nice and fun.

On Friday, early morning nurse came to me with enema. Then another who shaved my pubes. I felt very bad during this step, embarrassed. At eight o’clock the anaesthetist came to insert a cannula and once again remind me what he would be doing in the operating theatre. He asked me to sign a consent form. Moments later doctor Kasprzyk come to see me. He sat next to me on the bed.
Grasping my hand he said “ Edith, the operation will be performed by laparoscopic method.”
“What does that mean? It sounds so mysterious.”

“This means that we will make three small holes in your belly through which we insert the camera and tools we need to work with during your procedure. Once we are sure of the problem we will make another small incision to take out what’s bothering you. If, however, it turns out that we cannot operate, we wait until you wake up, and send you to the oncology hospital. However, I believe that all will be fine. Please rest now. You’re third on the list.”
After the doctor left, I could not calm down. Eve sat down next to me and tried her best to comfort me. Half an hour later, a male nurse came into the room and said he was taking me to the operating theatre. The first two patients due to the high pressure were moved down the list. Now it’s my turn. Now. Already now. I entered  the operating room with raspy teeth. Anaesthetist laugh that I came with my own orchestra.
“What is your name?”
“Edith May”
“When were you born?”
“April the fifth 1968.”
“Well, we have the right patient.”
“Do you know what we will do for you today?”
“Yes, you cut out/remove the little cysts using the laparoscopic method.”
“Yes, and do you also know what can happen if we discover something more dangerous?”
“I know, I know” I said very quietly.
“Okay, so we begin. Now I will give you an injection, after which you fall asleep.
Please count down from ten backwards.”
“Ten, nine, eight, seven…”

“Edith! Edith, can you hear me? Please squeeze my hand as a sign that you hear me?”
I hear the voice but I cannot utter a word. The whole body was trapped by drug induced paralysis. I could not open my eyes, I could not move a muscle. Just couldn’t. And what will happen now?
“Edith! Your operation is finished. It is time to wake up. Please open your eyes for me. Squeeze my hand.”
I cannot! Don’t they see that I cannot do anything? Help! I cannot catch my breath. Please remove this weight from my chest! – I was screaming but no one could hear me.
“Sister Sophie increase oxygen up to 15. Edith! Wake up please!”
At the end, I was able to open my eyes. My eyelids were so heavy. My arms and legs were heavy too. I feel so cold. Very cold.
“Finally! How do you feel? Do you feel any pain?”
“I do not. I whispered. How many holes is in my tummy?”
“Why do you ask that?”
“Please tell how many holes are in my tummy?”
“There are four holes all nicely stitched and covered” – replied the young doctor with a lovely smile.
“Four! That means that my problem is sorted” I whispered with pleasure – “I’m so tired. Can I sleep now?”
“Let me check your blood pressure and you can sleep.”
Now I felt relieved and terrible fatigued. Over the last few days I hardly slept at all. Dad will come tomorrow with my mother in law. They will bring my girls. Once I am discharged we will be able to reschedule our zoo day – better late than never but for now I need sleep, just sleep, sleep…

“Doctor! Help! Somebody call a doctor, please! We’re losing her!”
In the blink of an eye medical staff gathered at the bedside. Doctor Kasprzyk started heart massage. At the same time, another started intubation. The Resuscitation machine was ready.
“Stand back, please. On three I will shoot. One more time!”
“Still nothing! No response. Parameters zero!”
“Another shot on three. One, two, three!”
“Nothing! The screen is flat. We lost her. How did this happen? All went well and we lost her…”

***
Late in the afternoon leading doctor informed family about the death of the patient. Two little girls were looking with frightened eyes at their grandparents.

“Edith” by Bozena Helena Mazur-Nowak
Correction by Maureen Clifford

Frederick plays piano today

you went out never to return
and the piano is still waiting for you
my violin with a torn heart
fondly stuck to the lid
and these notes of Chopin are ready
to begin our concert for two hearts

roses in crystal vase
you remembered that I like them red

dusk creeping softly outside the window
passing by the street lanterns
tea is made for two

you are not here

Christmas again is knocking on the door
how am I to sit at the table by myself
wafer and tears on a my plate
and Frederick plays piano today

waiting for the first star

another Christmas is knocking on the door
the tree is no longer as stylish
several unsent Christmas cards
barely begun letter
those who will not sit at the table any more
look out from picture frames
tears are shining in the candlelight
inside the heart joy mixes with sadness
carol rocks memories
white wafer waits to be broken
the first star will twinkle in the sky soon
but there are ever more empty chairs around the table

corrections  Chris Reynolds

Christmas Time

children’s voices sound like the bells at the sleigh
time already come to decorate proud Christmas tree
boxes full of decorations, brought uncle Adam
and he will be certainly helping kids with it

Anna and Suzanne, George and Walter
with a great curiosity, opened all boxes, which are
full of the wonders, tinsel decorations,
ballerinas and beautiful wooden horses

Christmas tree is already standing straight and proud
so fragrant ,green, spreading wings around
kids hang the ornaments where they could reach for
and so much fun they have with it

there is only lights and chain waiting to put on
so proud of their work children laughing loud
from the top of the Christmas tree looks a little Angel
a dog and a cat quietly watching it from under the table

now all is left is to wait patiently to see
what Santa Claus will put for the children under the tree
fulfill the dreams of those who were well-behaved
or cane he gives to those, who were did not behave so well

we’ll see soon