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Three Cents with Jacques Fleury: America’s Rapper, Shea Rose

 

“Where did all the female hip hop artists go? We need to find the next generation and make sure their voices are heard.” –Queen Latifah

Although the charts are inundated with a plethora of ubiquitous pop artists like Beyonce, Rhianna and Lady Gaga, one tends to wonder…whatever happened to female hip hop acts like Queen Latifah , Da Brat and Salt and Peppa? Perhaps this is a sign of the perpetually transformative trajectory of the musical landscape or perhaps our musical posterity has yet to look back at the derivative sounds that encompass today’s music. Nevertheless, new generations of female artists are doing just that, bringing back the hip hop sounds of yesteryear and infusing it with other musical genres to create a fresh eclectic sound and one such artist is Shea Rose.

It was just only a few years ago that Shea Rose began singing. She started out as a poet and progressed to song writing. After leaving her dream job as a writer for MTV in New York City, she began to sing as well upon returning back to her native Boston where she experimented by performing with neo soul and classic rock acts, according to Noelle Janka in an article in Performer Magazine at Berklee College of Music. After listening to her current LP, “Little Warrior”, it is clear to me that her oeuvre are drenched in heartache, righteous anger, and communal frustration mitigated by a subtext of humanitarianism, hope and inspiration.

“Music is a Godsend, a life saver thrown out to me at a time in my life when the light at the end of the tunnel was flooded by unrelenting darkness,” declares Shea. She goes on to say, “Music has helped me to reconnect with the human condition, my community, humanity and the world at large.”

A retroactive assessment of an artist’s early years is often the best indication of their musical influences. Her recordings showcase an array of musical influences including Janis Joplin, Marvin Gaye, Amel Larriuex and Queen Latifah, whose hit song “U.N.I.T.Y” she recently re-recorded. Latifah—who coincidentally was determined to find female poets, emcees and musicians—initiated a nationwide search which resulted in her handpicking five fresh talented female voices among six hundred and Shea Rose was one of them. In an interview in Ebony Magazine, Shea talks about what it was like meeting the Queen, “…it was all about sisterhood and just being you. It was magical.” Yet still Shea struggles to define her sound, one of which is Rock ‘N’ Roll, a genre not accustomed to her prima facie physical portraiture as a Black female urbanite.

“I struggle to describe my voice and my songs when asked because…I’m still discovering me…I can say that I am a soulful…performer with traces of Blues, Folk, Jazz and Rock influences…Or as I often say, ‘The Female Lenny Kravitz meets Lauryn Hill.” And from listening to her “Little Warrior” LP, I can eagerly concur with her utterance. Songs from “Warrior” to “Go So Hard” and “Jungle Fever” capture an intransigent call for awareness surrounding issues of transcending life hardships and antiquated racist ideologies. And in a world where assertive and confident women are easily called the “b” word, songs like “I’m the Sh*t” is an affirmation of female self esteem and empowerment. The lyrics and tone of the LP can at times be perceived as austere and astringent to the senses but it is balanced with a fair amount of facetious levity.

As Shea Rose prepares to embark on the echelons of the music industry, she has a clear message for her musical peers. In her interview in Ebony Magazine, when asked about what’s missing from music today, she said plainly, “Content. We need more stuff, not fluff…something…kids can take home and really think about.” And I couldn’t agree more.

 

Jacques Fleury is the author of Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir and It’s Always Sunrise Somewhere and Other Stories.

 

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Three Cents with Jacques Fleury: A Reflection on the Christmas Season

 

“I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God.” Rumi

Soon, the snow will cascade from the December sky, adorning trees that sparkle with shimmering lights on branches that seemingly spread like open arms as if to beckon blessings from above. And I, subdued with holiday cheer and even a little bit of jeer, recall memories of doves and wondering if the world will ever succumb to peace and love. So I began to ponder about what Christmas really means, at least to me.

I am not here to harangue you on the true meaning of Christmas, I am simply offering my understanding of this most wondrous time of year. You may or may not identify with me, but hopefully you will. You see, Christmas to me is about more than just ceremony. It is about more than the money we spend to impress our loved ones. Christmas to me is about celebrating life, family, and community. It’s about enjoying one another’s company and appreciating each other’s humanity. And by humanity, I mean both positive and negative characteristics that make us all who we are. Anyone can love someone who loves you back, but the real challenge is to love someone who hates your guts.

Some of us may not be aware of this, but often our love is conditional. And I include myself in this category. How many times have you find yourself falling out of love with someone because you suddenly discover that they are (taking a deep breath) “human” and therefore “broken?” We are all broken pearls along the road. We have all said or done things that intentionally or unintentionally hurt one another. We have all been cursed or blessed with being unequivocally HUMAN! After all, a common colloquialism during the colonial settlements in America was: “In Adams fall, we sinned all…”

In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season lets us celebrate humanism. I am learning to embrace this revelation of human imperfection to negate any prior illusions. I have since reasoned to look to someone greater than myself and my fellow human travelers for unrestricted love. It was at that time that I gleefully looked to a higher spiritual power for eternal and unconditional love. “I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God” as earnestly stated by the renowned Persian poet Rumi; to which I whole heartedly concur. When it comes to who we love, we ought not to limit ourselves to the contiguous few, only those who are closest to us like our families; that would perpetrate a fallacious notion of disconnectedness with each other; that my actions can’t affect you and your actions can’t affect me. However that is a fallacy with which I don’t agree. You most likely heard the phrase “six degrees of separation”? or how about “if your neighbors bed is on fire, wet yours…” Essentially we all affect each other and we are someway somehow connected whether we are cognizant of it or not.

In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. This ideology is further affirmed by Albert Einstein, who declared that, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” In other words, we are all connected so let us all be united by this wise notion.

In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. This brings me to speculating about the true meaning of Christmas. I truly believe that we can all find happiness with one another, granted that we do this one thing: learning to accept one another because of our humanity and not in spite of it; celebrate rather than castigate each other for our differences; recognize that we are all like the crayons in a child’s Crayola box, each color brings its own vibrant gift to evoke a colorful image of the motley human art form.

In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. Growing up partly in Haiti for the first decade of my life, in the middle Port-au-Prince city, I remember when the government used to have Christmas for the kids in the Haitian White House. I remember the first time I heard of Santa Clause, except in Haiti, he is called “Papa Noel.” I remember being in total awe of Papa Noel. I thought that he was this magical being who was going to rescue me from the growing pains of my childhood and enhance the moments of joy. But now, all these years later, I am trying to rekindle my fascination with the holiday season. As I walk around town at night, I bask in the glitter of the glimmering trees and exuberant smiles on the people’s faces and I start thinking about what Christmas really means.

In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. The true meaning of Christmas for me is essentially love yourself and one another as you are; knowing that you and your life are “perfect” in the eyes of God. In the words of the ubiquitous motivational speaker and spiritualist Wayne Dyer: “Everything is perfect in the universe, even our desire to change it.” The true meaning of Christmas is not about out doing your neighbor’s Christmas decorations, or buying the most expensive gift for your loved ones. At the threat of getting too syrupy, the true meaning of Christmas should be about lending a smile to someone who bears a frown, offering a hug to someone in tears, and providing food and shelter to someone in need. The true meaning of Christmas is about seeing one another as family and not as enemies. Don’t let the melanin in your neighbor’s skin determine whether or not he/she is worthy of your respect. Don’t let the size of your bank account or family breeding determine your worth or your neighbor’s worth.

In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. The true meaning of Christmas is seeing one another as one. As our nation’s first president George Washington once said about the American colonies: “We are one.” The true meaning of Christmas is about celebrating our legacies not deficiencies. It’s about fraternity and diversity, not hostility and bigotry; collaboration not division; it’s about being giving, joyful, and thankful for what we have and not what we don’t have. Finally, it’s about the beauty and miracle of creation: the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the age of Trumpism, this Christmas season let us celebrate humanism. Even I struggle with these issues every day, so I speak from experience. I come face to face with anger and prejudice constantly, partly due to negative societal conditioning. I too am affected by my own fallible “humanity”. But I constantly aim to eschew negative thought patterns to reflect a healthier approach. You may not always be able to dictate your thoughts but you can dictate your actions. You can CHOOSE to act on your “loving” thoughts rather than your “hateful” ones, especially during these times, the age of Trumpism, when hate crimes against racial and religious minorities (e.g. Blacks, Jewish and Muslims) have substantially increased by at least 30 percent according the latest statistical data.

I use the following mantra: “Be a source of love and light in the face of prejudice and hatred.” And only then will you finally learn the true meaning of Christmas. Joeux Noel et Bonne Anne a tous (Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to All)!

 

Jacques Fleury is the author of Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir and It’s Always Sunrise Somewhere and Other Stories.

Mark Blickley a proud member of the Dramatist Guild and PEN American Center. Katya Shubova is a photographer and international tango dancer.

 

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Three Cents with Jacques Fleury: America – There Can Be Unity in Diversity

 

‘It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable.“
–Molière

 

I am about to “do” something that for me has been long overdue. I am first and foremost a poet. A poet speaks through the mouth of truth with a poetic tongue through keen objective and subjective observations and scrutiny of society and that is what I will attempt to do, to the best of my ability.

These are the days you’ll remember, an old racial reality with younger angrier faces has been re-hatched with temerity, and we hope it will bring us stronger together rather than tear us apart; as we continue to learn to celebrate our diversity instead of being castigated for our differences. Today I saw a sign held by a young white female during the freedom of speech rally on the Boston Commons that said: “Racism is not over, but I’m over racism.” This is a testament to the resistance against intolerance.

The “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement is not in competition with the “All Lives Matter” movement simply because of course All Lives Matter but racism dictates that Black Lives Matter Less and White Lives Matter More and so that’s why the movement exists. The BLM movement is having its moment in the sun by speaking and standing up for equity for the designated bottom feeders of society who refuse to run, but instead, get angry.. They hail and wail, and with them I also question: “what is going on?” We need a shift in direction!

“Many sides! Many sides!” say Black people are lazy but moon town sun down we’re working like crazy; fighting for our inalienable rights as “equal” members of society. Our clock never seems to stop turning; we’re confused about the American promise: work hard and you’ll get some relief but does “relief” comes for those who do not look like the majority? But who am I? Just a maligned Haitian-American citizen whose voting voice barely makes a seething sound.

Way back when, chiefly Africans worked 400 years around the clock building the American capitalist economy. It is documented that slave labor made an 80% contribution to the building of the grand American wealth. And when Abraham Lincoln tried to remedy slavery with the onslaught of the Civil War and won, he was assassinated and the White Lives Matter More movement was born.

Never mind the fact that when America decided to free itself from the tight grip of British oppression, the first person who died for the American cause was a Black Bostonian by the name of Crispus Attucks on March 5th, 1770. Never mind that Black people have fought in every American war, even when they were told that their “inferior“ genetics made them a liability and unfit to serve, hence they essentially had to fight to fight. Never mind that after the American World War II triumph, when returning soldiers were handed hefty G.I Bills–which were designed to help service members, eligible veterans and their families cover the costs associated with getting an education or training–that allowed them to partake in the American dream that resulted in being able to buy houses in the suburbs with two car garages during the booming 1950s and subsequently the Black soldiers were denied their G.I. Bills and instead faced further indignities by having to endure separated but “equal” Jim Crow laws and a discriminatory practice that was generated by the civil war called The Black Code which meant that Blacks seeking jobs were to be turned away. A practice similar to the “No Irish Need Apply” signs during the influx of Irish immigrants in the early 1820’s.

Which makes one wonder, how does a race that endured 400 years of slave labor, toiling seventeen hour days under the sun, while light skinned Blacks waited on Whites inside the plantation houses, and in the post slavery years were turned away when they sought legitimate employment be stereotyped as lazy? Besides, scientific evidence has traced the genesis of the human race and eventual diaspora all the way back to Africa 50,000 years ago, (aka The Mother Land). Hence this mere fact would argue that indirectly we are all connected.

Never mind that my Haitian ancestors fought in the American Revolution and were finally memorialized in Savannah, Georgia for their heroic service. Never mind that the ruthless emperor Napoleon Bonaparte used the monetary funds he attained from the slave labor on the Island of Haiti to fortify the American cause against the British. Never mind that Haiti’s victory over the French inspired American slave revolts in the form of Nat Turner’s rebellion and more successfully the Civil War; which resulted in the passing of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments meant to ensure Black equality in America. Yet, here we are, in the 21st century, over 150 years post slavery, we are back in the streets fighting to matter. I once heard an unmasked white nationalist (as most of them are these days) asserting with a deceptively docile smile on his face, that he acknowledges the inherent worth and dignity of all people BUT…particularly people of European descent. Go figure.

The world is restless as wars for justice and equality go on and on the domestic front; regular folks have formed movements to unify a diversified and increasingly divided America juxtaposed with president Donald Trump’s stance to “Make America Great Again” but for whom? For Blacks? For Hispanics? For Asians? For Muslims? For All immigrants? For the poor and disenfranchised? For whom? Perhaps we can “all” make America great by making our own unique voices heard by making moral and ethical contributions to one another; by aiding and not abetting the American cause, the American promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which belongs to all Americans. Period. Lets not forget all of us, who are not Native Americans, are descendants of immigrants. All of our ancestors came here from somewhere else, whether it was on the Mayflower or on Ellis Island in New York harbor overlooking the Statue of Liberty, we owe our lives here in America to the intrepid liberty seeking trajectory of the immigrant. Hence we will NOT be silenced. And we will NOT go away. We are here to stay!

I am quite aware that a plethora of Americans, White or otherwise, have been indoctrinated–which is to teach someone to uncritically accept biased ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group–rather than educated about our social-cultural and economic structures. For example some have been indoctrinated to think that Black people are lazy and some choose to believe that without question. One of the remedies I can think of is to be honest with yourself about how you have been consciously or subconsciously indoctrinated or taught about others who are different from you, and then, the most difficult part of all, have a DIALOGUE with that person, then re-evaluate your preconceived notions or fallacies and start fresh. I truly believe that it will be at that point you can move from being indoctrinated to being “educated” about other human beings who are truly not that much different from you; being that we are all members of the same race: the human race.

Yet, still I concur with the French playwright Molière’s inspirational words “It is not only what we do but also what we do not do for which we are accountable.“ Hence you are responsible for looking away when wrong is being committed just as you are responsible for getting involved when wrong is being committed. So don’t just sit there, do something! Start by having a conversation with someone perceived as different from you from a prima facie stand point and see what happens. There can be social progressivity in practicing political civility. What I mean by that is diligently adhering to our American constitutional pledge of freedom of speech inherent in our first amendment rights and our democracy. We may not always agree, but as free Americans, we have pledged to at least listen to what each other have to say.

My heart is brimming with pride to be a Bostonian after the inexorable display of unity on that hot summer day, the August 19th Freedom of Speech Rally where hate groups were expected to make a strong showing, but less 50 showed up to Boston’s 15,000 strong; which proves Bostonian treat each other as family, and like most families, there maybe some in fighting, but when it comes to hostile intruders, we stand together in defiant unity. Thank you to Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Boston police for the preemptive protection of our beloved city.

It is because of this intrepid display of unity that l am a proud Haitian-American citizen and Bostonian. It is because of this fervent display of unity that I am hopeful and optimistic that one day the poor, marginalized and disenfranchised members of society will finally rise from the ashes of assigned adversity to eventually bask in the glory of human dignity through monetary self sufficiency and finally find liberty, equality and fraternity for all of humanity.

The father of that young White woman who died fighting racism and hatred in Charlottesville, Virginia at the hands of neo-Nazis and white supremacist implored us all to STOP THE HATE! Stop holding onto the past like a child holds onto a security blanket and forgive each other. At the end of the day, we all matter and we are all stronger together!

 

Jacques Fleury is the Author of Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir & It’s Always Sunrise Somewhere and Other Stories.

 

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Three Cents with Jacques Fleury: Why We Still Need Black History Month

 

In an article by Mema Ayi and Demetrius Patterson from the Chicago Defender, they wrote that “actor Morgan Freeman created a small firestorm…when he told Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes that he finds Black History Month (BHM) ridiculous.” Freeman goes on to say that “Americans perpetrate racism by relegating Black history to just one month when Black history is American history.”

As you can clearly see, a month dedicated to Black history continues to stir controversy. The point of the matter is we can’t continue to ignore the fact that—although we have made progress towards racial unity—we still have ways to go towards racial, harmony, understanding and tolerance if not acceptance.

Scholars and historians such as Conrad Worrill, chairman of the National Black United Front repulses the commercialization of the celebration, stated Ayi and Patterson. However, they go on to say that “but [Worrill] agree that Black Americans still need February and everyday to reflect on the accomplishments of Black Americans who contributed countless inventions and innovations into society.”

It was in 1926 when Carter G. Woodson created Negro History Week. Now all these years later has evolved into Black History Month. But why do we still need—even in the twenty-first century—a month set aside to recognize Black history in this country? Perhaps you can look within your hearts for that answer. Negro History Week morphed into Black History Month in 1976, when African Americans developed a renewed interest in their ancestral history primarily as a result of Alex Haley’s revolutionary miniseries Roots.

Radio personality Cliff Kelley offers an explanation as to why we need Black History Month. Loosely translated, he said that we need it because capricious historians conveniently leave out certain parts of history that does not corroborate their version of history, which I think consist mostly of dead White men. Blacks are virtually removed from it to substantiate the White historical agenda. Plenty of Black youths do not know their history. Most of them think that their history begins and ends with slavery, wrote Patterson and Ayi.

State Representative David Miller (D- Calumet City) asserted that Freeman was right in saying that Black history should be a year round thing. “We’ve shaped America,” he said. And that Black History Month should serve as a reminder of our legacy.

The recently deceased Howard Zinn wrote in his book A People’s History of the United States, “There is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important than the United States.” He poses the question “Is is possible for Blacks and Whites to live together without hatred?” And when it comes to the evolution of racism he had this to say, “…slavery developed into a regular institution of the normal labor relations of Blacks and Whites in the New World. With it developed that special racial feeling—whether hatred or contempt or pity or patronization—that accompanied the inferior position of Blacks in America… that combination of inferior status and derogatory thought we call racism.” He goes on to say that “The point is the elements of this web are historical, not ‘natural.’ This does not mean that they are easily disentangled or dismantled. It only means that there is a possibility for something else, under historical conditions not yet realized.”

In an article from The Phoenix titled “Is There Hope in Hollywood? Three controversial films tackle race in The Age of Obama,” Peter Keough extrapolates the medium of films are making an effort to bridge the race gap by portraying Blacks as heads of state—in movies like Transformers 2, 2012 and Invictus—although the contexts in which a Black man becomes President is often marred by catastrophe in which case the White leader is killed. Or Blacks are still being portrayed in glaring stereotypical roles as in Precious, with racist clichés like when Precious steals and eats an entire box of fried chicken. The undercurrent of racism is evident even from well meaning Whites like Joe Biden, when he opposed Obama for President. Biden declared that “[Obama] is the first mainstream African-American who is articulate, and bright and clean and a nice looking guy”

Similarly, another fellow democrat and senate majority leader Harry Reid in his book Game Change, said of Obama that America is ready for a Black President, particularly because he is “light skinned and speak with no Negro dialect.” This leads me to extrapolate that despite all that Blacks have contributed to the making of America, our contributions seemingly become extraneous compared to our prima facie colorful appearance. And I am compelled to recall what Dr. King Jr. so eloquently stated that Black people should be judged “by the contents of their character” and not their skin color.

Many modern conveniences are directly related to or derivative of the inventions of Black inventors (blood banks, systematic procedures for the treatment of cataracts, the refrigerator, the electric trolley, the dustpan, comb, brush, clothes dryer, lawn mower, traffic signals, the pen etc.) Dr. Patricia Bath, in 1985, invented specialized tools and procedures for the removal of cataracts. And, on a less serious note, George Crum who invented the potato ship and Kenneth Dunkley who invented 3-D viewing glasses and holographs that we think are so “cool”` and enjoy so much.

I sought out some thoughts and comments from local community leaders and young activists on the issue of why we still need Black History Month. I was inundated with a wealth of responses!

Dr. Carolyn L. Turk, an African-American woman and Deputy Superintendent of Cambridge Public Schools stated that “We have moved from celebrating Negro History Week to celebrating Black History Month…these celebrations are…needed and should continue, but I am also a strong advocate for the contributions of African Americans to be recognized…throughout the year, across content areas and to be inclusive of local community history. Knowledge of our past helps connect us to our present and provides hope …for the future…if we are to continue to build on the [legacies of those who came before us].

Bob Doolittle, a Caucasian youth pastor living in Cambridge said that “Black History Month can and should take Martin Luther King day and make it thirty days of celebrating how the right kind of force leaves a legacy of increasing enjoyment of one another by those who are different.”

Shani Fletcher, a bi-racial woman (African- American and Caucasian) of Teen Voices Magazine offered her thoughts: “Black History Month is an opportunity for everyone to celebrate the African-American experience and the role of Black people in the history of the United States… Quite literally, Black people built this country, and our communities’ contributions are a major part of its culture.”

Marla Marcum, a Caucasian doctoral candidate at the Boston University School of Theology had this to say: “I can give you a concrete example of why Black History Month is vitally important: … This extremely bright young woman—a freshman at MIT—who graduated from one of the best high schools in Massachusetts upon finding out about Coretta Scott King’s death asked ‘Was she Martin Luther King’s sister?’ Are we content that this young woman (and so many others) has been taught something about Dr. King, yet she understands so little of his context that she learned nothing at all of his life? Of course our education system should be integrating Black history into the broader curricula, but when it had not happened even in the best public school systems, I think we need to recognize the critical importance of continued attention to Black History Month.”

The fundamental nature of Black History Month based on these spectrum perspectives is to celebrate variety and inclusiveness of all people, build on the prophetic and heroic legacies of our ancestors who fought for our freedoms today, recognize that Black History Month is essentially American history despite racial diversity, acknowledge an honor the contributions of African-Americans to this country, advocate for change in our public school systems to include more Black history in their curricula.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” and that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We need to bridge the interpersonal and inter-racial gap in a highly mechanized society so…“TAKE OFF YOUR HEAD PHONES AND CARE!!!”

The memory of history is often picky. BHM serves as a reminder of its often-colorless state of existence. So, do we still need Black History Month? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” As long as Blacks are portrayed as stereotypes in the movies, as long as Black contributions to the bastion that is America are marginalized or altogether ignored, as long as Black leaders like former President Barrack Obama are seen as “acceptable” by Whites simply because he is light-skinned and speak without Negro dialect, Black History Month will continue to be necessary and indispensable.

 

Jacques Fleury is the Author of “Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir” & “It’s Always Sunrise Somewhere and Other Stories”

 

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Three Cents: When the Light Turns Green

 

Today, we have notable poet Alice Wiess, and her review of Spruce Alley Press’ production of Kenneth Pobo’s When the Light Turns Green, with artwork by Stacy Esch.

When the Light Turns Green we take off or nose out of stillness into little places resonant with quirky beauty and pain. It is a light filled lyrical ride where each poem stops to find something in place: a moment, a vision, a transcendence of pain, a recognition, a way of seeing. In “Family Reunion,” the idea of family broadens into surprise,

                           One grasshopper holds
                           all her ancestors
                           on a single leaf.

The place where “Sometimes Loneliness Can’t Be Cured” is school where you are different, gay, and

                           Classmates cement bricks together
                           around you.

With his Grandpa, ‘tea/on a small porchtable’ and work, in a poem he uncovers an unexpected longing in the old man, a change in his understanding of the man, place is Commonwealth Edison, and the thing about it it’s not an outdoor job. In the poem “Photo,” the place is Key West, and he’s young and in love, or maybe chillingly, it’s “A stalled car. Yet” he smiles “like when a cop/pulls someone over/ who tries to get out of a ticket.”

Cover Art
Cover Art “The Clearing” © Stacy Esch

In “Face the Autumn,” we see the speaker in place, to wit, a bullied gay kid, who sees “trapped kids/ trapped other kids.” More figurative but also ominous, in “Way Back” we see a garden go from autumn to winter, and again, we are transfixed in place:

                           We bring in
                           the Christmas tree
                           See blackened wisps,
                           petunia ghosts looking
                           for some crack in

                           a snowy wall
                           a slippery
                           way back.

In “Pointed Toes” we find a humorous place intertwining street and bedroom.

                           sleet’s dirty
                           socks land
                           on parking
                           meters

Another poem, a character wonders if “Death is a hailstorm,” What’s in place here is the tearing up of the ordinary, the shirts, the petunia, the disruption even of the disruption, turning the hail into “melting globes:”

                           torn plaid shirts
                           of petunia blossoms
                           under melting globes.

And in “Heron” the speaker explores what it means to dominate a place, not merely a nest, “she spent spring sprucing up,” but a greater place, continuous, she can survey, snag a snake, “make short work of a toad.” Or “Tree” where the metaphor takes control of vision, so the tree cuts the sun into slivers, “Put sky in a tree/ and it’s less than/ a caught kite.

Along with place as a theme to explore, there are doors, which of course define place, or at least a special kind of enclosed place. In “Bulbs,” as in “Sometimes Loneliness Can’t Be Cured” the problem is the stealing of order, the bullies, the squirrels, that leave the soul gaping,

                           . . . Squirrels rob us
                           blind, don’t bother to close
                           soils’s door when they leave.

Stacy Esch’s colorful plates deepen the experience of the poems. “Hold on but let go,” a colorful leaf-like background surrounds a figure both plant and man, his turned away face in the center of the bloom. The picture is art made from the struggle in the poems against the suffocation of the enclosure, the wall of color, with very little light coming though, yet there is growth.

For me the place where Esch’s prints and Pobo’s poems come together to give us a sense of release and sense of strange community in the juxtaposition of Pobo’s two Mrs. Mugroni poems and Esch’s “Gathering.” The background of the print lets in light; there are standing figures and a crowd of heads with open eyes and child smiles. and there is a kind of structure in the center of the piece made of shapes that look like building parts that combine with a figure that seems to be a woman and three children. The structure just balances the somewhat sad figure at the top is away from the crowd but balances on it, observing, a little sad. So we see the speaker observe the Mugroni family, Mrs. Mugroni, pillar of the church who holds it together, by “offing” the lights, when she might see, recognize, that church is a salesman pulling into the driveway. “She keeps the Bible under Perry Como Albums/ Sunday comes. She’s there.”

This series of poems and prints finds its recognition in metaphors that merge nature and irony, observes isolation and anger there, lets time show itself as a kind of healer, “our beards whiter than last year.” “Sooner or later everything departs”.

 

Alice Weiss’ poems have been appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Soul-Lit.com, Ibbetson Street, Liberty’s Vigil, The Occupy Anthology; Poetry Super Highway; Wilderness House Literary Review; Muddy River Poetry Review, and Jewish Currents. Until 2011 she was the unofficial Poet-in-Residence at Am HaYam, the Cape Cod Chavurah. She received an MFA in poetry from New England College in 2010 and has been studying with Tom Daley in Cambridge.