Calling All Poets

bhb-logo1Blue Hand Books is seeking poetry submissions for an upcoming publication; book four in our collection, The Lost Children book series. Author Patricia Busbee is editing this volume. (The title of the new book is still taking shape). We are interested in both emerging and established writers. Heartfelt and genuine writing is valued. We are looking for pieces that address the often overlooked and complex histories of American Indian First Nations. Areas of particular interest are Indian-boarding schools, adoption and foster care. We are also interested in these issues from a contemporary perspective.
There is an September 1st deadline. We accept poems of any length. Send up to three poems. We like free verse, prose poems, experimental and traditional forms. Please include a bio with your submission. Also include a URL to your blog or website, if applicable. Please send submissions to Book Editor patriciabusbeewriter@gmail.com or BHB Publisher larahentz@yahoo.com.
A few ideas to spark your creative process: Buried trauma, raw truths, ancestors, ancestral memory, reclaiming, reimagining, the healing power of the land, coming home, full circle and future generations.
[Writers will be compensated in book copies.]

Visual Prophecies

 

We unearthed opium apothecary jars along with Indian arrowheads while digging to China. Our excavations took place at the edge of the property line, beside the small tree that was supposed to produce tiny oranges the size of ping pong balls but never did. A hybrid transplant in need of rich soil and sunlight. It didn’t thrive in the sticky red Ohio clay. We carefully arranged and rearranged the fruits of our excavations on the weatherworn picnic table. The artifacts of childhood on display. I was curious about the original owners. I worried that angry ghosts might show up demanding their wares. I carefully wrapped the artifacts in faded wrinkled tissue paper and carried them around in an old brown leather purse that I retrieved from the neighbor’s garbage. Bobby snuck into our garage and stole the purse that was hidden in a wicker picnic basket. He placed it inside his rusted red wagon that he dragged behind him throughout the neighborhood. A traveling show of oddities. He traded the medicine bottles and arrowheads for a slightly bent gold gilded birdcage, minus the perches, and three pieces of Bazooka Bubblegum. Yellow and white feathers and used gravel paper lined the bottom of the cage. I sat cross-legged on our freshly tarred driveway ignoring the smell and heat. I could not articulate the pain I was experiencing over the loss of my treasures. Only now do I understand the symbolism of the bottles and the arrowheads. Visual prophecies. The bottles alluded to a slow poisoning of the soul. The arrowheads, my father’s ancestry. My ancestry. I would become a woman that exhumed her own life in search of truths about her adoption and her lineage. Proud of his haggling abilities, Bobby held the birdcage up in the fading afternoon summer sunlight. His long shadow towered above me. I watched as a smiling stranger strutted off with the arrowheads and the light blue opium apothecary jars.

Mona Lane 1968

My Holy Book

I often accompany my husband to his doctor’s appointments at the VA. I used to detest going because I was forced to witness the overcrowding and the pain and sorrow of the aftermath of war. Ghosts and memories are invoked in the waiting room. The ghosts walk openly among the living. The vivid stories exchanged between the Vets are a conjuring of traumas past.

After listening and witnessing last weeks stories I am convinced one of the spirits wrapped itself around my spine and hitched a ride to my house. The haunting first showed itself as sadness. Then came anger. I am unable to shake the image of their faces.

I reminded myself that the Vets were living their pain on a daily basis. They did not have the option of looking away.

Recently over heard in the VA waiting room:

“When I cane home from Vietnam I stayed drunk for three years. I had no idea what the war was about. All these years later, I still don’t know.”

“Thank God when I came home I was able to get a job as a land surveyor. I never could have worked inside. I needed wide open spaces.”

“After all these years I’m finally getting my pay for being exposed to Agent Orange. What good is it going to do me now? Got Parkinson’s disease.”

A tall skinny man with brown hair walked up to the check-in counter clutching a fist-full of tee shirts. They matched the one he was wearing. The bold letting stated, Another Vietnam Vet Fucked by Washington. The man’s voice rose as he spoke to the man behind the counter, “Ya wanna buy one?”

Last Monday I dropped my husband off at the front of the building. I couldn’t find a parking space except in a remote area. As I was walking a VA shuttle pulled up. A white haired man opened the doors and said, “Jesus Christ they are going to have to do something. We have absorbed three clinics from the surrounding area. No parking spots. Not enough room or time. You want dropped off out front?”

In response to the long afternoons spent at the VA hospital I pulled Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, an anthology by Maxine Hong Kingston from my bookshelf. One of the reasons I choose this book is because I had the privilege of taking a workshop with Maxine during my time at Goddard. I wanted someone familiar—someone I trusted to hold up the flashlight while I examined what it was I was after. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. A way to make sense out of the senseless? More insight into my husband’s pain? After asking myself these questions I realized what I was looking for was a way to contain horrific realities without being swallowed whole.

My father was a medic in World War Two. He refused to speak about what he experienced. He would press his lips together, seal them and shake his head. It was a pact he made with himself. The only time the war was mentioned was around food. “I can’t eat that. I ate it every day in the military.” Oatmeal was one of the forbidden foods. I remember him throwing the steaming bowl onto the tiled kitchen floor and running out of the kitchen. I still think of that every time I poor raw oats in scalding water.

Enjoying Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace is unexpected. Prior to this I did not read many war books. I distanced myself as best I could. This realization disturbes me considering my husband is a Vietnam War Vet and my father has an extensive military history.

Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace is helping me understand the politics of war, the depths, things I never considered. There are a multitude of perspectives and stories. Reading the stories reminds me of being at the VA listening to the Veteran’s talk while sitting in the waiting room.

The authors I praise are the ones that speak the truth. I admire people that can sit with the pain, internalize it and turn into something else. They don’t back a way from this alchemical process.

The piece I am reading and rereading in Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace is by George Evans, A Walk in the Garden of Heaven. The beauty of the language is staggering. There are lines in this piece that made me want to roll around on the floor. The writing pierced something in my chest. Opened me up. “This is it,” I said out loud. “This is how I want to write.” The author possesses the ability to articulate what he experienced without rage or anger. Yet the writing was not whitewashed. His level of “seeing” brought me to my knees.

The following are a few of the lines that spoke to me:

The moment I saw your face,” he said, “was like walking into the Hall of a Thousand and One Bodhisattvas.”

“She had no idea what he meant, how it is to enter Sanjusangendo in Koyoto for even the fiftieth time and see row upon row of a thousand standing figures, carved, painted, and gold-leafed with a calm but stunned look of enlightenment, five-hundred on each side of a larger, seated figure of their kind, miniature heads knotted to their scalps representing the fragments of a time when their heads exploded in dismay at the evil in the world, the way our heads exploded in the war, though we don’t wear our histories where they can be seen.”

“It is said, and its true, that if you search the thousand faces, you will find the face of someone lost from your life.”

I read the entire piece to my husband and I said, “I want to write like this. I want to express on this level without raging or whining or sounding desperate.” He said, “No you don’t want to write like this. He has seen things we can’t imagine.”

What Evans offered was an invitation to join him on his journey as he struggles with spirituality, cultures, war, peace, insanity, PTSD and homelessness. He invited me to sort thru my own locked closet to determine what is in the back drawers—the hidden chambers.

I want to walk into my writing with my eyes wide open, turning over every stone, thinking, reflecting and then thinking some more until the language fills me and the story arrives on the page raw and honest. I want to do this fully conscience and with my nervous system intact.

I am carrying “Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace” in my purse. Today it is my Holy book.

Laundered

The oak saplings on Mona Lane had grown into tall stately trees. Their leaves provided a shaded canopy from the muggy July heat. Several neighbors watched as I took pictures of my childhood home. A baldheaded man paced back and forth on his front porch. His hand was tightly wrapped around his cell-phone. My father’s rosebushes had long since vacated the property. The only thing that remained unchanged was the chain-link fence. I wanted to sit down on the front steps and sort out my emotions—pick thru them like piles of dirty laundry.

Whites.

Darks.

Good.

Bad.

Keep.

Bury.

Purge.

Stained.

Not enough time—an emotional drive-by. There were reunions to attend, biological siblings to meet and graveyards to traipse through. No time for sorting. My grandmother’s ghost was haunting the Alger Cemetery—waiting for my sister and I to hurry up and get there so we could pour her a beer.

Folklore: To prevent laundry hanging out to dry from getting bewitched, you should never leave it outside overnight.

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