Sunday, March 29, 2015

Call for Submissions: Poems on Dreams and Dreamers and Dreaming
















Call for Submissions

Poems on Dreams and Dreamers and Dreaming

am looking for poems for an online mini-anthology of poems about dreaming and dreams.

They will appear in Scream Online, an online arts/culture/literature journal that gets about 50,000 hits a month. 

The journal in the past has published poems by Dorianne Laux, Jared Carter, Robin Davidson, Tom C. Hunley, Helen Degen Cohen, Charles Fishman, Bruce Guernsey, Lola Haskins, Rick Hilles, Sharon Mesmer, and many others.  

Here's a link to the most recent mini-anthology: Heaven and Hell: 48 Poems by 37 Poets.


What I'm looking for are poems talking about what you think about dreams or dreaming.  The poems can be previously published or unpublished.  Short prose pieces (prose poems?) would also work.  

The deadline for submissions is August 1, 2015.

Send your poems to John Guzlowski at jzguzlowski (at) gmail.com

Looking forward to hearing from you.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Me and Charles Simic: A Couple of Refugee Poets


I got an email yesterday from a friend. He asked me what I thought about Charles Simic. He's a poet that some of you might have heard of. He was the poet laureate of the US a couple of years ago. I think my friend was asking me about him because he figured that Charles Simic and I shared some history. We both came to the US after the war as Displaced Persons, refugees.

My friend's question got me thinking. I wonder how old Simic was when he came here to America, Chicago. I think he was older than I was--he was born before the war and he probably remembers a lot of it. I was born in 1948 and remember only the DP camps and what I heard my parents and their friends talking about. In one of the official biographies, it says Simic's life was "complicated by the events of World War II." I like the way that makes the war sound like something no more important than static on your radio, a couple hours without internet.

I doubt he ever read my poems, but I've read a lot of his.

His poems to me feel European, existential, surreal, funny in a really dark way. Maybe it's because of the different ways we learned our English. I learned it from the ground up starting when I came over when I was three. Coming to the states when he was in his teens, he probablly learned his English from the middle up (and down), and so the words he knows are the words for little plain things and big ideas, frightening and foreign even though they are a lot of times our own.

Here's a poem Charles Simic wrote.


Puppet-Maker


In his fear of solitude, he made us.
Fearing eternity, he gave us time.
I hear his white cane thumping
Up and down the hall.

I expect neighbors to complain, but no.
The little girl who sobbed
When her daddy crawled into her bed
Is quiet now.

It's quarter to two.
On this street of darkened pawnshops,
Welfare hotels and tenements,
One or two ragged puppets are awake.

____

 
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Here's a poem I wrote called "A Dog Will." It recently was published in The Convergence Review.

A Dog Will

A dog will
eat a dog

and a dog will
eat a man

and a man will
eat a dog

and a man will
eat a man

and a man will eat
his own father

sister and brother
even the mother

who fed him
milk at her breast

even though
every rule

of his church
and his people

tells him not to
if he is hungry

-----------

If you want to see a youtube of Charlie Simic reading at Cornell, just click here.

If you want to see a youtube of me reading at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NYC, just click here.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Faith, Belief, and Disbelief

 

At a reading of poems from my book Lightning and AshesI read the ones about my father’s faith and my mother’s loss of faith, and some school children in the audience ask me if I believe, and I don’t know what to say.

I don’t believe of course, but it’s not easy standing up and saying that I don’t have any faith, that God is not in my heart, that all their dreams of Heaven and salvation and the final reunions with their mothers and fathers in some blessed place beyond time is lost on me.  Especially to kids.

How can I say to them that, for me, when Jesus died he died.

I try to find something that will soothe the school children, speak to them, give them some hope in hope, but what can I tell them?

Can I give them something from Emerson or Whitman? Call I tell them, “That heaven walks among us”? Or that what “is really Me shall live just as much as before”?

I can’t tell them what I can’t tell them, and instead I tell another story, about how I told my wife I didn’t believe in anything and she looked at me and said, “You’re kidding yourself. You’re the most spiritual person I know.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Last Man on Earth


My flash fiction piece "The Last Man on Earth" appears in a audio podcast read by the actor Elijah Lucian.

It is the 2nd of three stories.  The other two are "The Flight" and "The Invasion."

Here's the link to the podcast on YouTube:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Winter Dreams -- Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944




By the winter of 1944, my father had been in Buchenwald for 3 years. 
He thought the war would never end and he would die there, some cold winter morning. I wrote a long sequence of poems about that winter. The sequence is called "Third Winter of War: Buchenwald" and it's in my book Lightning and Ashes.  
Here is one of the poems from that sequence: It's about the nightmares my dad had in the camp. They continued until the day he died 53 years later. Theywere always with him.

XVIII.

He dreams again his hands are cut
to pieces. He dreams he is falling.
He dreams he is an old woman
eating the fingers of a young boy
who died when his horse reared
up crazily and crushed him.
He dreams he swims in a river
he can’t escape. It is the blood
of the devil, thick and dark
and like acid to the tongue.
He dreams of eating human flesh,
of women copulating with corpses,
of dogs licking his fingers,
of soldiers spreading manure
around the red and white roses
beside the church in his village.
He dreams he swims in a river
he can’t escape. It is the blood
of the devil, thick and dark
and like acid to the tongue.

_____________________

The statement on the gate at Buchenwald reads "Jedem Das Seine."  It is German for "To Each His Own."

Monday, January 26, 2015

70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz


On January 27, 1945, the Russian army came upon Auschwitz and its various camps and subcamps.  

What they found was terrible.

Afraid of anyone seeing what they had been doing in Auschwitz, the Germans went on a killing spree before the arrival of the Russians.  They also tried to blow up the ovens where the murdered had been burned for years.  

When the Russians arrived, they found corpses and 7000 starving prisoners.

A conservative estimate is that 1,000,000 people died there.  

Here is a poem I wrote about Auschwitz.  It is based on an incident Tadeusz Borowski, a survivor of Auschwitz, describes in his memoir This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.


Fear

During the war, there was only work and death.
The work broke you down, filled your stomach
with rocks and threw you in the river to drown.
The work shoved a bayonet up your ass
and twisted the blade till you were dead.

In the camps, there was only what we ate
and those we worked with—sometimes women.
But we never made love. I’ll tell you why.

Fear. I remember once a thousand men
were working a field with sticks, and trucks came
and dumped naked women in front of us.
Guards were whipping them to the ovens,
and the women screamed and cried to us, pleaded
with their arms stretched out—naked mothers,
daughters, and sisters, but not one man moved.

Not one. Fear will blind you, and tie you up
like nothing else. It’ll whisper, “Just stand still,
soon it will be over. Don’t worry, there’s nothing
you can do.” You will take this fear to the grave
with you. I can promise. And after the war,
it was the same. I saw things that were as bad
as what happened in the camps. I wish
I had had a gun there. I would have
pressed it here to my forehead, right here.
Better that than what I feel now. This fear.







Friday, January 23, 2015

Memory is Our Home by Suzanna Eibuszyc



Memory is Our Home by Suzanna Eibuszyc

History is more than numbers, more than the story of how one war started on such and such a date and how it ended on a different date. 

History is about what a child feels growing up in the poverty of Post World War I Poland.  It is about what it is like to feel fear the day the Germans invaded Poland in 1939.  History is about what it means to stand on a street and know that this street will take you to a concentration camp from which you may never return.  History is about how one woman survives the return to her home after a war that has left her country in the hands of the Soviet Communists. 

This is the history that Suzanna Eibuszyc shares with us in her moving book Memory is Our Home.  Combining excerpts from her mother’s diary with her own memories of stories her mother shared with her, Ms. Eibuszyc has created a work that will move every reader with the truth of what those years between 1917 and 1969 were like.

Ms. Eisbuszyc has allowed me to reprint three short excerpts from her book. 

The first is from her introduction; the second is from her mother’s memoir of the period and describes the way she fled Warsaw soon after the German invasion; the third describes Ms. Eisbuszyc’s response to her mother’s memoir and her experiences.


Introduction:  To be a “memorial candle”

It is said that in every survivor’s family, one child is unconsciously chosen to be a “memorial candle,” to carry on the mourning and dedicate his or her life to the memory of the Shoah. That child takes part in the parents’ emotional world, assumes the family burden and becomes the link between the past and the future. I realize now that my mother chose me, and that in turn, I chose my daughter to be that memorial candle.

As far back as I can remember, my mother shared her stories with me. Her tales filled me with overwhelming sadness, but also brought color to our drab existence in the southwestern corner of Communist Poland. I have never seen any photographs that connected my mother to the extended family she so often talked about. I was frightened, confused, and ashamed, part of me did not believe my mother. The source of my sadness, which I can’t shake even today, is that I wish I had been a wiser child, but instead I retreated, I built a wall around me and protected myself. I did not know how to reconcile the overwhelmingly sad stories my mother was transmitting to me. In order for my child’s mind to resolve something I could not comprehend, I decided that my mother had to have made those people up, that those people had never existed. Today I keep asking myself over and over how I could have been so unwise.


Her Mother’s Story of Fleeing Warsaw

Finally, the day I had been planning and waiting for arrived. On November 7th, 1939, Russia had not entered Warsaw as we expected. I felt it was time to leave. I ran home, packed a few things, and went to Anja to say good-bye. Anja, once a strong voice behind the Warsaw workers, still had a fighting spark in her eyes. She was waiting for her husband Szymon and pacing the room when I came in. She held one baby in her arms while the other hung onto her skirt. I could see she was worried for her children and was doing her best not to show it. In a firm voice, she told me to stay safe and that we would see each other again soon.

It was very difficult for me to leave my family. I was one of thousands of young people who were willing to leave everything until the German occupation was over. Those with commitments, especially those with children felt it was best to stay. I tried to convince my siblings to come with me, but my efforts were in vain. They were so filled with hope that any day the English or the Russians would come to liberate Poland.

After seeing Anja, I met Sala with her children. Sala looked terrible. She was wrapped in a black satin housecoat, the same one she had been wearing when her building caught fire. She was dirty and her hair was uncombed.  Her face was swollen and her eyes were red from crying. She kept repeating that she knew we would never see each other again. Her two boys, five and three years old, were practically naked and were barefoot in November.

Before the occupation, the salon had been finally thriving. Sala was even able to buy beautiful gold rings for her fingers. Her children always had extra pairs of shoes and sets of clothing. It was all destroyed when the bomb fell on her building.

Through my tears, I could only manage to say: “I promise, we will see each other again soon.” This picture of my sister with her two boys, barefoot in the winter that last time is a haunting memory for me. It is still with me today.

Running away from Warsaw and from my family was the most difficult thing I have ever done. It is difficult to relay today how strong my fear of the Nazis was. I had no idea what racial genocide was, or that the Holocaust was about to be unleashed against Europe’s Jews by Nazi Germany. My three older siblings had five beautiful children. I loved playing with them and I did so every chance I had. I will never know what extraordinary people they would have grown up to be and what contributions to our society they would have made. After the war, I searched for them in vain.

I often think back to how they were when I left Warsaw that November. Adek’s little girl Bluma was five years old in 1939. She was a precocious little girl who was always attached to her mother. Adored by her maternal grandmother, she was always dressed in the latest style. Bluma had big dark eyes and light hair that fell in loose curls on her shoulders. A shiny, white bow was always tied to her hair right in the middle of her head. She would put her small hand in mine and let me take her for our weekly walk. On those walks I told her about my favorite Maria Konopnicka fairytale but I never told her that Marysia was an orphan. Bluma was a sensitive child. I did not want to make her sad.
Though we had almost lost him from illness, Sala’s son Piniek grew up to be a healthy five-year-old boy. An independent child, he reminded me so much of his father Moniek. We also had our weekly walks in the park. Piniek asked a thousand questions, and I was expected to have an answer for every one of them. Gutek took after his mother, always smiling and content. He had dark eyes and a dark head of curls.

Anja’s son Pinkus was three when I left Warsaw. We were best friends. I got to spend the most time with him because of Anja’s dangerous second pregnancy. He loved for me to read to him at bedtime. When I thought he was asleep and closed the book, he would open his eyes and say, “one more story Ciocia, aunt Roma please.” I never refused. His little sister, also named Bluma, was only three months old when I said good-bye to my Anja.

My final farewell was to my Adek. I handed over to him my most precious possession, a box filled with diplomas, a few of my favorite books and an album with photographs. I told him to take care of it.  My parting words were, “I will see you in a few weeks.”

At the time, England had promised to help Poland fight the Nazi invasion. We had also heard rumors about how the Russians were going to occupy more Polish territories. All of this gave me hope that Poland would soon be rid of the Nazis and I would return home to my family. Besides some clothes and food that I could carry, I left everything behind.

At the last minute, Pola decided to come with me. I told her to pack up fast. Sevek had also decided to join us. The three of us left to meet up with my girlfriends Reginka and Hanka and another last minute friend, Janek. Our group of six left Warsaw on the morning of November 8, 1939, with a mixture of fear and optimism.
                                                                                    

Suzanna Eibuszyc’s Response to her Mother’s Memoir

My mother’s accounts of her life in Warsaw and surviving in Russia and Uzbekistan had a deep impact on my imagination. 

Overwhelmed, I looked for ways to feel safe. I focused my attention on what I perceived to be my mother’s incredible adventure in Russia. I tried to picture my mother living in exotic, interesting places: the beautiful cities of Saratov and Moscow where she even experienced romance and love. While in Uzbekistan, she lived in the desert, under a hot sun and she ate exotic food. I never allowed myself to see her hungry or sick. My mother was heroic and strong, splendid and beautiful in her tailored black coat. Her stories influenced the choices I made when I left home. 

Strangely, I found comfort in unfamiliar and far-off places. Choosing to study ancient and present cultures was like revisiting the landscape of my childhood. I got to work under the hot sun, live in a tent, ride a camel and, like my mother did in Uzbekistan eat exotic food. I excavated in the desert at Tel Beer-Sheva, Israel. I observed the lives of Arab men and women, evoking my mother’s stories of strange lands. I remembered that when I was a child all I ever wanted was to follow in my mother’s footsteps and follow in her adventure. I was my mother’s daughter. I inherited her spirit.  We saw the world through the same set of eyes.  I was aware of an overwhelming fear of putting down roots, perhaps not wanting to have them severed in the same way my mother and her generation had. 

Traveling had always put me in touch with my mother’s strengths and temporarily wiped out the negative voices that played in my mind. While on the road, surrounded by unusual, new places, I was happy and at home. I went back to communist Poland, still haunted by my memories of our departure, my mother’s inconsolable crying. I had to return. I was looking for something, a piece of me I had lost or perhaps left behind. I heard my father calling me back to the small, overgrown Jewish cemetery in Klodzko, where he was laid to rest.  Like my mother, I too had succumbed to the notion that Poland was my homeland, now the ghosts of my childhood were clamoring for attention.

___________________

Excerpted from the  book Suzanna Eibuszyc’s Memory is Our Home, published by the academic press Ibidem-Verlag, ISBNs EU edition: 978 3 8382 0682 0, US edition: 978 3 8382 0702 5" spring 2015.

More information about this book is available at http://www.memoryisourhome.com/


Content copyright 2014. Suzanna Eibuszyc. All rights reserved.