Poetry Friday: War, water and migration

Poetry Friday
Poetry Friday
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In honor of National Poetry Month, The Thread is celebrating Poetry Fridays. Each Friday in April, we will publish a selection of poetry from local independent publishing houses Graywolf Press, Milkweed Editions and Coffee House Press.

Today's selections come from Rebecca Dunham, Jack Marshall and Mai Der Vang.

Collections featured on Poetry Friday
Collections featured on Poetry Friday
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In Which She Considers the Water

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Flint, Michigan, 2016

The river rushes and beats her
            home. Through phosphate-scaled
plumbing, it veins the walls' plaster
            and water bleeds
orange chloride from the tap. The pipes
            leach. The lead—no
imminent threat to public health—seeps
            and floats like a ghost, silent,
straight from the Flint to her child's
plastic cup. Lead levels peak
            at 13,200 ppb and the pipes moan:
what was done cannot be
            undone. Fill a glass. Hold it
to the light. No one here to see.

"In Which She Considers the Water" from "Cold Pastoral." Copyright © 2017 by Rebecca Dunham. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions.

Aleppo Winter

Barrel bombs, indiscriminate slaughter.
Midwinter. Refugees fleeing across borders.
Nothing but gnawing hunger anymore.

Horses, in rank stalls
That families hide in, feed on more
Than children will,

And homesickness worsens horror
Of the present to yearning for their past
Apprehension but less terror.

I remember my mother saying, for her as a girl
Aleppo winters were like being caught in a river
Rising and night growing cold as marble

Freezing you in place,
And every place in you was everywhere
Ice. She liked her talk like her cooking, spiced.

When I once asked why she always expected
The worst. "I don't expect the worst,"
She said, "I expect the expected."

Memory's meat
We eat and keep

Decades later, reading in Malaparte's KAPUTT
Of a winter night in farthest Finland,
German's shelling sent a mass flight

Into the lake, the heavy guns driving them on
The very night the lake freezes over.
Soon all fixed in place, a thousand

Frozen faces as if sliced clean by an ax
Caught in last living grimaces of terror and torment—
On Lake Ladoga's vast sheet of white marble rested

A thousand cavalry horses'
Heads stuck out of the crust
Of ice.

"Aleppo Winter" from "Fugitive, in Full View. Copyright © 2017 by Jack Marshall. Used with the permission of Coffee House Press.


Spirit, when I flee this jungle, you must too.
I will take our silver bars, necklace dowry, and the kettle
forged from metal scraps just after the last monsoon.

Among the foliage, we must be ready to see
the half-decayed. You must not run off no matter how much
flesh you smell.

Nor should you wander to chase an old mate.

Spirit, we are in this with each other the way the night geese
in migration need the stars.

When I make the crossing, you must not be taken no matter what
the current gives. When we reach the camp,

there will be thousands like us.
If I make it onto the plane, you must follow me to the roads
and waiting pastures of America.

We will not ride the water today on the shoulders of buffalo
as we used to many years ago, nor will we forage
for the sweetest mangoes.

I am refugee. You are too. Cry, but do not weep.

We walk out the door.

"Transmigration" from "Afterland." Copyright © 2017 by Mai Der Vang. Used with the permission of Graywolf Press.