Archives for category: I AM STILL WAITING

sugar jets
Sugar Jets
by Patrick T. Reardon

I was six and unclear on the concept.
The commercial, black and white, for Sugar Jets
told me, if I ate a bowl, I would be jet-propelled.

I could see the boy and girl eat Sugar Jets
and fly around the box, jet-propelled.
They were drawings. But a contract was offered,
I thought.

You can see where this is going.

I nagged my mother or maybe my father
— a scary proposition, either way —
to buy Sugar Jets, without saying why.

A box was bought.
I ate a bowl
and went to the back porch, two flights up
from the pavement and lawn below,
looked out over the yard and alley and blacktop,
a gray pavement playground.

At least I didn’t throw myself off.

Instead, I waited for whatever would happen
to jet-propel me
out into the air
and into freedom
and into wonder, maybe a rebirth of wonder.

I am still waiting.

IMAGE: Still from animated commercial for Sugar Jets cereal (mid-1950s).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: True story.  Lucky I didn’t jump.

PTR mid-March 2020

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of nine books, including The Loop: The “L” Tracks That Shaped and Saved Chicago; the poetry collection Requiem for David and Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious analysis of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence. His poetry has appeared in Burningwood Literary Journal, Eclectica, Esthetic Apostle, Ground Fresh Thursday, Literary Orphans, Rhino, Spank the Carp, Main Street Rag, The Write Launch, Hey I’m Alive, Meat for Tea, Silver Birch Press, Tipton Poetry Journal, UCity Review, and Under a Warm Green Linden. Reardon, who worked as a Chicago Tribune reporter for 32 years, has published essays and book reviews widely in such publications as the Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, National Catholic Reporter, and U.S. Catholic. His tenth and eleventh books are forthcoming: Puddin: The Autobiography of a Baby, a Memoir in Prose Poems (2021, Third World Press) and Darkness on the face of the water (2022, Kelsay Books)His Pump Don’t Work blog can be found at patricktreardon.com.

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i am still waiting in line
by Richard Vargas

only one employee is manning
a checkout-station as the rest
are closed off maybe for good

white haired, five feet tall at the most
stocky and wearing glasses thick
as the bottom of a coke bottle
the blue vest hanging over
her slumped shoulders
she could be someone’s great-grandma
trying to stay afloat paying
property taxes on the farm
medical bills her dead husband
left behind or maybe she
likes the job because
it keeps her on her toes
and out of that dreaded
assisted-living facility
her kids bring up every
time they come to visit

here she gets to meet people
who would normally ignore her
but now are at her mercy
as she picks up one item
handles it with care turning
it over in her liver-spotted
hands looking for the universal
product code so she can scan and bag
she finds it soon enough
on her time, not ours
then goes on to the next item
the person she is checking out
has a shopping cart piled
high and i’ve run out of
tabloid headlines and lifestyle
magazine covers to entertain myself
i’m not going anywhere soon
there are two other customers
ahead of me and no one says
a thing or mutters a complaint
our minutes become molasses
dripping down a wall but worth
being a witness to the marvel
of her persistence

i am still waiting while
at the far end of the row
of vacant conveyor belts
and silent cash registers
the self-checkout is packed

people in a hurry
their time is so priceless
they rush to give it away

PAINTING: Per Capita by Jean-Michel Basquiat (1981).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I like to think Mr. Ferlinghetti would agree my poem is about capitalism’s wet dream: consumers conditioned to pay for the privilege of doing the work themselves, and considering it a convenience.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Vargas earned his B.A. at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he studied under Gerald Locklin and Richard Lee. He edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980, and twelve issues of The Mas Tequila Review from 2010-2015. Vargas received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico, 2010. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference Hispanic Writer Award. He was on the faculties of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference and the 2015 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. Published collections: McLife, 2005; American Jesus, 2009; Guernica, revisited, 2014. He currently resides in Wisconsin, near the lake where Otis Redding’s plane crashed.

merana cadorette
In Line at the Buffet Wynn, Las Vegas, August 2018
by Rick Lupert

I’m waiting in line at the Wynn Buffet.
Brunch is on the distant horizon and
line politics are on full display.

A woman the aisle over isn’t aware
how her backpack intrudes on the
airspace of this one.

A man in front of me is perusing
criminal mugshots on his phone.
Occasionally he’ll hold one up to

his friend and say “how about this one?”
His friend shakes his head and says “no.”
Every time. Even U.S. Marshalls need to

eat buffet from time to time. Eventually
someone in their party mutters something
about the VIP line and suddenly

they’re gone, presumably with champagne
in their hands and all the food we have
miles yet to eat in their mouths.

It’s okay. They weren’t particularly good at
filling in the space in front of them.
They should have special lines for

People who are focusing on their phones
instead of moving forward. “Take all the
time you want lines” they’ll call them

I think, as I finish writing these words
with awkward amount of space between
me and the people in front of me

and feel the hungry stares of the
brunch-starved ones behind me.
An omelet on every plate

is a phrase i just made up and
feel pretty good about. i am lucky
to be here. Some people wait for years

for the money they need to
stand in this line – A longing from my past
I am still waiting to forget.

PAINTING: What’s for Dinner? by Merana Cadorette. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

Lupert

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We took our son to a Souplantation restaurant for the first time a few years back. He marveled at what seemed like an infinite amount of food to his young eyes. With no disrespect meant to the pre-pandemic salad bar restaurants of our past, we thought immediately about the truly impressive (and truly expensive) buffets in Las Vegas that are like planets of food. As soon as we could we took him to one. This poem was written in the line waiting for our turn to eat everything we ever wanted.

PHOTO: The Lupert family, The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas, August 2018. Photo credit: Rick Lupert.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rick Lupert has been involved with L.A. poetry since 1990. He is the recipient of the 2014 Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Distinguished Service Award and was a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets for two years. He created the Poetry Super Highway  and hosted the weekly Cobalt Cafe reading for almost 21 years. His first spoken word album Rick Lupert Live and Dead, featuring 25 studio and live tracks, was released in March 2016. He’s authored 25 collections of poetry, including The Toyko-Van Nuys Express (Ain’t Got No Press, August 2020), Hunka Hunka Howdy, Beautiful Mistakes, and God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion, and edited the anthologies Ekphrastia Gone Wild,  A Poet’s Siddur, A Poet’s Haggadah, and the noir anthology The Night Goes on All Night. He also writes and draws (with Brendan Constantine) the daily web comic Cat and Banana and writes the Jewish Poetry column “From the Lupertverse” for Jewish Journal. He is regularly featured at venues all over the world. Follow him on Facebook.

Author Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher

john rehg
The Telephone Call, 1974
by Tricia Marcella Cimera

I am ten years old, sitting
on my bed with the Snoopy sheets,
surrounded by my Breyer horses.
My mother is in her room,
sleeping with her eyes open,
a glass of water on the nightstand.
She’s back from the psychiatric ward,
for the second time after another
week’s stay. I don’t know her;
I love her helplessly.
I can hear my father in his office
speaking on his black telephone
to my grandmother who lives
in another state. He calls her
by her first name, says
Please come. Please come.
I don’t know his voice, never heard
him plead before. There is a long
silence, then he hangs up.
Suddenly I feel like I am getting
smaller, becoming tiny, no one’s
girl. I want to ride away
on one of my Breyer horses.
Almost 47 years later, I am still
waiting for my grandmother, for
anyone’s mother, to call me,
tell me                    I’m coming.

PHOTO:  Black Rotary Phone by John Rehg, used by permission.

Cimera at 10

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My mother’s bouts of depression in the 1970s were met with appalled embarrassment, silence, and misunderstanding by family members and almost everyone else. This had a profound effect on me as a child.  I’ve written a series of poems about the town of Boxborough in Massachusetts where my mom suffered the most—some are in a little collection put out by Origami Poems Project called BOXBOROUGH POEMS. My beloved mother beat depression, with help, and returned to me as she once was although I was fearful for a long time that she would “go back to the hospital.” One person did step in during the bad time in Boxborough—ironically, she had no children of her own and we had only known her three months. Jean Pierozzi was the real estate agent who sold us the big house on Guggins Lane and worked out of the model house down the street. She gave my sister and me sanctuary after school so we didn’t come home to an empty house while my dad was at work (he had colleagues who told him to divorce my crazy mother), she offered us love and mini-donuts, and she became our lifelong family friend. Jean died of leukemia in 2011.

PHOTO: The author at age 10.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tricia Marcella Cimera is a Midwestern poet with a worldview. Published works have appeared in places ranging from the Buddhist Poetry Review to The Ekphrastic Review.  Her micro-chapbook called GO SLOW, LEONARD COHEN was released through the Origami Poems Project. One of her plum poems was pleased to receive a recent Pushcart Prize and another plum was happy to be awarded a Best of the Net nomination. Tricia lives with her husband and family of animals in Illinois, in a town called St. Charles, by a river named Fox, with a Poetry Box (also named Fox) in her front yard.

iceland poster
Best-Laid Plans
by Cynthia Anderson

What happens to a dream deferred?
—Langston Hughes

In the 1960s, the preteen girl
who is me scours her local library
in a small New England town
devouring what they have

on Iceland. My paradise—
a place where everyone cares
about poetry, where books
are the national pastime

and there are more authors,
and readers, per capita
than any other country
on Earth—

not to mention
glaciers and volcanoes
hot springs and waterfalls
the wild rocky coast—

Land of the Eddas!
I imagine belonging there
in ways I’ll never
belong here.

The dream freezes
but doesn’t die. Finally,
retired, I have the time,
money, a friend to go with.

We book the trip
for April 2020—
then COVID explodes.
At least, we get a refund.

So I am still waiting
for Iceland—unlikely
to try again, as global
warming worsens

and my need to stay
home grows stronger—
deferred dreams
can live forever.

IMAGE: Iceland travel poster by 12thStFactory. Prints available at RedBubble.com

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I couldn’t believe my good fortune in finally booking a trip to Iceland, a lifelong dream. I planned to attend the Iceland Readers’ Retreat with a friend in April 2020—10 days of total immersion in Icelandic culture and literature. Then, as COVID unfolded, I watched in stunned disbelief as my long-deferred dream went unfulfilled. However, I continue to enjoy all things Icelandic from the comfort of home.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she has published nine poetry collections, most recently Now Voyager with illustrations by Susan Abbott. She is co-editor of the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens and guest editor of Cholla Needles 46. Visit her at cynthiaandersonpoet.com.

hokusai plum
My Wife Says—
by Shahé Mankerian

In your poems, you remember the kiss
your mother gave you under a loquat tree.

Pressed between stanzas, a blind dog
hides in the residue of a demitasse.

In the melted snow of Mount Ararat,
you always trace the face of God.

You’d rather describe death by skewers
in the sewers of Beirut than kiss me

in a steamy sonnet beneath the stained-
glass gown of the Virgin. I don’t need

morning walks on Champs-Élysées
or a blue heart pendant from Tiffany’s.

My needs are minimal like a haiku.
I’m still waiting for a poem, a pristine plum,

like the kind William Carlos Williams
stole from the fridge—so sweet and cold.

PAINTING: Plum Blossoms and Moon by Katshushika Hokusai (1803).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I’ve always loved and admired Charles Bukowski’s poem “one for old snaggle-tooth.” It’s an exquisitely vulnerable love poem dedicated to FrancEyE, the mother of Bukowski’s only child. The poem I wrote is dedicated to the woman I love who reminds me periodically that I no longer write her poems. The prompt “I am still waiting…” coupled with Bukowski’s inspirational verse provided me with a poem of redemption, a long overdue birthday gift to my wife.

Mankerian

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Poet Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Hovsepian School in Pasadena, California. He is on the board of the International Armenian Literary Alliance (IALA). His debut poetry collection, History of Forgetfulness, will be published by Fly on the Wall Press in October 2021.

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I am waiting, still
by Yvette Viets Flaten

for that rejection I know is coming,
but why so long, I ask? What can
possibly take this long to decide?

I’m waiting, still, for the mousetrap
to spring, and the neighbor to haul
his garbage cans up the driveway,
and get a leash for his nosing dog.

I am still waiting for spring, for
daffodils, for party dresses and favors,
for church bells and peace.

I am still waiting for a decent night’s sleep.
For I’m sorry. For the right moment to get
started on sorting out the boxes of years
that got stacked up, somehow, without labels.
I’m sorry.

I’m still waiting for all the right answers. Still
sorry about all those waiting boxes with no labels.

IMAGE: Yellow Candy Box by Andy Warhol (1983)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am always fascinated by the interweaving of the small and the large issues of life into one day’s fabric, from the scratchings of a mouse to the search for justice, and back again. And the need to be awake to what is in front of our eyes.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Yvette Viets Flaten was born in Denver, Colorado, and grew up in an Air Force family, living in Nevada, North Dakota, and Washington State as well as France, England, and Spain. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish (1974) and a Master of Arts in History (1982) from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She writes both fiction and poetry and her award-winning poetry (Muse Prize, Jade Ring, Triad) has appeared in numerous journals, including the Wisconsin Academy Review, Rag Mag, Midwest Review, Free Verse, Red Cedar Review, and Barstow and Grand. In May 2020 she was interviewed by Garrison Keillor as part of his Pandemic Poetry Contest. Yvette’s poem “Riding It Out” was one of 10 winners. Find her interview with Garrison Keillor here.

bungalow-1987
Waiting for Home
by Martina Gallegos

Until the beginning of my teen years, I lived with my family in a modest two-bedroom, one small kitchen my parents built after marriage. Originally, our home was only one bedroom and no kitchen. We had no restroom either, and we took care of our business practically in the open, only to be ridiculed by our two-story home neighbors.

Eventually, mom divided our one bedroom into two and asked someone to build another bedroom to her specifications, and that, in turn, became dad’s bedroom, and I felt sad that my parents were in different bedrooms and no longer telling us bedtime stories, and I kept waiting for the day we could all share the same bedroom again.

Many times, I despaired when I saw that other families had parties and lots of good food my family didn’t and would never have, and I wanted to run away from home, but I didn’t know where or how I’d do it. And because I never had peace anywhere, I am still waiting for that elusive peaceful and loving home.

PAINTING: Bungalow by Howard Arkley (1987)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: After I graduated from university as a bilingual elementary school teacher and got a job, I figured it was time to start thinking about buying a house, but it wasn’t meant to be until more than 20 years later. After saving all I could for the down payment, I applied for a house at a project for first-time, low-income buyers, but because of unethical people involved in the project, I almost didn’t get my brand-new house. After toppling all kinds of barriers, I got my house and moved in with my then three-and-a-half-year-old daughter. And just as the process had begun with problems, it continued for 20 years and became my American nightmare instead of my American Dream. To this day, I continue to fight housing injustices and discrimination. I’m hoping to sell the nightmare and finally be able to purchase a part of the true American Dream.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Martina Gallegos was born and raised in Mexico. While recuperating from a work injury and stroke, she earned a Master’s degree from Grand Canyon University. Her work has appeared in the Altadena Poetry Review: Anthology (2015 and 2017), Hometown Pasadena, Spirit Fire Review, Poetry Super Highway, Silver Birch Press, Basta!, and others.  She was named one of the San Gabriel Valley’s top poets, and was a semi-finalist in an amateur national poetry competition. She lives in Oxnard, California.

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Retirement Days
by Alan Walowitz

I am still waiting for a train that never comes.
I settle in at the station,
my place reserved between
all that’s forgotten
and what I’m sure will never occur.
You can call me has-been, used-to-be,
anything at all, so long as
never-to-arrive
only gets announced
in that garbled, godlike voice,
no one can understand
or let me tell it to myself,
sotto voce, entre trains,
with the camera panning shyly away
so as not to make a fool of me
even in the dailies.

Oh, God, don’t make me do another take:
the strutting and the carrying on,
the waiting for goodbye at the station
preceded by the hero’s angst
as he battles to select just the right tie
and a shirt that hardly wrinkles.
Didn’t you say fashion was a way
to make us nearer to the gods?
And for God’s sake won’t he ever
tell me what this waiting means,
and try to make my life work without?
And while he’s at it,
maybe the train could pass
every now and again, and I’ll swear
to all that’s holy
I’ll never try to get on.

PAINTING: Train in Evening by Paul Delvaux (1957).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I treasure my copy of Source, a little magazine published in 1977 or so. In the Table of Contents is a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and another by Alan Walowitz. It was one of my first publications and I’m sure it made no impression at all on the great Ferlinghetti. The photo of me (below) is from that same time. I’m much greyer and older, but I’m still waiting.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alan Walowitz is a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual. His chapbook, Exactly Like Love, comes from Osedax Press. The full-length The Story of the Milkman and Other Poems is available from Truth Serum Press. Most recently, from Arroyo Seco Press, is the chapbook In the Muddle of the Night, written trans-continentally with poet Betsy Mars.

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Bridge
by Rafaella Del Bourgo

I imagine that
my mother, father and stepfather
find a fourth for bridge,
the newly deceased widow of a navy admiral.
They set up a card table and chairs
between the gravestones.
Visitors with their flowers walk right by,
looking down at the earth,
pausing to read the markers.

I can see the cards and
a bowl of Licorice Allsorts.
My father liked to eat that candy
filled with layers of black, white
and peppermint green.
And bone china cups of tea
which the women sip
after taking their tricks.

Creeping into the scene,
a fluffy-tailed red fox,
one shy coyote,
and even a small herd of deer
stepping out from under the trees,
and coming to lie in the sun
at my mother’s feet.

Sitting on a hill
half-hidden by wood ferns,
I am still waiting
for my turn.

PAINTING: The Human Condition by René Magritte (1933).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was surprised to have found that the pandemic and its resultant sheltering in place has not been good for my creative process. I do write, but not in any disciplined way, and have found that I mostly want to amuse myself with jigsaw and crossword puzzles, reading very long articles in The New Yorker, and going for walks down at the Berkeley Marina, where I encounter flocks of wild turkeys and dogs in jeans jackets appliquied with pink and blue flowers. Sometimes I hear something or see something that inspires me to write, but that happens less frequently than it used to. I’m hoping that as the news becomes less oppressive, that I will find renewed ambition to write.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rafaella Del Bourgo’s writing has appeared in journals such as Nimrod, The Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, The Adroit Journal, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Caveat Lector, Puerto Del Sol, Rattle, Oberon, Spillway, and The Bitter Oleander. She has won many awards, including the Lullwater Prize for Poetry in 2003, and in 2006 the Helen Pappas Prize in Poetry and the New River Poets Award. In 2007, 2008, and 2013, she won first place in the Maggi Meyer Poetry Competition. The League of Minnesota Poets awarded her first place in 2009.  In 2010, she won the Alan Ginsberg Poetry Award and the Grandmother Earth Poetry Prize. She was awarded the Paumanok Prize for Poetry in 2012, and then won first place in the 2013 Northern Colorado Writers’ Poetry Contest. Finally, she won the Mudfish Poetry Prize for 2017. Her collection I Am Not Kissing You  was published by Small Poetry Press in 2003, and her chapbook, Inexplicable Business: Poems Domestic and Wild, was published in 2014 by Finishing Line Press. In 2012, she was one of 10 poets included in the anthology Chapter & Verse: Poems of Jewish Identity. She has traveled the world and lived in Tasmania and Hawaii.  She recently retired from teaching college-level English classes, and resides in Berkeley, California, with her husband and one spoiled cat.