The beauty of the immigrant’s many tongues mixing


Immigrant Picnic
—by Gregory Djanikian—

It’s the Fourth of July, the flags
are painting the town,
the plastic forks and knives
are laid out like a parade.

And I’m grilling, I’ve got my apron,
I’ve got potato salad, macaroni, relish,
I’ve got a hat shaped
like the state of Pennsylvania.

I ask my father what’s his pleasure
and he says, “Hot dog, medium rare,”
and then, “Hamburger, sure,
what’s the big difference,”
as if he’s really asking.

I put on hamburgers and hot dogs,
slice up the sour pickles and Bermudas,
uncap the condiments. The paper napkins
are fluttering away like lost messages.

“You’re running around,” my mother says,
“like a chicken with its head loose.”

“Ma,” I say, “you mean cut off,
loose and cut off being as far apart
as, say, son and daughter.”

She gives me a quizzical look as though
I’ve been caught in some impropriety.
“I love you and your sister just the same,” she says,
“Sure,” my grandmother pipes in,
“you’re both our children, so why worry?”

That’s not the point I begin telling them,
and I’m comparing words to fish now,
like the ones in the sea at Port Said,
or like birds among the date palms by the Nile,
unrepentantly elusive, wild.

“Sonia,” my father says to my mother,
“what the hell is he talking about?”
“He’s on a ball,” my mother says.

“That’s roll!” I say, throwing up my hands,
“as in hot dog, hamburger, dinner roll….”

“And what about roll out the barrels?” my mother asks,
and my father claps his hands, “Why sure,” he says,
“let’s have some fun,” and launches
into a polka, twirling my mother
around and around like the happiest top,

and my uncle is shaking his head, saying
“You could grow nuts listening to us,”

and I’m thinking of pistachios in the Sinai
burgeoning without end,
pecans in the South, the jumbled
flavor of them suddenly in my mouth,
wordless, confusing,
crowding out everything else.



This month marks 15 years of American involvement in Afghanistan


In that Part of the World
—by Raza Ali Hasan


The sky here is American like the blue of your eyes;
the folds of your eyelids the Hindu Kush mountain.

The rich vein of the Hindu Kush only a stony ridge
cutting across the parched soil of Afghanistan

on which the primal play of progress comes to pass.


Locked in, its people:
nomadic, peasant or simply pleasant,
green-eyed, blue-eyed, brown-eyed or simply wide-eyed.

Its great teacher: Noor Mohammad Taraki,
the proud translator of great works
into Pashto, Dari, Turkic and Uzbek.
Its cities: Herat, Kabul, Kandahar.


Assuredly, the pilgrims descend the emerald-strewn
Panjsher valley. They have come to water and tend

a young tree. Time is at hand, for the unhurried
descent of the Western offering,

whose yellow parachute will slow its fall.
And this tree, which will grow underneath the cluster bomb,
will hold up the pomegranate to the blue sky.


The tick tock and whirr of metal and material
in the hidden azure vault of the air

has so far unleashed the American ahistoricality
upon the two tall Bamiyan Buddhas.

Ordained stone must give way to bared rock face.
Grieve not. Rejoice, for the spirit triumphs here.


When Kabul was as beautiful as Leningrad,
when our hearts hadn’t grown weary,
when Taraki could take a stroll down
the streets of Kabul with a confident smile,
when he could still be Afghanistan’s Maxim Gorky,
when our erstwhile bachelor could enjoy
the company of dancing girls like a mogul emperor,
when the way forward was the way forward.


The uncertain exile is never to Rome—
no picture postcards of the coliseum to send home—

but to a mud hovel among other mud hovels
by the edge of the city of Islamabad.

For the uncertain exile has nothing to do
with the divine or with any other kind of comedy,

but with what has remained or with what reminds:
with the trace of terror that persists.


In this part of the world the children know and have desires
to be a martyr, to enter paradise, to leave this life.

Of the twenty-nine different names for the garden,
they know all twenty-nine by heart.

For this part of the world began with a garden and
will end as an open ditch piled up with bodies.


Grant me Antigone’s strength to forbear
for the sun has come unstuck from a blue sky gone black,

stolen for effect, and the veiled moon stands in,
for the mourning women standing next to platters of rice,

signifying the historically sound end of forgetfulness,
returning our agency to mourn

the collaborations of the merchant capitalist class
with the unlistening, ahistorical God.


If only Gandhi’s spinning wheel had spun
a million yards of cloth

we would have covered all our war dead.
And as for tents, we would have built

cities upon cities of tents to keep the rain out
for all our refugees. And then and only then

would we have mourned our war dead,
mourned our war dead.

On friendship and mortality

—By Kim Addonizio—

I know my friend is going,
though she still sits there
across from me in the restaurant,   
and leans over the table to dip
her bread in the oil on my plate; I know   
how thick her hair used to be,   
and what it takes for her to discard
her man’s cap partway through our meal,   
to look straight at the young waiter   
and smile when he asks
how we are liking it. She eats
as though starving—chicken, dolmata,   
the buttery flakes of filo—
and what’s killing her
eats, too. I watch her lift
a glistening black olive and peel   
the meat from the pit, watch
her fine long fingers, and her face,   
puffy from medication. She lowers   
her eyes to the food, pretending
not to know what I know. She’s going.   
And we go on eating.



To refugees

—BY Francisco X. Alarcon—

in despair
many deserts
full of hope

their empty
fists of sorrow

a bitter night
of shovels
and nails

“you’re nothing
you’re shit
your home’s

will speak
for you

will flesh
your bones

green again
among ashes
after a long fire

started in
a fantasy island
some time ago

into aliens




In case you have ever tried to pin down the taste of Diet Coke

The Prelude
—by Matthew Zapruder—

Oh this Diet Coke is really good,
though come to think of it it tastes
like nothing plus the idea of chocolate,
or an acquaintance of chocolate
speaking fondly of certain times
it and chocolate had spoken of nothing,
or nothing remembering a field
in which it once ate the most wondrous
sandwich of ham and rustic chambered cheese
yet still wished for a piece of chocolate
before the lone walk back through
the corn then the darkening forest
to the disappointing village and its super
creepy bed and breakfast. With secret despair
I returned to the city. Something
seemed to be waiting for me.
Maybe the “chosen guide” Wordsworth
wrote he would even were it “nothing
better than a wandering cloud”
have followed which of course to me
and everyone sounds amazing.
All I follow is my own desire,
sometimes to feel, sometimes to be
at least a little more than intermittently
at ease with being loved. I am never
at ease. Not with hours I can read or walk
and look at the brightly colored
houses filled with lives, not with night
when I lie on my back and listen,
not with the hallway, definitely
not with baseball, definitely
not with time. Poor Coleridge, son
of a Vicar and a lake, he could not feel
the energy. No present joy, no cheerful
confidence, just love of friends and the wind
taking his arrow away. Come to the edge
the edge beckoned softly. Take
this cup full of darkness and stay as long
as you want and maybe a little longer.


From a geek to the cool girls in school

Urban Renewal XVIII
—By Major Jackson—

How untouchable the girls arm-locked strutting
up the main hall of Central High unopposed
for decades looked. I flattened myself against
the wall, unnerved by their cloudsea of élan,
which pounced upon any timid girl regrettably
in their way, their high-wattage lifting slow motion
like curls of light strands of honey. The swagger
behind their blue-tinted sunglasses and low-rider
jeans hurt boys like me, so vast the worlds
between us, even the slightest whiff of recognition,
an accidental side glance, an unintended tongue-piercing
display of Juicy Fruit chew, was intoxicating
and could wildly cast a chess-playing geek into
a week-long surmise of inner doubts, likelihoods,
and depressions. You might say my whole life led
to celebrating youth and how it snubs and rebuffs.
Back then I learned to avoid what I feared
and to place my third-string hopes on a game-winning
basketball shot, sure it would slow them to a stop,
pan their lip-glossed smiles, blessing me with their cool.





On becoming a good listener

How to Listen
—by Joyce Sutphen—

Tilt your head slightly to one side and lift
your eyebrows expectantly. Ask questions.

Delve into the subject at hand or let
things come randomly. Don’t expect answers.

Forget everything you’ve ever done.
Make no comparisons. Simply listen.

Listen with your eyes, as if the story
you are hearing is happening right now.

Listen without blinking, as if a move
might frighten the truth away forever.

Don’t attempt to copy anything down.
Don’t bring a camera or a recorder.

This is your chance to listen carefully.
Your whole life might depend on what you hear.