September 21, 2011
by Ivón Gordon Vailakis, J.C. Todd
The suitcase was stuffed
with scorpions, with clay pots and dirt
roasted corn and fava beans, with pans of warm bronze
of dulce de leche and quince
canvas bulging from the lunges of poisonous snakes.
Our destiny was to be far from the aroma
of plantain and tree tomato
ripened on the lips of roofs.
Our destiny was like my father’s -
a couple of schellings in the pocket pierced by a star
he said goodbye to his father with the idea of detaching himself
like a caracol rooted in chasms of tenderness
no time to take the black doll
whose arm was stitched so often the thread held time
and no time to take the knee socks
I wore on the last day of high school
no time to take the trees I climbed by myself
to the middle of a hive that buzzed between my temples
no time to take the warmth of the popcorn pot
no time to take the way I skipped rope in the courtyard
no time to take
the family album embroidered in cross stitch
destined to the parting
destined to lemon-grass teas
steeped in tears that flushed our hearts
we left with the hot coals of a fate not chosen
we arrived before we knew it
men with fish eyes and the accent of crude ants detained us
you must declare all the dirt that you are bringing
you could be fined
you cannot bring food to this country
you will be fined
defensively we declared our pots of roasted corn and fava beans
we lifted our underthings trembling
and felt what it was to step foot on land not our own
they inspected all we had
and did not pay attention to the snakes.
From that day on
we came to know the destiny of border
to make love to snapshots yellowed
by the distance of their background.
We opened up the suitcase
and from that day on
hummingbirds in exile.
May 9, 2011
PEN WORLD VOICES: Wikileaks – Is Raw, Unfiltered Data Useful?
by Michael Shareshian
As part of the 7th annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, The Cooper Union in New York City hosted a panel discussion featuring opinions and perspectives regarding one of the most complex and important issues facing our global society: Wikileaks.
Is raw, unfiltered data useful? Do forums like Wikileaks need traditional outlets? Are leaked cables leaking what is already known? These, among many other topics, were discussed by Human Rights Project’s Tom Keenan, media theorist Geert Lovink, Professor of Democracy Ian Buruma, and policy analyst David Rieff.
Presenting his theories first, Mr. Lovink deemed the leaking of classified documents to be a rapidly developing and highly influential genre of journalism in and of itself, “data journalism.” Lovink argued that young people with technological capabilities will continue to develop such forums as they evolve and play an increasing role in our information delivery and digital infrastructure.
Ian Buruma sees Wikileaks as having less influence than some may perceive. Buruma noted that Wikileaks’ cables needed the mainstream press in order to have any impact at all.” Referencing established outlets such as The New York Times, he stated that people like Julian Assange depend on traditional sources in order to lend credibility and perspective to data. According to Mr. Buruma, raw data is of very little use to the public. Only when qualified individuals interpret it can it become something useful and understandable. He acknowledged a commonly held complaint that not everything on the Internet is trustworthy, and asked the question, whom should the public trust without the filter of reliable fact-checkers?
Like Mr. Buruma, analyst David Rieff downplayed the influence of Wikileaks for different reasons. As he sees it, much of the leaked cables contain information that is already available in the public sphere. While he made it a point not to downplay the questionable, and at times deplorable, actions of governments around the world, how influential can “document dumps” be when the information they contain are simply reinforcing what is already known?
During a question and answer session, an audience member challenged Mr. Rieff’s assertion that the public at large is as informed he assumes them to be. This questioner drew attention to a leaked cable that revealed the lesser known occurrence of CIA officials interrogating a cameraman in order to learn more about the operations of Al Jazeera.
Perhaps the most important issue that needs to be addressed by the public at large is how do documents revealed by secret sources affect safety. Can transparency and protection of national security coexist?
Are “leakers” like Bradley Manning noble whistleblowers or a danger to our citizens and soldiers serving around the world?
The discussion continues…
Michael is Wild River Review’s newest intern. He studies English at New Jersey’s Rider University where he enjoys hosting his own weekly radio show.
April 29, 2011
Sending Joan Didion a Friend Request
by Gerri George
So, you’re looking at the number of friends you have on Facebook and it’s, well, pretty scant. Some of those in your circle have, like, a thousand friends and you’re feeling pretty down about it and you think you’ll add to your list and so you decide to see if Joan Didion has a Facebook account.
You back up for a minute and think about this.
You remember how you sent one of your favorite comedians a friend request and it’s still pending and you figure he doesn’t want to be your friend, he doesn’t even know you, but you like him and you want him to like you and its painful not hearing back. But for some reason you’re thinking that Joan Didion will accept you as a friend. You have things in common, after all. You’re both literary writers and you love her work and you’re certain if she could read yours, she’d return the love.
In addition to the content of her books, you’ve grown to admire two vintage photos of her with a cigarette in her hand, and she looks mythic and fabulous and you wonder if she still smokes, and if she does, you’d like to be able to tell her the method whereby you quit smoking shortly after graduating from University of Penn. And if she has quit smoking, that’s another thing you have in common.
You watched her accept the National Book Award for The Year of Magical Thinking and you knew it to be a fine, deserving book because you read it and loved its brilliance and felt the sadness.
You’d love to have a chat with her in New York over strong coffee in one of those tony downtown cafes as a prelude to friending her on Facebook.
“Joan,” you’d say, as you relished the sound of her spoon stirring half-and-half into a mug of house brand, “I’m speechless at your talent. To what do you owe your success?” She’s savvy and sophisticated and she’d probably respond with “Good genes and hard work, my dear writer friend. That’s the secret of my success.”
You’d want to tell her that editors and publishers won’t know that you, personally, might already have good genes and hard-working habits until that time when you happen to hit it out of the park, but you decide you’ll keep such thoughts to yourself. You wouldn’t want to discourage her wisdom. She’s Joan Didion, after all.
Coffee in New York with Joan might be your best chance of having her accept your friend request, but you’re pretty sure coffee isn’t in the cards, so, you access your Facebook account and you key in Joan Didion’s name and there are multiple Joan Didions, and then there’s one with her picture, a dramatic black and white photograph and she looks remarkable with light hair and sharp features and that cast-iron expression confirming she has nothing to prove, but you can’t add her as a friend or even send her a message.
It seems there’s a conspicuous blank space in the data field where the options to receive a friend request would ordinarily reside. Blank space…thwarted…no chance for kinship.
Joan Didion needs no new friends. She is in possession of everything the fates have allowed.
Hmmm. Maybe Cormac McCarthy or Michael Ondaatje has a Facebook account.
Gerri George’s stories, which often portray the human side of outsiders, have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Literal Latte, Penn Review Literary Magazine, The Bucks County Writer, Quiddity International Literary Journal, Wild River Review, Front Range Review, and elsewhere. “A Rose by Any Other Name” was a Pushcart Prize nominee. “Night,” read by a professional actor before a literature-loving audience in London, Soho (OK, so it was a pub), also appears in audio and text on the Liars’ League website, under the Sex and the City theme. I received a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund writing grant for women artists. Hastings, America – a poem (America Ground, Hastings) – read at the Hastings Festival in England on July 4, 2010, and will be published in their anthology. The Great Idea Drought appeared in The Penn Writer, and I won a Writer’s Digest contest in the category of TV/Movie Script. Twitter.com/gerrigeorge facebook/Gerri George
To read George’s short story “Henry Moore and the Bookstore Clerk”, click here: Henry Moore.
January 17, 2011
Listening to Schuman’s Piano Concerto
by Dzvinia Orlofsky
That we don’t all die in childhood
is the greater miracle.
God lifting His light hand
to bring out a phrase, clearing the pedal.
We wear our jewels for the afternoon,
startle birds with the immensity
of our human shadows.
We’ve made it to hard chairs.
Restlessly our hands roll program notes
into telescopes; we intercept genius
with our signature cough.
But what is to be known of great music
other than it requires black polished shoes
the incontestable desire to sleep?
See how our mouths relax into soft wax,
our faces drip down our throats.
This is what it must feel like to be lovingly held.
Hear how beauty begs forgiveness
for not including us.
DZVINIA ORLOWSKY is a founding editor of Four Way Book and the author of three poetry collections including “Except for One Obscene Brushstroke” (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2004). Her poetry and translations have appeared in numerous anthologies including “A Map of Hope: An International Literary Anthology; From Three Worlds: New Writing from the Ukraine”; and “A Hundred Years of Youth: A Bilingual Anthology” of 20th Century Ukrainian Poetry. She currently teaches at the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College.
To support our mission and passion for good storytelling, please make a tax-deductible donation by clicking here: Wild River Donation.
December 14, 2010
by Joy E. Stocke
Photo by Joy E. Stocke
(Editor’s Note: Istanbul was chosen as the European Capital of Culture for 2010. The Galata Bridge separates the European Side iof istanbul from the Asian or Anatolian side.)
There you are and there it is: Sunset fast approaching.
You are outside Istanbul’s Egyptian Spice Bazaar, part of a crowd of people rearranging packages of Antep pepper, cumin, coffee; sipping glasses of tea, talking on cell phones as you pass through a swirl of more than a hundred pigeons who fight greedily for scraps of bread.
In front of you, Eminönü Station where the ferries line up and bellow a deep collective moan. Rust-covered chains lower gangplanks for the rush hour crowd heading up the Bosphorus past the Sea of Marmara to Üsküdar, Hydarpasa and Kadikoy on the Asian side.
Ahead, your destination, the Galata Bridge, the so-called Milky Way that spans the base of the Golden Horn from Eminonu to the suburb of Galata. Galaktos means milk in Greek and the word Bosphorus means cow ford, and you are about to watch the sun set aflame the estuary known as the cow’s Golden Horn.
The name Istanbul is also said to come from the Greek, “eis tin Polis”; simply, “to the City.” A city of hills surrounded by water intermingling in the Bosphorus Channel – the heavy saline Sea of Marmara, son of the Aegean; and the less salty Black Sea, daughter of the Caucasus.
Below the Golden Horn, at the confluence of the Bosphorus and the Sea of Marmara, construction is underway to build the world’s deepest underwater tunnel. There, engineers discovered a gravesite that pushes the city’s first inhabitants back to the 7th millennium when agriculture spread from Anatolia – as Turkey is also called – to the Balkans. The excavation has uncovered pottery fragments, shells, horse skulls, and human remains in fetal positions, poised for rebirth.
And the Golden Horn spanned by the Galata Bridge whose metal steps you are now climbing, gives definition to a city that seems to float on water. Formed by the sweet water of two underground springs flowing toward the Sea of Marmara, the Golden Horn has protected ships for the Byzantines, Venetians, Genoese, Ottomans; an estuary rich enough to provide nutrients for many species of fish including gray mullet sold in the markets along the its banks.
Water flowing in currents, people flowing in currents, boys selling rings of sesame-topped bread called simits. Along the bridge’s railed expanse, vendors grill mussels and chewy corn on the cob. Girls in peg-leg jeans, some in headscarves, and boys in black T-shirts flirt and tease and tap at the keyboards of their cell phones. Men, young and old in caps with their buckets of bait rest fishing poles against the railing and wait.
Flash of gold, flush of honey over the suburbs that fan out from the Golden Horn in a maze of streets and brick and stone and mortar: Fener, Balat, Galata.
Cries of sea gulls, rocking of pleasure boats, a reddening as if the horn is lit from within. You look up when the muezzin’s call to prayer rises from the minaret of the Süleymaniye Mosque, tinny, distorted, la il’allalh ilallalh – there is no god, but god.
The sun drops, flamingo-red, burning through the atmosphere. Fire meets water and the whole lot of you – commuters, sightseers, fishermen, lovers – breathe in the golden air, breathe in the scent of diesel, brine, muck, fruit blossoms, yeast.
A ferry pulls away from the dock and you think about a Phoenician maiden called Europe who fell in love with a bull; how, on his back he carried her and her culture across the water from Asia Minor to the continent that would bear her name.
There you are. And there it is: Impossible to grasp.
Darkness gathers and with your heart full of wonder you cross the bridge to Galata to a taverna where a beloved friend waits in candlelight at a table on the crescent edge of the Golden Horn.
To support our mission and passion for good storytelling, please make a tax-deductible donation by clicking here: Wild River Donation.
October 27, 2010
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WHAT TO SAY TO SOMEONE WITH BREAST CANCER
by Phyllis Ward
Me and Cancer
What I Learn in Spring, 2009
And so…And so… I have breast Cancer.
Nodes are involved so chemo and radiation for me. It will take a week or two to sort out exactly what kinds of Draino to use, how many, how often, where, etc. but it means a no guilt lazy summer.
It’s generally a good sign that I’ve been napping a lot and luxuriating in it. If I was near death’s door I imagine myself as the kind of person who would realize she would never feel better and cheerfully go out dancing or swim the English Channel. What a relief to cuddle up with a good book and listen to the rain.
It has rained an awful lot lately hasn’t it? Or has it been one long day?
People have been wonderful to me. Us. Both of us. My darling husband Michael is the long suffering one here. I am Camille. With older skin.
So in the spirit of all of us getting something out of this boring garden variety form of: Everybody has it, what makes you so special that you get a whole month of pink ribbons cancer, I am going to share with you what no one else tells you—What to say to people with cancer.
My sister Therese is at the tail end of treatments for stage 3 breast cancer. Last week she went to lunch with a friend. In mid-lunch–apropos of nothing in the conversation–this person asks T if she remembers Laura–who was at T’s house about a year ago. Then goes on to share that said Laura had a lumpectomy and then the cancer returned and now, one year later, she’s dead.
What part of that story could possibly be considered encouraging?
But almost as tough–not quite–are the folks who tell you it’s a no big deal, barely a hangnail event in your life. Yes, I know I’m likely to die of something else, actually I didn’t know that but now am grateful that I do. However wonderful the advances in treatment are, however terrific my doctors are, however much we each know dozens of women who are now fine, we also each know women who have died.
And so what’s the best thing to say? Some variation of “I’m so sorry you have to go through this” is about perfect.
So here I am, poised somewhere between a hangnail and death. Closer to a hangnail for sure but that swinging needle does jump to the dark side on occasion. Mostly late at night when it’s raining.
UPDATE: Phyllis Ward is now cured….or in remission. As they say in TV, only time will tell.
Phyllis Ward began her television career as a producer, director, and writer in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and London. After starting her own production company Ward traveled the world for 25 years making films for just about every network out there – and meeting lots of incredible people along the way.
Of her three dozen journalism awards, Ward is most proud of winning a Dupont-Columbia for a documentary she produced on the baby boom generation and its continuing effects on American life. This award is the television equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize.
Ward lives with her husband on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, selling real estate, dabbling in personal films and writing snippets.
ARTICLES BY PHYLLIS WARD:
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