Update, 02 November 2021:
THANK YOU to all the poets who participated and contributed their words to this crowdsourced poem, "We Are Here." ~ Love and Light to all.
It's the first of October..
It's the first day of Filipino American History Month.
It's also LGBT History Month; Tackling Hunger Month; Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month; and so many other acts of honoring, remembering, and celebrating.
And today, I am starting a state-wide, month-long project to collect 2-4 LINES OF POETRY for a crowd-sourced poem I am calling WE ARE HERE, which takes direct inspiration from the words of the three poets I quote below~
In his Leaves of Grass (1892), American poet Walt Whitman wrote:
O Me! O Life!
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring--What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
Filipino poet Jose Garcia Villa wrote in 1942 Have Come, Am Here.
And writer, poet, and organizer Carlos Bulosan wrote in 1940 "If You Want to Know Who We Are," from which these lines are excerpted:
"...We are multitudes the world over, millions everywhere;
in violent factories, sordid tenements, crowded cities,
in skies and seas and rivers, in lands everywhere;
our numbers increase as the wide world revolves
and increases arrogance, hunger, disease and death.
We are the men and women reading books, searching
in the pages of history for the lost word, the key
to the mystery of living peace, imperishable joy;
we are factory hands field hands mill hands everywhere,
molding creating building structures, forging ahead,
Reaching for the future, nourished in the heart...."
Anyone in Virginia can participate.
Use any (one or a combination) of the following questions as your starting point:
In this year+ of tumult and change,
What does it mean to create community and inclusivity in these difficult times?
What does it mean to survive and tell your own/your family's/community's story?
What does it mean to reach toward the future?
What does it mean to reach for "imperishable joy?"
What "lost word" would you want to find?
You could also write your 2-4 lines in response to something that you connect with in my poem "We Are Here" (see below).
Send your 2-4 lines in the body of the email (NO attachments) to WeAreHerePoetry "at" gmail.com
Please include the following information after your lines:
Virginia City/County in which you live
Poet-contributors are also invited to share their
Age &/or Profession
Lines will be collected from 1-31 October 2021.
Our collaborative poem will be published on this website.
I look forward to hearing your voices!
WE ARE HERE
Luisa A. Igloria
I crossed an ocean too.
We were not running from bullets.
We were not important enough
to be political prisoners.
There was no war, I have
no visible shrapnel scars.
Only a recent calamity
that left my whole city in ruins,
that tore my house in two.
Two weeks after the earth shook
buildings like toy maracas, father swayed
against the door frame
in his faded yellow bathrobe
as if to say goodbye.
In the morning he choked
as mother spooned soft scrambled eggs
into his mouth.
Then his eyes rolled back in his head
and he stiffened in the chair.
Can I say we took him
to the hospital if the hospital
was barely standing? I can see
the shape made by the feather
stroke of blood that issued
from the corner of his mouth.
The sky lifted with the noise
of rescue helicopters.
We were not on them.
I was not on them.
I found another way across
the ocean. I took
what was offered, learned
to hide the sounds of hurt
in my ears.
It's difficult to erase the taste of guilt
we kept in our mouths. We are learning
the names of other birds but we
still have a habit of always
Happiness touches down lightly,
like wings, every now and then.
Standing upon the shoulders of giants Einstein grasped
the future, handed it down
There really is enough future to hand around
If we used our hands to hold every human to the sky
our billions could lay hands on the moon almost
- J. Scott Wilson,Yorktown, VA;
The times were told by the hands— the poet's pen,
in prayer, a toddler's touch, my father's last grasp,
the pocket of love resting between hands
that don't know or care about race or gender
- Carol Parris Krauss, Portsmouth, VA;
62; Mother, Teacher, Poet
I hand the panhandler candy
Aghast at his blackened beaming teeth
Which dissolves like stirred sugar
In the syrup of our shared delight
- Shirley Lavin, Kents Store, VA;
62, RE Admin
and learning to laugh, lips parting to reveal
one of life's choicest joys.
Soaking in moments of ease,
breathe, breathe again, my dears.
- Tope Abigail Larayetan, Virginia Beach, VA;
23, Writer & MFA student
I have not found all the fragments
content to be weighed down by dust
but each day is a find, a dig continued
so that I may know my past and self
- Konstantin N. Rega, Richmond, VA;
24, Assistant Editor
What kind of world will we leave our children -
are things as bad as they seem?
If only we could wake up one day
and this was all a dream!
- Clay Harrison, Williamsburg, VA;
79, retired Police Officer
Like new-born fledglings
We are vulnerable yet
Strong after the plague
- Emily Bilman
Virginia Poetry Society
I stand, nakedly human, war torn and thinking
Like a pilgrim seeking hope, in lands not yet hardened
Still ingloriously alone, still gloriously fluid
- Julie Scott, Fredericksburg, VA;
56, Operations Manager/Writer
Even with this insistent breaking of things
and naming of things,
I will not be fooled into thinking
it is not always spring.
- Julia Travers, Gordonsville, VA;
Reaching towards the future is like a ladder
You keep on climbing
While your climbing time goes on by
Once that time goes by you reach your goal
- Rafael Acosta, 14
I Like my future
But I’m scared to meet her
- Jacey Klotz, 13
To reach for imperishable joy
Is to feel untouchable and slightly coy,
To feel like the world is in your hands
So, you feel great about your plans
- Demiya Neville, Norfolk VA;
At a loss for words…
But what does that mean?
Not to speak, but to be seen
- Peyton Ecobichon, Norfolk VA;
In the clouds of naïveté; a murder has happened
The child’s head starts sparking a revolution, just to be chopped off;
The child’s ideas touch me and now it’s my turn to share the word
For if the world is going to mature someone has to spread
- Sylvie Vegh, Norfolk, VA;
Once the tale is told
The truth is forgotten
For the Story is what we hold
- Connor Houser, Norfolk VA;
Eyes crinkled, holding back tears from a simple hello
A warm meal and bottle of water, received with a smile, a thank you
come back next week
- Huaqiu "Cho-Cho" Williams, Norfolk, VA;
17, Granby High School student
Even dragged under the surface, we adapt.
Potent calls through the ocean of wires and
signals pushing like sea waves,
carrying life diverse and determined to keep moving.
- Charlotte Toomey, Norfolk, VA;
17, Granby High School student
I search for the lost word that could somehow explain
The dip of toes in a crystalline stream, where silence is
the absence of thought not the absence of sound
Impossible to voice but fundamental to feel, two
incompatible elements I hope to one day fuse
To master the alchemy of expression
- Nivale Baxendell, Norfolk VA;
I stole my mother’s breath
from her body to love you with a scream
I harvested my grandmother’s ribs
To create your forgiveness
- Ella Jean Fernandez, Norfolk VA
Life is full of secrets and mysteries where wet try our best
to answer these
Questions that our brain pleas to understand the reasons of life
We try our best, and with our thoughts we fight
Although some questions are above the human expertise
- Maya Mallory
Within the dark cold winter, the eskimo mindlessly
wander atop the smoothed ice pond.
Unable to break the ice free, the robust taste of fish
continues to be washed away for months.
When almost all hope was shriveled away, a crack into
the ice washed doubt off the eskimos
Their once dry lips became pressed with joy as they
were able to shatter their wall to the future
- Gian Goboy, Norfolk VA;
If only we were simultaneous
If only we got along and were equal
If only you treated me like you treated them
If only you cared
- Dania Miles, Norfolk VA;
Reflection of waves from the ocean I crossed
Reflection as I look back out of habit
Thoughts of guilt and innocence tossed
Tossed like pancit with carrots and cabbage
- Racquel Dicuangco, Norfolk, VA;
17, High School Student
They too were looking for a future
Not just a job
Somewhere to begin a new chapter
- Sharon Chen, Norfolk VA;
16, Granby High School student
Reach towards the future, it’s easy they said
“Take what's yours! You make your own path”
Individuals, never really are iNdIvIdUaL
You can reach for the future, but don’t expect it to reach back.
- Aiden Hill, Norfolk, VA;
It is hard to be happy,
Living in a world with so much anger, grief and loneliness.
Being happy is a gift,
One I hope to receive every day of my life
- Jackie Velotas, Norfolk, VA;
a simple yet complex concept
leave the past in the past
but let it pave the way of the future
- Shivani Rastogi, Norfolk, VA;
There is the perfectly shaped high picked apple hanging
by a pound
A man journeys over the ridged and harsh bridge to see
the beauty he most deserves
By the time he reaches the peak of the mountain
with all his diligent work
He sees that fruit is no more and the non-rightness has taken it
- Brian Cohn, Norfolk VA;
If only we were simultaneous
If only we got along and were equal
If only you treated me like you treated them
If only you cared
- Dania Miles, Norfolk, VA;
It means fear, apprehension, the unknown, stepping into the dark
But then, a light, a candle flame dancing, lighting the tinder
as the fire begins to spread
This is the future, not the darkness, but the light waiting to spread.
You just have to step
- Matthew Larkin, Norfolk, VA;
I reach for what once was imperishable joy
The joy felt of late seems so easily faded
The infinite sunshine once felt as a boy
What cloud passes over and leaves it degraded?
- Kelson Hughes, Norfolk, VA;
Only one we can seem to taste
But we don’t fly straight
Joy can never truly diminish
Even with a sour feeling surrounding us
- Camden Dunbar, Norfolk, VA;
Hand in hand or each alone, we traverse a landscape
sunny or shadowed;
from high bridges we enjoy the view. Slogging through
mire we struggle
to balance our backpacks. On a trodden way we keep
a steady pace.
One day we will put aside the backpacks as we
reach our destination.
- Sue Davis Gabbay, Washington, VA;
91, retired Librarian
Don't tell the towering ancient oaks who shelter me in this
time of isolation.
Don't inform the frolicking squirrels whose antics delight my days.
Oxford Junior Dictionary removed acorn from their lexicon.
How do you explain to a child of any age a nameless source
of life, buried and sought?
- Denise Wilcox, Keswick, VA;
Survival doesn't come with a trophy of bronze, or
a medal of gold
Mine came with scars on my arms and a broken soul
Stop smiling at my strength and my ability to rise
No, sir, your faith doesn't answer when I scream for why
- Stacy Clair, Fredericksburg, VA;
Floating down river
The eagle glides above us
Joy speaks in silence
- Drury Wellford, Richmond, VA;
65, disabled library professional
in these worst of times,
when seems all hope is gone,
will your anchor hold?
steadfast, secure to the Solid Rock!
- Paul Evans Savas. Williamsburg, VA;
Orthopedic Spine Surgeon
The strangers did not recognize their prejudicial words
looking down upon my face, so different from their own
uttering their confusion "Where are you from? You speak
English so well."
Yet, their words could not estrange me from this place
I call my home.
- Dori Martinez Freudiger, Burke VA;
We admit to the ankle (a far-cry from
the breast weeping over idiocies) how there
is awe in the hinge and spring of bones made
of wire and lightning to ignite our dance.
- Kathryn Gahl;
74, Poet, Writer, Dancer
I remember my best friend
She could stand in the rain and sing
But in the year 2020
She passed away due to COVID-19
- Lacroy Nixon, Williamsburg, VA;
Other cultures venerate the old person
Use him to guide their group with ideas and ideals
Developed during his productive life
His life—not a discard but vital
- L. Nelson Farley, Newport News, VA;
87, engineer, author
not like bananas, soft, sweet and over-ripe for bread
hope of imperishable joy sustains me
through a pandemic, through quarantine, through civil discord
like a stone-hard seed that awaits its bloom
- Kathleen P. Decker, Williamsburg, VA;
Still we are sure of the sun's rising
if nothing else, sure that birdsong is a balm
for a world without touching, certain we can memorize
every sigh and hum of love at a distance
- Kindra McDonald, Norfolk VA;
43, Educator, Executive Director
To reach to the future
means my arms are long
or that touch is the inhale
before breaking in song.
- Beth Williams, Norfolk, VA;
“Why are we here, not there?”
some ask with deep despair.
But I would call it Providence
To breath this morning air.
- Christian Pascale, Williamsburg VA;
We is the caldron, and the incantation, and the potion:
tongue of grief, eye of greed, skin of kinship, roux of rue;
I is the hand that tosses in, and stirs—I, I, by the billions.
Take care, brother witch, sister mouth. I brews; we bruise.
- Derek Kannemeyer, Richmond, VA;
72, retired teacher, working not-for-profit artist
She places the luminous egg gently upon Rudbeckia hirta
Octobers, many. You were born in sunshine
Joy beyond reckoning as your love gave light to more
From each of you, a buried word unearthed: kindness.
- Marjorie Gowdy, Callaway, VA;
On the roadside a finger
gray haze of breath
this blue urge
- Chapman Hood Frazier, Rice, VA;
Professor in Residence, JMU
A voice peering through unfathomable dreams,
brings forth useless battles and blades of error;
I’m a slave to lingering emotions, a bride on embers to old
sufferings, an infinite mourner hidden beneath things I do not know
- Michal Mahgerefteh, Norfolk, VA;
poet and artist
The pain that has us grieve today
will seem no more than pause
on way to finer memories
of what is yet to come — believe!
- Alan Meyrowitz, Haymarket, VA;
76, retired Computer Scientist
This tyrant of a virus won't define us in the end--
We will rise! We'll recover; sisters, brothers, once again
And we'll sing songs of love and freedom; we will sing,
with voices clear and strong--
We will sing of the new day that is dawning - we will sing
with tomorrow in our song!
- Rich Follett, Strasburg, VA;
61; Teacher, Poet Laureate of Strasburg
We are here, with our love, our reason, our truth.
against ignorance, fear, and hate.
Old evils, but we will
- Ray Copson, Reston, VA;
77, retired civil servant
The Earth is a club, you call yourself a member
Your membership is finite, you could be out by September
Now you're gone, will anyone be a lamenter
Now you're gone, will anyone even remember
- Noah Alper, Norfolk VA;
17, high school student
to search for the thing that would turn emotion to characteristic
to never be certain that it can be attained or understood
But to choose to believe; we must believe
that one day, we will uncover the secret to happiness eternal.
- Elliana Mukherjee, Norfolk, VA;
To be Alone but not Lonely,
there is a difference in the
physical and mental realms.
I may be Lonely but never Alone.
- Kaushal Bhasin, Norfolk VA;
Is it the “looking back” that keeps us chained down?
Or the fear of continuing forward keeping us bound
to the ground?
But you have to reach toward the light at the end of the hallway.
For at the end is a future so bright, you don’t ever want
to look away.
- Arwyn Elixson, Norfolk, VA;
I want to find the “lost word” of my black ancestors
That were forcibly taken from their homes
Made to forget their culture and language
- Amyah Germany, Norfolk, VA;
We are multitudes
More than a number, more than your stereotype, more
than our appearance
To be or not to be
We choose not to be a number, we choose to be exactly
who we want to be
- Tashiera Caine, Norfolk VA;
Love is the feeling when our hearts are breaking and
dreams are fleeting.
When we are lost, and wander without a map.
When we find a clearing and someone stands with their
we know that love is the feeling that leads us home.
- Kathryn Bonheur, Norfolk VA;
Our people are hurting, but
Our people are strong minded and willed
Our people are filled with differences, some facing adversity
Yet, our people are united and in union there is strength
- Quinn Carroll, Norfolk VA;
We are here in what we leave behind:
The memories, the laughter, the tears.
We learn from what others leave behind.
We learn from what wasn’t left behind.
- Meghan Velotas, Norfolk VA;
We are here in hopes of a new future.
To leave this city down in shambles
We hope to find a chance to be successful and acknowledged.
There’ll always be a search for that golden opportunity.
- Nia Olaes, Norfolk VA;
To reach toward the future means to settle into the present
Live and breathe your future until it comes into existence
Stop talking and just be, stop hoping and just do
Stop reaching for something that doesn’t exist
- Gerard Jan De Perio, Norfolk VA;
As we look back upon this year,
May we not turn our back on it;
On the lessons we learned for our families, our futures
On the bright spots in the dark, charting those stars out of the void
- Leia Morissey, Norfolk VA;
A second generation Ashkenazi Jew – a generation
Too late to hear their stories,
Too late to know their whys.
Past generations are gone, their words
- Debra Markel, Richmond, VA;
To search for joy is to exist
To exist in each moment, simply and wholly
Not mourning yesterdays, not agonizing tomorrows
To search for joy is not to search but to live
- Abigail Strawn, Norfolk, VA;
How can you ask me to reach for imperishable joy
when I one day will perish too
How can you ask me to endure joy forever when you
don't know all that I endure
I walk through the flames of the fires you created, and I
breathe in the unclean air around me
But still, I reach through the burning heat, through the clouds
of pollution, for imperishable joy
- Rowan Heine, Norfolk, VA;
But what happens when the birds don't have names?
Sometimes they are simply feathers in flight
Unaware of the gore that surrounds them.
- Kayla Whitt, Norfolk, VA;
You are reaching out to the boy And
You are taking him in your arms And
We are flying away
- Francis Pitchford, Norfolk VA;
The future is within reach,
Where the grass is greener, and the air is cleaner.
The future is within reach,
With every inch I get closer to a world where these kids can compose her.
- Demi Seligman, Norfolk, VA;
Only the past is known it its entirety
Hour after hour, past grows and future remains the unknown
Predictions nor predilections can alter that specific black hole
There is only hope, said society
- Lilah Edwards, Norfolk, VA;
To reach for that which seems possessed by light,
with trembling fingers
Is unimaginable. To some, that imperishable joy lingers
too bright, uncomfortable
Only begot with by perfected arms
But still, I reach, I reach, and I reach, just for a taste of Avalon
- Dana Sun, Norfolk VA;
I stay where your calendar stopped.
The red Xs came to an end.
Don’t. Keep making a mark.
Maybe someday you’ll help someone’s calendar last.
- Mei Lin Agustin, Norfolk, VA;
Reaching for imperishable joy is equivalent to reaching
It is impossible to be forever delighted,
you need to have some despair to compare it to
- Nautica Bracey, Norfolk, VA;
We are survivors
that have come out black and blue-
- Stephanie Chambers, Norfolk, VA;
The joyous child, innocent, carefree. Through
menial work, they perished.
Mechanical in motion, Hollowed in notion. How can
the imperishable perish?
Mindset is imperishable. Motion, no longer akin to
machine notion, no longer alike to abyss
- Zehao Wu, Norfolk, VA;
For years, my only solace was my favorite day,
Halloween: dressing as male heroes,
alteregos--my excuses: "pretending," "only for a night."
Now blinking in the bright light
of this new day, where my niece's schoolteachers
are openly gay: dare
I emerge, secret identity unshielded by costumed night?
Is there anyone left beneath that deep-creased
need to hide?
- Adele Gardner, Newport News, VA;
I am here,
living proof that
my ancestor’s legacy
- Erica Stephens
Homelessness, starvation, mental health disparity --
the arduous parts of the journey
Life death journey is eternal
Humankind's creation and comfort are one--
In the arms of God
God is eternally with a soul
- Barbara Drucker Smith, Newport News, VA;
85, NATH Master Hypnotherapist, Poet,
Writer, Louraine Publishing
I crossed a land stretched wide
where cacti grow and prick one’s side,
reflecting on the living and the dead
praying that I don't fall like lead
- Robert L. Giron, Arlington, VA;
Seeking serenity, leadership, peace, caring, truth,
contentment, pride, balance. Seeking the compassion and inconceivable determination that was cast away.
Seeking freedom for prisoners who have given up
on freedom. Seeking hope as bold as cardinals flying
expeditiously toward horizon. Let us all try
to seek sonder. May our living be authentic. May
our ending be love.
- ENGL 112L Introduction
to Literature students of
Lamaya Williams,Norfolk, VA;
22, Graduate Teaching Assistant