Poems By Julia Stein, From Her New Book “What Were They Like.”

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February 1, 2012 · Posted in Miscellany 

Dear Joe

We miss you.
We’re glad you liked the cookies that mama mailed you.
Grandma loves the teapot you sent her from Kuwait.
Please come home soon
for my high school graduation.
My little brother likes your photos.

Please come home from Kuwait.

Can’t you come home for July 4th?
We’ll meet at Boston commons stroll up and down
listen to a band play Sousa marches , eat corn-on-the cob
and watch the fireworks
go to Walden Pond to look for Thoreau
build another shack with his ghost.

go on a rowboat for a week with Thoreau down the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
plenty of time to talk about how to
live deliberate lives.

Please come home soon from Iraq.

We’ll go to New York to see Whitman
jostle with him through the crowds up Broadway
to go hang out on at his favorite saloon
go take a ferry boat ride with him to Brooklyn
follow him when he takes his manuscript to the local print shop to be printed
spend a lazy day with him loafing on the leaves of grass
take off on the open road
“It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d”
We’ll go hear America singing
the varied many carols we’ll hear.

Please come home soon from Afghanistan.

We’ll spend some time with Langston Hughes
in Harlem
eat with him at the table when company comes
listen to him speak of rivers
learn what is happening in Harlem when a dream’s deferred
go dig the Harlem sweeties on Sugar Hill
then go with him to the club on Lenox Avenue
listen to the Negro play the Weary Blues
and then we’ll take the Freedom Train
“Washington, Richmond, Durham, Chatanooga, Atlanta
way cross Georgia”
where we’ll stop for pecan pie
where we can go visit the Sea Islands

Please come back soon from Germany

We’ll go take a long raft ride down the Mississippi with Huck and Jim
wave goodbye to Mr. Mark Twain on the shore
find refuge from the storm in a cave on Jackson’s Island
have plenty of time to talk back on the river
heading for Illinois, a free state,
fish endless hours for our dinner that night,
avoid the steamboats  and the grifters,
this time we’ll actually make it to Illinois a free state
trek off to a new town for a free people
Jefferson’s village

Iraqi Poets Society

That day Abdullah al-Baghdadi watched the huge statue
of the tyrant Saddam knocked down,
falling on its back,
a rope around its neck
he dreamed of an Iraqi Dead Poet’s Society,
searched for all the lost poets in Baghdad,
sent letters, taxis and messengers across the city
looking for the hiding poets,
the suffocated poets,
the lost poets,
the banned poets
the poets who had spent three decades
like the walking dead.

He had dreams the suffocated poets
would have air to breathe,
the hiding poets would walk the streets,
the lost poets would be found
at a new Poetry Headquarters in Baghdad,
the banned poets would now meet weekly
for readings and publish in a monthly magazine,
the poets who had been the walking dead would resurrect to
invite Westerners to come to Baghdad to read and
to meet Iraqi poets now reborn.

My Heart Floods with Bitterness

All my hope for my brother
like a golden vase I hung onto  for three years
all the promises we believed in from doctors
new money new research new drugs for my brother’s Parkinson’s disease
breakthroughs in treatment maybe even a cure
the golden vase smashed apart shattered when


our president  sent out the bombers to Iraq
no more doctors in research labs
when he sent out the tanks snarking north to Iraq
no new drugs
when the president  jumped on an aircraft carrier declaring victory
told us all to shop
so many people ran out of stores in a orgy of buying
with humongous TV sets,
the latest cell phones glued to our ears
the war seemed to grow very tiny, just a blip on TV screens

my brother would be given the wrong drug
overdose for days
be rushed to the death trap hospital misdiagnosed
wake up paralyzed
helicoptered to the hospital
I fly north to see him my tears smudge
the airplane’s window

The Innocent Afghan Girl

My daughter is barefoot in the cold water.
What can I do?
I don’t have anything.
One of my daughters is dead.
This child I can sell her.
Nobody will buy her. What can I do?
These children will die too.
For god’s sake, I want to sell this child.
Nobody will buy her.
I don’t have blankets, don’t have any shawls.
I don’t have any clothes.
What can I do? I am poor.
I don’t have any blankets, don’t have any shawls.
I don’t have any food I would put in her mouth.
For God’s sake, I am poor.
Otherwise I wouldn’t  give her up for a million dollars.
I know nobody wants to sell their daughter.
I have to.
She is innocent, but I am poor.
I have nothing.


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