Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Black History Month at Phoenix House with Beverly M. Collins

Beverly M. Collins, Maja Trochimczyk and Akilah Templeton at 
Phoenix House Venice with Beverly's book Mud in Magic

On February 24, 2016, residents of Phoenix House Venice celebrated the Black History Month with poetry. The evening, hosted by Program Director Akilah Templeton, featured poetry readings by residents, dealing with issues of recovery, solidarity, personal relationships, and life advice. At the end two guest poets read their work: I was joined by Beverly M. Collins , an accomplished African-American poet of wit and wisdom, who presented selections from her recently published book Mud in Magic (Moonrise Press, 2015).  Ms. Collins donated a copy of her book to the Phoenix House growing poetry library. 

Ms. Templeton encouraged clients to write poetry during the entire month of February, or to read poetry books in search of a poem that moves them or expresses some of their personal feelings. Some residents decided to read verse by famous author like Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou. Others wrote their own verse, using a free verse format or various rhyme scheme.  

Beverly Collins read two poems selected from her book, Mud in Magic, "Next" and "Up for Air"  - both with topical advice suitable for individuals in recovery, struggling with the dead weight of their past. 

Beverly M. Collins

 It is important, said Ms. Collins, to always look forward, to give ourselves a break and not be too hard on ourselves for past mistakes. There is always hope, always time to fix things, to start anew, to say...


From the tip-top of January
to the bottom of every December,
life is a continuum.
May we remember to remember.

There are no platforms on which we
halt. No arrivals at which we are landing. 
There is only continuous movement.
Blend motion into all planning.

Next is a good four letter word that dances
on the tongue and illuminates the playgrounds
of our minds. Next can call loudly or soft
and subtle when it chimes.

Within the cold of winter remember next are
the fragrant flowers of spring. Next reminds us 
there is no be-all or end-all to anything.

When riding a high tide or if a low tide 
has you feeling sadness or perplexed, 
know true muscle can be found
in how well we just say... Next!

(C) 2015 by Beverly M. Collins

Up for Air

Cuddled at midnight, with my pillow of dread,
I and apprehension lay like spoons in my bed.
My suffocating “To Do” list, too long for one person.
Its tedious tasks make my aching head worsen.

My stubborn impatience has landed me here.
I want it all now. I want it last year.
I hold anger so big over things that are small,
like my neighbor’s loud laughter while
bouncing a ball.

I can choose to narrow my focus singly on a plan,
long enough to get myself fully in hand.
Wrapped warm in my blankets, my emotions are bare
as I promise myself, to pull me up for air.

 (c) 2015 by Beverly M. Collins

After Beverly, I read a new poem written especially for this occasion and starting from a line that connected the word "Slav" (for my ethnic identity) to its Latin root "Sclave" ("slave" - the Romans used to invade the lands of Slavs to kidnap them and make them into slaves) and the English word derived from "sclave" - "Slave."

No More

Slav, Sclave, Slave  
We are all one – under  
That thumb of powers that be  
Of powers that do not want us to be,   
To become free, creative, enlightened
Slav, Sclave, Slave  
We are all one, united  
In the will to connect, all one  
In compassion, in awareness  
Of the ground under our feet,  
The warm soil with trees growing roots,   
With sparkling clean water  
Flowing to fill us.

Made of water and stardust,   
We are all one under the sun
Rays reaching down to touch  
Our skin, nourish our muscles.

No, we are not slaves  
We claim our freedom  
To be wise – To be kind  
To carry each other’s burdens  
To stand tall, walk forward,  
Together –

(C) 2016 by Maja Trochimczyk

At the end, I read the group participation poem that I wrote especially for Venice several months ago, with a new ending, trying out if it works better than the old one... After the introduction and explanation, the audience repeats every phrase read by the poet.

Repeat After Me

                     After Prayer for Fukushima Waters  by  Dr. Masaru Emoto.
                    Water, we are sorry / Water, please forgive us
                    Water, we thank you / Water, we love you

Yes, you can find it. /your way out./
It is so simple. /
First you say:/

We are the guilty ones,/ we are all at fault!
What happens next? /The door opens./
We stop at the threshold and say:/

Forgiveness erases all your guilt,/
all my fears, all our sorrows /– the burden
of dead thoughts is lifted./
We float up into brightness./ We are 
sparks of starligh
t, /a constellation
dancing in the sky
/ as we say:/

Filled with gratitude /
for every cloud, leaf and petal, /
every breath we take,/ every heartbeat, /
/we are ready, at last,/
to say what’s the most important:/

I give you all the love /
of my tired, aching heart /

I give you all the love /
of my tranquil, grateful heart!

                                                                          © 2015 by Maja Trochimczyk


  1. This was a great experience. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Beverly, it was great to host you at our program. Our residents really loved your poems, and I hope to include a couple in our April chapbook!