Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Black History Month at Phoenix House with Beverly M. Collins

Beverly M. Collins and Maja Trochimczyk at Phoenix House Venice with their books.

On Saturday, February 24, 2018, eminent poet Beverly M. Collins visited Phoenix House Venice residential treatment program for adult men to celebrate Black History Month with poetry.  An accomplished, prize-winning author of two books and hundreds of poems published in a variety of journals, Beverly read her poems and discussed their inspirations. Some of her witty and wise verse has been collected in two books Mud in Magic (Moonrise Press, 2015) and Quiet Observations (2006).

Beverly M. Collins with her 2015 book Mud in Magic

Beverly was joined in the reading by Maja Trochimczyk (poet and Senior Director of Planning at Phoenix House who organized the event) and two patients from the treatment program who read excerpts of their excellent work in progress. The audience of nearly 50 men was very attentive and interested. The afternoon ended with the listeners using one word to describe what they love the most in life: family, sports, art, sunsets, etc... At the end of a poetic afternoon, Beverly and Maja donated books of poetry to Phoenix House.

Here are some poems that were read during the afternoon.

(a poem of 4-letter words)

Beverly M. Collins

Let's hold rust, that pour mess
onto life, away from idea good.

Purr fire! Melt soft upon hard,
like warm love gets kind pass evil.
Stay real! Mend them!
Grow hope-come feel less lost.

Make eyes more wild with song!
Hand held thru hurt felt, that
we'll miss upon this toss, will
pull cold howl from vain wind.

Can't home stay cake-walk-pure?
Will "wary-mind" name each play?
Only time will tell.

Beverly M. Collins

As I wash my face one evening in the bathroom,
Ponder rises from the steam curled within the heat

I am suddenly aware that in 200 years,
my nose could disappear from all my pictures
like some of he statues of Egypt.
Even small statues were not safe.

Historians may say it was caused by
a thousand miniature chisels in the wind.
This "breaking wind" only wants the nose.

Yo-ho, little tiny wind-pirates!
The probably have caves of stolen noses
hidden somewhere in the hills.
Only bats view them.

This is the fly-paper story some historians
are stuck to. It can be found flourishing,
wherever bridges are sold.

In between Beverly's poems, Maja Trochimczyk read from two of her recent poetry books, Into Light: Poems and Incantations (rev. 2017) and The Rainy Bread: Poems from Exile (2016). The first book consists of positive, mostly spiritual poems, some describing experience of nature, some lessons to be learned from it. It was created after several readings at Phoenix House and includes a poem that was written specifically for the Black History Month event in 2016. The second book gathers poems about WWII experiences about the poet's extended family in Poland - some deported to Siberia by the Soviets in 1940, some starving in a village, waiting for the harvest...

No More

Maja Trochimczyk

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, trees growing roots,   
Sparkling clean water  
Flowing to fill us.

Made of water and stardust,   
We are all one under the sunrays 
Reaching down to touch our skin, 
Nourish our muscles.

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, from Into Light (2016)

NOTE: “Sclave” means “slave” in Latin; the name used by Romans for  the “Barbarians” in the north-east of their empire that is the Slavic nations including those in modern-day Poland.

"Hands in Light" by Maja Trochimczyk, from Into Light

A Walk in the Canyon

Maja Trochimczyk

We walk on layers of
past lives. Fossilized shells 
skin, bone, membrane. 
Ripples in the sand
on the ocean floor
now frame the mountains. 
The patterns sculpted
by waves linger on
after water disappeared. 
Sand, sandstone, limestone.
Granulated, petrified by time.

falling– sinking – twisting – rising up

Like grains of sand
caught by the cosmic tide 
we rise and fall with
the shifting clouds of light
and darkness. Words 
change us into stone. 
Words melt us in the fire 
of compassion.

Like water, we flow
and disappear, droplets
of rain in the mountain stream

racing down the slopes
to the river, through the valley, 
searching for the ocean.

The beating wings of the dove 
struggle against the wind.

falling– sinking – twisting – rising up

Ciocia Tonia

Maja Trochimczyk

Only a pear tree
between fields of sugar beets and corn.

Ripe pears — that’s all left from the house, 
barn and orchard. The farm where she raised 
her sons, milked her cows, and baked her bread.

Only a pear tree. Alone memento 
standing forlorn in an August field.

They ploughed it over— the village church and bus stops, 
the neighbors’ corrals, where their horses used to neigh.
They ploughed it over — her garden of herbs 
and cosmos, its fragile lace of leaves kissed 
by sunlight, a dream of a flower — 
she used to so love its effervescent beauty 
in the past.

It is not painful now, just surprising, 
her whole life gone, and only one tree left.
No trace of her ancestral village on the maps.

It was the worst to see her neighbors 
running with news, her husband shot 
in the middle of the dusty village road.

No time for grief, she saved her tears for later.
The orders came at once, a day to pack,
a long train ride to an unfamiliar city, 
near a river she never longed to see.

They said, pack wisely — 
take the warmest 
clothes, boots, pillows. 
Bring as much food 
as you can carry. 
Where you are going, 
there is nothing, 
except for freezing breath 
and bitter cold. 

Only a pear tree 
in an empty field of stubble.

Only a pearl tree 
in her golden field of dreams. 

NOTE: Ciocia Tonia is Aunt Antonina Glinska deported from Skarbkowo near Baranowicze by Soviets to Siberia in 1940. She returned in the 1970s to see where her house once stood and found nothing but fields and one pear tree. . .

(c) 2016 by Maja Trochimczyk, from The Rainy Bread (2016)

Maja Trochimczyk with her book Into Light (2016)

A Perfect Universe

Maja Trochimczyk

We live in a perfect universe
of what is, right next 
to a galaxy of universes
of what could have been —
endlessly fascinating and desirable, 
yet unnecessary.

A myriad of possibilities opens up
with every step, every gesture.

Choosing well —this is
“the narrow path.”

(c) 2016 by Maja Trochimczyk, from Into Light (2016, rev. 2017)

Lily by Maja Trochimczyk, from Into Light