Stardom, Drama Theater, Mariupol
There was no queue along the sidewalk. Nothing on the marquee, but in the parking lot a word painted in large white letters over asphalt to be read by those on high: CHILDREN. The streets empty except for a pack of hungry dogs. The century-old building felt lonely, even with a thousand people sheltering inside.
Most everyone was in the basement. Who sat in the plush but worn seats? Who planned to sleep upright? No one waited for the curtain
s to open. No one planned to applaud. The roar of one hand clapping would have hurt all their ears. More deafening than the mourning of air raid sirens.
A few adults lay on dirty blankets spread over the concrete floor. It recalled kindergarten, the irrepressible whispers and giggles. Getting away with something so small as not sleeping, so inconsequential, until a deeper sleep exploded and legs kept running as they lay on their backs.
The Cost of a Flower
In the beginning, three-year-old twin girls giggle
and chase each other, playing tag along the underground
Beresteiska Metro rails. They call the relentless wailing
of air-raid sirens muffled by 20 meters of earth
“the cows are mooing again.” Their mother says
she won’t tell them fairytales anymore.
This night the broad bands of blue and yellow
are blooming around the world. Niagara Falls
pounds the boulders at its base
as mist rises in the colors of the besieged.
Two stories of the Roman Colosseum’s ancient
Stones, all the way to the top of Calgary Tower,
are wrapped in blue, wrapped in yellow.
From Vilnius to Cyprus, Japan to Australia,
the Eiffel Tower to the Brandenburg Gate,
from the United Nations to the Empire State Building
petals of light shine flower-yellow and sky-blue.
With sunflower seeds in her pockets,
on the corner of an oddly abandoned
but tense suburban street, an old woman
in the grayest of coats, her faded red hood pulled up
as if it offers protection from centuries-old stories
that have returned, stands in front of a soldier,
his arms folded over his assault rifle,
fingering the trigger, as she demands to know,
“Why are you here?
Why are you here?” and he finally says,
“I was told this was an exercise.”
She again demands, “Why are you here?”
fingering the trigger, he begins
to half-beg her to go home. She offers him
sunflower seeds to put in his pocket
so when he lies down in this cold land
the flowers will get back up.
Walter Bargen has published 25 books of poetry. Recent books include: Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems (BkMk Press, 2009), Trouble Behind Glass Doors (BkMk Press, 2013), Perishable Kingdoms (Grito del Lobo Press, 2017), Too Quick for the Living (Moon City Press, 2017), My Other Mother’s Red Mercedes (Lamar University Press, 2018), Until Next Time (Singing Bone Press, 2019), Pole Dancing in the Night Club of God (Red Mountain Press, 2020), and You Wounded Miracle, (Liliom Verlag, 2021). His awards include: a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Chester H. Jones Foundation Award, and the William Rockhill Nelson Award. He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009).
Edward Lee is an artist and writer from Ireland. His paintings and photography have been exhibited widely, while his poetry, short stories, non-fiction have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen and Smiths Knoll. He is currently working on two photography collections: Lying Down With The Dead and There Is A Beauty In Broken Things. He also makes noise music under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Orson Carroll, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy.