2 Poems from WORDS FROM the CAFE

2 poems from Words From the Cafe, An Anthology,
Edited by Anna Balint, Raven Chronicles Press, 2016
ISBN 978-0-9979468-0-2, 202 pages, $14.99

Ocean
by Esmeralda Hernandez

In the heart of the city
if you listen carefully
you can hear the cries of humanity.
Each night I lie in my bed at the shelter
not knowing who will enter,
with no telling what will happen

I have seen a sea of faces of homeless women.
As I make my way through that sea
I get to know some of them, gently pushing
my way, I make my own wave.

Some waves move forward to find land.
Some waves fold long before reaching land.

Like many, I’ve walked
through a sea of tears, yet still felt
God’s gentle push, to remind me
that His love is wider than any ocean,
and whenever I weep He turns it into love.


Cry and Transform
by Taumstar

5 A.M.
Walk briskly.    Will rain.
The ego is anxious.
The ego wants no change.
But change has already occurred—
an exercise in love,
picking up and going forward.

At the same time, sadness.
Feel older. Accomplishments?
Not everyone gets to accomplish much.
Gratitude.
Thanksgiving.
Going to a back and spine doctor—
they are not so quick to prescribe.
Started doing yoga, again.
No longer able to sweep, prune, saw, hammer.     No heavy lifting.

Learn/unlearn.
No longer get to drive.
Must think about
mobility = long term ability.
The little stuff more hard . . .
Cry and transform.

A Reading & Reception, Celebrating a new book & CD: Words From the Café, from Raven Chronicles Press

Cover photo: Ginny Banks
Cover photo: Ginny Banks

RAVEN CHRONICLES PRESS & JACK STRAW CULTURAL CENTER
present

A Reading & Reception, Celebrating a new book & CD:

Words From the Café

with MC/Host Anna Bálint

October 7, 2016, Friday, 7:00pm., Free

Jack Straw Cultural Center, 4261 Roosevelt Way N.E. University District, Seattle

Readings by:

• Johnnie Powell

• Taumstar

• Angel Ybarra

• Bang Nguyen

• Megan McInnis

• Tamar Hirsch

• Donald W. Butler

• Steve Torres

• Esmeralda Hernandez

• Mary Jo El-Wattar

Every Friday at Seattle’s Recovery Café, people struggling with addiction or mental illness or homelessness come together in Anna Bálint’s Safe Place Writing Circle to write and share writing. Here they discover their own unique voices and ways of shaping language to write stories and poems as part of reclaiming their lives. Anna’s 2015 residency with the Artist Support Program at Jack Straw, and funding from 4Culture, made it possible to capture some of the magic that takes place each week in Words From the Café, a book/CD compilation. These are voices that need to be heard. Their literary diversity and range of human experience fly in the face of prevailing stereotypes of some of the most marginalized members of our society.

Thanks to Recovery Café, 4Culture, Jack Straw Cultural Center and Raven Chronicles for making this program possible. Contact Information: ravenchronicles.org

206.941.2955, editors@ravenchronicles.org, Mailing address: 15528 12th Ave. NE, Shoreline, WA 98155

No, That’s My Name…

The Recovery Café sits on the corner of Boren and Denny, in downtown Seattle. It is a unique and remarkable place.

“Recovery Café and its School for Recovery serve men and women who have suffered trauma, homelessness, addiction and/or other mental health challenges. In this loving community, men and women experience belonging, healing and the joy of contributing. The Café and School for Recovery helps participants develop tools for maintaining recovery and stabilizing in mental / physical health, housing, relationships and employment / volunteer service.” —Excerpt from mission statement on the Recovery Café website [www.recoverycafe.org].

Writer/teacher, Anna Bálint, joined the Café community as a volunteer, teaching writing classes with the School of Recovery. Over time, her classes evolved into Safe Place Writing Circle, an ongoing and fluid group that has met weekly for the past year and a half. Its purpose is to provide a “safe place” for Cafe members to creatively explore many different aspects of their lives through writing, and give voice to their beliefs, hopes and fears. Some amazing stories and poems emerge, on a regular basis, from everyone involved. Here is one of those voices.


 

No, That’s My Name…

It’s Bong with an A, not bAng.  No, it sounds like bOng, but with an A.
Yah, yah, like a water bong, or the sound of a gong.  bOng!
It’s got an A, not an O.  You have to stretch the A: Baaang.
In Vietnamese it means equal.  Not anything fancy like Equality and Liberty.
It’s more common, like “same.”  Like “these two are the same,” or “we are the same.”
My whole name in Vietnamese means, “Man of the people among them”
and goes all the way back to ancient Vietnam.

Anyways, we’re just talking about the Americanized way to say my name.
In my language it’s not even said this way.  There’s a whole lot of accent marks missing
in your “American” language.  The “A” should have an accent mark like a bamboo hat over it.
That makes the A sound low, then high, then low again, all in one letter.
No, your language is too flat to say it.  No way you can pronounce it.

OK, OK. Bâng…
No, lower, then higher, then lower.  Start with a dip, go up, then pull back.
Bâng … Forget it.  Let’s talk about something else, and you can practice later.
And no, I don’t want to get stoned ’cuz of my name!

—Bang Nguyen

 

Published in Raven Chronicles, Vol. 21, 2015.