“The Night is Our First Language” Published

This is a poem inspired by a poetry reading by Li-Young Lee in Chicago.  When I heard  Lee read, I immediately wrote this poem on my train ride back home.  During the reading, the audience was stunned silent.   We listened intently and even stopped fanning ourselves on a desperately hot summer afternoon.

Lee is not active on social media, and that’s okay–he is probably busy writing more poetry!

The poem’s title came from something Lee said toward the end of his reading, that “the night is our first language.”  That stuck with me.

My poem is published here: Willowdown Books, The Poetic Bond VIII.

And here is the poem:

The Night is Our First Language
(after Li-Young Lee’s poetry reading)

Chicago, hot afternoon
packed reading room.
We wait as sweat drips down
faces, onto blouses, shirts–
unpoetic bodily functions.

A slight man, black ponytail,
black boots, turtleneck, blazer,
dark round rim glasses,
shuffles papers at the podium,
asks quietly:  Is the microphone on?
Thank you for coming. I will
read from new poems,
these are not finished.
It takes me so long to write
in English, not my first language.

Can you hear me know?

We sat forward
nodding, yes, yes,
we can hear you, we are listening,

His voice soft but clear
a slow low bell
of three countries
as he read a love poem to his sister,
who at eight
held the family keys and
held the duty
to keep the family together
while Mother
waited at the prison daily,
hoping for a glimpse of Father,
and he remembered sister’s screams
when father was beaten while arrested.

Sister, I will not tell your secrets.

He looked up, startled
that we were there,
as he went on to
talk of his mouth, not
suited for certain sounds,
of a river of escape,
so swollen with dead bodies
their boat could not move.

Finished, quietly, the poet
started away from the podium
as we sat in stunned silence,
a room packed, doubly packed,
while he said in parting,

The night is our first language.

 

From: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/li-young-lee

Li-Young Lee was born in Djakarta, Indonesia in 1957 to Chinese political exiles. Both of Lee’s parents came from powerful Chinese families: Lee’s great grandfather was the first president of the Republic of China, and Lee’s father had been the personal physician to Mao Zedong. In Indonesia, Dr. Lee helped found Gamaliel University. Anti-Chinese sentiment began to foment in Indonesia, however, and Lee’s father was arrested and held as a political prisoner for a year.

 

Thank you for reading.

Laura

Brief Bio

laura gym picture    Hello, readers.  I never added a bio here, so–better late than never!

I am a reading specialist; reading, English, and ELL teacher as well as a poet and fiction/ nonfiction writer.  My graduate coursework is  in Reading, Education, and ELL.    I’ve attended many colleges and universities, including:

* Elmhurst College (Bachelors degree, English, Sociology, Psychology, Education)
* College of DuPage (English, Spanish, music, writing, and more–over many years–as part of being a lifelong learner)
*National-Louis University (graduate degree in Reading and additional coursework in ELL and Education)
*University of Chicago (creative writing and art)
*De Paul University (started a Business degree program–what was I thinking?)
*St. Xavier University (graduate coursework in Reading)
*Benedictine University (graduate coursework in Reading)
*Concordia University (graduate coursework in Reading)

I think I am missing some; needless to say, I am a lifelong learner.

I began my professional life working in publishing (minimum wage!), banking, and insurance–those student loans had to be paid off! Eventually I was able to pursue my dream of being a teacher and writer; by then I was well into my “late” middle age years. I never regretted this decision to leave a well-paid business job to enter teaching and writing. Not one regret.

Not too many years ago, I “retired” from full time teaching.  I now teach at the college level part time and write part time.

I love nature and people and literacy.  Lifelong passions!

I’m also a volunteer adult literacy tutor with Literacy DuPage.  I also volunteer with Elmhurst College and work with English majors to help them navigate college.

One of the most meaningful things I’ve done is to be a Mentor Coordinator for a high school with a significant gang presence,  matching youths who had been arrested for or received discipline warnings for in-school gang activity and then completed a gang avoidance program with adult mentors.  This mentor program helped our students stay in school.  For me, I used to wonder out loud: What am I doing? I have no training in this field? What if I mess up?  But I learned that I had considerable skills in interviewing people and predicting who would get along/ work well together.

I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for decades.  I am very fortunate.

Thanks for reading.

Laura

PS For a list of my publications, look here: Publications.

 

 

Publications,Updated

pexels-photo-997721 Publications, Laura Lee

Some of my poems, short stories, and nonfiction articles are included online and in print books and magazines published in the UK, Greece, India, New Zealand, and the United States. Many thanks to the staff at these publications. 

“The Three Month Sentence,” a poem, in The Esthetic Apostle , 2019.

“Red Halo,” a poem, in Prometheus Dreaming, 2019.

“Devastation,” a poem, 2019, in Headline Poetry.

“Havishammed +1,” a poem, 2019, online and in print edition available through amazon.com and at High Shelf Press.

“Where You Are Not,” a poem, June 2019, Esthetic Apostle, here.

“Swamp Pearls,” a poem, May 2019, in Prometheus Dreaming, here.

“Not Sleep,” a poem, in Cagibi: A Literary Space, 2019, here: Cagibi.

“The Professor and the Gravel,” (2019), a poem, in Wingless Dreamer.

“Saltwater Faces,” an ekphrastic poem inspired by paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, High Shelf Press, 2018, here.

“Click,” “The Night is our First Language,” and “They Left the Bed,” poetry published in The Poetic Bond VIII print issue, 2018. Available at Poetic Bond VIII.

“Moving Gravel” a short story at Crack the Spine – Themed Anthology Submissions, “Routine”, print edition, 2018. Available at Crack the Spine Anthology.

“Walk with Child,” a poem, in Snapdragon Journal, 2018, “Here and Gone” theme, here.

Coffin Bell Journal,2018, “Herstory,” a poem, 2018,here.

Spillwords Press, “Stopped,” a poem, 2018, here. 

Tuck Magazine, June 2018, “Teach to Kill” http://tuckmagazine.com/2018/06/06/poetry-1528/.

Tuck Magazine,  May 2018, “Refuge,” http://tuckmagazine.com/2018/05/29/poetry-1511/.

 Southernmost Point Guest House (UK), poetry.

Journal of Modern Poetry 21 (Volume 21), “Hell, No,” a poem at JOMP Volume 21 Dear Mr. President.

Journal of Modern Poetry 20 (Volume 20), “Moonlit Awakening,” JOMP Volume 20 Poetry Writer’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Journal of Modern Poetry 18 (Volume 18), The Official Poets Guide to Peace, two poems: “Open” and “After Poetry Class.” 2015. Purchase here.

Journal of Modern Poetry 17 (Volume 17), JOMP Volume 17. 

Cram Volume 12: “White Board Clown,” 2011. Chicago Poetry Press 2011.

Magazine (New Zealand) , Raewyn Alexander, Publisher, nonfiction and poetry.  Raewyn Alexander NZ.

Fiction in: http://staxtes.com/2003/ “Between the Sunlight and the Skipping” in English Wednesdays

Poetry in: https://poetsagainstthewar.org/ archives.

Illinois English Bulletin, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English, nonfiction article about teaching in an alternative education program.

 Poetry in Marginalia, Elmhurst, IL.

“Red Halo” Published Today in Prometheus Dreaming

prometheus dreaming journal cover page  Published here: “Red Halo” in Prometheus Dreaming.

I am thrilled to have a  poem published in a dream journal, Prometheus Dreaming. The editor treats writers and their work so well and the work is presented beautifully. As I sent a poem I truly love and was very close/ personal to me.

Thanks for reading!

Laura

 

 

Red Halo

by Laura Lee

I did not want to find you
by the mud flats
where things live that
I always want to see:
heron, fox, cardinal, hawk.

But the sun broke shadows
wildflowers bloomed late this year
brown eyed susans, sunflowers
unnamed purple velvet.

I did not want to find you
standing across the river
staring west into a sunset
you’d hoped would take you, too.

I do not know
how the red halo encircled
my pale face, peeked through
the weeds and the dirt.

About the Author

Laura Lee is a Chicago area poet, college instructor, literacy tutor, and writer. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in print and online journals in the US, the UK, New Zealand, India, and Greece.

For a complete list of publications, visit her website at: http://lauraleewriterpoeteducator.com.

Follow Laura Lee on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/LauraLe97942016.


 

Some Photos from Two Nature Walks

These are just some photos from yesterday’s nature walk, and the walk in the fen the day before with the hubby. I am so grateful to live near such natural beauty, and grateful my husband likes to walk in nature with me, after 40+ years!

Nature inspires my writing, a lot, as do the changing seasons.

Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by.

Laura

 

 

 

“Click,” a Poem, Published at Willowdown Books, Poetic Bond VIII

click  Willowdown Books published “Click,” in their Poetic Bond VIII print issue last year here: “Click” in Poetic Bond VIII. .

This was a fun collaboration between the editor and me.  I submitted the poem and the editor liked it, but felt the second stanza should be numbered and have a title.

I had originally written this as a short story, then a poem, then a short story introduced by a poem.  How it ended up is quite different, although I do have a poem “left over” and a complete short story as well, both needing a home. I wrote the short story, “Click,” during a writing workshop a few years ago and it was probably one of the best short stories I have ever written.

I do like the resulting poem! All are my words, but some of the words were moved around and we did add the numbered and titled second stanzas.

Thanks for reading!

Laura

 

 

“Not Sleep,” a Poem, Published in Cagibi Literary Journal

My poem, “Not Sleep,” was published in Cagibi, a Literary Space last summer.  I didn’t realize, since I am rather new to publishing, that I could promote published works. So I am now.

I should try writing a happy or humorous poem, perhaps.  I am a joyful person often, but write to help understand life and especially losses.  So I don’t write that many happy poems. I do write humor fiction and nonfiction, however.

As to this poem, I wanted to honor and show respect for long term relationships. I hope I have done so here.

Thanks for reading!

Laura

 

NOT SLEEP

A face in the window
listening to the high pitch of crickets,
low tones of frogs.
Fireflies blink and I think
I should sleep
but Venus has risen
and the silence of navy skies calls.

I hear your deep cough
know you have
put pillow to mouth.
I check forehead
bring cool cloths and water.
You kiss my hand
tell me you are fine, tell me
go back to the night.

I stay
awake, alone
listening.

Hours later
delight at the open window:
robins’ morning song.

You arise, sit next to me
try to stop shivering
as we remember winter
when this window was ice-locked.

Listen,
you whisper between coughs,
It’s lovely.

We wait together
to start our day,
tiptoe breathing.

Laura Lee is a Chicago area poet, college student mentor and instructor, literacy tutor, and writer. Her poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have been published in print and online journals in the US, the UK, New Zealand, Greece, and India. Literacy in all its forms is her passion. For a complete list of publications, visit her website at: http://lauraleewriterpoeteducator.com. Follow Laura Lee on Twitter @LauraLe97942016.

“They Left the Bed” Published at Willowdown Books, Poetic Bond VIII

This poem was inspired by a photo in an ekphrastic poetry contest.  While I did not win the contest, I thought it was a good poem so submitted elsewhere.    You should have see the photo!  Desolate, reminiscent of something vaguely wartime.

 

Willowdown Books published the poem in Volume VIII, Poetic Bond late in 2018.   As rights have reverted to me, I post it here just because.

 

Thanks for reading!

Laura

They Left the Bed

They left the bed, he said
As I was thinking the same.
And wonderful
TV, one chair,
a painting.

Sometimes
we made up names
for each other
on cold nights on strange floors
but knew better than to know.

What’s that on the bed, he said?
And we were afraid to look
blood spatters or bone dust
police matters or lone lust
we’d seen it all by then.

I’ll take the floor, he said.
I wish I hadn’t seen the bed.
Moved closer to the painting:
A Renoir? I know I knew
In another life.

Not romantic enough,
he said,
a Monet is my guess
but the colors are all off.

The colors are all off
cold nights on strange floors
blood spatters or bone dust
police matters or lone lust
we’d seen it all by then.