Burning Bush Publications
is proud to announce the three honorable mentions of
the People Before Profits Poetry Prize 2002:

Avotcja: Oaktown Blue

Marilyn Buck: Wild Poppies
Barbara Leon: Poem for the High Holy Days

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Wild Poppies
Marilyn Buck

I remember red poppies, wild behind the school house
I didn't want to be there, but I loved to watch the poppies

I used to sit in the window of my room, sketching charcoal trees
what happened to those magnolia trees, to that girl?

I went off to college, escaped my father's thunderstorms
Berkeley. Rebellion. Exhilaration!

the Vietnam war, Black Power, Che took me to Chicago
midnight lights under Wacker Dr. Uptown. South Side. Slapped
by self-determination for taking Freedom Wall photos
without asking

on the California, driving at 3:00 in the morning in the mountains,m
I got it: what self-determination means
A daunting task for a young white woman, I was humbled

practice is concrete...harder than crystal-dream concepts

San Francisco, on the front steps at Fulton St.
smoking reefer, drinking "bitterdog" with Black Panthers and white
hippie radicals, talking about when the revolution comes

the revolution did not come. Fred Bennett was missing
we learned he'd been found: ahes, bones, a wedding ring
but later there was Assata's freedom smile

then I was captured, locked into a cell of sewer water
spirit deflated. I survived, carried on, glad to be
like a week, a wild red poppy
rooted in life.

©2001 Marilyn Buck

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Marilyn Buck is a North American anti-imperialist political prisoner, held at the Federal Correctional Institution for women in Dublin, California. Her address is Marilyn Buck, #00482-285, Unit B, 5701 8th Street, Camp Parks, Dublin, CA 94568. More info at <http://www.prisonactivist.org/pps+pows/marilynbuck>
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Poem for the High Holy Days
Barbara Leon

Who are these people, my people
I don't know you
making pogroms in Nablus and Nazareth
slaying teenaged stonethrowers
slingshots aimed at a new Goliath.

We used to sit at the long kitchen table
pears and apples painted on slick oilcloth.
My grandmother warmed her hands
on a glass of amber tea
told winding stories I barely could follow
but the pictures burned into my brain
her father, long bearded, dancing to the Cossack's whip
a figure out of Chagall, he leapt
not for joy but terror.
My mother, not much higher than a soldier's boot
hidden safe in a Christian home
her tears calmed as she sucked on a chunk
of forbidden salt pork. The flight
across borders by wagon
horses kicking up heels in the dust.
My grandmother looked pregnant
family silverware strapped beneath her dress.

My grandfather would pull out the Black Book
relentless accounts of Holocaust
because you must remember.
Martha Schlamme's Yiddish soprano played
on a scratchy '78, fierce Partisan lider
defying Nazi onslaught and
aching songs of diaspora.
Dorten dorten, ibern vaserl
far, far off across the ocean ...
and how my grandfather would rail at
the second generation Jews.
Grober ying, he called them
the coarse young, forsaking their values for fancy cars
while he fundraised for guns for Palestine -
for freedom from the British, he said.

Decades later in this holiest of seasons
I want to ask them:
Did you believe it was a land without people?
Did you mourn the dead at Dayr Yasin?
And what do you make of
these sabras with spines that maim
these settlers from Brooklyn, hearts hard
as their bullets
these serene worshippers
tossing stale bread into the waters
sins massing unnoticed
on dry land.

©2002 Barbara Leon
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"Poem for the High Holy Days" was published previously in Conversation Peace, Santa Cruz.
Barbara Leon lives in Aptos, California.

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Guidelines for the People Before Profits Poetry Prize 2003

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