Friday, November 30, 2018

November Poetry Challenge - Migrants, Refugees, Expats

Vittore Carpaccio
The Flight into Egypt
c. 1515
One of the most well-known stories of refugees

Property of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. In the public domain.

Thank you to all who entered the November Poetry Challenge. It was difficult to choose the winners. I finally selected three poems that took very different approaches. I was a little surprised that no one wrote about the flight of Mary and Joseph into Egypt to save their son, Jesus, from the king who wanted him dead.

Lennart Lundh was not the only poet who looked back to ancient literature. His poem, “Lilith,” is based on the legend that Adam had a wife before the creation of Eve, but she was unsuitable (the reasons vary according to which version of the legend you read), and was expelled from the Garden of Eden, hence, “the first émigré, the first immigrant woman.” Here is Lundh’s well-crafted poem:


There is lightning in the high clouds to the north,
but distance cancels the thunder.
The flashes reach me, but the cycle is incomplete.

The sky turns darker, eclipses the healing moon
and stars.

I am the first émigré, the first immigrant woman.
I leave as a stranger, I arrive as the same.
With no husband, no sons, the cycle is incomplete.

The clouds roll nearer. The air cools and turns electric.

My daughters and I speak our only language, and
are damned.
We eat the only food we know, and we are cursed.
We would belong, but the cycle is incomplete.

The distance closes. The thunder makes the children
turn in their sleep.

My labor is required, but undervalued.
My wisdom is needed, but not sought.
Our bodies are desired, then discarded. The cycle
is incomplete.

Silence drops, is suddenly carried away by a thousand
fingers drumming.

The rain falls, warm and soft, carrying hope and salvation,
but the ground is hard. The promise is rejected, flows
in gutters.
The cycle is incomplete.

~ Lennart Lundh 

"Lilith" first appeared in Lennart Lundh’s collection, Jazz Me, in 2016.

Deetje J. Wildes poem is simple, minimalist, but makes her point clearly.

Two Walls

An ocean of people
surges north
toward a long wall
put there
to keep them out.

I recall
another wall,
a different president.
He shouted,
“Mister Gorbachev,
tear down this wall!”

~ Deetje J. Wildes

Tricia Knoll’s poem is more personal. The images have the possibility of drawing the reader in. We can see those “clutches of old men and women from churches” of which the poet is a part, as well as women “babes in arms with blankets / over their heads” in the rain. Despite the flow of the poem, we are hardly prepared for the gut punch of the ending.

Portland’s ICE Center As the Crow Flies

Less than two miles from the horse-race track
where the Japanese reported first for detention.

Clutches of old men and women from churches,
we gather under umbrellas, watch the line of golden people

wait in the chill to be called in for processing
in a huge glass and steel building too crowded

to hold them all. More women 
than men, babes in arms with blankets 

over their heads, strollers and toddlers.
Fear over documents tucked in folders.

Black-tinted ICE vans pull through the metal
fence, disappear as twenty-foot gates clang down. 

Through front doors, ICE agents with guns and pepper spray
monitor metal detectors, guide people to remove shoes,

sit on a bench, be swallowed up with the paperwork:
documents, residency, translation, apprehension. 

After an hour, a small woman with a brave smile exits. 
She may stay six months more. The witnesses applaud. 

A man here for twenty years has never been called in
before to be processed, to be questioned:

where he lives, what work he does for the County.
He seems less afraid than a little girl

with braids who burrows into her mother’s skirt. 
This cold queue waits for processing, a cannery word 

that once meant Oregon berries, salmon, and green beans. 
Now it means people. Processed people.

~ Tricia Knoll

This poem was first published in This Rough Beast by Indolent Press in 2017, a website. 

The December Poetry Challenge will be posted sometime tomorrow.

Watch for my new book, Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick, which will be published next year by Kelsay Books, as we celebrate Herman Melville’s 200th birthday.

Keep writing!


Tricia Knoll recently moved to Vermont from Portland, Oregon where she lived not far from this ICE detention center and frequently wrote letters to judges in support of releasing men in ICE detention who had lived in the United States for many years with families. For more of her work, visit

Lennart Lundh is a poet, short-fictionist, historian, and photographer. His work has appeared internationally since 1965.

Deetje J. Wildes is an enthusiastic member of Western Wisconsin Christian Writers Guild. She enjoys making music and experimenting with visual arts.

© Wilda Morris

Monday, November 5, 2018

Migrant / Immigrant / Expatriot / Refugee / Exile - Crossing International and/or Cultural Borders

Diana Anhalt at about age 14 (the dark-haired girl in the back) on an outing to Xochimilco with her family while living in Mexico

My computer is up and running. The deadline for this month will be extended until the 20th, since the challenge wasn't posted on the first.

Migration and immigration are in the news a lot these days. Boats over-filled with migrants tipping into the Mediterranean Sea. A "caravan" of migrants from Honduras walking through Mexico toward the Rio Grande. Sanctuary Cities. Etcetera, etcetera. What I don't hear as much about on the news here in the Midwestern US is the number of  North Americans who are ex-pats, living abroad. If you chat with the people sitting in El Jardin in front of the parish church in San Miguel de Allende, GTO, Mexico, you may be surprised at how many of them are retirees from Canada and the US. In London, Paris, Barcelona, Florence and many other towns and cities around the globe, you can find people who have moved there from North America.

Why do people move from the country of their birth? Some people just find another culture or climate more congenial, but many are driven by violence or poverty to find a new place to live. Some are exiles; others are refugees fleeing persecution.

Diana Anhalt's family left their home in New York City when she was a child, and moved to Mexico for reasons that were mysterious to her. Her prose book,A Gathering of Fugitives: American Political Expatriates in Mexico, 1948-1965, explains how the political atmosphere of the McCarthy era led a number of patriotic Americans to take shelter south of the border. Her beautiful book of poetry entitled because there is no return (Passager Books, 2015), puts us in touch with that little girl, torn from the Bronx and plopped down in a culture she didn't know. Here are the first two poems of her collection:

There is always a moment in childhood when the door opens and lets your future in.”  Graham Greene


mother of lopsided logic, defensive driving,  the shrug, 
arrived on my doorstep when I was eight
and entered, trumpets blasting, rolling her R’s.
She flashed a finger, danced a zapateo down my spine.

She had clouds in her pocket, mint on her breath, thunder in her bosom
and a tongue to fold around words like huitzilopochtli. For me,
she dressed in fuchsia, wore jacarandas in her hair.  Let me

wrap you in my silk- fringed rebozo she crooned, you will be mine.
She blew on the dice, tossed them once and taught me to jaywalk
through life under the eye of her blood-giddy sun.

So I cast off the Bronx like yesterday’s vows, forgot the words
To Girl Scout songs, fear of dark places under the El,
but kept my ice skates, my accent, the scars on my knees.

She filled my ears with marimbas and gossip, sang me her tunes
until I called her my own: Let me home in the marrow of your bones,
porque nunca hay retorno.

There is no return.

~ Diana Anhalt

On Not Speaking Spanish
I was never introduced. No one said Meet Mexico.
Shake her hand. And if they had? Mexico couldn’t
have heard me over the tumult: fire crackers, car horns,
mariachis, or the assault of airport Spanish ¿bienvenido

My only Spanish? No hablo español ––No way to ask:
What am I doing here? (My parents wouldn’t say.) Words
for my questions dissolved beneath my tongue like Jello, died
in my mouth: When do we get to go home? What happened
to the snow? Why doesn’t it smell like the Bronx?–– blackboard
chalk, mackerel, bubble gum, moth balls.

I combed the streets near my house––Goldsmeeth, Deekins,
Shackespiari–– for something that spoke to me in English.
In Polanco Park, el parque del reloj, (for its clock, that never
worked), Mexican grass, dogs, even trees, went mute when
I arrived. Rocks were impenetrable. But the Sanborncito across
the street displayed American comics up front.

If I bought an ice cream cone, licked it slowly, I could read,
savor the antics ofNancy and Sluggo,” “Little Lulu,” “Archie
 and Jughead.” They spoke my language. ButWonder Woman,”
Amazon warrior princess––invincible, cunning, all-powerful­
was my favorite.  Her real name?  Diana, just like mine.

~ Diana Anhalt

 Because There Is No Return is available at

Border Crossing by Amy Schmitz (available at, is another excellent poetry with many poems about living in a different culture. The author served in the Peace Corp in Africa. This book won the Stevens Poetry Manuscript Competition of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies for 2018.

The November Challenge:

The challenge for November, as you have undoubtedly figured out, is to submit a poem regarding immigration, migration, exile – or any other reason a person, family, or group of people leave their homeland to live in a different country and/or culture. Migration is a large factor in history – the Normans in Europe, and the Mongols in Asia are two examples of peoples who spread out as conqueror. European nations set out to colonize and control Africa and Asia (providing government employment for the younger sons of the upper classes). Spanish and English left Europe and contested for land in the Americas. Since our early human ancestors spread though and out of Africa, I don’t think there has ever been a time when migration wasn’t taking place. Today is no exception.

Your poem may be free verse or formal. If you use a form, please identify the form when you submit your poem.

Title your poem unless it is a form that does not use titles. Single-space and don’t use lines that are overly long (because the blog format doesn’t accommodate long lines). Read previous poems on the blog to see what line lengths can be accommodated.

You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet.

The deadline is November 20. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards; however winners are published on this blog. Please don’t stray too far from “family-friendly” language (some children read this blog). No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published on this blog. Decision of the judge or judges is final.

The poet retains copyright on each poem. If a previously unpublished poem wins and is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog. I do not register copyright with the US copyright office, but by US law, the copyright belongs to the writer unless the writer assigns it to someone else.

If the same poet wins three months in a row (which has not happened thus far), he or she will be asked not to submit the following two months.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “November Poetry Challenge Submission” in the subject line of your email. Include a brief bio that can be printed with your poem if you are a winner this month. Please put your name and bio UNDER the poem in your email.

Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name (exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win) at the end of the poem.

Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment (no pdf files, please). Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold (not all in capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem). Also, please do not use multiple spaces instead of commas in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique (I sometimes do it myself). However I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.

Poems shorter than 40 lines are generally preferred but longer poems will be considered.

Bio:  Taken to Mexico as a child, Diana Anhalt lived south of the border for 60 years before moving to Atlanta, Georgia, in 2010 to be closer to family. In addition to her book about the expats from the US who migrated to Mexico during the McCarthy era and because there is no return, from which the poems above are taken, she has published two other poetry manuscripts, Second Skin (Future Cycle Press) and Lives of Straw (Finishing Line Press, 2014). She has received numerous awards, including the Premio Rosenberg, and recognition from Goodreads, Passager, The Writers Place, Common Ground, Litchfield Review, and the Embassy International's Dancing Poetry Contest. Her poetry has appeared in many journals including The Atlanta Review and Nimrod. You can find her author page at

© Wilda Morris