The best poems, I feel, are those that are written out of the deepest emotions, the emotions that we can't shake off, can't explain, can't even fully share. Polish-American poet Lisa Siedlarz's poems about her brother and his tour of duty in Afghanistan grow out of such emotions. She's collected these poems in a chapbook titled I Dream My Brother Plays Baseball that's available as an online download from the Clemson University Digital Press.
Recently, I asked Lisa how the book came to be written, and here's what she told me:
"I began writing the book when my youngest brother told me he was being deployed to Afghanistan. Of course I didn’t know at the time I was writing a book. That came later. I began writing cathartic poetry about the months leading up to his deployment. Then I turned it into a 7 part poem . . . . Then I wrote another poem about a dream I had (the title poem) . . . . Then all of a sudden I found I could only write war poems. That was what I lived and breathed."
Lisa's book, as you can imagine, is powerful. Here's one of the poems, the title poem:
I Dream My Brother Plays Baseball
On the field your platoon strategizes while Afghani
wind blows sand faster than Nolan Ryan’s fastball,
blurring vision like rosin in a pitcher’s eye. It sticks,
stings as bad as the last time I saw you at Ft Bragg,
a send-off for your twelve month mission.
From the stands I squint to see you as if I’d left my
glasses home. Bases and mound surrounded by dirt,
rocks, I turn and turn in this grey and translucent
gathering of blurred faces & monochromatic baseball
caps ~ Do you see my brother? Can you see him?
The crowd jumps up and roars as a soldier rips
a line drive through the gap, slides head first
into second just beneath the tag. A mailman
whose USPS eagle decorates his shoulders
like your army stripes, chases the play, throws
up his right arm to indicate safe. Under his left arm
he carries the package I sent to you a month ago,
labeled: If undeliverable, return to sender.
I take the box from him, hoping to hand-deliver
sunscreen, foot powder, Crystal Lite on the Go.
With my arms full, I run bases calling your name.
Rounding third, white-faced hornets block the way
home, the nest hidden in surrounding caves.
Lisa L. Siedlarz of New Haven, CT is an MFA candidate at WCSU. Awarded the 2006 John Holmes and the 2007 Leo Connellan poetry prizes, publications include: The MacGuffin, Calyx, Rattle, War, Literature & the Arts, Louisiana Literature, Main Street Rag, The Patterson Review, Big Bridge, Kritya, Caduceus and others. She is Editor of Connecticut River Review, the national poetry journal supported by the CT Poetry Society, and Managing Editor for Connecticut Review. Her work has been nominated for the 2009 Best New Poets Anthology.
If you want to read the entire collection, it's available online as a download at Clemson University Digital Press. It is also available for purchase as a hard-copy book at the same site.
Lisa's poems are also available in the April issue of Kritya devoted to Polish Diaspora poetry.