Poems by Judith Arcana

Talking Earth Anthology:  Judith Arcana


Judith Arcana is a writer, teacher and activist who has taught literature, writing and interdisciplinary topics in women’s studies in high schools, colleges, libraries, living rooms, a state prison and a county jail. She holds a PhD in Literature, an MA in Women's Studies, an Urban Preceptorship in Preventive Medicine and a BA in English. A native of the Great Lakes region, she lives now in the Pacific Northwest.


Judith is the author of Grace Paley’s Life Stories, A Literary Biography, a study of the well-loved and much-admired writer/activist who died in 2007, as well as two prose books about motherhood, Our Mothers’ Daughters and Every Mother’s Son, both of which have been read, taught and discussed for many years in the USA, Canada and the UK. 


Her poetry collection What if your mother offers poems and monologues examining a constellation of motherhood themes: abortion, adoption, miscarriage and the biotechnology of childbirth, as well as the daily experience of mothering.


In 2008-2009, Judith collaborated with Ash Creek Press to create the Ash Creek Series, a signed/numbered edition folding broadside (POEMS),a manuscript in a cartoon envelope (Family Business), and 4th Period English, a chapbook of poems in the voices of high school students talking about immigration in the USA.


 More information about Judith and her work is available on her website: juditharcana.com.


National and Public


On NPR they’re asking questions: if Iraq, really, is

like VietNam and not like VietNam; if Rumsfeld

really, was like McNamara – and not. I’m getting

angry, thinking: Why don’t you know this? I do.

It’s so obvious: Our young people learning to kill

(again), being blown up and mowed down (again)

blowing up and mowing down other people, while

their parents back home slide into shock and denial

not awe. They’re going far away to be awkward

in pants that don’t fit right, made in colors chosen

to match the ground so many will fall down on.

And they’ll soon see, soon understand (not long

after they move in): the people don’t like them

don’t trust welcome want them there. They will

know, not long after they get there, the people

they’ve come to save liberate educate release, really

truly actually want them to go away, go back home

in the dawn’s early light, by which they’ve pledged

allegiance to broad stripes, bright stars and a republic

(one nation) for which they stand, each perilous night.

It’s obvious. People who stand their ground, there

where the ground is the color of this war’s uniforms

don’t think our young people have brought them

an order of democracy-to-go with Coke and pizza.

People there realize (again) that for George this war

is personal (oh, not like he’s fighting dying killing

not like his children are over there, two of the ones 

fighting dying killing, wearing pants the color of sand: 

not that kind of personal, no). They know for him it’s

like it was for Lyndon (though George is dumb, empty

of that other Texan’s agony): He wants to win, what

he says goes, he’s sticking to his guns. Actually, he’s

sticking to their guns, but still. People in South Africa

know this, and in Australia too. People know in Egypt

Argentina, Italy, India, Laos. You and I know this.

Why don’t people on NPR know this? They keep on 

asking the same questions – even though it’s obvious.


                        first published in Bridges, 2007



Vicente, talking


You believe I’m not so good, not good

as you, gringo boy, but you don’t know

anything, even in your own language

su lenguaje, su idioma – qué hard

sharp tongue of sound no one can love

in, no one can cry in. You don’t know

how to talk a baby to sleep, how to

make your mami smile, your papi

proud. No sabes, chico. You sure don’t

know why Aurelia won’t look at you

on the street, after school – but I do.



                from 4th Period English, published 2009



They say there's no evidence


Even urban, where you think they’d find it,

they say all is well: Small children eat

fistfuls of sand at the lake, as always. Clover

blossoms; crickets are loud in the supermarket

parking lot. Forsythia spreads yellow petals

over the steep banks of concrete freeways;

river water shines past the railroad switchyard.

Feral cats roam the alleys, fertile beyond any need

for proof. Pigeons still nest among iron struts

beneath the el, their eggs only sometimes falling

onto broken glass below. So maybe it’s not true

that babies now are born in novel shapes,

their chemistry surprising all the doctors.


…. first published in Michigan Avenue Review, 2006




Copyright © 2012 KBOO Community Radio | Copyright Policy | Community Guidelines | Website Illustration & Design by: KMF ILLUSTRATION