Monday, March 23, 2020

Warrior Writers NJ Workshop Goes Online

"Weathering a Storm" by Jan Barry

Warrior Writers NJ’s scheduled workshop for Sunday, March 22, 2020 took place via the web application Zoom from 12 noon-2pm.  The group adapted this virtual format in response to the social distancing measures directed by government and health officials to help curb the spread of the coronavirus known as Covid-19.  
Some of the work that was created is posted here. It not only demonstrates the continued creativity of military veterans and their families, but it also serves to document how this community is using creative writing, poetry and the arts to deal with the situational concerns and lifestyle changes that have come along with the outbreak of Covid-19.  
We encourage others to write, share and post literary pieces of their own, created during this period.

James Yee

Prompt: Spring

Never Doubt Spring

by Tara Krause

Yesterday the croci shot forth from the leaf mulch,
purple truth ascendant.

The neighbor’s forsythia yellowed their welcome
along the fence.
One fussing wren showed up, marking his territory,
while a titmouse began his song for companionship.
The night before the spring peepers broke into chorus,
while Bodhi my service dog barked her first bark, hackles up,
to run off the piebald doe prepping the corner of the
garden for her annual birthing rite.
All phenology of the signs of spring renewal.
It is time.
To plant peas and spinach,
to sow clover for the bees and
to shore up the slopes.
To direct sow the hardy annuals of
poppies, larkspur, calendula, cleome and cosmos.
The roses are already pruned,
now to be fertilized.
Maybe it’s too late for winter sowing the native perennials of
echinacea and rudbeckia, but worth a try.
It is time
to start the lasagna tins of seeds.
Never doubt spring.
Even in pandemics, quarantine & panic.

Spring in a Time of Pandemic

By Jan Barry

Will this be the last spring
For many of us—for our way of life?
So we’d better savor every flower,
Every bird song, every dawn—

I cried yesterday to see a Facebook post
By high school students singing
A choral song, each from their homes,
Spliced together in an incredible concert
Of “Over the Rainbow”—

Young voices singing joyously
Into an uncertain future,
Using the latest technology
To share the soaring beauty
Of the human voice
With amazing creativity—

A wondrous display of spring
Popping amid a winter of deadliness

Prompt: Who do you appreciate now?

Who do you appreciate now?

By James Yee

Two, four, six, eight!
Who do we appreciate?
Me. Me!
Yay Me!

I think I’m comfortable in my own skin.
I have to be, especially in this life, if I’m going to win.
Satisfied with my inner and outer self,
I’m no slouch, sittin’ dusty on somebody else’s shelf.
Happy with who I’ve become,
And proud of where I come from.
That being said, still got some ideas up in my head.
Continuing to improve myself in ways for the better,
Makes me even stronger to handle any kind of weather
Being myself is something I will define.
And it’s my choosing where, when and how to shine.
Or shine not at all, ‘cause that wouldn’t make me small.
I might listen to you, but ultimately I’m going to do what I want to do.
And if I don’t, then appreciating myself I won’t.
Be who you want to be.
And I’ll go on just being James Yee.

Who Do I Appreciate Now?

By Paula Rogovin

We know the doctors, nurses, and EMT’s
But let’s look behind them
to the layers and layers and layers
of – what should we call them?
The unnoticed frontliners

Let’s start with the farmworkers –
many forced to work to grow our food
so they can feed their families

Factory workers who make the things
we all need or think we need

Truck drivers, train engineers

Teachers remotely teaching the children
or those struggling to teach the children
whose reality is real, not virtual

mental health workers
restaurant workers
delivery workers…

Thank you
to the unnoticed frontline workers
Thank you for your service.

Wish your bosses would
thank you, too
with higher pay
   paid sick leave
       and medical care

Who Do I Appreciate Now?

By Tara Krause

The frontline:
first responders
as always
suit up on a daily basis
“Thank you for your service,”
as said to veterans.
Yet now the seemingly invisible,
though ever present and giving,
step forward into the breach of pandemic:
The nurses,
the doctors,
the teachers,
the babysitters,
the home health aides,
All who bring the reality and risks of caring
into our imposed social distancing and virtual reality.
And the new “essential” frontliners:
The mail lady, who lugs up the porch stairs my emergency ration packages
of expresso, dark chocolate and cigarettes in quarantine;
the supermarket aisle restockers, who risk all for minimum wages
and no medical benefits;
the butcher, who scraped the last pound and a half of ground sirloin
off the grinder machine so that my service dog could continue her raw diet at least for another day;
the new workers at the Paterson plant, who now make the toilet paper to replenish the nations’s empty shelves.
The veteran in me almost heartbreakingly envies you:
“You do not have to kill to serve.”

Who Do I Appreciate?

By Nancy Nygard

I thought I would write about my garbage men, so under rated in our lives. 
But as day 8 of social distancing comes to an end, the thing I am appreciating is being able to be a part of my grandchildren's lives.  
We used to be with our grandson Zeke, 4 years old, every day, 5 days a week and at times
I would long for the carefree easy retirement days I'd heard about.
Now I have that time to walk and smell the roses, which I do and I love. 
But I face timed my son Sam and into the picture walked Zeke and he took my breath away!
So I most appreciate the human touch, especially of my 6 grandchildren.
We need to touch each other.
Peace and Love.

Prompt: Your own thoughts

Dear Coronavirus

By James Yee

Dear Coronavirus,
Thank you for cutting carbon emissions and reducing greenhouse gases. You’ve shown us that it can be done.  Our environment, right now, is better because of it.  If we could just figure out how to maintain and build upon this beneficial change.

Thank you for bringing families together, and for putting parents back into their children’s education and school work.  I’m glad you’ve help take those heavy backpacks off the shoulders of these kids.

While you don’t discriminate, thank you for pointing out that we as people still do.  You’ve shown that some of us are OK with calling you the “Chinese Virus”.
Thank You for forcing us to be more creative.

Hunkered Down

 By Jan Barry

Hunkered down in quarantine bunker—
The winter returns when I was
Shut in with double pneumonia—
No playing in the snow with my friends
Waving outside the window—

Somehow I survived that season,
That childhood scourge
In the time of TB isolation hospitals,
Chicken pox scaring kids’ faces,
Polio-withered legs—

I pushed myself as a scrawny, sickly kid
To run, play baseball, football, basketball—
Rather than lay around in a sick bed


By Paula Rogovin

When the president
rejects science,
that equals murder to me

How many will die
  when the president holds
  hateful campaign rallies
  instead of science-based
  press conferences for all to see

We must rise up
by the millions and millions
even if it’s virtually

Thursday, January 30, 2020

World Sustainability Study Groups

Spring studies at Ramapo College 

Ramapo College of New Jersey has taken an innovative approach to teaching about global climate change. Last fall, the liberal arts college in Mahwah, NJ directed all incoming students to take a course in World Sustainability. So it was that I found myself teaching one of several classrooms full of newcomers an expanded course that previously was provided to a much smaller cohort of students majoring in environmental studies.
This development came about because student leaders requested that every student have an opportunity to learn about what’s happening in today’s world. As one of my Fall 2019 students noted in the course evaluation, this class “gave me a better understanding of the things that are harming the world and the sustainability issues in different parts of the world.”
Having previously taught Environmental Writing for nearly a decade, after retiring as a newspaper reporter, I told the class at the beginning of the semester that this global topic was a stretch for me so we were going to be learning about world sustainability together. Employing an idea from a deeply experienced environmental studies professor, I directed my 35 students to break into study groups of five, by signing up for a continent or corner of the world. Each study group was assigned to develop a power point presentation on sustainability issues in a part of the world, with particular emphasis on selected countries that each student would study in depth.
One student wrote that this was a highlight of our class: “Having to research a certain country in a continent. By doing this it lets you understand the issues climate change has globally.”  The study group presentations included photos and videos of environmental issues and projects in various countries. These included depressing scenes of overwhelming plastic pollution in the Middle East to an amazing turnaround story in Copenhagen, Denmark. 
During the semester, the college hosted a Climate Conference that featured presentations by several Ramapo College environmental studies professors, students and guests. One of my students wrote of the event: “attending it was such an eye opening experience. Prior to attending, I never had the opportunity to feel so involved in such a significant topic.”
Another student spoke about what he was learning in the World Sustainability course with younger students in his mother’s fifth grade class. “I am glad I was able to talk about this major problem in 2019 to kids because it spreads awareness on something that will affect all of us if nothing is acted on,” he wrote.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Frank Wagner, RIP

Frank Wagner: 2019 "Man of the Year," Frontline Arts
(photo: Robert Sliclen) 

Frank Wagner died at home in Bogota, NJ on or around Veterans Day, just before his 78th birthday. He was being treated for cancer associated with Agent Orange exposure in Vietnam. 

A multiple recipient of art show awards from the VA, Frank shared his art skills with fellow vets at the Secaucus Vet Center art group, Frontline Arts and elsewhere, including as a patient at East Orange and Lyons VA Medical Centers. 

A member of Disabled American Veterans, Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Frank was a frequent participant in peace vigils and peace marches in New Jersey, New York and Washington, DC. 

His art work appeared in shows at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Hyde Park, NY; Columbia University, NYC; Puffin Cultural Forum, Teaneck, NJ; Brennan Courthouse, Jersey City; NJ; Frontline Arts, Branchburg, NJ and many other sites. 

The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste
For Frank Wagner, 1941-2019

“The mind is a terrible thing to waste!”
Frank periodically shouted
At outrageous inanity by some dim-witted,
Dingbat, wayward driver—

Peace buttons festooning Vietnam vet hat,
Frank fumed for over 50 years
At being drafted and sent to war
Because he flunked a college course—

Battlefield flashbacks set off explosive,
X-rated outbursts, propelling fireworks
Of precisely re-calibrated moments
Of mayhem and miraculous survival—

Dubbing himself “TuDo,”  
Frank frequented peace vigils and protest  
Marches, smoking tokes, taking photos
And making exquisite art

"Eyes" by Frank Wagner