Growing Up in Traumatic Times

posted in: Poetry | 0
Liz Abrams-Morley portrait

A poem by 2020 Passager Poet Liz Abrams-Morley, from the 2020 Passager Poetry Contest issue.
5 minutes


This week’s show celebrates the publication of Passager’s 2020 Poetry Contest issue. The honorable mentions represent 19 states, plus Costa Rica, Ireland, and Qatar.

This year’s winner is Liz Abrams-Morley from Philadelphia.

Liz said that for her, this time of Covid and quarantine has been a time of integrating all the pieces that felt separate. She said, “These poems reflect the reclaiming and interweaving—pieces of the past and how they inform the present – not only in personal history but also in our collective history.” She said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about how current events and traumas literally shift the DNA of children who live through those events and how those shifts impact generations.”

Here’s Liz Abrams-Morley’s poem “On June 6, 1968”

My father reminisced about that Tuesday
twenty-four years before, when his buddies
disgorged and Normandy’s shores bloomed red
Like a bucket of poppies, he said,
flowering wherever teenaged boys bled out,

on sand or in water, salt bathing and burning wounds
the way my father taught us to cure blisters and cuts
all those summers by the sea. Just wade, he’d say,
that’ll clean it out. I was GI age that night in L.A.

Bobby K. gave the last speech he’d ever give,
some of my generation fighting
in remote jungles, wading into leech-
infested swamp water, a war so much
less clean or cleansing than my father’s

war, Bobby on the floor of the kitchen,
Ambassador Hotel, as June 5 bled into
the wee hours of June 6, 1968. That Thursday,
he was dead and for we who were coming of age
watching assassinations pile one on the other —

King, before RFK, JFK five years before — the world
itself was writhing, its wounds too jagged to be healed
by sea water. Still, I mostly remember now how I sat,
June 6, 1968 becoming June 7 then 8, swaddled
in white bandages, feet elevated, heat itching stitches

pulling tight sides of a wide, surgical slice
across me, hip bone to hip bone, my ovary,
ready to explode and spew poison having been
ripped out, just in time. Lost in the clot of much more
critical losses
, my own small wound bled until

it stopped bleeding, my crimson scar,
at first so angry, paling to shell pink
and all but forgotten in those
tumultuous decades after.

. . .

Liz Abrams-Morley’s poem “On June 6, 1968” from Passager’s 2020 Poetry Contest Issue.

Liz said, “I was very shaped by world events and the upheavals and questioning of the 1960’s in America. I remember being quite young and watching kids my own age in the Sunday School dresses walking peacefully and being met by firehoses and snarling dogs. I was both enraged and scared by these images. Then we saw photos of the busses that were set on fire and teens beaten trying to help people vote. I saw how where I lived, up north, there was a different kind of racial divide. It was quieter. Now we’d call the kind of assumptions I grew up around as unclaimed white privilege. I was in high school when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and cities all around were burning, and somehow the rage made sense to me, even then.”

Passager will host a reading Sunday, November 8th at 2:00 Eastern time with Liz Abrams-Morley and several other poets published in the 2020 Contest issue. To get the details on how to watch it online, go to the Passager web site——and click “events” at the top of the page.

To subscribe or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, also go to You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, and various other podcast apps.