posted in: Poetry | 0

Football, Grandparents Day and Rosh Hashanah, with poems by Gilbert Arzola, Liliane Roy Anders and Fran Markover.
5 minutes


Two pieces of good news. First, after a month off, Burning Bright is back! And the second piece of good news, the Passager Mixed Voice ensemble is not back.

This time of year is noteworthy for several things. One of them is football. Here’s Gilbert Arzola’s poem about high school football, “Second String.”

Daryl was second string and only weighed a buck fifteen
and couldn’t do the crossbody block drill
because you had to just stand there and take a hit.

And he couldn’t just
stand there.

So Coach Mattix spit and
Coach Mattix hollered,
the whistle hanging from his neck
bouncing like circumstance against
his fat belly.

He hollered about toughening up
and taking it like a man.

But Daryl was second string and only weighed
a buck fifteen and would never be as strong or as fast or good enough
to play the games of boys.

I have no way of knowing what happened to him after that.
I have no other memory of him but the one
of him disappearing beneath a pile
of helmets and dirt.

So I can’t say if he ever toughened up or
became a man.

“Second String” by Gilbert Arzola from his book Prayers of Little Consequence.

I noticed on my calendar that September 8 is Grandparents Day. I didn’t know there was a Grandparents Day, but being a grandparent, I was happy to see it. Liliane Roy Anders grew up in France and Germany. She said that her French grandmother had memorized portions of the epic poem “The Song of Roland” and recited them to her. Here, from Passager Issue 35, is a poem she wrote about her grandmother: “Grandmother.”

The sound of tons and tons of warplanes
Droning their death note
The jars of strawberry preserves picking up
The earthquake rumble
Vibrating in this pantry

The texture of my grandmother’s skirts
As my cousin and I lean our faces
Against her shins and knees
We are barely breathing

The heatless smell of this corner of the house
This closet, this wall where the chimneys meet
And embrace against the wall of the house next door
If the bricks hold, this is the safest place

But these bombs do not drop on us
There will be no flames, no new French craters
Holes where chez nous used to be

These bombs will light the German cities
To burn for nights and days
So, my other grandmother
Someone I will never know
Soon she will hear what I hear

Liliane Roy Anders’s poem “Grandmother” from Passager Issue 35.

Here’s another poem about a grandmother. But this one’s also about another noteworthy event happening this week, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. One of the traditional Rosh Hashanah foods is honey cake, a flavorful way of saying, “May your new year be filled with sweetness.” “New Year Honey Cake” by Fran Markover.

Grandmother can’t tell me why she sobs.
She chops the pecans.
Searches inside herself for the next ingredient.
Nothing ever written down, her cake cut,
thick slices, letters she could never send.
In the cinnamon, she conjures invitations –
cousins, babies, friends, parents,
names crossed out on calendars.
She warms the oven, can’t imagine life
without loved ones to share each confection.
Without names to rise for a God who loves sweet offerings.
Sometimes one needs more apricots.
Sometimes more time or light when there’s so much heaviness.
Sufferings are for silence.
She reads lines of my face,
stirs in more honey.

Fran Markover’s poem “New Year Honey Cake.” Fran lives in Ithaca, New York, with her rescue cats and her husband Ron, who she says often does the housework so she can have time to write. Passager just published Fran’s new book, Grandfather’s Mandolin. More about that in another Burning Bright episode.

To buy Gilbert Arzola’s book Prayers of Little Consequence or Fran Markover’s book Grandfather’s Mandolin or to subscribe to or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, and various other podcast apps.

For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne, and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.