July 17-23, 2023: Poetry from Yolanda Ceylan and Bob McAfee

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Yolanda Ceylan

Yolanda Ceylan is a Turkish-American poet and artificial intelligence researcher living between San Francisco, CA and Europe. She writes to explore what makes us human. Yolanda graduated from Barnard College at Columbia University and Harvard Kennedy School with a Master in Public Policy.

The following work is Copyright © 2023, and owned by Yolanda Ceylan and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

The border guards of the cocoon and the cave 

In a dark cave
alone and afraid, 
I kneel over, clench
my aching chest,
reach out to you
across the city. 

In our glowing
cocoon we 
soft kiss on the belly, 
arms wrap hips,
candlelit cover

Sharing our bruised hearts 
as precious gifts; 

Offering, accepting
delicate memories;

giving permission for the
border guards 
to stand down
and expose them


Our first lightning strike 

Blocking all sense of the past
before us.

Two magnetized faces
conduct through air between us
our heartbeats and hopes, 
electric currents
pulsing with our beliefs
updating with the wonder 
about what the world offers us
this unexpected instant;

A sudden shock, 
heat, and light
(if you stop, 
I fall 

don’t stop, 

we’re falling).

Bob McAfee

Bob McAfee is a retired software consultant who lives with his wife near Boston. For several years he made an hour train commute to and from Boston and developed the habit of writing in that fixed time. He continues to try to write two hours every day. His style is eclectic, but his goal is producing poems with both fierceness and a reluctant sense of optimism. He has written seven books of poetry including: “Natural Worlds” poems illustrated with color photographs 2021, “Love Songs” 2022 and “Scar Tissue” 2023, all available through bookbaby.com. Poems have been accepted by The Lyric, The Blue Mountain Review, Gleam Poets, Grand Little Things, Poetry Super Highway, The Society of Classical Poets Journal and many more. Visit Bob on the web at bobmcafee.com.

The following work is Copyright © 2023, and owned by Bob McAfee and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

Tin Man

I could never remember the poppies
scarletting before,
purling the dishonest hillside
with such sanguine fingers,

screakings of the flying monkeys,
racked and raunchy,
no harmless jinn, no sticky sycophants,
no simple spell this,

but only the subjugation of motives,
calumnied and casual,
twister-borne and tenebrous,
an eyeball seen through a crystal ball.

You are the witch of the storm cloud,
queen of west Kansas,
aviatrix of the farmhouse,
oracle of the city of emeralds, Cassandra

whom I alone believe,
and do you not have the power of rubies?
Here I stand, heartless and creak-kneed,
rusty-axed and love-lorn,

for only the briefest moment, for all time,
unoiled and unrequited,
brained and brave,
slouching toward the curtained man foretold.

Ahead the wicked spires,
the portcullised gate, the lofty loom,
the battened, brackish battlements
of the western hag

whom you with one fell swoosh
of water bucket extirpate.
I could never remember before,
as you now confront the Great Oz,

clicking your heels,
this unrelenting feeling of loss,
my tears drying to rust on my metallic,
heart-less carapace.


The Emerald City – a Sestina

The wizard is pulled from his bunker nearly dead
hung from a tree until his terrible maned head
tumbles like a cabbage in a cyclone: a fitting end. My
name is Hakim. Only a man with no brains would drive
a taxi in these early days of the invasion, my cab a light
blue Toyota pickup, old, but like me, keeps running.

Two men and an injured girl flag me down, running
scared – pay me 500 US dollars to ride twelve hours dead
west to a farm near Al Wadi. Ten hours left of light.
The girl sits with the petrol cans and her dog as we head
west, passing blackened vehicles of those who tried to drive
to safety, some with charred soldiers still seated. In my

mind I sense the flying monkey invaders still searching. My
cab holds three passengers: Taynman, his mouth running
seldom, with his Kalashnikov, a man of resolute drive;
puling Haidar, the coward, and veiled Dunia, nearly dead,
her bleeding hand scratching her cur’s scraggly head.
We are shrouded in fog from the Tigris, traffic grows light.

Off ramp: the remains of a service station, the Shell light
flickers, the building smolders. The lavatory untouched, my
troupe descends. An armored vehicle approaches. We head
to a poppy field, fast as lightning’s frantic crackle, running
then diving in. A drone destroys the tank. As if opium dead
we hunker, held by the fingers of sleep, too tired to drive.

Evening rain jerks us awake. We retrieve the cab, drive
west, fighting torrential storm until we see the farm’s light.
We rest. I swear this is true, on pain of being tortured dead,
her auntie has jaundice, face green as the wicked witch. My
story is over, Mr. Smith. Here we are, the airport. Running
to your plane not required. I’ll unload your bag, then head

back to the city. This phrase reverberates in my head:
you are not in Kansas anymore – I hear it whenever I drive
from Oz, along the Euphrates, west toward Syria, running
on repaired roads. I now own this Mercedes, trip the light
fantastic, city to airport. On your next trip I’ll relate my
adventures returning: how I grew a brain, grew brain dead.

Haidar means lion. And Taynman? May Dr. Dead
be sleeping when you arrive – if he begins to wake, take my
advice: click your heels and he’ll be blinded by your light.

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