I am thinking about an undergraduate photography course I took. Each week the professor would assign us a theme to photograph and print for the following class. The themes were usually one word. The first one was "screen." The eager-to-please students went out and photographed screen doors and windows, shot through those screens, printed in the darkroom using screens, photographed an abandoned drive-in movie screen, a quarterback throwing a screen pass, a self-portrait on a television screen, and an old woman peering from a screened-in porch. We figured out after the critique of assignment one that the secret wasn't to find the "right" screen, but to look at one thing in a new way. We became quite competitive in our creativity.

In The Gift by Li-Young Lee from his book Rose (BOA Editions, Ltd.) , the gift is not what we would first think of when we hear the title. For our one-word prompt, we asked how many different gifts we might discover in - GIFT? Cameras ready, we went into the field, later examining our work in the darkroom and fine tuning... 


challenged to hop along
this parkwalk
in the rain, I fumble
over imaginary rocks
looking towards the grey/blue
hills that wear fog like I wear
my gift.  notice the forever falling
moss waterfalling as the grass
is beat down in a downtown
traffic rhythm.  even the cars are empty
like my eyes as I wear my flowing
gift like a sweater that once had the promise
of warmth but now only lets the wind
bully its way over my skin.

I gave you a kiss
but you only gave me this
desolate gift.

Joel Ryan Langdon


Christmas or birthday-enwrapped, is the package
sufficient to make up for all of those years
of silence? I finger its decorative paper,
its stylized ribbon and ponder intent:
what is the reason for giving me this?

Your living so long without word is a wall
I've attempted to scale without help from you;
and now is it down? Is this beautiful gift
your signal for giving this person a chance
to make contact again - after all of this time?

Forgiving is half of the name of the game.
While giving is always another side
of the coin.. Is this gift what everything's for ?
Am I to assume that my long-ago action,
forgotten by now, is no longer moot?

Instead of scaling a wall, should I also
send you a gift? Smile a smile? Blow a kiss?
What am I missing in this; and why
do I offer resistance to a gesture so fine?
Must bearers of gifts be always suspect?

I expect this conundrum I face is not new;
that the ages recall the results of a bribe
that led to a war instead of to Peace;
that fostered a fester of hate, not of Love.
And who was at fault, the sender of gifts,

or receiver of same? Just who is to blame
for the blemish of Pride that tarnishes us
as we oppose most signals of peace with gestures
to further the conflict ? Oh, is there no end
to the ever-looking-down-upon givers of gifts ?

Catherine M. LeGault

The Present

            Forty-two years—
            You waited forty-two years for that one, particular bus.
            Most of us believe that you just sorta suddenly
Decided not to give up your seat to that white man;
That you were some kind of lone lamb;
Lamb hardly and lone never.

Forty-two years
You waited, forty-two years of
Growing up, going to school, getting married,
Gong to work and returning home; forty-two years of
Giving up your seat to some white man or white woman; of
Giving up the seat that you paid for—
That you paid the money, same as them, for.

Forty-two years of
Doing the right thing, of
Talking with family, friends and neighbors, of
Attending  NAACP meetings, of
Letters and petitions and denials—
Forty-two years of
Knowing it ain’t right;
Forty-two years of waiting;
Waiting for that one, particular bus
And that one, right white-man-in-the-wrong.

Forty-two years —
Forty-two years of planning,
Forty-two long years of waiting.
Those forty-two years must have seemed like nearly 350 years,
  ‘Cause that's how long it had been since the first African, now
   Afro-American, people, the haggard survivors
The journey, pushed off the boat, of
Began lining up at that bus stop
Waiting for that one, particular bus,
Waiting, waiting for you, then,
For forty-two years, waiting with you.

No, Sister Rosa, you surely did not wait alone for that one,
Particular bus and that one particular white man.

Thank you for your persistence.
Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
Thank you for your patience.
Thank you for all the minutes of those forty-two years.
Thank you to each and every one
Of the persistent, thoughtful, patient and maligned millions
Who waited for you and with you;
Who boarded that one, particular bus with you
And who looked that one, particular white man in the eye
              And said simply and complexly, “No.”

Steve Bizel

A Gift

Sister Maria, the nun who taught my fifth grade class,
gave me back my Christmas story and said,
"You have a gift for writing. You must honor God
by using that gift."
The story had a red "A" at that top, like the star
at the top of the tree in our living room.

That night I tried to write another story,
for God and Sister Maria I wrote words
and it was like grabbing at space and time.

No story was there but words came to me
in tiny pieces of light strung together
on electric lines. A poem. My first.

I began to believe
in poetry that had
no lulling prayers,
no imagined fears
not sins but peace,
freedom, tranquility,


Pamela Milne


it was a hard life
for everyone
living so close to the edge
of despair
an appalachian heritage
 this  child's only birthright
 christmas then, a day to pause
and reflect on the journey
destiny  so ordained
an oasis,  this day of smells and sounds
 sugar cane candy,
wild game turkey baking in the
woodstove ,
popcorn strung around a little cedar
tree,  covered with small paper angels
of hope , always hope if nothing more,
the worn and tattered book
my seventh grade teacher slipped into my
just a small book of poetry
that takes me back to that oasis
whenever i so desire
on the wings of paper angels

ray cutshaw


And under all this green and red
beyond the Christmas lights
beneath green cypress wreaths
I place fresh birdseed
tucked inside nook of bough
Still seems love to me
without all ornament
true and faithful
Elements and angelic sprites
add festivity to any celebration
regal as gold tassels
choral as silver bells
joy as glissando
with treasures found on
Oh! Holy night

Connie E. Goulden


A box of apples
in the common room:
take one for the walk
home and take another
for breakfast.
An apple is a gift
on a cold night,
its snap and tart
sweetness on the tongue.
An orange is always
welcome in winter with
its taste of the sun but
the apple pleases more
sometimes with its cold
bite between the teeth.

Gregory Luce


The sun like the gold
wedge of a hoe furrowing
the sky, the ridges running
pink, and I am alive one
day after surgery, my life
given back to me by breaking
the bread of my body.
My gall bladder like
an overripe kiwi spilling
seeds into a gravel pool.
My body wracked by what
it loves: lobster, butter
in ambrosial pools.  And now
the doctor tells me the liver
will learn a new job.  How
smart it is to know rescue,
and succor.  How sweet
the gift of my body.  O sweet
mercy that brings me doctors
and the TV man and nurses
with their winged white shoes,
and a banana for breakfast,
its flesh for mine.

Mary DeBow



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