April Poetry Month (Day 6): John Sierpinski #npm16 #wppoets

[April Poetry Month 2016 Table of Contents]


John Sierpinski has published poetry in over fifty literary magazines from Airplane Reading to Wisconsin People and Ideas. He studies poetry at the Vest Conservatory for Writers in Milwaukee. He has just completed a collection entitled “Sucker Hole” and a chapbook, “VW Microbus, Burning”.

John lives with his wife, Lynn in Plymouth, Wisconsin, but was a lifelong resident of Milwaukee before the recent move. He also lived for nearly two years, in California. He returned to traveling the world in 2008, and does so whenever he can.




We must get from the airport
to the hotel, taxi
we must get from the airport
to the ship, taxi
Hungary does not take
the euro
or the pound
or, for God’s sake,
the dollar
we have to do
more than point
and raise our voices
we have to do
more than
just speak
we have to wear
without logos
we have to hide
our cameras
we have to paint
our white sneakers

first appeared in Penny-Ante Feud


1911 Triangle Shirt Waist Factory Update

(Pakistan: September 12, 2012 Bangladesh: November 24, 2012)


           I have picked up my useless newspaper
           from the ground. The newsprint shouts
           at me. It tells me how the windows had
           steel bars, how there were no fire extinguishers,
           how there was only one fire-engulfed, lonely
           exit. Sewing machines, people attached,
           hummed at full speed, needles like miniature
           pistons. The machines were on tables, their
           women and children hunched over them—six
           days a weeks, sixteen hours a day. There was
           smoke. Fire. The pictures are clear: ash
           and rubbish, charred machines, blackened
           walls. The screams were circles that floated
           in the night sky.

           Americans have asked people—Third World
           nations— to believe that we are moral, maybe
           even superior. That we have learned a lot
           in the last one hundred years. That we have
           stopped burning women from falling
           into the streets of New York. One hundred
           forty-six died in 1911. In Bangladesh,
           one hundred twelve burned. In Pakistan,                  
           two hundred eighty-nine.

           I look at the photographs, again. I see
           darkened rectangles sewn into the necks
           of shirts. Although I can’t read them,
           the newspaper tells me that they are
           the curled labels, brown around the edges.
           That they are the logos: Disney, Sears,
           Wal-Mart, The Mall of America—our
           brands. Nearly all of us have been
           in the stores. Myself, my wife, my son,
           my daughter. I know there are still women
           in Indonesia—too many—that would
           rather sew than starve. I dream of a scorched
           shadow that follows Sam Walton, Walt
           Disney, and me.

           first appeared in Stoneboat


Dream: Kabul

I roll awake
in the half-moon-shaped ditch.
“Where the hell are my Kools,
my Canadian Mist,
the ice for Godsakes,
yes, even my Smartphone?”

The dying light
lets me see
that he is still there, too,
with his filthy face,
his blood-stained shirt,
the small, reptilian eyes.

He curls his gnarled brown
fingers, beckoning.
I push myself up to sit,
then stop, holding my
breath. His lips tighten
around yellowed teeth

while he pushes a swollen
rat toward me with his
bare foot, saying, “This is
the answer to your questions.”

first appeared in Wisconsin People and Ideas


[April Poetry Month 2016 Table of Contents]

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