Stained with Blood

we were driven from our stone-walled and thatched-roof hovels

by the redcoats, not only by bayonet, but mostly hunger

we were driven halfway across the world

by way of decaying wooden vessels

we were killed, half of us, before we arrived

by disease and even more hunger

we became settlers, cruelly mimicking tactics conceived

by our oppressors in the homeland, the punctured emerald isle

we pushed farther west in this new red land, to escape prejudice

by earlier conquerors in the cramped east coast cities

we encountered vast prairies stained with blood

by the sweat of our fathers and tears of our mothers

we nurtured the hard ashened earth

when destruction comes to bear

music transforms into a portal

into your past life

into the love you felt

into the thoughts

you barely remember

life becomes meaningful

when destruction

comes to bear

by and by

it happens always

just sometimes you don’t notice

you die each day

when the happiness

you almost grasped

keeps loitering

when humans

who no longer live

feel so close

and yet they’re

the furthest

they could possibly be

visit the grave

in your mind

spread the ashes

across your chest

fear the thump

thump thump

from the inside

of the vacant room

the footsteps stomping

from the apartment above

of the old man who never sleeps

he knows when you have sex

he knows nothing is sacred

cringe at that brush on the back

of your neck

while you’re facing

the desolation

of an electronic filled room

stubbornly refuse implants

retain biology

die again and again

keep dying

until death itself dies

An Average Urban Journey

Bodies litter stained floors

in this subway station as the head

piercing drone of trains rush

through tunnels, an anonymous man

throws his own body in front of a machine,

is crushed by unimaginable force.

I am unaware of this, sitting inside

the beast that killed this human.

We stop for a few moments,

a robotic voice announces

that there’s been organic

difficulties. The world won’t stop

and so we’ll move on after more machines

clean up the mess. There is nothing

to say about the dirt speckled

baby blue tiles that adorn the wall

I stare at beyond the blurry advert

that encases this compartment.

We begin to move again.

This is what happened:

we said nothing mattered

enough times that it actually came true.

Only a few don’t separate meaning

from life now. Emerging

from the underground I found

a poem in the sky then followed

my sour gut, ignoring more crumpled

bodies along sidewalks. Heavily armed

police everywhere. A rich and powerful

person enters an ancient marble temple

on 17th street. I walk towards the source

of spotlights roaming skyscraper walls

and then sit in a fabricated park to lick

the invisible moon above us with my feeble

thoughts. Again I get up to wander and worry

about death, then remind myself to allow

my feet to guide the rest and arrive

into the unknown.

Letter From the Editor Issue #6

Read Whirlwind #6

Hello, and many thanks for reading Whirlwind issue #6. Instead of requiring a theme for this issue, we’ve gathered together a collection of diverse and urgent voices speaking on many different topics. However, there’s one common thread here, in that every work of writing we’ve published this time around just so happens to be poetry. This was only accidental, and yet it’s a happy mistake.

The first poem we have for you is by a stunningly talented fifteen year old girl who lives in Canada by the name of Farah Ghafoor. Her poem “buoyancy” looks at the catastrophic effects of climate change and pollution from the view of sea creatures. The next piece is by a young Jamaican woman, Gervanna Stephens, who speaks about what it means to live in a complex environment with conflicting emotions. The next two poets, Stella Pierides and Lynn White, both reside in the United Kingdom and share with us their feelings about the current migrant crisis in Europe. Then we have Glen Wilson, an Irish poet who reflects on an experience he had witnessing poverty in Paraguay.

After an extraordinary string of talent from overseas we have some impressive locals, Joe McCullough and Michelle Caporale, who give us two entertaining and intelligent manifestos on non-conformity and creativity. Then there’s San Francisco based Shizue Seigel, a past contributor from issue #5 who creates powerful images in the eyes of the downtrodden. Two Philly poets, James Feichthaler and Jennifer Schifano, have written about people on the streets. Feichthaler strikes the reader with his witty observations of a discarded slice of pizza and then examines the dichotomy of two definitions of the word bum. Schifano then moves us with her short yet powerful prose-poem about a destitute woman and her troubled past.

Another Canadian poet appears to continue the theme of poverty from our last issue, as J. J. Steinfeld ironically titles his poem “Property Values.” The piece uses humor and quirkiness in order to denote the absurdity of homelessness and the state of contemporary language. Howard Winn, an emeritus professor of English at SUNY and past contributor to issue #4, offers an ode to the great Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The poem, entitled “CITY LIGHTS,” effectively explains why the aforementioned poet and publisher has been such a vital influence on American poetry. We continue the San Francisco vibe with three haiku pieces by Frank Clayton that are beautiful poems describing the geography of the mysterious West Coast city. “Song of Yourself” is another subtle Clayton poem that meditates on Walt Whitman and asks why the grey poet chose a crypt to be buried in, among other questions.

The final two poems in Whirlwind issue #6 are by Rocky Wilson and Lamont Steptoe. Rocky’s “Tripping” is a commanding, allegorical piece set on a whale watching trip. Steptoe’s “Loose Ends” may have been written in the eighties, but it’s all the more relevant now in a world where violence, state oppression, and extremism run rampant. We conclude this fall issue with two reviews of brand new books by Prerna Bakshi and Dr. Mary Weems. Both Bakshi’s debut poetry collection, Burnt Rotis, With Love and Dr. Weems’ play collection Blackeyed are available to purchase online and certainly worthy additions to your library. There’s also a review by Jim Cory, a contributor from our first issue, who has shared with us his thoughts on two poetry collections by Jack Veasey. As always, we are grateful to our contributors and readers for supporting this publication. We look forward to sharing with you our next issue on indigenous peoples, and are open to submissions for it until January 1st, 2016.

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A Review of Prerna Bakshi’s Burnt Rotis, With Love

This review will appear in Whirlwind Magazine issue #6 due out in mid-November.

At Whirlwind we like to support our contributors even after publication. We’re honored to be a part of an international community of diverse writers and artists focused on social justice and human progress. That being said, we’re happy to announce that the talented sociolinguist Prerna Bakshi, a poet of Indian origin currently based in Macao, is publishing a collection of poems called Burnt Rotis, With Love that will be available in December through Les Éditions du Zaporogue.

Prerna Bakshi graced page nineteen of Whirlwind Magazine Issue #5 with her moving poem “Let it Rain!” The title of this piece serves as a refrain at the end of each stanza, culminating in an effective repetition of the phrase. Bakshi laments at the state of her poverty stricken home-country, as well as her new adopted home in China. Through the eyes of this poet it’s apparent that the world is on the brink of environmental catastrophe. In “Let it Rain!” Bakshi beckons the sky to open up for “…the drought stricken land…” as she bears witness to the struggles of people with disabilities, children, and factory workers, as she listens to “…a farmer’s outcry…” and also the “distant scream” of indigenous people fighting “…against the state’s repressive forces.”

Along with the aforementioned poem, there are over a hundred pages worth of urgent and meaningful poetry in Burnt Rotis, With Love. For the book’s themes Prerna Bakshi says that she “…will explore and interrogate the narratives of Partition of India/Punjab post British colonialism, women’s identity, gender and class struggle. The poems in this collection will cover themes of violence, oppression, exploitation, abuse, struggle, survival and resistance.” The advance reader’s copy certainly attests to this, and it makes for a powerful read.

Other highlights in the book include the dramatic “Guns and Graves,” where Bakshi writes an elegy for the many innocents killed by the Indian state in its dispute with China over a relatively unheard of area called Arunachal Pradesh. It’s poems like these that stand out to the reader, especially because they shed light on topics and events that too often remain shrouded. The further one gets into Burnt Rotis, With Love the more one begins to fall in love with not only the poems in the collection, but also the invaluable footnotes that accompany some of them. After “When the Poor Woman ‘Leans In’…” Bakshi writes that the “poem is written from a critical, Global South Marxist feminist perspective, in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s corporate feminism of ‘Lean In’ and its approach to feminism and work.”

One critique of Bakshi’s work could be that she’s often very forward and unequivocal in the points of views that she displays. However, that more often than not makes her writing accessible and heightens the clarity of her poems. What’s important about Prerna Bakshi’s poetry is that it can be easily read by anyone. The messages that she delivers are vital stories about oppressed people around the world that Westerners should especially be made aware of, and it’s clear that Prerna Bakshi deserves critical praise and recognition for her brave and touching new work, Burnt Rotis, With Love.