nicole yurcaba

From the Poetry Editor

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During National Poetry Month and the COVID 19 scare, we start April’s issue with poems from Eastern Europe by Aura Christi (born in Chișinău, Republic of Moldova, now living in Romania) translated by Petru Iamandi & Adam Sorkin. Chosen many months ago, these two poems now appear as if they were somewhat of an artistic foreshadowing of events stirring in the air; even their titles, “Spell” and “Elegy,” have a certain heaviness surrounding them.
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With a dark circling wand, the last stanza of “Spell” casts foreboding sounds and a lasting image of a bird:
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What rumble swirls,
roars, grows, struggles
like a bird caught
between life and death.
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And her poem “Elegy” has the speaker “I” in a dreamlike state questioning existence:
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(Lines 3-5)
You look at yourself in the mirror and listen to your humming:
I no longer am, I, I no longer am,
Everything’s strange, lost and distant.
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In an atmosphere where:
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(Lines 9-13)
No one’s around, you keep saying, no one at all.
But then why is the air filling
with something impossible and heavy?
The darkness grows bewilderingly;
soon it will fall over everywhere…
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Moving onward in April’s issue, poets Nicole Yurcaba (Ukrainian-American) & Stanley Galloway collaborate on the poem, “Dnipro Duet,” which takes an angsty look at exes, monogamy, & life in a city (Dnipro) located on the Dneiper River in central Ukraine, ending at the sea of Azov. With the exception of the first and last lines, this poem is ironically written in 13 couplets, with a few here to entice you:
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Couplet #2
eyes stinging clear covering all the distance that feet won’t cross
exes and the oh’s they bring to numb lips…
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Couplet #9
tongue sweet as caramel on sausage and nails
driven through palms and feet             into wood
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Couplet #12
as Narcissus contemplated the nature of singularity
and a woman contemplates the silliness of monogamy
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This duo continues with a powerful poem entitled, “Liturgy for Ukraine” with captivating lines like:
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…where a gleam of sunlight betrays
the ship’s bow displacing what we cannot walk on
gliding over shades of Scythian, Mongol, Nazi, Soviet
borders redrawn
             redetermined
             remapped…
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…a faith brought by Cyril and Methodius
screened through scarves and centuries
carved on box lids and church doors
                clothes and egg shells
wooden spoons and forks painted
with berries, blood, pride…
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This poem ends with a resounding, “amen.”
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Our next poem,  Kevin Ridgeway’s, “There Comes a Time” may or may not emulate Neil Young’s “Comes A Time,” but both have a “coming of age” feel. The last five lines are where the speaker of the poem sums it all up:
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the meaning of life. We are
the anti-heroes who fell in love
with our own delusions of grandeur,
and we failed to save the world
from people like ourselves.
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Luanne Castle’s poem, “Medusa’s #Metoo” mixes the classical wonder of our snake headed Gorgon in a fresh new “Metoo” way.
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a coverup through tweet and text
a smear campaign of slut and sext
Poseidon in Athena’s studio apt
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In texting the word “apt” in “studio apt” means “apartment” and not the dictionary definition of the actual word “apt” (having a tendency to do something). Here, Castle is clearly keeping with the modern-day texting language versus the classical meaning of look-alike words. A modern twist on an old myth indeed.
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Lastly, we have Tim Suermondt’s poem, “Gulls Flying Over the Construction Site.” Tim’s poems are always filled with wonderful similes, images, and quiet contemplation.
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In his opening line’s simile: “Like stealth bombers that are suddenly upon you—” and then the subtle but pronounced: “there they are.”
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He has a seeable list of junkyard images. Then another simile for the workers at the site.
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workers going at it with fervor / like the Egyptians of old.
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With the gulls flying & his unique close comparisons to humans, this last poem is definitely worth a close read. Further, Tim’s poem also had a bit of eeriness, as stated in the last line of the poem, where the speaker turns “from the window” and goes:

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into another room, my shadow flapping on the white walls.
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But alas, it’s April and spring is everywhere, so please stay safe and know that all of you are in my thoughts & prayers.
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In keeping with King Solomon or a Sufi poet or a Jewish folklore’s line (no definitive knowledge of its actual origin): “this, too, shall pass.” The sooner the better, I hope.
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Peace & much love,
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Diane Sahms
Poetry Editor – North of Oxford
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Two Poems by Nicole Yurcaba and Stanley Galloway

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Dnipro Duet
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It’s difficult to write after three glasses of wine
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not the fingers finding keys but the left lobe latching to the right
glimpsing skewed chance in a blurry mirror
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eyes stinging clear covering all the distance that feet won’t cross
exes and the oh’s they bring to numb lips
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while other exes are banished from thoughts and conversation
and new ones emerge from minute-long fantasies
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where the rusalka commands gymnastic sexual feats with strangers
at the dock where a walkway crumbles into a river beyond the rapids
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lack of fun(d)s         lack of confidence
culmination of romance desired          reality’s disappointment
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idyllic river scum-spotted by pop music bastardization
the sound of music drifiting through kalyna and eidleweiss
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zither of melody calling gulls like ducks to the hull
and a lone sailor smoking as he lowers ropes along the side
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where the naiad takes a new disguise in full-length red skirt
her hair tied in a ponytail         waist cinched with a belt
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tongue sweet as caramel on sausage and nails
driven through palms and feet             into wood
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planks of weathered decking cracked and brittle
paint peeling                white   blue
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horizontal green-gray, lapping but not tipsy – don’t accuse –
let her stare into the mirror
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as Narcissus contemplated the nature of singularity
and a woman contemplates the silliness of monogamy
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each a sterile end lonely in ways that the white of a lemur’s tail stands alone
hard at the tip
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soft in the hair as a hot wind over the Sea of Azov.
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Liturgy for Ukraine
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Cycle of vibration hour after hour
because modern day offers batteries
instead of coal or steam to be stoked
solar panels pane towards the clouds
taking in       putting out        taking in        putting out
like cranes swooping to catch fish from the river
where a gleam of sunlight betrays
the ship’s bow displacing what we cannot walk on
gliding over shades of Scythian, Mongol, Nazi, Soviet
borders redrawn
             redetermined
             remapped
overlaid palimpsest of people on people
an embroidery of red on black
                        on red on gold
                        on blue on green
                        on red
a bank where swimmers dive half-nude
half-covered with history and heritage
and a language imposed by an empire long fallen
letters rattled from Latin, Hebrew, Greek
a faith brought by Cyril and Methodius
screened through scarves and centuries
carved on box lids and church doors
                clothes and egg shells
wooden spoons and forks painted
with berries, blood, pride
the kozak and Halya
carrying water by city and generation
bandura strings and folk songs
             stringing life from two hundred colored threads
             stringing painted glass beads around a neck
fences keeping in             keeping out
a young girl with her face buried in her arms
her officer smoking, smiling, looking away
both knowing it’s not long until he rides to war
or to another lover in another city under fire
half a league    half a league    or across the Dunay
borders blurred and people first their own
for all eternity                                     all eternity                              amen
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nic

Nicole Yurcaba is a Ukrainian-American poet and essayist, who teaches at Bridgewater College and serves as the Assistant Director to the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Lindenwood Review, Whiskey Island, Raven Chronicles, and many other online and print journals.
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galloway_stan
Stanley Galloway, nominated Best of the Net in 2011 and 2012, teaches English at Bridgewater College in Virginia. His chapbook Abraham is available from Sierra Delta Press. His full collection Just Married is forthcoming from unbound CONTENT. He has also written a book of literary criticism, The Teenage Tarzan (McFarland, 2010).
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The City of Folding Faces by Jayinee Basu

the city

By Nicole  Yurcaba

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Jayinee Basu’s The City of Folding Faces explores a multitude of themes relevant to our own current American society. Mara, the novel’s main character, is an everyperson of sorts. Her struggle as a Ruga—a subculture composed of those individuals who have uploaded themselves into a conscience-expanding system that defies human limits known as Roulette—to communicate to her non-Ruga boyfriend, Arlo, provokes the reader to think about the discrimination of transgenders in the military and the workplace as they appear in day after day in our own world. For example, at one point in the novel a news release states that “Belgium has proposed a bill banning Ruga individuals from being employed in governmental positions” (66). This ban effects Hanne, Arlo’s one-time lover and a Ruga who suppresses her dimensional dysphoria by using a nasal spray she developed, who left Belgium but eventually decides to return. More importantly, the fictional ban echoes the Trump Administration’s 2019 transgender military ban of nearly 15,000 transgender troops serving in the military, as well as the subsequent follow-ups by military academies to ban transgenders from enlistment, all of which cited gender dysphoria as a reason for the block.

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Hanne’s character in the novel opens the discussion regarding what lengths people go to in order to conceal or deny their identities, a discussion that is more and more important in American society where discriminatory public policies regarding transgenders and others of the LGBTQ+ community often force people into emotional, even mental, seclusion. Though the novel does not focus on Hanne’s struggle with her Ruga identity, it alludes to the struggle, since the reader sees Hanne utilizing a nasal spray that she developed in order to suppress her Ruga tendencies, and the reader experiences, along with Hanne, the painful effects of identity suppression. At one point, in an attempt to help Mara, Arlo asks Hanne to give him access to the nasal spray, though the spray has not been federally approved for public use, and Arlo is unaware of Hanne’s Ruga identity and her use of the spray.

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While Hanne makes the choice to return to Belgium under dangerous and hostile conditions, Mara makes the choice to undergo a radical, figure-changing surgery that modifies her face in order to express the inexpressible. The surgery, nonetheless, has consequences: Ruga are increasingly ostracized, discriminated against in the workplace, and ultimately banned from the rest of society. Mara also grapples with the loss of her relationship with her boyfriend, Arlo. Again, an informed reader might think of the Trump Administration’s transgender military ban. Theoretically, under the Administration’s ban, those transgender individuals who have already enlisted and serving can stay in the military, as long as they are out and have a diagnosis. However, many transgenders—much like the Ruga in Basu’s novel—fear promotion denial, deployment denial, or forced discharge.

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At a turning point in the novel, Mara leaves Arlo to live with not only a group of Ruga, but also the creator of Roulette, who struggled with dimensional dysphoria and desired to create a safe place for Ruga members. For awhile, it seems that Mara and Roulette’s creator will form a creator-creation romance. What happens is a shock: Mara eventually returns to Arlo, after stealing her memory files from Roulette’s creator, and Arlo becomes a character that many might see as the antithesis of American society’s attitudes towards those who choose otherness, a different or new identity, etc.: accepting, welcoming, and progressive in his attitudes: “Some people grow steadily, like a tree. Others are like volcanic rock, the accumulated sediment of serial eruptions. Arlo was an analog vine creeping along the violently digital protrusion of her existence” (98). Thus, Arlo, in one person, represents the many Americans and citizens of other nations who have opened their homes, their hearts, and their lives, to love and acceptance, such GLAAD and other local and national support groups for those who are transitioning.

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Basu’s novel is brief, sparse, and open, and the openness allows the reader to interpret and engage with the novel at superficial, metaphorical, philosophical, and even spiritual levels. The City of Folding Faces allows readers to enter a society radically similar—maybe even radically prophetic—yet different from our own, where the issues and choices those of otherness face are real and every day. The novel also implicitly asks the reader to search within themselves to find the answers to difficult questions posed by the acceptance of otherness, as depicted by Arlo’s eventual acceptance of Mara’s Ruga identity, and society’s eventual tailoring of itself to meet individual needs. At both the figurative, the personal, the universal level, The City of Folding Faces asks “What’s next?” When interpreted through the current lens of American social and political issues, The City of Folded Faces becomes a must-read for those engaged in discussions regarding identity, fluidity and even race.

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You can find the book here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07PVCW7FS/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i1

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Nicole Yurcaba is a Ukrainian-American poet and essayist, who teaches at Bridgewater College and serves as the Assistant Director to the Bridgewater International Poetry Festival. Her poems and essays have appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Lindenwood Review, Whiskey Island, Raven Chronicles, and many other online and print journals. While her poems often focus on Ukrainian culture and the Ukrainian diaspora experience, her essays primarily focus on US Army Special Forces. She lives in West Virginia, and she holds an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University.