{An Umbrella Invitational}

Lana Hechtman Ayers  

has worked as an insurance actuary, a science museum exhibit copywriter, a Social Security Claim Representative, a milieu therapist, and hopes someday to become an astronomer and intra-galactic translator.

Right now, she’s a manuscript consultant and a writing workshop leader; she publishes the Concrete Wolf Poetry Chapbook Series and is Poetry Editor of Crab Creek Review. She’s authored three poetry collections, Chicken Farmer I Still Love You (D-N Publishing), Dance From Inside My Bones (Snake Nation Press), and Love is a Weed (chapbook, Finishing Line Press).

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Actual Footage after viewing the film Shoah

In black and white,
with bald heads,
the dead fill the screen,
seem to spill from its edges.

Hard-shadowed cheeks,
fear tangible as stone.

When the credits roll
there are no names for the multitudes.
A fist clenches in my throat.

Outside the theater
cold air slaps our faces,
refreshing pain.

My husband squeezes my hand.
We have no words.

The stars are heavy,
the moon’s a lover
in a soiled sequin dress,
and forests
walk us through the night.


Artist’s Statement

I t was a fine spring day in 1987 in Boston, a city whose trolleys and sidewalks still felt foreign beneath my New York born and raised feet. I made my way to the Poetry Workshop Class at the Boston Center For Adult Education taught by Ottone "Ricky" Riccio. I had been writing poetry, or so I thought, since I could hold a crayon. I brought a 2-page masterpiece of a poem with me for which I fully expected the same sort of accolades I had been receiving all throughout school. To my surprise, horror and shame, the workshop leader sliced and diced what appeared on these pages, dubbing the poem bathos and grossly overwritten. I left with a few images he thought worth saving and the dictum to write the poem again, this time not over-explaining every image, not bulking up on abstractions, and not trying to retell all of world history and my own in a single poem.

It was a blow unlike any other I’d ever received. But worse than the pain of not being praised, was the pain of realization that everything that Ricky said was absolutely right. I had been reading and writing poetry for more than twenty years without ever stopping to really examine how a poem means, sings, emotes. Tears not quite dried, I returned to the second session a week later with a completely new version of the poem in hand. This one was met with more slicing and dicing, but also more positive feedback as well. I’ve lost count of how many versions of “Actual Footage” I've written to arrive at this one. But in more than a decade of studying poetry with Ricky as my mentor, I learned how to get out of the way and listen to what the poem wants. The poem must always be its own master .