Richard Jeffrey Newman

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the poet

Richard Jeffrey Newman is the author of Words for What Those Men Have Done and The Silence of Men, as well as the translation, The Teller of Tales: Stories from Ferdowsi's Shahameh. Richard curates the First Tuesdays reading series in Jackson Heights, New York, and is on the Board of Newtown Literary. He's also Professor of English at Nassau Community College, where he recently stepped down to focus on his writing after a decade of service to his faculty union.

the poems

Just Beyond Your Reach

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            The prayer you say is neither seed nor plow,
            nor is it rain to quench your soul’s old thirst.
            The parched and blistered field your tongue is now
            bespeaks the long neglect about to burst,
            like rotten fruit thrown to chase from the stage
            a comic leaving dead words at your feet;
            and she, or maybe he, responds with rage,
            shrinking the room until the single seat
            that’s left is where you’re planted. Confront your god,
            shimmering and luscious, there, his skin—
            or is it hers?—a proffered gift, a prod
            to every hunger you have called a sin.


            Welcome each new taste; spread wide; bow low.
            Lose yourself till loss is all you know.

This Sentence Is A Metaphor
For Bridge #20

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                        Imagine hell unfenced,
                        yourself the unburned center
                        of all that burning,
                        every prayer you’ve ever said
                        undone line by line,
                        until the empty page
                        is all you have.


                        Enter there the path in you
                        that is only a path,
                        gather its shadows
                        into a dance,
                        a movement
                        that ends with love,
                        that keeps on moving
                        till love becomes the rhythm,
                        and you the fire, and the dance,
                        the life you’ve chosen
                        to make your loving possible.


                        You thought you had to be
                        the clench you’ve held
                        where none but you
                        could feel it.


                        Give yourself instead
                        to all that rises.
                        Fill that cloudless sky
                        with laughter.

After Drought

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            Knees rooted in the bed on either side
            of your belly, my body’s a stalk of wheat
            bent in summer wind, a bamboo shoot
            rising, an orchid, and then all at once a cloud
            swelling, a swallow sculpting air, a freed
            white dove. You pull me down, but you are hot
            beneath me, and the gust that is my own heat
            lifts me away: I’m not ready. Outside,
            footsteps, voices. Two men. Giggling, we pull
            the sheet around us till they pass, but if someone
            does see, what will they have seen? A couple
            making love. No. More than that: they will
            have seen the coming of the rain; they will
            have seen us bathe in it, and they will say Amen.

Publishing credits

Just Beyond Your Reach / This Sentence Is A Metaphor

  for Bridge #20: exclusive first publication by iamb

After Drought: The Silence of Men (CavanKerry Press)