Saturday, June 06, 2020

Poem During the Plague: Poem 52

Andy Hoffman

Andy Hoffman writes fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Best-known for his Pulitzer-nominated biography INVENTING MARK TWAIN, he has recently completed a new novel, HOW TO LIVE FOREVER. He holds a PhD from Brown University and has been an entrepreneur, primarily in educational technology, since 1997. He lives in Providence, RI.


We are cities
separated by a river.
            I will build a boat.

We are countries
separated by war.
            I will broker peace.

We are planets
separated by emptiness.
            I dream a spaceship.

Centuries come between us.
By faith alone
            I will become a man of your time.

Even death can’t come between us,
not against the force of love.

But as it is
only a small chasm
keeps us apart.
            A rope can bridge it.
When I throw the rope
will you catch it?

Or will your end
slide into the chasm,
and me with it?

Friday, June 05, 2020

Poem During the Plague: Poem 51

Jean Flanagan

Jean Flanagan is the author of Ibbetson Street (Garden Street Press) and Black Lightning (Cedar Hill Books).  Her work has appeared in numerous publications.  She has a new manuscript called “A Hard Winter for Living.”  Flanagan teaches in an alternative sentencing program called “Changing Lives Through Literature and is one of the founders of the Arlington Center for the Arts. 


Peonies used to grow in our front yard
bush after bush of glorious pink
in front of our yellow and green house
on Memorial Day. The first spring flowers filled
 with black beetles hidden behind the tight petals.

Today on Memorial Day I put peonies in a vase
on my glass living room table.  The buds are ready to open.
Across the way, on a nearby roof, neighbors are celebrating.
I am thinking about Arlington National Cemetery
 and four family members buried there.

In my mind I hear Taps being blown on a bugle.
A soldier at the top of the hill as the sun sets.
Remember shaking with grief
as a soldier handed a triangle flag to my nephew
and said, “Your country thanks you for your service.”

The pink peonies
the yellow and green house.
The love of family and yet we have come to this
on this cold Memorial Day during the pandemic
not knowing what is to become of us.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Somerville's Preeti Mehta: Brings Textiles With Style

Preeti Mehta

Preeti Mehta is a social entrepreneur and the sole proprietor of Premaasi Textiles, a social enterprise based in Davis Square, Somerville. 

Inspired by beautiful, hand-crafted textiles worldwide during her travels, Preeti chose to indulge her passion after pursuing careers in telecommunications, management consulting and non-profit management. Premaasi’s  mission is to promote unique, hand-crafted, globally-sourced textile products in the U.S. market and to educate consumers about the value of hand-made products, the techniques used to make them and the skill of the artisans. 

Preeti had long considered a textile venture, but the idea finally coalesced on a trip to India in 2018 when she visited artisan communities in Kuchchh, Gujarat India and had a small trunk show of her purchases for friends and family.  Guests at the trunk show roundly endorsed the treasures Preeti offered, most of which had been purchased over tea and buttermilk in the homes of artisans. 

By starting this enterprise, Preeti has also been able to use Premaasi Textiles to raise awareness about ethics in clothing and advance economic opportunities for artisans, many of whom are based in rural and often marginalized parts of the countries in which Premaasi sources. 

Doug Holder: Can you talk about the artisans you promote? 

The artisans I promote have deep knowledge and skill about their particular textile craft and are diverse in the techniques used. I work with weavers, surface design artists, embroiderers and block printers many of whom are master-craftspeople, whose ancestors have been honing their crafts for generations. I work with both men and women artisans from many different rural (and often marginalized) parts of India. Their crafts are rooted in India's rich textile tradition, but have evolved to meet more modern and urban tastes and become safer for the environment. I also with a low-income women’s co-operative in southeastern Madagascar.

Preeti Mehta:  Is Somerville a good place for a small business?

Yes, I think it is, though I haven't yet had the opportunity to show my products here. I had considered applying to several pop-up opportunities for small business but all have now been cancelled due to the Coronavirus.

Doug Holder: How has your business survived during the corona virus situation?

PM: I have tried to keep expenses low, though I expect sales to be significantly lower this year. I am moving my business online much sooner than originally planned as a response to the current corona-virus situation. 

DH:  What do you envision for future?   

 PM: I'm hoping that, for all of us, this period has been a time for reflection about how we consume and how our actions affect the environment. Specifically for my business and others like mine, I'm hopeful that as people realize how the actions of fast fashion brands have affected garment factory workers both abroad (millions rendered destitute in South Asia due to cancelled orders) and in this country (LA factory workers' wages of $6 per hour exposed during the pandemic) - that they will be more likely to buy handmade and artisinal products

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Poems from the Back Ward: Poem 1

This is a new series that will focus on people who work or worked in the psychiatric field. I worked as a mental health counselor at McLean Hospital for 36 years.  During many of those years I ran poetry groups for psychiatric patients in different settings. Here is a poem I wrote about watching a client at a Boston hospital. Send your poems to --with a pic of yourself, bio, and poem--in one email.


Just a skeleton of herself.

Her teeth

A row of rot.

Her stringy arms

Starting to rival

The width of the

IV tubes.

But she is happy.

Smiling at the

Happy horseshit of the TV

Her cheeks sucked

To the bone,

A woman

With the voice

Of a gasping, callow child

Asks, clutching the phone:

“How many calories in a scone?”