Tuesdays at Curley's

Welcome to PoemAlley, Stamford, Connecticut's eclectic venue for poets, poetry reading and discussion! Open to anyone living in Fairfield County and the surrounding area, we meet Tuesday nights at 7:30 pm at Curley's Diner on 62 Park Place (behind Target) . Come contribute, get something to eat, or simply listen!

Dec 11, 2022

“… If We Want It, Quite Enough”

(updated from December 25, 2013)

In what has become an annual tradition, every December the media sentimentalizes the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s seasonal outreach of paranoia and good cheer through a "live" global online tracking of Santa Claus’ globetrotting, using satellite technology, AWACs and even a protective fighter escort, courtesy of the world’s most massive and belligerent military force:

If adults have difficulty with this bizarre, long-running PR association between a high-tech death machine and the hope for universal peace (begun quite accidentally in 1955 when a child calling Sears Roebuck's Santa wish line got NORAD, instead), print, TV and now the Internet have done their best to keep the tone light by exhorting parents to essentially “play along people, it’s Christmas!” Read more on military co-opting of Christmas here.

Kids might enjoy the exciting graphics, but they deserve better—as do we all. 

Certainly the participants in the Christmas Truce of 1914 thought so, demonstrating that we do have the capacity to do something more concrete toward creating a better future than focusing on a holiday whose message has been reduced to a seemingly unattainable abstraction by the very engine working against it with such desperation--perhaps as much as the panicked generals in World War I felt when they saw British, French and German soldiers crossing trenches on the Western front bearing family photos and gifts of food, becoming fast friends and patriots to their better natures, while facing charges of treason to their respective armies:

The horror of war for the few who prosecute it, as opposed to the many who execute it, is in the infectious awakening on the part of the latter that they are more than their social pressure, training and assigned roles say they are.

Coverage of the Truce in The Illustrated London News, 1/9/15

On the contemporary, domestic front, civilian reaction can be equally epiphanous, to judge by the intense listener feedback in 1988 to a Boston-area FM radio personality who played repeatedly "Christmas in the Trenches", a ballad on the Truce written by John McCutcheon four years prior: "Even more startling than the number of requests I (got) is the reaction to the ballad afterward by callers who hadn't heard it before. They (telephoned) me deeply moved, sometimes in tears, asking 'What the hell did I just hear?'"
Iraq-assigned ADS ACTD System 1
mounted on a Hummer
Spreading to Russian and German troops fighting on the Eastern front, as well, the Truce episode, when acknowledged in the mainstream at all, is considered a flukish, last gasp of humanity on the cusp between a relatively chivalric past and a dehumanizing future of absolute conflict, bristling with cluster bombs, depleted uranium shells and Active-Denial Systems

Russian and German soldiers, Eastern
front, 1914
Yet, in welcome contumacy to the hoped-for ethical fogging afforded by the increased reliance by Pentagon planners on Predators, Global Hawks and other unmanned aerial vehicles, 2013 saw former American drone operator Brandon Bryant admit to the unique form of heartache and remorse of his assigned role in killing hundreds of people in Afghanistan from a cushioned console in a stateside air force base. 

Brandon Bryant
Rather than being insulated from the consequences of his actions, advanced remote imaging unexpectedly provided a slant on war's personal cost at once both new and eerily evocative, in its own way, of Remarque's dehumanizing account of soldiers being blown out of their very uniforms by explosives in All Quiet on the Western Front. Bryant recalls watching via infrared the heat leave one target's body as he expired: "It took him a long time to die. I just watched him. I watched him become the same color as the ground he was lying on."

If such examples of human empathy can continue to assert themselves now, as well as on Christmas, 1914, despite propagandistic and technological erosions, they deserve our courage (and willingness in  overcoming our own indoctrinated fears) to meet and draw inspiration from them, year-round.   

Additional Information:

History as Mystery

Michael Parenti
City Lights Publishers, 2001

Erich Maria Remarque
Ballantine Books, 1929

David G. Stratman
New Democracy Books, 1991

Plume, 2002 

Apr 6, 2022

Never Letting Hope Become A Memory: An Emergency Fundraiser For Barry Fruchter and Amber Rose

As many members of the PoemAlley community are aware, following a serious car accident on February 8, Barry Fruchter and Amber Rose learned  their home in Washington state had been thoroughly ransacked during their stay at an area rehab facility.                                               
After speaking recently with Barry, Ralph Nazareth says they are now in the process of moving temporarily to a motel until their situation becomes more stable. He asks those interested in contributing financial support following this sequence of terrible events to kindly send donations to their friend Deborah Einbender at the address at the bottom of this post. (Those already sent directly to Ralph will be forwarded before he leaves for India to visit his ailing brother on April 9th.)

With a mixture of relief and admiration, Ralph reports "...that Barry and Amber are making steady progress and are in the process of regaining a modicum of normalcy after a period of unimaginable disruption in their lives. I know you'll join me in wishing them a speedy and complete recovery."

In the same spirit, click below for Jonathan Johnson's acoustic rendition of “Light”, a song of hope and restoration emerging from adversity, originally performed by Disturbed:

A medical writer and ordained interfaith minister who studied under the guidance of Hannah Arendt at the University of Chicago, Amber released her first novel, When I Am Ashes (Atmosphere Press, 2021) as Barry was recuperating from a heart attack. A cross-generational love story about Nazi hunters, the book embodies both their shared resiliency and her lifetime commitment to her philosophy of healing.

A writer for over 40 years, Barry, like Ralph, has taught at Nassau Community College. His poetry has been collected in
Selection: New Poems 2010-11 
and Dark Fields of Palestine (California Quarry Press, 2012). Individual pieces have appeared in numerous publications, including Lampeter Muse, Borderlands, and The BookMark. He also has co-authored Double Helix: A Love Story In Poetry (Lamberson Corona Press, 2010) and The Bride of Auschwitz with his wife, Amber. They are currently collaborating on two plays.

It is recommended checks should be marked “for deposit only” before mailing to:

Deborah Einbender
1326 SE Pine Street
Portland OR 97214-1434

Feb 14, 2022

With Laughter On His Hair: Dale Shaw Remembered

Dale Shaw (left) with Ralph Nazareth
If artistic expression is at its best when it casts a playful, reflecting light on the conventional, then Dale Shaw was all about basking in it, right to the end.

Recalls Ralph Nazareth, visiting Dale in Fairfield February 5, two days before his passing at 94, “I saw him appear suddenly next to me. 'Ralph',” he said, 'look, the ducks are flying backwards!' That was vintage Dale, with eyes to see the miraculous on the back of his palm!"

Ralph's friend Lynda Sorensen, who worked extensively with Dale, along with Ralph, similarly marveled at how his personal whimsy and wonder translated into his work. "Dale was a living poem, moving through this world on his legs of poetry, his heart of rhythm, his vision of light, and his soul of magic."

First encountering him over forty years ago, Ralph collaborated with the former Field & Stream writer on numerous poetry projects over the years, becoming “a steady and wonderful presence in my life and in that of (my) little family.”

Upon learning of the sad news, Lynda drew attention to the closing, elegiac line from “I Am One”, one of Dale's contributions to the 1986 companion anthology to his workshop, On This Crust of Earth (Yuganta Press), which was co-edited by Ralph and Lynda: “'I am the one with no shoes and no horse', and so Dale takes his leave; we live on, holding close our memories of him, as if they are a precious bowl that we hold high between heaven and earth.”

When the PoemAlley group meeting at Curley's Diner began sharing their work via Zoom in 2020, Ralph introduced his friend with a brief tribute during one reading: “'I am the one with laughter on my hair',” says Dale Shaw. He had it when I first met him in 1980, and he still does, now at 93—laughter on his hair, a twinkle in his eye, a chuckle in his throat, and surprising, often stunning, wisdom on his lips.”

A poet and poetry guide par excellence, Dale led an impressive group of writers with fellow poet Janet Krauss, including Doris Lund, author of the national bestseller Eric, children's book writers Freya Littledale and Ruth Krauss (collaborator with Caldecott Award-winning illustrator Maurice Sendak), author of The Carrot Seed

PoemAlley co-founder
Ann Yarmal

Ann Yarmal credits the discipline of Dale's weekly Clay Place writing workshop with nothing less than giving her the strength to rebuild her life: “He never let us get away with anything. If we wrote it, we owned it... We had to examine what we wrote and thought and intended and we had next week to work for.” In partnership with Catherine Ednie, Ann went on to found PoemAlley at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in 2000.

From the 1980s to the mid-1990s Dale's role in the Westport and Norwalk poetry communities lit up every kind of venue, be it someone's living room, an art gallery, or a town hall, anticipating today's popular “performance” poetry scene by many years.

Ralph alluded to the gift of Dale's continuing impact on peers and creative aspirants, alike: “His original combination of “gnomic sayings, a seemingly quirky but original vision and love of all things (oddly) human, distinguishes him among
most teachers of poetry.”

As many in PoemAlley will recall, his style of delivery, so laced with irony and embracing humor, was so much of a piece with his writing that to read “the following sample of his work is to get only a faint impression of the real Dale phenomenon,” says Ralph. “I know you’ll enjoy it all the same!” 


bread of sun, sun bread rising

            wheat of the dawn, dawn-wheat

bread of the mother’s belly

            sweet bread belly

bread of the sea, lifting

            upon the rock, bread rising

crash of the sea bread, rising

            bread of grass, growing

out of the bread loam rising

            bread loam rising

bread of child, bread of moon, on

            cooking hill baking

bread of brain, thought rising

            thought shining, moonbread

in the brain, hill, cooking

            sun bread and dawn bread, belly bread

and sea bread, bread of money

            in the oven bank lifting

bread of the forest in the heat of ages

            green growing, bread of streets

filling, bread of night, fermenting

            bread of laughter, leavening

bread of dreams, pocketed with fear

bread of duck loaves and chicken loaves

            rooting, bread of autos parked

in asphalt pans, bread of graves

            bread of friendship,

best bread of all

            bread with


I Am the One

I am the one who makes mathematics the dark angel

                     I am the one who burrows the earth

I am the one with laughter on my hair

I am the one to butter bread with steel

I am the one wired to the wings of dead birds

I am the one playing darts in a cave

I am the one with strings on my nose

I am the one laughing in the cathedral

I am the one with money in my eyes

I am the one with snakes in my hair

       I am the one who has tattooed my whole body

I am the one who has scalded my babies

I am the one peeking through ferns

I am the one who sees what you are doing

I am the one who must wonder aloud

I am the one who asks why you can stand this

I am the one with the puzzled expression

I am the one with no shoes and no horse