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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 4: July 2020
Prose Poem: 165 words
By Linda Nemec Foster

Tower of Babel

What can we do? The Tower of Babel
has done this to us.

—Wislawa Szymborska

I wish I could understand the constant whir of foreign words floating around me on this transatlantic flight—the red-eye following the path of dawn—heading straight to Warsaw, the heart of Europe. Behind me, nothing can stop the three Polish women and their cascade of words: a singing river. I would love to jump in, but I can’t swim. Traveling with her mother, a young black girl—maybe 10 or 11—sits beside me, her hair elaborately braided with yarn into rows of purple/red/orange/blue. A foreigner who really looks foreign; as opposed to me, with my Slavic face. And yet, I feel a deeper kinship with her (as we joke about reality shows and Chicago hot dogs) than with the three women laughing in Polish who could be my grandmothers. Me, the prodigal granddaughter, returning to the land of her ancestors whose language she doesn’t know.



Publisher’s Note:

Quotation in the epigraph above by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska (1923–2012) is from “A Poetry That Matters” by Edward Hirsch in The New York Times Magazine (1 December 1996):

Linda Nemec Foster
Issue 4, July 2020

is the author of 11 poetry collections, including Amber Necklace from Gdansk (a finalist for the Ohio Book Award in Poetry; Louisiana State University Press, 2001), The Lake Michigan Mermaid with Anne-Marie Oomen (2019 Michigan Notable Book; Wayne State University Press, 2018), The Elusive Heroine: My Daughter Lost in Magritte (Cervena Barva Press, 2018), Talking Diamonds (New Issues Press, 2009), and Listen to the Landscape (Eerdmans Publishing, 2006). Her new poetry book, The Blue Divide, was selected as an Editor’s Choice and will be published by New Issues Press in 2021.

Ms. Foster’s work has appeared in more than 350 magazines and journals such as The Georgia Review, New American Writing, Nimrod, North American Review, Quarterly West, Paterson Literary Review, Witness, and Verse Daily. Her poems have also been published in anthologies in the U.S. and Great Britain, and translated in Europe. Collaborations with visual artists, musicians, and composers have brought her poetry to new venues and audiences. It has been exhibited in museums and galleries, set to music, produced for the stage, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

In 2018 and 2019, Ms. Foster won an Editor’s Choice Award in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest sponsored by The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College and Paterson Literary Review. She has been honored with awards from the Arts Foundation of Michigan, ArtServe Michigan, the National Writer’s Voice, and the Academy of American Poets. She is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College, and was the first Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, Michigan (serving from 2003-2005). In 2015, she was honored by the Dyer-Ives Foundation for her poetry and advocacy of the literary arts in Michigan. In the fall of 2019, she was a guest lecturer in contemporary American poetry and literature at the University of Bielsko-Biala in Poland.

For more info, visit her website at: www.lindanemecfoster.com

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