Tuesday, March 21, 2017

All the World's a Stage

By William Shakespeare

JACQUES:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

From from As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Book of Vashti

By Bonnie Lyons

(Esther 1)

Yes, you're Jews
but aren't you also women?
How can you celebrate Esther,
Mordechai's pawn, who only rose
to the occasion when he threatened
her personally. Until then, she was
content to remain Queen and blind
herself to the destruction
of the Jews.

Blind herself.
As you do now.

Read it again
but read it
as women:

We women were celebrating together
in our part of the palace,
when Ahasuerus, after seven days of drinking,
his heart "merry with wine"
ordered me to display myself
for the other men
like a whore.

When I refused,
he wanted to laugh it off
admit he was drunk and foolish,
but the other men, like all drunken men
in a mob, goaded him
to set the manly example.

And he did.
Banishing me and taking my lands,
jewels, and homes like a child
who grabs his playmate's toys.
The official account doesn't record
what happened next: how I lived
with the other cast-off women
in poverty and pride.

Yes, Esther, the fair young virgin,
using her beauty like a whore
conniving as a slave,
ensured the survival of the Jews
something temporary and local -
But even now
she blinds you,
binds you
to your weakness.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Change of Address

By Deborah Paredez

Rate your pain the physical
therapist instructs and I am trying
not to do what they say
women do lowballing the number
trying hard not to try so hard
to be the good patient scattered
assurances lining the aisles like
dead petals and me left
holding nothing but what’s been
emptied out obviously I am over-
thinking it when I settle on someplace
in the middle six or seven
times a week I walk past the street
vendor on Broadway and say
nothing while eyeing the same
pom-topped hat the physical
therapist asking me now
for the name of that Chinese place
where I sometimes go asking
for the patient just before me
a street vendor in need
of a cheap massage as I lay
the plain wreckage of my shoulders
in the shallow hollows
the street vendor’s body has left
on the padded table in the center
of the story I sometimes read
to my girl a cap seller sleeps
under a tree’s shade waking
to find the monkeys in the
branches above have plundered
his wares he waves his hands shakes
his fists until his rage makes him
throw his cap to the ground and the
monkeys mimic him and down
float his caps his fury finally
fulsome enough to restore
what he’s lost you’ve got to find
another way to move the physical
therapist modeling for me the poses
to mimic assuring her I won’t move
what’s left of the heavy boxes later
unpacking the last of them I learn
about the woman who once lived
here Charlotte who twisted the cap and shook
out the pills Charlotte who swallowed
and slipped into sleep in her last act
of volition here in this bedroom where
the westward windows go on longing
for dawn and I am trying to move in
a new way to pull the mess of sloughed
hair from the bathtub drain to move
in the space of another’s suffering
scrub the caked toothpaste
from the sink make a home
in the space where suffering
may meet its end.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Responsibility

By Grace Paley

It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the poet to stand on street corners
giving out poems and beautifully written leaflets
also leaflets they can hardly bear to look at
because of the screaming rhetoric

It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy to hang out and
prophesy

It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes

It is the responsibility of the poet to go in and out of ivory
towers and two-room apartments on Avenue C
and buckwheat fields and army camps

It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman

It is the poet’s responsibility to speak truth to power
as the Quakers say

It is the poet’s responsibility to learn the truth from the
powerless

It is the responsibility of the poet to say many times: there is no
freedom without justice and this means economic
justice and love justice

It is the responsibility of the poet to sing this in all the original
and traditional tunes of singing and telling poems

It is the responsibility of the poet to listen to gossip and pass it
on in the way storytellers decant the story of life

There is no freedom without fear and bravery there is no
freedom unless
earth and air and water continue and children
also continue

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman to keep an eye on
this world and cry out like Cassandra, but be
listened to this time.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Be Like the Cactus

By Kimii Nagata

Let not harsh tongues, that wag
in vain,
Discourage you. In spite of
pain,
Be like the cactus, which through
rain,
And storm, and thunder,
remain.


Kimii Nagata was a child in a Japanese internment camp in the United States. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

immature little narcissists

By Linda Crate

i never voted for you,
i implored my friends not to
because anyone who
feels women are nasty or to be
grabbed by the pussy
is too emotionally unstable
for office—
i tire of this country's rage against women
of people like you using money
to silence them
when they're assaulted or raped
and then your minions
want to say there's no rape culture
but i guess they've never had to walk down
the street and be catcalled when you're
in your work uniform and i suppose they've never
been looked at like a piece of meat or whistled
at when all they wanted was to be
left alone—
men like you make me sick
because you don't even deserve to be called men.
you're just boys pretending
angry when anyone sees through your paper thin alibis
the blame always belonging to someone else


Linda M. Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh yet raised in the rural town of Conneautville. Her poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has three published chapbooks: A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press) and Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon), and If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications). Her fantasy novel Blood & Magic was published in March 2015. The second novel of this series Dragons & Magic was published in October 2015. Her third novel Centaurs & Magic was published November 2016.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

No Mirrors in my Nana's House

By Ysaye Maria Barnwell

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

I never knew that my skin was too black.
I never knew that my nose was too flat.
I never knew that my clothes didn’t fit.
I never knew there were things that I’d missed,
cause the beauty in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun);
…was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

I was intrigued by the cracks in the walls.
I tasted, with joy, the dust that would fall.
The noise in the hallway was music to me.
The trash and the rubbish just cushioned my feet.
And the beauty in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).
…was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

The world outside was a magical place.
I only knew love.
I never knew hate,
and the beauty in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).
…was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

Monday, February 27, 2017

Grief

By Robert Pinsky

I don’t think anybody ever is
Really divorced, said Lenny. Also,
I don’t think anybody ever is
Really married, he said. Because

English was really his second language
And because of Yiddish and its displaced
Place in the world, he never really
Believed in his own prose. He wrote

Sentences the way a great boxer moves.
Near the end he told me “I’m in Hell”—
Something Lenny might have said about
Hunting for a parking space in Berkeley.

Mike too was himself. His last month,
Too weak to paint or make prints,
He sat and made drawings of flowers:
Ink attentive to rhythms of beach rose,

Wisteria, lily—forms like acrobats
Or Cossack dancers. Mike had a vision
Of his body dead on his studio floor
Seen from high above— he didn’t feel sad

Or afraid at seeing it, he said, just
Sorry for the person who would find it.
You can’t say nobody ever really dies:
Of course they do: Lenny died. Mike died.

But the odd thing is, the person still makes
A shape distinct and present in the mind
As an object in the hand. The presence
In the absence: it isn’t comfort—it’s grief.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On the Freedom of the Press

By Benjamin Franklin

 While free from Force the Press remains,
Virtue and Freedom chear our Plains,
And Learning Largesses bestows,
And keeps unlicens’d open House.
We to the Nation’s publick Mart
Our Works of Wit, and Schemes of Art,
And philosophic Goods, this Way,
Like Water carriage, cheap convey.
This Tree which Knowledge so affords,
Inquisitors with flaming Swords
From Lay-Approach with Zeal defend,
Lest their own Paradise should end.

The Press from her fecundous Womb
Brought forth the Arts of Greece and Rome;
Her Offspring, skill’d in Logic War,
Truth’s Banner wav’d in open Air;
The Monster Superstition fled,
And hid in Shades her Gorgon Head;
And lawless Pow’r, the long kept Field,
By Reason quell’d, was forc’d to yield.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What I Mean When I Say Harmony

By Geffrey Davis & F. Douglas Brown

1.
dear boy be the muscle:
make music to the bone—risk
that mercurial measure
of contact there are those
who touch a body and leave it
graceful be that kind
of wonder —and if I ever
catch you confusing
a pulse for a path or a bridge
to beat loneliness your blood
will be the object of discussion
I will ask to see it back
if only to know the shared sinew
if only to relight your blessing
if only to rekindle the song
carried in your hands

2. The Remix
ode to the boy in me singing at the table so rude
but the hum-a-long mingles with your husky laughter
ode to the father in you wringing something out of nothing
ode to [dutiful] stitched into your fingers and not:—[obligatory drudgery]
and yes ode to the ghosts now roving your cupboards and bed
ode to your lingering music a mixtape of meals and memory
ode to what you still offer I suckle it down throughout the night
taste everything passed between your fingers

3. Side B
dear boy aint nothing
not about bodies
we have more than one
sun more than one way
to gasp inside the heat
and arms of praise
worship the warmth
of each loaded light let your body
grow fragile an offertory —sweet—
lick bite know the knot
of your desire hold it
in your mouth let it live
let it split do not leave this earth
without tasting what passes
between fingers son
always go deep find the seed
in each fruit’s buried longing
if it is yours sing it mine

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Remission

By Chelsea Krieg

Astronomers have shown that dead stars known as white dwarfs can re-ignite and explode as supernovas.
                                                                         – BBC News Science and Environment

When Dad got a tattoo, you laughed –
said you beat him to it. Three black specks

marking the cream swell of your breast
where months before, doctors aimed machines,

humming clean the still space the cells grew
abnormally like weeds in a flowerbed.

A constellation, you called it – Ursa major,
DracoOrion – shaping, naming the dark

freckles more permanent than your own
infant galaxies. When the doctor says, remission,

I imagine this constellation collapsing
into white dwarfs – remnants of dead stars

absent the fusion that makes them shine,
burn with heat. Now, I hold my breath,

watch their halos hover in the glow
of your skin, fear the explosion.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

New Year for the Trees

By Marge Piercy

It is the New Year of the Trees, but here
the ground is frozen under the crust of snow.
The trees snooze, their buds tight as nuts.
Rhododendron leaves roll up their stiff scrolls.

In the white and green north of the diaspora
I am stirred by a season that will not arrive
for six weeks, as wines on far continents prickle
to bubbles when their native vines bloom.

What blossoms here are birds jostling
at feeders, pecking sunflower seeds
and millet through the snow: tulip red
cardinal, daffodil finch, larkspur jay,

the pansybed of sparrows and juncos, all hungry.
They too are planters of trees, spreading seeds
of favorites along fences. On the earth closed
to us all as a book in a language we cannnot

yet read, the seeds, the bulbs, the eggs
of the fervid green year await release.
Over them on February’s cold table I spread
a feast. Wings rustle like summer leaves.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Water is Life

By Joy Harjo

I heard they started drilling today
Water is Life
I heard the sound of bit hit bone
Water is Life
I heard the blood rush up from earth's heart
Water is Life
I heard the children asking for a drink
Water is Life
What will it take to make the takers hear the song
water makes as it runs over stone?
What will it take for the takers to feel the sound of the unborn
crying for water as they emerge from mother's earth?
What will it take for everyone to see that they carry water's blood
in every circular cell?
What will it take to stop eating at the trough of greed?
I heard they started drilling today.
What will it take to believe
Water is life
Water is life
Water is life
Uewvt Hesaketvtos.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Snow

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Once with my scarf knotted over my mouth
I lumbered into a storm of snow up the long hill
and did not know where I was going except to the top of it.
In those days we went out like that.
Even children went out like that.
Someone was crying hard at home again,
raging blizzard of sobs.

I dragged the sled by its rope,
which we normally did not do
when snow was coming down so hard,
pulling my brother whom I called by our secret name
as if we could be other people under the skin.
The snow bit into my face, prickling the rim
of the head where the hair starts coming out.
And it was a big one. It would come down and down
for days. People would dig their cars out like potatoes.

How are you doing back there? I shouted,
and he said Fine, I’m doing fine,
in the sunniest voice he could muster
and I think I should love him more today
for having used it.

At the top we turned and he slid down,
steering himself with the rope gripped in
his mittened hands. I stumbled behind
sinking deeply, shouting Ho! Look at him go!
as if we were having a good time.
Alone on the hill. That was the deepest
I ever went into the snow. Now I think of it
when I stare at paper or into silences
between human beings. The drifting
accumulation. A father goes months
without speaking to his son.

How there can be a place
so cold any movement saves you.

Ho! You bang your hands together,
stomp your feet. The father could die!
The son! Before the weather changes.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ragged Old Flag

By Johnny Cash

I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it'll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that's a ragged old flag you got hanging on it

He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you've been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don't like to brag
But we're kinda proud of that ragged old flag

You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing say can you see
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams

And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg
And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag

On Flanders field in World War one
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun
She turned blood red in World War Two
She hung limp and low a time or two
She was in Korea and Vietnam

She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam
She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home
In her own good land here she's been abused
She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused

And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in
'Cause she's been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more

So we raise her up every morning
We take her down every night
We don't let her touch the ground and we fold her up right
On second thought, I do like to brag
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that ragged old flag

Saturday, February 4, 2017

War Cry

By Cherrie Moraga

lo que quiero es
tierra
si no tierra, pueblo
si no pueblo, amante
si no amante, nino
si no nino
soledad
tranquilidad
muerte

tierra.

what I want is
earth
if not earth, city
if not city, people
if not people, child
if not child
solitude
peace
death

earth.

(Translated by Eve Lyons)

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Answer

By Robinson Jeffers

Then what is the answer?—Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know the great civilizations have broken down into violence, and their
   tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose the least
   ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one’s own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted and not wish for
   evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will not be
   fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear the whole
   remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing, and man dissevered from the earth and stars and his
   history...for contemplation or in fact...
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of
   the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions, or drown in
   despair when his days darken.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lower Economics

By Gary Beck

In the mall shoppers come and go
as mindless as the buffalo,
herded for their own distraction
into havens of attraction,
with offers of acquisition
for a simple cash transaction
by the consumers who lost sight
of how to curb their appetite.


Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director, and as an art dealer when he couldn’t make a living in theater. He has 11 published chapbooks and 3 more accepted for publication.  Fault Lines, Tremors, PerturbationsRude Awakenings and The Remission of Order will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. His forthcoming novels will be published by Gnome on Pigs Productions and by Dreaming Big Publications. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been also been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gate A-4

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”
I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”
We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies— little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts— from her bag and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single traveler declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo— we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.
Then the airline broke out free apple juice and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar too. And I noticed my new best friend— by now we were holding hands— had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate— once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

There it is

By Jayne Cortez

My friend
they don’t care
if you’re an individualist
a leftist a rightist
a shithead or a snake

They will try to exploit you
absorb you confine you
disconnect you isolate you
or kill you

And you will disappear into your own rage
into your own insanity
into your own poverty
into a word a phrase a slogan a cartoon
and then ashes

The ruling class will tell you that
there is no ruling class
as they organize their liberal supporters into
white supremist lynch mobs
organize their children into
ku klux klan gangs
organize their police into killer cops
organize their propaganda into
a devise to ossify us with angel dust
pre-occupy us with western symbols in
african hair styles
innoculate us with hate
institutionalize us with ignorance
hypnotize us with a monotonous sound designed
to make us evade reality and stomp our lives away
And we are programmed to self destruct
to fragment
to get buried under covert intelligence operations of
unintelligent committees impulsed toward death
And there it is

The enemies polishing their penises between
oil wells at the pentagon
the bulldozers leaping into demolition dances
the old folks dying of starvation
the informers wearing out shoes looking for crumbs
the lifeblood of the earth almost dead in
the greedy mouth of imperialism
And my friend
they don’t care
if you’re an individualist
a leftist a rightist
a shithead or a snake

They will spray you with
a virus of legionaire’s disease
fill your nostrils with
the swine flu of their arrogance
stuff your body into a tampon of
toxic shock syndrome
try to pump all the resources of the world
into their own veins
and fly off into the wild blue yonder to
pollute another planet

And if we don’t fight
if we don’t resist
if we don’t organize and unify and
get the power to control our own lives
Then we will wear
the exaggerated look of captivity
the stylized look of submission
the bizzare look of suicide
the dehumanized look of fear
and the decomposed look of repression
forever and ever and ever
And there it is

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