Friday, August 11, 2017

Sonnet 130

By William Shakespeare

 My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New Colossus (re-write)

By Stephen Colbert

Give me your wealthy, your rich, your huddled MBAs yearning to be tax-free.
Send these, the English-speaking, fully insured to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door and lift my leg upon your filthy poor.

P.S. No fatties, please.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Trump Wall

By William Marr

Built at the border of our hearts
this wall of the 21st century will grow 
drawing nourishment from all dark corners
of human nature
to become the Great Wall
of America

Hold it!
are you trying to come in

or get out



William Marr has published 23 volumes of poetry (two in English and the rest in his native Chinese language)3 books of essays, several books of translations, and 10 eBooks.  His most recent published work, Chicago Serenade, is a trilingual (Chinese/English/French) anthology of poems published in Paris in 2015 His poetry has been translated into more than ten languages and included in over one hundred anthologies.  Some of his poems are used in high school and college textbooks in Taiwan, China, England, and Germany.   He is a former president of the Illinois State Poetry Society and has received numerous honors, including several awards from Taiwan and China for his poetry and translations.  His Website, The Art World of William Marr (http://feima.yidian.org/bmz.htm) displays some of his literary and artistic works.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Prospective Immigrants Please Note

By Adrienne Rich

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Courage

By Anne Sexton

It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy,
and made you into an alien.
You drank their acid,
and concealed it.

Later,
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets,
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you,
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

Later,
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off our heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

Later,
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Third Gender

By Kit Yan

all right so gender should be as simple as gay or straight
cuz if you are attracted to the opposite gender
you’re straight
if you are attracted to the same gender
well i guess you’re gay
therefore if you have a penis you’re a man
and if you have a vagina you’re a woman
straight shot
straight answer
gender
see gender is man next to woman
not touching but separate
gender is america’s controlled nationalism bullshit
gender is birth certificates for babies born into gender
housing applications check boxes and even getting an email address
this is gender
but i ask you
is it truly worth
embarrassment
imprisonment
or harassment
for your gender identity?
so excuse me are you a man or are you a woman
and you’ve changed your name to Kit now
so do you wanna be straight?
and you look like a boy now so you’re straight, right?
but back when you were Laura you were gay
as if sexuality and gender were something that you could purchase on impulse
pulling up to the register and carefully picking out
gay straight
man or woman
neatly packaged for easy consumption
then you should be able to do it with ease
purchasing a gold foiled bar of gay and plastic bag of man
and walking out of that grocery store fabulously onto the set of Queer Eye
but it’s not that easy
because sometimes my gender is
boy who looks like a girl who likes boys
and sometimes my gender is trans
and sometimes my gender is chilling out in between
but most of the time my gender is fuck you mind your own business
but it can’t be that way
because gender is so rigidly defined
neatly outlined and nicely colonized
organized and clearly understandable
yet the gap is becoming gendered and
i’m standing in line for the bathroom with
girls birls boys bis transsexual transgendered queer questioning curious polyamorous intersexed flexual asexual trisexual omnisexual multisexual pansexual gender neutral genderqueer multigendered androgynous drag king drag queen butch femme fairy two-spirit bear dyke lipstick tranny boi (with an i) ftm mtf boydyke bi-dyke half-dyke queerboi ex-straight and that’s just the beginning
but ask a member of the Zuni tribe about the lhamana’s gender
and they’ll tell you it’s lhamana
the South Asians about the hijaras
and they’ll tell you that it’s hijaras
the Hawaiians about mahus
and they’ll tell you that it’s mahu
the Americans about the trannies
and they’ll tell you that they don’t know
see there may be as many as a million genders identities and sexualities
just floating around waiting for the right person to snatch them up
put them on and proudly parade around in their new skin
unrestricted by layers and identity
or limitations of culture society or social construction
this new gender is a function of inner desire and
genuine understanding of self to be lived
so go ahead
and show us where the bathroom is

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Our Son Swears He Has 102 Gallons of Water in His Body

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Somewhere a mistaken word distorts the sum:
divide becomes multiply so he’d wrestle his parents
who defy what he insists. I did the problem
and my teacher said I was right!
Light strokes the dashboard.
We are years away from its source.
Remember that jug of milk?
No way you’re carrying one hundred of those!
But he knows. He always knows. We’re idiots
without worksheets to back us up. His mother never remembers
what a megabyte means and his dad fainted on an airplane once
and smashed his head on the drinks cart. We’re nice but we’re
not always smart. It’s the fact you live with, having parents.
Later in a calmer moment his dad recalculates
the sum and it comes out true.
Instead of carrying giant waterfalls inside,
we’re streams, sweet pools, something to dip into
with an old metal cup, like the one we took camping,
that nobody could break.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Safe Place

By Nikki Grimes

Dream killers daily stalk the streets of you and
travel, trying to trip us up, but we can give them the slip. I have 
learned to protect my heart-songs. I keep them wrapped
in the well wishes of  my  family, the encouragement of my
truest friends. Sometimes, using pen and ink, I anchor my dreams
and let them sink in the margins of a diary. Or, maybe I slide them in
a smooth sandalwood box buried beneath my bed. But
dream called impossible?  That I tuck between the silken
folds of my private thought - tough as steel, thing as cloth. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

For a Poet

By Countee Cullen

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold;
Where long will cling the lips of the moth,
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth;
I hide no hate; I am not even wroth
Who found the earth's breath so keen and cold;
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Autism Screening Questionnaire — Speech and Language Delay

By Octavio De La Paz

1. Did your child lose acquired speech?

A fount and then silence. A none. An ellipse
between — his breath through
the seams of our windows. Whistle
of days. Impossible bowl of a mouth — 
the open cupboard, vowels
rounded up and swept under the rug.

2. Does your child produce unusual noises or infantile squeals?

He’d coo and we’d coo back. The sound
passed back and forth between us like a ball.
Or later, an astral voice. Some vibrato
under the surface of us. The burst upon — 
burn of strings rubbed
in a flourish. His exhausted face.

3. Is your child’s voice louder than required?

In an enclosure or a cave it is difficult to gauge
one’s volume. The proscenium of the world.
All the rooms we speak of are dark places. Because
he cannot see his mouth, he cannot imagine


4. Does your child speak frequent gibberish or jargon?

To my ears it is a language. Every sound
a system: the sound for dog or boy. The moan
in his throat for water — that of a man with thirst.
The dilapidated ladder that makes a sentence
a sentence. This plosive is a verb. This liquid
a want. We make symbols of his noise.


5. Does your child have difficulty understanding basic things (“just can’t get it”)?

Against the backdrop of the tree he looks so small.

6. Does your child pull you around when he wants something?

By the sleeve. By the shirttail. His light touch
hopscotching against my skin like sparrows.
An insistence muscled and muscled again.


7. Does your child have difficulty expressing his needs or desires using gestures?

Red-faced in the kitchen and in the bedroom
and the yellow light touches his eyes
which are open but not there. His eyes
rest in their narrow boat dream and the canals
are wide dividing this side from this side.

8. Is there no spontaneous initiation of speech or 
communication from your child?

When called he eases out of his body.
His god is not our words nor is it
the words from his lips. It is entirely body.
So when he comes to us and looks we know
there are beyond us impossible cylinders
where meaning lives.

9. Does your child repeat heard words, parts of words, or tv commercials?

The mind circles the mind in the arena, far in — far in
where the consonants touch and where the round
chorus flaunts its iambs in a metronomic trot. Humming
to himself in warm and jugular songs.


10. Does your child use repetitive language (same word or phrase over and over)?

A pocket in his brain worries its ball of lint.
A word clicks into its groove and stammers
along its track, Dopplering like a car with its windows
rolled down and the one top hit of the summer
angles its way into his brain.

11. Does your child have difficulty sustaining a 
conversation?

We could be anywhere, then the navel of the red moon
drops its fruit. His world. This stained world drips its honey
into our mouths. Our words stolen from his malingering afternoon.

12. Does your child use monotonous speech or wrong pausing?

When the air is true and simple, we can watch him tremble
for an hour, plucking his meaning from a handful of utterances
and then ascend into the terrible partition of speech.

13. Does your child speak the same to kids, adults, or objects (can’t differentiate)?

Because a reference needs a frame: we are mother and father
and child with a world of time to be understood. The car radio
plays its one song. The song, therefore, is important.
It must be intoned at a rigorous time. Because rigor
is important and because the self insists on constant vigils.

14. Does your child use language inappropriately (wrong words or phrases)?

Always, and he insists on the incorrect forms.
The wrong word takes every form for love — 
the good tree leans into the pond,
the gray dog’s ribs show, the memory
bound to the window, and the promise of the radio
playing its song on the hour. Every wrong form
is a form which represents us in our losses,
if it takes us another world to understand.

This poem was previously published in Poetry Magazine in July/August 2017.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

I Hear America Singing

By Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, 
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, 
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, 
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, 
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, 
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, 
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, 
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, 
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, 
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, 
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Let America Be America Again

By Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Climate Change Theories After Another Surprise Snowstorm

By Adam Stone

I’m not really a summer guy
I like winter
I like winter because I like snow
I like snow like I like my men:
Deep
Untouched in photographs
Shoveled off my porch before I go to work
I like my snow like I like my men
Accumulating softly while I sleep.
I like my men like I like my snow,
Which is to say
At the beginning of the season
I remember them fondly
But the minute they require me
 to do the least amount of work
I hope to never see one of those flakes again
I like my men like I like my snow
Light and fluffy at first
But heavier and more full of grit
the deeper you dig
I like my men like I like my snow
In theory
I like men
I like snow
I’m often judged harshly by those who don’t understand
My appreciation of either
And why do I like snow?
Is it in my genes?
Or do I like it because I was raised
in a climate where winter was tolerated
if not full accepted.
I like my men like I like my snow -
Oh god.  Temporary?
Just for a few months out of the year?
It’s been a long time since I lived anywhere temperate
So do I maybe like snow
Because I’ve spent over half my life identifying
As someone who likes snow?
No. I could never live in a climate lacking winter.
I tried that once in college
And again in my mid-twenties when I was
Chasing the mechanical rabbit of heteronormative success
That I was told would make me happy
But I like snow
I don’t always want to like snow
But I do always like snow
Even when it is inconvenient
Even when it keeps me from achieving something
That I believe I have the right to achieve
Even when it means the world is too cold to bear
Without protection.


Adam Stone is an amazing slam poet who lives in the Boston area.  You should hear his work any time you can.  

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I Hate Being a Mother

By Brenna Richart

I hate being a mother.
When I saw the plus sign in the window of the pregnancy test I started laughing.
Of course this is a mistake
was my first thought.
I’m pro choice, god damnit!
was my second thought.
I called Planned Parenthood to schedule my abortion
and I started to cry when the woman on the line told me what the procedure entailed.
I made the decision in less than five minutes.

I was going to become a mother.

My mother told me
“you are too young to have a baby,
but getting an abortion is a sin.”
My brother told me
“you better stop smoking pot.”
My father’s silent disappointment washed over me like rain.
My friends guessed before I even told them I was pregnant,
because of course I would be the one to have a baby
six months after graduating high school.

Already I hated being a mother.

I became a mom
because I knew I would be better than the one I had.
I became a mom
because I believed I could do a damn good job.

I became a mom
because it felt wrong not to.
But most of all,
I became a mom
because I loved that tiny little embryo right from the start.

When I woke up from my c-section,
I heard two nurses talking about how sad it was I was such a young mom.
“That poor child,”
they said.
I get the worst looks at the grocery store.
Someone asked me if I was old enough to have a child.
As if that’s a normal thing to ask someone.
At the park other mothers pretend like they don’t see me.
At my son’s school I watch as people look me up and down,
as if they are wondering how I came to exist in their snobby, iPad centered world.
Another mother said to me
“I know you like to do what you love,
but you need to start making real money.”
“Take a business class,”
she said,
“for your son,”
she said.
As if my entire world doesn’t revolve around my son already.

I hate being a mother.

I wake up at 7 and have to bribe my son to get out of bed.
He argues with me about what he wants for breakfast,
and points out how his dad makes better eggs than I do.
He argues with me about what he wants to wear that day,
how life just isn’t fair.
He whines about having to get his insulin shots,
He tells me you poked me too long…
He tells me, you never let me do anything…
He tells me
“I miss my dad.”
He gets on his bus at 8:04

I hate being a mother.

I get on my bus at 8:19.
I forgot my water bottle.
I forgot my gym shoes.
I forgot my textbook that fell to the floor in my exhaustion the night before.
I get to class disheveled and pissed off.
My classmates complain they are hung over.
They didn’t do their homework.
They are overwhelmed and
have to go to work after school.
I smile and listen.
The nurse calls me and tells me my son’s blood sugar is high,
that he is misbehaving.
My stomach churns with every word I hear.

I hate being a mother.

I get home at 2:45.
I pee and let the dog out.
I soak in the silence
and run my hands under cold water
as I breath in the ten sweet minutes of peace.
My phone goes off alerting me that my son’s bus is coming.
He had a bad day.
He hates doing homework.
He’d rather play at the park.
So would I.

But alas, we have to work on sight words.
Lllllike, ttttto, ddddo,
Watching him struggle to read is like
seeing your mother cry for the first time.

I hate being a mother.

I do my homework while he plays with his Legos.
My son tells me he misses me.
I tell him five more minutes.
I cook dinner while he watches Netflix.
I give insulin
and he cries and tells me he just wants to eat without shots,
like other kids.
He says,
“I wish I was normal.”
I say,
“Normal fucking sucks, man. But I hate this disease too.”
I hold him while he cries,
clinging to my pain and absorbing all of his.

I fucking hate being a mother.

We cuddle for bit and then bedtime comes too soon,
or not soon enough.
I floss his teeth, and his leftover food lands on my cheek.
He laughs, I laugh, we laugh.
We brush our teeth, and wash our faces.
I read him two stories and sing him two songs.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey,”
He asks for more books,
more songs and I say,
“Hell no, bro!”
He says,
“You never let me do anything!”
I say,
“I love you, stinker.”

I hate being a mother.

I kiss him goodnight and take my dog for a walk.
He is awake when I get back,
he says he’s thirsty,
he says his legs hurt,
he says his blood sugar is low.
He is lying.
I tell him to get his ass in bed or else.

I crumble on the couch.
I finish my homework,
and make his lunch, carbs counted, note written,
reminding him to be respectful
and kind to everyone he encounters.
I put away the leftovers,
eating the tofu and broccoli as I go.
I check his blood glucose while he sleeps;
he wakes up and screams at me.

I hate being a mother.

I am expected to love this job.
I am supposed to smile,
smile and
fucking smile some more.
I am supposed to stay optimistic, remain calm and have hope.
Even when my heart has been broken,
my dog has cancer and
my cat died six months ago.
I am supposed to stay optimistic,
even though I am alone every day,
even though I don’t know how to relax anymore,
even though I don’t know if rent and bills will be paid this month,
or if I will be sacrificing food and gas this week.
I am supposed to remain optimistic,
even when my friends don’t want to hang out
because I am stressed and exhausted all the time.
I am supposed to remain optimistic
when I am afraid my son will die from his chronic disease,
because,
“at least he’s alive,”
right?
As a woman,
doing it all and
remaining optimistic
is
expected
of
you.

My son is six.
Yesterday I asked him if I looked okay before we left the house.
He said,
“you’re cute and fun and I like how your head goes well with your body.”
He tells me that I am his favorite person,
that he loves me the most in all the world.
The feeling is mutual.
I love this boy.
I love the way his lips pucker when he sleeps,
and the way his eyes light up when he smiles.
I love the way he draws a balloon in each stick figures’ hand,
and the way he crawls into my lap and tells me,
“It’s okay mom,”
on the occasion I let my pain slip through my eyes.
I love the way he wraps his tiny arms around my neck.
I love every single particle that makes up my son.
And if I had the chance to turn back time,
I wouldn’t change a god damn thing.

But I hate being a mother.


This poem was first published by Hip Mama.

Monday, June 26, 2017

13 Things I Hate About You

By a Planned Parenthood staffer

Dear American "Health Care" Act,

I hate the way you don't represent me
and the way you steal our care
If I told you you're strip Medicaid from millions
would that show you the burden that we'd bear?

I hate the way you're written only by men
Thought its millions of women who will be left behind
I hate your tactics so much it makes me sick
Your drafting in secret is making me lose my mind

I hate the way you treat my community
Like we have done something wrong
Because our sexual health needs are different from yours
Suddenly our need for health care is not as strong?

I hate the way your writers' egos
Are filled with so much gall

But mostly I hate the way you don't really care about Americans' health
Not even close
Not even a little bit
Not even at all.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Week in the Life of the Ethnically Indeterminate

By Elena Georgiou

Monday

Sitting in McDonalds on 103rd & 3rd
I notice a couple staring at me
and hear them say Indian.
They walk towards me.
The woman has white skin,
blond hair, blue eyes.
The man has ebony skin,
black hair, brown eyes.
Excuse me, says the woman,
we were wondering
where you were from.
Yeah, says the man
because you look like
our people.
I look at the whiteness
and the blackness,
wondering who their people are.
We’re Puerto Rican, they say
and walk away.

Tuesday

Walking to the store
in Crown Heights I see
an African-American man
sitting behind a table
selling incense and oils.
He calls out, Sister, hey sister,
baby, and then makes a noise
like he’s calling a cat.
I don’t respond.
On the way back from the store
he calls out, Mira, Mira,
hey baby.
In any language,
English, Feline, or Spanish,
I don’t respond.

Wednesday

I am buying lunch
at the falafel stand
on 68th and Lex
and the man serving me asks,
You from Morocco?
No, I say, Cyprus.
Where’s Cyprus? he asks.
Above Egypt
to the left of Israel
and below Turkey.
Oh, he says, looking blank.
How much for a falafel, I ask?
For you, three dollars.
For Americans three fifty.
I go to pay and another man
stares hard into my face
and says, Are you a Jewish chick?
No, I say, leave me alone.
I know who you are, he screams,
I know who you are.
You’re just a nigger from Harlem,
passing for white
with a phony accent.
Nigger, he repeats
as I walk away.

Thursday

My boss calls me up.
I have a funny question
to ask you, he says.
When you fill out forms
what do you write for ethnicity?
I check other, I say.
Well, I have to fill out this form
and it doesn’t have other.
We look really bad on paper.
all the positions of power are white
and all the support staff are black.
Could you be Asian?

Friday

I am with my Indian immigration lawyer.
Do you mind if I ask you
a personal question? he says.
Go ahead, I say, thinking
he is going to ask me
how I’ve reached my mid thirties
and have never been married.
But instead he says,
I know you’re a Cypriot
from London
but do you have any Indian blood in you?
There are so many
mixed marriages these days
and you look like the offspring.

Saturday

I am at a conference
and a European-American woman
looks at me excitedly
as though she’s just won a prize.
Oh, I know where you’re from, she says,
My daughter-in-law is an Indian
with a British accent too.
I’m not Indian, I say.
She continues to not see me
as she concentrates on
hiding her anger
for not winning the trophy
in her self-imposed
guess the ethnicity competition
and then she walks away.

Sunday

I go to lunch at the home of a friend
whose family are Africans of the diaspora.
They don’t ask me where I’m from.
Later, my friend tells me,
They’ve decided you’re
A biracial Jamaican.

That evening,
I’m at a poetry reading
and an African-American woman
crosses the room
to ask me this question:
Are you the colonized
or the colonizer?
What do you think? I ask.
You could be both, she responds
and walks away.

Monday, June 19, 2017

America I Do Not Call Your Name Without Hope

After Neruda

By Dean Rader

America I do not call your name without hope
not even when you lay your knife
against my throat or lace my hands
behind my back, the cuffs connecting
us like two outlaws trying to escape
history’s white horse, its heavy whip
a pistolshot in the ear. Lost land,
this is a song for the scars on your back,
for your blistered feet and beautiful
watch, it is for your windmills, your
leavened machines, for your fists. It
is for your wagon of blood, for your dogs
and their teeth of fire, for your sons
and the smoke in their hearts. This is for
your verbs, your long lurk, your whir.
This is for you and your fear, your tar,
for the white heat in your skin and
for your blue bones that one day may sing.
This is for your singing. This is for the past,
but not for what’s passed. This is for daybreak
and backbreak, for dreams and for darkness.
This song is not for your fight, but it is a song
for fighting. It is a song of flame but not for burning.
It is a song out of breath but a plea for breathing.
It is the song I will sing when you knock
on my door, my son’s name in your mouth.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

America, I Do Not Call Your Name without Hope

By Pablo Neruda

When I hold the sword against the heart,
when I live with the faulty roof in the soul,
when one of your new days
pierces me coming through the windows,
I am and I stand in the light that produces me,
I live in the darkness which makes me what I am,
I sleep and awake in your fundamental sunrise:
as mild as the grapes, and as terrible,
carrier of sugar and the whip,
soaked in the sperm of your species,
nursed on the blood of your inheritance.

Translated by Robert Bly



Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Oklahoma

By Dan Bern

On the 19th day of April
In 1995
There was the worst car bombing
Near 200 people died

In Oklahoma City
On Wednesday 9:00
They struck the federal building
Took out near half the block

They thought it was an earthquake
Made trees and lightpoles bend
And folks thought they were seeing
The world come to an end

It blew the building open
It lay there like a wound
Twisted pipes and wires
Silent like a tomb

Yeah, they blew the building open
And blew folks lives apart
Firefighters mumbling
And wondering where to start

They rushed out some survivors
But soon could only cry
And place the dead in caskets
And ask the dear Lord why

Prayers for the missing
For daughters and for sons
Prayers for the souls of those
Who'd never hurt a one

Kevin Small was lucky
His clock needed repair
He overslept an hour
His three-year old son was spared

But for too many others
The news was not so bright
One baby got her picture in the paper
Then she died

The President, he promised
They'd pay dearly for the blast
And all across the country
Flags were flying at half mast

Shock soon turned to anger
"Who'd do this?" people said
And everyones' suspicions
Had a price upon their head

They thought it was some Arabs
And folks began to scream
"First tighten up the borders
Then hang 'em from a tree

This proves what we've been saying
'Bout our fair and gentle land
Nobody who did this
Could be an American"

The FBI got busy
Some drawings and some names
And everyone was looking
For someone else to blame

Some 50 hours later
Early Friday day
They found the man they wanted
In jail ten miles away

A so-called right extremist
A patriot government foe
An expert on explosions
And white as driven snow

When people heard the news they found it
Hard to understand
How could such a murderer
Come from our own land

But when we build walls and borders
From fear and hate and guns
The hatred turns around and
Strikes at everyone

Maybe now we'll understand
Maybe now we'll see
Superpatriots are seldom
Friends of you and me

They're scared and weak and cowards
And they think that with their guns
The ones they're most afraid of
Will turn around and run

But when we stand strong together
And let love enjoy its will
Misfortune can't defeat us
It makes us stronger still

Like on the 19th day of April
In 1995
A day all Oklahomans will
Remember all their lives



Go here to hear Dan Bern sing this song.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Poem for Pulse

By Jameson Fitzpatrick

Last night, I went to a gay bar
with a man I love a little.
After dinner, we had a drink.
We sat in the far-back of the big backyard
and he asked, What will we do when this place closes?
I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon,
I said, though the crowd was slow for a Saturday,
and he said—Yes, but one day. Where will we go?
He walked me the half-block home
and kissed me goodnight on my stoop—
 properly: not too quick, close enough
our stomachs pressed together
in a second sort of kiss.
I live next to a bar that’s not a gay bar —
we just call those bars, I guess
— and because it is popular
and because I live on a busy street,
there are always people who aren’t queer people
on the sidewalk on weekend nights.
We just call those people, I guess.
They were there last night.
As I kissed this man I was aware of them watching
and of myself wondering whether or not they were just
people. But I didn’t let myself feel scared, I kissed him
exactly as I wanted to, as I would have without an audience,
because I decided many years ago to refuse this fear
— an act of resistance. I left
the idea of hate out on the stoop and went inside,
to sleep, early and drunk and happy.
While I slept, a man went to a gay club
with two guns and killed fifty people. At least.
 Today in an interview, his father said he had been disturbed
by the sight of two men kissing recently.
What a strange power to be cursed with,
 for the proof of our desire to move men to violence.
What’s a single kiss? I’ve had kisses
no one has ever known about, so many
kisses without consequence—
but there is a place you can’t outrun,
whoever you are.
There will be a time when.
It might be a bullet, suddenly.
The sound of it. Many.
One man, two guns, fifty dead—
Two men kissing. Last night
is what I can’t get away from, imagining it, them,
the people there to dance and laugh and drink,
who didn’t believe they’d die, who couldn’t have.
How else can you have a good time?
How else can you live?
There must have been two men kissing
for the first time last night, and for the last,
and two women, too, and two people who were neither.
Brown people mostly, which cannot be a coincidence in this country.
which is a racist country, which is gun country.
Today I’m thinking of the Bernie Boston photograph
Flower Power, of the Vietnam protestor placing carnations
in the rifles of the National Guard,
and wishing for a gesture as queer and simple.
The protester in the photo was gay, you know,
he went by Hibiscus and died of AIDS,
which I am also thinking about today because
(the government’s response to) AIDS was a hate crime.
Reagan was a terrorist.
Now we have a president who loves Us,
the big and imperfectly lettered Us, and here we are
getting kissed on stoops, getting married some of Us,
some of Us getting killed.
We must love one another whether or not we die.
Love can’t block a bullet
but it can’t be destroyed by one either,
and love is, for the most part, what makes Us Us—
in Orlando and in Brooklyn and in Kabul.
We will be everywhere, always;
there’s nowhere else for Us, or you, to go.
Anywhere you run in this world, love will be there to greet you.
Around any corner, there might be two men. Kissing.

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