Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Suicide Poem

By Michelle Tea

all of my friends have such complete control
over their lives. they can kill themselves
any time they want to. right now
laurie can jump out my open window
or she can get up and go to the bathroom.
erich can swallow cleanser. peter
can hang himself. another can take her
new gun and tilt it into her mouth's
wet hollow. the many with their sharp
things can just keep going. they could
tear a vein and they'd know exactly
what they were doing, having taught
themselves they body as sure and any surgeon.
if they want it they can have it.
they know it and they keep themselves
alive, all by themselves.
it seems so huge. it seems impossible.
it seems like more of them would be gone.
all things considered i think i will
just stay quiet and let them wear
their dysfunctions like feather boas.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Scars

By Tina Isom-Carey

I’ve come too far for you not to respect
my scars. 

Pages left unturned happiness passed up
because lessons never learned.

I go back to the same mistakes repeatedly,
conceitedly thinking I will succeed.

You see, 

I come come a bloodline of
Warriors 
Peacekeepers
Leaders 
Healers 

I will never give up on humanity no matter
what it throws at me, I wear my scars
with pride, it reminds me of what I have
Endured
Withstood
Resisted
Survived

to see them is what keeps me alive.

 Tina Isom-Carey is a personal chef and a long-time writer and love of poetry. She spent her childhood in Knoxville, Tennessee, and went to high school in San Diego, California. She became a permanent resident of Virginia Beach, Virginia in the early 90’s.

Friday, January 3, 2020

"PITY THE NATION"

(After Khalil Gibran)
By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
Except to praise conquerers
And acclaim the bully as hero
And aims to rule the world
By force and by torture
Pity the nation that knows
No other language but its own
And no other culture but its own
Pity the nation whose breath is money
And sleeps the sleep of the too well fed
Pity the nation oh pity the people
who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away
My country, tears of thee
Sweet land of liberty!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Ars Poetica

By Jose Olivarez

Migration is derived from the word “migrate,” which is a verb defined by Merriam-Webster as “to move from one country, place, or locality to another.” Plot twist: migration never ends. My parents moved from Jalisco, México to Chicago in 1987. They were dislocated from México by capitalism, and they arrived in Chicago just in time to be dislocated by capitalism. Question: is migration possible if there is no “other” land to arrive in. My work: to imagine. My family started migrating in 1987 and they never stopped. I was born mid-migration. I’ve made my home in that motion. Let me try again: I tried to become American, but America is toxic. I tried to become Mexican, but México is toxic. My work: to do more than reproduce the toxic stories I inherited and learned. In other words: just because it is art doesn’t mean it is inherently nonviolent. My work: to write poems that make my people feel safe, seen, or otherwise loved. My work: to make my enemies feel afraid, angry, or otherwise ignored. My people: my people. My enemies: capitalism. Susan Sontag: “victims are interested in the representation of their own 
sufferings.” Remix: survivors are interested in the representation of their own survival. My work: survival. Question: Why poems? Answer:

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you down like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

By Ellen Bass

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Game Between the Jews and the Indians is Tied Going Into the Bottom of the Ninth Inning

By Sherman Alexie

So, now, when you touch me
my skin, will you think
of Sand Creek, Wounded Knee?
And what will you remember

when your skin is next to mine
Auschwitz, Buchenwald?
No, we will only think of the past
as one second before

where we are now, the future
just one second ahead
but every once in a while
we can remind each other

that we are both survivors and children
and grandchildren of survivors.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

If One More Person Asks Me "Are you still writing"

I want to snarl
“do you still breathe?”
Or have you decided
you are tired of
doing it, have found
other less boring
ways to spend your
time.
Do I still
write?
as if it was
something I chose
like ordering
cappuccino  instead
of café au lait.
Do you still feed
your cat or dog? Do
you still bathe?
And what about that
baby you’ve got
inside that carriage,
is it wearing the
same diaper it wore
its first day?

By Lyn Lifshin

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Hospital Writing Workshop

By Rafael Campo

Arriving late, my clinic having run
past 6 again, I realize I don’t
have cancer, don’t have HIV, like them,
these students who are patients, who I lead
in writing exercises, reading poems.
For them, this isn’t academic, it’s
reality: I ask that they describe
an object right in front of them, to make
it come alive, and one writes about death,
her death, as if by just imagining
the softness of its skin, its panting rush
into her lap, that she might tame it; one
observes instead the love he lost, he’s there,
beside him in his gown and wheelchair,
together finally again. I take
a good, long breath; we’re quiet as newborns.
The little conference room grows warm, and right
before my eyes, I see that what I thought
unspeakable was more than this, was hope.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Happiness

By Jane Kenyon

There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.

It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wildflowers

By Dolly Parton

The hills were alive with wildflowers
And I was as wild, even wilder than they
For at least I could run, they just died in the sun
And I refused to just wither in place
Just a wild mountain rose, needing freedom to grow
So I ran fearing not where I'd go
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don't care where they grow
And the flowers I knew in the fields where I grew
Were content to be lost in the crowd
They were common and close, I had no room for growth
I wanted so much to branch out
I uprooted myself from home ground and left
Took my dreams and I took to the road
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don't care where they grow
I grew up fast and wild and I never felt right
In a garden so different from me
I just never belonged, I just longed to be gone
So the garden, one day, set me free
Hitched a ride with the wind and since he was my friend
I just let him decide where we'd go
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don't care where they grow

Friday, November 8, 2019

my miracle now

By Anita Jeffries 

or i swear i’m gonna burn this motherfucker down.
doctor don’t think i’ll do it. he say real
girls like boys. you sure you real?  he say he use
science, but i know he a witch. he say
hormone pills take first-borns, second-borns,
every spark after. if that ain’t Rumpelstiltskin
type shit, if that ain’t twisted white magic
type shit then call me barren. call me
fish. call myself easier to find
in mirrors. sperm banks can save kids
for a price. they sterilized black girls once. still do.
get caught dreaming. i’m broke. pills ain’t cheap.
i walk outside to breathe. men call me tranny.
i necromance my dead and buried name.

___

i unbirth my bright and pulsing name.
i unopen. a boy armors my
receding skin. pass like my yellow great uncle
down south. bite down. the family tradition
pools on our tongues. inheritance. sheep
in wolf’s clothing. find a predator’s corpse.
wear its skin. sharpen our herbivore teeth. howl.
hope the cis don’t find us. hope the whites
don’t find us. hope power don’t smell
the undeniable prey in our blood. at least
women won’t shield their children from the sight
of me. at least men won’t chase till no home
is mine. at least packs of boys won’t tooth, claw, prove
they’re strong, i’m unwanted, we are not kin.

___

they’re strong. we’re unwanted. we could be kin
if they didn’t do you like Dead Black Trans Girl
Number— a therapist told me it’s “not healthy”
to keep count. light protection candles.
flames lick my fingers raw. wax builds
on altars. the girls’ good, yellow light goes
missing by morning. prayer is a scam.
the funny men make tranny jokes the day
she dies. somebody made a hashtag.
where’s my black girl magic now? if sorcery be
make me dark spell, necromance sisters
from dead-named graves, magic a murder of girls
ungone, crown me lich matron, undying,
make me real and mother to some good thing.

___

imagine me, real and mother of some
good one: my reflection, simply mine.
the boys still ain’t shit but now i get less
death threats around my block. the gender reveal
party happens after my kid lets me know
what their gender is. the party is lit.
like candles on an altar. i burn
my fingers lighting my child’s favorite cake.
i ask, what is your wish?  they say i wish
you stayed unreal, chose me. flames melt my child,
my body, and everything i love to nightmare.
dream home, and all its light will be
missing by morning. smoke’s surrounding. i’m
swallowed whole, grasping for my almost-child.

___

swallow the hormone pills whole. almost-child
is gasping, desperate for first breath. i told dad
i’m queer. he said he really wanted
grandchildren. once, i really wanted
a father. this isn’t healthy. i keep count
anyway. a murder of girls caws
at my altar. i keep on raising my dead
name so i don’t join them. magic myself
smoke, bleach: my good yellow undone. men still
call me tranny. we could’ve been kin.
we twisted up in white magic then undone.
great uncle wore wolves’ clothes the day he died.
i might too. i need our miracle now
or i swear i’m gonna burn.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

A Portable Paradise

By Roger Robinson 

And if I speak of Paradise,

then I’m speaking of my grandmother
who told me to carry it always
on my person, concealed, so
no one else would know but me.
That way they can’t steal it, she’d say.
And if life puts you under pressure,
trace its ridges in your pocket,
smell its piney scent on your handkerchief,
hum its anthem under your breath.
And if your stresses are sustained and daily,
get yourself to an empty room – be it hotel,
hostel or hovel – find a lamp
and empty your paradise onto a desk:
your white sands, green hills and fresh fish.
Shine the lamp on it like the fresh hope
of morning, and keep staring at it till you sleep.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Hallelujah

By Leonard Cohen

I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this: the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong, but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Baby I've been here before
I know this room, I've walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I've seen your flag on the Marble Arch
Love is not a victory march
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time you let me know
What's really going on below
But now you never show it to me, do you?
I remember when I moved in you
And the holy dove was moving too
And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Maybe there's a God above, all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
And it's not a cry you can hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Monday, October 14, 2019

Remember

By Joy Harjo

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star's stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is. I met her
in a bar once in Iowa City.
Remember the sun's birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother's, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe. I heard her singing Kiowa war
dance songs at the corner of Fourth and Central once.
Remember that you are all people and that all people are you.
Remember that you are this universe and that this universe is you.
Remember that all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember that language comes from this.
Remember the dance that language is, that life is.
Remember.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

My Prayer for Fasting

By Julie Silver


Do not wish me an easy fast.
Let my fast be difficult
Let me remember the hungry people of the world who have no choice, no voice.
Let me understand that starvation and emptiness exist even when there is plenty of food on the table.
And if my fast causes me pain, let me sit with the pain.
If my head throbs, let me handle it.
If my stomach grumbles, let me welcome the sound as I welcome the shofar blast.
Let my fast be the call.
Let my life on earth be the response.

Friday, October 4, 2019

The U.S. of Us

By Richard Blanco

O say, can you see us by the dawn of our ancestors’ light still breathing through the cities we forged from the wind of our wills, drenched in the rain of our dusty sweat, and christened for the faith gleaming in our saints’ starry eyes: San Francisco, San Antonio, San Diego?

O say, when will you have enough faith in us to meet the gleam of our eyes in your own, when will you see us as one in this one country we all so proudly hail, and tear down the ramparts that divide us from you, instead of raising new walls?

O say, when will you believe our hands across our hearts’ unwavering belief in those broad stripes and bright stars waving in the same sky above our same schools, churches, and baseball fields?

O say, when will you un-translate us, un-italicize us from the lands and mountains our lives rooted and named: la Sierra Nevada, la Florida, Montana, Sangre de Cristo, Tejas, Nuevo México?

When will you recognize the shared words of our shared history: say, rodeo and bronco; say, patio and plaza; say, bonanza and canyon; say that you hear our rivers gallantly streaming in Spanish: río Colorado, río Los Angeles, río Grande?

When will you stop drowning us, trafficking us like cattle in trucks, corralling us in kitchen alleys and musty motel rooms, scarring our children’s faces behind the striped shadows of iron bars, rebranding our skin as rapists and murderers lurking behind you? When will our immigrant toil and struggling dreams not be your ploy for profit? When will you praise us as assets and allies?

We will not live our worthy lives in fear and shame.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

High Abuse

By Gary Beck 

I once dreamed of a land
where all were free
with equal opportunity.
Grade school cured me of that.
As I grew up
prejudice, discrimination,
hatred, violence
pervaded my country,
poisoning the home of democracy.
It took a while for me to learn
our rulers weren’t elected officials,
but obscure oligarchs
who bought legislators
for their own needs,
rather then the nation.
And when amoral corporations
abandoned America
for higher profit abroad,
removing a blue collar class
that resisted the bosses,
leaving a rust belt
to defile the landscape.
And year after year
more and more of our rights
were taken away
until our birthright is tarnished
by ruthless exploiters
of a once hopeful people.


Gary Beck has spent his adult life as a theater director. He has 14 published chapbooks. His poetry collections include Days of Destruction (Skive Press), Expectations (Rogue Scholars Press), Dawn in CitiesAssault on NatureSongs of a ClerkCivilized WaysDisplaysPerceptionsFault LinesTremorsPerturbationsRude AwakeningsThe Remission of Order and Contusions (Winter Goose Publishing). Conditioned Response (Nazar Look), Virtual Living (Thurston Howl Publications), Blossoms of Decay,ExpectationsBlunt Force and Transitions (Wordcatcher Publishing). His  novels include Flawed Connections (Black Rose Writing), Call to Valor and Crumbling Ramparts(Gnome on Pig Productions), Sudden Conflicts (Lillicat Publishers). Acts of Defiance  and Flare Up Wordcatcher Publishing). His short story collections include A Glimpse of Youth (Sweatshoppe Publications), Now I Accuse and other stories (Winter Goose Publishing) and Dogs Don’t Send Flowers and other stories (Wordcatcher Publishing). The Republic of Dreams and other essays (Gnome on Pig Productions). Feast or Famine and other one act-plays will be published by Wordcatcher Publishing. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of magazines. He lives in New York City.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The Names

By Billy Collins

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name --
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner --
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening -- weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds --
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

Monday, September 2, 2019

What Work Is

By Philip Levine

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is--if you're
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it's someone else's brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, "No,
we're not hiring today," for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who's not beside you or behind or
ahead because he's home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You've never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you're too young or too dumb,
not because you're jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don't know what work is.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Mothers Waiting for Their Sons

One boy on the horizon.
A boy is a mountain.
Mother waiting for the moment
when his face comes into sight.
He's dubious about so much hugging now
but the hands, clutched together,
mother and son, still a perfect fit.
Like a mountain when you sit on it.