Thursday, November 8, 2018

How to Pray While the World Burns

By Hila Ratzabi

Go outside.
Find a patch of grass, sand, dirt.
Sit, kneel, place a hand or just
A finger to the soft earth.
Feel it pulse back.

Open your palms and divine
The words creased between.
Rub the specks of dirt
Between your fingers,
See how they cling to skin,
How they listen in their soft-rough way.

The earth will hold you better
Than God can.
God could not stop the bullets
Or the sale of weapons.
God could not block the open
Synagogue doors.

But we keep saying, Shema,
Listen.
Israel.
Our God is One.
Singular.
Invisible.
Hiding in plain sight.

But listen, Israel, our God is beneath
Our feet, between
Our fingers, coursing
Through our veins.

Our God is trapped
In the poisoned grass,
Where the blood of our brothers cries out,
Where the ants heave centuries on their backs.

Pray to the God who sharpened the tiger’s teeth,
Who stored the roar in its throat.
Pray to the God who gave you lungs and tongue
To sing and groan and hum.

I swear to you
When the leaf shivers in the wind
You have given it chills
From all its listening.

The earth hears your prayer.
There is nowhere for God to hide.
Get down on your knees and let
This precious earth soften for the weight of you.

You are held.
You are heard.
The wind pulls its blanket over your back,
Smooths the hair from your face,
Touches your cheek
With its cool, trembling hands.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Why I Voted the Socialist Ticket

By Vachel Lindsay

I am unjust, but I can strive for justice.
My life’s unkind, but I can vote for kindness.
I, the unloving, say life should be lovely.
I, that am blind, cry out against my blindness.

Man is a curious brute — he pets his fancies —
Fighting mankind, to win sweet luxury.
So he will be, tho’ law be clear as crystal,
Tho’ all men plan to live in harmony.

Come, let us vote against our human nature,
Crying to God in all the polling places
To heal our everlasting sinfulness
And make us sages with transfigured faces.

Monday, November 5, 2018

A Poem for the Cruel Majority

By Jerome Rothenberg

The cruel majority emerges!

Hail to the cruel majority!

They will punish the poor for being poor.
They will punish the dead for having died.

Nothing can make the dark turn into light
for the cruel majority.
Nothing can make them feel hunger or terror.

If the cruel majority would only cup their ears
the sea would wash over them.
The sea would help them forget their wayward children.
It would weave a lullaby for young & old.

(See the cruel majority with hands cupped to their ears,
one foot is in the water, one foot is on the clouds.)

One man of them is large enough to hold a cloud
between his thumb & middle finger,
to squeeze a drop of sweat from it before he sleeps.

He is a little god but not a poet.
(See how his body heaves.)

The cruel majority love crowds & picnics.
The cruel majority fill up their parks with little flags.
The cruel majority celebrate their birthday.

Hail to the cruel majority again!

The cruel majority weep for their unborn children,
they weep for the children that they will never bear.
The cruel majority are overwhelmed by sorrow.

(Then why are the cruel majority always laughing?
Is it because night has covered up the city's walls?
Because the poor lie hidden in the darkness?
The maimed no longer come to show their wounds?)

Today the cruel majority vote to enlarge the darkness.

They vote for shadows to take the place of ponds
Whatever they vote for they can bring to pass.
The mountains skip like lambs for the cruel majority.

Hail to the cruel majority!
Hail! hail! to the cruel majority!

The mountains skip like lambs, the hills like rams.
The cruel majority tear up the earth for the cruel majority.
Then the cruel majority line up to be buried.

Those who love death will love the cruel majority.

Those who know themselves will know the fear
the cruel majority feel when they look in the mirror.

The cruel majority order the poor to stay poor.
They order the sun to shine only on weekdays.

The god of the cruel majority is hanging from a tree.
Their god's voice is the tree screaming as it bends.
The tree's voice is as quick as lightning as it streaks across the sky.

(If the cruel majority go to sleep inside their shadows,
they will wake to find their beds filled up with glass.)

Hail to the god of the cruel majority!
Hail to the eyes in the head of their screaming god!

Hail to his face in the mirror!

Hail to their faces as they float around him!

Hail to their blood & to his!

Hail to the blood of the poor they need to feed them!
Hail to their world & their god!

Hail & farewell!
Hail & farewell!
Hail & farewell!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Him

By Kelly Glover 


It happened beneath a picture of a saint
The night HE showed no restraint
HE is a common coward, a rapist, a diseased pig
Taking advantage of a young girl makes HIM feel big
He should consider himself lucky that I will leave HIM with a dick
Just, finally, let me get this off my chest real quick
20 years fly before I can think to blink my eyes
But these things don’t go away, the feelings survive
No was repeated. No. I said No.
I pushed away from HIM from below
I may have said yes before but now No means more
I should have bit it off, spit it out on the floor
Afterwards I am lost, entranced by the light seeping under the bathroom door
The water running down the drain
Will not wash away HIS shame
I am gone before HE even knows
In the car before any tears start to show
The next day HE is sorry, right?
Remarks from a phone call by HIM so contrite
A mutual girlfriend puts her belief in HIM
Sharks of self doubt begin to swim within
I did not ask for this. It was not my fault or desire
But I’ll tell you something I learned from what transpired
That hat HE never removed hid HIS twisted devil’s horns
And what is left of my innocence mourns
HE is still here in my city breathing
Still a heathen, still seizing, deceiving, sleazing
HE taught me that penises make the world go around
And females are best meant to lay down
Power and strength reign
With  no decent sense of shame
Another way of keeping women in perpetual frowns
Giving us water as they watch us drown 
An assault on all the senses
A molestation behind picket fences
Left me always wondering
About my vagina’s plundering
Virgin naivety wrecked
Was this my fault? What did I expect?
Society places unreasonable blame
Pressure to shame, to defame
Bitter, YES, from what happened to me
I continue, forced to float in my own debris

Kelly Glover grew up and resides in Greensboro, North Carolina where she is the supreme leader of three kids, two cats, and one failed marriage. Suffering has taught her to find humor in the darkness, and from that humor bursts the light. Cliché could be her middle name, but she prefers Louise.

Friday, November 2, 2018

My Father Is a Retired Magician

By Ntozake Shange

my father is a retired magician
which accounts for my irregular behavior
everythin comes outta magic hats
or bottles wit no bottoms & parakeets
are as easy to get as a couple a rabbits
or 3 fifty cent pieces/ 1958

my daddy retired from magic & took
up another trade cuz this friend of mine
from the 3rd grade asked to be made white
on the spot

what cd any self-respectin colored american magician
do wit such a outlandish request/ cept
put all them razzamatazz hocus pocus zippity-do-dah
thingamajigs away cuz
colored chirren believin in magic
waz becomin politically dangerous for the race
waznt nobody gonna be made white
on the spot just
from a clap of my daddy’s hands

& the reason i’m so peculiar’s
cuz i been studyin up on my daddy’s technique
& everythin i do is magic these days
& it’s very colored
very now you see it/ now you
dont mess wit me

         i come from a family of retired
sorcerers/ active houngans & pennyante fortune tellers
wit 41 million spirits critturs & celestial bodies
on our side
        i’ll listen to yr problems
        help wit yr career yr lover yr wanderin spouse
        make yr grandma’s stay in heaven more gratifyin
        ease yr mother thru menopause & show yr son how to clean his room

YES YES YES         3 wishes is all you get
   scarlet ribbons for yr hair
      benwa balls via hong kong
          a miniature of machu picchu

all things are possible
but aint no colored magician in her right mind
gonna make you white
i mean
this is blk magic
        you lookin at
& i’m fixin you up good/ fixin you up good n colored
& you gonna be colored all yr life
&  you gonna love it/ bein colored/ all yr life/ colored & love it
love it/ bein colored/


Spell #7 from Upnorth-Outwest Geechee Jibara Quik Magic Trance Manual for Technologically Stressed Third World People

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Opening Prayer for the Colorado State House in the Aftermath of a Tragedy (February 15, 2018)

By Rabbi Joe Black

Our God and God of all people,
God of the rich and God of the poor.
God of the teacher and God of the student.
God of the families who wait in horror.
God of the dispatcher who hears screams of terror from under bloodied desks.
God of the first responder who bravely creeps through ravaged hallways.
God of the doctor who treats the wounded.
God of the rabbi, pastor, imam, or priest who seeks words of comfort but comes up empty.
God of the young boy who sees his classmates die in front of him.
God of the weeping, raging, inconsolable mother who screams at the sight of her child’s lifeless body.
God of the shattered communities torn apart by senseless violence.
God of the legislators paralyzed by fear, partisanship, money, and undue influence.
God of the Right.
God of the Left.
God who hears our prayers.
God who does not answer.

On this tragic day when we confront the aftermath of the 18th school shooting in our nation on the 46th day of this year, I do not feel like praying.
Our prayers have not stopped the bullets.
Our prayers have changed nothing.

Once again, a disturbed man with easy access to guns has squinted through the sights of a weapon, aimed, squeezed a trigger and taken out his depraved anger, pain, and frustration on innocents: pure souls. Students and teachers. Brothers and sisters. Mothers and fathers cut down in an instant by the power of hatred and technology.
We are guilty, O God.
We are guilty of inaction.
We are guilty of complacency.
We are guilty of allowing ourselves to be paralyzed by politics.
The blood of our children cries out from the ground.
The blood of police officers cut down in the line of duty flows through our streets.
I do not appeal to You on this terrible morning to change us. We can only do that ourselves.
Our enemies do not come only from far away places.
The monsters we fear live among us.
May those in this room who have the power to make change find the courage to seek a pathway to sanity and hope.
May we hold ourselves and our leaders accountable.
Only then will our prayers be worthy of an answer.

AMEN



Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Survival Guide

By  Joy Ladin

No matter how old you are
it helps to be young
when you’re coming to life,
to be unfinished, a mysterious statement,
a journey from star to star.
So break out a box of Crayolas
and draw your family
looking uncomfortably away
from the you you’ve exchanged
for the mannequin
they named. You should
help clean up, but you’re so busy being afraid
to love or not
you're missing the fun of clothing yourself
in the embarrassment of life.
Frost your lids with midnight;
lid your heart with frost;
rub them all over, the hormones that regulate
the production of love
from karmic garbage dumps.
Turn yourself into
the real you
you can only discover
by being other.
Voila! You’re free.
Learn to love the awkward silence
you are going to be.

Monday, October 22, 2018

How to Make Love to a Trans Person

By Gabe Moses

Forget the images you’ve learned to attach
To words like cock and clit,
Chest and breasts.
Break those words open
Like a paramedic cracking ribs
To pump blood through a failing heart.
Push your hands inside.
Get them messy.
Scratch new definitions on the bones.
Get rid of the old words altogether.
Make up new words.
Call it a click or a ditto.
Call it the sound he makes
When you brush your hand against it through his jeans,
When you can hear his heart knocking on the back of his teeth
And every cell in his body is breathing.
Make the arch of her back a language
Name the hollows of each of her vertebrae
When they catch pools of sweat
Like rainwater in a row of paper cups
Align your teeth with this alphabet of her spine
So every word is weighted with the salt of her.
When you peel layers of clothing from his skin
Do not act as though you are changing dressings on a trauma patient
Even though it’s highly likely that you are.
Do not ask if she’s “had the surgery.”
Do not tell him that the needlepoint bruises on his thighs look like they hurt
If you are being offered a body
That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel
A sacrifice to whatever gods govern bodies
That come with some assembly required
Whatever you do,
Do not say that the carefully sculpted landscape
Bordered by rocky ridges of scar tissue
Looks almost natural.
If she offers you breastbone
Aching to carve soft fruit from its branches
Though there may be more tissue in the lining of her bra
Than the flesh that rises to meet it
Let her ripen in your hands.
Imagine if she’d lost those swells to cancer,
Diabetes,
A car accident instead of an accident of genetics
Would you think of her as less a woman then?
Then think of her as no less one now.
If he offers you a thumb-sized sprout of muscle
Reaching toward you when you kiss him
Like it wants to go deep enough inside you
To scratch his name on the bottom of your heart
Hold it as if it can-
In your hand, in your mouth
Inside the nest of your pelvic bones.
Though his skin may hardly do more than brush yours,
You will feel him deeper than you think.
Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are
They’re just oddly-shaped vessels for hearts
And honestly, they can barely contain us
We strain at their seams with every breath we take
We are all pulse and sweat,
Tissue and nerve ending
We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right.
Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It’s what bodies do.
They are grab bags of parts
And half the fun is figuring out
All the different ways we can fit them together;
All the different uses for hipbones and hands,
Tongues and teeth;
All the ways to car-crash our bodies beautiful.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That’s the important part.
Don’t worry about the bodies.
They’ve got this.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Kanye West is not Picasso

By Leonard Cohen

Kanye West is not Picasso
I am Picasso
Kanye West is not Edison
I am Edison
I am Tesla
Jay-Z is not the Dylan of anything
I am the Kanye West of Kanye West
I am the Kanye West
of the great bogus shift of bullshit culture
From one boutique to the next
I am Tesla
I am his coil
The coil that made electricity soft as a bed
I am the Kanye West Kanye West thinks he is
when he shoves your ass off the stage
I am the real Kanye West
I don't get around much anymore
I never have 
I only come alive after a war 
And we have not had it yet. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Queer

By Frank Bidart

Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.


Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That's what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.

For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial

scenario

forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.

Involuted velleities of self-erasure.

Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative

designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror
.

Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults' genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life. You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What is Bravery?

By Linda Kruschke

Why say I'm brave?
You don’t call robbery victims brave
when they tell
You don’t call shooting victims brave
when they tell
You don’t call mugging victims brave
when they tell
Yet your clouded view calls me brave
when I tell
I was raped.



Linda L. Kruschke is a wife, mother (of a young adult), friend, lawyer (recovering), follower of Jesus, and a person who loves life. Though she has experienced trauma and pain in her life, she is thankful they have made her stronger and shaped the writer she has become. She blogs at AnotherFearlessYear.net, where you can read more of her poetry and learn about her two published poetry books.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Rape Poem

By Marge Piercy

There is no difference between being raped
And being pushed down a flight of cement steps
Except that the wounds also bleed inside.

There is no difference between being raped
And being run over by a truck
Except that afterward men ask if you enjoyed it.

There is no difference between being raped
And being bit on the ankle by a rattlesnake
Except that people ask if your skirt was short
And why you were out anyhow.

There is no difference between being raped
And going head first through a windshield
Except that afterward you are afraid not of cars,
But half the human race.

The rapist is your boyfriend’s brother.
He sits beside you in the movies eating popcorn.
Rape fattens on the fantasies of the “normal” male
Like a maggot in garbage.

Fear of rape is a cold wind blowing
All of the time on a woman’s hunched back.
Never to stroll alone on a sand road through pine woods,
Never to climb a trail across a bald
Without that aluminum in the mouth
When I see a man climbing toward me.

Never to open the door to a knock
Without that razor just grazing the throat.
The fear of the dark side of the hedges,
The back seat of the car, the empty house
Rattling keys like a snake’s warning
The fear of the smiling man
in whose pocket is a knife.
The fear of the serious man
In whose fist is locked with hatred.

All it takes to cast a rapist is seeing your body
As jackhammer, as blowtorch, as machine gun.
All it takes is hating that body
Your own, your self, your muscle that softens to flab.

All it takes is to push what you hate,
What you fear onto the soft alien flesh.
To bucket out invincible as a tank
Armoured with treads without senses
To possess and punish in one act,
To rip up pleasure, to murder those who dare
Live in the leafy flesh open to love. The fear of the smiling man
In whose pocket is a knife.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Rape Joke

By Patricia Lockwood

The rape joke is that you were 19 years old.

The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend.

The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee.

Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.”

No offense.

The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that use of the word interesting, as if you were a piece of knowledge that someone could be desperate to acquire, to assimilate, and to spit back out in different form through his goateed mouth.

Then suddenly you were older, but not very old at all.

The rape joke is that you had been drinking wine coolers. Wine coolers! Who drinks wine coolers? People who get raped, according to the rape joke.

The rape joke is he was a bouncer, and kept people out for a living.

Not you!

The rape joke is that he carried a knife, and would show it to you, and would turn it over and over in his hands as if it were a book.

He wasn’t threatening you, you understood. He just really liked his knife.

The rape joke is he once almost murdered a dude by throwing him through a plate-glass window. The next day he told you and he was trembling, which you took as evidence of his sensitivity.

How can a piece of knowledge be stupid? But of course you were so stupid.

The rape joke is that sometimes he would tell you you were going on a date and then take you over to his best friend Peewee’s house and make you watch wrestling while they all got high.

The rape joke is that his best friend was named Peewee.

OK, the rape joke is that he worshiped The Rock.

Like the dude was completely in love with The Rock. He thought it was so great what he could do with his eyebrow.

The rape joke is he called wrestling “a soap opera for men.” Men love drama too, he assured you.

The rape joke is that his bookshelf was just a row of paperbacks about serial killers. You mistook this for an interest in history, and laboring under this misapprehension you once gave him a copy of Günter Grass’s My Century, which he never even tried to read.

It gets funnier.

The rape joke is that he kept a diary. I wonder if he wrote about the rape in it.

The rape joke is that you read it once, and he talked about another girl. He called her Miss Geography, and said “he didn’t have those urges when he looked at her anymore,” not since he met you. Close call, Miss Geography!

The rape joke is that he was your father’s high-school student—your father taught World Religion. You helped him clean out his classroom at the end of the year, and he let you take home the most beat-up textbooks.

The rape joke is that he knew you when you were 12 years old. He once helped your family move two states over, and you drove from Cincinnati to St. Louis with him, all by yourselves, and he was kind to you, and you talked the whole way. He had chaw in his mouth the entire time, and you told him he was disgusting and he laughed, and spat the juice through his goatee into a Mountain Dew bottle.

The rape joke is that come on, you should have seen it coming. This rape joke is practically writing itself.

The rape joke is that you were facedown. The rape joke is you were wearing a pretty green necklace that your sister had made for you. Later you cut that necklace up. The mattress felt a specific way, and your mouth felt a specific way open against it, as if you were speaking, but you know you were not. As if your mouth were open ten years into the future, reciting a poem called Rape Joke.

The rape joke is that time is different, becomes more horrible and more habitable, and accommodates your need to go deeper into it.

Just like the body, which more than a concrete form is a capacity.

You know the body of time is elastic, can take almost anything you give it, and heals quickly.

The rape joke is that of course there was blood, which in human beings is so close to the surface.

The rape joke is you went home like nothing happened, and laughed about it the next day and the day after that, and when you told people you laughed, and that was the rape joke.

It was a year before you told your parents, because he was like a son to them. The rape joke is that when you told your father, he made the sign of the cross over you and said, “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” which even in its total wrongheadedness, was so completely sweet.

The rape joke is that you were crazy for the next five years, and had to move cities, and had to move states, and whole days went down into the sinkhole of thinking about why it happened. Like you went to look at your backyard and suddenly it wasn’t there, and you were looking down into the center of the earth, which played the same red event perpetually.

The rape joke is that after a while you weren’t crazy anymore, but close call, Miss Geography.

The rape joke is that for the next five years all you did was write, and never about yourself, about anything else, about apples on the tree, about islands, dead poets and the worms that aerated them, and there was no warm body in what you wrote, it was elsewhere.

The rape joke is that this is finally artless. The rape joke is that you do not write artlessly.

The rape joke is if you write a poem called Rape Joke, you’re asking for it to become the only thing people remember about you.

The rape joke is that you asked why he did it. The rape joke is he said he didn’t know, like what else would a rape joke say? The rape joke said YOU were the one who was drunk, and the rape joke said you remembered it wrong, which made you laugh out loud for one long split-open second. The wine coolers weren’t Bartles & Jaymes, but it would be funnier for the rape joke if they were. It was some pussy flavor, like Passionate Mango or Destroyed Strawberry, which you drank down without question and trustingly in the heart of Cincinnati Ohio.

Can rape jokes be funny at all, is the question.

Can any part of the rape joke be funny. The part where it ends—haha, just kidding! Though you did dream of killing the rape joke for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way.

The rape joke cries out for the right to be told.

The rape joke is that this is just how it happened.

The rape joke is that the next day he gave you Pet Sounds. No really. Pet Sounds. He said he was sorry and then he gave you Pet Sounds. Come on, that’s a little bit funny.

Admit it.

Previously published in The Awl, 7/25/13

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Practicing the Complex Yes

When you disagree with a friend,
 a stranger, or a foe, how do you
 reply but not say simply No?
 For No can stop the conversation
 or turn it into argument or worse—
 the conversation that must go on,
 as a river must, a friendship, a troubled nation.
 So may we practice the repertoire
                          of complex yes:
Yes, I know you feel that way, and...
 Yes, and in what you say I see...
 Yes, oh yes, and at the same time...
 Yes, I see, and what if...?
 Yes, I hear you, and how...?
 Yes, and there’s an old story...
 Yes, and as the old song goes...
 Yes, and as a child once told me...
 Yes. Tell me more. I want to understand...
 And then I want to tell you how it is for me...

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

List of “Don’t Forgets” and “Remembers”

In a New York classroom one year after 9-11, students composed the following 9-11 poem. A relative of the teacher had perished on that day in Tower One of the World Trade Center. 

We were eight.

Before September 11th, we would wake up with a list of “Don’t Forgets”

Don’t forget to wash your face
Don’t forget to brush your teeth
Don’t forget to do your homework
Don’t forget to wear your jacket
Don’t forget to clean your room
Don’t forget to take a bath

After September 11th, we wake up with a list of “Remembers”

Remember to greet the sun each morning
Remember to enjoy every meal
Remember to thank your parents for their hard work
Remember to honor those who keep you safe
Remember to value each person you meet
Remember to respect other’s beliefs

Now we are nine.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Why I Stand

By Andrew Freborg

I stand to honor the promise the flag represents.
You kneel because that promise has been broken.

I stand to affirm my belief that all are created equal, and to fight alongside you for that promise.
You kneel because too few stand with you.

I stand because we can be better.
You kneel to remind us to be better.

I stand to honor all that have fought and died so that we may be free.
You kneel because not all of us are.

I stand because I can.
You kneel for those who can't.

I stand to defend your right to kneel.
You kneel to defend my right to stand.

I stand because I love this country.
You kneel because you love it too.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Tower

By Kirsty Niven

I cobbled together this tower
with my own calloused hands.
Foraging each component,
the smooth pebbles of beaches,
skimmed away on childhood holidays,
hopping across the salty surface.
The roughly hewn lumps
of a collapsed crofter’s cottage,
scraping my peeling fingers.
Gathering, a bird with its nest.
Taking a bit of this, a bit of that –
the hairs I’ve torn out worrying,
the sticky cement tears,
the drowned wood of the wreckage.
I cobbled together my tower.
Stronger and stronger it grew,
with every new material.
Each mistake a lesson.
You huffed and puffed,
but it will not tumble, it will not crumble.
Bring on your bulldozers, your rage,
Bring on your wrecking balls.
Bring on your explosives.
It’s made of a substance
you will never have, never know.

I built this tower with my own strength.

Kirsty is from Dundee, Scotland where she lives with her husband and cats. Her poetry has appeared in a number of places including The DawntreaderDundee Writes, Cicada Magazine and Laldy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Campesino

By Gary Soto

Spring ’73, I’m two time zones from my country
And hacking at the soldier-straight weeds —
I’m captain of their destruction. But the army
Of weeds keeps advancing, day after day.
I was a math teacher in Mexico,
But now I’m a number squeezed into a white van,
The stars blue as my life at 5:30 in the morning.
But don’t feel sorry. I have my hands and back,
My face dark as a penny in a child’s palm.
I walk a straight row. My lean shadow keeps up.
But look at the circling seagulls,
Landlocked with no way home.

If there’s work, I hoe nine hours in the beet fields,
Sometimes with a friend in the next row,
Sometimes alone. You would be crazy
To open your mouth — the wind and dust ...
In a year, my face will be tooled like my wallet,
Dark and creased. Over the clods,
I sing to myself, or whistle like a parrot.
I practice English —
Waffle, no good tire, nice to meet you.

In the fields, I stop when the patron on the tractor path says stop.
I pound sand from a boot like an hourglass.
Time pours forever and forever.
Tomorrow I’ll start again. I’ll chop at the earth
But it won’t bleed under my hoe.
I’ll chop, sweat, and think in English —
Toaster, thread, seagulls find a way home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Willamette

By Clementine von Radic

I dreamed I cut open my own arm
and out poured the Willamette River.
Out poured each dead friend
buried in the fall earth
which smells always of rot.
And out poured your heart,
which had calcified
like Percy Shelley’s and was hard,
in one piece yet still broken.
I believe it floated down the river
out into the ocean or wherever
things go to sink
when they are too weak to swim,
but even in my dreams
I did not follow you. I am devoted
to the church of my own survival.
I am the girl who does not grieve
a bloodless loss.
I lose a whole river
and stay standing.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Still life

Still life with Ensure, vials of fentanyl, oxycodone, water.
Still life with crackers maybe, hopefully, he will keep down.
Still life with tossed sheets and yogurt cup. Still life
with Sports Illustrated piles in the bathroom, guest room,
on the living room floor, on the dining room table, in recycle bins waiting
near the door. Still life with the younger brother assessing
how to dispose the hoardings of the one man left who shares his face.
Still life with hanging tension and sadness, failed ambition,
medicated dreams. Still life with phlegm and corruption.
With waste, with fanned get well cards, appointment reminders,
hospital garage parking receipts. Still life with the mantel clock,
one birthday’s present, still ticking and ticking and ticking away.