Monday, January 15, 2018

Shafro

By Terrance Hayes

Now that my afro’s as big as Shaft’s
I feel a little better about myself.
How it warms my bullet-head in Winter,

black halo, frizzy hat of hair.
Shaft knew what a crown his was,
an orb compared to the bush

on the woman sleeping next to him.
(There was always a woman
sleeping next to him. I keep thinking,

If I’d only talk to strangers...
grow a more perfect head of hair.)
His afro was a crown.

Bullet after barreling bullet,
fist-fights & car chases,
three movies & a brief TV series,

never one muffled strand,
never dampened by sweat--
I sweat in even the least heroic of situations.

I’m sure you won’t believe this,
but if a policeman walks behind me, I tremble:
What would Shaft do? What would Shaft do?

Bits of my courage flake away like dandruff.
I’m sweating even as I tell you this,
I’m not cool,

I keep the real me tucked beneath a wig,
I’m a small American frog.
I grow beautiful as the theatre dims.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Snow Day

By Billy Collins

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Snow Is Deep on the Ground

By Kenneth Patchen 

The snow is deep on the ground.   
Always the light falls
Softly down on the hair of my belovèd.

This is a good world. 
The war has failed. 
God shall not forget us. 
Who made the snow waits where love is. 

Only a few go mad. 
The sky moves in its whiteness 
Like the withered hand of an old king.   
God shall not forget us. 
Who made the sky knows of our love. 

The snow is beautiful on the ground.   
And always the lights of heaven glow   
Softly down on the hair of my belovèd.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Daddy Gave Me Away

over an all-you-can-eat
buffet, a Gravely lawn mower
my only dowry.

So I moved from daddy's home
to his shiny new kitchen,
where I learned to cook
country fried steak
for a husband's fattening stomach
and washed dirty work
uniforms to kill the smell
of grease and soured sweat.

I learned the recipes
by heart at first, and then
gradually learned to dash
in spices for interest,
praying for a secret ingredient,
for some perfect seasoning
to make the deal my daddy made
work, to make my life bearable.

At 17, I knew nothing of the trade,
but time and heat gave rise
to a woman, and she left him,
his kitchen, stomach, mower,
and daddy too.

No daddy, I'm not through,
If God made man from dust,
I can do better.

By Katherine Perry

Katherine Perry has a new book of poetry out, Long Alabama Summer.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

So you want to be a writer?

By Charles Bukowski

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
fame,
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.


if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Union Sundown

By Bob Dylan

 Well, my shoes, they come from Singapore
My flashlight’s from Taiwan
My tablecloth’s from Malaysia
My belt buckle’s from the Amazon
You know, this shirt I wear comes from the Philippines
And the car I drive is a Chevrolet
It was put together down in Argentina
By a guy makin’ thirty cents a day

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Well, this silk dress is from Hong Kong
And the pearls are from Japan
Well, the dog collar’s from India
And the flower pot’s from Pakistan
All the furniture, it says “Made in Brazil”
Where a woman, she slaved for sure
Bringin’ home thirty cents a day to a family of twelve
You know, that’s a lot of money to her

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Well, you know, lots of people complainin’ that there is no work
I say, “Why you say that for
When nothin’ you got is U.S.–made?”
They don’t make nothin’ here no more
You know, capitalism is above the law
It say, “It don’t count ’less it sells”
When it costs too much to build it at home
You just build it cheaper someplace else

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Well, the job that you used to have
They gave it to somebody down in El Salvador
The unions are big business, friend
And they’re goin’ out like a dinosaur
They used to grow food in Kansas
Now they want to grow it on the moon and eat it raw
I can see the day coming when even your home garden
Is gonna be against the law

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Democracy don’t rule the world
You’d better get that in your head
This world is ruled by violence
But I guess that’s better left unsaid
From Broadway to the Milky Way
That’s a lot of territory indeed
And a man’s gonna do what he has to do
When he’s got a hungry mouth to feed

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

If

By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Unity

By Pablo Neruda

There is something dense, united, settled in the depths,
repeating its number, its identical sign.
How it is noted that stones have touched time,
in their refined matter there is an odor of age,
of water brought by the sea, from salt and sleep.

I’m encircled by a single thing, a single movement:
a mineral weight, a honeyed light
cling to the sound of the word “noche”:
the tint of wheat, of ivory, of tears,
things of leather, of wood, of wool,
archaic, faded, uniform,
collect around me like walls.

I work quietly, wheeling over myself,
a crow over death, a crow in mourning.
I mediate, isolated in the spread of seasons,
centric, encircled by a silent geometry:
a partial temperature drifts down from the sky,
a distant empire of confused unities
reunites encircling me.

Monday, December 25, 2017

I'm Trying To Find a Poem About Christmas That I Actually Like

but they are mostly dated and filled
with words like thine and o’er and behold.

And yes, I do want something about the snow,
and the light as it falls on the snow,

but I could do without the angels today,
or anything unreachable that’s supposed to be

looking out for us down here. And yes, I do
want something about the trees, both outside

and inside, and about the singing, and about
the laying out of the table, or the looping

of ribbons, or the tucking in of children. But
I’m wishing we could leave God out of it.

It’s not God’s job to hang out with us right now
and fix things. I want something that uses

filling stockings as a metaphor for choosing
small kindnesses to tuck into each person’s

heart. Something that reminds us that the horse
knows the way, so if we could just find that horse

and hold on, we’ll come out of all this OK.
Something that, yes, is filled with the glistening

and the sparkling and all things aglow, because
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky—
Yes, that’s the kind of thing I want, all of us

outrunning the storm that’s pushing us out of the year,
and we’re climbing right over the tired pile of reindeer

to what’s really up there for us. The snow coming
down. The way we shape it with our hands and throw.


By Brittney Corrigan
Previously Published in Rattle, December 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice Chant

By Annie Finch

Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
now you are uncurled and cover our eyes
with the edge of winter sky
leaning over us in icy stars.
Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
come with your seasons, your fullness, your end.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Dear Straight People

Dear Straight People,

Who do you think you are?
Do you have to make it so obvious that I make you uncomfortable?
Why do I make you uncomfortable?
Do you know that makes me uncomfortable?
Now we’re both uncomfortable.

Dear Straight People,
You’re the reason we stay in the closet.
You’re the reason we even have a closet.

I don’t like closets, but you made the living room an unshared space
and now I’m feeling like a guest in my own house.

Dear Straight People,
Sexuality and gender? Two different things
combined in many different ways.
If you mismatch your socks, you understand.

Dear Hip-Hop,
Why are you fascinated with discovering gay rappers?
Gay people rap. Just like gay people ride bikes and eat tofu.


Dear Straight People,
I don’t think God has a sexual orientation,
but if she were straight, she’d be a dope ally.
Why else would she invent rainbows?

Dear Straight Women,
I mean, “Straight Women.”
Leave me the fuck alone!

Dear Straight Men,
If I’m flirting with you
it’s because I think it’s funny. Just laugh.


Dear Straight People,
I’m tired of proving that my love is authentic. So I’m calling for reparations.
When did you realize you were straight? Who taught you?
Did it happen because your parents are divorced?
Did it happen because your parents are not divorced?
Did it happen because you sniffed too much glue in 5th grade?

Dear Straight People,
Why do you have to stare at me when I’m holding
my girlfriend’s hand like I’m about to rob you?

Dear Straight People,
You make me want to fuckin’ rob you!

Dear Straight Allies,
thank you, more please!

Dear Straight Bullies,
You’re right. We don’t have the same values.
You kill everything that’s different.
I preserve it.
Tell me, what happened to
Jorge Mercado?
Sakia Gunn?
Lawrence King?
What happened to the souls alienated
in between too many high school walls,
who planned the angels of their deaths in math class,
who imagined their funerals as ticker-tape parades,
who thought the afterlife was more like an after party.
Did you notice that hate
is alive and well in too many lunch rooms,
taught in the silence of too many teachers,
passed down like second hand clothing
from too many parents.

Dear Queer Young Girl,
I see you.
You don’t want them to see you
so you change the pronouns in your love poems to “him” instead of “her.”
I used to do that.

Dear Straight People,
You make young poets make bad edits.

Dear Straight People,
Kissing my girlfriend in public without looking to see who’s around
is a luxury I do not fully have yet.
But tonight, I am drunk in my freedom,
grab her hand on the busiest street in Philadelphia,
zip my fingers into hers and press our lips firmly,
until we melt their stares into a standing ovation, imagine
that we are in a sea of smiling faces,
even when we’re not
and when we’re not,
we start shoveling,
digging deep into each other’s eyes we say,
“Hey Baby, can’t nothing stop this tonight”
because tonight, this world is broken
and we’re the only thing
that’s going to keep it together.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Good Timber

By Douglas Malloch

The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth,
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
This is the common law of life.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Know This

By Laura Gail Grohe

Know this: The world is not a safe place.
You are not guaranteed a place at the table.
In fact, you will know grief so profound
it will crush the breath in your chest.

And yet the sun will still rise
and daffodils will glow yellow in spring.
And you will know joy so profound
it will stop the breath in your chest.
And it is between these two
that the work is done.
Speak Truth. Create art.
Build your own table of plenty.
And love, love with all that you are.
Love as if your life depended upon it:
It does.




















Support Laura's art:  https://linensproject.wordpress.com/

Saturday, December 2, 2017

We are the ones

who will break the glass ceiling
who will fight for what is right
who will not grow weary in doing good
who will reap what we sow
who will not give up.
who will teach girls they can do anything
who will not forget the battles of women
who will never relent
who will make history
hers, as it always was.

By Kathryn Dillard


Kathryn Dillard lives in northern California and works as a teacher at a local K-8 Waldorf school. She studied English and creative writing at University of California-Davis. In her free time, she enjoys writing, gardening and playing with her 9 month old son.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Speech to the Young Speech to the Progress-Toward (Among them Nora and Henry III)

By Gwendolyn Brooks

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
"Even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night."
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.
Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

After Harvey

By Rukmini Kalamangalam

The first rain after the hurricane
We held our breath
Tried not to imagine what it would feel like to be drowning again
So soon after the taste of stolen air
Replaced the salty breathlessness of rising tides
The first rain after the hurricane
We were ready before the flash-flood warning, already watching as
Water lapped at the curb
Feasted on the rotted remains of gutted houses
Tried to wash away the evidence of its crimes
The first rain after the hurricane
We saw a pack of wild dogs at CVS
Snarling and slavering in red wellington boots
They watched us with hungry eyes
Snouts sniffing the air for threats from the sky & each other
The first rain after the hurricane,
The water washed away as quick as it had come
Leaving streets dark & empty &
Water still priced 3.99 a gallon
We scoured the clouds for signs of false promises
The first rain after the hurricane,
We tethered our homes together,
Waited to become chains of floating memories
Prayed for a second chance at survival,
Our heads still bowed as the rain evaporated, leaving only stillness behind

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A List of Praises

By Anne Porter

Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath,
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes,
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry
living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods,
At night give praise with starry silences.

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls
And the rattle and flap of sails
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.
Give praise with the humpback whales,
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

When Giving Is All We Have

By Alberto Ríos

One river gives
Its journey to the next.



We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Central Square

By Eve Lyons

Being robbed
makes everyone a suspect:
the man coming out of his apartment
next door, the garbage man,
the man on the street chatting
into his cell phone.
This is not how I want to live.
And the man with the drunken slur,
who invades people’s space until
they shove him away, I am sure
this is not how he wants to live his life
either. Stealing people’s backpacks
only to find class notes and
confidential papers,
computer disks and prescription glasses.
This is not what this time,
this brief blip in the cosmos,
should be. I want to sort out
“the beautiful,” like my third grade friend
sorted out the beautiful, sleek racing cars
from the beat up matchbox ones.
Not even a hesitation - just throw back
what isn’t beautiful.
Throw it back.



Published in The Texas Observer, March 16, 2001
Nominated for a 2001 Cambridge Poetry Award (Narrative category)
Reprinted in Nest of Vipers, June 2002

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Poem for Magic

By Quincy Troupe

take it to the hoop, “magic” johnson,
take the ball dazzling down the open lane
herk & jerk & raise your six-feet, nine-inch frame
into the air sweating screams of your neon name
“magic” johnson, nicknamed “windex” way back
in high school
cause you wiped glass backboards
so clean, where you first juked and shook
wiled your way to glory
a new-style fusion of shake-&-bake
energy, using everything possible, you created your own
space to fly through--any moment now
we expect your wings to spread feathers for that spooky takeoff
of yours--then, shake & glide & ride up in space
till you hammer home a clothes-lining deuce off glass
now, come back down with a reverse hoodoo gem
off the spin & stick in sweet, popping nets clean
from twenty feet, right side

put the ball on the floor again, “magic”
slide the dribble behind your back, ease it deftly
between your bony stork legs, head bobbing everwhichaway
up & down, you see everything on the court
off the high yoyo patter
stop & go dribble
you thread a needle-rope pass sweet home
to kareem cutting through the lane
his skyhook pops the cords
now, lead the fast break, hit worthy on the fly
now, blindside a pinpoint behind-the-back pass for two more
off the fake, looking the other way, you raise off-balance
into electric space
sweating chants of your name
turn, 180 degrees off the move, your legs scissoring space
like a swimmer’s yoyoing motion in deep water
stretching out now toward free flight
you double-pump through human trees
hang in place
slip the ball into your left hand
then deal it like a las vegas card dealer off squared glass
into nets, living up to your singular nickname
so “bad” you cartwheel the crowd toward frenzy
wearing now your electric smile, neon as your name

in victory, we suddenly sense your glorious uplift
your urgent need to be champion
& so we cheer with you, rejoice with you
for this quicksilver, quicksilver,

quicksilver moment of fame
so put the ball on the floor again, “magic”
juke & dazzle, shake & bake down the lane
take the sucker to the hoop, “magic” johnson,
recreate reverse hoodoo gems off the spin
deal alley-oop dunkathon magician passes
now, double-pump, scissor, vamp through space
hang in place
& put it all up in the sucker’s face, “magic” johnson,
& deal the roundball like the juju man that you am
like the sho-nuff shaman that you am, “magic,”
like the sho-nuff spaceman you am