Friday, January 18, 2019

Some Things, Say The Wise Ones

By Mary Oliver

Some things, say the wise ones who know everything,
are not living. I say,
You live your life your way and leave me alone.

I have talked with the faint clouds in the sky when they
are afraid of being behind; I have said, Hurry, hurry!
and they have said, Thank you, we are hurrying.

About cows, and starfish, and roses there is no
argument. They die, after all.

But water is a question, so many living things in it,
but what is it itself, living or not? Oh, gleaming

generosity, how can they write you out?

As I think this I am sitting on the sand beside
the harbor. I am holding in my hand
small pieces of granite, pyrite, schist.
Each one, just now, so thoroughly asleep.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dark

By Jericho Brown

I am sick of your sadness,
Jericho Brown, your blackness,
Your books. Sick of you
Laying me down
So I forget how sick
I am. I’m sick of your good looks,
Your debates, your concern, your
Determination to keep your butt
Plump, the little money you earn.
I’m sick of you saying no when yes is as easy
As a young man, bored with you
Saying yes to every request
Though you’re as tired as anyone else yet
Consumed with a single
Diagnosis of health. I’m sick
Of your hurting. I see that
You’re blue. You may be ugly,
But that ain’t new.
Everyone you know is
Just as cracked. Everyone you love is
As dark, or at least as black.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Second November

By Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins

Two years alive without you
day into night somehow winds a life.
Day into night in rooms where women are dying where
Mrs. Richman waits for the scary angel to come,
that last doctor who says no,
I don’t think you’re going
to make it this time.
She waits for her sons to come visit
the same ages we were
twenty eight and twenty nine,
old enough to lose their mother.

In rooms where women die and bring life
invoking your name into my face mask
I pray you’re proud of me
I wonder if I’ll ever be enough.

Jonathan got your brilliance with his violent birth
as sure as he grabbed your anger
his baby hands that didn’t care
if they were warmly regarded or slapped.
Your daughter articulate only in love,
diplomat in any conflict
running from frowns as fast as from blows.

Mother, loosen my tongue
or adorn me with a lighter burden. These people who wait for your posthumous issue
say you changed their lives, clutch
your fourteen books, the film, the poster.
They don’t know how warm your hug was at night,
how big your bites of the last Baby Ruth
what a pain in the ass you were,
the most generous person I’ve ever known. I see you Mom
cooking in the kitchen, strong brown hands on the table
a cup of chicken broth with the biggest thigh left over from last night’s supper
reviewing The New York Times.

I see you Mom, lying in that bed
finally ready, after the seasons and the surgeries
and the long long fight
the pain you almost never talked about
putting on your game face
more and more often as you,
growing into your glory even in your dying
went out like a flame
a tongue of lava pulled to the sea.

Momma, the day spins into night
I do my best work at three a.m. now
it’s twins this time, feet first
your smile sits in the smaller one’s face
I know now why ancients felt possessed by the dead
how am I supposed to let go
I need you.
The world is full
of motherless children and now
I am one of them
as the days spin into nights spin into my life
without my children’s grandmother
without your voice singing through the receiver
without that demanding woman who always
wanted what she wanted
and usually got it
but told me I was old enough
not to let my wants hurt me
now that I am forever without
you.

This poem was first published in Mom Egg Review in 2017.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

20/20

By Susan P. Blevins Let’s hope by the time we get to 2020, if we’re not blown up by nuclear weapons by then, or rotted from the inside out by un- fettered pollution, or shot while we pray, that we are as a nation, blessed with the improbable gift of 20/20 vision.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Burning the Old Year

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper, 
sizzle like moth wings, 
marry the air. 

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone. 

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers. 

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

​how to make yourself small or how to be black and survive

​By Porsha Olayiwola

crouch down
low
do not extend your limbs to their full stature

bend your knees
allow your bones to fold or
crack

shrivel

                         let your skin hug to you

                                                               like a casket, keep it close

your tongue is thunderous
to dilute the roar, divert your eyes
observe only the pavement

how it is a       massive                     shadow                 spread                 for us

a grave




see only the ants

melanoid and minuscule

scampering by

                     





                                                                     unscathed

Thursday, December 27, 2018

After the Gentle Poet Kobayashi Issa

By Robert Hass

New Year’s morning—
everything is in blossom!   
   I feel about average.

   A huge frog and I   
staring at each other,   
   neither of us moves.

   This moth saw brightness   
in a woman’s chamber—
   burned to a crisp.

   Asked how old he was   
the boy in the new kimono   
   stretched out all five fingers.

   Blossoms at night,   
like people
   moved by music

   Napped half the day;   
no one
   punished me!

Fiftieth birthday:

   From now on,   
It’s all clear profit,   
   every sky.

   Don’t worry, spiders,   
I keep house   
   casually.

   These sea slugs,   
they just don’t seem   
   Japanese.

Hell:

   Bright autumn moon;   
pond snails crying   
   in the saucepan.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Girl

Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don’t walk bare-head in the hot sun; cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil; soak your little cloths right after you take them off; when buying cotton to make yourself a nice blouse, be sure that it doesn’t have gum in it, because that way it won’t hold up well after a wash; soak salt fish overnight before you cook it; is it true that you sing benna in Sunday school?; always eat your food in such a way that it won’t turn someone else’s stomach; on Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming; don’t sing benna in Sunday school; you mustn’t speak to wharf-rat boys, not even to give directions; don’t eat fruits on the street—flies will follow you; but I don’t sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school; this is how to sew on a button; this is how to make a buttonhole for the button you have just sewed on; this is how to hem a dress when you see the hem coming down and so to prevent yourself from looking like the slut I know you are so bent on becoming; this is how you iron your father’s khaki shirt so that it doesn’t have a crease; this is how you iron your father’s khaki pants so that they don’t have a crease; this is how you grow okra—far from the house, because okra tree harbors red ants; when you are growing dasheen, make sure it gets plenty of water or else it makes your throat itch when you are eating it; this is how you sweep a corner; this is how you sweep a whole house; this is how you sweep a yard; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming; be sure to wash every day, even if it is with your own spit; don’t squat down to play marbles—you are not a boy, you know; don’t pick people’s flowers—you might catch something; don’t throw stones at blackbirds, because it might not be a blackbird at all; this is how to make a bread pudding; this is how to make doukona; this is how to make pepper pot; this is how to make a good medicine for a cold; this is how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child; this is how to catch a fish; this is how to throw back a fish you don’t like, and that way something bad won’t fall on you; this is how to bully a man; this is how a man bullies you; this is how to love a man, and if this doesn’t work there are other ways, and if they don’t work don’t feel too bad about giving up; this is how to spit up in the air if you feel like it, and this is how to move quick so that it doesn’t fall on you; this is how to make ends meet; always squeeze bread to make sure it’s fresh; but what if the baker won’t let me feel the bread?; you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread?

Friday, December 14, 2018

Ghazal: The Dark Times

By Marilyn Hacker

Tell us that line again, the thing about the dark times…
“When the dark times come, we will sing about the dark times.”

They’ll always be wrong about peace when they’re wrong about justice…
Were you wrong, were you right, insisting about the dark times?

The traditional fears, the habitual tropes of exclusion
Like ominous menhirs, close into their ring about the dark times.

Naysayers in sequins or tweeds, libertine or ascetic
Find a sensual frisson in what they’d call bling about the dark times.

Some of the young can project themselves into a Marshall Plan future
Where they laugh and link arms, reminiscing about the dark times.

From every spot-lit glitz tower with armed guards around it
Some huckster pronounces his fiats, self-sacralized king, about the dark times.

In a tent, in a queue, near barbed wire, in a shipping container,
Please remember ya akhy, we too know something about the dark times.

Sindbad’s roc, or Ganymede’s eagle, some bird of rapacious ill omen
From bleak skies descends, and wraps an enveloping wing about the dark times.

You come home from your meeting, your clinic, make coffee and look in the mirror
And ask yourself once more what you did to bring about the dark times.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Measured in Minutes

By Jennifer Saunders 

I read it, and I saw a drunken sexual assault that probably was measured in minutes by two creeps with no premeditation. — Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) on Twitter 9/17/18 1:28 AM, responding to attempted rape allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

Cover (one Mississippi) your (two Mississippi) mouth. 
Smash (three Mississippi) that (four Mississippi) palm (five Mississippi
good and hard (six Mississippi
against (seven Mississippi) your lips. 
Find a body (eight Mississippi) bigger (nine Mississippi) than (ten Mississippi) yours 
(eleven Mississippi)
and push (twelve Mississippi) (thirteen Mississippi) (fourteen Mississippi) yourself 
                        (fifteen Mississippi) down 
                                    (sixteen Mississippi) on 
                                                (seventeen Mississippi) the bed 
and turn (eighteen Mississippi) up (nineteen Mississippi) the (twenty Mississippi) music 
                                                            (twenty-one Mississippi) (twenty-two Mississippi

louder. 
Cover (twenty-three Mississippi
that (twenty-four Mississippi
mouth (twenty-five Mississippi). 

Push (twenty-five Mississippi) harder (twenty-six Mississippi). 
Now tear (twenty-seven Mississippi) at (twenty-eight Mississippi) your (twenty-nine Mississippi) clothes. 

(Thirty Mississippi)

Never (thirty-one Mississippi)             forget   (thirty-two Mississippi
there (thirty-three Mississippi) are (thirty-four Mississippi) two (thirty-five Mississippi) of (thirty-six Mississippi) them (thirty-seven Mississippi

twoofthemtwoofthemtwoofthemtwoofthem               in         the       room    with     you.

(Thirty-eight Mississippi). 

(Thirty-nine Mississippi). 

(Forty Mississippi).

Try (forty-one Mississippi) to (forty-two Mississippi) yell (forty-three Mississippi)
for (forty-four Mississippi
                        help. 
                                    Go on. 
Push (forty-five Mississippi) that (forty-six Mississippi) hand (forty-seven Mississippi) down (forty-eight Mississippi) hard (forty-nine Mississippi). 
Yank (fifty Mississippi
            at (fifty-one Mississippi
                        your (fifty-two Mississippi
                                    clothes (fifty-three Mississippi). 

Push (fifty-four Mississippi).
                                                            Yank (fifty-five Mississippi).
Push (fifty-six Mississippi).
                                                            Yank (fifty-seven Mississippi).
                                    
Can (fifty-eight Mississippi) you (fifty-nine Mississippi) still (sixty Mississippi) breathe? 

Good. 
That’s one. 
Now. 
Begin (one Mississippi)                      again.




This poem was first published in Glass: A Journal of Poetry in September 2018 and reprinted by permission of the author.  Jennifer Saunders is a poet currently living in German-speaking Switzerland. Her poetry and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Dunes Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, San Pedro River Review, Spillway, The Shallow Ends, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Self-Portrait with Housewife, was selected by Gail Wronsky as the winner of the 2017 Clockwise Chapbook contest and is forthcoming from Tebot Bach Press. Jennifer holds an MFA from Pacific University and in the winters she teaches skating at a hockey school.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Light One Candle

By Peter Yarrow

Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn't die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker's time is at hand 
Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our hope and our tears. (2) 
Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts 
Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our hope and our tears. (2) 
What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died
That we cry out they've not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
This is why we will not fail! 
Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Be Angry at the Sun

By Robinson Jeffers

That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.

Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you. Watch the wheel slope and turn,
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.

Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.

You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante's feet, but even farther from his dirty
Political hatreds.

Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it. It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Muchas Gracias Por Todo

By Naomi Shihab Nye

This plane has landed thanks to God and his mercy.
That's what they say in Jordan when the plane sets down.

What do they say in our country? Don't stand up till we tell you.
Stay in your seats. Things may have shifted.

This river has not disappeared thanks to that one big storm
when the water was almost finished.

We used to say thanks to the springs
but the springs dried up so we changed it.

This rumor tells no truth thanks to people.
This river walk used to be better when no one came.

What about the grapes? Thanks to the grapes
we have more than one story to tell.

Thanks to a soft place in the middle of the evening.
Thanks to three secret hours before dawn.

These deer are seldom seen because of their shyness.
If you see one you count yourselves among the lucky on the earth.

Your eyes get quieter.
These deer have nothing to say to us.

Thanks to the fan, we are still breathing.
Thanks to the small toad that lives in cool mud at the base of the zinnias.

Monday, November 19, 2018

American Wedding

By Essex Hemphill

In america,
I place my ring
on your cock
where it belongs.
No horsemen
bearing terror,
no soldiers of doom
will swoop in
and sweep us apart.
They’re too busy
looting the land
to watch us.
They don’t know
we need each other
critically.
They expect us to call in sick,
watch television all night,
die by our own hands.
They don’t know
we are becoming powerful.
Every time we kiss
we confirm the new world coming.

What the rose whispers
before blooming
I vow to you.
I give you my heart,
a safe house.
I give you promises other than
milk, honey, liberty.
I assume you will always
be a free man with a dream.
In america,
place your ring
on my cock
where it belongs.
Long may we live
to free this dream.

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