Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Contract Says: We'd Like the Conversation to be Bilingual

by Ada Limón

When you come, bring your brown-
ness so we can be sure to please

the funders. Will you check this
box; we’re applying for a grant.

Do you have any poems that speak
to troubled teens? Bilingual is best.

Would you like to come to dinner
with the patrons and sip Patrón?

Will you tell us the stories that make
us uncomfortable, but not complicit?

Don’t read the one where you
are just like us. Born to a green house,

garden, don’t tell us how you picked
tomatoes and ate them in the dirt

watching vultures pick apart another
bird’s bones in the road. Tell us the one

about your father stealing hubcaps
after a colleague said that’s what his

kind did. Tell us how he came
to the meeting wearing a poncho

and tried to sell the man his hubcaps
back. Don’t mention your father

was a teacher, spoke English, loved
making beer, loved baseball, tell us

again about the poncho, the hubcaps,
how he stole them, how he did the thing

he was trying to prove he didn’t do.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What Have I Done?

By Shannon Leigh

She stands
Hands shaking
Lips moving in prayer
to a god they tell her is not listening
Outside it is cold and the faces of her attackers
line the cement walls like bathroom tiles
She has come to kill her baby.
That is what they say
Holding pictures of cut up stillbirths
Trying to tell her the thing inside her is shaped like us
when two days earlier on the ultrasound
a nurse showed her the gills.
She does not need anyone to tell her
it is more than a clump of cells
At eight weeks she already knows her daughter’s colors
Baby blue and bright pink
Like infant fireworks.
The shape of nose and eyes so very familiar
this child,
who would grow up to welfare and gun shots
asking why thunder seems so close
and where daddy was.
She stands
and prays.
Daughter,
Look away from this world and be with God
There is no mercy in the streets for little girls
and I would not be able to protect you from monsters
I was twelve when my mother failed me
They called her murderer
Her heart stretches out
and touches tendrils that one day could be human
I have been there.
Stood there before protesters
telling me God wants my baby to be born
while I remember the faces of the children I worked with
seven to a bedroom
eating rice for three days and starving for four
the children too old or so-called troubled to find homes
whose homeless mothers birthed them on cardboard boxes
and cut the cords with a broken vial.
Oh yes
The world surely needs more babies
whose parents would not be able to educate them
because their own educations were cut short
who know daddy as the man who hurt my mommy
who ever knew they were anything less than wanted.
Children know
They flounder under the weight of their parents’ bitter yokes
and grow to question their very worth
My clump of cells would grow up seeing my dead dreams
Twining around my arms like vines
holding me down to a life I could learn to love
But that is not why God made a heart
strong enough to make my own decisions.
They call me reckless and irresponsible
A slut and and a murderer
When abstinence education makes women believe their boyfriends
when they say you can’t get pregnant the first time
I pumped chemicals into my body for years
skin browning from untested carcinogens
Condoms break
And despite the rhetoric of fundamentalist men
afraid of the sacred
sex is beautiful
If done right and consciously
What drove me to this
they said God can help manage
But last time I checked
It’s been thousands of years since lost children
were rained down manna
And if your God knows me
like I believe He does
Fully and intimately
Exposed and unworthy
My beginning and my ending
He already knows what I am doing
Do not question your God’s omnipotence
in my name
It is blasphemy
to say you know more about my body
than the Creator of it
I stand
I will bear no child
who will think love means war
who will tell women making the choice to save two lives
that they are whores
Who belive God created the universe in seven days
and man can interpret it in four
I stand
And for the women who should stand proudly
but shove secrets into boxes
I ask
What have we done
that you wouldn’t have?


To hear a reading of this poem, go here.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mother's Day Proclamation

By Julia Ward Howe

Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly: "We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
From the bosom of a devastated
Earth a voice goes up with
Our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God - In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Friday, May 10, 2019

U.S.

By Marge Piercy 

We force children to go to school
Schools are shooting galleries
We force children to experience death.
Don't go to a concert
you might die
Don't go to the mall
you might die
Don't go to the library
you might die
Don't go to the movies
you might die
Above all, don't go to college
you might die
Every bullet sprayed is money
for some corporation.
Every child who died is profit
for the NRA
Every murder brings contributions
to senators, congressmen, governors
and a President who couldn't care less
How much to any of us care
if a child bleeding out is not ours
We live in a gunhappy country
Some grow richer
Some never come home
Some never grow up

Copyright 2019 Marge Piercy. Shared with permission.  

Monday, May 6, 2019

This note in my hand

By Melissa Kelly


I’m not that little girl
So vulnerable and small
With thick glasses and braids
I’m not that innocent child
That kept secrets and was afraid
The things you did to me
In your drunken rage
I felt dirty and used
My soul bruised
You were mean and cold
And as stand before you
I need you to understand
It was not okay to put me through
It was never something fathers do
For so long  I felt guilt and shame
I hid behind the lies and pain
While you lived carefree
I built this prison around me
Today I’ll break free.

Melissa Kelly is a poet and short story writer from Long Island, NY. You can see some of her work in WestWard Quarterly Magazine, Plum Tree Tavern, Soft Cartel, and Amethyst Review

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Walk To Caesarea

By Hannah Senesh

Eli, Eli, she loh yigamer leolam
Hachol vehayam,
Rishroosh shel hamayim
Berack hashamayim
T'filat ha'adam

My Lord, my God
I pray that these things never end
The sand and the sea,
The rush of the water
The sky’s glitter
The prayer of man.

Hannah Senesh died after emigrating from Hungary to Palestine and participating in the resistance effort during the Holocaust.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Advice to a Young Poet

By Kendel Hippolyte
"What is poetry which does not save nations or people?” – Czselaw Milosz

Ask the question.
Not once but forty-nine times.
And, perhaps at the fiftieth,
you will make an answer.
Or perhaps not. Then
ask it again. This time
till seventy times seven. Ask
as you open the door
of every book of poems that you enter.
Ask it of every poem,
regardless of how beautiful,
that whispers: “Lie with me.”
Do not spare your newborn.
If the first cry, first line
is not a wailing for an answer,
abandon it. As for the stillborn,
turn the next blank white sheet over,
shroud it. Ask the clamouring procession
of all the poems of the ages –
each measured, white-haired epic,
every flouncing free verse debutante –
to state their names, where they have come from
and what their business is with you.
You live in the caesura of our times,
the sound of nations, persons, breaking around you.
If poetry can only save itself,
then who will hear it after it has fled
from the nations and the people that it could not save
even a remnant of for a remembering?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Palace

It’s hard to remember who I’m talking to
     and why. The palace burns, the palace
is fire
     and my throne is comfy and
square.

Remember: the old king invited his subjects into his home
to feast on stores of apple tarts and sweet lamb. To feast on sweet lamb of
     stories. He believed
   
they loved him, that his goodness
had earned him their goodness.

Their goodness dragged him into the street
and tore off

his arms, plucked
     his goodness out, plucked his fingers out
               like feathers.

There are no good kings.
Only beautiful palaces.

Who here could claim to be merely guilty?
     The mere.
     My life
growing monstrous
with ease.

To be an American my father left his siblings
               believing
he’d never see them again. My father
               wanted to be Mick Jagger. My father
     went full ghost,
ended up working on duck farms for thirty years, once a sleep
     a couch,
     he coughed up a feather.

     America could be a metaphor, but it isn’t.
     Asleep on the couch, he coughed up a white duck feather.

There are no doors in America.
Only king-sized holes.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Pesach

By Bracha Meschaninov

House cleaned
more or less
kitchen surfaces covered
more or less
food ready
more or less
an experience of redemption
more or less

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Love Poem

By Timothy Liu

The Lindt Easter bunny

you said was "solid" 

chocolate turned out

to be hollow—its head
caved in when I peeled
back the gold foil

which was probably
better left wrapped,
every language having

its own version of “beer
goggles.” Sometimes
I like your mouth best

when there’s nothing in it,
just two rows of teeth
surrounding a tongue
stunned into silence.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Instructions from the Flight Crew to a Poet of African Descent Living in a State of Emergency

By Kate Rushin

First,
Secure your own oxygen.
Breathe normally,
Then teach the children.
Be not deceived.
Be not of two minds.
We are inadequate
Gasping, fighting for air.
Treasure your song.
Walk to the river
Give thanks at the grotto
Memorize poplar trees
Imitate barn swallows
Be still. Let the deer
Look into your eyes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Things That Have Lost Their Power

By Sei Shonagon

A woman who has taken off her false locks to comb the short hair that remains. A large tree that has been blown down in a gale and lies on its side with its roots in the air. The retreating figure of a sumo wrestler who has been defeated in a match. A man of no importance reprimanding an attendant. A woman, who is angry with her husband about some trifling matter, leaves home and goes somewhere to hide. She is certain that he will rush about looking for her; but he does nothing of the kind and shows the most infuriating indifference. Since she cannot stay away forever, she swallows her pride and returns.

Translated by Ivan Morris

Monday, April 1, 2019

Early Evening Visit

By Roxanne Cardona

1.
I admired his penmanship, the red snap
on tie. His shirt, the very white of it,
the beating heart of his elocution.

Joe folded creases of himself
into his seat, curled his "j" s like a nacre
shell, his sharp pencils poked holes into

lined paper. The broken light of him wrapped
into his Batman backpack. I gold starred all
his efforts in my second-grade classroom.

2.
All five feet nine of him stands above
my desk, in the end light of today. Ten years
between second grade and this moment.

His hair curls in wet rings. Joe’s eyes falling
heavy into their lids, the very glint of them,
unnatural as me in this empty school.

Held in the surprise of him.
He's helloing me. And, You look so good-ing me.
His steps neat and clean walk themselves out.

3.
The five o'clock air turns around my car,
its dark. Drive me home pretty teacher?
But it's not the ride he wants. And it's No,

no, no, as we slow dance around the car.  
A yank and a click get me in. Joe pulls,
pulls the passenger side door. I twist my key,

rip open the engine. He beats his fists, steeled,
sharp into the locked door. My wheels
race to put distance and time between us.


Roxanne Cardona was born in New York City, of Puerto Rican descent. She has had poems published in Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine and West View. She studied with Philip Schultz in his Master Class, Writers Studio, NYC for over ten years and currently, Jennifer Franklin, HVWC, NY. She has a BA and MS from Hunter College, MS from the College of New Rochelle. She was an elementary school teacher and principal in the South Bronx. Roxanne resides in Teaneck, NJ with her husband. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Ode to the Unbroken World, Which is Coming

By Thomas Lux

It must be coming, mustn't it?
Churches and saloons are filled with decent humans.
A mother wants to feed her daughter,
 fathers to buy their children things that break.
 People laugh, all over the world, people laugh. 
We were born to laugh, and we know how to be sad;
 we dislike injustice and cancer,
 and are not unaware of our terrible errors.
 A man wants to love his wife. His wife
wants him to carry something.
 We're capable of empathy, and intense moments of joy.
 Sure, some of us are venal, but not most.
There's always a punchbowl, somewhere, in which floats a…
 Life's a bullet, that fast, and the sweeter for it.
 It's the same everywhere:
Slovenia, India,
Pakistan, Suriname—people like to pray,
 or they don't,
 or they like to fill a blue plastic pool
 in the back yard with a hose and watch their children splash. 
Or sit in cafes, or at table with family.
 And if a long train of cattle cars passes along West Ridge
 it's only the cattle from East Ridge going to the abattoir.
 The unbroken world is coming,
 (it must be coming!), I heard a choir,
 there were clouds, there was dust,
 I heard it in the streets, I heard it announced by loudhailers
 mounted on trucks.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Lamb

By Linda Gregg

It was a picture I had after the war.
A bombed English church. I was too young
to know the word English or war,
but I knew the picture.
The ruined city still seemed noble.
The cathedral with its roof blown off
was not less godly. The church was the same
plus rain and sky. Birds flew in and out
of the holes God’s fist made in the walls.
All our desire for love or children
is treated like rags by the enemy.
I knew so much and sang anyway.
Like a bird who will sing until
it is brought down. When they take
away the trees, the child picks up a stick
and says, this is a tree, this the house
and the family. As we might. Through a door
of what had been a house, into the field
of rubble, walks a single lamb, tilting
its head, curious, unafraid, hungry.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Yesterday

By W. S. Merwin

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father’s hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don’t want you to feel that you
have to
just because I’m here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don’t want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

won't you celebrate with me

By Lucille Clifton

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Imprint on Bench of a Bus Stop

By Hardarshan Singh Valia

The snow flake
falling on a bench
of a bus stop
refused to cover the space
that was left empty
by a female fast-food worker
whose complaint
of workplace sexual harassment
fell on deaf ears.
The snow flake
attached to
a lonely tear
meandered around
the empty space
and dissolved quietly
into an undulating image
crying for a shape.

This poem was written on January 15, 2019, in response to a TV documentary by Gretchen Carlson entitled ‘Breaking the Silence’. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

OK to Say

By Laurinda Lind

It’s the opposite of what John
Lennon said he saw through

the installation spyglass in
the leading version of how

he got his second wife and is
what the so-called president

said one week between planes
when asked if he would fire

the special counsel working out
whether he’s sold the country off

overseas, it’s what most of them
said to Spacey or wanted to say

to Weinstein or couldn’t say
to Cosby or meant to say

to Moore or were terrified
wouldn’t work once they tried

it on Trump. One consonant
only and one vowel coming

out the mouth by way of the nose:
No. And what it means is no.


Laurinda Lind lives in northern New York where not long ago, wind blew trees down flat and unroofed a school. Her work has appeared in Blueline, Comstock Review, Constellations, Paterson Literary Review, and Radius; also anthologies Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan (New Rivers Press) and AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss and Grief (Radix Media). In 2018, she won first place in both the Keats-Shelley Prize for adult poetry and the New York State Fair poetry competition.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

On Any Given Sunday

By Chad Goller-Sojourner
On Any Given Sunday 
A parishioner has just been sexually assaulted;
Someone is wrestling with another unplanned pregnancy;
The girl in the third pew has been made to share her father’s bed;
Someone has gambled away the rent money, again;
Someone is going to Church for the first time, in search of a message of hope—
And they are not saved.
On Any Given Sunday
A parishioner is struggling with addiction;
The choir director has just discovered he is HIV Positive;
A 15-year-old acolyte is starving himself to death because he thinks he is fat;
A young couple is keeping up appearances by taking separate cars to Church Even though they just spent the night together
And they are not saved.
On Any Given Sunday
A parishioner has just lost his union job;
The mother of the church has to choose between buying food and filling a prescription;
A 17-year-old altar boy is off fighting an unholy war because his parents can’t afford to send him to college;
And they are not saved.
On Any Given Sunday
An Elder’s wife is using make-up to conceal last night’s beatings;
The junior choir soloist has chosen to give her classmates oral sex, rather than spend another semester in isolation;
A Deacon is embezzling Church funds to support his pornography addiction;
An usher is contemplating suicide;
Someone is going to Church for the last time, still in search of a message of hope.
And they are not saved.
Yet On Any Given Sunday
A pastor can be found pontificating on the “Wickedness of Same-Sex Marriage.”
And still they:
The parishioner
The girl in the third pew
The choir director
The 15-year-old acolyte
The young couple
The mother of the church
The 17-year-old altar boy
The Elder’s wife
The junior choir soloist
The Deacon, and
The usher—
They are still not saved