Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Song of Construction Workers

By Cheng Peng

We built it! The flower-gardened villas. Where you live
you so-called princelings, owners of the city
we’re the same age, you walk dogs, dogs of noble blood
but they’re still mutts. That glare at what we’re doing

Our construction worker blood is inlaid with bricks
to shelter you from wind and rain. You so-called high officials and VIPs
magnates, national cadres, public servants. I want to wake you with my screams use your conscience to measure the weight of our aluminum souls

National sites, official buildings, government halls, mayoral mansions
we built them! We built those thresholds for you, ones we can no longer cross
we built the Labor Law Building, where someone is dozing
we built the People’s Mansion, which we can only gaze at

Picks and banners rust into our rallying banner
let my poetry call to you!
On the great road to communism, so many ghosts
can’t return home. We built it!

Monday, April 24, 2017

This Might Not Make Sense Now, But Don’t Worry, It Will

By Noah Michelson

For Paolo Fanoli 

When I ask Paolo how to draw the line between
not wanting to live anymore and wanting to die,
all he’ll quietly commit to is “that isn’t funny.”

I’m worried I worry him.

He says if I ever left him he would keep my body
under his bed and drag it out once a day to remember me,
prop up the less and less of me that’s left of me
and remind me of the world I left behind me — just look!
Some people can wake up every morning, open their
eyes and recognize something beautiful, even if it’s
just the sun slobbering across the bedroom floor with its
hot black tongue,

so, why can’t you?

He’s right, of course, but when I was 14, nothing was
more beautiful than the thought of the heavy gray
garage door guarding the far edge of my family’s driveway
and how sweetly, how surely it could kiss my head
apart from the rest of my body if only I asked it sweetly
enough.

Things were different then —

I still was afraid to ask for what I wanted then and I
spent my lunch hours holed up in the biology lab hiding
from the other boys, sobbing into my sandwich, another
pickled frog prince bobbing in his embalming fluid, one more

never-born piglet day-drunk on the useless daydream of
one day living someone else’s life on the other side of the glass
but we both know how that story ends.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Self-Help for Refugees

By Li-Young Lee

If your name suggests a country where bells
might have been used for entertainment

or to announce the entrances and exits of the seasons
or the birthdays of gods and demons,

it's probably best to dress in plain clothes
when you arrive in the United States,
and try not to talk too loud.

If you happen to have watched armed men
beat and drag your father
out the front door of your house
and into the back of an idling truck

before your mother jerked you from the threshold
and buried your face in her skirt folds,
try not to judge your mother too harshly.

Don't ask her what she thought she was doing
turning a child's eyes
away from history
and toward that place all human aching starts.

And if you meet someone
in your adopted country,
and think you see in the other's face
an open sky, some promise of a new beginning,
it probably means you're standing too far.

Or if you think you read in the other, as in a book
whose first and last pages are missing,
the story of your own birthplace,
a country twice erased,
once by fire, once by forgetfulness,
it probably means you're standing too close.

In any case, try not to let another carry
the burden of your own nostalgia or hope.

And if you're one of those
whose left side of the face doesn't match
the right, it might be a clue

looking the other way was a habit
your predecessors found useful for survival.
Don't lament not being beautiful.

Get used to seeing while not seeing.
Get busy remembering while forgetting.
Dying to live while not wanting to go on.

Very likely, your ancestors decorated
their bells of every shape and size
with elaborate calendars
and diagrams of distant star systems,
but with no maps for scattered descendants.

And I bet you can't say what language
your father spoke when he shouted to your mother
from the back of the truck, "Let the boy see!"

Maybe it wasn't the language you used at home.
Maybe it was a forbidden language.
Or maybe there was too much screaming
and weeping and the noise of guns in the streets.

It doesn't matter. What matters is this:
The kingdom of heaven is good.
But heaven on earth is better.

Thinking is good.
But living is better.
Alone in your favorite chair
with a book you enjoy
is fine. But spooning
is even better.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Marathon

By E. Ethelbert Miller

it’s a strange time which finds me jogging
in early morning
the deadness of sleep alive in this world
the empty parks filled with unloved strangers
buildings grey with solitude
now near the end of another decade
i am witness to the loss of my twenties
a promise invisible
i run without purpose
far from the north star
i run with the sound of barking dogs closing in
i have lost count of the miles
i am older and nothing much matters
or has changed

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Song for Mardi Gras

By Rolfe Humphries

(Variation on a Welsh refrain Dy garu di a gerais)

I have loved loving you
O my dear, my softly spoken,
Now the forty days draw near,
Vows are made, vows are broken
Fare thee well, my little slim-waist,
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my fond, O my darling,
In the season and beyond
Under moon, under star
Now the time comes to fast -
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my linnet, O my dove,
God have mercy on a sinner!
Fare the well and absent, love,
Moon and star must go to waste
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my green, O my shadow,
In the ambush set between
Mountainside, moor, and meadow.
March be gone, April haste
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

 
This poem originally appeared in The New Yorker on March 2, 1957.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trigger Guard

By Joanna Fuhrman

Everyone I ever loved is standing
on a platform with a gun.

In the cartoon version, a flag pops
with the word 'bang.'

In the soap opera version,
my face turns the color of merlot.

In the haiku version,
metal gleams in the narrow shadow.

In the Republican version,
two guns wrap themselves in a single flag.

In the Langpo version.
idolatry yips yaps paradigm the.

In my diary version,
I wonder why everyone hates me.

In the indie film version,
a gun flickers over a mumbled tune.

In the Chekhov version,
(well, you already know.)

In the 10 o'clock news version,
the crisis in violence is rising.

In the action film version,
a shot means profits are rolling.

In the catalog version,
the smoke's hue is a burnished moss.

In the teen movie version,
a nerdy gun removes her glasses.

In the lucid dream version,
I kiss a muzzle and it blossoms.

In the music video version,
a gun turns into a mouth.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Babi Yar

By Yevgeni Yevtushenko

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.

I see myself an ancient Israelite.
I wander o’er the roads of ancient Egypt
And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
And even now, I bear the marks of nails.

It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself.
The Philistines betrayed me – and now judge.
I’m in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
I’m persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.

I see myself a boy in Belostok
Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.

I’m thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of “Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!”
My mother’s being beaten by a clerk.

O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
Are international, by inner nature.
But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.

I know the kindness of my native land.
How vile, that without the slightest quiver
The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
The “Union of the Russian People!”

It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
And I’m in love, and have no need of phrases,
But only that we gaze into each other’s eyes.
How little one can see, or even sense!
Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
But much is still allowed – very gently
In darkened rooms each other to embrace.

“They come!”

“No, fear not – those are sounds
Of spring itself. She’s coming soon.v Quickly, your lips!”

“They break the door!”

“No, river ice is breaking…”

Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.

And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I’m every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.

No fiber of my body will forget this.
May “Internationale” thunder and ring
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.

There is no Jewish blood that’s blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that’s corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!


NOTES Translated by Benjamin Okopnik, 10/96

Saturday, April 1, 2017

American Nightmare, Day Two*

By Carol Seitchik

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  Margaret Mead


Be vigilant, America.
This is what Feminism looks like.
This is what democracy looks like.

Females are as strong as hell
when women of the world resist.
And you haven’t seen nasty yet.

This march is not about you, Donny.
You’re out of your element.
Feminism is my Trump card.

Keep your laws off my body.
Our daughters need to know
their bodies are their own.

Action is an antidote for despair.
But now, hell hath no fury
like a woman reborn.

Women united are stronger
than a country divided.
I voted for love not hate.

I will not be silent.
I will not play dead.
I will fight.

I am woman hear me roar.
Hear us, hear our voices.
This is just the beginning.

*All taken from signs from the various marches


Carol Seitchik comes to poetry after a long career in the visual arts. Her poems have appeared in the anthology, A Feast of Cape Ann Poets and various journals such as Endicott Review, Zingology, Gemini Press, and Heartlodge. She has been nominated for a Pushcart award and has won prizes from the North Shore Poets Forum, Byline and the Indiana Review. Carol is a member of Cape Ann Poets and lives in Beverly, MA.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tinos, August 2012

By Anastasia Vassos

The island holds dust like a bowl,
but not for long. When the wind cracks,
the sand snakes. The priest’s shutters
are open. The rooster blusters
the morning sun.

In the center of the powdery town
a modern-day Sisyphus ascends
to the Virgin Mary’s church on hands
and knees – the bone he has to pick
with God between his teeth.
Dust in his lungs, his coarse face
is flooded blood-hot, a scrim of heat
rising off his back like a mirage.

We walk the sandy roads hand
in hand and observe this sacred contour.
We stop for bread, tomatoes, cheese.
A bottle of water. We bow our heads
having never been hungry.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

All the World's a Stage

By William Shakespeare

JACQUES:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

From from As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Book of Vashti

By Bonnie Lyons

(Esther 1)

Yes, you're Jews
but aren't you also women?
How can you celebrate Esther,
Mordechai's pawn, who only rose
to the occasion when he threatened
her personally. Until then, she was
content to remain Queen and blind
herself to the destruction
of the Jews.

Blind herself.
As you do now.

Read it again
but read it
as women:

We women were celebrating together
in our part of the palace,
when Ahasuerus, after seven days of drinking,
his heart "merry with wine"
ordered me to display myself
for the other men
like a whore.

When I refused,
he wanted to laugh it off
admit he was drunk and foolish,
but the other men, like all drunken men
in a mob, goaded him
to set the manly example.

And he did.
Banishing me and taking my lands,
jewels, and homes like a child
who grabs his playmate's toys.
The official account doesn't record
what happened next: how I lived
with the other cast-off women
in poverty and pride.

Yes, Esther, the fair young virgin,
using her beauty like a whore
conniving as a slave,
ensured the survival of the Jews
something temporary and local -
But even now
she blinds you,
binds you
to your weakness.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Change of Address

By Deborah Paredez

Rate your pain the physical
therapist instructs and I am trying
not to do what they say
women do lowballing the number
trying hard not to try so hard
to be the good patient scattered
assurances lining the aisles like
dead petals and me left
holding nothing but what’s been
emptied out obviously I am over-
thinking it when I settle on someplace
in the middle six or seven
times a week I walk past the street
vendor on Broadway and say
nothing while eyeing the same
pom-topped hat the physical
therapist asking me now
for the name of that Chinese place
where I sometimes go asking
for the patient just before me
a street vendor in need
of a cheap massage as I lay
the plain wreckage of my shoulders
in the shallow hollows
the street vendor’s body has left
on the padded table in the center
of the story I sometimes read
to my girl a cap seller sleeps
under a tree’s shade waking
to find the monkeys in the
branches above have plundered
his wares he waves his hands shakes
his fists until his rage makes him
throw his cap to the ground and the
monkeys mimic him and down
float his caps his fury finally
fulsome enough to restore
what he’s lost you’ve got to find
another way to move the physical
therapist modeling for me the poses
to mimic assuring her I won’t move
what’s left of the heavy boxes later
unpacking the last of them I learn
about the woman who once lived
here Charlotte who twisted the cap and shook
out the pills Charlotte who swallowed
and slipped into sleep in her last act
of volition here in this bedroom where
the westward windows go on longing
for dawn and I am trying to move in
a new way to pull the mess of sloughed
hair from the bathtub drain to move
in the space of another’s suffering
scrub the caked toothpaste
from the sink make a home
in the space where suffering
may meet its end.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Responsibility

By Grace Paley

It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the poet to stand on street corners
giving out poems and beautifully written leaflets
also leaflets they can hardly bear to look at
because of the screaming rhetoric

It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy to hang out and
prophesy

It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes

It is the responsibility of the poet to go in and out of ivory
towers and two-room apartments on Avenue C
and buckwheat fields and army camps

It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman

It is the poet’s responsibility to speak truth to power
as the Quakers say

It is the poet’s responsibility to learn the truth from the
powerless

It is the responsibility of the poet to say many times: there is no
freedom without justice and this means economic
justice and love justice

It is the responsibility of the poet to sing this in all the original
and traditional tunes of singing and telling poems

It is the responsibility of the poet to listen to gossip and pass it
on in the way storytellers decant the story of life

There is no freedom without fear and bravery there is no
freedom unless
earth and air and water continue and children
also continue

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman to keep an eye on
this world and cry out like Cassandra, but be
listened to this time.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Be Like the Cactus

By Kimii Nagata

Let not harsh tongues, that wag
in vain,
Discourage you. In spite of
pain,
Be like the cactus, which through
rain,
And storm, and thunder,
remain.


Kimii Nagata was a child in a Japanese internment camp in the United States. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

immature little narcissists

By Linda Crate

i never voted for you,
i implored my friends not to
because anyone who
feels women are nasty or to be
grabbed by the pussy
is too emotionally unstable
for office—
i tire of this country's rage against women
of people like you using money
to silence them
when they're assaulted or raped
and then your minions
want to say there's no rape culture
but i guess they've never had to walk down
the street and be catcalled when you're
in your work uniform and i suppose they've never
been looked at like a piece of meat or whistled
at when all they wanted was to be
left alone—
men like you make me sick
because you don't even deserve to be called men.
you're just boys pretending
angry when anyone sees through your paper thin alibis
the blame always belonging to someone else


Linda M. Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh yet raised in the rural town of Conneautville. Her poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has three published chapbooks: A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press) and Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon), and If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications). Her fantasy novel Blood & Magic was published in March 2015. The second novel of this series Dragons & Magic was published in October 2015. Her third novel Centaurs & Magic was published November 2016.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

No Mirrors in my Nana's House

By Ysaye Maria Barnwell

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

I never knew that my skin was too black.
I never knew that my nose was too flat.
I never knew that my clothes didn’t fit.
I never knew there were things that I’d missed,
cause the beauty in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun);
…was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

I was intrigued by the cracks in the walls.
I tasted, with joy, the dust that would fall.
The noise in the hallway was music to me.
The trash and the rubbish just cushioned my feet.
And the beauty in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).
…was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

The world outside was a magical place.
I only knew love.
I never knew hate,
and the beauty in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).
…was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

Monday, February 27, 2017

Grief

By Robert Pinsky

I don’t think anybody ever is
Really divorced, said Lenny. Also,
I don’t think anybody ever is
Really married, he said. Because

English was really his second language
And because of Yiddish and its displaced
Place in the world, he never really
Believed in his own prose. He wrote

Sentences the way a great boxer moves.
Near the end he told me “I’m in Hell”—
Something Lenny might have said about
Hunting for a parking space in Berkeley.

Mike too was himself. His last month,
Too weak to paint or make prints,
He sat and made drawings of flowers:
Ink attentive to rhythms of beach rose,

Wisteria, lily—forms like acrobats
Or Cossack dancers. Mike had a vision
Of his body dead on his studio floor
Seen from high above— he didn’t feel sad

Or afraid at seeing it, he said, just
Sorry for the person who would find it.
You can’t say nobody ever really dies:
Of course they do: Lenny died. Mike died.

But the odd thing is, the person still makes
A shape distinct and present in the mind
As an object in the hand. The presence
In the absence: it isn’t comfort—it’s grief.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On the Freedom of the Press

By Benjamin Franklin

 While free from Force the Press remains,
Virtue and Freedom chear our Plains,
And Learning Largesses bestows,
And keeps unlicens’d open House.
We to the Nation’s publick Mart
Our Works of Wit, and Schemes of Art,
And philosophic Goods, this Way,
Like Water carriage, cheap convey.
This Tree which Knowledge so affords,
Inquisitors with flaming Swords
From Lay-Approach with Zeal defend,
Lest their own Paradise should end.

The Press from her fecundous Womb
Brought forth the Arts of Greece and Rome;
Her Offspring, skill’d in Logic War,
Truth’s Banner wav’d in open Air;
The Monster Superstition fled,
And hid in Shades her Gorgon Head;
And lawless Pow’r, the long kept Field,
By Reason quell’d, was forc’d to yield.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What I Mean When I Say Harmony

By Geffrey Davis & F. Douglas Brown

1.
dear boy be the muscle:
make music to the bone—risk
that mercurial measure
of contact there are those
who touch a body and leave it
graceful be that kind
of wonder —and if I ever
catch you confusing
a pulse for a path or a bridge
to beat loneliness your blood
will be the object of discussion
I will ask to see it back
if only to know the shared sinew
if only to relight your blessing
if only to rekindle the song
carried in your hands

2. The Remix
ode to the boy in me singing at the table so rude
but the hum-a-long mingles with your husky laughter
ode to the father in you wringing something out of nothing
ode to [dutiful] stitched into your fingers and not:—[obligatory drudgery]
and yes ode to the ghosts now roving your cupboards and bed
ode to your lingering music a mixtape of meals and memory
ode to what you still offer I suckle it down throughout the night
taste everything passed between your fingers

3. Side B
dear boy aint nothing
not about bodies
we have more than one
sun more than one way
to gasp inside the heat
and arms of praise
worship the warmth
of each loaded light let your body
grow fragile an offertory —sweet—
lick bite know the knot
of your desire hold it
in your mouth let it live
let it split do not leave this earth
without tasting what passes
between fingers son
always go deep find the seed
in each fruit’s buried longing
if it is yours sing it mine

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Remission

By Chelsea Krieg

Astronomers have shown that dead stars known as white dwarfs can re-ignite and explode as supernovas.
                                                                         – BBC News Science and Environment

When Dad got a tattoo, you laughed –
said you beat him to it. Three black specks

marking the cream swell of your breast
where months before, doctors aimed machines,

humming clean the still space the cells grew
abnormally like weeds in a flowerbed.

A constellation, you called it – Ursa major,
DracoOrion – shaping, naming the dark

freckles more permanent than your own
infant galaxies. When the doctor says, remission,

I imagine this constellation collapsing
into white dwarfs – remnants of dead stars

absent the fusion that makes them shine,
burn with heat. Now, I hold my breath,

watch their halos hover in the glow
of your skin, fear the explosion.

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