Friday, June 26, 2009

Corners

By Stephen Dunn

I've sought out corner bars, lived in corner houses;
like everyone else I've reserved
corner tables, thinking they'd be sufficient.
I've met at corners
perceived as crossroads, loved to find love
leaning against a lamp post
but have known the abruptness of corners too,
the pivot, the silence.
I've sat in corners at parties hoping for someone
who knew the virtue
of both distance and close quarters, someone with a
corner person's taste
for intimacy, hard won, rising out of shyness
and desire.
And I've turned corners there was no going back to,
corners
in the middle of a room that led
to Spain or solitude.
And always the thin line between corner
and cornered,
the good corners of bodies and those severe bodies
that permit no repose,
the places we retreat to, the places we can't bear
to be found.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

not so soft

By ani difranco

In a forest of stone
underneath the corporate canopy
where the sun
rarely
filters
down
the ground
is not so soft
not so soft

they build buildings to house people
making money
or they build buildings to make money
off of housing people
it's true
like a lot of things are true
I am foraging for a phone booth on the forest floor
that is not so soft
I look up
it looks like the buildings are burning
but it's just the sun setting
the solar system calling an end
to another business day
eternally circling signally
the rhythmic clicking on and off
of computers
the pulse
of the american machine
the pulse
that draws death dancing
out of anonymous side streets
you know
the ones that always get dumped on
and never get plowed
it draws death dancing
out of little countries
with funny languages
where the ground is getting harder
and it was
not
that
soft
before

those who call the shots
are never in the line of fire
why
where there's life for hire
out there
if a flag of truth were raised
we could watch every liar
rise to wave it
here
we learn america like a script
playwright
birthright
same thing
we bring
ourselves to the role
we're all rehearsing for the presidency
I always wanted to be
commander in chief
of my one woman army

but I can envision the mediocrity
of my finest hour
it's the failed america in me
it's the fear that lives
in a forest of stone
underneath the corporate canopy
where the sun
rarely
filters
down
and the ground
is not so soft

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Journey Into The Interior

By Theodore Roethke

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
-- Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly.

Monday, June 22, 2009

This Is Just To Say

By William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Word to Husbands

By Ogden Nash

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Your Dog Dies

By Raymond Carver

it gets run over by a van.
you find it at the side of the road
and bury it.
you feel bad about it.
you feel bad personally,
but you feel bad for your daughter
because it was her pet,
and she loved it so.
she used to croon to it
and let it sleep in her bed.
you write a poem about it.
you call it a poem for your daughter,
about the dog getting run over by a van
and how you looked after it,
took it out into the woods
and buried it deep, deep,
and that poem turns out so good
you're almost glad the little dog
was run over, or else you'd never
have written that good poem.
then you sit down to write
a poem about writing a poem
about the death of that dog,
but while you're writing you
hear a woman scream
your name, your first name,
both syllables,
and your heart stops.
after a minute, you continue writing.
she screams again.
you wonder how long this can go on.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Not Starting at F, Not Ending at M

By Skian McGuire

F for female is what the hospital notarized,
but even if nature's script is what society bowdlerized,
I didn't get far in the role I was expected to star in.
The pink booties didn't take & nothing could make
me into the daughter my mother always wanted.
Not starting at F if F stands for Femininity, Frailty, Frilly dresses, Fashion Barbie,
Failing at Math, Feeling Inferior, and Fluffing up the Feeble Egos of the Boy we call
Friends: that's OK when you're a kid, until puberty hits like a ton of bricks.
It's God's fucking joke. Even worse than the curse: I never asked for tits.
I swore I'd rather die than wear a bra, so I buried it in the backyard.
But never fitting anywhere makes high school a nightmare.
I was lucky to hang out with guys I didn't need to fear,
& why was it a surprise we all turned out to be queer?
But not then, not in that small town, I just wanted to hide when some clown
called somebody else a a homo or a lezzie, I knew they meant me
& why the fuck would I want to be one of them?
Not M when M stands for Macho Posturing & Might Makes Right, the Military Mindset, a
Major Obsession with Money, Muscle, and Machines & let's not forget, Sports Mania.
Fuck no! Keep 'em guessing, but hey! Being gay turned out to be a blessing.
I could grow up to be butch & didn't have to be stone,
cuz loving another woman’s body became permission to enjoy my own.
& Maybe God’s fucking joke was actually a gift beyond measure,
to inherit my father’s passion & wit, but not the chromosome
that made his hands into weapons fueled by testosterone,
free of which, my hands are only instruments of pleasure.
I didn’t start at F, I’m not ending at M.
It may be a continuum but definitions take over if you give into ‘em.
Androgyny oughta be both/and not neither/nor, the vacuum nature abhors
I check the box F & I feel like a liar, check M for Male and feel like a fraud,
In a world that pretends such things are commanded by God.
Maybe someday they’ll figure out that the boxes are too small.
In the meantime the only choice is, checking them all.

Monday, June 15, 2009

A Story

By Li-Young Lee

Sad is the man who is asked for a story
and can't come up with one.

His five-year-old son waits in his lap.
Not the same story, Baba. A new one.
The man rubs his chin, scratches his ear.

In a room full of books in a world
of stories, he can recall
not one, and soon, he thinks, the boy
will give up on his father.

Already the man lives far ahead, he sees
the day this boy will go. Don't go!
Hear the alligator story! The angel story once more!
You love the spider story. You laugh at the spider.
Let me tell it!

But the boy is packing his shirts,
he is looking for his keys. Are you a god,
the man screams, that I sit mute before you?
Am I a god that I should never disappoint?

But the boy is here. Please, Baba, a story?
It is an emotional rather than logical equation,
an earthly rather than heavenly one,
which posits that a boy's supplications
and a father's love add up to silence.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Motown Angel

By Elena Georgiou

Yesterday, I went to the supermarket. To get the maximum amount of pleasure from putting what I want in my cart, and going home with it, I stood in the produce section and imagined I could hear singing coming from the aisle which housed the jellies, fruit spreads, etc.

My C-Town usually blasts RuPaul spinning bass-thumping club music, but the singing I could hear sounded like a Motown angel who'd dropped from heaven.

As I moved down aisle three, standing there, singing, dipping his finger into a jar of orange-blossom honey was the Motown Angel himself, Mr. Marvin Gaye.

When he saw me, instead of trying to hide what he was doing, he asked if I wanted to share the jar of honey with him. Now, imagine, if Marvin Gaye asked you to share a jar of hone, what would you say? I said, Okay Marvin, but on the condition that you take me home and sing, Mercy, Mercy, Me. He agreed.

I didn't care that the cashier looked at me as though I'd lost my mind for not being able to wait until I got home to dip my finger in the honey. I knew she couldn't see Marvin, being that he was a ghost and all. I imagined she thought I was high on grass and my behavior due to an extreme case of the munchies.

When we got home, I thought Marvin and I might have sex after that little finger-licking honey episode, but I think he could feel I had a lot on my mind, so he suggested we talk instead.

I offered him some fruit though, and he chose a pomegranate. I think he did this on purpose; it was definitely the one piece of fruit in my fruitbowl which took the longest to peel and separate, and I had a strong impression he wanted to stretch out the time we could spend together.

He separated every single red seed, made a mountain out of the bite-sized blood crystals and put them in a clear glass bowl. He took a teaspoon and fed me scoops of pomegranate seeds while we talked about love.

Marvin, I said, what would you do if you'd noticed you and your lover had replaced love-making on a Sunday morning, with holding hands while reading the paper; that you'd replaced skipping meals to make love, with going shopping for food; that you'd replaced not waiting to shower before making love, with choosing to watch TV even though your bodies are clean enough to be traveled with tongues?

He didn't answer immediately. Even ghosts have to think, I thought. But when he did open his mouth, instead of talking he sang, Mercy, mercy, me--things ain't what they used to be.

Marvin, I said. I want to make love so badly. I say it like a mantra, like a poem about a lover leaving, a poem about loss.

I want to kiss. And I know a kiss is more than a kiss; I know it can come straight at you, or tease you, or speak to you and say I want you, but not just yet, I want you to wait until your wanting spills over my thigh.

I want a lover to hold at a distance, examine like a child looking at a slice of watermelon wondering how she'll fit the whole piece in her mouth. I even want to act like a teenager standing on the train with my body pressed against my lover, kissing.

Sometimes, Marvin, I fantasize about being my lover's wisdom teeth, held captive in the back of her mouth, only able to see daylight when someone says something to make her laugh from her belly; a laugh big enough for her lips to fly open and show me a glimpse of the outside world. I have to find a way to dig all this up, resurrect it, but I'm not sure how.

I know how, said Marvin. Take off your clothes and kneel by your CD player and pray. I felt self-conscious taking off all my clothes in front of Marvin Gaye, but I did it anyway. I knelt and I prayed.

Get up, God said, and put on Marvin's music.

As the words to Sexual Healing began to fill my living room I noticed a young dancer standing where Marvin had been, moving like the only reason God had given her a body was to dance.

I watched her dance. She fell in love. I remembered that the last time I fell in love was also the last time I felt beautiful.

The young dancer traced the outline of the scar on my stomach with her tongue and told me how lucky I was to be able to wear my history like a map across my body. Her words made me realize how little love I've been prepared to accept for fear of not getting any at all.

The dancer said goodbye to me three times. I think she did this on purpose because it gave her three opportunities to run her five fingers along my back. On the third touch the dancer faded and Marvin came back.

Marvin, I said. Why is the person I want to touch, the one I can't put my arms around? Why is the one I want to look at, the one who takes away my capacity for direct eye contact? And why is the one I want to walk down the street with, the one who makes me run in the opposite direction? Makes me forget how to construct sentences; forget brand names of chocolates, so I stand there, feeling like a fool, as the words Bar of Mars tumble out of my mouth, and the only thing I can think to do is make a casual face and pretend I meant to say Mars Bar like that.

But this is my big question, Marvin. Why is the lover I want to stay home with, the one who leaves?

I don't know the answer to your question, Marvin said, but what I've learned is this. Do you remember how sweet the taste of our hello was?

Yes, I responded.

Well, in the same way you dipped your finger in the honey, right there, in the supermarket and didn't wait to go home to do it, that's the way to approach love.

I'm going to change back into the young dancer, now, and I want you to dip your finger in her. I want you to tell her that you need her to dance with you and I promise, if you tell her what you need she will try her best to keep dancing to the taste of your words.

But, Marvin, will her best be enough?

It will be, if she chooses music that moves you, if she dances as though you share a body; and if she leaves you dancing after the music has stopped.

Friday, June 12, 2009

8 Arms of Color

By James Caroline

his tank is too small.

The octopus, its limbs
examples
of a flexible arm with unlimited degrees of freedom-
begins with a wave, an extension and roll,
propagation of a bend from
the base of the arm to the tip.

there is no place unsuitable for reaching.

Kinematics (position and velocity) of extension;
the bend moves in a single linear plane
connecting the center of the animal’s body
with it’s desired point of touch.

brace yourself when reaching for the immovable.

The reversal potential of the energy used for movement
-10mV.

2 arms, when extended together in the same behavioral context,
will demonstrate identical velocity profiles.

this is our muscle key; where
we reached together—where a hand was extended
and found another reaching.

Color change is initiated by the eyes.
For camouflage, 3 bags containing different colors in the skin
are adjusted individually until the background color is matched.
Coloration also reflects mood:
white for fear, red for anger, brown for, currently, well adjusted.

* * * *

the animal shoots melanin ink at threats,
finds food in hard bodied bottom feeders,
ignores their claws.

They learn by trial-and-error experience.
They learn from sight by comparing edges, orientations, shapes.
They learn by touch.
Tactile information is stored in a different area of the brain than visual.

our fights always end with a kiss

lids, locks, the building of walls,
all learned and mastered
by venomous, soft bodied invertebrates,
solitary magicians
in the deep.
They do not swim the surface.

We each pushed a hand to the glass,
awestruck by the curling of soft limbs and suckers,
our free hands clasped,
4 legs holding us up,
like magic
in our own deep water
with pressure,
and colors that change
as we learn of holding.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Third Gender

By Kit Yan

all right so gender should be as simple as gay or straight
cuz if you are attracted to the opposite gender
you’re straight
if you are attracted to the same gender
well i guess you’re gay
therefore if you have a penis you’re a man
and if you have a vagina you’re a woman
straight shot
straight answer
gender
see gender is man next to woman
not touching but separate
gender is america’s controlled nationalism bullshit
gender is birth certificates for babies born into gender
housing applications check boxes and even getting an email address
this is gender
but i ask you
is it truly worth
embarrassment
imprisonment
or harassment
for your gender identity?
so excuse me are you a man or are you a woman
and you’ve changed your name to Kit now
so do you wanna be straight?
and you look like a boy now so you’re straight, right?
but back when you were Laura you were gay
as if sexuality and gender were something that you could purchase on impulse
pulling up to the register and carefully picking out
gay straight
man or woman
neatly packaged for easy consumption
then you should be able to do it with ease
purchasing a gold foiled bar of gay and plastic bag of man
and walking out of that grocery store fabulously onto the set of Queer Eye
but it’s not that easy
because sometimes my gender is
boy who looks like a girl who likes boys
and sometimes my gender is trans
and sometimes my gender is chilling out in between
but most of the time my gender is fuck you mind your own business
but it can’t be that way
because gender is so rigidly defined
neatly outlined and nicely colonized
organized and clearly understandable
yet the gap is becoming gendered and
i’m standing in line for the bathroom with
girls birls boys bis transsexual transgendered queer questioning curious polyamorous intersexed flexual asexual trisexual omnisexual multisexual pansexual gender neutral genderqueer multigendered androgynous drag king drag queen butch femme fairy two-spirit bear dyke lipstick tranny boi (with an i) ftm mtf boydyke bi-dyke half-dyke queerboi ex-straight and that’s just the beginning
but ask a member of the Zuni tribe about the lhamana’s gender
and they’ll tell you it’s lhamana
the South Asians about the hijaras
and they’ll tell you that it’s hijaras
the Hawaiians about mahus
and they’ll tell you that it’s mahu
the Americans about the trannies
and they’ll tell you that they don’t know
see there may be as many as a million genders identities and sexualities
just floating around waiting for the right person to snatch them up
put them on and proudly parade around in their new skin
unrestricted by layers and identity
or limitations of culture society or social construction
this new gender is a function of inner desire and
genuine understanding of self to be lived
so go ahead
and show us where the bathroom is

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Risk

By Anais Nin

And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to blossom.

Monday, June 8, 2009

There is no reason

By Tony Brown

There is no reason
for this.

nothing matters. if it were easier to
make things happen, perhaps things would matter
because they would be possible.
they are not.

there are whole countries
where the mention of possibility
evokes laughter.

families stumble on their way home
and cry out: it's impossible.
the way is long, the night is dark
and we are too small to reach the shore, even if we
hold onto one another.

the man and the woman, the man and the man,
the woman and the woman
are all impossible.
merger defaults to clash.
faces that were kissing
soon strike each other, bruising lips, leaving
cheekbones aching; they begin to turn away.

two people step into a city crowd at the same time.
they never meet, walk parallel
to the same dock, step on and then off the ferry
separately. the next day, one leaps from the ferry
and a cosmos is lost.
the other goes home as calm as a tomb,
knowing nothing of what has passed by him.

this is the way it is: impossible.
we are not equipped to make it happen. ever.

if it happens, once and then rarely again,
it happens in spite of us.

pray for the ability
to witness, take hold,
and hang on.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Savanna

By Ken Hunt

(For everyone who has been tested for HIV)

this blood which is being
drawn for the test is not
familiar blood: like watching
your closest friend go mad,
you don't quite know
the exact nature of the change.
It is the vehicle
which has allowed me
to pass through all
these situations which have led
me to this clinic
where I give only my first name.
As the needle goes in
it makes a prick like every
laser light beam that hit
me square in the eyes
as I lived the accidental,
the ironic,
the physical life.

And these veins which yield
the sample are unfamiliar interstates,
the construction project
everyone forgot about
prone to inducing the spill
of cargo. Careful, I tell
the clinician, I've been bruising
more easily lately
and I don't know why.
This is a bald-faced lie.
I want to say further, at night
I lie awake listening to the traffic
roar and gurgle inside me,
gridlock inside the skull.
Perhaps that is why all this
has come to pass:
to cut the noise,
decongest,
relax.

And the regimen to come,
I know it already:
Cut the misbehavior, stay
at home for a couple weeks
with herbal tea and the everyday
pressure of waiting. Eat healthy,
just in case, take vitamins,
and (you should have
done this already) stop smoking.
Concentrate on work and find
the Fox station which broadcasts
reruns of The Simpsons
three times a day.

And the voices, they will be there too,
figures from memory that do not
merit the dignity of being
called ghosts:
c'mon ken,
one more vodka and coke,
one more shot of Jaegermeister,
one more joint,
one more popper,
one more hit of X,
one more line of speed,
one more --

How many of us stumbled through high school
singing along with the Violent Femmes,
"just one kiss,"
and imagined it would come down to this?

As the needle is withdrawn
I rise above my body and watch it
unfold into a landscape
untouched by human works.
Savanna. Plains covered in tall,
reedy grasses. First the field mice come,
and then the grass snakes,
and then the gazelles and giraffes,
the wildebeests, and needless to say
the lions and tigers,
and finally the elephants.
Birds of prey circle, dive,
kamikaze contact with the earth.
I watch them progress in waves
until I realize it's an exodus,
that the fires have started,
and I am jarred back to my body to feel
hundreds of thousands of panicking
hooves and paws and wings
storming over every inch of my skin.
I'm pinned down and suffocating. No
I bolt up in the clinic
chair to call out to anyone
I love enough to have hear me:
I refuse to become one of those friends
you will have to bury.

But the fact is,
my body is a landscape
and I don't know what lives there.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Don't Do That

By Stephen Dunn

It was bring-your-own if you wanted anything
hard, so I brought Johnnie Walker Red
along with some resentment I’d held in
for a few weeks, which was not helped
by the sight of little nameless things
pierced with toothpicks on the tables,
or by talk that promised to be nothing
if not small. But I’d consented to come,
and I knew what part of the house
their animals would be sequestered,
whose company I loved. What else can I say,

except that old retainer of slights and wrongs,
that bad boy I hadn’t quite outgrown—
I’d brought him along, too. I was out
to cultivate a mood. My hosts greeted me,
but did not ask about my soul, which was when
I was invited by Johnnie Walker Red
to find the right kind of glass, and pour.
I toasted the air. I said hello to the wall,
then walked past a group of women
dressed to be seen, undressing them
one by one, and went up the stairs to where

the Rottweilers were, Rosie and Tom,
and got down with them on all fours.
They licked the face I offered them,
and I proceeded to slick back my hair
with their saliva, and before long
I felt like a wild thing, ready to mess up
the party, scarf the hors d’oeuvres.
But the dogs said, No, don’t do that,
calm down, after a while they open the door
and let you out, they pet your head, and everything
you might have held against them is gone,
and you’re good friends again. Stay, they said.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Always

By Pablo Neruda

I am not jealous
of what came before me.

Come with a man
on your shoulders,
come with a hundred men in your hair,
come with a thousand men between your breasts and your feet,
come like a river
full of drowned men
which flows down to the wild sea,
to the eternal surf, to Time!

Bring them all
to where I am waiting for you;
we shall always be alone,
we shall always be you and I
alone on earth
to start our life!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Crumbs

By Hal Sirowitz

Don't eat any more food in your room,
Mother said. You'll get more bugs.
They depend on people like you.
Otherwise, they would starve.
But who do you want to make happy,
your mother or a bunch of ants?
What have they done for you?
Nothing. They have no feelings.
They'll eat your candy. Yet
you treat them better than you treat me.
You keep feeding them.
But you never offer me anything.

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