Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Handmaid's Sinai

By Bonnie Lyons

That day at Sinai only Miriam stood
with the bearded elders close to Moses.
The rest of the women were behind
the men hushing restless children,
and we handmaids
stood farthest away.

Together we stood transfigured
by the glorious encounter,
united into one people
accepting the covenant
that gave meaning
to our meandering lives.

Small and slight,
I could barely see
what was happening
and could not push forward.

Standing so far back
I could not help but notice
that while we were one people
we were still many people:
men and women, rich and poor,
powerful and powerless.
Those standing near the mountain
could see only the oneness.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Small Thing Love

By Anthony Flores

'tis a molecular thing
makes me love you,
a CELL-u-lar thing
keeps me caged in your gaze,
a subatomic thing
in the smallest parts of me
that makes me feel so BIG about you, love
- 'cuz you're in every micron
of my wolf heart.

you're helix-spun
and stranded in me good
(perhaps like magic)
in the D
and the N
and the A of me

or settled sweet
in my deepest bottoms,
like crystals
in my deepest, darkest bottoms.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Rules of Evidence

By Lee Robinson

What your want to say most
is inadmissible.
Say it anyway.
Say it again.
What they tell you is irrelevant
can't be denied and will
eventually be heard.
Every question
is a leading question.
Ask it anyway, then expect
what you won't get.
There is no such thing
as the original
so you'll have to make do
with a reasonable facsimile.
The history of the world
is hearsay. Hear it.
The whole truth
is unspeakable
and nothing but the truth
is a lie.
I swear this.
My oath is a kiss.
I swear
by everything

If I Could Shake

you like a mat from my floor,
pick you up and throw your dirt
out to a long wind, away.

But you have brushed each room of
my house with your scent, have touched
these walls with more than one color.

Winds that flatten even the boldest
trees could strike all this, right
to the foundation. And still

you would thrive underground,
a firm root, food I would need.
Even if all that were gone,

you would be here: every
one of the tunnels of my
body spills with your fruit.

by Wendy Barker

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fall in the Hill Country

By Marian Aitches

Oh, you know how wrong
they were, the philosophers

It is the edge of the morning when
if you go out,
you feel you are interrupting
a sacred act,
creation maybe,
one of the days before humans bloomed
in a perfect garden.

Why you push open the cabin door,
see light rush among live oaks,
a herd of green horses
stamping their hooves in the spirit world.

The field beyond is pulsing
with something more than words,
alone in its rock-strewn beauty
except for one old maple
stirring in the wind across early sky

like a yellow river fluent
over burnt gold stones -
inhabits the world
the way you long to.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

First Boyfriend

By Sharon Olds

(for D.R.)

We would park on any quiet street,
gliding over to the curb as if by accident,
the houses dark, the families sealed into them,
we’d park away from the street-light, just the
fait waves of its amber grit
reached your car, you’d switch off the motor and
turn and reach for me, and I would
slide into your arms as if I had been born for it,
the ochre corduroy of your sports jacket
pressing the inside of my wrists,
making its patter of rivulets,
water rippling out like sound waves from a source.
Your front seat had an overpowering
make smell, as if the chrome had been
rubbed with jism, a sharp stale
delirious odor like the sour plated
taste of the patina on an old watch, the
fragrance of your sex polished till it shone in the night, the
jewel of Channing Street, of Benvenue Avenue, of
Panoramic, of Dwight Way, I
returned to you as if to the breast of my father,
grain of the beard on your umber cheeks,
delicate line of tartar on the edge of your teeth,
the odor of use, the stained brass
air in the car as if I had come
back to a pawnshop to claim what was mine—
and as your tongue went down my throat,
right down the central nerve of my body, the
gilt balls of the street-light gleamed like a
pawnbroker’s over your second-hand Chevy and
all the toasters popped up and
all the saxophones began to play
hot riffs of scat for the return to their rightful owners.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wild Is The Wind

By Travis Nichols

There is a movie called "She's Gotta Have It."
There is a blizzard in Massachusetts today.
Twenty-one people died in Chicago last night.
Two of my friends live there,
but I have never wanted to live there
because it is cold there and people die
from the cold and the wind and from each other.
There is a movie called "Chicago."
I saw it yesterday in Massachusetts.
The wind is shaking our house this morning
but it's warm inside. One of my friends
in Chicago loves to have sex, the other
thinks she might but she's scared
because she passed out the first time
she had sex with someone else but that
was only a few months ago before it got so cold
in Chicago. I’ve had sex with one of my friends from Chicago
but not the other one though I wouldn’t have sex
with either of them now after I’ve read how it is always
colder in Chicago than it is in Massachusetts
because of the wind. "Wild is the Wind" is a song
by Nina Simone about not having sex with your friends
in Chicago. That’s not true. Twenty-one people
died in Chicago last night but not two of my friends
or me because I live in Massachusetts.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cotton Candy On A Rainy Day

By Nikki Giovanni

Don't look now
I'm fading away
Into the gray of my mornings
Or the blues of every night

Is it that my nails
keep breaking
Or maybe the corn
on my second little piggy
Things keep popping out
on my face or of my life

It seems no matter how
I try I become more difficult
to hold
I am not an easy woman
to want

They have asked
the psychiatrists...psychologists...
politicians and social workers
What this decade will be
known for

There is no is

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Letter to the Front

By Muriel Rukeyser


To be a Jew in the twentieth century
Is to be offered a gift. If you refuse,
Wishing to be invisible, you choose
Death of the spirit, the stone insanity.
Accepting, take full life. Full agonies:
Your evening deep in labyrinthine blood
Of those who resist, fail, and resist; and God
Reduced to a hostage among hostages.
The gift is torment. Not alone the still
Torture, isolation; or torture of the flesh.
That may come also. But the accepting wish,
The whole and fertile spirit as guarantee
For every human freedom, suffering to be free,
Daring to live for the impossible.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

7 AM at the Western Wall

By Jessica Rosenfeld

At 7 AM at the Wall the men
eddy and swirl, wearing their prayers
on their sleeves.
Angry old men with long beards
shout against the wall
as if it were a donkey
blocking the road.

At 7 AM at the Wall the women
rock and sway in heavy black shoes
moving their lips to silent music.
Tired old women kiss the wall
as it it were a long lost child
setting out again.

Answer us! demand the men
pounding the door to their King.

Speak to us, implore the women
whispering to their Lover
across a pillow of stone.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Issei Strawberry

By David Mura

Taste this strawberry, spin it in motion
on the whirl of your tongue, look west
towards Watsonville or some other
sleepy California town, spit
and wipe your sleeve across
your mouth, then bend down again, dipping
and rising like a piston, like fire, like a swirling
dervish, a lover ready to ravish this harvest, this
autumn of thirty-one or eight or nine, years
when, as everyone declines
around you, as swing and Capra redefine
an American dream, as some are deferred and some
preferred, and some complain, and some confer
and strike, and are stricken, are written
out of history, you have managed your own
prosperity, a smacking ripeness on the vine, acres
and acres you mine as your own, as your children's
whose deed it is, knowing you own nothing
here, you're no one here
but your genes, the ones who spit back
so readily in English on their tongues, tart
and trickier, phrases that blow past
you, winking, even as they
sink in, you're losing
them, you're gaining a harvest, a country, a future
so much to lose when, in biting your tongue,
the red juice flows between your teeth
with the strawberries
of loam and sweat, of summers in the valley
when you made it before the war had come.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

When the Saints Come Marching In

By Audre Lorde

Plentiful sacrifice and believers in redemption
are all that is needed
so any day now I expect
some new religion
to rise up like tear gas
from the streets of New York
erupting like the rank pavement smell
released by a garbage truck's
baptismal drizzle.

HIgh priests are ready and waiting
their incense pans full of fire

I do not know their rituals
nor what name of the god
the survivors will worship
I only know she will be terrible
and very busy
and very old.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


By Anne Sexton

They work with herbs
and penicillin
They work with gentleness
and the scalpel.
They dig out the cancer,
close an incision
and say a prayer
to the poverty of the skin.
They are not Gods
though they would like to be;
they are only a human
trying to fix up a human.
Many humans die.
They die like the tender,
palpitating berries
in November.
But all along the doctors remember:
First do no harm.
They would kiss if it would heal.
It would not heal.

If the doctors cure
then the sun sees it.
If the doctors kill
then the earth hides it.
The doctors should fear arrogance
more than cardiac arrest.
If they are too proud,
and some are,
then they leave home on horseback
but God returns them on foot.

Monday, December 7, 2009

"What Do Women Want?"

By Kim Addonizio

I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap,
I want it too tight, I want to wear it
until someone tears it off me.
I want it sleeveless and backless,
this dress, so no one has to guess
what's underneath. I want to walk down
the street past Thrifty's and the hardware store
with all those keys glittering in the window,
past Mr. and Mrs. Wong selling day-old
donuts in their café, past the Guerra brothers
slinging pigs from the truck and onto the dolly,
hoisting the slick snouts over their shoulders.
I want to walk like I'm the only
woman on earth and I can have my pick.
I want that red dress bad.
I want it to confirm
your worst fears about me,
to show you how little I care about you
or anything except what
I want. When I find it, I'll pull that garment
from its hanger like I'm choosing a body
to carry me into this world, through
the birth-cries and the love-cries too,
and I'll wear it like bones, like skin,
it'll be the goddamned
dress they bury me in.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Winter Without Snow

By J. D. McClatchy

Even the sky here in Connecticut has it,
That wry look of accomplished conspiracy,
The look of those who've gotten away

With a petty but regular white collar crime.
When I pick up my shirts at the laundry,
A black woman, putting down her Daily News,

Wonders why and how much longer our luck
Will hold. "Months now and no kiss of the witch."
The whole state overcast with such particulars.

For Emerson, a century ago and farther north,
Where the country has an ode's jagged edges,
It was "frolic architecture." Frozen blue-

Print of extravagance, shapes of a shared life
Left knee-deep in transcendental drifts:
The isolate forms of snow are its hardest fact.

Down here, the plain tercets of provision do,
Their picket snow-fence peeling, gritty,
Holding nothing back, nothing in, nothing at all.

Down here, we've come to prefer the raw material
Of everyday and this year have kept an eye
On it, shriveling but still recognizable--

A sight that disappoints even as it adds
A clearing second guess to winter. It's
As if, in the third year of a "relocation"

To a promising notch way out on the Sunbelt,
You've grown used to the prefab housing,
The quick turnover in neighbors, the constant

Smell of factory smoke--like Plato's cave,
You sometimes think--and the stumpy trees
That summer slighted and winter just ignores,

And all the snow that never falls is now
Back home and mixed up with other piercing
Memories of childhood days you were kept in

With a Negro schoolmate, of later storms
Through which you drove and drove for hours
Without ever seeing where you were going.

Or as if you've cheated on a cold sickly wife.
Not in some overheated turnpike motel room
With an old flame, herself the mother of two,

Who looks steamy in summer-weight slacks
And a parrot-green pullover. Not her.
Not anyone. But every day after lunch

You go off by yourself, deep in a brown study,
Not doing much of anything for an hour or two,
Just staring out the window, or at a patch

On the wall where a picture had hung for ages,
A woman with planets in her hair, the gravity
Of perfection in her features--oh! her hair

The lengthening shadow of the galaxy's sweep.
As a young man you used to stand outside
On warm nights and watch her through the trees.

You remember how she disappeared in winter,
Obscured by snow that fell blindly on the heart,
On the house, on a world of possibilities.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

God's Wheel

By Shel Silverstein

God says to me with a kind of smile,
"Hey how would you like to be God awhile
And steer the world?"
"Okay," says I, "I'll give it a try.
Where do I set?
How much do I get?
What time is lunch?
When can I quit?"
"Gimme back that wheel," says God.
"I don't think you're quite ready yet."