Wednesday, March 31, 2010

So Many Times

By Rachel Korn

I have been annihilated so many times.
At the point of a moment,
On the thorn of a word,
On the barbed wire of hate.
Through hidden hypocrisy,
On burning roads,
In worlds made bitter.
I have been annihilated so many times
I can’t remember the time nor the place.

Still I return and am reborn
And on the new I become renewed.

Through the breath of the wind
Through my own tears
Like a little seed
That is sown in the fall
I become a part of a new scroll
Signed with a single star

Translated by D.S. Glick

Monday, March 29, 2010

Imagine the Angels of Bread

By Martín Espada

This is the year that squatters evict landlords,
gazing like admirals from the rail
of the roofdeck
or levitating hands in praise
of steam in the shower;
this is the year
that shawled refugees deport judges
who stare at the floor
and their swollen feet
as files are stamped
with their destination….
This is the year that those
who swim the border's undertow
and shiver in boxcars
are greeted with trumpets and drums
at the first railroad crossing
If the abolition of slave-manacles
began as a vision of hands without manacles,
then this is the year;
if the shutdown of extermination camps
began as imagination of a land
without barbed wire or the crematorium,
then this is the year;
if every rebellion begins with the idea
that conquerors on horseback
are not many-legged gods, that they too drown
if plunged in the river,
then this is the year.
So may every humiliated mouth,
teeth like desecrated headstones,
fill with the angels of bread.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fear

By Raymond Carver

Fear of seeing a police car pull into the drive.
Fear of falling asleep at night.
Fear of not falling asleep.
Fear of the past rising up.
Fear of the present taking flight.
Fear of the telephone that rings in the dead of night.
Fear of electrical storms.
Fear of the cleaning woman who has a spot on her cheek!
Fear of dogs I've been told won't bite.
Fear of anxiety!
Fear of having to identify the body of a dead friend.
Fear of running out of money.
Fear of having too much, though people will not believe this.
Fear of psychological profiles.
Fear of being late and fear of arriving before anyone else.
Fear of my children's handwriting on envelopes.
Fear they'll die before I do, and I'll feel guilty.
Fear of having to live with my mother in her old age, and mine.
Fear of confusion.
Fear this day will end on an unhappy note.
Fear of waking up to find you gone.
Fear of not loving and fear of not loving enough.
Fear that what I love will prove lethal to those I love.
Fear of death.
Fear of living too long.
Fear of death.

I've said that.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Neither Out Far Nor In Deep

By Robert Frost

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be---
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

To Dorothy

By Marvin Bell

You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry
and a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet
of a windy night, it brushes the wall
and sweeps away the day till we sleep.

A child said it, and it seemed true:
"Things that are lost are all equal."
But it isn't true. If I lost you,
the air wouldn't move, nor the tree grow.
Someone would pull the weed, my flower.
The quiet wouldn't be yours. If I lost you,
I'd have to ask the grass to let me sleep.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Talking About New Orleans

By Jayne Cortez

Talking about New Orleans
About deforestation & the flood of vodun paraphernalia
the Congo line losing its Congo
the funeral bands losing their funding
the killer winds humming intertribal warfare hums into
two storm-surges
touching down tonguing the ground
three thousand times in a circle of grief
four thousand times on a levee of lips
five thousand times between a fema of fangs
everything fiendish, fetid, funky, swollen, overheated
and splashed with blood & guts & drops of urinated gin
in syncopation with me
riding through on a refrigerator covered with
asphalt chips with pieces of ragtime music charts
torn photo mug shots & pulverized turtle shells from Biloxi
me bumping against a million-dollar oil rig
me in a ghost town floating on a river on top of a river
me with a hundred ton of crab legs
and no evacuation plan
me in a battered tree barking & howling with abandoned dogs
my cheeks stained with dried suicide kisses
my isolation rising with a rainbow of human corpse &
fecal rat bones
where is that fire chief in his big hat
where are the fucking pumps
the rescue boats
& the famous coalition of bullhorns calling out names
hey I want my red life jacket now
& I need some sacred sandbags
some fix-the-levee-powder
some blood-pressure-support-juice
some get-it-together-dust
some lucky-rooftop-charms &
some magic-helicopter-blades
I'm not prepared
to live on the bottom of the water like Oshun
I don't have a house built on stilts
I can't cross the sea like Olokun
I'm not equipped to walk on water like Marie Laveau
or swim away from a Titanic situation like Mr. Shine
Send in those paddling engineers
I'm inside of my insides
& I need to distinguish
between the nightmare, the mirage,
the dream and the hallucination
Give me statistics
how many residents died while waiting
how many drowned
how many suffocated
how many were dehydrated
how many were separated
how many are missing
how many had babies
and anyway
who's in charge of this confusion
this gulf coast engulfment
this displacement
this superdome shelter
this stench of stank
this demolition order
this crowded convention center chaos
making me crave solitary confinement

Am I on my own
exhausted from fighting racist policies
exhausted from fighting off sex offenders
exhausted from fighting for cots for tents for trailers
for a way out of this anxiety this fear this emptiness
this avoidance this unequal opportunity world of
disappointments accumulating in my undocumented eye
of no return tickets

Is this freedom is this global warming is this the new identity
me riding on a refrigerator through contaminated debris
talking to no one in particular
about a storm that became a hurricane
& a hurricane that got violent and started
eyeballing & whistling & stretching toward
a category three domination that caught me in
the numbness of my own consciousness
unprepared, unprotected and
made more vulnerable to destabilization
by the corporate installation of human greed, human poverty
human invention of racism & human neglect of the environment

I mean even Buddy Bolden came back to say
move to higher ground
because a hurricane will not
rearrange its creativity for you
& the river will meet the ocean in
the lake of your flesh again
so move to higher ground
and let your jungle find its new defense
let the smell of your wisdom restore the power of pure air
& let your intoxicated shoreline rumble above & beyond the
water-marks of disaster

I'm speaking of New Orleans of deportation
of belching bulldozers of poisonous snakes
of bruised bodies of instability and madness
mechanism of indifference and process of elimination
I'm talking about transformation about death re-entering life with
Bonne chance, bon ton roulé, bonjour & bonne vie in New Orleans, bon

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Holy Thursday

By William Blake

Is this a holy thing to see
In a rich and fruitful land,
Babes reduced to misery
Fed with cold and usurous hand?

Is that trembling cry a song?
Can it be a song of joy?
And so many children poor?
It is a land of poverty!

And their sun does never shine.
And their fields are bleak & bare.
And their ways are fill'd with thorns.
It is eternal winter there.

For where-e’er the sun does shine,
And where-e’er the rain does fall:
Babe can never hunger there,
Nor poverty the mind appall.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Good Mirrors Are Not Cheap

By Audre Lorde

It is a waste of time hating a mirror
or its reflection
instead of stopping the hand
that makes glass with distortions
slight enough to pass
unnoticed
until one day you peer
into your face
under a merciless white light
and the fault in a mirror slaps back
becoming
what you think
is the shape of your error
and if I am beside that self
you destroy me
or if you can see
the mirror is lying
you shatter the glass
choosing another blindness
and slashed helpless hands.

Because at the same time
down the street
a glassmaker is grinning
turning out new mirrors that lie
selling us
new clowns
at cut rate.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Drinking Song

By W. B. Yeats

Wine comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That’s all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ask Me

By William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Untitled

By William Shakespeare

BRUTUS:
Cassius,
Be not deceived: if I have veil'd my look,
I turn the trouble of my countenance
Merely upon myself. Vexed I am
Of late with passions of some difference,
Conceptions only proper to myself,
Which give some soil perhaps to my behaviors;
But let not therefore my good friends be grieved--
Among which number, Cassius, be you one--
Nor construe any further my neglect,
Than that poor Brutus, with himself at war,
Forgets the shows of love to other men.

- From Julius Caesar

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me

By Mary Oliver

Last night
the rain
spoke to me
slowly, saying,

what joy
to come falling
out of the brisk cloud,
to be happy again

in a new way
on the earth!
That’s what it said
as it dropped,

smelling of iron,
and vanished
like a dream of the ocean
into the branches

and the grass below.
Then it was over.
The sky cleared.
I was standing

under a tree.
The tree was a tree
with happy leaves,
and I was myself,

and there were stars in the sky
that were also themselves
at the moment
at which moment

my right hand
was holding my left hand
which was holding the tree
which was filled with stars

and the soft rain—
imagine! imagine!
the long and wondrous journeys
still to be ours.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

St. Mark’s Cathedral, Seattle

By Brittney Corrigan

Nine-thirty tonight and the Episcopalian youth
sprawl themselves on the carpeted steps
before the altar; women and men who belong here
cross themselves as they move down the center
of the church like a bloodline. And I
curl my fingers together, guarding the triangle
of my pelvis, never having crossed myself
before, not even knowing which shoulder
comes first—my fingertips being more familiar
with the length of my hair, the lids of my eyes,
my breasts. I lower my head not in humility
or prayer, but out of inexperience and the weight
of uncomfortable silences. Sixteen-year old boys
sit with their arms on their knees,
their heads in their arms, looking
as if they carry the weight of all of America’s
youth on their backs, and the voice
of the tenor rises, bells into this space—
the high ceilings, the arched windows, the open
doors. Once, in a Catholic church, I sat
with my sister while the Communion line
formed, feeling conspicuous as angels,
knowing the dryness of my body, the emptiness
of my mouth. I want to prop my feet
on the kneelers, know why the same sixteen-year old
who smokes behind the school between classes,
holds girls’ breasts in the palms of his hands,
sits here looking like he knows something
I will never know, like he believes in the full drone
of the bass, the fine male harmonies, the murmured
words as ingrained as nursery rhymes. The choir
files out, robes gathered at the throats of old men, young men,
like the anticipation of a note between
pitch pipe and voice, and I unknit my fingers
to brush the hair from my face—the eyes
of the boys again raised upward, cast
into the world like a confession, or a song.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eagle Poem

By Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can't see, can't hear
Can't know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren't always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circles in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon, within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Alone

in the Queer bar with ice water that costs $1.50
twenty years & hundreds of girlfriends later
I still
don't know how to do this
Never will
So I enjoy the closely swaying women's bodies
flicker of simmering desire
in this one place where we can sort of be
ourselves
that in every town is always smoky, tacky, & not quite clean
where class & race dim in red spinning lights
a haze of booze
Sober
this is not my home
but there's no place else to go
in a strange city.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What Kind of Times Are These

By Adrienne Rich

There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Dreams

By Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Father and Son Road Show

By Sherman Alexie

The doctor tells me my father's story,
How he'll die if he stops dialysis.
"First confusion, followed by lethargy,
Then toxins shut off the brain." I hate this

Doctor and his certainty, though I wish
I could hate my father and his weakness.
Of course, I'm lying. Most days, I would kiss
This doctor as he tends the sugar-soaked mess

My father has made of his life. I confess
To loving my father, a gentle man
Whose brutal thirsts have left us all bereft,
And so bereft, I'm to give a command

Performance—a road show, a song and dance—
And convince my father to continue
Dialysis, no matter how he's planned
To die or not die. I don't have a clue

How to begin this time, though I've rescued
My endless father endlessly, traveled
Two thousand miles to buy him a shoe
To fit his amputated foot. Unraveled

By the simple act of living, marveled
By the mundane, my father mowed the lawn
Like van Gogh painted and spread free gravel
On the driveway like God created dawn.

God, how often I woke to find him gone,
Fleeing the children he loved and could not feed,
As if leaving made magic, a spell-song
That conjured fruit, milk, bread, fish, egg, and seed.

Come back, come back, I child-cried, I need
My father to return. Now, a father
Of two open mouths (and souls) who need me,
I'm a primitive: I hunt and gather;

I build totems and pyramids; I'm fur
And claw; I believe animals can talk;
I know the world is flat; I'm the cur
Raised by wolves; I worship corn, leaf, and stalk;

A child of the sun, I've learned to walk
Upright but still run on all fours; afraid
Of the dark and fire, in love with rock
And fire, I huddle alone in caves

And pray to my ten thousand gods; I pray
To my father's ten thousand gods; I pray
To my sons' twenty thousand gods; and I pray
For protection, courage, and strength to stay

With my father as he chooses the way
This machine will help him live or not live,
As father and father-son separate,
Loose, broken, dissolved by dialysis.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Precisely

Precisely because I do not have
the beautiful words I need
I call upon my acts
to speak to you.

Precisamente

Precisamenta porque no poseo
las hermosas palabras necesarias
procuro de mis actos
para hablarte.

Translated by Margaret Randall & Elinor Randall

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