Friday, July 30, 2010

COMMAND

By Rachel Barenblat

A perpetual fire shall be kept burning on the altar, not to go out. --Lev. 6:6

First you dress in linen
then scoop out the ashes.
Stop and wash with water,
then you change your garments

and scoop out the ashes.
Lather, rinse, repeat;
then you change your garments.
No one said it was easy.

Lather, rinse, repeat;
out here in the wilderness
no one said it was easy
to keep the fire burning.

Out here in the wilderness
there's little wood to scavenge
to keep the fire burning
all night until morning.

There's little wood to scavenge
and you want perpetual motion
all night until morning—
that's the ritual of the offering.

You want perpetual motion
but fires don't burn forever
and the ritual of the offering
is this lesson from the waters.

Fires don't burn forever
(except for that holy pillar)
so take a lesson from the waters
and the reeds you sludged across.

Remember that holy pillar
like a beacon in the darkness
and the reeds you sludged across
each shaky step toward freedom.

Like a beacon in the darkness
God's instructions on this are clear:
each shaky step toward freedom
keeps the fire burning.

God's instructions on this are clear.
Stop and wash with water.
Keep the fire burning.
First you dress in linen.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Things You Know By Heart

By Jennifer Saunders

The things you know by heart - which are the things
you'd thought you'd forgotten - come to you one
night. Your father's hand that you could rarely hold,
calloused by the crutches he used your whole life.
The smell of his coffee ready for the thermos. The
whistle on the red cord he kept for hockey practice.
The way the boys accepted a coach who could not
skate and the way he expected them to wear coat
and tie on game nights. The way they always did.

These things come to you and at first you think that
you are dreaming. The bend in the river where your
father cast his line. His fly-rods lined up like
lodgepole pines. The Bowie knife in its leather casing
stained by fish-guts and sweat. The way he pinched
back the barbs on his hooks and the way he slid a
trout back into the water. The way it darted for the
river grasses on the far bank.

These things come to you in the still night. Your
father's bed in the living room when he could no
longer climb the stairs. The crutches laid to rest
against the headboard as if they might still be
needed. His tea, cold in the cup. The way you taught
him about cycling during late-night coverage of the
Tour de France when neither of you could sleep. The
way he looked when he began to understand what a
cyclist you'd become, and the way he knew you would
race on without him. The way you did.

These things come to you in the dark. The scent of
lilacs when your mother woke you that Sunday. The
slant of light on the hardwood floor. The
quiet. The way you thought you should already have known. The
way you called your friend to say you wouldn't be
playing softball that afternoon and the way she
understood what that meant. The way you've never
played softball since.

The things you know by heart – which are the things
you'd thought you'd forgotten – come to you one
night. The way your small son dimples high on his left
cheek when he laughs, just like your father did. The
way you taught him to skate by holding his hands and
gliding backwards before him the way your father
could not teach you. The way you brought him to the
bend in the river and the way he threw rocks in the
riffles when he got there. The way you let him. The
way he is growing already so tall, the way he will
grow taller still, and all the things he already knows
by heart come to you one night. You turn and drift
back to sleep, wrapped in the eiderdown of the things
you'd thought you'd forgotten.


Previously published in BluePrint Review, Issue #19

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What if God

By Sharon Olds

And what if God had been watching when my mother
came into my bed? What would He have done when her
long adult body rolled on me like a
tongue of lava from the top of the mountain and the
tears jumped from her ducts like hot rocks and my
bed shook with the tremors of the magma and the
deep cracking of my nature across--
what was He? Was He a bison to lower his
thundercloud head and suck His own sex while He
watched us weep and pray to Him or
was He a squirrel, reaching down through the
hole she broke in my shell, squirrel with His
arm in the yolk of my soul up to the elbow,
stirring, stirring the gold? Or was He a
kid in Biology, dissecting me while she
held my split carapace apart so He could
firk out my oblong eggs one by one, was He a
man entering me up to the hilt while she
pried my thighs wide in the starry dark--
she said that all we did was done in His sight so
what was He doing as He saw her weep in my
hair and slip my soul from between my
ribs like a tiny hotel soap, did He
wash his hands of me as I washed my
hands of Him? Is there a God in the house?
Is there a God in the house? Then reach down and
take that woman off that child's body,
take that woman by the nape of the neck like a young cat and
lift her up and deliver her over to me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Humility

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Rick, the carpenter who built our gate, appears at the door. "Look what I found," he says, dangling my first long-out-of-print book of poems. At a garage sale in his neighborhood. In a box of loose plumbing parts, those rubber domes that go in the back of toilets. Marked one dollar. He hands over the book for me to sign. "Give you two dollars," I say, and he shakes his head. "Finders, keepers." Then I ask if they were selling lots of books, and he says, "No, only yours."

Monday, July 26, 2010

What's That Smell in the Kitchen?

By Marge Piercy

All over America women are burning dinners.
It's lamb chops in Peoria; it's haddock
in Providence; it's steak in Chicago;
tofu delight in Big Sur; red
rice and beans in Dallas.
All over America women are burning
food they're supposed to bring with calico
smile on platters glittering like wax.
Anger sputters in her brainpan, confined
but spewing out missiles of hot fat.
Carbonized despair presses like a clinker
from a barbecue against the back of her eyes.
If she wants to grill anything, it's
her husband over a slow fire.
If she wants to serve him anything
it's a dead rat with a bomb in its belly
ticking like the heart of an insomniac.
Her life is cooked and digested
nothing but leftovers in Tupperware.
Look, she says, once I was roast duck
on your platter with parsley but now I am Spam.
Burning dinner is not incompetence but war.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Real Work

By Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fist

By Paula Meehan

If this poem, like most that I write,
is a way of going back into a past
I cannot live with and by transforming that past
change the future of it, the now
of my day at the window watching
the comings and goings to Merrion Square,
then, when you present your hand to me
as fist, as threat, as weapon,
the journey back to find the hand of the little child,
the cupping of her balled fist
in my own two adult hands,
the grip of her fury, the pulse at her wrist
under the thin thin skin,
the prising loose of each hot finger
like the slow enumeration of the points of death
and the exact spot that I will have kissed
where the fate line meets the heart line -
my bloody mouth a rose suddenly blooming,
that journey takes all my strength
and hope, just as this poem does
which I present to you now.
Look! It's spread wide open in a precise
gesture of giving, of welcome,
its fate clear and empty, like the sky,
like the blue blue sky, above the square.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rest.

By Richard Jones

It's so late I could cut my lights
and drive the next fifty miles
of empty interstate
by starlight,
flying along in a dream,
countryside alive with shapes and shadows,
but exit ramps lined
with eighteen wheelers
and truckers sleeping in their cabs
make me consider pulling into a rest stop
and closing my eyes. I've done it before,
parking next to a family sleeping in a Chevy,
mom and dad up front, three kids in the back,
the windows slightly misted by the sleepers' breath.
But instead of resting, I'd smoke a cigarette,
play the radio low, and keep watch over
the wayfarers in the car next to me,
a strange paternal concern
and compassion for their well being
rising up inside me.
This was before
I had children of my own,
and had felt the sharp edge of love
and anxiety whenever I tiptoed
into darkened rooms of sleep
to study the small, peaceful faces
of my beloved darlings. Now,
the fatherly feelings are so strong
the snoring truckers are lucky
I'm not standing on the running board,
tapping on the window,
asking, Is everything okay?
But it is. Everything's fine.
The trucks are all together, sleeping
on the gravel shoulders of exit ramps,
and the crowded rest stop I'm driving by
is a perfect oasis in the moonlight.
The way I see it, I've got a second wind
and on the radio an all-night country station.
Nothing for me to do on this road
but drive and give thanks:
I'll be home by dawn.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Animals Reject Their Names and Things Return to Their Origins

By Margaret Atwood

I.

It was the bear who began it. Said,
I'm getting out from under.
I am not Bear, l'Ours, Ursus, Bar
or any other syllables
you've pinned on me.
Forget the chateau tapestries
in which I'm led in embroidered chains.
and the scarlet glories of the hunt
that was only glorious for you,
you with your clubs and bludgeons.

Forget the fairy tales, in which I was
your shaggy puppet, prince in hairshirt, surrogate
for human demons.
I'm not your coat, rug, glass-eyed trophy head,
plush bedtime toy, and that's not me
in outer space with my spangled cub.
I'm not your totem; I refuse
to dance in your circuses; you cannot carve
my soul in stone.

I renounce metaphor: I am not
child-stealer, shape-changer,
old garbage-eater, and you can stuff
simile also: unpeeled,
I am not like a man.

I take back what you have stolen
and in your languages I announce
I am now nameless.
My true name is a growl.

(Come to think of it I am not
a British headdress either:
I do not signify bravery.
I want to go back to eating salmon
without all this military responsibility.)

I follow suit, said the lion.
vacating his coats of arms
and movie logos; and the eagle said,
Get me off this flag.

II.

At this dictionaries began to untwist,
and time stalled and reversed;
the sweaters wound back into their balls of wool,
which rolled bleating out into the meadows
the perfumes returned to France
and old men there fell sweetly dead
from a surfeit of aroma.
Priests gave their dresses up again
to the women, and the women
ditched their alligator shoes in a hurry
before their former owners turned up to claim them.

The violins of the East Coast shores
took flight from the fingers of their players,
sucking in waltzes, laments, and reels
landed in Scotland, fell apart
with wailing into their own wood and sinew
and vanished into the trees
and into the guts and howls of long-dead cats
and the tails of knackered horses.
Songs crammed themselves back down
the throats of their singers
and a billion computers blew apart
and homed in chip by chip
on the brains of the inventors.

Squashed mice were shot backwards out of traps,
brides and grooms uncoupled like shunting trains,
tins of sardines exploded, releasing their wiggling shoals;
dinosaur bones whizzed like missiles
out of museums back to the badlands,
and bullets flew sizzling into their guns.
Glass beads popped off gowns and moccasins
and fell on Italy in a hail of dangerous colour,
as white people disappeared over the Atlantic
in a whoosh of pollution, vainly clutching
their power tools, car keys, and lawn mowers
which drove like metal fish back into the mines;
black people too, recapturing syncopation;
all flowers were suctioned budwise into their stems.
The Native peoples made speedy clearance work
of cowboys and longhorns, but then took off
westward instead, changing goodbye
to ancestral plains, which were reclaimed
by shaggy mastodons and the precursors of horses
and everywhere
the children shrank and began to
drop teeth and grow hair.

III.

Well, there were suddenly a lot more flamingos
before they in their turn became eggs,
while people's bodies reverted through their own
flesh genealogies like stepping stones,
man woman man, container into contained,
shedding language and gathering themselves in,
skein after skein of protoplasm

until there was only one of them
alone at the first naming;
but the streetwise animals, forewarned
and having learned the diverse meanings
of the word dominion,
did not show up,
and Adam, inarticulate, deprived
of his arsenal of proper nouns,
returned to mud

and mud itself became lava
and lava the uncooled earth
and the uncooled earth a swirl of white-hot
energy, and the energy jammed itself
into it's own potential, and swirled
like florescent bathwater
down a non-existent wormhole.

IV.

I could end this with a moral,
as if this were a fable about animals,
though no fables are really about animals.

I could say: Don't offend the bear,
don't tell bad jokes about him,
have compassion on his bear heart;
I could say, Think twice
before you speak.
I could say, Don't take the name
of anything in vain.

But it's too late for that,
because you can't read this,
because you can't remember the word for read,
because you're dizzy with aphasia,

because the page darkens and ripples
because it is liquid and unbroken,

because God has bitten his own tongue
and the first bright word of creation
hovers in the formless void
unspoken

Friday, July 16, 2010

For the Elderly Man Whose Heart Gave Out While I Washed Dishes at Twin Sisters Restaurant

By Eve Lyons

I don't want to die hungry
"Can I take your order?"
recently pierced Susan asked
no, I'll just have
cardiac un-rest instead
and then the men in blue
came and strapped him in plastic oxygen
breathe in breathe out
hope your heart can stand
the pain
this life brings
and I hope to god
I never have to die hungry
allow me to devour
thick-breaded egg salad life
plump vegetarian sandwiches
with soulful avocados
oh so creamy
melt in my heart
and keep it well
so that forty years from now
let me not cry when
the big She
tiptoes in
and asks to
see me outside
let me cry out in joy
when She
sends me to the principal's office
because there is nothing left in
this world
for me to hunger for.


*Note: Line breaks are different than they appear here. You'll have to buy the book to see the actual line breaks.*

Published in Is this Forever, Or What? Poems and Paintings about Texas (ed. by Naomi Shihab Nye), 2004

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Consorting with Angels

By Anne Sexton

I was tired of being a woman,
tired of the spoons and the post,
tired of my mouth and my breasts,
tired of the cosmetics and the silks.
There were still men who sat at my table,
circled around the bowl I offered up.
The bowl was filled with purple grapes
and the flies hovered in for the scent
and even my father came with his white bone.
But I was tired of the gender things.

Last night I had a dream
and I said to it...
"You are the answer.
You will outlive my husband and my father."
In that dream there was a city made of chains
where Joan was put to death in man's clothes
and the nature of the angels went unexplained,
no two made in the same species,
one with a nose, one with an ear in its hand,
one chewing a star and recording its orbit,
each one like a poem obeying itself,
performing God's functions,
a people apart.

"You are the answer,"
I said, and entered,
lying down on the gates of the city.
Then the chains were fastened around me
and I lost my common gender and my final aspect.
Adam was on the left of me
and Eve was on the right of me,
both thoroughly inconsistent with the world of reason.
We wove our arms together
and rode under the sun.
I was not a woman anymore,
not one thing or the other.

O daughters of Jerusalem,
the king has brought me into his chamber.
I am black and I am beautiful.
I've been opened and undressed.
I have no arms or legs.
I'm all one skin like a fish.
I'm no more a woman
than Christ was a man.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Erotic Manifesto

By Chaia Heller

run after your passion
tail gate her till she pulls over
and confronts you with shaking fists
stalk her down some empty corridor of your life
step on the back of her sneakers
till she turns around and startles you.
do not be surprised if she spits in your face
like a rude stranger,
she does not trust you
for the best reasons.
you who have been schooled to hate her
you who have been fooled to betray her
you whose father defaced her

go after your passion
seduce her back into your life
with baskets of raw wool
comb her fingers through it
slide it along the edge of her nose
invite her into your room
and offer her raspberries
gathered in a lavender bowl
pour cream over them
eat half, use the rest to dye her hair
and after, go swimming
let the water whip off your backs
open your legs to its cool tongue
let it sing to you in gospel

run after your pleasure
she is smarter than you
she is insightful
and full of incentive
she will incite a riot
incense an entire city
she will invite you
to write a manifesto
of your every desire
on plum colored paper
spend five afternoons
postering it everywhere
in bus stations and bathrooms
cafes and churches
and best of all, she will send each pink paper
to everyone you have ever known;
family, friends, employers and acquaintances
till you will never be able to go back to your life
except to those who love her, too

once you think you have won her
it will be she who has won you
you will become her
strutting down a street bare breasted and oiled
your hair short
to expose the defiant neck,
the fierce shoulders
the bold belly
you will be banging a drum loudly,
with one hundred women
till it shatters windows, bricks fall
unfasten every snap of your life,
the ones that bind you most,
the tight weave of night,
the dead-bolt on the apartment door
unfasten the eight, consecutive, stolen hours
that take you away from the single fruit of your life;
the runny diapers and noses
go to an all day meeting in the park
feed each other stolen oysters
and erotic poetry
paint a mural as bright as your passions

for the women who cannot be there
for the ones roped to the bed frame
to the assembly line, lassoed by the laundry
cord.
-run after your pleasure
she moves with the women who move with you
go where the agenda is your breast, your cunt
your belly, your work
go where the passion is bending
the wires on the cage that binds you
get out, get out, get outraged right out
of any movement that does not crave
this woman you chase now so fiercely
go to her; she is angrier than you
she is louder than you
she is faster than you
chase her as she tears up
the bright, steep stairs
of the fire escape
and just as she is just about to jump into the flames,
shout to her that you will be the fire
and this time
you will burn together

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Quabbin Reservoir

By J.R. Greene

The winds didn’t shift but they blew over water,
after wafting the leaves and the birds for all years,
the rain is the joy of the men at the works,
for the herds and the plows are but thoughts in the waves.
No one works or prays or even sits and talks about
the news and the weather, or love, life, and politics.
Fish are all who drink this here or those unknowing
and far away who waste and want but don’t seem to save.
Roads go under and streams don’t flow
in the bed of sand and the stumps that serve as markers,
for they even pulled out the dead (so those would forget).
And they say that some can’t come here but others can,
if they have the right reasons five miles long,
if they want to study the nothing and write all kinds
of nothing just to leave behind nothing.
Still a few of us know what’s beyond the foundations
And the rust in the pines and the endless water;
your home is your castle until everyone wants it,
then they just come in and take it and his and hers
and even theirs, and all the plants and soil and rocks.
A life means nothing to a lot of greed,
No matter that they could end up being handed
the exact sort of thing that they had demanded.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Anybody Can Write a Poem

By Bradley Paul

I am arguing with an idiot online.
He says anybody can write a poem.
I say some people are afraid to speak.
I say some people are ashamed to speak.
If they said the pronoun "I"
they would find themselves floating
in the black Atlantic
and a woman would swim by, completely
dry, in a rose chiffon shirt,
until the ashamed person says her name
and the woman becomes wet and drowns
and her face turns to flayed ragged pulp,
white in the black water.
He says that he'd still write
even if someone cut off both his hands.
As if it were the hands that make a poem,
I say. I say what if someone cut out
whatever brain or gut or loin or heart
that lets you say hey, over here, listen,
I have something to tell you all,
I'm different.
As an example I mention my mother
who loved that I write poems
and am such a wonderful genius.
And then I delete the comment
because my mother wanted no part of this or any
argument, because "Who am I
to say whatever?"
Once on a grade school form
I entered her job as hairwasher.
She saw the form and was embarrassed and mad.
"You should have put receptionist."
But she didn't change it.
The last word she ever said was No.
And now here she is in my poem,
so proud of her idiot son,
who presumes to speak for a woman
who wants to tell him to shut up, but can't.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

successfully turning off

By Claude Roberto Veale

it's much quieter
breathing is a vista unbroken
as regular and calm as ocean

the hole i've dug nearby
the hole i called heart
slowly fills, full of ocean

i start to refill the hole
with sand. unmanned.
undone. unsung. unbecome.

Claudio Roberto Veale lives with his family in South Texas.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Desolation

By Allen Ginsberg

Now mind is clear
as a cloudless sky.
Time then to make a
home in wilderness.

What have I done but
wander with my eyes
in the trees? So I
will build: wife,
family, and seek
for neighbors.

Or I
perish of lonesomeness
or want of food or
lightning or the bear
(must tame the hart
and wear the bear).

And maybe make an image
of my wandering, a little
image—shrine by the
roadside to signify
to traveler that I live
here in the wilderness
awake and at home.

Poem about My Rights

By June Jordan

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can't
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can't do what I want
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thinking about the world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence:
I could not go and I could not think and I could not
stay there
alone
as I need to be
alone because I can't do what I want to do with my own
body and
who in the hell set things up
like this
and in France they say if the guy penetrates
but does not ejaculate then he did not rape me
and if after stabbing him after screams if
after begging the bastard and if even after smashing
a hammer to his head if even after that if he
and his buddies fuck me after that
then I consented and there was
no rape because finally you understand finally
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was
wrong again to be me being me where I was/wrong
to be who I am
which is exactly like South Africa
penetrating into Namibia penetrating into
Angola and does that mean I mean how do you know if
Pretoria ejaculates what will the evidence look like the
proof of the monster jackboot ejaculation on Blackland
and if
after Namibia and if after Angola and if after Zimbabwe
and if after all of my kinsmen and women resist even to
self-immolation of the villages and if after that
we lose nevertheless what will the big boys say will they
claim my consent:
Do You Follow Me: We are the wrong people of
the wrong skin on the wrong continent and what
in the hell is everybody being reasonable about
and according to the Times this week
back in 1966 the C.I.A. decided that they had this problem
and the problem was a man named Nkrumah so they
killed him and before that it was Patrice Lumumba
and before that it was my father on the campus
of my Ivy League school and my father afraid
to walk into the cafeteria because he said he
was wrong the wrong age the wrong skin the wrong
gender identity and he was paying my tuition and
before that
it was my father saying I was wrong saying that
I should have been a boy because he wanted one/a
boy and that I should have been lighter skinned and
that I should have had straighter hair and that
I should not be so boy crazy but instead I should
just be one/a boy and before that
it was my mother pleading plastic surgery for
my nose and braces for my teeth and telling me
to let the books loose to let them loose in other
words
I am very familiar with the problems of the C.I.A.
and the problems of South Africa and the problems
of Exxon Corporation and the problems of white
America in general and the problems of the teachers
and the preachers and the F.B.I. and the social
workers and my particular Mom and Dad/I am very
familiar with the problems because the problems
turn out to be
me
I am the history of rape
I am the history of the rejection of who I am
I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of
my self
I am the history of battery assault and limitless
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind
and my body and my soul and
whether it's about walking out at night
or whether it's about the love that I feel or
whether it's about the sanctity of my vagina or
the sanctity of my national boundaries
or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity
of each and every desire
that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic
and disputably single and singular heart
I have been raped
be-
cause I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong age
the wrong skin the wrong nose the wrong hair the
wrong need the wrong dream the wrong geographic
the wrong sartorial I
I have been the meaning of rape
I have been the problem everyone seeks to
eliminate by forced
penetration with or without the evidence of slime and/
but let this be unmistakable this poem
is not consent I do not consent
to my mother to my father to the teachers to
the F.B.I. to South Africa to Bedford-Stuy
to Park Avenue to American Airlines to the hardon
idlers on the corners to the sneaky creeps in
cars
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own
and I can't tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination
may very well cost you your life

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Tell Me

By Sara London

In my country
you say, "there is
no word for it."
In my country
you say, "our
way of life."
In my country
you might over-
hear the story
of the woman
with eleven children,
who never once
achieved orgasm.
Here, the diffident
are the squires
of conviction;
they know that
talking undid
a few people.
Here, a woman
saddened by love
might lose her
gloves, blame her
children, then find
them under her hat
on top of her head.
It is always
the mother
in my country.
Tell me
it is different
in yours.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

a non-urgent poem

By Charles Bukowski

I had this fellow write me that
he felt there wasn’t the
“urgency” in my poems
of the present
as compared to my poems
of the past.

now, if this is true
why did he write me
about it?
have I made his days
more
incomplete?
it’s
possible.

Well, I too have felt
let down
by writers
I once thought were
powerful
or
at least
very damned
good
but
I never considered
writing them to
inform them that I
sensed their
demise.
I found the best thing
I could do
was just to type away
at my own work
and let the dying
die
as they always
have.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Case of the Distracted Postman

By Connie Bensley

The postman is in love
and all of us are bearing the brunt.

My newsletter from the Secular Society
went to the Vicar. The Vicar’s bank statement

arrived at Number 33, who steamed it open
then put something extra in the collection

on Sunday. Coarse seaside postcards
have caused offense to Lavinia, who was

in mourning, and I personally was expecting
a love letter rather than

the Bus Timetable, copies of which
I keep receiving, day after day.

We are getting together to offer him
counseling. Every day he is seen

Staring into the pond, his disordered letter-sack
trembling on the brink.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth of July

By ani difranco

you gotta have the right tools
for every job
so I invite myself in
through a hole in the fence
I am tripping through the junkyard
scanning over the piles
the thin cats raise their skin in defense
I know he's watching me
I can see him through the cracks
his eyes are small and shy on my back
he says his name is jason
he lives in the last trailer on the right
and he'll be seven
on the fourth of july

only the people who live here
know the name of this place
my path through iowa would be
hard to trace
all the adults in this town
try not to frown
when I walk by
but jason smiled at me
he met my eye

he don't ask me
where I'm from
or why I came
here alone
we all go looking for paradise
then we go back home
we cut out the small talk
go right to the way things are
he showed me his squirrel skull
I told him I locked myself out of my car

so there goes the only friend
I have in iowa
his hand flapping behind him
waving good-bye
his name is jason
he lives in the last trailer on the right
and he'll be seven
on the fourth of july

Friday, July 2, 2010

It’s Your Marmalade House

where the goats are the sentries

Tonight’s turnip stew
is burning
while you read a masnavi
lying on a rope cot

I’m on a rickety stool
threatening to break
prayer beads

I break your fountain pen
wipe off the ink on your curtains
and with the celerity of a djinn
climb the roof

causing dusty pigeons to flutter

From here I see kites teasing
fallen feathers
I see our sentries
dozing

Look how my suddenness
has tripped time itself

for the house
was sold
twenty years ago when you died.

By Shadab Zeest Hashmi

Thursday, July 1, 2010

But Instead Has Gone Underground

By Lyn Lifshin

A woman goes into the subway,
and for what reason
disappears behind rails
and is never heard from again.
We don't understand this.
She could have gone to the museum,
had cappuccino with a lover.
But instead has gone down the
escalator, without i.d., or
even a ticket and not
for clothes or flowers. It was
a grey humid day,
very much like today.
It was today. Now you might
imagine I'm that woman, it
seems there are reasons.
But listen, I don't live
anywhere near that metro stop
and who I am is already
camouflaged behind
velvet and leather

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