Monday, February 28, 2011

Development

By Joseph Farley

The street was not
on the map,
therefore,
it did not exist,

and the houses
which had sprung
from ghostly soil
were illusions
gone condo.


Joseph Farley edited Axe Factory for 24 years. His books include Suckers, For The Birds and Longing for the Mother Tongue (March Street Press).

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Crazy Leap of Faith

By Ryk McIntyre

You know the sound a strait-jacket makes
when the safety-straps slip?
That was our first kiss.
We knew it'd be crazy, knew the risk -

to get involved like this,
we'd have to disagree to agree
with the voices in our heads
that sentence us to solitary,
and do something really crazy,
like...not listen to them!
Set ourselves loose enough
to measure the space
it takes to live happy,
with one last leap of faith.

Fortunately, you've got good strong legs
for jumping, and I'm pretty sure
my brain is a helicopter.

Too many people zone themselves off
for their own protection.
Building lives according to blueprints for misery,
becoming monuments to Alone,
when they don't have to be.
There is always somewhere beyond
our tenuously held borders,
where rooftops reach out, like
the same promise the sky gives to fledglings:

"You can go anywhere you want,
all you have to do is trust
in something you can't see our touch,
and jump. It only sounds difficult
if you get weighed down
in whether it's possible."

We've both had some bad falls;
there's no shame there.
So even after I take the leap, you're scared,
still stuck back there
on your rooftop, saying,
"I love you, but I don't dare.
I can't get hurt again.
You better go on without me..."
And I say, "Baby!
I'd be crazy to leave you. And
I'm crazy now. If I go,
two crazies will cancel each other out,
I would be sane, and
If I end up sane?
I'll! - Go! - Crazy!
I've got a better idea -
I've got a flashlight in my pocket,
a joke I stole from a Batman comic,
I studied physics
by watching Bugs Bunny cartoons -
This can work:

I'm going to turn the flashlight on,
and place it at the roof's edge,
don't you see?
...you can just walk across on the light beam!

And you say,
"Whoa!!! I may be crazy,
but I'm not stupid!
...you'll just turn the flashlight off
when I'm halfway there..."

No. Baby,
I may be crazy,
but it's not bad-crazy, and
the healthiest diagnosis I ever got
was I have you.
Love isn't a cure in itself,
but it can be our invisible friend -
it's got soft walls to bounce off,
it's out best medicine.
With love you can jump buildings.

Today, standing here, maybe we are
twenty-five cents short of a dime,
but we are fully invested in this

crazy leap of faith called "us."
Haven't our dreams fallen short long enough?
I understand - you need to hear
the word "promise."

I promise. .

If the jump scares you,
because the distance wears you down,
like the meds,
borrow my whirly-bird brain and fly across,
that way you'll know I'm fully committed, too.
Give up if you have to,
I won't give up on you.
I won't let you fall,
not when a whole new city is possible for us.
And if the bad-crazy is coming to town,
fuck it - get on the bus.

Trust me. Jump.

I'll catch you - why do you think
straitjackets have such long sleeves?
You won't believe the view,
once you get over your fear.
I swear...

you can see our house from here.


Previously published in Open Mic Review, Volume 3: 2007

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Creed

By Edgar Albert Guest

To live as gently as I can;
To be, no matter where, a man;
To take what comes of good or ill
And cling to faith and honor still;
To do my best, and let that stand
The record of my brain and hand;
And then, should failure come to me,
Still work and hope for victory.

To have no secret place wherein
I stoop unseen to shame or sin;
To be the same when I'm alone
As when my every deed is known;
To live undaunted, unafraid
Of any step that I have made;
To be without pretense or sham
Exactly what men think I am.

To leave some simple mark behind
To keep my having lived in mind;
If enmity to aught I show,
To be an honest, generous foe,
To play my little part, nor whine
That greater honors are not mine.
This, I believe, is all I need
For my philosophy and creed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

By Gil Scott-Heron

You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.
The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox
In four parts without commercial interruptions.
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon
blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the
Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie
Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.
The revolution will not make you look five pounds
thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May
pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,
or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down
brothers in the instant replay.
There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being
run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy
Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and
Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving
For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville
Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and
women will not care if Dick finally gets down with
Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people
will be in the street looking for a brighter day.
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

At Waking

By Sarah Orne Jewett

I heard the city bells at morning ring,
     The eastern sky was faintly tinged with light;
The tired town in heavy sleep lay still,
     And yet I knew it was no longer night.

One, two, three, four, the bells struck one by one,
     In answering steeples that were far away;
Who could help wondering what the morn might bring,
     Who waked, like me, between the dark and day?

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Want To Move

By Joan McNerney

Get out of this dumpy town
filled with sour face losers.
Get back down to Brooklyn,
rejoin the human race.

Or maybe Vermont? Legal grass,
same sex marriage, laid back, hip.
Cool state always ready
to secede from the union.

But I start to wonder.
Why not go BIG? Slip into
some parallel space.
A lustrous world, without pain,
just folks grooved and ready to roll.

Some place not requiring
bags of money to buy food.
No need to beg doctors for help while
overpaying them. Yep and find
environs of breezy temperature.

O give me astral traveling. Just think.
No packing. Yes! No planning.
I love it! Now for my escape strategy...
when can I to slip into that crease in
the universe and quietly disappear?


Joan McNerney's poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Blueline, 63 channels, Spectrum, and three Bright Spring Press Anthologies. Four of her books have been published by fine literary presses. She has performed at the National Arts Club, Borders Bookstore, McNay Art Institute and other distinguished venues. A recent reading was sponsored by the American Academy of Poetry. Her latest title is Having Lunch with the Sky, A.P.D., Albany, New York.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Who Understands Me But Me

By Jimmy Santiago Baca

They turn the water off, so I live without water,
they build walls higher, so I live without treetops,
they paint the windows black, so I live without sunshine,
they lock my cage, so I live without going anywhere,
they take each last tear I have, I live without tears,
they take my heart and rip it open, I live without heart,
they take my life and crush it, so I live without a future,
they say I am beastly and fiendish, so I have no friends,
they stop up each hope, so I have no passage out of hell,
they give me pain, so I live with pain,
they give me hate, so I live with my hate,
they have changed me, and I am not the same man,
they give me no shower, so I live with my smell,
they separate me from my brothers, so I live without brothers,
who understands me when I say this is beautiful?
who understands me when I say I have found other freedoms?

I cannot fly or make something appear in my hand,
I cannot make the heavens open or the earth tremble,
I can live with myself, and I am amazed at myself, my love, my beauty,
I am taken by my failures, astounded by my fears,
I am stubborn and childish,
in the midst of this wreckage of life they incurred,
I practice being myself,
and I have found parts of myself never dreamed of by me,
they were goaded out from under rocks in my heart
when the walls were built higher,
when the water was turned off and the windows painted black.
I followed these signs
like an old tracker and followed the tracks deep into myself
followed the blood-spotted path,
deeper into dangerous regions, and found so many parts of myself,
who taught me water is not everything,
and gave me new eyes to see through walls,
and when they spoke, sunlight came out of their mouths,
and I was laughing at me with them,
we laughed like children and made pacts to always be loyal,
who understands me when I say this is beautiful?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tie your heart at night to mine, love

By Pablo Neruda

Tie your heart at night to mine, love,
and both will defeat the darkness
like twin drums beating in the forest
against the heavy wall of wet leaves.

Night crossing: black coal of dream
that cuts the thread of earthly orbs
with the punctuality of a headlong train
that pulls cold stone and shadow endlessly.

Love, because of it, tie me to a purer movement,
to the grip on life that beats in your breast,
with the wings of a submerged swan,

So that our dream might reply
to the sky's questioning stars
with one key, one door closed to shadow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

blood in the boardroom

by ani difranco

sitting in the boardroom
the i'm so bored room
listening to the suits
talk about their world
they can make straight lines out of almost anything
except for the line of my upper lip when it curls
dressed in my best greasy skin and squinty eyes
i'm the only part of summer that made it inside
in the air-conditioned building decorated with a corporate flair
i wonder can these boys smell me bleeding thru my underwear
there's men wearing the blood of the woman they love
there's white wearing the blood of the brown
but every woman learns how to bleed from the moon
and we bleed to renew life every time it's cut down
i got my vertebrae all stacked up high as they can go
but i still feel myself sliding from the earth that i know
so i excuse myself and leave the room
saying my period came early but it's not a minute too soon
i go and find the only other woman on the floor
it's the secretary sitting at the desk by the door
i ask her if she's got a tampon i can use
she says oh honey what a hassle for you sure i do you know i do
i say it ain't no hassle no it ain't no mess
right now it's the only power that i possess
these businessmen got the money
they got the instruments of death
but i can make life i can make breath
sitting in the boardroom
the i'm so bored room
listening to the suits talk about their world
i didn't really have much to say the whole time i was there
so i just left a big brown blood stain on their white chair

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You Got a Song, Man

By Martín Espada                                     for Robert Creeley (1926—2005)

You told me the son of Acton’s town nurse
would never cross the border
into Concord, where the Revolution
left great houses standing on Main Street.
Yet we crossed into Concord, walking
through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery
to greet Thoreau, his stone
stamped with the word Henry
jutting like a gray thumbnail
down the path from Emerson
and his boulder of granite.
We remembered Henry’s night in jail,
refusing tax for the Mexican War,
and I could see you hunched with him,
loaning Henry a cigarette, explaining
the perpetual wink of your eye
lost after the windshield
burst in your boyhood face.
When Emerson arrived
to ask what you and Henry
were doing in there, you would say:
You got a song, man, sing it.
You got a bell, man, ring it.


You hurried off to Henry in his cell
before the trees could bring their flowers
back to Sleepy Hollow.
You sent your last letter months ago
about the poems you could not write,
no words to sing when the president swears
that God breathes the psalms of armies in his ear,
and flags twirl by the millions
to fascinate us like dogs at the dinner table.
You apologized for what you could not say,
as if the words were missing teeth
you searched for with your tongue,
and then a poem flashed across the page,
breaking news of music interrupting news of war:
You got a song, man, sing it.
You got a bell, man, ring it.


Today you died two thousand miles from Sleepy Hollow,
somewhere near the border with Mexico, the territory
Thoreau wandered only in jailhouse sleep.
Your lungs folded their wings in a land of drought
and barbed wire, boxcars swaying intoxicated at 4 AM
and unexplained lights hovering in the desert.
You said: There’s a lot of places out there, friend,
so you would go, smuggling a suitcase of words
across every border carved by the heel
of mapmakers or conquerors, because
you had an all-night conversation with the world,
hearing the beat of unsung poems in every voice,
visiting the haunted rooms in every face.
Drive, you said, because poets must
bring the news to the next town:
You got a song, man, sing it.
You got a bell, man, ring it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

One Sunday Morning

By Anne Whitehouse

Before we knew what we heard,
The deep groan woke us in bed,
A cry of outrage so vast
We couldn’t imagine what made it.
The rumble reverberated like thunder;
We clung to each other, afraid.

We heard it again and again.
We peered out as if under siege.
There in the stream was the stag,
And there, on the bank, the coyote
Worrying the stag’s brown-and-white tail
To and fro like a fish in its mouth.

The stag now had grown silent,
Blood streamed from the hole in its rump.
Its antlers were fuzz-tipped and green,
Its large eyes liquid and brown.
The coyote glimpsed us through glass
And fled with the tail in its teeth.

The stag gingerly tested its weight;
Its left foreleg was lame.
In tall grass it lay on the bank,
But fear soon forced it to move.
We watched it limp slowly from sight,
Its life helplessly slipping away.


Anne Whitehouse is the author of three collections of poetry: The Surveyor's Hand, Blessings and Curses, and Bear in Mind, and a novel, Fall Love. Her poetry, short stories, essays, reviews, and articles have been widely published. She is a graduate of Harvard and Columbia. Please visit her website, www.annewhitehouse.com.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Secret of the Machines

By Rudyard Kipling

(MODERN MACHINERY)

We were taken from the ore-bed and the mine,
We were melted in the furnace and the pit—
We were cast and wrought and hammered to design,
We were cut and filed and tooled and gauged to fit.
Some water, coal, and oil is all we ask,
And a thousandth of an inch to give us play:
And now, if you will set us to our task,
We will serve you four and twenty hours a day!

We can pull and haul and push and lift and drive,
We can print and plough and weave and heat and light,
We can run and race and swim and fly and dive,
We can see and hear and count and read and write!

Would you call a friend from half across the world?
If you’ll let us have his name and town and state,
You shall see and hear your crackling question hurled
Across the arch of heaven while you wait.
Has he answered? Does he need you at his side?
You can start this very evening if you choose,
And take the Western Ocean in the stride
Of seventy thousand horses and some screws!

The boat-express is waiting your command!
You will find the Mauretania at the quay,
Till her captain turns the lever ’neath his hand,
And the monstrous nine-decked city goes to sea.

Do you wish to make the mountains bare their head
And lay their new-cut forests at your feet?
Do you want to turn a river in its bed,
Or plant a barren wilderness with wheat?
Shall we pipe aloft and bring you water down
From the never-failing cisterns of the snows,
To work the mills and tramways in your town,
And irrigate your orchards as it flows?

It is easy! Give us dynamite and drills!
Watch the iron-shouldered rocks lie down and quake
As the thirsty desert-level floods and fills,
And the valley we have dammed becomes a lake.

But remember, please, the Law by which we live,
We are not built to comprehend a lie,
We can neither love nor pity nor forgive.
If you make a slip in handling us you die!
We are greater than the Peoples or the Kings—
Be humble, as you crawl beneath our rods!-
Our touch can alter all created things,
We are everything on earth—except The Gods!

Though our smoke may hide the Heavens from your eyes,
It will vanish and the stars will shine again,
Because, for all our power and weight and size,
We are nothing more than children of your brain!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ich komme aus meinen Schwingen heim

By Rainier Maria Rilke

I come home from the soaring
in which I lost myself
I was song, and the refrain which is God
is still roaring in my ears.

Now I am still
and plain;
no more words.

To the others I was like the wind:
I made them shake.
I'd gone very far, as far as the angels,
and high, where light thins into nothing.

But deep in the darkness is God.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

American History

By Michael Harper

Those four black girls blown up
in that Alabama church
remind me of five hundred
middle passage blacks,
in a net, under water
in Charleston harbor
so redcoats wouldn't find them.
Can't find what you can't see
can you?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

iSavaged

by iDrew

last night i was so pretty
over two hours getting ready
then i couldn’t help myself
i admit it
i was an eager slut way too willing

this morning (not so pretty)
hair’s knotted
make-up’s splurged
i need a shower
i’ve lost me knickers

last night i was a heathen girl
carpet burns
furniture bruises
there’s blood and skin
under my fingernails
but oh god
have i been so joyously savaged

and now i look at him
glowing in the after
as he floats
face down in a tranquil quiet of
post nympholeptic sleep
innocent
all spent
and in this exact moment
snug in the warmth of passion
i surrendered
naked


Writing under the name of iDrew to co-ordinate with her titles, Essex girl Drew has previously been published in various magazines such as The Delinquent, Battered Suitcase, All Things Girl, and the Read This Skin Deep Anthology. She enjoys shopping, boys and clubs but claims these are all merely research for her writing. She is also one of the founding members of the Clueless Collective and can be found at: www.cluelesscollective.co.uk

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mosaic

By Shadab Zeest Hashmi

The sun’s brash mirror
has fissures,
Longing
at this latitude
becomes lambent

Piecing together in the middle of the earth
A Mediterranean psalm
tagged to a guitar
floating you home.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Learning to Walk in Two Worlds

By Rae Rose

Skinny as tree limbs,
we began to grow curves
as if we were turning
into musical instruments.
We hid our mandolin hips
in big shirts as we walked,
picking plums, making up songs.
We counted –
if a car passed us three times
we’d find a place to hide.
At the corner store men stared,
spoke words I will never repeat.
“Have You Seen Us?” flyers,
stuffed into our mailboxes,
began to make sense.
Girls’ body parts were found
in canyons, in creek-beds.
Oprah said to yell fire, not rape,
strangers will help fight a fire.
We were learning to walk in two worlds.
We were learning to hide from men.
A plum’s skin was warm and bitter,
a plum’s flesh sweeter than we expected.
Blossoms in our hair, we sang,
juice trickled down our chins.
We threw plum pits
into canyons, into creek-beds,
tiny skulls wasps hunted.
Life is chance. We learned
some trees are touched by fire,
some bear fruit.

Previously published in Contemporary World Literature, February 2011

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Democracy

By Dorianne Laux

When you’re cold—November, the streets icy and everyone you pass
homeless, Goodwill coats and Hefty bags torn up to make ponchos—
someone is always at the pay phone, hunched over the receiver

spewing winter’s germs, swollen lipped, face chapped, making the last
tired connection of the day. You keep walking to keep the cold
at bay, too cold to wait for the bus, too depressing the thought

of entering that blue light, the chilled eyes watching you decide
which seat to take: the man with one leg, his crutches bumping
the smudged window glass, the woman with her purse clutched

to her breasts like a dead child, the boy, pimpled, morose, his head
shorn, a swastika carved into the stubble, staring you down.
So you walk into the cold you know: the wind, indifferent blade,

familiar, the gold leaves heaped along the gutters. You have
a home, a house with gas heat, a toilet that flushes. You have
a credit card, cash. You could take a taxi if one would show up.

You can feel it now: why people become Republicans: Get that dog
off the street. Remove that spit and graffiti. Arrest those people huddled
on the steps of the church. If it weren’t for them you could believe in god,

in freedom, the bus would appear and open its doors, the driver dressed
in his tan uniform, pants legs creased, dapper hat: Hello Miss, watch
your step now. But you’re not a Republican. You’re only tired, hungry,

you want out of the cold. So you give up, walk back, step into line behind
the grubby vet who hides a bag of wine under his pea coat, holds out
his grimy 85 cents, takes each step slow as he pleases, releases his coins

into the box and waits as they chink down the chute, stakes out a seat
in the back and eases his body into the stained vinyl to dream
as the chips of shrapnel in his knee warm up and his good leg

flops into the aisle. And you’ll doze off, too, in a while, next to the girl
who can’t sit still, who listens to her Walkman and taps her boots
to a rhythm you can’t hear, but you can see it—when she bops

her head and her hands do a jive in the air—you can feel it
as the bus rolls on, stopping at each red light in a long wheeze,
jerking and idling, rumbling up and lurching off again.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

In Every Life

By Alicia Ostriker

In every life there’s a moment or two
when the self disappears, the cruel wound
takes over, and then again
at times we are filled with sky
or with birds or
simply with the sugary tea on the table
said the old woman

I know what you mean said the tulip
about epiphanies
for instance a cloudless April sky
the approach of a butterfly
but as to the disappearing self
no
I have not yet experienced that

You are creating distinctions
that do not exist in reality
where “self” and “not-self” are like salt
in ocean, cloud in sky
oxygen in fire
said the philosophical dog
under the table scratching his balls

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