Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Meditation for Tefillin

By Elizabeth Sarah

I cannot
bind myself
to You
I can only
unbind myself
continually and
free
Your spirit
within me.

So why
this tender-cruel
parody of
bondage
black
leather
straps
skin
gut and
sacred litany of
power and
submission
which binds us
Your slave-people
still?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Band of Boys

By Amanda Gayle Oliver

Boys.
Boys beat
Drums
Tap
Women
On
The head,
Exhale
Control.
As he
Breathes in,
Cramps
Inside her
Uterus
Cry out
For release.
Hormones
Gush
Out
Through
Tear ducts,
Orange,
Red,
Corduroy.

Boys.
Boys use
Sticks
To hit
Drums.
Slap women
On
The ass.
Sing
Of freedom
And love.
Women watch,
Watch
As boys
Laugh
Forever
The audience,
While boys
Stand
On chicken
Wire stage
Dicks
Raised
Honoring
The brave.

Boys.
Never
afraid,
Beat.
Tap.
Exhale.
Slap.
Sing.
Bow.
Laugh.
Leave.
She screams.
Screams.
Screams.
Until
She is
Woman,
Anything
But silent.

Amanda Gayle Oliver is a Southern Belle by birth and a New Englander by heart. First published at sixteen, in the Birmingham News, her poetry and prose have also been published in the Boston Literary Magazine, Lamplighter Review, and for the Canadian Alzheimer's Association. Last year she had the honor of having her first play produced ("Stuck," September 2011), and her second play will be produced this Spring in the University of Alabama's Ten Minute Play Festival ("Elevator Play"). She also shares her personal story as a speaker in high school's, churches, and counseling classes. Her talks focus on healing from self-destructive behaviors such as self-mutilation and bulimia. She currently resides in the land of question marks swimming through them while wearing a cap that read Surrender.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Disquisition

By Chana Bloch

One day I dared to put the O back
in G-d,
I watched Him bulge to God -
   paunchy, respectable
and sad.

I brooded about my heresy
until I guessed
that God who loves the circle best
   only to find
   our angularity
might after all not mind.

   He'd take it to heart, perhaps,
   if I chose to drop the caps.

But O that fine round O
   fleshed out from the scrawny spine
   of a minus sign -
   or would He object that O
   was zero,
   taking Him in vain?

God knows,
and O is an O is an O,
   and slyly checks
   our tic-tac-toe
with His wry X.

Boiled Beet

By Anna Swanson

Each seder is a retelling.
We come together and taste our way
through the story: Matzo,
unleavened because fleeing women
can't wait for bread to rise;
Charoset, the mortar used
to bind stone together;
Bitter herbs, the taste of slavery.

She passes me the hagaddah
and I read out loud about the shank bone,
the blood which marked the doors
of Jewish houses with a message
to the angel of death
saying, "spare this home".

This year we used a cooked beet
instead, smear beet juice on doorposts
and white picket fences.

I want to run around the city
with a boiled beet, mark the skin
of women everywhere, screaming
may this body
this body
this body
be spared.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Crocodile

By Lewis Carroll

How doth the little crocodile
      Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
      On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
      How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
       With gently smiling jaws!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Remember, Body ...

By C. P. Cavafy

Body, remember not only how much you were loved,
not only the beds where you lay,
but also those desires for you,
shining clearly in eyes
and trembling in a voice—and some chance
obstacle thwarted them.
Now when everything is the past,
it almost looks as if you gave yourself
to those desires as well—how they shone—
remember—in the eyes that looked at you,
how they trembled for you in the voice—remember, body.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Instructions from the Flight Crew to a Poet of African Descent Living in a State of Emergency

By Kate Rushin

First,
Secure your own oxygen.
Breathe normally,
Then teach the children.
Be not deceived.
Be not of two minds.
We are inadequate
Gasping, fighting for air.
Treasure your song.
Walk to the river
Give thanks at the grotto
Memorize poplar trees
Imitate barn swallows
Be still. Let the deer
Look into your eyes

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

There are these moments of permission

by Camille T. Dungy

     Between raindrops,

               space, certainly,

but we call it all rain.

          I hang in the undrenched intervals,

while Callie is sleeping,

          my old self necessary

and imperceptible as air.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Drunken Folly

By Linda Crate

the golden age of apollo has ended,
the pomegranate age of dionysus has
begun, people are drinking grapes
straight off the vine; a poor man’s
wine, everyone wants a reason to
raise a glass or two as they get drunk
on everything from champagne to
appletinis to vodka and rum; sober
thoughts are hard to come by
depending on who you speak to,
the ale getting in the way of
things that truly matter, but the
drunkard will not save himself he
raises the glass to his lips and kills
his vital organs down one by one.



Linda Crate is a twenty five year old Pennsylvanian native with a degree in English-Literature. Her poetry has been published in various magazines the latest of which include: Dead Snakes, The Camel Saloon, and Carnage Conservatory.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I look at the world

By Langston Hughes

I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space
Assigned to me.

I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!

I look at my own body
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that's in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.

Friday, January 20, 2012

To Be Written On The Mirror In Whitewash

By Elizabeth Bishop

I live only here, between your eyes and you,
But I live in your world. What do I do?
--Collect no interest--otherwise what I can;
Above all I am not that staring man.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Comet Hyakutake

By Arthur Sze


Comet Hyakutake's tail stretches for 360 million miles—
in 1996, we saw Hyakutake through binoculars—
the ion tail contains the time we saw bats emerge out of a cavern at dusk—
in the cavern, we first heard stalactites dripping—
first silence, then reverberating sound—
our touch reverberates and makes a blossoming track—
a comet's nucleus emits X-rays and leaves tracks—
two thousand miles away, you box up books and, in two days, will step through the
      invisible rays of an airport scanner—
we write on invisible pages in an invisible book with invisible ink—
in nature's infinite book, we read a few pages—
in the sky, we read the ion tracks from the orchard—
the apple orchard where blossoms unfold, where we unfold—
budding, the child who writes, "the puzzle comes to life"—
elated, puzzled, shocked, dismayed, confident, loving: minutes to an hour—
a minute, a pinhole lens through which light passes—
Comet Hyakutake will not pass earth for another 100,000 years—
no matter, ardor is here—
and to the writer of fragments, each fragment is a whole—

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quiz

By Linh Dinh

Invaders invariably call themselves:

a) berserkers
b) marauders
c) frankincense
d) liberators

Our enemies hate us because:

a) we’re sadists
b) we’re hypocrites
c) we shafted them
d) we value freedom

Our friends hate us because:

a) we’re bullies
b) we hate them
c) we’re hypocrites
d) we value freedom

Pushed to the ground and kicked by a gang of soldiers, about to be shot, you can save your life by brandishing:

a) an uzi
b) a crucifix
c) the Constitution
d) a poem

A poem can:

a) start a war
b) stanch a wound
c) titillate the masses
d) shame a nation

Poets are:

a) clowns
b) parasites
c) legislators
d) terrorists

A nation’s standing in the world is determined by:

a) its buying power
b) its military might
c) its cultural heritage
d) God

A country is rich because of:

a) its enlightened population
b) its political system
c) its small stick
d) its geography

A country is poor because of:

a) its ignorant population
b) its political system
c) its small stick
d) its geography

A man’s dignity is determined by:

a) his appearance (skin color, height, etc)
b) his willingness to use violence
c) his command of English
d) his blue passport

Those willing to die for their beliefs are:

a) idealists
b) terrorists
c) suckers
d) insane

Those willing to die for nothing are:

a) principled
b) patriotic
c) insane
d) cowards

Terrorists:

a) abuse language
b) hit and run
c) shock and awe
d) rely on ingenuity

Smart weapons:

a) render hopeless and dormant kinetic objects
b) kill softly
c) save lives
d) slaughter by science

Pain is:

a) payback for evil-doers
b) a common misfortune
c) compelling drama
d) suck it up!

Humiliation is:

a) the ultimate thrill for bored perverts
b) inevitable in an unequal relationship
c) a fear factor
d) sexy and cathartic

The media’s job is:

a) to seduce
b) to spread
c) to sell
d) to drug

The Internet:

a) allows us to be pure minds
b) connects us to distant bodies
c) disconnects us from the nearest minds and bodies
d) improves illiteracy

Pornography is:

a) a lie that exposes the truth
b) a needed breather from civilization
c) class warfare
d) nostalgia for the garden of Eden



Correct answers: c,d,d,b,b,a,b,a,a,c,b,b,b,c,b,d,b,d,c.
—If you scored 14-19, you’re a well adjusted person, a home-owner, with and income of at least $50,000 a year.
—If you scored 8-13, you either rent or live with your parents, never exercise, and consume at least a 6-pack a day.
—if you scored 7 or less, you’re in trouble with the FBI and/or the IRS, cut your own hair, and use public transit as your primary mode of transportation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bluebird

By Charles Bukowski

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
you.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he's
in there.
there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do
you?

Monday, January 16, 2012

On Adoption

By Lisa Hostein

My new son did not come from the fruit of my womb, but he levies in the deepest recesses of my heart. Another woman gave birth to him, but with his adoption, his life is in my hands. He represents pure potential: the potential to grow and to blossom, to learn and to teach, to lead and to follow, to love and to be loved. He is a new life and a new beginning, a promise of what can be.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Deliverance: Pu'ah Explains

By Bonnie Lyons

I would like to tell you
I acted out of deep faith
or that God sent me a dream
to prophesy this helpless baby
would grow up to deliver us
all out of Egypt.
But I can't.

Year after year
Shifrah and I struggled
to help mothers push newborns
out of their bodies and
into the world.
Hour after hour
we used the secret knowledge
of our sacred calling,
gentle words of encouragement,
our own powerful hands,
Oh the joy and triumph
when a wet head finally
crosses over, the transport
in every mother's eyes,
pain behind her now.

Besides, Jochebed
was my neighbor: could I
kill her son?

Hebrew cries were camel grunts
to Pharoah's ears
so when we told him
our women delivered their babies
before we midwives could arrive
- that Hebrew women, unlike Egyptian women,
poured babies from their bodies
like wine from a jug -
that stubborn, distrustful, arrogant man
naturally
believed us.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Second Grade, Part Two

By Debra L. Winegarten

Being eight years old means walking
Alone to the Skillern’s Drug Store
At the Park Forest Shopping Center
With my weekly allowance quarter
Searing a hole in my already-sweaty shorts pocket.

I know what I’ll buy --
The latest Superman or Batman comic book
Whichever one came in that week
And doesn’t already live in the pile on my nightstand at home.

With my new Superman comic slipped in the sleek paper bag
Top carefully folded so my sweaty hands don’t ruin my treasure,
A grown man stops me on the sidewalk,
Eyeing my Star of David necklace and asking if I’m Jewish.

When I nod yes, (I’m not supposed to talk to strangers),
He tells me that’s really too bad for me,
Because didn’t I know that
Jews burn in Hell when they die?

Tears falling so hard I could barely see,
I dropped my weekly treasure and ran home
To Mom so fast I thought
I might keel over before I got to her
And be snatched right down to Hell.

When I told Mom what happened,
She put both hands on my shoulders,
Knelt to my height where she could look square in my eyes,
And in that Dallas drawl of hers, said,
“That’s okay, honey, don’t worry.
We’re Jewish.
We don’t believe in hell.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Fable

By Louise Glück

Two women with
the same claim
came to the feet of
the wise king. Two women,
but only one baby.
The king knew
someone was lying.
What he said was
Let the child be
cut in half; that way
no one will go
empty-handed. He
drew his sword.
Then, of the two
women, one
renounced her share:
this was
the sign, the lesson.
Suppose
you saw your mother
torn between two daughters:
what could you do
to save her but be
willing to destroy
yourself—she would know
who was the rightful child,
the one who couldn’t bear
to divide the mother.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dear Empire [these are your temples]

By Oliver de la Paz

Dear Empire,

These are your temples. There are rows of stone countenances, pillar after pillar. As if walking through a forest filled with alabaster heads: here, the frown. The gaze. The luminous stare.

Smoke from the incense curls, shapes itself against the archways, rubs against the grooves of the columns. Only a few men press their heads to their hands.

Outside, archeologists excavate a stone torso. Bound in coils of fraying rope, it rises before us, pulled upwards by a backhoe. Its form momentarily hides the sun, though as it sways, the light strikes our eyes. Saying yes. Saying no.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

America

By Tony Hoagland

Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud
Says that America is for him a maximum security prison

Whose walls are made of RadioShacks and Burger Kings, and MTV episodes
Where you can’t tell the show from the commercials,

And as I consider how to express how full of shit I think he is,
He says that even when he’s driving to the mall in his Isuzu

Trooper with a gang of his friends, letting rap music pour over them
Like a boiling Jacuzzi full of ballpeen hammers, even then he feels

Buried alive, captured and suffocated in the folds
Of the thick satin quilt of America

And I wonder if this is a legitimate category of pain,
Or whether he is just spin doctoring a better grade,

And then I remember that when I stabbed my father in the dream last night,
It was not blood but money

That gushed out of him, bright green hundred-dollar bills
Spilling from his wounds, and—this is the weird part--,

He gasped, “Thank god—those Ben Franklins were
Clogging up my heart—

And so I perish happily,
Freed from that which kept me from my liberty”--

Which is when I knew it was a dream, since my dad
Would never speak in rhymed couplets,

And I look at the student with his acne and cell phone and phony ghetto clothes
And I think, “I am asleep in America too,

And I don’t know how to wake myself either,”
And I remember what Marx said near the end of his life:

“I was listening to th cries of the past,
When I should have been listening to the cries of the future.”

But how could he have imagined 100 channels of 24-hour cable
Or what kind of nightmare it might be

When each day you watch rivers of bright merchandise run past you
And you are floating in your pleasure boar upon this river

Even while others are drowning underneath you
And you see their faces twisting in the surface of the waters

And yet it seems to be your own hand
Which turns the volume higher?

Monday, January 9, 2012

wasted

By Annie Dennis

I leer at those two hovered hands
always moving paced, like my breath.
They read 11:03 not that it means
much to me.
I continue with my day.
Do my regular rue-teen.
I have my watch anchored on my wrist,
worn and delicate.
Neglected and ignored.
Its honest face glares at me, hurling
a message I again overlook.
Tick, tock, tick, tock.
In a hollow, vacant room
calling out.
Muted warnings, screaming
again rejected.
Leisurely giving in, gradually
drifting softer.
Its petite frame cracks,
its mind unwinds, silence fills the room
a silence no one can ignore.
I see, my watch has died.


Annie Dennis is fifteen years old. She has been writing ever since she could but only recently started writing poetry. She also loves to write songs, play the guitar, sing, listen to music, dance, paint/draw, and photography.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Jacob Blesses Dinah

By Sue Levi Elwell

I have wrestled with the words with which to bless you,
Dinah, daughter of Leah.
A child, you went out to see the daughters of the land.
You returned a woman.
Did you raise your voice? Your cries were not heard.
Blood flowed through the streets of Shechem
and I was afraid.

Like your mother,
you walk among the people with head unbowed.
May that strength and clarity of vision
continue in the generations to come.

To you, my daughter belong the blessings of breast and the womb,
blessings of justice and care.
Your offspring will learn many tongues
and practice healing arts.
They will build cities of righteousness
and none shall make them afraid.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Different Ways to Pray

By Naomi Shihab Nye

There was the method of kneeling,
a fine method, if you lived in a country
where stones were smooth.
The women dreamed wistfully of bleached courtyards,
hidden corners where knee fit rock.
Their prayers were weathered rib bones,
small calcium words uttered in sequence,
as if this shedding of syllables could somehow
fuse them to the sky.

There were the men who had been shepherds so long
they walked like sheep.
Under the olive trees, they raised their arms—
Hear us! We have pain on earth!
We have so much pain there is no place to store it!
But the olives bobbed peacefully
in fragrant buckets of vinegar and thyme.
At night the men ate heartily, flat bread and white cheese,
and were happy in spite of the pain,
because there was also happiness.

Some prized the pilgrimage,
wrapping themselves in new white linen
to ride buses across miles of vacant sand.
When they arrived at Mecca
they would circle the holy places,
on foot, many times,
they would bend to kiss the earth
and return, their lean faces housing mystery.

While for certain cousins and grandmothers
the pilgrimage occurred daily,
lugging water from the spring
or balancing the baskets of grapes.
These were the ones present at births,
humming quietly to perspiring mothers.
The ones stitching intricate needlework into children’s dresses,
forgetting how easily children soil clothes.

There were those who didn’t care about praying.
The young ones. The ones who had been to America.
They told the old ones, you are wasting your time.
Time?—The old ones prayed for the young ones.
They prayed for Allah to mend their brains,
for the twig, the round moon,
to speak suddenly in a commanding tone.

And occasionally there would be one
who did none of this,
the old man Fowzi, for example, Fowzi the fool,
who beat everyone at dominoes,
insisted he spoke with God as he spoke with goats,
and was famous for his laugh.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Sleepover

By Amanda Gayle Oliver

For Chaney Magnolia Hicks

I will never forget the night
I held your hand.
I believe it will always mean
more than any man's fingers,
that will clasp onto mine.
That one tear sliding down your
cheek, held more emotion than
your words.
Attempting to be so grown up.
I wonder what color hair you had
before it fell away.
And how many days after that
you refused to pray.

I was a few hours more than
a stranger when the nurse
asked me to hold your hand.
How hard you fought to resist,
how intensely you squeezed,
as both of our hands formed a fist.
Only eleven, they put you in this
ring alone to fight an enemy that
Punched you from the inside—out.
I wasn't there for a whole round
Only that one combination that
struck below the belt.

Too many turns, so many
cycles, poisoning a tiny frame.
I want the rounds you ride
to be on a carousel.
I want the spins you take to
be in a crown, a princess dress.
I want to wipe that tear away,
But I know better than to touch.
You will be tough and I will
be vulnerable—
So fragile you might break
my fingers.
It is what I can give, a
memory that lingers.


Previously published in Boston Literary Magazine, Fall 2010

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Winter Trees

By William Carlos Williams

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

Monday, January 2, 2012

AAA Vacation Guide

By Ernest Hilbert

“Philadelphia isn’t as bad as Philadelphians say it is.”
—Billboard on Interstate 95

Paris in the Spring, Autumn in New York,
Singers pair a city with a season
As though it belonged to it all year long.
They should try to put a few more to work:
Trenton in winter needs a good reason;
Scranton in summer seems so very wrong.
How about Cincinnati in the spring?
Autumn in Passaic, or in Oakland?
Some cities just lack glamour and appeal,
And there is no point arguing the thing.
No one reads through stacks of brochures to spend
A honeymoon in Allentown. Let’s get real.
Most places on the map, you must believe,
No one wants to visit, only to leave.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Law

By Greg Delanty

Let there be a ban on every holiday.

         No ringing in the new year.

No fireworks doodling the warm night air.

         No holly on the door. I say

let there be no more.

         For many are not here who were here before.

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