Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Year Poem

By Mother Goose

Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November.
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Up the Niger

By John Grey

For the dirt poor, the river is riches.
Anchored in mud, a man can
still skim the brown water for fish,
a woman scrub her naked baby.
Horse-drawn carts trudge back and forth
to its rotting jetty.
The one cafe in town overlooks its hypnotic swirl.
A baguette with butter and a view
of splashing children, goats drinking...
what more could a man ask for.
I drop coins in the blind beggar’s cup,
listen for a time to the tuneless singer.
That current, the color of monkey crap,
probably poison for all I know...
and yet, without it, this morning doesn’t exist.
I’m not unfolding the week old newspaper.
The Frenchman with the snowy beard
is not trying to cajole me into card games.
The boy doesn’t laugh, the girl lift her dress
up to her knees and wade out to a floating ball.
I’d be home maybe, thinking to myself,
now where can I go where there’s a river.
This place would never come to mind.
Without its flow, nothing would.

John Grey has been published recently in the Echolocation, Santa Fe Poetry Review and Caveat Lector with work upcoming in Clark Street Review, Poem and the Evansville Review.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


By Laurie Patton

We've always known
that clothing makes a world;
tents on our mother's beds,
earth and sky made of quilts
letting the light in
os that we are small makers
of tiny suns and miniature moons,
each requiring new stories.

We've always known
that our shawls are second skins,
which, unlike snakes,
we have the blissful choice
of removing at will.

We've always known
that blankets have an inch of heat
that can be the difference
between life and death
for someone newly nameless
searching for a subway vent.

We make
tiny worlds,
and shed skins,
and seek warm winds:
in these ways
we cry to You,
and You hear,
because You are gracious.

Friday, February 24, 2012

30th Birthday

By Alice Notley

May I never be afraid
             especially of myself
Muhammed Ali are you telling
the truth?
             Well you’re being true aren’t you and
you talk so wonderfully in your body
             that protects you with physique of voice
       raps within dance
                             May I never be afraid

              rocked and quaked
                                            the mantilla is lace
                                            whose black is oak
But if I’m dark I’m strong
                                    as my own darkness
my strength the universe
                                    whose blackness is air
                                    only starry
But if I’m alive I’m strong
                                          as life
Strong as the violets
in Marlon Brando’s fist
                          his dissemblance flourished into truth
took them
I’d take me too
                       I do
               and my Ali I see you
                                    a hard bright speck of me
the savage formalist
                              authentic deed of gossip
               a kind body

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Those Two

By Allen Ginsberg

That tree said
     I don't like that white car under me,
               it smells gasoline
That other tree next to it said
     O you're always complaining
          you're a neurotic
       you can see by the way you're bent over.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Work, produce, consume" *

By Eve Lyons

Praise the headache that tells my body
I am dehydrated, tired, or stressed.
Praise the stress which tells me
I am busy, I need to slow down.
Praise the work that keeps me busy,
puts food on the table,
money in the bank account,
and promptly out again to pay the bills.
Praise the food on my table
the raw food breakfast porridge,
the vegan corn chowder
the worker-owned beer.
It costs more money
but it keeps my heart
from crying out in pain.
Praise the pain that tells my body
this can't be all there is.

* Title taken from Jack Kerouac's Dharma Bums

Previously published in The Beatnik, October 2011

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Whole World Is A Narrow Bridge (Gesher Tsar Me'od)

By Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav

The whole world
is a very narrow bridge
a very narrow bridge
a very narrow bridge

The whole world
is a very narrow bridge -
A very narrow bridge.

And the main thing to recall -
is not to be afraid -
not to be afraid at all.

And the main thing to recall -
is not to be afraid at all.

Kol Ha'olam kulo
Gesher Tsar me'od
Gesher Tsar me'od
Gesher Tsar me'od -

Kol Ha'olam kulo
Gesher Tsar me'od -
Gesher Tsar me'od.

Veha'ikar - veha'ikar
Lo lefached -
lo lefached klal.

Veha'ikar - veha'ikar
lo lefached klal.

Transliterated from the Hebrew

Click this link to hear this song performed by the contemporary band Rebbe Soul.

Monday, February 20, 2012


By Claudio Roberto Veale

when she calls
her voice sounds like snow
the heat of my breath melts each word
and still she speaks, covering
my landscape, quieting even my thought

her language is a fog around me
so thick and palpable that i succumb
to her reasoning, and to her peace

Claudio Roberto Veale lives with his family in South Texas.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


By Rahel (nee Rahel Bluwstein)

Oh, if I had a son, a little son,
With black curled hair and clever eyes,
A little son to walk with in the garden
Under morning skies
A son,
A little son!

I'd call him Uri, little laughing Uri,
A tender name, as light, as full of joy
As sunlight on the dew, as tripping on the tongue
As the laughter of the boy -
I'd call him.

And still I wait, as mother Rahel waited,
Or Hannah at Shiloh, she the barren one,
Until the day comes when my lips whisper,
"Uri, my son!"

Friday, February 17, 2012


By Terrance Hayes

I am sometimes the clarinet
your parents bought
your first year in band,
my whole body alive
in your fingers, my one ear
warmed by the music
you breathe into it.
I hear your shy laugh
among the girls at practice.
I am not your small wrist
rising & falling as you turn
the sheet music,
but I want to be.
Or pinky bone, clavicle.
When you walk home
from school, birds call
to you in a language
only clarinets decipher.
The leaves whistle
and gawk as you pass.
Locked in my skinny box,
I want to be at least
one of the branches
leaning above you.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Son

By Mary Oliver

The son my father never had
lived with me
before I sleep
I thought of him
with his strong wrists,
with his eyes.
My mother's body,
too torn from the expulsion
to bear again
fed me,
but the longing was clear.
I could fight like a boy
I could shoot a gun,
I could get lost
and find my way home.
I could not name the things
I was afraid of
like my own body,
cranky and mysterious
as water.
Of course I dreamed
a miracle would happen.
How they loved him,
his swagger, his long legs!
So, in the end,
I must pity them, I suppose,
for the sorrow
that hangs in the air
even now
when I greet them
as kindly as I can
in my happiness,
in my soft body,
in my long and shining hair -
for it was all true:
the miracle of myself,
their dreams,
their despair.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine for Ernest Mann

By Naomi Shihab Nye

You can't order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, "I'll take two"
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here's my address,
write me a poem," deserves something in reply.
So I'll tell you a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn't understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.


By Alicia Ostriker

although I have put an ocean between us
still do you know how I lie awake at night
the eye in my right palm pictures you
sitting amid your litter, feel buried
by accumulated jars of buttons,
glass lose beneath a decade of bank statements
and funny poems,
hands folding under your chin, staring
at nothing, preparing to be blind
and helpless, for fifty years
it has tortured me that I cannot save you from
and that I do not love you enough

what is enough
nothing is enough

Monday, February 13, 2012

Where Are You My Thrush

By Amit Parmessur

Musing under a morose tamarind tree, I find
my mind melting into an emotional hurly-burly.
The blankness of the tattered sky above allowing
me to measure my beating heart, I
bring the flute to my lips. I pause.
I need this silence to touch my soul.

I’ve never thought the thread of our amity
would snap, without sound.
How dare time steal us from each
other, drowning us in a crowd of waves.

I falter again, and the flute remains mute.
I hope one day you beat the wind
and warp your snug nest round my patient heart.

O my merry Thrush,
without you I walk without feet!
Without you, my boat sails like a sieve.

Musing under this morose tree I often try
imaginary songs, waiting for your hymn.
They say it is most wonderful
but no one has inspired it the way I have.

I go home, like a brave periwinkle on an
endless errand, before the high stars start to pop.
My melody has combed every wooded area,
has fought every frost and used every patois.

This evening, I’ll drench the flute in the pool
of my anger and wait for an improbable return.

Remember soft Thrush, you are scintillating—
our bond isn’t ordinary, like others.

Amit Parmessur has appeared in around 100 literary magazines such as: Ann Arbor Review, Calliope Nerve, Black-Listed Magazine, Red Fez, Damazine, Zouch Magazine and many others. His book on blog Lord Shiva & other poems has been recently published by The Camel Saloon. He is nominated for the 2011 Pushcart Award and lives in Quatre-Bornes, Mauritius.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Fury Of Guitars and Sopranos

By Anne Sexton

This singing
is a kind of dying,
a kind of birth,
a votive candle.
I have a dream-mother
who sings with her guitar,
nursing the bedroom
with a moonlight and beautiful olives.
A flute came too,
joining the five strings,
a God finger over the holes.
I knew a beautiful woman once
who sang with her fingertips
and her eyes were brown
like small birds.
At the cup of her breasts
I drew wine.
At the mound of her legs
I drew figs.
She sang for my thirst,
mysterious songs of God
that would have laid an army down.
It was as if a morning-glory
had bloomed in her throat
and all that blue
and small pollen
ate into my heart
violent and religious.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Dog Lovers

By Spike Milligan

So they bought you
And kept you in a
Very good home
Central heating
A deep freeze
A very good home -
No one to take you
For that lovely long run -
But otherwise
‘A very good home’
They fed you Pal and Chum
But not that lovely long run,
Until, mad with energy and boredom
You escaped – and ran and ran and ran
Under a car.
Today they will cry for you -
Tomorrow they will buy another dog.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


By Eve Lyons

Confession: I was a teenage metal-head.
In high school I worshipped Joan Jett
with her tight black leather, tiny body, and defiant songs.
I loved all those boys with scraggly hair and screams
for voices like the ones in Def Leppard, AC/DC,
and Metallica – before they got all
serious and political. During lunch period
I would hang out with
stoners, punks, artists, and fags –
not because I was one of them,
but because I wanted to be.

In my Texas high school, being Jewish was
freakish enough. I certainly
didn’t have any heroes, but
I thought Marian Zimmerman was the shit.
At 16, she wore a femme-y leather jacket
and smoked cigarettes with one arm dangling
out the car window and one knee
propped up to rest her smoking hand on.
Most of the girls in my youth group
weren’t having sex, but I found the ones
who were, in the back cabin – the last one
before the woods
that no one was staying in.

Today, working with a group of adolescents
who have already been diagnosed,
I see myself, who could have been diagnosed.
The monthly religious conversions were a “warning sign,”
though of what I’m not sure.
The way I came home from youth group one weekend
and decided I was a vegetarian,
or the odd obsession with Charles Manson
and splicing tapes backwards that
occupied most of the seventh grade – those
were warning signs as well, I’m sure.

I certainly don’t long for adolescence, or the days
of sneaking out of Anna’s second story bedroom window
because of her father’s fury.
We hadn’t done anything but talk
those late nights, and neither of us would come out
for another couple years. I used to listen to Janis Joplin
croon and wish I could have known her
like my father did, or better yet
that she had survived her own high school scars
long enough to have known me.  This was
years before swooning over Ani Difranco,
or going to punk shows like 7 Year Bitch.

Back then, there was only Joan Jett.
She loves rock ‘n’ roll, yeah, but
it was her other tracks that seduced me quickly. Her angry
growl when she was “frustrated,”  and the
sweet cover of “Crimson and Clover.”
When she sang: “I don’t hardly know her
but I think I could love her” – I knew
there were options.
Even if it would be years till I tried them,
years till I named them.

Back then, I was completely
unsure of who I was
but knew enough to know
I didn’t care.

Previously published in The Dead Mule of Southern Literature, February 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Red Wand

By Sandra Simonds

Sometimes I try to make poetry but mostly
   I try to earn a living. There's something still living
in every urn, I am sure of it. The ash moves
     around inside the vase like the magnetic filings that make
the moustache of Wooly Willy. Maybe a new face counts
     as reincarnation. The wand says, "I'll be your ostrich,
if you'll be my swan." In this life, what did I do wrong?
I think my heart is a magnet too. It attracts anything
that attracts joy like the summer grasses the swans track through.
        OMG, how in love I am with joy and with yours—how I know
that adding to it would only take it further off course,
        off its precarious center, so for once, I won't touch it.
I will stand wand-length away—let it
     glide stupidly on its weightless line, without me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Farewell to the Sea

By Juliette M. van de Mheen (stardustraven)

He never wanted to leave
He had seen dolphins
Heard gulls' mews

Memories of great whales
A chance encounter
With a calf, mother and aunt

Sun, waves and wind
Revelling in her vastness
From New York to Java

Sailing on all "Grandes Dames"
In all their glory
S.S. Rotterdam, S.S. Nieuw Amsterdam

Nevermore the freedom
Of a salty, unpredictable mistress
Whether she hummed or roared

She was his gal
This vibrant and ever alluring
Turquoise prima donna

Sadly, his halcyon days
Would not last
Back on shore

This profound grief
Ate away at him
His bouts of anger

Shut us out
If only
He would have allowed....

We brought him away
Between wood and dunes
He rests beside her.

Juliette M. van de Mheen lives and works in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. She has worked at the University Library of Amsterdam, where she worked partially for the Rare and Early Printings Project), and she now works at the Municipal Archive. Five other poems were published at, The Shofar Literary Review and Troubadour21. Readers can find her blog here.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Leaving Egypt

By Merle Feld

The night is so dark
and I am afraid.
I see nothing, smell nothing,
the only reality -
I am holding my mother's hand.

And as we walk
I hear the sounds
of a multitude in motion -
in front, behind,
all around,
a multitude in motion.

I have no thought of tomorrow,
now, in the darkness,
there is only motion
and my mother's hand.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Woman Waving to Trees

By Dorothea Tanning

Not that anyone would
notice it at first.
I have taken to marveling
at the trees in our park.
One thing I can tell you:
they are beautiful
and they know it.
They are also tired,
hundreds of years
stuck in one spot—
beautiful paralytics.
When I am under them,
they feel my gaze,
watch me wave my foolish
hand, and envy the joy
of being a moving target.

Loungers on the benches
begin to notice.
One to another,
"Well, you see all kinds..."
Most of them sit looking
down at nothing as if there
was truly nothing else to
look at until there is
that woman waving up
to the branching boughs
of these old trees. Raise your
heads, pals, look high,
you may see more than
you ever thought possible,
up where something might
be waving back, to tell her
she has seen the marvelous.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Nothing Twice

By Wislawa Szymborska

Nothing can ever happen twice.
In consequence, the sorry fact is
that we arrive here improvised
and leave without the chance to practice.

Even if there is no one dumber,
if you're the planet's biggest dunce,
you can't repeat the class in summer:
this course is only offered once.

No day copies yesterday,
no two nights will teach what bliss is
in precisely the same way,
with precisely the same kisses.

One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.

The next day, though you're here with me,
I can't help looking at the clock:
A rose? A rose? What could that be?
Is it a flower or a rock?

Why do we treat the fleeting day
with so much needless fear and sorrow?
It's in its nature not to stay:
Today is always gone tomorrow.

With smiles and kisses, we prefer
to seek accord beneath our star,
although we're different (we concur)
just as two drops of water are.

Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Worst And The Best

By Charles Bukowski

in the hospitals and jails
it's the worst
in madhouses
it's the worst
in penthouses
it's the worst
in skid row flophouses
it's the worst
at poetry readings
at rock concerts
at benefits for the disabled
it's the worst
at funerals
at weddings
it's the worst
at parades
at skating rinks
at sexual orgies
it's the worst
at midnight
at 3 a.m.
at 5:45 p.m.
it's the worst
falling through the sky
firing squads
that's the best
thinking of India
looking at popcorn stands
watching the bull get the matador
that's the best
boxed lightbulbs
an old dog scratching
peanuts in a celluloid bag
that's the best
spraying roaches
a clean pair of stockings
natural guts defeating natural talent
that's the best
in front of firing squads
throwing crusts to seagulls
slicing tomatoes
that's the best
rugs with cigarette burns
cracks in sidewalks
waitresses still sane
that's the best

my hands dead
my heart dead
adagio of rocks
the world ablaze
that's the best
for me.