Friday, March 30, 2012

Poem in Praise of Menstruation

By Lucille Clifton

if there is a river
more beautiful than this
bright as the blood
red edge of the moon if
there is a river
more faithful than this
returning each month
to the same delta if there

is a river
braver than this
coming and coming in a surge
of passion, of pain if there is

a river
more ancient than this
daughter of eve
mother of cain and of abel if there is in

the universe such a river if
there is some where water
more powerful than this wild
water

pray that it flows also
through animals
beautiful and faithful and ancient
and female and brave.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

When the World Ended as We Knew It

By Joy Harjo

We were dreaming on an occupied island at the farthest edge
of a trembling nation when it went down.

Two towers rose up from the east island of commerce and touched
the sky. Men walked on the moon. Oil was sucked dry
by two brothers. Then it went down. Swallowed
by a fire dragon, by oil and fear.
Eaten whole.

It was coming.

We had been watching since the eve of the missionaries in their
long and solemn clothes, to see what would happen.

We saw it
from the kitchen window over the sink
as we made coffee, cooked rice and
potatoes, enough for an army.

We saw it all, as we changed diapers and fed
the babies. We saw it,
through the branches
of the knowledgeable tree
through the snags of stars, through
the sun and storms from our knees
as we bathed and washed
the floors.

The conference of the birds warned us, as the flew over
destroyers in the harbor, parked there since the first takeover.
It was by their song and talk we knew when to rise
when to look out the window
to the commotion going on—
the magnetic field thrown off by grief.

We heard it.
The racket in every corner of the world. As
the hunger for war rose up in those who would steal to be president
to be king or emperor, to own the trees, stones, and everything
else that moved about the earth, inside the earth
and above it.

We knew it was coming, tasted the winds who gathered intelligence
from each leaf and flower, from every mountain, sea
and desert, from every prayer and song all over this tiny universe
floating in the skies of infinite
being.

And then it was over, this world we had grown to love
for its sweet grasses, for the many-colored horses
and fishes, for the shimmering possibilities
while dreaming.

But then there were the seeds to plant and the babies
who needed milk and comforting, and someone
picked up a guitar or ukulele from the rubble
and began to sing about the light flutter
the kick beneath the skin of the earth
we felt there, beneath us

a warm animal
a song being born between the legs of her;
a poem.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Father and Sons

By Eve Lyons                                                  For David, Daniel, and Jonah Akiba

There is a space between them,
in that space they hold cameras.
The father with his old-fashioned lens,
the son with a modern video camera.
The third man, the other son,
he is the one who is the subject
of both their viewfinders.
That is the way it has always been.
There are those who plunge in, searching and yearning,
like salmon swimming upstream
till they find their home to spawn.
The others watch, tell the story
wait for the story to include them.
Loss is inevitable.
It happens whether they expect it or not,
when it comes
they are filming, photographing,
writing, crying, and laughing.
“Hazak hazak veneet hezech,”
my mother took to telling me
shortly after my grandfather
left this world.
“Be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen one another.”
This person who dances and davens and laughs before you,
who loves somebody or some life
you cannot understand or approve.
He is still the person
you held in your arms
with whom you waited
until the school bus picked him up.
He is still yours.


Previously published in Lilith magazine, Winter 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Love Song

By Rainer Maria Rilke

How shall I hold on to my soul, so that
it does not touch yours? How shall I lift
it gently up over you on to other things?
I would so very much like to tuck it away
among long lost objects in the dark,
in some quiet, unknown place, somewhere
which remains motionless when your depths resound.
And yet everything which touches us, you and me,
takes us together like a single bow,
drawing out from two strings but one voice.
On which instrument are we strung?
And which violinist holds us in his hand?
O sweetest of songs.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ode to Garlic

By William Stafford

Sudden, it comes for you
in the cave of yourself where you know
and are lifted by important events.

Say you are dining and it happens:
Soaring like an eagle, you are
pierced by a message from the midst of life:

Memory - what holds the days together - touches
your tongue. It is from deep in the earth
and it reaches out kindly, saying, "Hello Old Friend."

It makes alike, all offspring of powerful
forces, part of one great embrace of democracy,
united across every boundary.

You walk out generously, giving it back
in a graceful wave, what you've been given.
Like a child, you breathe on the world, and it shines.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Rider

By Naomi Shihab Nye

A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn't catch up to him,

the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.

What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.

A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Superheroes as 2004 Volkswagen Passat: A Double Sonnet

By Bruce Covey

The Invisible Woman is the windshield.
Mr. Fantastic is the wiper fluid.
The Thing is the tire.
The Human Torch is the spark plug.
Spiderman is the antenna.
Storm is the ignition coil.
Rogue is the crank shaft.
The Punisher is the exhaust pipe.
Captain America is the hub cap.
Quicksilver is the oil.
Rogue is the gasoline.
Psylocke is the catalytic converter.
The Hulk is the cylinder block.
She Hulk is the mount.

Mantis is the manifold.
Ms. Marvel is the muffler.
The Scarlet Witch is the instrument panel.
Iceman is the cooling system.
Wolverine is the hood.
Colossus is the camshaft.
Banshee is the horn.
Polaris is the voltage regulator.
Silver Surfer is the rearview mirror.
Powerman is the bearing.
Phoenix is the powertrain.
Emma Frost is the hinge pillar.
The Vision is the fuse box.
Black Widow is the brake.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

unsolicited advice to adolescent girls with crooked teeth and pink hair

By Jeanann Verlee

When your mother hits you, do not strike back. When the boys call asking
your cup size, say A, hang up. When he says you gave him blue balls, say
you’re welcome. When a girl with thick black curls who smells like bubble
gum stops you in a stairwell to ask if you’re a boy, explain that you keep
your hair short so she won’t have anything to grab when you head-butt her.
Then head-butt her. When a guidance counselor teases you for handed-down
jeans, do not turn red. When you have sex for the second time and there is no
condom, do not convince yourself that screwing between layers of underwear
will soak up the semen. When your geometry teacher posts a banner reading:
“Learn math or go home and learn how to be a Momma,” do not take your
first feminist stand by leaving the classroom. When the boy you have a crush
on is sent to detention, go home. When your mother hits you, do not strike
back. When the boy with the blue mohawk swallows your heart and opens his
wrists, hide the knives, bleach the bathtub, pour out the vodka. Every time.
When the skinhead girls jump you in a bathroom stall, swing, curse, kick, do
not turn red. When a boy you think you love delivers the first black eye, use
a screw driver, a beer bottle, your two good hands. When your father locks the
door, break the window. When a college professor writes you poetry and
whispers about your tight little ass, do not take it as a compliment, do not wait,
call the Dean, call his wife. When a boy with good manners and a thirst for
Budweiser proposes, say no. When your mother hits you, do not strike back.
When the boys tell you how good you smell, do not doubt them, do not turn
red. When your brother tells you he is gay, pretend you already know. When
the girl on the subway curses you because your tee shirt reads: “I fucked your
boyfriend,” assure her that it is not true. When your dog pees the rug, kiss her,
apologize for being late. When he refuses to stay the night because you live in
Jersey City, do not move. When he refuses to stay the night because you live
in Harlem, do not move. When he refuses to stay the night because your air
conditioner is broken, leave him. When he refuses to keep a toothbrush at your
apartment, leave him. When you find the toothbrush you keep at his apartment
hidden in the closet, leave him. Do not regret this. Do not turn red.
When your mother hits you, do not strike back.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Son

By Vicki Wilson

There will be a last time that I carry you,
and I won't know it.
There will be no celebration,
no certificate,
as when you were born,
just the offhand thought:
He sure has gotten big.
And when I set you down,
on your own two feet,
I'll think nothing of it.


Previously published in Literary Mama, March 3, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

At Dusk

By Martin Rosner

Call me greedy, for my lease on life
Is long, well past the day
When I could walk with grace,
And hard men looked away, and ladies
Smiled when I strode along the street.
Now I am reduced to recollections,
And they are just a jest,
A ruse the gods can use
To lift their boredom in eternity.
So knowing this, why do I persist?
Because a meteor flames a microsecond
In the frozen blackness of the void,
But its light is never lost.


Martin Rosner, M.D. has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers including 17 poems in "The New York Times" and is currently part of the course in modern poetry at American International College. He lives in New Jersey.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

They Build the Tabernacle

By Ruth Brin

To devotion God set no limits,
and to dedication of the spirit
God set no bounds.

But great quantities of tribute God did not demand,
and the people were restrained from bringing
too much gold for the Tabernacle.

Though the Temples of Solomon and Herod
were far more costly,
it is written that the Divine Presence was found
more constantly in the humbler structure.

To dedicate the spirit to God is more difficult
than to give money,
to devote the whole heart to God
is more difficult than bringing gifts.

Not because of the gold on the walls
does the light of the sanctuary shine forth,
but because of the spirit within.

Those who worship carry away with them
more than they bring
for they find there the light to illumine
their lives.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Mother

By Gwendolyn Brooks

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.

I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed
          children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches,
          and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?--
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.

Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you
All.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Waiting

By Nikki Grimes

The orphanage
put my picture
on a postcard.
My smile says
“Pick me! Pick me!”
But mostly, people say
I’m too old to adopt,
like I’m a run-down clock
(tick-tock, tick-tock)
and the big hand says
Julie is half-past loving.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Economy

By Sandra Beasley

After you've surrendered to pillows
and I, that second whiskey,
on the way to bed I trace my fingers
over a thermostat we dare not turn up.
You have stolen what we call the green thing—
too thick to be a blanket, too soft to be a rug—
turned away, mid-dream. Yet your legs
still reach for my legs, folding them quick
to your accumulated heat.
These days
only a word can earn overtime.
Economy: once a net, now a handful of holes.
Economy: what a man moves with
when, even in sleep, he is trying to save
all there is left to save.

Monday, March 12, 2012

gravity

By Christina Murphy

eons submerged in the starry glare of
deep winter nights;
fault lines of galaxies poised as star-tips
against the darkness that is perhaps eternal

phantoms of dying matter haunt the night
as new states of being emerge;
everything is internal and coalescing
with no essence beyond the core

within the symmetry of space-time,
arcs of white-gold—mostly symphonies of light—
perhaps even truer than the pull of celestial magic,
as spectacular as Narcissus looking for the image
that presents a reason for desire.



Christina Murphy lives and writes in a 100 year-old Arts and Crafts style house along the Ohio River. She continues to be amazed at how the Arts and Crafts movement—like the painter Piet Mondrian-- found such artistic integrity (and solace) in straight lines and simple (yet complex) forms. She tries to emulate the same idea in her poetry. Her poems have appeared in a range of journals, including PANK, Poetry Quarterly, POOL, Contemporary World Poetry, MUSE, MiPOesias, Quantum Poetry Magazine, Blue Fifth Review, and Counterexample Poetics, among others.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Vision

By Aldous Huxley

I had been sitting alone with books,
Till doubt was a black disease,
When I heard the cheerful shout of rooks
In the bare, prophetic trees.

Bare trees, prophetic of new birth,
You lift your branches clean and free
To be a beacon to the earth,
A flame of wrath for all to see.

And the rooks in the branches laugh and shout
To those that can hear and understand:
"Walk through the gloomy ways of doubt
With the torch of vision in your hand."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Aliens

By Charles Bukowski

you may not believe it
but there are people
who go through life with
very little
friction or
distress.
they dress well, eat
well, sleep well.
they are contented with
their family
life.
they have moments of
grief
but all in all
they are undisturbed
and often feel
very good.
and when they die
it is an easy
death, usually in their
sleep.
you may not believe
it
but such people do
exist.
but I am not one of
them.
oh no, I am not one
of them,
I am not even near
to being
one of
them
but they are
there
and I am
here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Have News for You

By Tony Hoagland

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don't interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don't walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures unrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their sinuous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others' emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half-inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
debating the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after fame or love or quantities of money as
          unattainable as that moon;
thus, they do not later
                have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you—
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Election Day

By William Carlos Williams

Warm sun, quiet air
an old man sits

in the doorway of
a broken house--

boards for windows
plaster falling

from between the stones
and strokes the head

of a spotted dog

Monday, March 5, 2012

Your Mammogram Appointment

By Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas

They will tell you: do not apply powders
on the day of your appointment─

do wear a 2 piece outfit, the top
half easily removed for a quick

change, as we provide a loose upper
gown, free of buckles and zippers─

the same one you wore last time;
celadon green, washed and pressed,

stored with all the old films.
Avoid long dangly earrings, saved

for Saturday nights and the supple
grace of your décolletage.

Never bring children, they will not
be able to accompany you to the x-ray

department, where you will be asked
to reach in and guide your fleshy

teardrop to the imaging machine,
for what is termed; a routine screening─

but someone forgot to mention
nothing about this is routine.


Previously published in Yale Journal of Humanities in Arts, March 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Understanding

By C. P. Cavafy

The years of my youth, my sensual life—
how clearly I see their meaning now.

How needless the repentance, how futile...

But I didn’t see the meaning then.

In the loose living of my early years
the impulses of my poetry were shaped,
the boundaries of my art were laid down.

That’s why the repentance was so fickle.
And my resolutions to hold back, to change,
lasted two weeks at the most.


Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Friday, March 2, 2012

Defining Wrong

By Scott Owens

So I’ve had this argument before
at 10 when I was told
I was being hit so I would understand,
at 13 when my friends tried
to beat into me
that the only thing worse than a nigger
was a nigger lover,
at 17 when my father said
if they didn’t want to be raped
they wouldn’t go into places like that,
last year when my mother’s new husband
told me god hates fags.
I don’t care what anyone’s god
believes is wrong.
I know what is wrong.
What causes harm is wrong.
What takes away freedom is wrong.
What makes another feel small is wrong.
And silence is wrong.
It’s easy to keep your mouth shut.
You keep your job that way.
You keep peace in the home.
It’s easy just to go along.
It’s easy, but it’s wrong.

Previously published in protestpoems, February 2012

Thursday, March 1, 2012

You who never arrived

By Rainer Maria Rilke

You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don’t even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
moment.

All the immense
images in me– the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and unsuspected
turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods-
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house–, and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.

Streets that I chanced upon,–
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled,
gave back my too-sudden image. Who knows?
perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening…

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