Thursday, May 31, 2012

Let Evening Come

By Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Mortician in San Francisco

By Randall Mann

This may sound queer,
but in 1985 I held the delicate hands
of Dan White:
I prepared him for burial; by then, Harvey Milk
was made monument—no, myth—by the year
since he was shot.
I remember when Harvey was shot:
twenty, and I knew I was queer.
Those were the years,
Levi’s and leather jackets holding hands
on Castro Street, cheering for Harvey Milk—
elected on the same day as Dan White.
I often wonder about Supervisor White,
who fatally shot
Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Milk,
who was one of us, a Castro queer.
May 21, 1979: a jury hands
down the sentence, seven years—
in truth, five years—
for ex-cop, ex-fireman Dan White,
for the blood on his hands;
when he confessed that he had shot
the mayor and the queer,
a few men in blue cheered. And Harvey Milk?
Why cry over spilled milk,
some wondered, semi-privately, for years—
it meant “one less queer.”
The jurors turned to White.
If just the mayor had been shot,
Dan might have had trouble on his hands—
but the twelve who held his life in their hands
maybe didn’t mind the death of Harvey Milk;
maybe, the second murder offered him a shot
at serving only a few years.
In the end, he committed suicide, this Dan White.
And he was made presentable by a queer.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Madrid, 11 March 2004

By Juliette M. van de Mheen

I can't forget her

A sad Señora at El Pozo station
At 8.38 am

Her missed train
Death's destructive steel snake
Shattered Spanish dreams

She beheld this inferno
Almost crying
In a strangled voice

Marching  in poignant protest
Among all those millions
Their enormous anger
Exploded  in  the streets
Shouting: "NO!"

Madrid, one year later
At exactly 7:37 am
All church bells
Sang the song 
Of Spain's sorrow
Which broke my heart.

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, May 27, 2012

One reason I like opera

By Marge Piercy

In movies, you can tell the heroine
because she is blonder and thinner
than her sidekick. The villainess
is darkest. If a woman is fat,
she is a joke and will probably die.

In movies, the blondest are the best
and in bleaching lies not only purity
but victory. If two people are both
extra pretty, they will end up
in the final clinch.

Only the flawless in face and body
win. That is why I treat 
movies as less interesting
than comic books. The camera
is stupid. It sucks surfaces.

Let's go to the opera instead.
The heroine is fifty and weighs
as much as a '65 Chevy with fins.
She could crack your jaw in her fist.
She can hit high C lying down.

The tenor the women scream for
wolfs down an eight course meal daily.
He resembles a bull on hind legs.
His thighs are the size of beer kegs.
His chest is a redwood with hair.

Their voices twine, golden serpents.
Their voices rise like the best
fireworks and hang and hang
then drift slowly down descending
in brilliant and still fiery sparks.

The hippopotamus baritone (the villain)
has a voice that could give you
an orgasm right in your seat.
His voice smokes with passion.
He is hot as lava. He erupts nightly.

The contralto is, however, svelte.
She is supposed to be the soprano's
mother, but is ten years younger,
beautiful and Black. Nobody cares.
She sings you into her womb where you rock.

What you see is work like digging a ditch,
hard physical labor. What you hear
is magic as tricky as knife throwing.
What you see is strength like any
great athlete's. What you hear

is still rendered precisely as the best
Swiss watchmaker. The body is
resonance. The body is the cello case.
The body just is. The voice loud
as hunger remagnetizes your bones.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Survivor’s Guilt

By Patricia Kirkpatrick

How I’ve changed may not be apparent.
I limp. Read and write, make tea at the stove
as I practiced in rehab. Sometimes, like fire,
a task overwhelms me. I cry for days, shriek
when the phone rings. Like a page pulled from flame,
I’m singed but intact: I don’t burn down the house.

Later, cleared to drive, I did outpatient rehab. Others
lost legs or clutched withered minds in their hands.
A man who can’t speak recognized me
and held up his finger. I knew he meant
One year since your surgery. Sixteen since his.
Guadalupe wishes daily to be the one before. Nobody
is that. Sometimes, like love, the neurons just cross fire.
You don’t get everything back.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Is a question of strength,
of unshed tears,
of being trampled under, 

and always, always,
remembering you are human.

Look deep to find the grains
of hope and strength,
and sing, my brothers and sisters,

and sing. The sun will share
your birthdays with you behind bars,
the new spring grass

like fiery spears will count your years,
as you start into the next year;
endure my brothers, endure my sisters.

By Jimmy Santiago Baca

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Daughter and Apple Pie

By Raymond Carver

She serves me a piece of it a few minutes
out of the oven. A little steam rises
from the slits on top. Sugar and spice -
cinnamon - burned into the crust.
But she's wearing these dark glasses
in the kitchen at ten o'clock
in the morning - everything nice -
as she watches me break off
a piece, bring it to my mouth,
and blow on it. My daughter's kitchen,
in winter. I fork the pie in
and tell myself to stay out of it.
She says she loves him. No way
Could it be worse. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Biting Back

By Patricia Smith

Children do not grow up
as much as they grow away.
My son’s eyes are stones - flat, brown, fireless,
with no visible openings in or out.
His voice, when he cares to try it on,
hovers one-note in that killing place
where even the blues fidget.
Tight syllables, half spoken, half spat,
greet me with the warmth
of glint-tipped arrows. The air around him
hurts my chest, grows too cold to nourish,
and he stares past me to the open door of his room,
anxious for my patented stumbled restreat.

My fingers used to brush bit of the world
From his kinked hair,
but he moved beyond that mother shine
to whispered “fucks” on the telephone,
to the sweet mysteries of scalloped buttons
dotting the maps of young girls,
to the warped, frustrating truths of algebra,
to anything but me. Ancient, annoying apparatus,
I have unfortunately retained the ability to warm meat,
to open cans, to clean clothing
that has yellowed and stiffened.
I spit money when squeezed,
don’t try to dance in front of his friends,
and know that rap music cannot be stopped.
For these brief flashes of cool, I am tolerated in spurts.

At night I lay in my husband’s arms
and he tells me that these are things that happen,
that the world will tilt again
and our son will return, unannounced, as he was -
goofy and clinging, clever with words, stupefied by rockets.
And I dream on that.
One summer after camp,
twelve inches taller than the summer before,
my child grinned and said,
“Maybe a tree bit me.”

We laughed,
not knowing that was to be his last uttered innocence.
Only months later, eyes would narrow and doors would slam.
Now he is scowl, facial hair, knots of muscle. He is
Pimp, homey, pistol. He is man smell, grimy fingers,
red eyes, rolling dice. He is street, smoke, cocked cannon.
And I sit on his bare mattress after he’s left for school,
wonder at the simple jumble of this motherless world,
look for clues that some gumpopping teenage girl
now wears my face. Full of breastmilk and finger songs,
I stumble the street staring at other children,
gulping my dose of their giggles,
and cursing the trees for their teeth.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Old Joke

By Alan Shapiro

Radiant child of Leto, far working Lord Apollo,
with lyre in hand and golden plectrum, you sang to the gods
on Mount Olympus almost as soon as you were born.

You sang, and the Muses sang in answer, and together
your voices so delighted all your deathless elders
that their perfect happiness was made more perfect still.

What was it, though, that overwhelmed them, that suffused,
astonished, even the endless aether? Was it the freshest,
most wonderful stops of breath, the flawless intervals

and scales whose harmonies were mimicking in sound
the beauty of the gods themselves, or what you joined
to that, what you were singing of, our balked desires,

the miseries we suffer at your indifferent hands,
devastation, and bereavement, old age and death?
Far working, radiant child, what do you know about us?

Here is my father, half blind, and palsied, at the toilet,
he's shouting at his penis, Piss, you! Piss! Piss!
but the penis (like the heavenly host to mortal prayers)

is deaf and dumb; here, too, my mother with her bad knee,
on the eve of surgery, hobbling by the bathroom,
pausing, saying, who are you talking to in there?

and he replies, no one you would know, sweetheart.
Supernal one, in your untested mastery,
your easy excellence, with nothing to overcome,

and needing nothing but the most calamitous
and abject stories to prove how powerful you are,
how truly free, watch them as they laugh so briefly,

godlike, better than gods, if only for a moment
in which what goes wrong is converted to a rightness,
if only because now she's hobbling back to bed

where she won't sleep, if only because he pees at last,
missing the bowl, and has to get down on his knees
to wipe it up. You don't know anything about us.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

When this old body

By Grace Paley

When this old body
finds that old body
what a nice day it is

when that old body
loves this old body
it's dreamless to sleep
and busy to wake up

when this old body says
your're a little lumpy here and there
but you're the same old body after all

old body   old body    in which somewhere
between crooked toe and forgetful head
the flesh encounters soul
and whispers      you

Friday, May 18, 2012


By Said

pray loudly against the noise of the human hand
which seeks to drown you out
and appear on quiet soles
so that we might understand your footsteps
exert yourself
in order to recognize our prayers
even when they appear in a different garment
because no prayer ever looses itself from the source of the one praying

take up the speech
by which i pray to you
grant me the gestures
which have grown within me in your absence
so that i might remain true to my uneducable nature
and take your weakness upon me

you should always wander and never let yourself
settle down
because there are no longer any dwelling places
only footsteps
be loud and penetrating
sympathize with me and my stirrings
lead me
all the way to your bread
so that my word might wake

stay by me
even if i nourish myself from ashes and salt
be still and listen to that name
which i lend to you
because i want to distinguish you from the idols
grant me patience to endure those who are vain
with their empty words
and the converts
who are zealous to confirm their opposite
and grant
that my waiting be full of revolt

when you arrive
we will be light
bread and water
the table is set and the door opened
come and take your place among us free me of the belief
that you are only faithful from a distance
and speak with me
in the unharried language of animals
who from far off lie in wait for us
with their unadulterated hunger

Translated from the German by Mark S. Burrows

Thursday, May 17, 2012


By Jennifer Chang

Dark matter, are you

for lack of knowing
better? The room

you've spun is distant
and indivisible—

a flickering lapsarian,
you satisfy no mute

progress but
collapse, spiral, winded

by unwinding. Dear
enigma kid, dear psychic

soft spot, I write you
from under eight spastic

lights, each falser than stars,
to promise I'll will

the darkness out of you
or I'll will myself

to trying. Twisted
mister, my incipient

sir, you be in charge
of the what-if, I'll master why.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Willing to fight

By ani difranco

The windows of my soul
are made of one way glass
don't bother looking into my eyes
if there's something you want to know,
just ask

I got a dead bolt stroll
where I'm going is clear
I won't wait for you to wonder
I'll just tell you why I'm here

'cause I know the biggest crime
is just to throw up your hands
this has nothing to do with me
I just want to live as comfortably as I can
you got to look outside your eyes
you got to think outside your brain
you got to walk outside you life
to where the neighborhood changes

tell me who is your boogieman
that's who I will be
you don't have to like me for who I am
but we'll see what you're made of
by what you make of me

I think that it's absurd that you think
I am the derelict daughter
I fight fire with words
words are hotter than flames
words are wetter than water

I got friends all over this country
I got friends in other countries too
I got friends I haven't met yet
I got friends I never knew
I got lovers whose eyes
I've only seen at a glance
I got strangers for great grandchildren
I got strangers for ancestors
I was a long time coming
I'll be a long time gone

you've got your whole life to do something
and that's not very long
so why don't you give me a call
when you're willing to fight
for what you think is real
for what you think is right

Go here to hear this poem as the song it was written to be.

Monday, May 14, 2012

We real cool

By Gwendolyn Brooks

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Parent's Pantoum

By Carolyn Kizer
for Maxine Kumin

Where did these enormous children come from,
More ladylike than we have ever been?
Some of ours look older than we feel.
How did they appear in their long dresses

More ladylike than we have ever been?
But they moan about their aging more than we do,
In their fragile heels and long black dresses.
They say they admire our youthful spontaneity.

They moan about their aging more than we do,
A somber group--why don't they brighten up?
Though they say they admire our youthful spontaneity
They beg us to be dignified like them

As they ignore our pleas to brighten up.
Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention
Then we won't try to be dignified like them
Nor they to be so gently patronizing.

Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention.
Don't they know that we're supposed to be the stars?
Instead they are so gently patronizing.
It makes us feel like children--second-childish?

Perhaps we're too accustomed to be stars.
The famous flowers glowing in the garden,
So now we pout like children. Second-childish?
Quaint fragments of forgotten history?

Our daughters stroll together in the garden,
Chatting of news we've chosen to ignore,
Pausing to toss us morsels of their history,
Not questions to which only we know answers.

Eyes closed to news we've chosen to ignore,
We'd rather excavate old memories,
Disdaining age, ignoring pain, avoiding mirrors.
Why do they never listen to our stories?

Because they hate to excavate old memories
They don't believe our stories have an end.
They don't ask questions because they dread the answers.
They don't see that we've become their mirrors,

We offspring of our enormous children.

Thursday, May 10, 2012


By Dorothy Parker

There's little in taking or giving,
There's little in water or wine;
This living, this living, this living
Was never a project of mine.
Oh, hard is the struggle, and sparse is
The gain of the one at the top,
For art is a form of catharsis,
And love is a permanent flop,
And work is the province of cattle,
And rest's for a clam in a shell,
So I'm thinking of throwing the battle--
Would you kindly direct me to hell?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Five Roses in the Morning

By Stephen Dunn

On TV the showbiz of war,
so I turn it off
wishing I could turn it off,
and glance at the five white roses
in front of the mirror on the mantel,
looking like ten.
That they were purchased out of love
and are not bloody red
won't change a goddamned thing—
goddamned things, it seems, multiplying
every day. Last night
the roses numbered six, but she chose
to wear one in her hair,
and she was more beautiful
because she believed she was.
It changed the night a little.
For us, I mean.

Monday, May 7, 2012

5 weeks

By Brittany Corrigan

This is the week the heart starts
beating. Little bird, little lizard,

little princess pea. Small round
stairway of spine. Small cleft

body. Small ache in my belly.
Everything moves over--

my insides rearrange.
The heart starts beating. My insides rearrange.

Previously published in Literary Mama, May 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Application Day

By Rabbi Nehama Benmosch

You were born in my heart
A long time ago
I’ll say

I thought about you all the time

I imagined you here
I imagined all of your faces
And all the ways you could have been

I imagined you as a boy
and as a girl
I imagined you coming from me once
I imagined you growing in a love of mine
I imagined you in a hospital
          In a hut

I imagined you crying
          And laughing
          And smiling
          And wondering

Your soul connected to mine
Before we had bodies
Before there was a when
          Or a where
          Or a how

And I always knew
When the day was right
When we were ready
That it would be time

Time for that love
          Born in my heart
          Long ago

To grow bigger than anything I could ever imagine.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Difference between a Child and a Poem

By Michael Blumenthal

 If you are terrified of your own death,
and want to escape from it,
you may want to write a poem,
for the poem might carry your name
into eternity, the poem
may become immortal, beyond flesh
and fashion, it may be read
in a thousand years by someone
as frightened of death as you are,
in a dark field, at night,
when he has failed once again at love
and there is no illusion with which to escape
the inward pull of his own flesh
against the narrowing margins of the spirit.

But if you have accepted your own death,
if you have pinched daily the corroborating flesh,
and have passed the infinite gravestones
bearing your name, if you know for certain
that the day will one day come
when you will gaze into the mirror in search of your face
and find only a silence, then
you may want to make a child, you may want to push
the small oracles of flesh forward
into some merely finite but lengthening story,
you may want to toss your seed into the wind
like a marigold, or a passion fruit, and watch
as a fresh flower grows in your place, as your face
inches onto another face, and your eyes
slip down over your cheeks onto the forehead
of your silenced, speakable future.

 And, then, when you are done with all that,
you may want to write a poem.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

On Bringing a Child Home for the First Time

By Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso

With joy and anticipation we bring our son
into our home for the first time.
How lovely are your tents, o Jacob, your dwelling places o Israel,
Ma Tovu O-ha-lekha Yaakov 
May our home always be mikdash ma'at, a small sanctuary,
filled with your presence.
May our home be your sanctuary, our child,
A place where arms shall cradle you and voices sing you lullabies,
where hands shall uphold you and eyes delight to watch you grow.
In this home may we reach out to each other in love.
In this home may our hearts and those of our children
be turned to one another.
In this home may we create bonds of trust and care
that will keep us close as we grow together as a family.
Bless us, Source of Life, all of us together
with the light of Your presence.