Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Pumpkin Tide

By Richard Brautigan

I saw thousands of pumpkins last night
come floating in on the tide,
bumping up against the rocks and
rolling up on the beaches;
it must be Halloween in the sea.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Search Party

By W.S. Merwin

By now I know most of the faces
that will appear beside me as
long as there are still images
I know at last what I would choose
the next time if there ever was
a time again I know the days
that open in the dark like this
I do not know where Maoli is

I know the summer surfaces
of bodies and the tips of voices
like stars out of their distances
and where the music turns to noise
I know the bargains in the news
rules whole languages formulas
wisdom that I will never use
I do not know where Maoli is

I know whatever one may lose
somebody will be there who says
what it will be all right to miss
and what is verging on excess
I know the shadows of the house
routes that lead out to no traces
many of his empty places
I do not know where Maoli is

You that see now with your own eyes
all that there is as you suppose
though I could stare through broken glass
and show you where the morning goes
though I could follow to their close
the sparks of an exploding species
and see where the world ends in ice
I would not know where Maoli is

Monday, October 29, 2012


By Nicole Cooley

Marshy spillover is first to flood: where water
first met sand and pilings lost all anchor.

Where nothing rose above the surge, that wall
of black, black water. Where houses buckled, crumbled.

Where the storm's uneven scrawl erased.
While miles away I watched a map of TV weather,

the eyewall spinning closer. A coil of white, an X-ray.
I imagined my parents' house swept to its stone slab.

While I remembered sixth grade science, how we traced the city
like a body, arterials draining in the wrong direction.

We shaded blue the channel called MR GO that pours
from the River to the Gulf, trench the storm water swallowed.

The levees overfilled, broke open. And I came home to see
the city grieving. The city drained then hacked apart

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Problems with Hurricanes

By Victor Hernández Cruz

A campesino looked at the air
And told me:
With hurricanes it's not the wind
or the noise or the water.
I'll tell you he said:
it's the mangoes, avocados
Green plantains and bananas
flying into town like projectiles.

How would your family
feel if they had to tell
The generations that you
got killed by a flying

Death by drowning has honor
If the wind picked you up
and slammed you
Against a mountain boulder
This would not carry shame
to suffer a mango smashing
Your skull
or a plantain hitting your
Temple at 70 miles per hour
is the ultimate disgrace.

The campesino takes off his hat—
As a sign of respect
toward the fury of the wind
And says:
Don't worry about the noise
Don't worry about the water
Don't worry about the wind—
If you are going out
beware of mangoes
And all such beautiful
sweet things.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Loudest Sound I Ever Heard

By Shelby Wilson

Her silence was the loudest sound I ever heard
Gaps in the space where nothing moved or changed
Non-existent facial expressions in a crucial moment
Left me in limbo
Unable to speak to fill the silence
I allowed it to linger like coffee stains on a wooden table
Looking in her eyes for a signal
An indication that it was safe to communicate
Her silence holding my words hostage
My voice on pause, my thoughts spinning out of control
Waiting for her to move or utter a word
Nothing, not a single response
Her body frozen in time
Leaving me longing to hear even a breath
Wanting her to hold my hand, giving me permission to relax
Instead the stillness left me internally screaming
Anxious and scared like a child looking for parental approval
How could her silence hold so much power?
It was more than just the silence that frightened me
Wishing for some form of awareness that she heard
An acknowledgement that my words penetrated her ears
Yet the silence stings my soul
Inadequacy and unworthiness come to my frontal lobe
As I try to comprehend this emotional affliction,
I feel to the emptiness
It was in that moment, I realized we had been filling the spaces
Ignoring the stillness, expecting the awkwardness to pass
Using sound and movement to carry our feelings and emotions.
Now aware, how do we fully express Devoid of physical contact
Her silence said so much without ever uttering a single word
It was the loudest sound I ever heard
Just before she shattered my heart.

Shelby Wilson is a performance poet and writer who has facilitated poetry workshops for YWCA and women-empowered seminars for Black Feather Poets. Shelby has self-published a book entitled Broken Wings and a chapbook entitled Serenity.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


By Sonia Sanchez

(after the spanish)

forgive me if i laugh
you are so sure of love
you are so young
and i too old to learn of love.

the rain exploding
in the air is love
the grass excreting her
green wax is love
and stones remembering
past steps is love,
but you. you are too young
for love
and i too old.

once. what does it matter
when or who, i knew
of love.
i fixed my body
under his and went
to sleep in love
all trace of me
was wiped away

forgive me if i smile
young heiress of a naked dream
you are so young
and i too old to learn of love.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

At the Un-National Monument Along the Canadian Border

By William Stafford

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.

Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed — or were killed — on this ground
hallowed by neglect and an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Place Where We Are Right

By Yehuda Amichai

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Ross Perot Guide to Answering Embarrassing Questions

By Calvin Trillin

When something in my history is found
Which contradicts the views that I propound,
Or shows that I am surely hardly who
I claim to be, here's what I usually do:

I lie
I simply, baldly falsify.
I look the fellow in the eye,
And cross my heart and hope to die -
And lie.

I don t apologize. Not me. Instead,
I say I never said the things I said
Nor did the things that people saw me do.
Confronted with some things they know are true,

I lie.
I offer them no alibi,
Nor say, "You oversimplify."
I just deny, deny, deny.
I lie.

I hate the weasel words some slickies use
To blur their pasts or muddy up their views.
Not me. I'm blunt. One thing that makes me great
Is that I'll never dodge nor obfuscate.

I'll lie.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wherefore Art Thou, Mitt Romney-O

By Ralph Maxwell

O, Romney-O, Romney-O,
Wherefore art thou, Mitt Romney?
You flip-flop here, you flip-flop there,
You flip-flop almost ev'rywhere.

You ballyhoo what you're gonna do
And then you pull a switcheroo;
You now malign what you once found fine;
Seems like you've got a jellyfish spine.

Obamacare, by you begun,
Now you'd trash it on day one.
Gun control you did extol,
But now you're preaching decontrol.

O, Romney-O, Romney-O,
Wherefore art thou, Mitt Romney?
We've got no clue what you will do
Or what new view you'll pander to.

Time was you championed women's choice,
But you no longer heed their voice;
On gay rights, too, guess you withdrew
Support they once enjoyed from you.

Global warming, EPA,
Immigration, minimum pay,
Roe V. Wade, also fair trade,
All joined your flip-flop cavalcade.

O, Romney-O, Romney-O
Wherefore art thou, Mitt Romney?
So many things that you were for
You've turned against and slammed the door.

Stimulus and cap and trade,
Education, foreign aid,
Campaign reform, tarp rescues, too,
All victims of your switcheroo.

You take your stand on shifting sand,
We never know where you will land;
You vacillate, you fabricate,
A wishy-washy candidate.

O, Romney-O, Romney-O,
Wherefore art thou Mitt Romney?
As gov'nor you let taxes rise,
Now ev'ry tax you demonize.

You say regardless of the facts
You'd take an axe to millionaire's tax;
You'd feed the greed of the richest few
The poor and middle class you'd screw.

Your tax returns you hide from view
What evil there lurks we've no clue;
If they're not bad why hesitate?
Or is it they incriminate?

O, Romney-O, Romney-O,
Wherefore art thou Mitt Romney?
At Bain you plundered with a flair
And walked away a zillionaire.

You shipped off-shore, good jobs galore
To China, India, Singapore;
A job creator you are not
And to boast you are is tommyrot.

As a total fraud, Mitt's got no peer
What we should do is crystal clear:
Let's give Obama four more years!
Yes, it's Obama -- four more years!

Ralph Maxwell is a 92 year old veteran who was assisted in posting this poem via Youtube.  Check it out. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012


By Kay Ryan

We turn out
as tippy as
eggs.  Legs
are an illusion.
We are held
as in a carton
if someone
loves us.
It's a pity
only loss
proves this.

Previously published in The NewYorker, Aug 6, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Call to Prayer

By Shadab Zeest Hashmi

In a city hillocked and covered
with cherry blossoms
this time of the year
the runner
carrying the message of war
has reached

bales of cotton

Caravans bringing sugar and rice

The elders in their white gowns
have been moved
from their perch in the mosque

A cloud of quiet departs

The women are busying themselves
with salves
with feeding the horses that will carry
their men

The next call for prayer
will be made in full armor

Arrows threading the men’s bodies
will be removed during prayer

Previously published in Contemporary World Poetry Journal, Spring 2011

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mitt Doesn't Think That Nearly Half the People In This Country Are Moochers After All

By Calvin Trillin

He was, he says, completely wrong;
To care for everyone is vital.
He’s singing now a different song,
And “Etch A Sketch” is that song’s title.

Previously published in The Nation, 10/29/12

Sunday, October 14, 2012

God's World

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart. Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year.
My soul is all but out of me, let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call

Friday, October 12, 2012


By Andrea Gibson

i often repeat myself
and the second time's a lie
i love you
i love you
see what i mean i don't
...and i do
and i'm not talking about a girl i might be kissing on
i'm talking about this world i'm blissing on
and hating
at the exact same time
see life---doesn't rhyme
it's bullets...and wind chimes
it's lynchings...and birthday parties
it's the rope that ties the noose
and the rope that hangs the backyard swing
it's a boy about to take his life
and with the knife to his wrist
he's thinking of only two things
his father's fist
and his mother's kiss
and he can't stop crying
it's wanting tonight to speak
the most honest poem i've ever spoken in my life
not knowing if that poem should bring you closer
to living or dying
drowning of flying
cause life doesn't rhyme
last night i prayed myself to sleep
woke this morning
to find god's obituary scrolled in tears on my sheets
then walked outside to hear my neighbor
erasing ten thousand years of hard labor
with a single note of his violin
and the sound of the traffic rang like a hymn
as the holiest leaf of autumn fell from a plastic tree limb
beautiful ---and ugly
like right now
i'm needing nothing more than for you to hug me
and if you do
i'm gonna scream like a caged bird doesn't rhyme
sometimes love is a vulgar word
sometimes hate calls itself peace on the nightly news
i've heard saints preaching truths
that would have burned me at the stake
i've heard poets tellin lies that made me believe in heaven
sometimes i imagine hitler at seven years old
a paint brush in his hand at school
thinkin what color should i paint my soul
sometimes i remember myself
with track marks on my tongue
from shooting up convictions
that would have hung innocent men from trees
have you ever seen a mother falling to her knees
the day her son dies in a war she voted for
can you imagine how many gay teen-age lives were saved
the day matthew shepherd died
could there have been anything louder
than the noise inside his father's head
when he begged the jury
please don't take the lives of the men
who turned my son's skull to powder
and i know nothing would make my family prouder
than giving up everything i believe in
still nothing keeps me believing
like the sound of my mother breathing
life doesn't rhyme
it's tasting your rapist's breath
on the neck of a woman who loves you more
than anyone has loved you before
then feeling holy as jesus
beneath the hands of a one night stand
who's calling somebody else's name
it's you never feelin more greedy
than when you're handing out dollars to the needy
it's my not eating meat for the last seven years
then seeing the kindest eyes i've ever seen in my life
on the face of a man with a branding iron in his hand
and a beat down baby calf wailing at his feet
it's choking on your beliefs
it's your worst sin saving your fucking life
it's the devil's knife carving holes into you soul
so angels will have a place to make their way inside
life doesn't rhyme
still life is poetry --- not math
all the world's a stage
but the stage is a meditation mat
you tilt your head back
you breathe
when your heart is broken you plant seeds in the cracks
and you pray for rain
and you teach your sons and daughters
there are sharks in the water
but the only way to survive
is to breathe deep
and dive

For an audio recording of this poem go to:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Blood of Others

By Gioconda Belli

I read the poems of the dead.
I survived.
I lived to laugh and cry
and I shouted Patria Libre o Morir!
from the back of a truck
the day we enter Managua.

I read the poems of the dead,
watching the ants in the grass,
my bare feet,
your straight hair,
your back arched at the meeting.

I read the poems of the dead
Does the blood in our bodies that lets us love each other
belong to us?

Translated by Steven F. White

La sangre de otros

Leo los poemas del los muertos
yo que estoy viva
yo que vivi para reirme y llorar
y gritar Patria Libre o Morir
sobre un camion
el dia que llegamos a Managua.

Leo lose poemas de los muertos,
veo las hormigas sobre la grima,
mis pies descalzos,
tu pelo lacio,
espalda encorvada sobre la reunion.

Leo los poemas de los muertos
y siento que esta sangre con que nos amamos,
no nos pertence.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Day I Saw Barack Obama Reading Derek Walcott's Collected Poems

By Yusef Komunyakaa

Was he looking for St. Lucia's light
to touch his face those first days
in the official November snow & sleet
falling on the granite pose of Lincoln?

If he were searching for property lines
drawn in the blood, or for a hint
of resolve crisscrossing a border,
maybe he'd find clues in the taste of breadfruit.

I could see him stopped there squinting
in crooked light, the haze of Wall Street
touching clouds of double consciousness,
an eye etched into a sign borrowed from Egypt.

If he's looking for tips on basketball,
how to rise up & guard the hoop,
he may glean a few theories about war
but they aren't in The Star-Apple Kingdom.

If he wants to finally master himself,
searching for clues to govern seagulls
in salty air, he'll find henchmen busy with locks
& chains in a ghost schooner's nocturnal calm.

He's reading someone who won't speak
of milk & honey, but of looking ahead
beyond pillars of salt raised in a dream
where fat bulbs split open the earth.

The spine of the manifest was broken,
leaking deeds, songs & testaments.
Justice stood in the shoes of mercy,
& doubt was bandaged up & put to bed.

Now, he looks as if he wants to eat words,
their sweet, intoxicating flavor. Banana leaf
& animal, being & nonbeing. In fact,
craving wisdom, he bites into memory.

The President of the United States of America
thumbs the pages slowly, moving from reverie
to reverie, learning why one envies the octopus
for its ink, how a man's skin becomes the final page.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

I Give a Convincing Sermon

By Melissa Broder

I give a convincing sermon. I say The body
is a coat. It is a very dark and heavy coat
but worthless
. Mother Mary nods from the pews.
If I give Mary all my atoms she will plant them
in a garden where ripened women relinquish
their bones to make room for littler women.
It is dangerous to grow accustomed to a garden.
Just when the flowers soften you, they disappear.
Then you are a weepy fern among skyscrapers.
I don't want my soul exposed like that.
Neither can you make a garden stay. Don't even try.
Every plot becomes a dark city over time.
I have collected many dark ideas over time.
I have so many ideas they are a second coat.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Poem That Healed

By Naki Akrobettoe

100 percent of me believes that I possess the cure to cancer
Call me crazy that I very well may be.
Truth is I cried for seven days straight when they told me
“Aunt Pan” has three months to live...
My tears reached to the heavens
And my heart ached just to give her more of what we call time
Because I deemed her to be the most valuable gift life could bring
And I would wish upon a million stars just to sing her peace
The melody would start with a lil’ hummin’ followed by
A sweet symphony of brass, bass and cello
I promise you have never met an angel with a sweeter hello
She is my everything.
She is to me, what Michael was to the world
We made a pact when I was just a young lil’ girl
That I would never stop dreaming in color
Or outside the four corners of a box
Even if I was living life at the bottom
My heart put me at the top.
See my auntie never could hurt a fly
And the moment she bows out, I won’t question why
Because I told myself big girls don’t cry
We shower blessings
After the cancer there in lies the lesson
That all I ever asked myself for, was the strength
To see her through her last days
Morphine wasn’t enough to erase our past away
Because I can still smell her baked fish
And broccoli casserole
I’m smiling towards the heavens cause the angels will
Never know a dish more tasty
A hug never worth trading
This woman taught me about dating, first kisses, and heartbreaks
I’d be rude if I didn’t even try to reciprocate
So with all the God in me, I vowed to write her a poem a day
Just create a fantasy that she could stay
Just a lil while longer so I can find her a remedy
That could erase her pain gently
See if peace came in an IV or a bottle
I’d go bankrupt, just so she could swallow
Or break bread, even take communion
Never again would she have to be tube fed
Because I am the cure to cancer
Poetry at her bedside
A peace that will never subside
Not even after the last syllable is written
Not even after your eyelids close
Simply because I wrote this just so she knows she made a
difference I recite this, live this, breathe this in your remembrance.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mitt Romney As Doll

By Calvin Trillin

Yes, Mitt's so slick of speech and slick of garb, he
Reminds us all of Ken, of Ken and Barbie -
So quick to shed his moderate regalia,
He may, like Ken, be lacking genitalia.

Previously published in The Nation, 1/21/08

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Daily Life

By Susan Wood

A parrot of irritation sits
on my shoulder, pecks
at my head, ruffling his feathers
in my ear. He repeats
everything I say, like a child
trying to irritate the parent.
Too much to do today: the dracena
that's outgrown its pot, a mountain
of bills to pay and nothing in the house
to eat. Too many clothes need washing
and the dog needs his shots.
It just goes on and on, I say
to myself, no one around, and catch
myself saying it, a ball hit so straight
to your glove you'd have to be
blind not to catch it. And of course
I hope it does go on and on
forever, the little pain,
the little pleasure, the sun
a blood orange in the sky, the sky
parrot blue and the day
unfolding like a bird slowly
spreading its wings, though I know,
saying it, that it won't.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Miss Congeniality

By Maxine Chernoff

Even as an embryo, she made room for "the other guy." Slick and bloody, she emerged quietly: Why spoil the doctor's best moment? When Dad ran over her tricycle, she smiled, and when Mom drowned her kittens, she curtsied, a Swiss statuette. Her teachers liked the way she sat at her desk, composed as yesterday's news. In high school she decorated her locker with heart-shaped doilies and only went so far, a cartoon kiss at the door. She read the classics, The Glamorous Dolly Madison, and dreamed of marrying the boy in the choir whose voice never changed. Wedding photos reveal a waterfall where her face should be. Her husband admired how she bound her feet to buff the linoleum. When she got old, she remembered to say pardon to the children she no longer recognized, smiling sons and daughters who sat at her bedside watching her fade to a wink.