Monday, December 30, 2013

Primer For Blacks

By Gwendolyn Brooks

is a a title,
is a preoccupation,
is a commitment Blacks
are to comprehend—
and in which you are
to perceive your Glory.
The conscious shout
of all that is white is
“It’s Great to be white.”
The conscious shout
of the slack in Black is
'It's Great to be white.'
Thus all that is white
has white strength and yours.

The word Black
has geographic power,
pulls everybody in:
Blacks here—
Blacks there—
Blacks wherever they may be.
And remember, you Blacks, what they told you—
remember your Education:
“one Drop—one Drop
maketh a brand new Black.”
Oh mighty Drop.
______And because they have given us kindly
so many more of our people

stretches over the land.
the Black of it,
the rust-red of it,
the milk and cream of it,
the tan and yellow-tan of it,
the deep-brown middle-brown high-brown of it,
the “olive” and ochre of it—
marches on.

The huge, the pungent object of our prime out-ride
is to Comprehend,
to salute and to Love the fact that we are Black,
which is our “ultimate Reality,”
which is the lone ground
from which our meaningful metamorphosis,
from which our prosperous staccato,
group or individual, can rise.

Self-shriveled Blacks.
Begin with gaunt and marvelous concession:
YOU are our costume and our fundamental bone.

All of you—
you COLORED ones,
you NEGRO ones,
those of you who proudly cry
“I’m half INDian”—
those of you who proudly screech
“I’VE got the blood of George WASHington in MY veins”
ALL of you—
you proper Blacks,
you half-Blacks,
you wish-I-weren’t Blacks,
Niggeroes and Niggerenes.


Sunday, December 29, 2013

American Income

By Afaa Michael Weaver

 The survey says all groups can make more money
 if they lose weight except black of other colors
 and women of all colors have more gold, but black men
 are the summary of weight, a lead thick thing on the scales,
 meters spinning until they ring off the end of the numbering
of accumulation, how things grow heavy, fish on the
 ends of lines that become whales, then prehistoric sea life
 beyond all memories, the billion days of human hands
 working, doing all the labor one can imagine, hands
 now the population of cactus leaves on a papyrus moon
 waiting for the fire, the notes from all their singing gone
 up into the salt breath of tears of children that dry, rise
 up to be the crystalline canopy of promises, the infinite
 gone fishing days with the apologies for not being able to love
 anymore, gone down inside earth somewhere where
 women make no demands, have fewer dreams of forever,
 these feet that marched and ran and got cut off, these hearts
 torn out of chests by nameless thieves, this thrashing
until the chaff is gone out and black men know the gold
 of being the dead center of things, where pain is the gateway
to Jerusalems, Bodhi trees, places for meditation and howling,
 keeping the weeping heads of gods in their eyes.

Friday, December 27, 2013

The friend

By Marge Piercy

We sat across the table.
he said, cut off your hands.
they are always poking at things.
they might touch me.
I said yes.

Food grew cold on the table.
he said, burn your body.
it is not clean and smells like sex.
it rubs my mind sore.
I said yes.

I love you, I said.
That’s very nice, he said
I like to be loved,
that makes me happy.
Have you cut off your hands yet?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

’Twas the Night Before Christmas on the MBTA

By Steve Annear

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the T
The trains were delayed, and some smelled of old pee
Their presents were wrapped, as riders headed back home
But because of wire problems, the Green Line never showed.

When it finally did, passengers were left standing
Because of too many strollers that were crowding the landing.
With barely enough room to grab hold of a strap
Nearby a child cried loudly, sitting in his mum’s lap

Someone else clipped their nails, as others looked on
And you thought to your self, “where did my life go all wrong?”
The rider in front of you then put his bag on a seat
As the woman to your left coughed loudly and sneezed.

As the voice of the conductor crackled through the loud speaker
He said “This train is disabled, please get off it now people.”
Quickly exiting the train, a thick smoke makes you hack
A small fire of course, in the middle of the train tracks.

Back to the platform you dashed, to wait for the next trolley
Standing next to a homeless man, who was acting drunk and so jolly.
“Do you have any spare change? I need money to get back to Rhode Island.”
A line used every commute, but you give him cash, smiling.

Staring up at the new LED signs, they read 20-minutes plus.
So your options become an Uber, cab, or shuttle bus.
Because Lyft can be awkward, and cabbies are scams
You try your luck with a replacement bus, despite the crowded demand.

As you exit the station and go wait by the curb
An MBTA bus nearly hits you, but suddenly swerves.
And when it comes to a halt, completely missing the stop
You realize this T bus is different, and something seems off.

Instead of an operator who is cranky and rude,
The man driving has a beard and a stomach that protrudes
He says “Ho, Ho, Ho, my good man, this ride is on me!”
So you put your Charlie Card away, and board the bus filled with glee.

Then suddenly it hits you, attached at the front of your ride
There’s no silver bicycle rack—it’s a bunch of reindeer outside!
And that jolly old driver, with a red, rosy face
That man is Saint Nick, and he’s driving a T-sleigh.

After hours of waiting, and switching from train and then bus
You realize Saint Nick will get you home for Christmas.
Up, up, and away, the reindeer took off through the snow
Leaving Park Street station in the distance, and the city below.

“On Green Line, On Blue Line, On Orange, and Red!”
Were things no one was shouting ‘cause all the trains were still dead.
But your bus was flying high, no stops or delays
“This commute was the worst,” you think. “Thank God for this sleigh.”

Soaring above Boston, the sleigh bus finally lands
And you have Saint Nick to thank truly for saving your holiday plans.
When you open your door, you quickly crash down on the couch
And “Next year I’m buying a car” is the first thing out of your mouth.

This poem first appeared in Boston magazine.  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Gulley

By Robert Frost

Well to hell with nearly everything –with everything
but poetry politics and true religion – and a few
friends and relations – a very few. And I forgot farming.
I bought a farm for myself for Christmas. One
hundred and fifty three acres in all, fifty in woods.
The house a poor little collage of five rooms, two ordinary
Fireplaces, and one large kitchen fireplace all in one
central chimney as it was in the beginning. The
central chimney is the best part- that and the
woods. You mustn’t be jealous, though jealousy
is a passion I approve of and attribute to angels. May
I be guarded and watched over always by the jealousy
of a strong nature. It is better than arms around the body.
Jealousy alone gives me a sense of beind held. My
farm probably doesn’t compare with yours for a view. But it
looks away north so that you would know you are
in the mountains. We have no trout brook, but there
is a live spring that I am told should be made
into a trout pond. There is a small grove of white
and paper birches doubling daylight. The woods are
a little far from the house. I must bring them
nearer by the power of music like Amphion or
Orpheus. It is an old occupation with me. The
trees have learned that they have to come when I play
them to. I enjoy the power I find I have over them.
You must see us together, the trees dancing obedience
To the poet (so called). You’ll exclaim.
I ain’t going to mention books this time.

(This was a letter written by Frost to Louise Untermeyer in 1929)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Blessing of the Children

By Marcia Falk

Be who you are
And be blessed
in all that you are.

This is an interpretation of the traditional Jewish blessing of the children, which can be found here

Sunday, December 22, 2013

You Fit Into Me

By Margaret Atwood

You fit into me
 a hook into an eye

 a fish hook
an open eye

Friday, December 20, 2013


By Langston Hughes

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Holocaust Documentary or Never Again

By Laurie Lee Didesch

The man was a boy in the Ukraine whose family escaped the ghetto before the henchman went door to door making the Jews march to a ditch where they were told to strip naked and face forward before being shot at close range and then kicked into the gaping hole. Moaning, they were pummeled by rocks. The effect was a pillow over the mouth. They had gone down like

earth under the plow—row by row. Clothes flapped on the lines in the rolling countryside. The family hid in an abandoned barn. The father gathered potatoes and rutabagas after dark. But the neighbors torched the building. The boy did not notice when his mother stopped screaming. She hissed like a lobster in boiling water. The father, son and daughter hid in a nearby forest.

But the Gestapo caught the father and beat him until he resembled carrion. Then, one stuck a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The boy and girl ran until they could run no more. Hansel and Gretel is indeed a fairytale. Up the road, a farmer and his wife took in the children. They were never far from the sights of carnage. They attended a school where they recited

Christian prayers. The boy who is now a man stands at the farm; a camera focuses on his face, waiting for it to bloom into a flower that is jubilant in color not black. He shakes his head and holds a photo of the children whose eyes are not gelatinous but like marbles. An interviewer says: You must have been okay all these years because you lived such a normal childhood here.

This poem won an Honorable Mention in the 2011 War Poetry Contest sponsored by Winning Writers, who previously published it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

An Ordinary Man

By Afurakan

In the end he died an ordinary man
Only rich in wrinkles from where the spirit had been
It would be the saddest days
And we watched the world weep
For a giant bigger than myths
A life owned by many
Now free as the gods

Some cried as though tomorrow was lost
Some celebrated, questioned freedom and its cost
Some seized the chance to stand on his shoulders
While others cursed his grave and scorned wisdom of the elders

Stadiums were littered
And those in the know spoke their fill
Mourners paid tribute
Monarch to President made the bill
But still
Where do I we begin
In telling our children where these old bones have been
And that we as next of kin
Have inherited his struggle
And he forever lives through our skin

And on his last day
When the earth reclaims what's hers
We will surrender his body but reignite his spirit
We will write all we know and let history read it to our children
And remind both scholar and critic
That there once was a prisoner of freedom
Who gave the world back its heart
But in the end
He died an ordinary man.

Monday, December 16, 2013


I am the one who
eats his breakfast
gazing at morning glories. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Free Fall

By Thomas Kinsella

I was falling helpless in a shower of waste,
reaching my arms out toward the others
falling in disorder everywhere around me.

At the last instant,
approaching the surface,
the fall slowed suddenly,

and we were all
regarding one another in approval.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Tribute to Nelson Mandela

By Maya Angelou

His day is done.
Is done.
The news came on the wings of a wind, reluctant to carry its burden.
Nelson Mandela’s day is done.
The news, expected and still unwelcome, reached us in the United States, and suddenly our world became somber.
Our skies were leadened.

His day is done.
We see you, South African people standing speechless at the slamming of that final door through which no traveler returns.
Our spirits reach out to you Bantu, Zulu, Xhosa, Boer.
We think of you and your son of Africa, your father, your one more wonder of the world.

We send our souls to you as you reflect upon your David armed with a mere stone, facing down the mighty Goliath.

Your man of strength, Gideon, emerging triumphant.

Although born into the brutal embrace of Apartheid, scarred by the savage atmosphere of racism, unjustly imprisoned in the bloody maws of South African dungeons.

Would the man survive? Could the man survive?

His answer strengthened men and women around the world.

In the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas, on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, in Chicago’s Loop, in New Orleans Mardi Gras, in New York City’s Times Square, we watched as the hope of Africa sprang through the prison’s doors.

His stupendous heart intact, his gargantuan will hale and hearty.

He had not been crippled by brutes, nor was his passion for the rights of human beings diminished by twenty-seven years of imprisonment.

Even here in America, we felt the cool, refreshing breeze of freedom.

When Nelson Mandela took the seat of Presidency in his country where formerly he was not even allowed to vote we were enlarged by tears of pride, as we saw Nelson Mandela’s former prison guards invited, courteously, by him to watch from the front rows his inauguration.

We saw him accept the world’s award in Norway with the grace and gratitude of the Solon in Ancient Roman Courts, and the confidence of African Chiefs from ancient royal stools.

No sun outlasts its sunset, but it will rise again and bring the dawn.

Yes, Mandela’s day is done, yet we, his inheritors, will open the gates wider for reconciliation, and we will respond generously to the cries of Blacks and Whites, Asians, Hispanics, the poor who live piteously on the floor of our planet.
He has offered us understanding.
We will not withhold forgiveness even from those who do not ask.
Nelson Mandela’s day is done, we confess it in tearful voices, yet we lift our own to say thank you.

Thank you our Gideon, thank you our David, our great courageous man.

We will not forget you, we will not dishonor you, we will remember and be glad that you lived among us, that you taught us, and that you loved us all.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Word of God

By Laura Gail Grohe

you are a word in the mouth of God:
You are a word pouring forth beginnings,
unstoppable like early spring rivers.
Pouring forth beginnings you are noisy.
Like early spring rivers you are bright and dangerous.
You are noisy in the mouth of God.
You are bright and dangerous:

Previously published in Verse Wisconsin 105

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

mulberry fields

By Lucille Clifton

they thought the field was wasting
and so they gathered the marker rocks and stones and
piled them into a barn they say that the rocks were shaped
some of them scratched with triangles and other forms they
must have been trying to invent some new language they say
the rocks went to build that wall there guarding the manor and
some few were used for the state house
crops refused to grow
i say the stones marked an old tongue and it was called eternity
and pointed toward the river i say that after that collection
no pillow in the big house dreamed i say that somewhere under
here moulders one called alice whose great grandson is old now
too and refuses to talk about slavery i say that at the
masters table only one plate is set for supper i say no seed
can flourish on this ground once planted then forsaken wild
berries warm a field of bones
bloom how you must i say

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Place I Want To Get Back To

is where
  in the pinewoods
    in the moments between
      the darkness

and first light
  two deer
    came walking down the hill
      and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,
  this one is okay,
    let's see who she is
       and why she is sitting

on the ground like that,
   so quiet, as if
    asleep, or in a dream,
       but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came
   on their slender legs
    and gazed upon me
      not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look
   and look and look
     into the faces of the flowers;
      and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
   bring to me that could exceed
    that brief moment?
      For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,
  not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
    Such gifts, bestowed,
      can't be repeated.

If you want to talk about this
   come to visit. I live in the house
    near the corner, which I have named

By Mary Oliver

Monday, November 25, 2013

About God & Things

By Wanda Coleman

i want to have your child
cuz upon losing you
i’ll have more than memory
more than ache
more than greatness
i’ll have laughter

i do not mean to be fatalistic
know the limits put on you black man
me, black woman

when you are killed or imprisoned
desert or separate from me
i’ll continue
fill the void of your absence with
love between me and ours


you love me
in your eyes. don’t say it loud
america will never let you

you’re home. it’s a surprise
you’ve made it thru another day
one more night in your arms
to fuck

merge our bodies merge
congress cannot legislate away

eyes wide as suns inquire
where’s daddy?

he’s gone away

i love my daddy

i smile
he’s a good man

eyes wide as suns
burn my hand with a kiss
go outside to play in the streets

what god is about

Sunday, November 24, 2013


By Carol Ann Duffy

If we were shades
who walked here once
over the heather, over the shining stones,
fresh in our skin and bones
with all of the time to come
left to be us,

if we were dust,
once flesh, where a cloud
swoons on the breast of a hill,
breathing here still
in our countable days,
the words we said,

snagged on the air
like the murmuring bees,
as we lay by the loch,
parting our clothes with our hands
to feel who we were,
we would rather be there

than where we are here,
all that was due to us
still up ahead,
if we were shades or dust
who lived love
before we were long dead.

If we were shades
who walked here once
over the heather, over the shining stones,
fresh in our skin and bones
with all of the time to come
left to be us,

if we were dust,
once flesh, where a cloud
swoons on the breast of a hill,
breathing here still
in our countable days,
the words we said,

snagged on the air
like the murmuring bees,
as we lay by the loch,
parting our clothes with our hands
to feel who we were,
we would rather be there

than where we are here,
all that was due to us
still up ahead,
if we were shades or dust
who lived love
before we were long dead.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Britpop Boy Turns 40

By Phil Lucas

He’s the sort of bloke who has a pop-art print of Paul Weller in his living room,
and he’s the sort of bloke who would gaze at it
as he tries seducing to The Verve’s ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’.
He’ll look into Weller’s eyes and smile as he fails to hear Ashcroft sing,
“But I know I’m on a losing streak”.

And in the hum of a pub on Saturday night
he’ll go to the jukebox
spin in his pound
and think,
“These songs are my cool.
These songs are everybody’s cool.
These songs will thrill them all.”

But those songs, my friend, are the ones
that place another brick
in the wall between you and youth.

“All this talk of getting old,
it’s getting me down my love.”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Second City

By Michael Davidson

Even though there are motorized conveyances
I am on foot; even though there is a map
I negotiate the streets by landmark

there are no landmarks
but a series of edges
common to several cities

the hill is in San Francisco,
the great shopping district
with its glittering windows

and esplanade before the fountain
is in New York
and the river with its bridges is in Paris

I'm working on the park
with its glass botanical gardens
marble pillars in the distance

leftover from the exposition
there is probably a hill
from which I descend

and arrive at the "market district" below
clearly indicated by the word "brick"
like those on the west side of Buffalo

to make this descent
is to parse the terrifying grid
of hill cities, roads

dead-ending against canyons, barriers
where a street careens into space
and continues below

bearing the same name
so that a second city rises
out of the forgotten one

more pointed because not yet filled in
by monument or palisade
the place where water touches land

and forms a line
the leaflike veins of streets
it is too late

for the bus
and I must walk from North Beach
to the Bronx or something with a B

through the middle city
the place a middle occupies
when you are no longer familiar

and the buildings have only been seen
by night from a car
and by lights

I am afraid
someone will address me in French
and I will forget the word for myself

having so recently arrived
and yet to be a stranger
is to be swallowed up

without words
without glasses
bearing an envelope with a numbered series

in the second city
I live out the dream of the first
living neither for its access and glamour
nor dying from its disregard
simply talking toward the twin spires
of an ancient cathedral
like a person becoming like a person

Monday, November 18, 2013


By David Lehman

I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Evangelize Your Love

By Jillian Weise

At home, a sixteen-year-old son
and window treatments and walls
to paint and “How was your day?”
On the web there are no days
and no seasons and no oil changes
for the Subaru. “No one important.”
At the motel, flat pillows, a lamp
tall as his son in the corner and
a print of a sailboat. “In year three,
the sex fizzled and we broke up.
Then we got married.” Have you gotten
yourself into something? “Tonight
I am making your favorite dish.”
News comes on, news goes off, taxes.
“At some point, he stopped kissing me
on the neck.” She needs to write
her Goals Statement. “He promised.”
More or less. “How can I live like this?”
the three of them in unison.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Facing It

By Yusef Komunyakaa

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way--the stone lets me go.
I turn that way--I'm inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap's white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman's blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird's
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet's image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I'm a window.
He's lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman's trying to erase names:
No, she's brushing a boy's hair.

Friday, November 8, 2013

I Love the Hour Just Before

a party. Everybody
at home getting
ready. Pulling
on boots, fixing
their hair, planning
what to say if
she's there, picking
a pluckier lipstick,
rehearsing a joke
with a stickpin
in it, doing
the last minute
fumbling one does
before leaving for
the night like
tying up the dog or
turning on the yard
light. I like to think
of them driving,
finding their way
in the dark, taking
this left, that right,
while I light candles,
start the music softly
seething. Everything
waiting. Even
the wine barely

by Todd Boss

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Letter sent in reply to requests for blurbs

(I blurb only for the dead, these days)

 By Margaret Atwood

 “You are well-known, Ms. Atwood,” the Editor said,
And we long for your quote on this book;
 A few well-placed words wouldn’t bother your head,
 And would help us to get in the hook!”

"In my youth,” said Ms. Atwood, “I blurbed with the best;
 I practically worked with a stencil!
I strewed quotes about with the greatest largesse, 
And the phrases flowed swift from my pencil.

 Intelligent, lucid, accomplished, supreme,
 Magnificent, touching but rough,
 And lucent and lyrical, plangent, a dream,
 Vital, muscular, elegant, tough!

 But now I am aging; my brain is all shrunk,
 And my adjective store is depleted;
 My hair’s getting stringy, I walk as though drunk;
 As a quotester I’m nigh-on defeated.

I  would like to be useful;
God knows, as a girl I was well-taught to help and to share;
 But the books and the pleas for quotes pour through the door 
Till the heaps of them drive to despair!

 So at last I’ve decided to say No to all.
 What you need is a writer whoʼs youthful;
 Who has energy, wit, and a lot on the ball,
 And would find your new book a sweet toothful,

 Or else sees no need to be truthful.
 Such a one would be happy, dear Editor, to
 Write you quotes until blue in the brain.
 Itʼs a person like this who can satisfy you,

 Not poor me, who am half down the drain. 
So I wish you Good Luck, and your author, and book,
 Which I hope to read later, with glee.
 Long may you publish, and search out the blurbs,
 Though you will not get any from me.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Effective Immediately

By Joan McNerney

I want to become an
Ambassador for Rain!
Why the bad image?
Birds love rain.
Tweeting through
dry spells for water,
they flutter from leaf
to bud for a sip.
Feeding tree roots, wild flowers.
Without rain, no blessed
blue lakes, rivers, streams.
Open your eyes.  Rain clings
to window panes, miniature globes
of splendor.  Listen as pitter-pattering
skips over rooftops.
Consider your thirst for
liquid pleasures. Gather up
in green reverie. Dance
barefoot on this emerald earth
joining me in jubilant chorus.

Joan McNerney's poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Blueline, 63 channels, Spectrum, and three Bright Spring Press Anthologies. Four of her books have been published by fine literary presses. She has performed at the National Arts Club, Borders Bookstore, McNay Art Institute and other distinguished venues. A recent reading was sponsored by the American Academy of Poetry. Her latest title is Having Lunch with the Sky, A.P.D., Albany, New York.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

When Autumn Came

By Faiz Ahmed Faiz

This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.

The birds that herald dreams
were exiled from their song,
each voice torn out of its throat.
They dropped into the dust
even before the hunter strung his bow.

Oh, God of May have mercy.
Bless these withered bodies
with the passion of your resurrection;
make their dead veins flow with blood again.

Give some tree the gift of green again.
Let one bird sing.

Translated by Naomi Lazard                            

Friday, November 1, 2013

November Night

By Adelaide Crapsey

Listen. . .
With faint dry sound,
 Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees
And fall.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Raven

By Edgar Allen Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“ ’Tis some visiter,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
                              Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
                              Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
“ ’Tis some visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visiter entreating entrance at my chamber door;
                              This it is and nothing more.”

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
                              Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
                              Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon I heard again a tapping somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
                              “Tis the wind and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not an instant stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
                              Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
                              Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
                              With such name as “Nevermore.”

But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.”
                              Then the bird said “Nevermore.”

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
                              Of “Never—nevermore.”

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
                              Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamplght gloated o’er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o’er,
                              She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Angels whose faint foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
“Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
                              Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
                              Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
                              Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
                              Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore.”

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
                              Shall be lifted—nevermore!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Her Kind

By Anne Sexton

I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.

Friday, October 25, 2013

I Give Up

By Izzy Dix

I arrive,
Happy and fresh,
Ready and excited
To celebrate the goodness.
I am eager and keen to have a good time.
As I smile from the bubbles of anticipation whizzing around my stomach,
I begin to see the crowd,
I see more people,
Many are happy and joyful.
They're there like me,
To celebrate,
I smile at them and say hello to the many faces I see,
They look shocked and surprised to see me,
I question their judgmental glares as I wonder,
'What have I done wrong?'
I see their drinks swilling in their fingers as their backs begin to face
I try to edge my way back into the circle of giggles and talking,
They push me away.
I stand still,
My eyes glazed and absent.
Suddenly they call me over,
I think, 'yes! They've noticed me!'
But then it begins,
They start to ask questions,
As to why I am there.
They begin to tell me that nobody wants me there,
They tell me to leave and that I am not wanted,
Not there, not anywhere,
My heart,
My head,
My body,
I feel pricks of stinging begin to pinch my eyes as cheeks begin to burn.
'Don't let them see you,
Don't show them that you're weakened,
Weakened by their remarks',
'Stay strong' I think,
But it's too late,
My palms, clammy,
My cheeks, streaming,
My neck, sweating.
I walk quickly away from the chanting and laughing,
My vision, spinning,
My heart, beginning to break.
I look down and walk,
My eyes drowning in a sea of emotion.
Another piece of me chiselled away by their cruel remarks and perceptions,
I give up.

Izzy Dix was bullied online before taking her own life. She was only fourteen years old. Her mother wanted this poem to be heard, so people might understand how their bullying behavior can devastate someone.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Poem at the End of the School Year by Carrie Fountain

By Carrie Fountain

I don’t want to teach anymore lessons to anyone, lessons I haven’t
learned or lessons I have learned. I want to keep my lessons inside me.
I want to rise early and take my lessons for a walk in the brisk morning air
in a different state. I want to show them the mountains of my youth,
to be turned off by them at first but then marry them a few years later
in a simple ceremony surrounded by friends and family. Need this? I keep
writing in the margin of your poem. More? I keep asking your essay
about pollution, as if More? is a question your essay about pollution
can answer. Where the hell do I get off, anyway? Always with the better
idea, the advice, the pointing across a room to whatever it is I think
you need to be looking at.

Monday, October 21, 2013

I Come Home Wanting To Touch Everyone

By Stephen Dunn

The dogs greet me, I descend
into their world of fur and tongues
and then my wife and I embrace
as if we'd just closed the door
in a motel, our two girls slip in
between us and we're all saying
each other's names and the dogs
Buster and Sundown are on their hind legs,
people-style, seeking more love.
I've come home wanting to touch
everyone, everything; usually I turn
the key and they're all lost
in food or homework, even the dogs
are preoccupied with themselves,
I desire only to ease
back in, the mail, a drink,
but tonight the body-hungers have sent out
their long-range signals
or love itself has risen
from its squalor of neglect.
Everytime the kids turn their backs
I touch my wife's breasts
and when she checks the dinner
the unfriendly cat on the dishwasher
wants to rub heads, starts to speak
with his little motor and violin--
everything, everyone is intelligible
in the language of touch,
and we sit down to dinner inarticulate
as blood, all difficulties postponed
because the weather is so good.

Friday, October 18, 2013


By Kathryn Stripling Byer

My daughter says she’s become “melancholy,”
a word she likes the sound of better than sad.
A backwater rhythm,
like the river that still runs alongside
her long summer back home among names
she’s grown out of.  She would rather be nameless
than shackled to those ancient consonants,
each mournful vowel,
unscrolling down to the name
that encloses us finally,
much as the earth itself
finally enfolds us.
My daughter knows words,
 how they pull at the line like a boot
or a rainbow trout.  Like the melancholy
exhale of home.  The sag of it.  The shoulders
that feel  its remorse and its longing.
Come home,
come home,
I can’t stop myself saying,
calling long distance,
sending her name across cyberspace.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fourteen Hundred Ninety-Two (The Rewrite)

By Dana Hall

In Fourteen Hundred and Ninety Two,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
But everything else in the childhood rhyme,
Ignores the historic details and genocide.
The overland route between Asia and Spain,
Was closed making trade very hard to maintain.
But Oriental goods were in high demand,
A new route would allow this exchange to expand.
Aristotle had proved that the world was round,
You could reach eastern Asia by sailing westbound.
The Ancient Greeks calculated the length of the trip,
Far exceeding the range of the most modern ship.
Columbus made absurd and outrageous guarantees,
About his nautical calculations and skills at Sea.
But despite reservations expressed by the King,
He was given three ships outfitted by the Queen.
He set sail in August of 1492,
his Log Book describes what he planned to do.
To take wealth and riches wherever they were found,
His thievery would become historically profound.
Columbus reached Islands in the Caribbean Sea,
Not even close to where he thought he should be.
He said there was gold and made other false claims,
To gain the support for more voyages from Spain.
Columbus described the Natives as being,
Generous, hospitable, and very agreeing.
Not quarrelsome, excitable -- devoid of hate,
He exclaimed they’d be easy to dominate.
He made several voyages to the Caribbean Sea,
Visited the mainland where he thought Asia should be.
He colonized the region and controlled everything,
Destroying the culture and lives of every human being.
He appointed himself Governor; no one disagreed,
Extermination of the Natives could then proceed.
Their homes and lands were taken by force,
Those not killed were enslaved without remorse.
He created a “tribute system” very tragic to behold,
Intended to fulfill Spain’s unending lust for gold.
Requiring a quota from every Native over fourteen,
Or their hands were cut off, death became quite routine.
Natives were raped at will and many used as slaves,
The rest were exterminated, in a variety of ways.
By burning, hanging, cut in pieces or in half,
Babies swung by the feet and their skulls were smashed.
He initiated the conquest and genocide,
During his expeditions, 9 million people died.
Following the "Civilization" of the Western Hemisphere,
100 million vanished as a result of European profiteers.
Columbus didn’t keep the promises made to the Crown,
And a sea route to Asia, he never found.
He could not deliver on his guarantees of Gold,
But colonization of the Americas began to unfold

Previously published in Indian Country Today Media Network. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013


By Hugo Quizhpi

Leopard print stilettos
growling along the aisles of your local 
supermarket; thats's so Miami.

Vendors selling coconuts and sunflowers
along the intersections 
of Biscayne Boulevard; thats's so Miami.

The sunshine touching the tip of your hat
while a cup of coffee
waits in your hand; thats's so Miami.

Crazy, yet boldly beautiful,
refreshing, yet dangerously sexy;
that's so Miami!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Wedding Cake

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Once on a plane
a woman asked me to hold her baby
and disappeared.
I figured it was safe,
our being on a plane and all.
How far could she go?

She returned one hour later
having changed her clothes
and washed her hair.
I didn't recognize her.

By this time the baby
and I had examined
each other's necks.
We had cried a little.
I had a silver bracelet
and a watch.
Gold studs glittered
in the baby's ears.
She wore a tiny white dress
leafed with layers
like a wedding cake.

I did not want
to give her back.

The baby's curls coiled tightly
against her scalp,
another alphabet.
I read new new new.
My mother gets tired.
I'll chew your hand.

The baby left my skirt crumpled,
my lap aching.
Now I'm her secret guardian,
the little nub of dream
that rises slightly
but won't come clear.

As she grows,
as she feels ill at ease,
I'll bob my knee.

What will she forget?
Whom will she marry?
He'd better check with me.
I'll say once she flew
dressed like a cake
between two doilies of cloud.
She could slop the card into a pocket,
pull it out.
Already she knew the small finger
was funnier than the whole arm.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I used to think

By Charlane McCray

I used to think
I can’t be a poet
because a poem is being everything you can be
in one moment,
speaking with lightning protest
unveiling a fiery intellect
or letting the words drift feather-soft
into the ears of strangers
who will suddenly understand
my beautiful and tortured soul.
But, I’ve spent my life as a Black girl
a nappy-headed, no-haired,
big-bottomed Black girl
and the poem will surely come out wrong
like me.
And, I don’t want everyone looking at me.
If I could be a cream-colored lovely
with gypsy curls,
someone’s pecan dream and sweet sensation,
I’d be
poetry in motion
without saying a word
and wouldn’t have to make sense if I did.
If I were beautiful, I could be angry and cute
instead of an evil, pouting mammy bitch
a nigger woman, passed over
conquested and passed over,
a nigger woman
to do it to in the bushes.
My mother tells me
I used to run home crying
that I wanted to be light like my sisters.
She shook her head and told me
there was nothing wrong with my color.
She didn’t tell me I was pretty
(so my head wouldn’t swell up).
Black girls cannot afford to
have illusions of grandeur,
not ass-kicking, too-loud-laughing,
mean and loose Black girls.
And even though in Afrika
I was mistaken for someone’s fine sister or cousin
or neighbor down the way,
even though I swore
never again to walk with my head down,
never to care
that those people who celebrate
the popular brand of beauty
don’t see me,
it still matters.
Looking for a job, it matters.
Standing next to my lover
when someone light gets that
“she ain’t nothin come home with me” expression
it matters.
But it’s not so bad now.
I can laugh about it,
trade stories and write poems
about all those put-downs,
my rage and hiding.
I’m through waiting for minds to change,
the 60’s didn’t put me on a throne
and as many years as I’ve been
Black like ebony
Black like the night
I have seen in the mirror
and the eyes of my sisters
that pretty is the woman in darkness
who flowers with loving.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

For the Man with the Erection Lasting More than Four Hours

By John Hodgen 

He's supposed to call his doctor, but for now he's the May King with his own Maypole. He's hallelujah. He's glory hole. The world has more women than he can shake a stick at. The world is his brickbat, no conscience to prick at, all of us Germans he can ich lieber dich at. He's Dick and Jane. He's Citizen Kane. He's Bob Dole. He's Peter the Great. He's a czar. He's a clown car with an extra car. Funiculi, Funicula. He's an organ donor. He works pro boner. He's folderol. He's fiddlesticks. He's the light left on at Motel 6. He's free-for-alls. He's Viagra Falls. He's bangers and mash. He's balderdash. He's a wanker. He's got his own anchor. He's whack-a-doodle. King Canoodle. He's a pirate, Long John Silver, walking his own plank. He has science to thank. He's in like Flynn. He's Gunga Din, holding his breath, cock of the walk through the valley of the shadow of death. He's Icarus, hickory dickorous, the mouse run up the clock. He's shock and awe. He's Arkansas. He's the package, the deal, the Good Housekeeping Seal. He's Johnson and Johnson. He's a god now, the talk of the town. He's got no place to go but down.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Nicolson Square

By Ron Butlin

The girl's left hand keeps her coat shut, the other's
the traffic breaking to a stop around her.
Hardly sixteen - bleached hair, bleached skin, fear.
empty. She's standing in the middle of the street,
The man she's with – badly healing cuts and anger
clenched into a face, pressed-in bruises
where the eyes should be.
She's telling him she's sorry, and being sworn at.
Nearby, a parliament of two men and a woman sits arguing
upon the pavement; they shout at her to grow up,
can't she? A taxi horn blares.
She doesn't move.
I drop my 50p into the parliamentary cup, and walk past.
Behind me, the street shuts like a book, the place marked
just at the point where he hits her
in the mouth.
When I'm back this evening, the story will have moved on.
No girl, no man and no parliament – only you and I
and everyone else, and the street growing darker around us
as the sun abandons it.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dog Training

By Bonnie Lyons

Sometimes I think
the only lessons I ever learned
were from my dogs.
So here is the accumulated wisdom
of Sancho, Max, and Zorba,
three sage Airedales:

First, yelp when you're in pain
but let it go when it's gone.

Second, travel the earth
with a quivering nose.

Third, answer the needs of your body
with shameless relish
but then go right on
to the real purpose of the day: play.

And finally, whenever possible
leap right
into the arms of someone
who loves you.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Turtle

By William Carlos Williams

Not because of his eyes,
     the eyes of a bird,
          but because he is beaked,
birdlike, to do an injury,
     has the turtle attracted you.
          He is your only pet.
When we are together
     you talk of nothing else
          ascribing all sorts
of murderous motives
     to his least action.
          You ask me
to write a poem,
     should I have a poem to write,
          about a turtle.
The turtle lives in the mud
     but is not mud-like,
          you can tell it by his eyes
which are clear.
     When he shall escape
          his present confinement
he will stride about the world
     destroying all
          with his sharp beak.
Whatever opposes him
     in the streets of the city
          shall go down.
Cars will be overturned.
     And upon his back
          shall ride,
to his conquests,
     my Lord,
You shall be master!
     In the beginning
          there was a great tortoise
who supported the world.
     Upon him
          All ultimately
     Without him
          nothing will stand.
He is all wise
     and can outrun the hare.
          In the night
his eyes carry him
     to unknown places.
          He is your friend.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Waiting for the Barbarians

By C. P. Cavafy

What are we waiting for, assembled in the forum?

            The barbarians are due here today.

Why isn’t anything happening in the senate?
Why do the senators sit there without legislating?

            Because the barbarians are coming today.
            What laws can the senators make now?
            Once the barbarians are here, they’ll do the legislating.

Why did our emperor get up so early,
and why is he sitting at the city’s main gate
on his throne, in state, wearing the crown?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and the emperor is waiting to receive their leader.
            He has even prepared a scroll to give him,
            replete with titles, with imposing names.

Why have our two consuls and praetors come out today
wearing their embroidered, their scarlet togas?
Why have they put on bracelets with so many amethysts,
and rings sparkling with magnificent emeralds?
Why are they carrying elegant canes
beautifully worked in silver and gold?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and things like that dazzle the barbarians.

Why don’t our distinguished orators come forward as usual
to make their speeches, say what they have to say?

            Because the barbarians are coming today
            and they’re bored by rhetoric and public speaking.

Why this sudden restlessness, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home so lost in thought?

            Because night has fallen and the barbarians have not come.
            And some who have just returned from the border say
            there are no barbarians any longer.

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

Monday, September 30, 2013

Yams, Maize and Matzo Ball Soup for the Colonizing European Soul

An Old Western Love Song circa 15th century and counting

After Yusef Komunyakaa

By Regie O'Hare Gibson

Because your kiss
       Codifies genocide into a smoldering
       Coefficient of Arawak flesh. & the crusade
       In your eyes makes me want to fill your
       Hands with severed hands…

For you, my love,
        I’ll assail the seven seas in search of whole
        Peoples to kill. Colonize your mouth
        Print on mind matter. Play a shell game
        With their gods.

There are so many ways
      To love you, it makes me want to rape something
      And bring it to Jesus. When we're apart,
      My instinct to extinct rises
      Like distilled molasses,

& I punctuate your portrait
      With an ellipsis of slave-ships. My need for you
       Is a crucible. No. Is an oven pregnant
       With yellow stars. A charred castration
       Paused for a photograph.

Is a mushroom
       Grafted from wind & fire, blooming
       In the blackening horizon like a bush
       That won’t stop burning.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Across a New Dawn

By Kofi Awoonor

Sometimes, we read the
lines in the green leaf
run our fingers over the
smooth of the precious wood
from our ancient trees;

Sometimes, even the sunset
puzzles, as we look
for the lines that propel the clouds,
the colour scheme
with the multiple designs
that the first artist put together

There is dancing in the streets again
the laughter of children rings
through the house
On the seaside, the ruins recent
from the latest storms
remind of ancestral wealth
pillaged purloined pawned
by an unthinking grandfather
who lived the life of a lord
and drove coming generations to
despair and ruin


But who says our time is up
that the box maker and the digger
are in conference
or that the preachers have aired their robes
and the choir and the drummers
are in rehearsal?

No; where the worm eats
a grain grows.
the consultant deities
have measured the time
with long winded
arguments of eternity

And death, when he comes
to the door with his own
inimitable calling card
shall find a homestead
resurrected with laughter and dance
and the festival of the meat
of the young lamb and the red porridge
of the new corn


We are the celebrants
whose fields were
overrun by rogues
and other bad men who
interrupted our dance
with obscene songs and bad gestures

Someone said an ailing fish
swam up our lagoon
seeking a place to lay its load
in consonance with the Original Plan

Master, if you can be the oarsman
for our boat
please do it, do it.
I asked you before
once upon a shore
at home, where the
seafront has narrowed
to the brief space of childhood

We welcome the travelers
come home on the new boat
fresh from the upright tree

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rehearsing Mourning at the Hotel Sankara

By Kwame Dawes 

For Kofi Awoonor

Do not dress me yet
lift me not
onto that mound before the mourners.
I have still to meet the morning dew
a poem to write
a field to hoe
a lover to touch
and some consoling to do
before you lay me out.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ghazal for the Ninth Month

By Shadab Zeest Hashmi

Your august birth, my taking oath as an American, were only weeks apart.
The most I can remember is your rocking to a dull ache before we were apart.

Our hill was plush, the whole place soaked up the scent of raisin pulao. On
the last day of July the umbilical cord was cut, yet still we were barely apart.

I had sworn to bear arms for this country. A cat prowled between the young
apple tree and dry lobelia; camouflaged, I couldn’t tell her parts apart.

I acted mother first when I frantically covered you, half-dreaming you were
the tender bird of prey and a feline form was the country of which I was a part.

Bear arms? Kill like a predator? In other dreams I bore you through the cold months,
through snow in Julian, rain in Sedona. Not for a single minute were we apart.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


By Krista E.

My home can be


or nowhere.

My daily meals


of anything or


My knick-knacks

and baubles

are the clothes



My money


only what


give me.

I am a being.

I am human.

I am homeless.

If only people

could see

where I stand.


help me


this all.

Will this loneliness

ever end?

Will I begin


new life?






am here.






be ignored.

I am a person.

I am alive.


I am homeless. n