Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Soldier Blockades Suez

By Dennis Silk
 
He dips three toes in the Great Bitter Lake,
two in the Little Bitter Lake,
adjusting his binoculars spans
Kantara.
 
Spots Nasser the big ship
and his herd of ships
unmilked and lowing.
They low. He laughs.
Look, he says, at all the
cowlike dead ships.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

i sing of Olaf glad and big

By e. e. cummings

i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or

his wellbelovéd colonel(trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but--though an host of overjoyed
noncoms(first knocking on the head
him)do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments--
Olaf(being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds,without getting annoyed
"I will not kiss your fucking flag"

straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)

but--though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation's blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat--
Olaf(upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
"there is some shit I will not eat"

our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died

Christ(of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too

preponderatingly because
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ode to the Sea

By Ibrahim al-Rubaish

O sea, give me news of my loved ones.

Were it not for the chains of the faithless, I would have dived into you,
And reached my beloved family, or perished in your arms.

Your beaches are sadness, captivity, pain, and injustice.
Your bitterness eats away at my patience.

Your calm is like death, your sweeping waves are strange.
The silence that rises up from you holds treachery in its fold.

Your stillness will kill the captain if it persists,
And the navigator will drown in your waves.

Gentle, deaf, mute, ignoring, angrily storming,
You carry graves.

If the wind enrages you, your injustice is obvious.
If the wind silences you, there is just the ebb and flow.

O sea, do our chains offend you?
It is only under compulsion that we daily come and go.

Do you know our sins?
Do you understand we were cast into this gloom?

O sea, you taunt us in our captivity.
You have colluded with our enemies and you cruelly guard us.

Don’t the rocks tell you of the crimes committed in their midst?
Doesn’t Cuba, the vanquished, translate its stories for you?

You have been beside us for three years, and what have you gained?
Boats of poetry on the sea; a buried flame in a burning heart.

The poet’s words are the font of our power;
His verse is the salve for our pained hearts.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

the ticking clock


By Mitchell Hall

we are all here
glowing
but not for so long

ticking like a clock
just
ticking away

it’s the smart ones
that value the depreciation
of their time

they understand the gothic departure
of history before them

they understand that
life
is God’s rarity

it’s the inevitable demise
of humanity
to which we fail to pay
massive attention

and we crumble from the
bed post,
throw a fist into the
alarm clock
that bangs chimes into
our membranes

we dive head first into
depressed showers

dry off the staleness and
stare deeply
into
fogged mirrors that we
take entirely
too much for granted

it’s more important
to avoid
the arrow
than to
study it

one moment
we are princes
we have our shining stage time
the spotlight
reveals our body

in the finest hour
and we sleep
and die
and wake
and live
and repeat the cycle
of the past eras

but we pay no dividend
to the promise
of non-existence

in those finer hours
of humanity
when all others
know you by name,
and smile
at the sound
of it

we fail to swallow
the beauty
of the ticking clock
and continue on
with that comedic battalion
of
immortal
suspicion


Mitchell Hall is an American poet and short story writer. His writing is influenced by the insipid and unappreciated happenings of human existence. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he studied sport science and business administration. His first book of poetry, entitled “Talks with the Moon King,” will be released in Fall 2013. Hall lives in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

God Woke

By Stan Lee

God woke
He stretched and yawned and looked around
Haunted by a thought unfound
A vagrant thought that would not die
He rose and scanned the endless sky
He probed the is, he traced the was
He sought the yet to be
And then he found the planet Earth, the half remembered planet Earth
Steeped in pain and tragedy
And all at once he knew
He saw the world that he had wrought to suit his master plan
And then he saw the changes brought by the heedless hand of man
Man, so frail, so small
Yet lord of all
Striving, thriving
Hustling, bustling
Sowing, growing, ever going
Ever learning, never knowing
Less than righteous, less than just
And in the end condemned to dust
He heard the man-sounds everywhere
The shots, the clangs, the roars, the bangs
The clatter, clammer, guns and hammer
And then he found to his despair
The haunting hollow sound of prayer
A billion bodies ever bending
A billion voices never ending
“Give me…”, “Get me…”
“Grant me…”, “Let me…”
“Love me”, “Free me”
“Hear me”, “See me”
While he pondered, watched and waited
Endlessly they supplicated
Chanting, ranting
Moaning, groaning
Sighing, crying
Cheating, lying
But towards what goal? What grand direction?
This pious tide of genuflection
To please their lord, to please their god
He raised his head and laughed, laughed hard
At man, the enigma, calling for aid
Ever demanding, ever afraid
Man, the enigma, bewailing his fate
Yet plagued by inaction till ever too late
Paradoxical man, so fearful of death
Yet squandering life and lavishing breath
Wasting his hours, diluting his days
Accomplishing nothing while he prays and he prays
Hypocritical man, pompous and preening
Mouthing his rote
Just from the throat
Words without feeling
Sound without meaning
Such arrogance, such grand conceit
To think one’s self somehow elite
To demand each prayer be heard with care
While painfully, vainfully all unaware
One’s omnipotent, infinite, absolute lord
Is bored
God frowned
How dare they believe that The Way and The Light
Can be constantly badgered from morning till night?
By what senseless standard? By what senseless rule?
Do they treat their creator as if he’s their tool
While proclaiming his glory, do they think him a fool?
Who else but a fool with a cosmos to savour
Would be bound just to Earth granting boon, granting favour
Who else but a fool with a cosmos unfolding
Would linger with man ever praising and scolding
Who else but a fool with a cosmos to stray in
Would conceive him an ant-hill and like a prisoner stay in
Who else but a fool would create mortal men
And then be expected to tend them, mend them,
Cry for them, die for them over and over and over again
God sighed
I gave them minds as I recall, it was so long ago
I gave them minds that they might use to choose, to think, to know
For the hapless weak, must needs be wise, if they would prove their worth
And then I gave them paradise, the fertile verdant Earth
At first I found the plan was sound and somewhat entertaining
But once begun, the deed now done, my interest started waning
The seed thus sown
The twig now grown
I left them there
Alone
Alone, among the planets and the stars
And the endless fathomless all
Alone, bathed by light and clothed by dark
Midst the vague and the vast and the small
Alone
Alone as I have ever been, as I shall ever be
Why do they not accept it? How else can they be free?
Why do they not accept it? Why do they search for me?
Why?
When their own little lives are so barren and brief
When all of their pleasures are tarnished by grief
In the space of a heartbeat their present is past
They cling to each moment, but no moment can last
When the end comes so quickly and they soon are forgot
Why do they search for that which is not?
Like unto children lost in the night
They search for a God to guide them
Like unto children huddled in fright
They must have their God beside them
But what sort of children, from cradle to grave
Would grant him obiance and yet make him their slave?
They have conjured a heaven and there he must stay
Ever responsive, be it night, be it day
He must love and forgive them and comply when they pray
Ever attentive, never to stray
And like unto children in their childish zeal
They worship their dream thinking fantasy real
God pondered
He, The Be All, The End All, The Will and The Way
The Power, The Glory, The Night and The Day
The Word and The Law, The Fount and The Plan
Lord God Almighty, was baffled by man
He was puzzled by the paradox
By the irony there in
If only he could show them
But where would he begin?
How to make them understand, how to make them see
How to make them recognize their own insanity
They live for gain and they strive in vain
To circumvent their death
But all the gold and wealth untold
Won’t buy an extra breath
They bestow acclaim and they shower fame
On those who rise to power
But those who care, who love and share
Are forgot within the hour
They’re prone to fight, to use their might
For whatever flag they cherish
But those who cry “To arms” don’t die
Their young are sent to perish
Yes, all unsung, they kill their young
Who fall and die and then they cry
But why?
A different house of worship? A different colour skin?
A piece of land that’s coveted and the drums of war begin
Only death can triumph, there’s no place left to hide
And still the madmen ply their trade claiming God is on their side
Of all who live, who crawl and creep
Who take and give, who wake and sleep
Who run, who stand, who dot the land from shore to shore
Man, only man, none but man, wages war
Only man, eternally killing
Only man, infernally willing
To concede himself grace
To bury his race
Only man, earnestly praying to his god as he’s slaying and piously saying
As the battles increase
He does what he must for his motives are just
The mayhem, the carnage, the slaughter won’t cease
But no need to worry, God’s in his corner, he’s killing for peace
Man
His greed, his hate, his crime, his war
The Lord, our God, could bear no more
He looked his last at man so small
So lately risen, so soon to fall
He looked his last and had to know
Whose fault this anguish, this mortal woe?
Had man failed maker? Or maker, man?
Who was the planner? And whose the plan?
He looked his last then turned aside
He knew the answer, that’s why God cried

Friday, July 19, 2013

Warm Summer Sun

By Mark Twain

Warm summer sun,
Shine kindly here,
Warm southern wind,
Blow softly here.
Green sod above,
Lie light, lie light.
Good night, dear heart,
Good night, good night.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Islam

By Kenneth Goldsmith

          e2 the new york times, tuesday, september 11, 2001
          arts abroad
          Continued From First Arts Page
          On Islam, Mr. Houellebecq went still further, deriding his estranged mother for converting to Islam and proclaiming that, while all monotheistic religions were “cretinous,” “the most stupid religion is Islam.” And he added: “When you read the Koran, you give up. At least the Bible is
          Sexual tourism
          and inflammatory
          remarks about
          Palestinians.
          very beautiful because Jews have an extraordinary literary talent.” And later, noting that “Islam is a dangerous religion,” he said it was condemned to disappear, not only because God does not exist but also because it was being undermined by capitalism.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Loneliest Job in the World

By Tony Hoagland
 
As soon as you begin to ask the question, Who loves me?,
you are completely screwed, because
the next question is How Much?,

and then it is hundreds of hours later,
and you are still hunched over
your flowcharts and abacus,

trying to decide if you have gotten enough.
This is the loneliest job in the world:
to be an accountant of the heart.

It is late at night. You are by yourself,
and all around you, you can hear
the sounds of people moving

in and out of love,
pushing the turnstiles, putting
their coins in the slots,

paying the price which is asked,
which constantly changes.
No one knows why.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Trayvon, Redux

By Rita Dove

It is difficult/to get the news from poems /yet men die miserably every day/for lack/of  what is found there./Hear me out/for I too am concerned/and every man/who wants to die at peace in his bed/besides. --William Carlos Williams, “Asphodel, that Greeny Flower”
 
Move along, you don't belong here.
This is what you're thinking.  Thinking
drives you nuts these days, all that
talk about rights and law abidance when
you can't even walk your own neighborhood
in peace and quiet, get your black ass gone.
You're thinking again.  Then what?
Matlock's on TV and here you are,
vigilant, weary, exposed to the elements
on a wet winter's evening in Florida
when all's not right but no one sees it.
Where are they – the law, the enforcers
blind as a bunch of lazy bats can be,
holsters dangling from coat hooks above their desks
as they jaw the news between donuts?
Hey!  It tastes good, shoving your voice
down a throat thinking only of sweetness.
Go on, choke on that.  Did you say something?
Are you thinking again?  Stop! – and
get your ass gone, your blackness,
that casual little red riding hood
I'm just on my way home attitude
as if this street was his to walk on.
Do you do hear me talking to you? Boy.
How dare he smile, jiggling his goodies
in that tiny shiny bag, his black paw crinkling it,
how dare he tinkle their laughter at you.
Here's a fine basket of riddles:
If a mouth shoots off and no one's around
to hear it, who can say which came first –
push or shove, bang or whimper?

This poem first appeared in The Root on July 16,2012.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Vacation

By Rita Dove

I love the hour before takeoff,
that stretch of no time, no home
but the gray vinyl seats linked like
unfolding paper dolls. Soon we shall
be summoned to the gate, soon enough
there’ll be the clumsy procedure of row numbers
and perforated stubs—but for now
I can look at these ragtag nuclear families
with their cooing and bickering
or the heeled bachelorette trying
to ignore a baby’s wail and the baby’s
exhausted mother waiting to be called up early
while the athlete, one monstrous hand
asleep on his duffel bag, listens,
perched like a seal trained for the plunge.
Even the lone executive
who has wandered this far into summer
with his lasered itinerary, briefcase
knocking his knees—even he
has worked for the pleasure of bearing
no more than a scrap of himself
into this hall. He’ll dine out, she’ll sleep late,
they’ll let the sun burn them happy all morning
—a little hope, a little whimsy
before the loudspeaker blurts
and we leap up to become
Flight 828, now boarding at Gate 17.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Firestarter

By Dorianne Laux
for my nephew, Raymond


Since this morning he's gone through
an entire box of Safeway matches, the ones
with the outlines of presidents' faces
printed in red, white and blue.
He's not satisfied with one match at a time.
He likes to tip the book over the ashtray
and light them all up at once, the flame
less than an inch from his fingertips
while the fathers of the nation burn.
He doesn't care about democracy,
or even anarchy, or the message inside
that promises art school for half price
if he'll simply complete the profile of a woman
and send it in. The street address burns,
zip code and phone number, the birth
and death dates of the presidents,
the woman's unfinished face. I'm afraid
he'll do this when I'm not around to keep him
from torching the curtains, the couch.
He strikes match after match, a small pyre rising
from the kitchen table. I think I should tell him
about Prometheus and the vulture, the wildfires
now burning in the Oregon hills.
I want to do what I'm supposed to
and make him afraid, but his face
shines, bright with power,
and I can't take my eyes from the light.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Another Elegy

By  Jericho Brown

To believe in God is to love
What none can see. Let a lover go,

Let him walk out with the good
Spoons or die

Without a signature, and so much
Remains for scrubbing, for a polish

Cleaner than devotion. Tonight,
God is one spot, and you,

You must be one blind nun. You
Wipe, you rub, but love won’t move. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

At the Goodwill

By Tim Walsh
Like crows tearing at roadkill,
people rummage among the aisles
              and clothes bins,
ransacking the discarded clutter of other lives
for that special undiscovered something.


Beyond an army of tired shoes, you make your way
              to the back corner
where golf clubs by the hundreds jut from barrels,
shafts and clubheads jumbled helter-skelter.



Nearby, old golf bags are piled like clumsy sea creatures
              dead upon the sand.
Splayed zippers and torn pockets full of old golf balls,
crumpled scorecards, stubby pencils, and old tees....



Some clubs are still caked with mud,
remnant of the day they were last played,
orphaned by the terse calling card of death,
forgotten in basements or garages long past the funeral,
until they are dropped off, lifted from the trunks of cars
              with a pallbearer's decorum....



Clubs once cherished by men,
magic implements to leverage the spirit,
arcane as alchemists' weapons—
Spalding Synchro-Dyned Top-Flite,
Lynx Predator, Golden Ram,
Wilson Strata-Bloc Cup Defender,
MacGregor Oil Hardened Chieftain—
each club someone's personal Excalibur
elevating the soul with each dance-like swing,
old woods, maple and persimmon, once
              lovingly cleaned and oiled,
now grimy, cast off, seemingly dead.



But if you close your eyes, you can feel something—
              a low hum, diffuse as starlight—
all the accumulated shot-concentration of decades
stored in the clubs like batteries,
the fire of long-dead golfers still smoldering
              in the grips and clubheads.



Bring an armful home. Scour them clean.
Rub lemon oil into the wood, and mink oil
              onto the leather grips.
Tomorrow, take them out on the course.
Send the ball flying with a satisfying crack of wood,
the club in your hand ecstatic as a blind man
              with restored sight.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

América

By Richard Blanco

I.
Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half-a-dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.

II.
There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year's Eves,
even on Thanksgiving Day—pork,
fried, broiled or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips and yuca con mojito.
These items required a special visit
to Antonio's Mercado on the corner of 8th street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—"Ese hijo de puta!"
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another's lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.

III.

By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parents didn't.
We didn't live in a two story house
with a maid or a wood panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke's family wasn't like us either—
they didn't have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn't have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.

IV.

A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain's majesty,
"one if by land, two if by sea"
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the "masses yearning to be free"
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

V.

Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamà set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolus,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworths.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
"DRY", Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—"esa mierda roja," he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

on the continent

By Charles Bukowski

I'm soft. I
dream too.
I let myself dream. I dream of
being famous. I dream of
walking the streets of London and
Paris. I dream of
sitting in cafes
drinking fine wines and
taking a taxi back to a good
hotel.
I dream of
meeting beautiful ladies in the hall
and
turning them away because
I have a sonnet in mind
that I want to write
before sunrise. at sunrise
I will be asleep and there will be a
strange cat curled up on the
windowsill.

I think we all feel like this
now and then.
I'd even like to visit
Andernach, Germany, the place where
I began, then I'd like to
fly on to Moscow to check out
their mass transit system so
I'd have something faintly lewd to
whisper into the ear of the mayor of
Los Angeles upon to my return to this
fucking place.

it could happen.
I'm ready.
I've watched snails crawl over
ten foot walls
and vanish.

you mustn't confuse this with
ambition.
I would be able to laugh at my
good turn of the cards -

and I won't forget you.
I'll send postcards and
snapshots, and the
finished sonnet.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Untitled

By Abul Qasim al-Shabi

Imperious despot, insolent in strife,
Lover of ruin, enemy of life!
You mock the anguish of an impotent land
Whose people’s blood has stained your tyrant hand,
And desecrate the magic of this earth,
sowing your thorns, to bring despair to birth.


Written during the Arab Spring uprising, previously published in the Daily Beast