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.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

So you want to be a writer?

By Charles Bukowski

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
fame,
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.


if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

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

Homelessness

By Krista E.



My home can be

everywhere

or nowhere.

My daily meals

consist

of anything or

nothing.

My knick-knacks

and baubles

are the clothes

I

wear.

My money

is

only what

others

give me.

I am a being.

I am human.

I am homeless.



If only people

could see

where I stand.

and

help me

through

this all.

Will this loneliness

ever end?

Will I begin

a

new life?

Does

anyone

care?

Because

I

am here.

I

am

real.

I

cannot

be ignored.

I am a person.

I am alive.

And...

I am homeless. n

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Verities

By Kim Addonizio

Into every life a little ax must fall.
Every dog has its choke chain.
Every cloud has a shadow.
Better dead than fed.
He who laughs, will not last.
Sticks and stones will break you,
and then the names of things will be changed.
A stitch in time saves no one.
The darkest hour comes.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dad's Shop

By Douglas Polk


Looking out of place,
next to the well-kept barn,

ancient, 

the roof sagging,

a third world hut,
home to various creatures,
working the vise, 
welding repairing machinery, 

movement seen and heard, 
in dark corners behind boxes of parts, 

greasy and oil-stained, 

prayed there were no skunks, 

whenever Dad needed tools from the shop.
I hated that place with a passion
yet now,
how I long to spend a few moments with Poppa’s tools, 
and greasy boxes of parts,
in Dad’s old shop.

Douglas Polk is a writer of poetry from central Nebraska. Feeling persecuted most of his life he has published three books of poetry; In My Defense, The Defense Rests, and On Appeal. He lives with his wife and two boys and two dogs on the plains of Nebraska.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Experimental Geography

By Meena Alexander


Everything about the railway station was erased, including the woman who was carrying a child with a patch of blood on his shirt.
I became all at once an American. This is a sentence very hard to translate.
One is singing. Two says: one flows.
You cannot know how things go. No Prophecy. Who can gainsay a bird singing in a suitcase?
She was seven and started praying as hard as she could. By her pillow moths flew, in the lemon tree a nest of honey bees grew.
An overdose of caravans caused her hair to fall out.
Our Father who art on earth -- Lord of Sorrows and solar eruptions.
How many starts to hold the flag up? How many stripes to sink it? How many questions without answers?
Who becomes President if both he and the Vice President die?
The patch of blood on a child's shirt becomes a bird with no beak.
When the train arrived the refugees (for strictly speaking that is what they were) had no voice left in their throats.
Their clothing was quite dry. In spite of everything there was much singing.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Yom Kippur

By Philip Schultz

You are asked to stand and bow your head,
consider the harm you've caused,
the respect you've withheld,
the anger misspent, the fear spread,
the earnestness displayed
in the service of prestige and sensibility,
all the callous, cruel, stubborn, joyless sins
in your alphabet of woe
so that you might be forgiven.
You are asked to believe in the spark
of your divinity, in the purity
of the words of your mouth
and the memories of your heart.
You are asked for this one day and one night
to starve your body so your soul can feast
on faith and adoration.
You are asked to forgive the past
and remember the dead, to gaze
across the desert in your heart
toward Jerusalem. To separate
the sacred from the profane
and be as numerous as the sands
and the stars of heaven.
To believe that no matter what
you have done to yourself and others
morning will come and the mountain
of night will fade. To believe,
for these few precious moments,
in the utter sweetness of your life.
You are asked to bow your head
and remain standing,
and say Amen.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Yom Kippur 1984

By Adrienne Rich

I drew solitude over me, on the long shore.
                                        —Robinson Jeffers, “Prelude”  
For whoever does not afflict his soul through this day, shall be
          cut off from his people.
                                                                           —Leviticus 23:29

What is a Jew in solitude?
What would it mean not to feel lonely or afraid
far from your own or those you have called your own?
What is a woman in solitude:   a queer woman or man?
In the empty street, on the empty beach, in the desert
what in this world as it is can solitude mean?
 
The glassy, concrete octagon suspended from the cliffs
with its electric gate, its perfected privacy
is not what I mean
the pick-up with a gun parked at a turn-out in Utah or the Golan Heights
is not what I mean
the poet’s tower facing the western ocean, acres of forest planted to the east, the woman reading in the cabin, her attack dog suddenly risen
is not what I mean
 
Three thousand miles from what I once called home
I open a book searching for some lines I remember
about flowers, something to bind me to this coast as lilacs in the dooryard once
bound me back there—yes, lupines on a burnt mountainside,
something that bloomed and faded and was written down
in the poet’s book, forever:
Opening the poet’s book
I find the hatred in the poet’s heart: . . . the hateful-eyed
and human-bodied are all about me: you that love multitude may have them
 
Robinson Jeffers, multitude
is the blur flung by distinct forms against these landward valleys
and the farms that run down to the sea; the lupines
are multitude, and the torched poppies, the grey Pacific unrolling its scrolls of surf,
and the separate persons, stooped
over sewing machines in denim dust, bent under the shattering skies of harvest
who sleep by shifts in never-empty beds have their various dreams
Hands that pick, pack, steam, stitch, strip, stuff, shell, scrape, scour, belong to a brain like no other
Must I argue the love of multitude in the blur or defend
a solitude of barbed-wire and searchlights, the survivalist’s final solution, have I a choice?
 
To wonder far from your own or those you have called your own
to hear strangeness calling you from far away
and walk in that direction, long and far, not calculating risk
to go to meet the Stranger without fear or weapon, protection nowhere on your mind
(the Jew on the icy, rutted road on Christmas Eve prays for another Jew
the woman in the ungainly twisting shadows of the street:   Make those be a woman’s footsteps; as if she could believe in a woman’s god)
 
Find someone like yourself.   Find others.
Agree you will never desert each other.
Understand that any rift among you
means power to those who want to do you in.
Close to the center, safety; toward the edges, danger.
But I have a nightmare to tell:   I am trying to say
that to be with my people is my dearest wish
but that I also love strangers
that I crave separateness
I hear myself stuttering these words
to my worst friends and my best enemies
who watch for my mistakes in grammar
my mistakes in love.
This is the day of atonement; but do my people forgive me?
If a cloud knew loneliness and fear, I would be that cloud.
 
To love the Stranger, to love solitude—am I writing merely about privelege
about drifting from the center, drawn to edges,
a privilege we can’t afford in the world that is,
who are hated as being of our kind: faggot kicked into the icy river, woman dragged from her stalled car
into the mist-struck mountains, used and hacked to death
young scholar shot at the university gates on a summer evening walk, his prizes and studies nothing, nothing availing his Blackness
Jew deluded that she’s escaped the tribe, the laws of her exclusion, the men too holy to touch her hand;   Jew who has turned her back
on midrash and mitzvah (yet wears the chai on a thong between her breasts) hiking alone
found with a swastika carved in her back at the foot of the cliffs (did she die as queer or as Jew?)
 
Solitude, O taboo, endangered species
on the mist-struck spur of the mountain, I want a gun to defend you
In the desert, on the deserted street, I want what I can’t have:
your elder sister, Justice, her great peasant’s hand outspread
her eye, half-hooded, sharp and true 
 
And I ask myself, have I thrown courage away?
have I traded off something I don’t name?
To what extreme will I go to meet the extremist?
What will I do to defend my want or anyone’s want to search for her spirit-vision
far from the protection of those she has called her own?
Will I find O solitude
your plumes, your breasts, your hair
against my face, as in childhood, your voice like the mockingbird’s
singing Yes, you are loved, why else this song?
in the old places, anywhere?
 
What is a Jew in solitude?
What is a woman in solitude, a queer woman or man?
When the winter flood-tides wrench the tower from the rock, crumble the prophet’s headland, and the farms slide into the sea
when leviathan is endangered and Jonah becomes revenger
when center and edges are crushed together, the extremities crushed together on which the world was founded
when our souls crash together, Arab and Jew, howling our loneliness within the tribes
when the refugee child and the exile’s child re-open the blasted and forbidden city
when we who refuse to be women and men as women and men are chartered, tell our stories of solitude spent in multitude
in that world as it may be, newborn and haunted, what will solitude mean?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Checkmate

By Lucio Mariani

I was born in Rockaway, below Brooklyn, on a strip
of land that looks like a fat finger stretching into the Atlantic.
I remember no woman who cherished my cradle or teenage
awe. And yet, it was special to grow up behind a hedge,
with the ocean every day in my eyes, special
to uncover the pride my father's Italian face couldn't hide
the time I brought home my first accountant's paycheck.
He wanted to play chess and, smoking but two cigarettes,
let me beat him unequivocally, on a combination rook-and-queen.
He ended by saying to always watch out for those treacherous towers
and the black-and-white crosses their long moves plot.

"Treacherous," he said, somberly: I remembered the word
with a smile that Tuesday, September 11,
as I raced to work through Manhattan.
And I recall his warning now
that I am dust scattered by an obscene blast
dust lost among the dusts of others undone
below a ravaged sidewalk, next to the leaf where
never will my father find me not even
to hold the hand I'd use to play him. I came from Rockaway
where I knew no woman's love or warmth:
may one now come and ask the white irises
to bloom in my name, faded, erased.

Translated by Anthony Molino

Monday, September 9, 2013

A man in his life


By Yehuda Amichai

A man doesn't have time in his life 
to have time for everything. 
He doesn't have seasons enough to have 
a season for every purpose. Ecclesiastes 
Was wrong about that.

A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment, 
to laugh and cry with the same eyes, 
with the same hands to throw stones and to gather them, 
to make love in war and war in love. 
And to hate and forgive and remember and forget, 
to arrange and confuse, to eat and to digest 
what history 
takes years and years to do.

A man doesn't have time. 
When he loses he seeks, when he finds 
he forgets, when he forgets he loves, when he loves 
he begins to forget.

And his soul is seasoned, his soul 
is very professional. 
Only his body remains forever 
an amateur. It tries and it misses, 
gets muddled, doesn't learn a thing, 
drunk and blind in its pleasures 
and its pains.

He will die as figs die in autumn, 
Shriveled and full of himself and sweet, 
the leaves growing dry on the ground, 
the bare branches pointing to the place 
where there's time for everything.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Death of a Street Musician

By John Grey

The man whose head is a guitar
sits on the sidewalk, against the bank wall,
on the Providence east side.
The man who knows the song you’d love to hear.
His legs fold underneath him.
His fingers stroke invisible strings,
move up and down a non-existent fret-board.

The man whose real guitar is busted
strains to set a melody in motion
with a squeeze of brow, the cooperation of the sounds around him.
The man who has your worth at heart,
who makes the point that the tune comes not from the instrument
but from the willingness to play it.
He’s more than willing.

The man who can only do one thing well,
and your humanity is required.
He strums, he picks, he plucks.
Such a busy, vigorous silence.
It hums. It strokes. It touches you.

The man who once made music cannot diverge from his own history.
It occupies this place on the sidewalk,
against a bank wall, on the Providence east side.
This place where you forever stand and listen. 

John Grey is an Australian born poet. Recently published in International Poetry Review, Chrysalis and the science fiction anthology, “Futuredaze”with work upcoming in Potomac Review, Sanskrit and Fox Cry Review. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Return

By Rachel Barenblat

How to make it new:
each year the same missing
of the same marks,
the same petitions
and apologies.

We were impatient, unkind.
We let ego rule the day
and forgot to be thankful.
We allowed our fears
to distance us.

But every year
the ascent through Elul
does its magic,
shakes old bitterness
from our hands and hearts.

We sit awake, itemizing
ways we want to change.
We try not to mind
that this year's list
looks just like last.

The conversation gets
easier as we limber up.
Soon we can stretch farther
than we ever imagined.
We breathe deeper.

By the time we reach the top
we've forgotten
how nervous we were
that repeating the climb
wasn't worth the work.

Creation gleams before us.
The view from here matters
not because it's different
from last year
but because we are

and the way to reach God
is one breath at a time,
one step, one word,
every second a chance
to reorient, repeat, return.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Dove, Interrupted

By Lucie Brock-Broido

Don’t do that when you are dead like this, I said,
Arguably still squabbling about the word inarguably.
I haunt Versailles, poring through the markets of the medieval.
Mostly meat to be sold there; mutton hangs
Like laundry pinkened on its line.
                                And gold!—a chalice with a cure for living in it.
We step over the skirt of an Elizabeth.
Red grapes, a delicacy, each peeled for us—
The vestments of a miniature priest, disrobed. A sister is an old world sparrow placed in a satin shoe.
The weakling’s saddle is worn down from just too much sad attitude.
No one wants to face the “opaque reality” of herself.
                                                          For the life of me.
I was made American. You must consider this.
Whatever suffering is insufferable is punishable by perishable.
In Vienne, the rabbit Maurice is at home in the family cage.
I ache for him, his boredom and his solitude.
On suffering and animals, inarguably, they do.
                                                         I miss your heart, my heart.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

How to be a lawyer

By Jordan Davis

My father taught me how to play the beer bottle. It was Schlitz, and I was three or four. "You tuck your lower lip under, then blow air over the top of the bottle." I produced a tone, and we laughed. He paused. "You can make a different sound if there's less in the bottle," he said, motioning for me to take a sip. I did, then blew another note. We laughed again.

"Do you want to learn something else? Here's how to be a lawyer. Raise one eyebrow." I did so. "Good. Now hold it for a few seconds, turn toward the jury, and say 'I see.'"

How to Be a Lawyer

  by Jordan Davis
My father taught me how to play the beer bottle. It was Schlitz, and I was three or four. "You tuck your lower lip under, then blow air over the top of the bottle." I produced a tone, and we laughed. He paused. "You can make a different sound if there's less in the bottle," he said, motioning for me to take a sip. I did, then blew another note. We laughed again.

"Do you want to learn something else? Here's how to be a lawyer. Raise one eyebrow." I did so. "Good. Now hold it for a few seconds, turn toward the jury, and say 'I see.'" - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23676#sthash.FVpWMNeA.dpuf

How to Be a Lawyer

  by Jordan Davis
My father taught me how to play the beer bottle. It was Schlitz, and I was three or four. "You tuck your lower lip under, then blow air over the top of the bottle." I produced a tone, and we laughed. He paused. "You can make a different sound if there's less in the bottle," he said, motioning for me to take a sip. I did, then blew another note. We laughed again.

"Do you want to learn something else? Here's how to be a lawyer. Raise one eyebrow." I did so. "Good. Now hold it for a few seconds, turn toward the jury, and say 'I see.'" - See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23676#sthash.lRTrlfZg.dpuf