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
me.
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,
Numb.
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

Melancholy

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

Untitled

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,
fat-lipped,
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,
ashamed,
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!
You shall be master!
     In the beginning
          there was a great tortoise
who supported the world.
     Upon him
          All ultimately
rests.
     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