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