Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Peace! Peace!

By Rabbi Naomi Levy

Rachel is crying for her children
She refuses to be comforted
From beyond the grave she cries
Through the centuries
 Her tears flow
Hagar cries too
From beyond the grave and
Their tears intermingle
The tears of the mothers
Grieving over dead sons and daughters
Weeping over war
They try to shake us
Wake us
They see our promise
They prophesy our hope
From the place of eternity
Our mothers whisper
Peace
Peace Shalom Salaam
Can you hear it? 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Die

By Mitch Grabois

1.
Nurse Amy
observant and intuitive
came to tell me that Tiffany had escaped

I wondered if
she had figured out that I was in love with Tiffany
one of our patients
a chronic schizophrenic

2.
When I was four
my uncle gave me a square wooden coin bank
about the size of a fist
its sides painted with dots to make a die

Even that early he was trying to warn me about chance
and how much happiness depends on luck
The die was the only possession I kept from childhood
Its wisdom was the only wisdom I needed
It eclipsed all other understanding

3.
I’d never wanted to fall in love with Tiffany
--it was a struggle to get her to brush her teeth--
it just happened
No ethics board would accept that
as an explanation

4.
Though I loved the die, I had never cleaned it
and after forty years its surfaces were darkened and marred
Amy had brought me this terrible news
but maybe it was lucky that Tiffany had escaped
before I got into real trouble

On an impulse I picked up the die and tossed it to Amy
It wasn’t a good toss, but she reached out and one-handed it 
She was more athletic than I had imagined

5.
I felt in my bones that Tiffany would not be found
Then I shuddered
and felt nothing at all

6.
Each of Amy’s fingers
gripping the die
posed a question or offered a comment

The pointer asked: Where did she go?
The index finger: Will she come back?
The ring finger said: Her leaving, her escape, is totally unacceptable
The pinkie: Her return is a necessity

Amy’s thumb remained mute
pressed against the die
but there was a hiss from under the
cuticle-- Don’t wait, Hank, go find her


Mitch Grabois’ poetry and short fiction has appeared in over seventy literary magazines, most recently The Examined Life, Memoir Journal, and Haggard and Halloo. His novel, Two-Headed Dog was published in April by Dirt e-books, founded by NY agent Gary Heidt. He was born in the Bronx and now lives in Denver. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's Also Fine

By Mourid Barghouti

It’s also fine to die in our beds
on a clean pillow
and among our friends.
It’s fine to die, once,
our hands crossed on our chests,
empty and pale,
with no scratches, no chains, no banners,
and no petitions.
It’s fine to have a clean death,
with no holes in our shirts,
and no evidence in our ribs.
It’s fine to die
with a white pillow, not the pavement, under our cheek,
with our hands resting in those of our loved ones,
surrounded by desperate doctors and nurses,
with nothing left but a graceful farewell,
paying no attention to history,
leaving this world as it is,
hoping that, someday, someone else
will change it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Untitled

By Helen Govan

I hope your kilt will fit you well
and in it you will look a swell
If married never mind
if single drop a line
Wish you bags of luck
and a speedy return back to Blighty.

This poem was reportedly found stitched into the folds of a WWI kilt. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Very Young Children

By John Updike

They will not be the same next time. The sayings
so cute, just slightly off, will be corrected.
Their eyes will be more skeptical, plugged in
the more securely to the worldly buzz
of television, alphabet, and street talk,
culture polluting their gazes' dawn blue.
It makes you see at last the value of
those boring aunts and neighbors (their smells
of summer sweat and cigarettes, their faces
like shapes of sky between shade-giving leaves)
who knew you from the start, when you were zero,
cooing their nothings before you could be bored
or knew a name, not even you own, or how
this world brave with hellos turns all goodbye.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ice Cream Stop

By Shel Silverstein  

The circus train made an ice cream stop
At the fifty-two flavor ice cream stand.
The animals all got off the train
And walked right up to the ice cream man.
“I’ll take Vanilla,” yelled the gorilla.
“I’ll take Chocolate,” shouted the ocelot.
“I’ll take Strawberry,” chirped the canary.
“Rocky Road,” croaked the toad
“Lemon and Lime,” growled the lion.
Said the ice cream man, “Til I see a dime,
You’ll get no ice cream of mine.”
Then the animals snarled and screeched and growled
And whinnied and whimpered and hooted and howled
And gobbled up the whole ice cream stand,
All fifty-two flavors
(fifty-three with the ice cream man).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Suffering the Unattainable

By David Dodd Lee

Large sea turtles and some whales
will outlive us, water a manifestation of wind in

   another dimension.
I had to use the shovel to hack at the wood, had to grab

a hatchet, down deep in the hole. The oak pitched around
like a ship’s mast, or I was no longer alive; perhaps I was yet

    to be
all over again, though I kept recalling your name. The verdurous 
roots.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sabbath lie

By Yehuda Amichai
 
On Friday, at twilight of a summer day
While the smells of food and prayer rose from every house
And the sound of the Sabbath angels’ wings was in the air,
While still a child I started to lie to my father:
“I went to another synagogue.”

I don’t know if he believed me or not
But the taste of the lie was good and sweet on my tongue
And in all the houses that night
Hymns rose up along with lies
To celebrate the Sabbath.
And in all the houses that night
Sabbath angels died like flies in a lamp,
And lovers put mouth to mouth,
Blew each other up until they floated upward,
Or burst.

And since then the lie has been good and sweet on my tongue
And since then I always go to another synagogue.
And my father returned the lie when he died:
“I’ve gone to another life.”
 
Translated By Glenda Abramson and Tudor Parfitt

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

#AllyFail

By J. Mase III

You are the kind of ally that would rather ask me how to twerk than how to pronounce my name
You are the kind of ally that doesn't know what cisgender means but loves staring at my chest before you address me
You are the kind of ally that makes me wonder who my enemies are and trips over words like transphobia and white supremacy
You are the kind of ally that will practice your sassy black woman voice in the mirror
but cross the street when black folks pass by you on street corners
You are the kind of ally that just showed up to help gay people have fancy weddings
You are the kind of ally that wants to take pictures together just for advertising purposes
You are the ally that calls my family's neighborhood up and coming
but would never want to bring up the word gentrification
You are ally on white horse
seemingly scooping down to rescue me from my own depravities
You are the kind of ally that shops only at wholefoods
You are the ally that doesn't realize being gay won't save you from your white privilege
You are the ally that tells old black men how adorable they are
You are the ally that sends me links to articles you've only read the title to
You are the ally that will think "gosh, this couldn't possibly be a poem about me"
You are ally, waving righteous sword that loves to hear me tell a sad story over and over again because vicariously living my pain gives you some street cred
You are the kind of ally that thinks intersectionality uses too many syllables
You are the ally that thinks it's okay to describe someone as having the nerve to be both big AND black
You are the ally that loves the texture of my hair
You are the ally that thinks fucking me is the same as fighting for me
You are the kind of ally that thinks you are hilarious when you rap
You are the ally that writes depressing poems in my honor but never fully gets my complexities
You are the ally that has enough time to google celebrity sex tapes but not rules on allyship
You are the ally that celebrates don't ask don't tell because kids that look like you will never be forced to cross seas to bomb kids that look like them just so they can have some of your fictitious "freedom"
You are the ally that thinks being accepted is the same as being understood
You are the ally that laughs way too hard at my jokes
You are the kind of ally that will share a poem like this on YouTube but will never listen to the words
You are the kind of ally that doesn't understand the problem with words like minorities
You are the kind of ally that believes being on food stamps for your adult Americorps position is the same as a 10 year old brain eating itself for nourishment
You are the kind of ally that thinks I talk too loud when I am angry
You are the ally that thinks rape is funny because it hasn't happened to you
You are that ally that thinks saying you are colorblind is a compliment
You are the ally that thinks believing in systemic oppression is an option
You are the ally that will fuck up my pronouns but think it's okay, cause we're friends
You are the kind of ally that will need to appropriate some yoga after this poem
You are the kind of ally that will only remember that last line about yoga in this poem
You are the ally that never has to progress, because you have already proclaimed yourself to be
my ally

This poem previously appeared in the Huffington Post. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Trouble With the Stars and Stripes

By Naomi Shihab Nye

I couldn't make my annual flag cake, the one with strawberries for stripes and blueberries for states and white mountain frosting puffing up proudly between. I couldn't even wear a bandanna on the 4th of July. It hurts, this year. Let's talk about the difference between victory and public relations. Let's talk about the size of words. I weighed words during the war, putting them on secret scales, and never once did things balance out. My husband who never shouts shouted in his sleep while the bombs were dropping, "I just don't think humans are doing a very good job!" After the war he traveled to Iraq to make photographs. We have no idea. We can still feel good in this country about what we don't see, if we give it a good enough name. All forms of righteousness begin to terrify. A presidential address, a church. My husband stares when he hears certain words. My enemy - "Who is so beautiful," he whispers.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Untitled

Jeff Koons has won.
The reigning artist-king
its proud court jester
the poster child for art-world excess
a bland Mitt Romney Teletubby
a mysterious force of nature
the perma-smiling master of high art and low
as freakish as Andy Warhol:
complicated, bizarre, thrilling, alien,
benevolent, terrifying, goofy
always-immaculate
Is his factory of art makers really that different from Buzzfeed?

Gleaming in the ghost-light of fluorescent tubes,
shiny new Hoovers in pristine, sealed acrylic cases
anthropomorphized and fetishized,
odes to domesticity, hygiene and American assembly lines,
rendering consumerism into something deeply libidinous.
Hyper-anal-retentive Pop collages

peppered with cartoon creatures and vulvas,
miraculous constructions in which basketballs float
in minutely calibrated salt water
Shellacked paintings of flying sandwiches and grinning monkeys,
paint, dessert and psychedelic poop
Something fantastic, something disastrous
They don't even revile; they merely recede.
Silliness, shininess, filled with flops,
with waxed chest and having anal sex
Buoyant devices that will sink you,
a creepy fecundity suggestive of erupting skin, simmering mud or sewage,
a pietà-inspired homage to the King of Pop
and his favorite monkey,
a ridiculous marble sculpture
depicting a bejeweled and barechested Staller
The perfect Kardashian wedding centerpiece.

Jeff Koons poses next to a pig, grinning
Jeff Koons wears a luxurious bathrobe
Jeff Koons is served cake by half-naked women
Jeff Koons stands in front of a room full of children spelling out the word banality on a chalkboard
His mystifying persona is perhaps his most enduring artwork
He irritates most when he insists he has no desire to irritate.
Only a cynic could see cynicism
in this cosmically, freakishly sincere true believer
He loves childhood, and sex
He wants to be your Norman Rockwell, your life coach and your gym buddy.

The hype has been endless for this.
The oligarchical collectors of our age, we know, do not care
They like their art instantly recognisable
easily graspable
unchallenging
and shiny.
Little more than a Gagosian showroom
High-production art that sells like crystal meth —
the readymade crossed with greed, money, creepy beauty, and the ugliness of our culture,
reek[ing] of Gilded Age excess, art star hubris
the ever-widening inequality gap
thoughts, however unformed, about who culture is aimed at and how desire is constructed.
That ball is made for you; look in it, and you see yourself.
Join the idolaters and take another selfie
in the distorted reflection of Koons's mirrored objects


There is a funereal air about this exhibition
The God Hercules, a Belvedere torso, and a pimped-out mailbox,
each with a single blue gazing ball,
an amorous Pink Panther
a pig flanked by angels
a London bobby befriending a goofy bear
Bubbles, still affronts and generates an agreeable queasiness.
There's something truly cruel in his sculptures' indifference to any audience desire for profundity
Koons himself, smiling too broadly
to see the culture he propitiates collapse around him
Pity his army of studio assistants
“You’re a killer of art, you’re a killer of beauty ... you’re even a killer of laughter.”
His universal shtick is an illusion,
the most potent and inventive artist of this mad, frothy era
That era will come to an end.


 This poem is a cut-up of criticism made by various art critics over the years, and was put together by the Whitney Art Museum for a retrospective about the artist. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Right to Life

By Marge Piercy

A woman is not a basket you place
your buns in to keep them warm. Not a brood
hen you can slip duck eggs under.
Not the purse holding the coins of your
descendants till you spend them in wars.
Not a bank where your genes gather interest
and interesting mutations in the tainted
rain, any more than you are.

You plant corn and you harvest
it to eat or sell. You put the lamb
in the pasture to fatten and haul it in to
butcher for chops. You slice the mountain
in two for a road and gouge the high plains
for coal and the waters run muddy for
miles and years. Fish die but you do not
call them yours unless you wished to eat them.

Now you legislate mineral rights in a woman.
You lay claim to her pastures for grazing,
fields for growing babies like iceberg
lettuce. You value children so dearly
that none ever go hungry, none weep
with no one to tend them when mothers
work, none lack fresh fruit,
none chew lead or cough to death and your
orphanages are empty. Every noon the best
restaurants serve poor children steaks.
At this moment at nine o'clock a partera
is performing a table top abortion on an
unwed mother in Texas who can't get
Medicaid any longer. In five days she will die
of tetanus and her little daughter will cry
and be taken away. Next door a husband
and wife are sticking pins in the son
they did not want. They will explain
for hours how wicked he is,
how he wants discipline.

We are all born of woman, in the rose
of the womb we suckled our mother's blood
and every baby born has a right to love
like a seedling to sun. Every baby born
unloved, unwanted, is a bill that will come
due in twenty years with interest, an anger
that must find a target, a pain that will
beget pain. A decade downstream a child
screams, a woman falls, a synagogue is torched,
a firing squad is summoned, a button
is pushed and the world burns.

I will choose what enters me, what becomes
of my flesh. Without choice, no politics,
no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield,
not your uranium mine, not your calf
for fattening, not your cow for milking.
You may not use me as your factory.
Priests and legislators do not hold shares
in my womb or my mind.
This is my body. If I give it to you
I want it back. My life
is a non-negotiable demand.

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