Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Summer Sky

By JoyAnne O'Donnell

I always felt
the summer
was blessed
with fruit
with flowers
that color
and scent
our hunger
for life
our energy strife to swim
like a shark's fin
in the ocean
that carries our emotion
our love potion.


JoyAnne O'Donnell is a Pushcart-nominated poet. She is also a peace poet. JoyAnne writes her poems outside to feel the energy of the poem's spirit.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Theme for English B

By Langston Hughes

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you--
Then, it will be true.


I wonder if it's that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It's not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I'm what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me--we two--you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me--who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records--Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn't make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?

Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white--
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That's American.
Sometimes perhaps you don't want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that's true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me--
although you're older--and white--
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Shortest Day

By Susan Cooper

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

See the Woman

By John Trudell

 She has a young face
An old face
She carries herself well
In all ages
She survives all man has done

In some tribes she is free
In some religions
She is under man
In some societies
She’s worth what she consumes

In some nations
She is delicate strength
In some states
She is told she is weak
In some classes
She is property owned

In all instances
She is sister to earth
In all conditions
She is life bringer
In all life she is our necessity

See the woman eyes
Flowers swaying
On scattered hills
Sun dancing calling in the bees

See the woman heart
Lavender butterflies
Fronting blue sky
Misty rain falling
On soft wild roses

See the woman beauty
Lightning streaking
Dark summer nights
Forests of pines mating
With new winter snow

See the woman spirit
Daily serving courage
With laughter
Her breath a dream
And a prayer

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Active Shooter’s Daughter

By Brittney Corrigan

I wasn’t enough. My new eyes, dark
and starshined, weren’t enough. My downy
scalp, still fragrant with the scent of beginnings,
was not enough. My small fingers wrapped
round her thumb were not enough. My coos. My
laughter. My wails when she left me. Not enough.
I wasn’t there. I wasn’t swathed against
her breast the way I should have been, slung
close enough to hear her metronomic heart,
cling to her new-mother belly, twist her
thick hair, bury my face in her neck. She passed
me over. Held something else in her arms.
I wasn’t enough. The reaching of my limbs for
her body in the night was not enough. The babble
rippling from my waking lips was not enough.
My skin sweet as ripe fruit. My ears tuned
to the lilting of her voice. My face a moon
of promise. Not enough. Not enough. Not enough.
I wasn’t old enough to know. My lullabies
sung with metallic snaps and clicks. The rhythmic
rattle of ammunition shells. The shiny barrels
polished and carressed, so clean and tended.
Handed to my father as she leaned to place me
in my crib, cupped the heels of my feet in her palms.
I wasn’t enough. The auspice of my future.
Not enough. The safety of my world. Not enough.
The empty house, the shattered family. Neither
were enough. The road of shame before me.
The thought of me abandoned. The gaping of my life
without her life. None of it. None of it enough.
I wasn’t responsible. But oh sisters, oh brothers and fathers
and mothers, oh daughters and sons, oh friends and dear ones
crouched and laid flat by your fear, oh survivors, oh wounded,
oh ghosts. I wasn’t enough. I couldn’t stop them. Couldn’t
hold their hearts. So hold me. Hold me up into the mourners
and the cameras and the sun. Enough. Enough. Enough.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Thanksgivings

By Harriet Maxwell Converse

Based on a traditional Iroquois prayer

 We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here
 to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered
 that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products
 to live on. We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs
 for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming
 from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows
 for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder
 and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun
 that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being
 of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs,
 the stars.
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard
 through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant
 occasion.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music,
 and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies
 on this occasion.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Trying to Name What Doesn’t Change

By Naomi Shihab Nye
 
Roselva says the only thing that doesn’t change   
is train tracks. She’s sure of it.
The train changes, or the weeds that grow up spidery   
by the side, but not the tracks.
I’ve watched one for three years, she says,
and it doesn’t curve, doesn’t break, doesn’t grow.

Peter isn’t sure. He saw an abandoned track
near Sabinas, Mexico, and says a track without a train   
is a changed track. The metal wasn’t shiny anymore.   
The wood was split and some of the ties were gone.

Every Tuesday on Morales Street
butchers crack the necks of a hundred hens.   
The widow in the tilted house
spices her soup with cinnamon.
Ask her what doesn’t change.

Stars explode.
The rose curls up as if there is fire in the petals.   
The cat who knew me is buried under the bush.

The train whistle still wails its ancient sound   
but when it goes away, shrinking back
from the walls of the brain,
it takes something different with it every time.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Untitled

By Karuna Ezara Parikh

It is not Paris we should pray for.
It is the world. It is a world in which Beirut
reeling from bombings two days before Paris,
is not covered in the press.

A world in which a bomb goes off
at a funeral in Baghdad,
and not one person's status update says "Baghdad",
because not one white person died in that fire.

Pray for the world
that blames a refugee crisis for a terror attack.
That does not pause to differentiate between the attacker
and the person running from the very same thing you are.

Pray for a world...
where people walking across countries for months,
their only belongings upon their backs,
are told they have no place to go,
Say a prayer for Paris by all means,
but pray more,
for the world that does not have a prayer for those who no longer have a home to defend.

For a world that is falling apart in all corners,
and not simply in the towers and cafes we find so familiar.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Diameter of the Bomb

By Yehuda Amichai

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters
and the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,
with four dead and eleven wounded.
And around these, in a larger circle
of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered
and one graveyard. But the young woman
who was buried in the city she came from,
at a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,
enlarges the circle considerably,
and the solitary man mourning her death
at the distant shores of a country far across the sea
includes the entire world in the circle.
And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans
that reaches up to the throne of God and
beyond, making
a circle with no end and no God.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dreamers

By Siegfried Sassoon
 
Soldiers are citizens of death's grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time's to-morrows.   
In the great hour of destiny they stand,
Each with his feuds, and jealousies, and sorrows.   
Soldiers are sworn to action; they must win   
Some flaming, fatal climax with their lives.
Soldiers are dreamers; when the guns begin
They think of firelit homes, clean beds and wives.

I see them in foul dug-outs, gnawed by rats,
And in the ruined trenches, lashed with rain,   
Dreaming of things they did with balls and bats,
And mocked by hopeless longing to regain   
Bank-holidays, and picture shows, and spats,
And going to the office in the train.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November 4, 1995

By Eve Lyons

Watching Pulp Fiction on Israeli TV,
the camp-like kibbutz fast asleep.
Lexi complaining of bugs in
the bed we shared.
She couldn't sleep, later I would think
it was as if she knew.
The movie was interrupted by a phone call.
I refused to answer it,
even though I was the only one awake.
After all, it wasn't my house.
Ring after ring after ring
finally someone picked it up.
Lexi trampled out,
itchy and groggy, banged on
their door. It was their daughter,
calling from the other end
of the kibbutz.
She had received a call from Tel Eviv.
"Somebody's been shot
at the peace rally," was the news.
Five minutes later, she called back.
"Rabin's been shot at the rally."
Lexi and I could barely react. The newsbreak
was more confused than I was.
Later, Lexi would swear and
I would let my shock consume me.
The next day we returned to Jerusalem
like nothing had happened,
trying not to think about the body
of the prime minister
on its way to the same place.
We were as solemn as the soldiers
in the strangely empty bus
from Kiryat Shmona.


Published in Fireweed, August 1999

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Black Unicorn

By Audre Lorde

The black unicorn is greedy.
The black unicorn is impatient.
The black unicorn was mistaken
for a shadow or symbol
and taken
through a cold country
where mist painted mockeries
of my fury.
It is not on her lap where the horn rests
but deep in her moonpit
growing.
The black unicorn is restless
the black unicorn is unrelenting
the black unicorn is not
free.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A manifesto

By Karen Estrella

After Joshua Bennett 

 “Say it” you command
sing it

and yet
I seem to have lost my voice
I seem to have lost
The very thread
That I wrapped around my finger
So that I wouldn’t forget

That I am beautiful
That you are worthy
Of trust

The very thread
That runs through my
Story
What is my story?

Make it
You say
Take it
You say
Trust the process

You say

And yet
Trust
is a word
that sounds so trite
in my ears

I cannot even trust
What I hear
From inside my own heart

Oh, and I am deaf too
My ear drums
Have been silenced

The ramparts red glare
The bombs bursting in air
Have seemed to burst those
Drums in my ears

I cannot find myself
In the American dream
I have become a zombie

The night of the living dead
Has become my default station

My waylay
My way
stay

Maybe there are drums
That can talk to my soul
That can wake up my heart

Voodoo drums
Like those that
Frankie sang about
Do do that voodoo
That you do so well

Do something to me

Make me
Wake me
Shake me

What will it
take me
To revive

To revise
This script
I can’t seem to
stray from

I can’t seem to
Unbind myself
Undo myself
From this mistrust

This mistake
I’ve staked my heart upon

This misappropriation of funds
I have mislaid

I am spent

Too tired
I am tired
Of trying
Of living
This dream
That promised me
The pursuit of happiness

I seem only to have
Been given the pursuit
I have been hunted down
By my ghosts

I have been
Held up
By my kin folk

They sit there
With their accusing finger
Pointed
at my heart

You are not
Entitled
To an endless supply

You are not
Entitled
To the right
To speak your mind

You are not
Entitled

To a voice
That speaks American

You are not
Entitled
To spend your trust
On something
You cannot name
You cannot speak
You cannot keep
Making
Something
Out of nothing

Make it
You say
Take it
You say
Trust the process
You say

And yet
Trust
is a word
that sounds so trite
in my ears

Friday, October 23, 2015

Peaches

By Adrienne Su

A crate of peaches straight from the farm
has to be maintained, or eaten in days.
Obvious, but in my family, they went so fast,
I never saw the mess that punishes delay.

I thought everyone bought fruit by the crate,
stored it in the coolest part of the house,
then devoured it before any could rot.
I'm from the Peach State, and to those

who ask But where are you from originally,
I'd like to reply The homeland of the peach,
but I'm too nice, and they might not look it up.
In truth, the reason we bought so much

did have to do with being Chinese-at least
Chinese in that part of America, both strangers
and natives on a lonely, beautiful street
where food came in stackable containers

and fussy bags, unless you bothered to drive
to the source, where the same money landed
a bushel of fruit, a twenty-pound sack of rice.
You had to drive anyway, each house surrounded

by land enough to grow your own, if lawns
hadn't been required. At home I loved to stare
into the extra freezer, reviewing mountains
of foil-wrapped meats, cakes, juice concentrate,
mysterious packets brought by house guests
from New York Chinatown, to be transformed
by heat, force, and my mother's patient effort,
enough to keep us fed through flood or storm,
provided the power stayed on, or fire and ice
could be procured, which would be labor-intensive,
but so was everything else my parents did.
Their lives were labor, they kept this from the kids,

who grew up to confuse work with pleasure,
to become typical immigrants' children,
taller than their parents and unaware of hunger
except when asked the odd, perplexing question.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Yad Mordechai

Yad Mordechai. Those who fell here 
 still look out the windows like sick children
who are not allowed outside to play.
And on the hillside, the battle is reenacted
for the benefit of hikers and tourists. Soldiers of thin sheet iron
rise and fall and rise again. Sheet iron dead and a sheet iron life
and the voices all—sheet iron. And the resurrection of the dead,
sheet iron that clangs and clangs.

And I said to myself: Everyone is attached to his own lament
as to a parachute. Slowly he descends and slowly hovers
until he touches the hard place.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Queer

By Frank Bidart

Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.


Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That's what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.

For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial

scenario

forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.

Involuted velleities of self-erasure.

Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative

designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror
.

Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults' genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life. You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

By Sally Wen Mao

In Lijiang, the sign outside your hostel
       glares: Ride alone, ride alone, ride
alone — it taunts you for the mileage
       of your solitude, must be past
thousands, for you rode this plane
      alone, this train alone, you'll ride
this bus alone well into the summer night,
      well into the next hamlet, town,
city, the next century, as the trees twitch
     and the clouds wane and the tides
quiver and the galaxies tilt and the sun
    spins us another lonely cycle, you'll

wonder if this compass will ever change.
   The sun doesn't need more heat,
so why should you? The trees don't need
   to be close, so why should you?  

Friday, September 25, 2015

Untitled

 By Anonymous

When I was six years old, I gave my first blowjob.
“It’s a game”, said He. “Don’t you want to play?”
It was too big, and I threw up on him.
He said I’d do better the next time.

When I was seven years old, I watched a group of fellow second graders cheer as a boy in my class tried to kiss me. He hugged me from behind, giggling all the while.
I threw sand in his eyes, and was sent to the Principal.

When I was eight years old, I had an elderly teacher ask me to stay behind in class. He carried me on his shoulders, and called me pretty.
“Teacher’s Pet!” my friends declared, the envy visible on their faces.
They ignored me at lunch that day.

When I was nine years old, an older girl on the school bus would ask me to lift my skirt up for her. She was pretty and kind, and told me that I could only be her friend if I did what she said.
I wanted to be her friend.

When I was ten years old, a relative demanded that he get a kiss on the cheek every time we met. He was large and loud, and I proceeded to hide under my bed whenever I learnt that he was visiting.
I was known as a rude child.

When I was eleven, my auto-man told me that we would only leave if I gave him a hug every day.
He smelled like cheap soap and cigarettes.

When I was twelve years old, I watched as a man on the street touched my mother’s breast as he passed us. She slapped him amidst the shouts of onlookers telling her to calm down.
She didn’t calm down.

When I was thirteen years old, I exited a restaurant only to see a man visibly masturbating as he walked towards me. As he passed, he winked lasciviously.
My friends and I shifted our gazes down, aghast.

When I was fourteen, a young man in an expensive car followed me home as I walked back from an evening class. I ignored his offer to give me a ride, and I panicked when he got out, only to buy me a box of chocolate that I refused. He parked at the end of my road, and didn’t go away for an hour.
“It turns me on to see you so scared.”

When I was fifteen, I was groped on a bus. It was with a heart full of shame that I confided in a friend, only to be met with his anger and disappointment that I had not shouted at the molester at the time when it happened. My soft protests of being afraid and alone were drowned out as he berated my inaction. To him, my passiveness and silence were the reasons why things like this continue to happen.
He did not wait for my response.

When I was sixteen, I discovered that Facebook had a section of inbox messages named ‘others’, which contained those mails received from strangers, automatically stored as spam. Curious, I opened it to find numerous messages from men I had never seen before. I was propositioned, called sexy, asked for nudes, and insulted.
Delete message.

When I was seventeen, I called for help as a drunken man tried to sexually harass me in a crowded street.
The people around me seemed to walk by quicker.

At eighteen, I was told that sexism doesn’t exist in modern society.
I was told that harassment couldn’t be as bad as us women make it out to be.
That I should watch what I wear.
Never mind you were six, never mind you were wearing pink pajamas.
That I should be louder.
But not too loud, a lady must be polite.
That I should always ask for help.
But stop overreacting, there’s a difference.
That I should stay in at night, because it isn’t safe.
You can’t get harassed in broad daylight.
That I should always travel with no less than two boys with me.
You need to be protected. 

That it can’t be that hard to be a girl.

I am now nineteen years old.
I am now tired.

(This poem was posted anonymously to Glasnost, which describes itself as National Law University New Delhi's Independent Student Newspaper)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Oppresion

By Langston Hughes

Now dreams
Are not available
To the dreamers,
Nor songs
To the singers.

In some lands
Dark night
And  cold steel
Prevail
But the dream
Will come back,
And the song
Break
Its jail.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

What Have I Done?

By Shannon Leigh

She stands
Hands shaking
Lips moving in prayer
to a god they tell her is not listening
Outside it is cold and the faces of her attackers
line the cement walls like bathroom tiles
She has come to kill her baby.
That is what they say
Holding pictures of cut up stillbirths
Trying to tell her the thing inside her is shaped like us
when two days earlier on the ultrasound
a nurse showed her the gills.
She does not need anyone to tell her
it is more than a clump of cells
At eight weeks she already knows her daughter’s colors
Baby blue and bright pink
Like infant fireworks.
The shape of nose and eyes so very familiar
this child,
who would grow up to welfare and gun shots
asking why thunder seems so close
and where daddy was.
She stands
and prays.
Daughter,
Look away from this world and be with God
There is no mercy in the streets for little girls
and I would not be able to protect you from monsters
I was twelve when my mother failed me
They called her murderer
Her heart stretches out
and touches tendrils that one day could be human
I have been there.
Stood there before protesters
telling me God wants my baby to be born
while I remember the faces of the children I worked with
seven to a bedroom
eating rice for three days and starving for four
the children too old or so-called troubled to find homes
whose homeless mothers birthed them on cardboard boxes
and cut the cords with a broken vial.
Oh yes
The world surely needs more babies
whose parents would not be able to educate them
because their own educations were cut short
who know daddy as the man who hurt my mommy
who ever knew they were anything less than wanted.
Children know
They flounder under the weight of their parents’ bitter yokes
and grow to question their very worth
My clump of cells would grow up seeing my dead dreams
Twining around my arms like vines
holding me down to a life I could learn to love
But that is not why God made a heart
strong enough to make my own decisions.
They call me reckless and irresponsible
A slut and and a murderer
When abstinence education makes women believe their boyfriends
when they say you can’t get pregnant the first time
I pumped chemicals into my body for years
skin browning from untested carcinogens
Condoms break
And despite the rhetoric of fundamentalist men
afraid of the sacred
sex us beautiful
If done right and consciously
What drove me to this
they said God can help manage
But last time I checked
It’s been thousands of years since lost children
were rained down manna
And if your God knows me
like I believe He does
Fully and intimately
Exposed and unworthy
My beginning and my ending
He already knows what I am doing
Do not question your God’s omnipotence
in my name
It is blasphemy
to say you know more about my body
than the Creator of it
I stand
I will bear no child
who will think love means war
who will tell women making the choice to save two lives
that they are whores
Who belive God created the universe in seven days
and man can interpret it in four
I stand
And for the women who should stand proudly
but shove secrets into boxes
I ask
What have we done
that you wouldn’t have?


To hear a reading of this poem, go here.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Peace of Wild Things

By Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Elegy for the Forgotten Oldsmobile

By Adrian C. Louis

July 4th and all is Hell.
Outside my shuttered breath the streets bubble
with flame-loined kids in designer jeans
looking for people to rape or razor.
A madman covered with running sores
is on the street corner singing:
O beautiful for spacious skies…
This landscape is far too convenient
to be either real or metaphor.
In an alley behind a 7-11
a Black pimp dressed in Harris tweed
preaches fidelity to two pimply whores
whose skin is white though they aren’t quite.
And crosstown in the sane precincts
of Brown University where I added rage
to Cliff Notes and got two degrees
bearded scientists are stringing words
outside the language inside the guts of atoms
and I don’t know why I’ve come back to visit.
O Uncle Adrian! I’m in the reservation of my mind.
Chicken bones in a cardboard casket
meditate upon the linoleum floor.
Outside my flophouse door stewed
and sinister winos snore in a tragic chorus.
The snowstorm t.v. in the lobby’s their mother.
Outside my window on the jumper’s ledge
ice wraiths shiver and coat my last cans of Bud
though this is summer I don’t know why or where
the souls of Indian sinners fly.
Uncle Adrian, you died last week—cirrhosis.
I still have the photo of you in your Lovelock
letterman’s jacket—two white girls on your arms—
first team All-State halfback in ’45, ’46.
But nothing is static. I am in the reservation of
my mind. Embarrassed moths unravel my shorts
thread by thread asserting insectival lust.
I’m a naked locoweed in a city scene.
What are my options? Why am I back in this city?
When I sing of the American night my lungs billow
Camels astride hacking appeals for cessation.
My mother’s zippo inscribed: “Stewart Indian School—1941”
explodes in my hand in elegy to Dresden Antietam
and Wounded Knee and finally I have come to see
this mad fag nation is dying.
Our ancestors’ murderer is finally dying and I guess
I should be happy and dance with the spirit or project
my regret to my long-lost high school honey
but history has carried me to a place
where she has a daughter older than we were
when we first shared flesh.
She is the one who could not marry me
because of the dark-skin ways in my blood.
Love like that needs no elegy but because
of the baked-prick possibility of the flame lakes of Hell
I will give one last supper and sacrament
to the dying beast of need disguised as love
on deathrow inside my ribcage.
I have not forgotten the years of midnight hunger
when I could see how the past had guided me
and I cried and held the pillow, muddled
in the melodrama of the quite immature
but anyway, Uncle Adrian…
Here I am in the reservation of my mind
and silence settles forever
the vacancy of this cheap city room.
In the wine darkness my cigarette coal
tints my face with Geronimo’s rage
and I’m in the dry hills with a Winchester
waiting to shoot the lean, learned fools
who taught me to live-think in English.
Uncle Adrian…
to make a long night story short,
you promised to give me your Oldsmobile in 1962.
How come you didn’t?
I could have had some really good times in high school.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Whatever Lifts your Luggage

By Adam Stone

The nun teaching sex education
rolls the condom the wrong way over the banana
in a room full of starved monkeys

The sheep in wolf's clothing tells you to master your own destiny

The chickens are giving lessons in proper lipstick application

Every frightened old faggot in a red white and blue balled suit
wants to cure your homosexuality with his star spangled asshole

The praying mantis preaches monogamy and non-violence

The suitcase wishes you'd never leave the house

The republican drafting anti-gay marriage legislation
only sucks dick for research
It's not like he's getting enjoyment out of it

The sequins sing the praises of subtlety

Lions roam from college to college
educating students on the benefits of veganism

Plankton are trying to save the whales

Senators tapping their feet in airport bathrooms
are just practicing Morse Code

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Prayer for My Grandson

By Bonnie Lyons

He places anything resembling a cell phone
against the side of his head and listens,
and when his pudgy, dimpled finger fails
to awaken music from the iPad icon

his fist carries his mother's finger over, assuming
she has the magic touch.
For now she does: she adores her giggly
gorgeous black 16-month-old son.

But her finger can control gadgets, not people
and when at Arlington Vermont's "Norman's Attic"
(think Rockwell) street fair I buy him a handmade (in China)
sweater, his wary grandpa whispers, "His first hoodie."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ay, ay, ay de la grifa negra

By Julia de Burgos

Ay, ay, ay, that am kinky-haired and pure black
kinks in my hair, Kafir in my lips;
and my flat nose Mozambiques.

Black of pure tint, I cry and laugh
the vibration of being a black statue;
a chunk of night, in which my white
teeth are lightning;
and to be a black vine
which entwines in the black
and curves the black nest
in which the raven lies.
Black chunk of black in which I sculpt myself,
ay, ay, ay, my statue is all black.

They tell me that my grandfather was the slave
for whom the master paid thirty coins.
Ay, ay, ay, that the slave was my grandfather
is my sadness, is my sadness.
If he had been the master
it would be my shame:
that in men, as in nations,
if being the slave is having no rights
being the master is having no conscience.

Ay, ay, ay wash the sins of the white King
in forgiveness black Queen.

Ay, ay, ay, the race escapes me
and buzzes and flies toward the white race,
to sink in its clear water;
or perhaps the white will be shadowed in the black.

Ay, ay, ay my black race flees
and with the white runs to become bronzed;
to be one for the future,
fraternity of America!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Robert Underhill’s Present

By Cynthia Macdonald
 
He was eight when they gave him the felt overcoat—
his birthday.

He knew it was special.
He was still reading Walter Scott not Gogol. The coat was light grey   
and he was a knight in armor. It was adamant. Iced snowballs   
and other missiles no longer hurt. Or barely.

He grew as do all boys who are not dwarves or midgets. The coat   
grew, too. It kept pain out, and in.

He only looked at colleges in northern places.

He often drew the coat about him, like heroines   
wrapping their shawls more tightly.

He was the intrepid leader through fresh snow and blue snow   
and rotten ice and the Mojave.

He loved to look at women. It is difficult   
to make love wearing an overcoat.

Gestalt and sandbox therapy did not help him   
remove the coat, but helped him to talk about it,   
to acknowledge it was there.

He knew that all the others knew, had always known.   
Some urged him to undress.

He saw La Boheme in San Francisco and felt betrayed   
when Schaunard sold his coat. Each time he played the CD   
he cried at the last act.

He knew he had to get it off. Several times: Almost. Almost.   
Perhaps that is exaggeration. He’d cut off a sleeve or a lapel.   
But only pulled and wrenched the whole: it was so thick.

Finally, at sixty-five he knew he could not. And sank   
into despair, the very state the coat was meant   
to turn away.

He took a ship to France for his last meal.
He took one home to jump. Felt really pulled   
him down into the deep.

Friday, August 14, 2015

I Worried

By Mary Oliver

I worried a lot.  Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up.  And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Short Note to My Very Critical and Well-Beloved Friends and Comrades

By June Jordan

First they said I was too light
Then they said I was too dark
Then they said I was too different
Then they said I was too much the same
Then they said I was too young
Then they said I was too old
Then they said I was too interracial
Then they said I was too much a nationalist
Then they said I was too silly
Then they said I was too angry
Then they said I was too idealistic
Then they said I was too confusing altogether:
Make up your mind!
They said, Are you militant? Or sweet?
Are you vegetarian or meat?
Are you straight? Or are you gay?
And I said, Hey! It’s not about my mind.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Giving and Getting

By Tony Hoaglad

I like that, he said in the hospital, where I was rubbing his feet
which were dry and smelled a bit.

Ahh, he said, ahhh, as I worried
what the nurse in the corridor might think,

pushing my thumbs into the pads and calluses,
the skin that had grown leathery and hard

                                        over a lifetime of streets and shoes—

and me trying but unable to forget
some of the things he had done

over the course of our long friendship.
Rubbing his feet was like reaching into some

thick part of my heart that couldn’t feel
and kneading away at it—

Blame caught inside the love
like a fishhook, or a bug in honey.

It is in my character,
this persistent selfishness—

one of my hands offering the gift, the other
trying to take something back.

Giving and getting
like two horses arriving at the same time

from opposite directions
at the stone gate

that will allow only one to pass.


This poem was first published in the New Yorker. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Worst Day Ever?

By Chanie Gorkin

Today was the absolute worst day ever
And don’t try to convince me that
There’s something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look,
This world is a pretty evil place.
Even if
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don’t last.
And it’s not true that
It’s all in the mind and heart
Because
True happiness can be attained
Only if one’s surroundings are good
It’s not true that good exists
I’m sure you can agree that
The reality
Creates
My attitude
It’s all beyond my control
And you’ll never in a million years hear me say
Today was a very good day

Now read it from bottom to top, the other way,
And see what I really feel about my day.


This poem has been viewed millions of times, but often without attribution to it's author. Please don't do that. Click here to read the story behind the poem.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Five Ways to Kill a Man

By Edwin Brock

There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.
You can make him carry a plank of wood
to the top of a hill and nail him to it.
To do this properly you require a crowd of people
wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak
to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one
man to hammer the nails home.

Or you can take a length of steel,
shaped and chased in a traditional way,
and attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears.
But for this you need white horses,
English trees, men with bows and arrows,
at least two flags, a prince, and a
castle to hold your banquet in.

Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind
allows, blow gas at him. But then you need
a mile of mud sliced through with ditches,
not to mention black boots, bomb craters,
more mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs
and some round hats made of steel.

In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly
miles above your victim and dispose of him by
pressing one small switch. All you then
require is an ocean to separate you, two
systems of government, a nation's scientists,
several factories, a psychopath and
land that no-one needs for several years.

These are, as I began, cumbersome ways to kill a man.
Simpler, direct, and much more neat is to see
that he is living somewhere in the middle
of the twentieth century, and leave him there.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Talk

By Jabari Asim

It’s more than time we had that talk
about what to say and where to walk,
how to act and how to strive,
how to be upright and stay alive.
How to live and how to learn,
how to dig and be dug in return.

When to concede and when to risk,
how to handle stop and frisk:
Keep your hands where they can see
and don’t reach for your ID
until they request it quite clearly.
Speak to them politely and answer them sincerely.
The law varies according to where you are,
whether you’re traveling by foot or driving a car.
It won’t help to be black and proud,
nor will you be safer in a crowd.
Keeping your speech calm and restrained,
ask if in fact you’re being detained.
If the answer is no, you’re free to go.
If the answer is yes, remained unfazed
to avoid being choked, shot or tazed.
Give every cop your ear, but none your wit;
don’t tempt him to fold, spindle, mutilate, hit
or otherwise cause pain
to tendons, bones, muscles, brain.
These are things you need to know
if you want to safely come and go.
But still there is no guarantee
that you will make it home to me.
Despite all our care and labor,
you might frighten a cop or neighbor
whose gun sends you to eternal sleep,
proving life’s unfair and talk is cheap

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Rigour

By Khairani Barakka

This is what they will say about my daughter
And her eyes: that the way they haunt your
 Memories are vestiges of trauma, of how a
 Child was caught between battling tribes,
 Her reddened feet, chapped and just visible
 Beneath one ragged hemline, laid waste to
 Near-bleeding. Girl, aged eight, page 11.

 It was her birthday. She was smiling again,
 Moments after the man left our village,
 Having been unsure of how to reconcile the
 Reach of zoom lenses with a robot cartoon
 Seen that morning—both unwieldy, pointing.
 Washing off the ruddy paint we’d placed
By her room. The war had never touched
Our subdistrict; all roads to it were closed by
 3PM. Their jeep driver would never ring the
 Bureau chief. My daughter stood by the side
 Of the road, having drawn a rusty, laughing
 Rooster on paper with the balls of her heels.

Friday, July 10, 2015

What Has Been Done To Women

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Yesterday you cried in the car when you said soldiers in that war asked if women were fair game and the leaders said, "Yes, fair game, do anything you want to them." My own throat filled up when you said the woman you are loving now asks you please to say more sweet things to her. We passed battered barns and bushes, every license plate said OREGON in one color or another. We passed the rest stop planted with trees of all the 50 states. The really hot sunny states were having trouble. Access roads and overpasses, stores selling all manner of useless things. I watched the seam of your cheek as you spoke, we named people we had loved that the other would never know, they were clues to the road. We talked about the ugly words hurled at women for centuries, how they all have a click-shut sound, and why is it some lives feel hard as a curb that you kick. And how they could be softened. I told you about Coleman, on the night he was robbed, saying, "How long do you stay robbed once you've been robbed? I think I'm getting over it" - and Susan, later, translating "robbed" into "raped" and weeping with joy - how long it takes anybody to get over, get under, get out, shout.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Of History and Hope

By Miller Williams

For the second inauguration of Bill Clinton (1997)

We have memorized America, 
how it was born and who we have been and where.   
In ceremonies and silence we say the words,   
telling the stories, singing the old songs. 
We like the places they take us. Mostly we do.   
The great and all the anonymous dead are there.   
We know the sound of all the sounds we brought.   
The rich taste of it is on our tongues. 
But where are we going to be, and why, and who?   
The disenfranchised dead want to know. 
We mean to be the people we meant to be,   
to keep on going where we meant to go. 
But how do we fashion the future? Who can say how
except in the minds of those who will call it Now? 
The children. The children. And how does our garden grow?   
With waving hands—oh, rarely in a row— 
and flowering faces. And brambles, that we can no longer allow. 

Who were many people coming together 
cannot become one people falling apart. 
Who dreamed for every child an even chance 
cannot let luck alone turn doorknobs or not. 
Whose law was never so much of the hand as the head   
cannot let chaos make its way to the heart. 
Who have seen learning struggle from teacher to child   
cannot let ignorance spread itself like rot. 
We know what we have done and what we have said,   
and how we have grown, degree by slow degree,   
believing ourselves toward all we have tried to become— 
just and compassionate, equal, able, and free. 

All this in the hands of children, eyes already set   
on a land we never can visit—it isn’t there yet— 
but looking through their eyes, we can see   
what our long gift to them may come to be.   
If we can truly remember, they will not forget.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Induction

By Annie Freud

I am here to welcome you
and to help you prepare for what is about to happen.
I can see that you're hoping that we've decided to call it off for today
but I'm afraid that is something we never do.
We consider ourselves very lucky that you're here at all
and our years of experience have taught us that it's always better
to go ahead as planned.
First, at the risk of repeating what has already been said in the letter,
you have been personally selected for this by people who know
what they're doing. We have no doubt in your ability to cope.
And the chances of anything going wrong on the technical front
are so minuscule as to render any concern you may have
as insignificant. At this point we usually offer
a glass of water as you won't be taking anything with you
once the doors are closed.
Secondly, there's the science that governs our practice.
There's been some debate in the public domain about why
up to now we haven't opted for the so-called virtual route
and looked at ways of mimicking reality.
The consensus is that absolutely nothing beats
real human beings—the richness of their emotional responses,
their capacity for facing the unknown—it's truly humbling.
And our concern for the integrity of any data we gather is genuine.
In return, our job is infinitely more rewarding, knowing
that we are doing our utmost to secure your co-operation
and make you as comfortable as possible.
I think that's everything covered.
If you would kindly undress in one of our cubicles;
your protective clothing is ready for you to put on.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Marriage

By Lawrence Raab
 
Years later they find themselves talking   
about chances, moments when their lives   
might have swerved off
for the smallest reason.
                                     What if
I hadn’t phoned, he says, that morning?   
What if you’d been out,
as you were when I tried three times   
the night before?
                           Then she tells him a secret.   
She’d been there all evening, and she knew   
he was the one calling, which was why   
she hadn’t answered.
                               Because she felt—
because she was certain—her life would change   
if she picked up the phone, said hello,   
said, I was just thinking
of you.
            I was afraid,
she tells him. And in the morning   
I also knew it was you, but I just   
answered the phone
                            the way anyone
answers a phone when it starts to ring,   
not thinking you have a choice.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

My Father As a Guitar

By Martín Espada

The cardiologist prescribed
a new medication
and lectured my father
that he had to stop working.
And my father said: I can't.
The landlord won't let me.

The heart pills are dice
in my father's hand,
gambler who needs cash
by the first of the month.

On the night his mother died
in far away Puerto Rico
my father lurched upright in bed,
heart hammering
like the fist of a man at the door
with an eviction notice.
Minutes later,
the telephone sputtered
with news of the dead.

Sometimes I dream
my father is a guitar,
with a hole in his chest
where the music throbs
between my fingers.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina

By Jane Kenyon

A volunteer, a Daughter of the Confederacy,
receives my admission and points the way.
Here are gray jackets with holes in them,
red sashes with individual flourishes,
things soft as flesh. Someone sewed
the gold silk cord onto that gray sleeve
as if embellishments
could keep a man alive.

I have been reading War and Peace,
and so the particulars of combat
are on my mind—the shouts and groans
of men and boys, and the horses' cries
as they fall, astonished at what
has happened to them.
Blood on leaves,
blood on grass, on snow; extravagant
beauty of red. Smoke, dust of disturbed
earth; parch and burn.

Who would choose this for himself?
And yet the terrible machinery
waited in place. With psalters
in their breast pockets, and gloves
knitted by their sisters and sweethearts,
the men in gray hurled themselves
out of the trenches, and rushed against
blue. It was what both sides
agreed to do.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Race

By Elizabeth Alexander

Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
when he traveled without his white wife to visit his siblings—
now in New York, now in Harlem, USA—just as pale-skinned,
as straight-haired, as blue-eyed as Paul, and black. Paul never told anyone
he was white, he just didn’t say that he was black, and who could imagine,
an Oregon forester in 1930 as anything other than white?
The siblings in Harlem each morning ensured
no one confused them for anything other than what they were, black.
They were black! Brown-skinned spouses reduced confusion.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
When Paul came East alone he was as they were, their brother.

The poet invents heroic moments where the pale black ancestor stands up
on behalf of the race. The poet imagines Great-Uncle Paul
in cool, sagey groves counting rings in redwood trunks,
imagines pencil markings in a ledger book, classifications,
imagines a sidelong look from an ivory spouse who is learning
her husband’s caesuras. She can see silent spaces
but not what they signify, graphite markings in a forester’s code.

Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
The one time Great-Uncle Paul brought his wife to New York
he asked his siblings not to bring their spouses,
and that is where the story ends: ivory siblings who would not
see their brother without their telltale spouses.
What a strange things is “race,” and family, stranger still.
Here a poem tells a story, a story about race.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Scary, no scary

By Zachary Schomburg

One night, when
you return to your childhood
home after

a lifetime away,
you'll find it
abandoned. Its

paint will be
completely weathered.

It will have
a significant westward lean.

There will be
a hole in its roof
that bats fly
out of.

The old man
hunched over
at the front door
will be prepared
to give you a tour,
but first he'll ask
Scary, or no scary?

You should say
No scary.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Is It Better Where You Are?

By Christopher Salerno

The bakery’s graffiti either spells HOPE
or NOPE. But hope and results
are different, said Fanny Brawne to her Keats
voiding his unreasonable lung.
Getting off the medicine
completely means light again
blinking to light. Device returned
to its factory settings. The complete black
of before the meteor shower
above the bakery. If you lose the smell
of leather, lemon, or rose,
studies show you will fail at being,
like Keats. I keep watching the same meteor
shower videos on YouTube
where awe is always a question of scale.
Night can be moths or weather, pulled in the dark.
The bakery, now, is beginning to close.
My arrhythmic heart
aches for the kind of dramatic arc
one can’t shop for. Or else to lease
what’s real for a while—
is this the good kind of consumption?
I wonder over the weight
of meaning. The difference between
hull and seed. The sugary
donut and its graceful hole. The greasy
bags that everyone leaves
in the alley leading to my door.
These scraps I work at like a crow.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

For my known and unknown maternal and paternal BlackWomen ancestors who both slaved and worked (for barely liveable wages) in White folks’ homes for centuries…

By Beah Richards

A Black Woman Speaks…
Of White Womanhood
Of White Supremacy
Of Peace
It is right that I a woman
black,
should speak of white womanhood.
My fathers
my brothers
my husbands
my sons
die for it; because of it.
And their blood chilled in electric chairs,
stopped by hangman’s noose,
cooked by lynch mobs’ fire,
spilled by white supremacist mad desire to kill for profit,
gives me that right.

I would that I could speak of white womanhood
as it will and should be
when it stands tall in full equality.
But then, womanhood will be womanhood
void of color and of class,
and all necessity for my speaking thus will be past.
Gladly past.

But now, since ‘tis deemed a thing apart
supreme,
I must in searching honesty report
how it seems to me.
White womanhood stands in bloodied skirt
and willing slavery
reaching out adulterous hand
killing mine and crushing me.
What then is this superior thing
that in order to be sustained must needs feed upon my flesh?
How came this horror to be?
Let’s look to history.

They said, the white supremacist said
that you were better than me,
that your fair brow should never know the sweat of slavery.
They lied.
White womanhood too is enslaved,
the difference is degree.

They brought me here in chains.
They brought you here willing slaves to man.
You, shiploads of women each filled with hope
that she might win with ruby lip and saucy curl
and bright and flashing eye
him to wife who had the largest tender.
Remember?
And they sold you here even as they sold me.
My sisters, there is no room for mockery.
If they counted my teeth
they did appraise your thigh
and sold you to the highest bidder the same as I.

And you did not fight for your right to choose
whom you would wed
but for whatever bartered price
that was the legal tender
you were sold to a stranger’s bed
in a stranger land
remember?

And you did not fight.
Mind you, I speak not mockingly
but I fought for freedom,
I’m fighting now for our unity.
We are women all,
and what wrongs you murders me
and eventually marks your grave
so we share a mutual death at the hand of tyranny.

They trapped me with the chain and gun.
They trapped you with lying tongue.
For, 'less you see that fault-
that male villainy
that robbed you of name, voice and authority,
that murderous greed that wasted you and me,
he, the white supremacist, fixed your minds with poisonous thought:
“white skin is supreme.”
and therewith bought that monstrous change
exiling you to things.
Changed all that nature had ill you wrought of gentle usefulness,
abolishing your spring.
Tore out your heart,
set your good apart from all that you could say,
think,
feel,
know to be right.
And you did not fight,
but set your minds fast on my slavery
the better to endure your own.

'Tis true
my pearls were beads of sweat
wrung from weary bodies’ pain,
instead of rings upon my hands
I wore swollen, bursting veins.
My ornaments were the whip-lash’s scar
my diamond, perhaps, a tear.
Instead of paint and powder on my face
I wore a solid mask of fear to see my blood so spilled.
And you, women seeing
spoke no protest
but cuddled down in your pink slavery
and thought somehow my wasted blood
confirmed your superiority.

Because your necklace was of gold
you did not notice that it throttled speech.
Because diamond rings bedecked your hands
you did not regret their dictated idleness.
Nor could you see that the platinum bracelets
which graced your wrists were chains
binding you fast to economic slavery.
And though you claimed your husband’s name
still could not command his fidelity.

You bore him sons.
I bore him sons.
No, not willingly.
He purchased you.
He raped me,
I fought!
But you fought neither for yourselves nor me.
Sat trapped in your superiority
and spoke no reproach.
Consoled your outrage with an added diamond brooch.
Oh, God, how great is a woman’s fear
who for a stone, a cold, cold stone
would not defend honor, love or dignity!

You bore the damning mockery of your marriage
and heaped your hate on me,
a woman too,
a slave more so.
And when your husband disowned his seed
that was my son
and sold him apart from me
you felt avenged.
Understand:
I was not your enemy in this,
I was not the source of your distress.
I was your friend, I fought.
But you would not help me fight
thinking you helped only me.
Your deceived eyes seeing only my slavery
aided your own decay.
Yes, they condemned me to death
and they condemned you to decay.
Your heart whisked away,
consumed in hate,
used up in idleness
playing yet the lady’s part
estranged to vanity.
It is justice to you to say your fear equaled your tyranny.

You were afraid to nurse your young
lest fallen breast offend your master’s sight
and he should flee to firmer loveliness.
And so you passed them, your children, on to me.
Flesh that was your flesh and blood that was your blood
drank the sustenance of life from me.
And as I gave suckle I knew I nursed my own child’s enemy.
I could have lied,
told you your child was fed till it was dead of hunger.
But I could not find the heart to kill orphaned innocence.
For as it fed, it smiled and burped and gurgled with content
and as for color knew no difference.
Yes, in that first while
I kept your sons and daughters alive.

But when they grew strong in blood and bone
that was of my milk
you
taught them to hate me.
Put your decay in their hearts and upon their lips
so that strength that was of myself
turned and spat upon me,
despoiled my daughters, and killed my sons.
You know I speak true.
Though this is not true for all of you.

When I bestirred myself for freedom
and brave Harriet led the way
some of you found heart and played a part
in aiding my escape.
And when I made my big push for freedom
your sons fought at my sons’ side,
Your husbands and brothers too fell in that battle
when Crispus Attucks died.
It’s unfortunate that you acted not in the way of justice
but to preserve the Union
and for dear sweet pity’s sake;
Else how came it to be with me as it is today?
You abhorred slavery
yet loathed equality.

I would that the poor among you could have seen
through the scheme
and joined hands with me.
Then, we being the majority, could long ago have rescued
our wasted lives.
But no.
The rich, becoming richer, could be content
while yet the poor had only the pretense of superiority
and sought through murderous brutality
to convince themselves that what was false was true.

So with KKK and fiery cross
and bloodied appetites
set about to prove that “white is right”
forgetting their poverty.
Thus the white supremacist used your skins
to perpetuate slavery.
And woe to me.
Woe to Willie McGee.
Woe to the seven men of Martinsville.
And woe to you.
It was no mistake that your naked body on an Esquire calendar
announced the date, May Eighth.
This is your fate if you do not wake to fight.
They will use your naked bodies to sell their wares
though it be hate, Coca Cola or rape.

When a white mother disdained to teach her children
this doctrine of hate,
but taught them instead of peace
and respect for all men’s dignity
the courts of law did legislate
that they be taken from her
and sent to another state.
To make a Troy Hawkins of the little girl
and a killer of the little boy!

No, it was not for the womanhood of this mother
that Willie McGee died
but for a depraved, enslaved, adulterous woman
whose lustful demands denied,
lied and killed what she could not possess.
Only three months before another such woman lied
and seven black men shuddered and gave up their lives.
These women were upheld in these bloody deeds
by the president of this nation,
thus putting the official seal on the fate
of white womanhood within these United States.
This is what they plan for you.
This is the depravity they would reduce you to.
Death for me
and worse than death for you.

What will you do?
Will you fight with me?
White supremacy is your enemy and mine.
So be careful when you talk with me.
Remind me not of my slavery, I know it well
but rather tell me of your own.
Remember, you have never known me.
You’ve been busy seeing me
as white supremacist would have me be,
and I will be myself.
Free!
My aim is full equality.
I would usurp their plan!
Justice
peace
and plenty
for every man, woman and child
who walks the earth.
This is my fight!

If you will fight with me then take my hand
and the hand of Rosa Ingram, and Rosalee McGee,
and as we set about our plan
let our wholehearted fight be:
PEACE IN A WORLD WHERE THERE IS EQUALITY.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Music is Sacred

those of you who stand for the sanctity of music
so that its soul can breathe
and be heard
so that it blooms in graveyards
echoes in hotel hallways
awakens neighbors in the night
and fills peoples minds with fire
shout it out loud with whatever microphone you have
or these stones will shout for you.
jump in front of demons,
and stand over cowards and those who would intend
to rip out your lungs and dampen your desire
tell the living and the dead
what you know in your heart to be true
and what you know your ears
will forever hear
that the melody of the human race
is a song that never ends.
music is sacred.

This poem was first featured in Rolling Stone magazine.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

All Intermediate Points

By Naomi Shihab Nye

If today you are going to Buda, Texas and the bus rolls into Buda, Texas and stops, you climb down and you are ready to climb down. Perhaps you sigh, make the great heave-ho. It has been a long trip. But if today you are going to St. Louis or Pittsburgh and the bus passes through Buda, Texas and someone else climbs down, it does not seem like such a long trip at all. This has always fascinated me. And if you are sitting in the bus terminal and the muddled loudspeaker announces ALL ABOARD FOR DEL RIO AND EL PASO AND ALL INTERMEDIATE POINTS, does the phrase "all intermediate points" wash over you pungently as the scent of the bus terminal hotcakes and do you eat them one at a time?

Friday, May 22, 2015

You May Have Heard of Me

By Shazea Quraishi 

My father was a bear.
He carried me through forest, sky
and over frozen sea. At night
I lay along his back
wrapped in fur and heat
and while I slept, he ran,
never stopping to rest, never
letting me fall.
He showed me how to be as careful as stone,
sharp as thorn and quick
as weather. When he hunted alone
he’d leave me somewhere safe – high up a tree
or deep within a cave.
And then a day went on …
He didn’t come.
I looked and looked for him.
The seasons changed and changed again.
Sleep became my friend. It even brought my father back.
The dark was like his fur,
the sea’s breathing echoed his breathing.
I left home behind, an empty skin.
Alone, I walked taller, balanced better.
So I came to the gates of this city
—tall, black gates with teeth.
Here you find me, keeping my mouth small,
hiding pointed teeth and telling stories,
concealing their truth as I conceal
the thick black fur on my back.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Take It Away

By Ronald Clark

Come on America, open your eyes
And stop the politicians from telling their lies
For their families won't come to death row
For they have money and power, you know
It's only the poor that will lay here and die.
For the rich do not qualify
And this you cannot deny
Nor can you justify
So let's take it away
And end it today
And stop another poor man from dying this way.


Ronald Clark was previously published in this blog.  This poem previously appeared here.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Motherhood is

A found poem from Google by Tania Lombrozo

Motherhood is hard
Motherhood is lonely
Motherhood is a choice
Motherhood is magical

Monday, May 4, 2015

Star Wars Love

By Eve Lyons

My spouse is obsessed with Darth Vader. She wanted to get married in her Darth Vader helmet, and I have to keep fighting off her attempts to wear the helmet to bed. The main reason I would never agree to this is that it would mean I am Amidala, and that would mean either I am dead or our love is dead, or both. I am, at heart, deeply superstitious. I never wanted to be a princess anyway. When I was a kid, I never wanted to be Princess Leia - I wanted to be Han Solo, traveling the galaxy unattached, having adventures. Or R2-D2, because he always had all the answers. In fact, I think I am more C-3PO than anything. Constantly worrying and a little nervous, with tons of useless knowledge. And if I am C-3P0, I think that means my spouse is actually R2-D2, because they’re pretty much a couple. Maybe I should get her that costume and have her start wearing it to bed.


Previously published in voxpoetica, January 22, 2011

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Incident

By Countee Cullen

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tongue, and called me, 'Nigger.'

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Waiting for the date to be set

By Marge Piercy

Sheets of rain slither through the trees
rain that looks coherent as tissue paper
buckled by the wind but still coming
sideways ghostlike to hit the siding.

The threat of an operation hangs
before me like a black curtain
I can’t see through. I know there
are weeks of pain on the far side.
I take my fear out like a marble
I polish with the sweat of my palm.
Fear, you warble to me constantly
like a hopped up canary.
There is nowhere to go but forward
each grumpy day at a time toward
where I have no desire to arrive --but
the delay eats my brain for breakfast.
Pain’s my faithful companion already,
the yellow dog in my aging body
howling at the moon’s curved tooth.
Choice has narrowed. Onward!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

All Their Stanzas Look Alike

By Thomas Sayers Ellis

All their fences
     All their prisons
All their exercises
     All their agendas
All their stanzas look alike
     All their metaphors
All their bookstores
      All their plantations
All their assassinations
     All their stanzas look alike
All their rejection letters
      All their letters to the editor
All their arts and letters
     All their letters of recommendation
All their stanzas look alike
     All their sexy coverage
All their literary journals
     All their car commercials
All their bribe-spiked blurbs
      All their stanzas look alike
All their favorite writers
     All their writing programs
All their visiting writers
     All their writers-in-residence
All their stanzas look alike
     All their third worlds
All their world series
     All their serial killers
All their killing fields
     All their stanzas look alike
All their state grants
     All their tenure tracks
All their artist colonies
     All their core faculties
All their stanzas look alike
     All their Selected Collecteds
All their Oxford Nortons
     All their Academy Societies
All their Oprah Vendlers
     All their stanzas look alike
All their haloed holocausts     
     All their coy hetero couplets
All their hollow haloed causes
     All their tone-deaf tercets
All their stanzas look alike
     All their tables of contents
All their Poet Laureates
     All their Ku Klux classics
All their Supreme Court justices
     Except one, except one
Exceptional one. Exceptional or not,
     One is not enough.
All their stanzas look alike.
     Even this, after publication,
Might look alike. Disproves
     My stereo types.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Opening Day

By Dick Flavin

The long snow-bound winter casts a dark pall
Till one day an umpire hollers, “Play ball!”
Then skies start to brighten, blue displaces gray.
Baseball springs eternal. It’s Opening Day.
The birds begin singing. The trees start to bloom.
The umpire’s dusting home plate with his broom.
It’s a brand new beginning, a time we all cheer.
In baseball language it’s, “Happy New Year!”
The setbacks will surface, the losses, the gloom.
Each team except one is destined for doom.
But the Red Sox might win it, so let’s start to play.
And that is the magic of Opening Day.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Touching Tomorrow

By A.J. Huffman

Another sleepless night hovers, tangles
my mind. I try to focus,
force ritualistic countings of imaginary
sheep. Mine are electric and pulse
their numbers in mock Morse code. I decipher
the twisted language of faceless clock, figure
an hour has passed, maybe two. Not
enough. I try to rewind the ceiling
fan. Follow its rotation until we sink. Psych
it out. It slows, refuses to reverse. The effort
sucks my eyes into stalemate, between
sleep and awake. I almost miss shadows
lightening through the shades. I push
apart the blinds, palm to pain, almost prayer.
I have been delivered to another
dawn.

A.J. Huffman has published eleven solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. Her new full-length poetry collection, Another Blood Jet, is now available from Eldritch Press. She has another full-length poetry collection, A Few Bullets Short of Home, scheduled for release in Summer 2015, from mgv2>publishing. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and has published over 2000 poems in various national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya. She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. www.kindofahurricanepress.com

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Occupying Mumia’s Cell

By Alice Walker

I Sing of Mumia
brilliant and strong
and of the captivity
that
few black men escape
if they are as free
as he has become.

What a teacher he is for all of us.

Nearly thirty years in solitary
and still,
Himself.

He will die himself.
A black man;
whom many consider to be
a Muslim, though this is not
how he narrows down
the  criss-crossing paths of
his soul’s journey.
Perhaps it is simpler
to call him
a lover of truth
who refuses
to be silenced.
Is anything more persecuted
in this land?

No boots will be allowed
of course
so he will not
die with them on;
but there will always be
boots
of the mind and spirit
and of the heart and soul.

His will be black and shining
(or maybe the color of rainbows)
and they will sprout wings.

Mumia
they have decided
finally
not to kill you
hoping no blood will
stain their hands
at the tribunal
of the people;
but to let you continue
to die slowly
creating and singing
your own songs
as you pace
alone,  sometimes terrorized,
for decades of long nights
in your small cage
of a cell.

We lament our impotence: that we have failed
to get you out of there.

Your regal mane may have thinned
as our locks too, those flags of  our self sovereignty, may even have
disappeared;
waiting out this unjust sentence,
until we, like you, have become old.
Still,
if you will: accept our gratitude
that you stand, even bootless,
on your feet.  We see
that few of those around us,
well shod and walking, even owning, the streets
are freed.

Somehow you have been.

Enough to remind us
of freedom’s devout
internal and
ineradicable seed.

What a magnificent Lion
you have been all these
disastrous years
and still are,
indeed.