Thursday, December 29, 2016

Burning the Old Year

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.  
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper, 
sizzle like moth wings, 
marry the air. 

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone. 

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers. 

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Jews on Christmas

By Daniel Brenner

There isn’t enough soy sauce in the world to feed
Jews on Christmas
Huddled around steaming plates of dumplings
Discussing cinematography
Angioplasty
Lactaid
Who has lived and who has died
Shocked to hear that the hot new Hollywood star is actually half-Jewish
(and not arguing which half)
I don’t see what all the fuss is about Nathan Englander.
Yes, it’s like The Wire, but different,
Costco is a mixed blessing,
Do you trust Yelp?
On our smartphones we subtract the Chinese year from the Jewish year to see how long the Jews had to wait to try egg drop soup.
The laughter of Jews on Christmas
shakes the jade Buddha under the faux waterfall from his
sleepy serenity
And for a moment, the enlightened one opens his eyes,
smiling contently as he joins us to look at pictures of relatives at Harry Potter world.
Now he’s Jewish too.
The Moo Shu comes with little tortillas, pancakes, wraps,
whatever you want to call them.
And we wrap up the mush of last year, with all of its regrets and tzuris,
And immerse into soy sauce,
a ritual bath,
three times dipped,
and we say – this is not bad.
Our highest compliment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Toward a Better Love

“Sex is a political condition.” —Kate Millet

No one disputes that sex
is a condition in the world of the couple:
from there, tenderness and its wild branches.

No one disputes that sex
is a domestic condition:
from there, kids,
nights in common
and days divided
(he, looking for bread in the street,
in offices or factories;
she, in the rear guard of domestic functions,
in the strategy and tactic of the kitchen
that allows survival in a common struggle
at least to the end of the month).

No one disputes that sex
in an economic condition:
it’s enough to mention prostitution,
fashion,
the sections in the dailies that are only for her
or only for him.

Where the hassles begin
is when a woman says
sex is a political condition.

Because when a woman says
sex is a political condition
she can begin to stop being just a woman in herself
in order to become a woman for herself,
establishing the woman in woman
from the basis of her humanity
on not of her sex,
knowing that the magic deodorant with a hint of lemon
and soap that voluptuously caresses her skin
are made by the same manufacturer that makes napalm
knowing the labors of the homes themselves
are labors of a social class to which that home belongs,
that the difference between the sexes
burns much better in the loving depth of night
when all those secrets that kept us
masked and alien are revealed.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Try To Praise The Mutilated World

By Adam Zagajewski

Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the grey feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sorry!

By Amir Darwish

An apology from Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslims) to humanity

We are sorry for everything
That we have caused humanity to suffer from.
Sorry for Algebra and the letter X.
Sorry for all the words we throw at you;
Amber, candy, chemistry, cotton, giraffe, hazard,
Jar, jasmine, jumper, lemon, lime, lilac,
Oranges, sofa, scarlet, spinach,
Talisman, tangerine, tariff, traffic, tulips,
Mattress (yes mattress) and the massage you enjoy on it:
We are sorry for all of these.

Sorry that we replaced alcohol with coffee for Enlightenment philosophers.
Speaking of hot drinks,
We are sorry for the cappuccino the Turks brought over.
Sorry for the black Arabian race horses,
For the clock,
Maths,
Parachutes.

Abdul in the US is sorry for what so and so did;
He does not know him but he is sorry anyway.
Sorry that we accompanied Columbus on his journey to the States.
And sorry for the Arab man with him
Who was the first to touch the shore and shout ‘Honolulu’
And named the place after him.
Sorry for the architecture in Spain and the Al Hambra palace there.
We apologise for churches in Seville
With their stars of David at the top that we built with our hands.
We say sorry for every number you use in your daily life from the 0 to
the trillion.
Even Adnan the Yezidi (mistaken for a Muslim)
Is sorry for the actions of Abu whatever who beheads people in Syria.

Sorry for the mercury chloride that heals wounds,
Please give us some –
Because the guilt of initiating all of the above
Gives us a wound as big as this earth.
Sorry for the guitar that was played by Moriscosin Spain
To ease their pain when they were kicked out of their homes.
Sorry for the hookah as you sip on its lips
And gaze into the moon hearing the Arabian Nay.
Sorry for cryptanalysis and the ability to analyse information systems,
To think what is at the heart of the heart of the heart and bring it to the world.
Sorry for painting Grenada white to evade social hierarchy.
Sorry for the stories in The Arabian Nights.

Every time we see a star, we remember to be sorry for Astronomy.
We are sorry that Mo Farah claimed asylum here
And went to become the British champion of the world.
Sorry for non-representational art,
Pattern and surface decoration.
We are sorry for all the food we brought over:
From tuna to chicken tikka masala,
Hummus,
Falafel,
Apricot,
Doner kebab
Right up to the shawarma roll.
And don’t forget the couscous.

If we forgot to apologise for something, never mind,
We are sorry for it without even knowing it.
Most of all we are sorry for Rumi’s love poems,
And we desperately echo one of them to you:

>Oh Beloved,
Take me.
Liberate my soul.
Fill me with your love and
Release me from the two worlds.
If I set my heart on anything but you
Let fire burn me from inside.

Oh Beloved,
Take away what I want.
Take away what I do.
Take away what I need.
Take away everything
That takes me from you.


Please forgive us.
We are sorry and cannot be sorry enough today.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Almost Visible

By Laura Gail Grohe

When you see me, if you see me,
I am your worst fears found form.

“Pardon me sir,
but could I have a dollar for food?”

You rush by me studying your cuticles
so you don’t have to see me.

“Excuse me miss,
do you have any spare change?”

When I used to rush from subway to office
I never noticed the dust.
Squatting on sidewalk’s edge
fishing for your eye and quarters
the city’s dandruff covers me.

I didn’t start here, few of us do.
It was when I still had a private place
to sleep, to shower, to read,
that I was overcome by almosts.

Almost enough money to pay bills.
Almost poor enough for help.
Almost good enough for promotion.
Almost sick enough for hospital care.
Almost together enough to find a way out.
Almost.

Between the crushing weight of invisibility
and the slippery slide of not quite enough
I am just another dusty almost.

This poem originally appeared in Writers Resist.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Other Day I Peed On a Stick

and when I peed on the stick I knew my blood was like poison.
When I turned 18, I had just started my medication, I peed on a stick, called a number
from the phone book to see if I could afford an abortion without anyone knowing.
It was a pro-life group with a deceptive name, the woman begging me to keep the baby.

So I told my mother. The doctor she took me to stuck his head in the room, said
“Congratulations, you’re pregnant.”
Shut the door. The woman who filled out my outtake form rattled on about her midwife.
Her face changed. “You’re happy about this, right?”
She slowly drew hearts around her midwife’s name.

I wished those hearts could work some sort of magic —

make my blood less like the poison I was just beginning to know.
My mother’s aunt died of a back alley abortion. My mother wrote a poem about it called, “Floating,” because as she bleeds to death she is floating above the pain. Or maybe it was the ether that killed her. All sorts of things could kill you from an abortion back then.

At 22 my mother’s future mother-in-law said, “I can get you an abortion, but you have to say you’re crazy.” But my mother wanted him. In fact, my mother has wanted every pregnancy, especially the miscarriage. She has his mobile hanging above her bed. A group of tiny ceramic bears in bowties that clink sweetly, quietly.

The other day I peed on a stick and when I peed on the stick
I knew my blood was like poison, but without my medication, I’ll go crazy.
I’ll never be the girl in the movie who throws up, pees on a stick, then says,
honey? I’m pregnant! And runs to her lover. Buys bitty shoes. Buys bitty hats.

I’ll never read aloud to my belly, then deny doing such a silly thing.
I won’t look into a tiny face and see a glimmer of me, of my mother, of my husband.
I won’t be looking at someone I will love forever. Someone to give the world to.
Someone for whom I’d make sure the world was something to fall in love with.

Trump is the President-elect. I peed on a stick and when I peed on the stick I knew
my blood was like poison and I’d spare a child all sorts of deformity, sickness.
I waited the two minutes you have to wait, wondering, what if he changes everything?
What if someday I can’t get an abortion, my blood like poison?

Will we use the phrase “back alley,” keep notes for other women of doctors who perform
the operation? Could I become a story my nephews tell? Another aunt with a tragic end? Will I float above the pain? Right out of the world I’d try to make magical for my child if my blood was nothing, wasn’t anything like poison.

By Rae Rose

This poem originally appeared in Writers Resist.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

B'resheet

By Julia Liberman

 This is how it was for Lilith, first-born
 human daughter of the Lord, first wife
to a man whose name was mud:

 She was born into the orgasm of life,
the entire world stroking her towards devotion.
Thereafter, she spent the rest of her existence
searching for the exaltation of her first breath.

 She thought that Adam had felt it too—that he
recalled the rapturous breath of God upon his skin,
remembered standing in the glory of Creation,
filled with the ecstasy of living. She hoped
that together they might reassemble
enough parts to make the whole of it,
to recreate the awe of entering the universe.

 But he did not know, and he did not remember,
and his idea of pleasure was so small it bored her.
And that was why she had left Adam and the Garden
behind: he did not remember the feeling,
any more than he could redeliver it.

Every time she returns to Eden, after years
of searching for slivers of satisfaction, she sits
beneath the Tree of Knowledge. She touches
herself, eating of its many fruits: peaches, mangoes,
pomegranates, and figs. She is trying to find
the one that will teach her how to return
to the Beginning.

This piece was originally published in Strange Horizons.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Resolution (6)

By Layli Long Soldier

I too urge the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land although healing this land is not dependent never has been upon this President meaning tribal nations and the people themselves are healing this land its waters with or without Presidential acknowledgement they act upon this right without apology–


To speak to law enforcement
these Direct Action Principles
be really clear always ask
have been painstakingly drafted
who what when where why
at behest of the local leadership
e.g. Officer, my name is _________
from Standing Rock
please explain
and are the guidelines
the probable cause for stopping me
for the Oceti Sakowin camp
you may ask
I acknowledge a plurality of ways
does that seem reasonable to you
to resist oppression
don’t give any further info

People ask why do you bring up
we are Protectors

so many other issues it’s because
we are peaceful and prayerful

these issues have been ongoing
‘isms’ have no place
for 200 years they’re inter-dependent
here we all stand together
we teach the distinction
we are non-violent
btwn civil rights and civil liberties
we are proud to stand
btwn what’s legal & what isn’t legal
no masks
the camp is 100% volunteer
respect local
it’s a choice to be a protector
no weapons
liberty is freedom
or what could be construed as weapons
of speech it’s a right
property damage does not get us closer
to privacy a fair trial
to our goal
you’re free
all campers must get an orientation
from unreasonable search
Direct Action Training
free from seizure of person or home
is required
& civil disobedience: the camp is
for everyone taking action
an act of civil disobedience
no children
now the law protects the corporation
in potentially dangerous situations
so the camp is illegal
we keep each accountable
you must have a buddy system
to these principles
someone must know when you’re leaving
this is a ceremony
& when you’re coming back
act accordingly

Monday, December 5, 2016

Male Bias

By Katherine D. Perry

Waiting five years to adopt a daughter,
I had time to carefully consider the impact
of male bias on foreign shores,
where, when you can only have one, girls
are left on the steps of schools and libraries,
and if they survive, they might be sent away,
to western countries, where women
can have as many as eight babies at once.

I look into her eyes and ache for a mother
who felt forced to let her go,
who had to break the mother-daughter bond
because of money and laws and culture and the need for a male child.

Now that I’m pregnant with a son,
I see my naiveté.
When I tell my friends that he is a boy,
I watch as eyes light and listen
to the long list of reasons why sons
are better than daughters: easy and calm
among the most common.
But then they add: simple pregnancies,
less dramatics, even a unique mother-son bond
that will somehow overtake my life.

I think of my feminism training,
of the penis-baby who, according to psychoanalytic theory,
will make me whole.
I look at the pay stubs stacked next to each other: mine and my partner’s
and consider the defeating weight of that common inequity.

Here in America, we claim equality.
Here in America, I walk without hoods or chains;
I drive my car; I vote in every election; I work.
Here in America, my son is expected to be
my easy child, the love of my life,
the missing key to my life’s mystery.
He will make more money than she will;
he will get promotions more quickly.

But I as I hold my Chinese daughter,
and share with her the pain of our two cultures
that leave our girls behind,
I am sure that we are not meant to be seconds.

This poem first published by Writers Resist on December 1, 2016.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Somoza Unveils Somoza’s Statue of Somoza at the Somoza Stadium

By Ernesto Cardenal

It’s not that I think the people raised this statue to me,
because I know better than you that I ordered it myself.
Nor that I have any illusions about passing with it into posterity
because I know the people will one day tear it down.
Nor that I wished to erect to myself in life
the monument you’ll not erect to me in death:
I put up this statue just because I know you’ll hate it.


Somoza desveliza la estatua de Somoza en el estadio Somoza

No es que yo crea que el pueblo me erigió esta estatua
porque yo sé mejor que vosotros que la ordené yo mismo.
Ni tampoco que pretenda pasar con ella a la posteridad
porque yo sé que el pueblo la derribará un día.
Ni que haya querido erigirme a mí mismo en vida
el momento que muerto no me erigiréis vosotros:
sino que erigí esta estatua porque sé que la odiáis.

Translated by Donald Walsh

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Perhaps the World Ends Here

by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Muchas Gracias Por Todo

By Naomi Shihab Nye

This plane has landed thanks to God and his mercy.
That's what they say in Jordan when the plane sets down.

What do they say in our country? Don't stand up till we tell you.
Stay in your seats. Things may have shifted.

This river has not disappeared thanks to that one big storm
when the water was almost finished.

We used to say thanks to the springs
but the springs dried up so we changed it.

This rumor tells no truth thanks to people.
This river walk used to be better when no one came.

What about the grapes? Thanks to the grapes
we have more than one story to tell.

Thanks to a soft place in the middle of the evening.
Thanks to three secret hours before dawn.

These deer are seldom seen because of their shyness.
If you see one you count yourselves among the lucky on the earth.

Your eyes get quieter.
These deer have nothing to say to us.

Thanks to the fan, we are still breathing.
Thanks to the small toad that lives in cool mud at the base of the zinnias.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The President Elect speaks

By Marge Piercy

“You can always go to another state”
to have your abortion
just so long as you’re rich,
have a nanny to watch your

kids, can take off from your
job, have a ride available
or your own car, aren’t
living at home or needing

to hide the procedure. Yes
affluent women could fly
to Puerto rico while the rest
of us were doing it to ourselves,

dying of back alley butchery,
bleeding to death, left sterile
from botched operations,
yes, we can always just die

Mr. Trump and many mothers
will be leaving their children
to be raised by others, many
teenagers will drop out of school,

many women will die alone
in their bloody beds. It will
be just the way you like it
for women who dare to choose.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Skinhead

By Patricia Smith

They call me skinhead, and I got my own beauty.
It is knife-scrawled across my back in sore, jagged letters,
it’s in the way my eyes snap away from the obvious.
I sit in my dim matchbox,
on the edge of a bed tousled with my ragged smell,
slide razors across my hair,
count how many ways
I can bring blood closer to the surface of my skin.
These are the duties of the righteous,
the ways of the anointed.

The face that moves in my mirror is huge and pockmarked,
scraped pink and brilliant, apple-cheeked,
I am filled with my own spit.
Two years ago, a machine that slices leather
sucked in my hand and held it,
whacking off three fingers at the root.
I didn’t feel nothing till I looked down
and saw one of them on the floor
next to my boot heel,
and I ain’t worked since then.

I sit here and watch niggers take over my TV set,
walking like kings up and down the sidewalks in my head,
walking like their fat black mamas named them freedom.
My shoulders tell me that ain’t right.
So I move out into the sun
where my beauty makes them lower their heads,
or into the night
with a lead pipe up my sleeve,
a razor tucked in my boot.
I was born to make things right.

It’s easy now to move my big body into shadows,
to move from a place where there was nothing
into the stark circle of a streetlight,
the pipe raised up high over my head.
It’s a kick to watch their eyes get big,
round and gleaming like cartoon jungle boys,
right in that second when they know
the pipe’s gonna come down, and I got this thing
I like to say, listen to this, I like to say
“Hey, nigger, Abe Lincoln’s been dead a long time.”

I get hard listening to their skin burst.
I was born to make things right.

Then this newspaper guy comes around,
seems I was a little sloppy kicking some fag’s ass
and he opened his hole and screamed about it.
This reporter finds me curled up in my bed,
those TV flashes licking my face clean.
Same ol’ shit.
Ain’t got no job, the coloreds and spics got ’em all.
Why ain’t I working? Look at my hand, asshole.
No, I ain’t part of no organized group,
I’m just a white boy who loves his race,
fighting for a pure country.
Sometimes it’s just me. Sometimes three. Sometimes 30.
AIDS will take care of the faggots,
then it’s gon’ be white on black in the streets.
Then there’ll be three million.
I tell him that.

So he writes it up
and I come off looking like some kind of freak,
like I’m Hitler himself. I ain’t that lucky,
but I got my own beauty.
It is in my steel-toed boots,
in the hard corners of my shaved head.

I look in the mirror and hold up my mangled hand,
only the baby finger left, sticking straight up,
I know it’s the wrong goddamned finger,
but fuck you all anyway.
I’m riding the top rung of the perfect race,
my face scraped pink and brilliant.
I’m your baby, America, your boy,
drunk on my own spit, I am goddamned fuckin’ beautiful.

And I was born

and raised

right here.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Low Road

By Marge Piercy

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can't walk, can’t remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can’t blame them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Desire For Civic Alchemy

By Cory Booker

After the election,
May we seek to practice
Civic Alchemy

May we turn:

Battle Ground
Into
Common Ground

Swing States
Into
United States

And turn:

The Hubris of Competing Certainties
Into
The Humility of Cooperating Countrywomen and Men.

After this election,
Let us be
Civic Alchemists

Let us turn:

An inability to hear one another
Into
A determination to listen
Without prejudice
Without fear
With a Courageous Empathy

After this election,
Let us engage in
Civic Alchemy

Let us work to turn:

The Lie of Separation
Into
The Truth of
Interconnection
Interdependence
Of One Nation, Indivisible.

After this election

Let Us Together Turn:

Entrenched Animosity
Into
Elevated Love

Clinched Fists
Into
Outstretched Hands

Red and Blue
Into
Us: beautiful, incredible, hopeful, helpful, united, Civic Alchemists.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Guilt, Desire and Love

By James Baldwin

At the dark street corner
where Guilt and Desire
are attempting to stare
each other down
(presently, one of them
will light a cigarette
and glance in the direction
of the abandoned warehouse)
Love came slouching along,
an exploded silence
standing a little apart
but visible anyway
in the yellow, silent, steaming light,
while Guilt and Desire wrangled,
trying not to be overheard
by this trespasser.
Each time Desire looked towards Love,
hoping to find a witness,
Guilt shouted louder
and shook them hips
and the fire of the cigarette
threatened to burn the warehouse down.
Desire actually started across the street,
time after time,
to hear what Love might have to say,
but Guilt flagged down a truckload
of other people

and knelt down in the middle of the street
and, while the truckload of other people
looked away, and swore that they
didn't see nothing
and couldn't testify nohow,
and Love moved out of sight,
Guilt accomplished upon the standing body
of Desire
the momentary, inflammatory soothing
which seals their union
(for ever?) and creates a mighty traffic problem.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

How to Care for a Poet

By Shadab Zeest Hashmi

Discard old sponges. Wash her bitter with dried gourd
This to surface the memory of aniseed
She has walked down a staircase all night. Each step was a NO.
Be a tall window in her dream. A light
that rises from basement to terrace.
Pick thorns from her hair,
spasms from her ankle. She abides
in a storm, her suitcase full of stopped
clocks. Paste a Persian garden
on her door, a gazebo of swans.
Promise her wild grass
and oil lamps. Fold her at least nine times
in the crushed velvet you found her in. Keep
her aglow with moth wings.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Destruction Bay, Yukon

By Cinthia Ritchie

Fog fills the water,
it’s hard to see the mountains,
we’ve been camped here for days,
like my own skin, ordinary, warm,
the surprise of no surprises,
<>we swim through nights without
darkness, wake to

mouths, meanings,
bear prints around the tent,
we hang our food from tree branches,
drink dirty water,
sit on the shore until we lose
our capacity for words,
the waves,
the long cool stretches,
and wild.


Cinthia Ritchie writes and runs mountains in Anchorage, Alaska. Find her work at Evening Street Review, Sport Literate, Best American Sports Writing 2013, Cactus Heart Press, Water-Stone Review, damfino, Mary, The Boiler Journal, damselfly press, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine and others. Her first novel, "Dolls Behaving Badly," released from Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

After the Dragonflies

By W.S. Merwin

 Dragonflies were as common as sunlight
hovering in their own days
backward forward and sideways
as though they were memory
now there are grown-ups hurrying
who never saw one
and do not know what they
are not seeing
the veins in a dragonfly’s wings
were made of light
the veins in the leaves knew them
and the flowing rivers
the dragonflies came out of the color of water
knowing their own way
when we appeared in their eyes
we were strangers
they took their light with them when they went
there will be no one to remember us

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Trying to talk with a man

By Adrienne Rich

Out in this desert we are testing bombs,

that's why we came here.

Sometimes I feel an underground river
forcing its way between deformed cliffs
an acute angle of understanding
moving itself like a locus of the sun
into this condemned scenery.

What we’ve had to give up to get here –
whole LP collections, films we starred in
playing in the neighborhoods, bakery windows
full of dry, chocolate-filled Jewish cookies,
the language of love-letters, of suicide notes,
afternoons on the riverbank
pretending to be children

Coming out to this desert
we meant to change the face of
driving among dull green succulents
walking at noon in the ghost town
surrounded by a silence

that sounds like the silence of the place
except that it came with us
and is familiar
and everything we were saying until now
was an effort to blot it out –
coming out here we are up against it


Out here I feel more helpless
with you than without you
You mention the danger
and list the equipment
we talk of people caring for each other
in emergencies - laceration, thirst -
but you look at me like an emergency

Your dry heat feels like power
your eyes are stars of a different magnitude
they reflect lights that spell out: EXIT
when you get up and pace the floor

talking of the danger
as if it were not ourselves
as if we were testing anything else.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Like You

By Roque Dalton

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-blue
landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.

I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don't end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
love,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.

Translated by Jack Hirschman


Como tu

Yo, como tu,
amo el amor, la vida, el dulce encanto
de las cosas, el paisaje
celeste de los dias de enero.

Tambien mi sangre bulle
y rio por los ojos
que han conocido el brote de las lagrimas.

Creo que el mundo es bello,
que la poesia es como el pan, de todos.

Y que mis venas no terminan en mi
sino en la sangre unanime
de lose que luchan por la vida,
el amor,
las cosas,
el paisaje y el pan,
las poesia de todos.

Monday, October 17, 2016

I Explain A Few Things

By Pablo Neruda

You will ask: But where are the lilacs?
And the metaphysics covered with poppies?
And the rain that often struck
his words, filling them
with holes and birds?

I am going to tell you what’s happening to me.

I lived in a barrio
of Madrid, with bells,
with clocks, with trees.

From there you could see
the parched face of Castile
like an ocean of leather.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because from everywhere
geraniums burst: it was
a beautiful house,
with dogs and children.
Raul, do you remember?
Do you remember, Rafael?
Federico, do you remember
under the ground,
do you remember my house with balconies
where the June light drowned the flowers in your mouth?
Brother, brother!
Everything
was loud voices, salt of goods,
crowds of pulsating bread,
marketplaces in my barrio of Arguelles with its statue
like a pale inkwell set down among the hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep throbbing
of feet and hands filled the streets,
meters, liters, the hard
edges of life,
heaps of fish,
geometry of roofs under a cold sun in which
the weathervane grew tired,
delirious fine ivory of potatoes,
tomatoes, more tomatoes, all the way to the sea.

And one morning all was burning
and one morning bonfires
sprang out of the earth
devouring humans,
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.

Bandidos with planes and Moors,
bandidos with rings and duchesses,
bandidos with black friars signing the cross
coming down from the sky to kill children,
and in the streets the blood of the children
ran simply, like children’s blood.

Jackals the jackal would despise,
stones the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers the vipers would abominate.

Facing you I have seen the blood
of Spain rise up
to drown you in a single wave
of pride and knives.

Treacherous,
generals:
look at my dead house,
look at Spain broken:
from every house burning metal comes out
instead of flowers,
but from every crater of Spain
comes Spain
from every dead child comes a rifle with eyes,
from every crime bullets are born
that will one day will find out in you
the site of the heart.

You will ask: why doesn’t his poetry
Speak to us of dreams, of leaves
of the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets,
come and see
the blood in the streets,
come and see the blood
in the streets!


Translated by Galway Kinnell



* Line breaks are not how they originally appear

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Man in the Long Black Coat

By Bob Dylan

Crickets are chirpin' the water is high
There's a soft cotton dress on the line hangin' dry
Window wide open African trees
Bent over backwards from a hurricane breeze
Not a word of goodbye not even a note
She gone with the man in the long black coat.

Somebody seen him hangin' around
As the old dance hall on the outskirts of town
He looked into her eyes when she stopped him to ask
If he wanted to dance he had a face like a mask
Somebody said from the Bible he'd quote
There was dust on the man in the long black coat.

Preacher was talking there's a sermon he gave
He said every man's conscience is vile and depraved
You cannot depend on it to be your guide
When it's you who must keep it satisfied
It ain't easy to swallow it sticks in the throat
She gave her heart to the man in the long black coat.

There are no mistakes in life some people say
It is true sometimes you can see it that way
But people don't live or die people just float
She went with the man in the long black coat.

There's smoke on the water it's been there since June
Tree trunks uprooted beneath the high crescent moon
Feel the pulse and vibration and the rumbling force
Somebody is out there beating on a dead horse
She never said nothing there was nothing she wrote
She gone with the man in the long black coat.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Father

By Georgeann Eskievich Rettberg

Hell, steelworkers built this country.
I work like a jackass in there.
I deserve the money.
They take half in taxes,
but shit, this ia  a great country.
Can't complain even with strikes     layoffs.
I got a house    a car    a kid in college.

But the shit that goes on in the place.
The noise blows your head off.
And hot     try sitting in a tree
in the middle of a forest fire.
Dying doesn't scare me.
Christ, I've seen hell.
It has smokestacks and a blast furnace.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Head of the Year

By Marge Piercy

The moon is dark tonight, a new
moon for a new year. It is
hollow and hungers to be full.
It is the black zero of beginning.

Now you must void yourself
of injuries, insults, incursions.
Go with empty hands to those
you have hurt and make amends.

It is not too late. It is early
and about to grow. Now
is the time to do what you
know you must and have feared
to begin. Your face is dark
too as you turn inward to face
yourself, the hidden twin of
all you must grow to be.

Forgive the dead year. Forgive
yourself. What will be wants
to push through your fingers.
The light you seek hides
in your belly. The light you
crave longs to stream from
your eyes. You are the moon
that will wax in new goodness.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Birthday of the World: A Psalm for Rosh Hashanah

By Marcia Falk

Today is the birthday of the world.
But the world knows nothing
of this invention.

The world just keeps moving about itself,
buzzing and humming, exulting and keening,
birthing and being born,

while the mind keeps on its own way—
form-craving, metaphor-making,
over and over, giving birth and being born.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Powerhouse

By Nick Norwood, Michael McFalls, Marc Olivié and Marleen De Bode Olivié

now that you are here
amid crag and gleam
mist-rise and vapor
dark jade frothing
into white lace
here where the rains
come to gargle
spit jets of spray
see herons creep
smokestacks peer
through high windows
spirits sleep
spool and spindle
shaft and shackle
tie-snake and eagle
sit still
as an old powerhouse
and mind your moorings
the river roaring.


This poem is part of a public art display on the Chattahoochee RiverWalk

Sunday, September 25, 2016

I, too, sing America

By Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother. 
They send me to eat in the kitchen 
When company comes, 
But I laugh, 
And eat well, 
And grow strong.

Tomorrow, 
I’ll be at the table 
When company comes. 
Nobody’ll dare 
Say to me,
 “Eat in the kitchen," 
Then. 

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am 
And be ashamed— 

I, too, am America.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Untitled

By Serena Williams

She turns her disappointment into triumph.
Her grief into joy. Her rejections into approvals.
If no one believes in her it does not matter. She believes in herself.
Nothing stops her. No one can touch her.
She is woman.

Monday, September 12, 2016

It's My Body

By Denise Duhamel

“There was a time when Barbie couldn’t even
bend her knees,” I told my nieces Kerri and Katie
who sit before me on a living room floor
in blue and pink collar America.
They are strapping their Rock-n-Roll Barbies
into tiny leatherette pants
and big black guitars
with jagged lightning hips. Katie hands me
her doll because she needs help
with the tiny buttons that snake the back
of Barbie’s off-the-shoulder blouse. “My first Barbie
couldn´t even twist her waist”. I am talking
like a person who has lived long enough
to see significant change. My nieces
have their backs to the TV which seems always on,
wherever I am. And behind their blond
innocent heads, Jessica Hahn
makes a cameo appearance on an MTV video.
She rolls like a sexy pinball,
then tries to claw herself out of a concave cage.
“It’s my body”, I recently heard her say
on a morning talk show. She started
by defending her nude poses in Playboy.
“It’s my body”, she repeated
like a Chatty Cathy doll
with a skipping record stuck in her back.
“It’s my body,” she began to answer
her interviewer’s every inquiry –
where she grew up, if she still went to church.
“It’s my body?”
The words stayed the same,
but as more accusations came, her inflections
changed. Jessica looked beyond the studio set
where somebody seemed to be cueing her
that message. My lover was laughing.
“How about a little conviction there, Jessica?”,
he said to the TV. Then, trying to coax
more conversation, he addressed me, “Look,
honey, she doesn’t even seem to know if it’s her body
or not.” He was right,
but he knew as he brought it up,
it was the wrong thing to say.
I’d had too much coffee.
I found myself energetically defending Jessica,
blaming her disorientation
as a response to our misogynous society-
the dislocation all women feel
from their physical selves.
And then came the theories I’d been reading.
He left for work kind of agreeing
but also complaining that I’d made him exhausted.
And now my sister is blaming me for the same thing
because I am pointing out to Katie that she is mistaken
to think only boys should get dirty
and only girls should wear earrings.
“People should be able to do whatever they want.”
I lecture her about my friend who wears a hard hat
when she goes to her job and works
with electricity, just like her daddy.
Katie fiddles with her shoelaces
and asks for juice. My sister says,
“Give the kid a break. She’s only in kindergarten.”
Older Kerri is concentrating, trying
to get a big comb for humans
through her doll’s Moussed synthetic hair.
Because untangling the snarls needs so much force,
suddenly, accidentally, Barbie’s head pops off,
and a smaller one, a faceless socket,
emerges from her neck. For an instant
we all –two sets of sisters, our ages
twenty years apart – share a small epiphany
about Mattel: this brainwashed piece of plastic cerebrum
is underneath who Barbie is. But soon
Kerri’s face is all panic, like she will be punished.
The tears begin in the corner of her eyes.
I make a fast rescue attempt,
spearing Barbie’s molded head
back on her body, her malleable features distorting
under my thumb. Although a grown doll,
the soft spot at the top of her skull
still hasn’t closed. Under the pressure
of my touch, her face is squashed, someone
posing in a fun house mirror.
But the instant I let go, she snaps back
into a polite smile, her perfect nose
erect and ready to make everything
right: Barbie is America’s –
half victim, half little pink soldier.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 1, 1939

By W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

To The Black and Brown Girls Who Go Missing Before They Go Missing

By Elisabet Velasquez

 Maybe it was because of the last time
you ran away with the boy
who looked like God.

Maybe it was because of the way
you came back three days later
like you were God.

Maybe they expected you
to resurrect like this, again,

like you have always been a dead girl,
wanting to rise,
glory and miracle.

Like you just wanted your loved ones
to gather around you
so you made a funeral of your body.

Maybe they did not search for you
because you being gone

was not enough evidence
that you were indeed missing.

You so loud, the police are sure
your family will find you.
Crying wolf. Crying rape. Crying.
You so loud
that when you are silent,

they point your parents in the direction
of your echo and say look,
a cave in love with her own darkness.

When the media does not report the news
of your disappearance, you are not a girl worthy of a torch.

You, girl with bonfire hair, do not get to be illuminated.
Do not get to smile for the sake of being happy.

You have a prison grin. They say, it’s your mouth that keeps you captive.
You talk crazy before you talk freedom. It is no wonder you are missing.

Look, how your whole life is condensed to height, weight, eye color, tattoos, piercings.
You, get to be an art gallery on a light pole.

You, do not get to be someone’s favorite song.
You, get to be broken record.

You, do not get an amber Alert if your name is not Amber.
You, a name too hard to pronounce, must mean you difficult too.

Must mean you not worthy of a chorus to sing you into a prayer.
Must make you a melody we forgot the words too, a quiet hum.

A flash mob with no mob and no flash.
You, a dance too hard to memorize.

When they stumble upon your lifeless body in a lake,
they point out every other time in your life you’ve drowned.

Medical records will float to the surface before your body does:
Depression, Bi-Polar.

They will say you did this to yourself.

Girls like you are always found submerged in a body of water.
Always baptized, never saved.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What Trump Voters May Be Thinking

By Calvin Trillin

A man who goes ballistic
At trivial rebukes
Is just the sort of person
One wants in charge of nukes

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

two nights before my 72nd birthday

By Charles Bukowski

sitting here on a boiling hot night while
after winning $232 at the track.
there's not much I can tell you except
if it weren't for my bad right leg
I don't feel much different than I did
30 or 40 years ago (except that
now I have more money and should be able
to afford a decent
burial). also,
I drive better automobiles and have
stopped carrying a
switchblade.
I am still looking for a hero, a role model,
but can't find one.
I am no more tolerant of Humanity
than I ever was.
I am not bored with myself and find
that I am the only one I can
turn to in time of
crisis.
I've been ready to die for decades and
I've been practicing, polishing up
for that end
but it's very
hot tonight
and I can think of little but
this fine cabernet,
that's gift enough for me.
sometimes I can't
believe I've come this far,
this has to be some kind of goddamned
miracle!
just another old guy
blinking at the forces,
smiling a little,
as the cities tremble and the left
hand rises,
clutching
something
real.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Your Shoulders Hold Up the World

By Carlos Drummond de Andrade

 A time comes when we no longer can say:
A time of total cleaning up.
A time when we no longer can say: my love.
Because love proved useless.
And the eyes don't cry.
And the hands do only rough work.
And the heart is dry.
They knock at our door in vain, we won't open.
We remain alone, the light turned off,
and our enormous eyes shine in the dark.
It is obvious we no longer know how to suffer.
And we want nothing from our friends.
Who cares if old age comes, what is old age?
Our shoulders are holding up the world
and it's lighter than a child's hand.
>Wars, famine, family fights inside buildings
>prove only that life goes on
and not everybody has freed themselves yet.
Some (the delicate ones) judging the spectacle cruel
will prefer to die.
A time comes when death doesn't help.
A time comes when life is an order.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Tao Te Ching, #31

Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.
Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst of necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesn't wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?

He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

“Your Luck Is About To Change”

By Susan Elizabeth Howe

(A fortune cookie)

Ominous inscrutable Chinese news
to get just before Christmas,
considering my reasonable health,
marriage spicy as moo-goo-gai-pan,
career running like a not-too-old Chevrolet.
Not bad, considering what can go wrong:
the bony finger of Uncle Sam
might point out my husband,
my own national guard,
and set him in Afghanistan;
my boss could take a personal interest;
the pain in my left knee could spread to my right.
Still, as the old year tips into the new,
I insist on the infant hope, gooing and kicking
his legs in the air. I won't give in
to the dark, the sub-zero weather, the fog,
or even the neighbors' Nativity.
Their four-year-old has arranged
his whole legion of dinosaurs
so they, too, worship the child,
joining the cow and sheep. Or else,
ultimate mortals, they've come to eat
ox and camel, Mary and Joseph,
then savor the newborn babe.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

White Boy Privilege

By Royce Mann

Dear women, I am sorry.
Dear black people, I am sorry.
Dear Asian Americans, dear Native
Americans, dear immigrants who come
here seeking a better life, I am sorry.

Dear everyone who isn’t a middle or
upper-class white boy, I am sorry.

I have started life at the
top of the ladder, while you were born on the first rung.

I say now that I would change places
 with you in an instant, but if given the
opportunity, would I?

Probably not. Because to be honest,
being privileged is awesome.

I’m not saying that you and me on
different rungs of the ladder is how I want it to stay,
I’m not saying any part of me for one moment has even liked it that way,

I’m just saying, I fucking love being
privileged and I’m not ready to give that away.

I love it, because I can say “fucking”
and not one of you is attributing that to
the fact that everyone of my skin color
has a dirty mouth.

I love it, because I don’t have to spend
an hour every morning putting on
makeup to meet other people’s standards.

I love it, because I can worry about
what kind of food is on my plate,
instead of whether or not there will be food on my plate.

I love it, because when I see a police officer,
I see someone who’s on my side.

To be honest, I’m scared of what it would be like
if I wasn’t on the top rung.

If the tables were turned, and I couldn’t
have my white boy privilege safety blankie to protect me.

If I lived a life by what I lack, not what I have,
 if I lived a life in which when I failed,
the world would say ‘Told you so.’

If I lived the life that you live.

When I was born, I had a success story
already written for me. You, you were
 given a pen and no paper.

I’ve always felt that that’s unfair,
but I’ve never dared to speak up because I’ve been too scared.

Well, now I realize that there’s enough blankie to be shared.

Everyone should have the privileges
that I have. In fact, they should be rights instead.

Everyone’s stories should be written,
o all they have to do is get it read.
Enough said.

No, not enough said.

It is embarrassing that we still live in a world
in which we judge another person’s character
by the size of their paycheck, the color of their skin,
or the type of chromosomes they have.

It is embarrassing that we tell our kids
that it is not their personality,
but instead those same chromosomes that get to dictate
 what color clothes they wear, and how short they cut their hair.

But most of all, it is embarrassing that we deny this,
that we claim to live in an equal country in an equal world.

We say that women can vote? Well,
guess what? They can run a country,
own a company, and throw a nasty curveball as well.
We just don’t give them the chance to.

I know it wasn’t us 8th grade white boys
who created this system, but we profit from it every day.
We don’t notice these privileges though, because
they don’t come in the form of things we gain,
but rather the lack of injustices that we endure.

Because of my gender, I can watch any sport on TV
and feel like that could be me one day.

Because of my race, I can eat in a fancy restaurant
without the wait staff expecting me to steal the silverware.

Thanks to my parents’ salary, I go to a school
 that brings my dreams closer instead of pushing them away.

Dear white boys, I’m not sorry.
I don’t care if you think that feminists are taking over the world,
or that Black Lives Matter has gotten a little too strong,
because that’s bullshit.

I get that change can be scary, but equality shouldn’t be.
Hey white boys, it’s time to act like a woman.
To be strong and make a difference. It’s time to let go of that fear.
It’s time to take that ladder and turn it into a bridge.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Power

By Audre Lorde

The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
yourself
instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds
and a dead child dragging his shattered black
face off the edge of my sleep
blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders
is the only liquid for miles
and my stomach
churns at the imagined taste while
my mouth splits into dry lips
without loyalty or reason
thirsting for the wetness of his blood
as it sinks into the whiteness
of the desert where I am lost
without imagery or magic
trying to make power out of hatred and destruction
trying to heal my dying son with kisses
only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens
stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood
and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and
there are tapes to prove it. At his trial
this policeman said in his own defense
“I didn't notice the size nor nothing else
only the color”. And
there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man
with 13 years of police forcing
was set free
by eleven white men who said they were satisfied
justice had been done
and one Black Woman who said
“They convinced me” meaning
they had dragged her 4'10'' black Woman's frame
over the hot coals
of four centuries of white male approval
until she let go
the first real power she ever had
and lined her own womb with cement
to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction
within me.
But unless I learn to use
the difference between poetry and rhetoric
my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold
or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire
and one day I will take my teenaged plug
and connect it to the nearest socket
raping an 85 year old white woman
who is somebody's mother
and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed
a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time
“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Revolver

By Carl Sandburg

Here is a revolver.
It has an amazing language all its own.
It delivers unmistakable ultimatums.
It is the last word.
A simple, little human forefinger can tell a terrible story with it.
Hunger, fear, revenge, robbery hide behind it.
It is the claw of the jungle made quick and powerful.
It is the club of the savage turned to magnificent precision.
It is more rapid than any judge or court of law.
It is less subtle and treacherous than any one lawyer or ten.

When it has spoken, the case can not be appealed to the supreme court, nor any mandamus nor any injunction nor any stay of execution in and interfere with the original purpose.

And nothing in human philosophy persists more strangely than the old belief that God is always on the side of those who have the most revolvers.

This poem was unpublished until a professor at the University of Illinois  Urbana-Champaign found it, and the Chicago Tribune published it in 2013.  

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Never Shall I Forget

By Ellie Wiesel 

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith for ever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live
as long as God Himself.
Never. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I Listen to Istanbul

By Orhan Veli Kanik

I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed:
The cool covered bazaar,
Mahmutpasha, the courtyards
Filled with warbling pigeons,
Hammer sounds from the docks,
Smells of sweat in my lovely Spring wind;
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed.
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed:
An old world drunk in its head,
A waterfront palace with a dark boat shed,
The humming of the lodos ceases inside;
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed.
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed:
A pretty young girl walks by
Chased by taunts, come-ons and curses,
Something falls from my hand—
Surely a rose;
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed.
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed:
A bird is fluttering in your skirts,
Your brow is hot, I know,
Your lips are wet, I know, I know,
A white moon rises behind the pistachio trees—
I understand the pounding of your heart;
I listen to Istanbul, my eyes closed.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Good Bones

By Maggie Smith

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real s---hole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

For colored boys who speak softly

By Yosimar Reyes

For colored boys
I will crucify myself like Christ
let my blood purify and sanctify these words
create a doctrine and go knocking door to door
letting the people know that messiahs are here
that we are messengers
even though we embody the word queer
that we are a reminder of
how colonization has destroyed nuestra cultura
they burned our villages, nuestros pueblos
implemented homophobia, sexism, and machismo
in las cabezas de nuestros abuelos
brainwashed our ancestors into believing
that boys like us are a manifestation of the devil

For colored boys who speak softly
I'll remind the world that centuries ago
we were shamans and healers
gifted warriors
two-spirited people highly respected by villagers
but now we've become
nothing more than fags and queers
making ourselves believe
that capitalism will solve our issue...

I'll recognize
that there is more than one wound to heal
more than one struggle that we feel
but this ignorance blocks us from seeing
the greater picture, the greater evil
and these same issues
these same issues transcend the borders
because brothers and sisters
in Oaxaca
in Chiapas
in the Philippines
in Iraq
are resisting this very same system...

For colored boys
I will remind my people
que somos diferente
que somos gente
con cultura, con orgullo, con poder
we are people
and with the people we stand
breaking borders and stereotypes
like this system that exploited our hands...

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The War Continues

By Cherríe Moraga

Flesh is full
of holes.

It is made
to breathe
secrete
receive.

It is nothing
against
bombs
and
bullets.

It is not meant
to be a barrier
against
anything.

But this dark flesh
will resist you flee
you who believe
you are not made
of the same
skin
and
bones.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day for the War Dead

By Yehuda Amichai

Memorial day for the war dead. Add now
the grief of all your losses to their grief,
even of a woman that has left you. Mix
sorrow with sorrow, like time-saving history,
which stacks holiday and sacrifice and mourning
on one day for easy, convenient memory.

Oh, sweet world soaked, like bread,
in sweet milk for the terrible toothless God.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."
No use to weep inside and to scream outside.
Behind all this perhaps some great happiness is hiding.

Memorial day. Bitter salt is dressed up
as a little girl with flowers.
The streets are cordoned off with ropes,
for the marching together of the living and the dead.
Children with a grief not their own march slowly,
like stepping over broken glass.

The flautist's mouth will stay like that for many days.
A dead soldier swims above little heads
with the swimming movements of the dead,
with the ancient error the dead have
about the place of the living water.

A flag loses contact with reality and flies off.
A shopwindow is decorated with
dresses of beautiful women, in blue and white.
And everything in three languages:
Hebrew, Arabic, and Death.

A great and royal animal is dying
all through the night under the jasmine
tree with a constant stare at the world.

A man whose son died in the war walks in the street
like a woman with a dead embryo in her womb.
"Behind all this some great happiness is hiding."

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Touched by An Angel

By Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Friday, May 27, 2016

An Open Letter to the Christian Right From a Follower of Christ

By Ryk McIntyre

May God forgive what you’ve done to Jesus.
You’ve taken the hand he taught you to reach out with,
turned it into a fist, and use it to feed your children intolerance.

You’re lost souls standing by the only road they know,
putting up signs that read “Only Way.”
Name-dropping Jesus like you’re praying hard
to get into the after-party. But once inside
you’d be the first to slam the door on the rest,
singing “Praise the Lord and Pass the Limited Access!”
Your songs describe a Prince of Peace on the attack--

I want my Jesus back.

I’m sick in my soul with all you Onward Soldiers
carrying Jesus around in a cross-draw holster,
unaware of all the damage that you do:
when most people think of Christians, they picture you
arming a religion Jesus never would have blessed.
putting words in Jesus’ mouth that would never pass his lips.
Blind to the world, eyes fixed on the day Jesus returns.
What makes you think he left?
Maybe he’ll walk into your church today, dressed like a health inspector
asking, “What garbage are you serving in my Father’s House?
Your hands are red, and you’ve got weapons in your mouth?”

You use the Cross to rally anti-immigrant laws, until
all but one finger on Liberty’s right hand’s been sawn off, so
all foreigners see is an iron lady saying “Fuck You” with a torch.
But when did Jesus say close the doors?
or ‘Blessed are the locked-down borders’?
What he said was "In my Name, do charitable acts."

Give me my Jesus back.

Stop claiming the Sermon Mount as sniper vantage
for the weapons you keep in your mouth.
Stop whoring for dollars like God’s overdrawn his bank account.
Stop spreading a gospel of bondage and sin.
You’re not listening, so here’s an example:
whether you argue abortion’s not a right but murder?
It doesn’t matter. Either way, Jesus still loves her.
It’s time to stop judging and start looking for real results.
If you hate abortion that much, open free daycares or shut up.

And Jesus doesn’t hate gays, never did. That’s St. Paul and Leviticus,
and they were simply wrong because "Hate" isn’t what a Loving God does.
The only thing Jesus cares about gay marriage is that they're happy.
In a world of war and starvation, Jerry Falwell takes on the Teletubbies?
Those weapons in your mouth make your every word perverse.
Fred Phelps and your Westboro Baptist Church?
I could do a whole poem on you. But you’re not worth it.

I'm calling out the Patriarchs of Christian America: get right
with Jesus: Stop hating other religions, try a slice of humble, see the light
as it falls across a world where’s there’s so much real suffering endured
Instead of bibles, try giving away food to the hungry and poor
Your false Jesus is a Warlord, fraudulently caucasian.
I'm taking my Jesus back. Keep your pale imitation.

You’ve taken the hand
Jesus taught you to reach out with, and balled it into a fist.
Your sin is thinking there could be anything Holy in this.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Great Escape

By Charles Bukowski

listen, he said, you ever seen a bunch of crabs in a 
bucket? 
no, I told him.
well, what happens is that now and then one crab
will climb up on top of the others
and begin to climb toward the top of the bucket,
then, just as he's about to escape
another crab grabs him and pulls him back
down.
really? I asked.
really, he said, and this job is just like that, none
of the others want anybody to get out of 
here. that's just the way it is
in the postal service! 
I believe you, I said.
just then the supervisor walked up and said,
you fellows were talking.
there is no talking allowed on this
job.
I had been there for eleven and one-half
years.
I got up off my stool and climbed right up the 
supervisor
and then I reached up and pulled myself right
out of there.
it was so easy it was unbelievable.
but none of the others followed me.
and after that, whenever I had crab legs
I thought about that place.
I must have thought about that place
maybe 5 or 6 times
before I switched to lobster

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Blind Spot

By Cheryl J. Fish

Never mended my blind spot—thought the volcano swerved
>A graphic novel monster, stationary molten rock
At Windy Ridge, Mount St. Helens, 30 years post-eruption
Cartoon-like, cracked.
Cell phone powers up approaching the ridge—four bars.
A series of beeps in your pocket
Imagine those hikers falling from a snow cornice
Thinking they stood on solid rock, not packed snow
Posing for a photo, they slid down the south face
Blurred in winter’s majestic light, flashes of old growth forest
Charred in pyroclastic flow
No more solid than the peak that once glistened distant
On blue Portland days
What you can’t fathom finds you
Objects unto obliteration.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Untitled

By Naina Kataria


When a man tells me 
I’m beautiful
I don’t believe him.
Instead, I relive my days in high school
When no matter how good I was
I was always the girl with a moustache
He doesn’t know what it’s like
to grow up in your maternal family
Where your body is the only one that
Proudly boasts of your father’s X
While your mother’s X sits back and pities
It’s unladylike-ness
He doesn’t know the teenager
Who filled her corners with
Empty consolations of
Being loved for who she was- someday.
He doesn’t know hypocrisy.
He doesn’t know of the world that
tells you to ‘be yourself’
and sells you a fair and lovely shade card
in the same fucking breath
He doesn’t know of the hot wax and the laser
whose only purpose is to
replace your innocent skin
with its own brand of womanhood
He doesn’t know of the veet and the bleach
That uproot your robust hair
in the name of hygiene
Hygiene, which when followed by men
makes them gay and unmanly
He doesn’t know how unruly eyebrows are tamed
and how uni brows die a silent death
All to preserve beauty
And of the torturous miracles that happen
Inside the doors marked
"WOMEN ONLY"
So when a man calls me beautiful
I throw at him, a smile; a smile that remained
After everything the strip pulled away
And I dare him
To wait
Till my hair grows back.



This poem was originally published on Facebook by the author, and then went viral. 


Thursday, April 28, 2016

On Days When I am Too Queer For This World

By Susan Wolf

there’s no place to run
except back to sleep where they can’t look at my papers,
search and confiscate the simple parts of myself
the parts that show
parts they say don’t ring true
because I am not a bell, a homogenous object
vibrations do no travel across me unchanged

I am not pure metal, ripped from pure earth
refined, forged, beaten smooth
smooth touch, smooth sound, smooth talk about smooth gods
makes the feel all of a piece

I am a child of rougher gods
I cut their fingers and make them bleed

grinding crunch
becomes earthquake vibration
odd harmonics cascade
as I collide with this world where I wake up
alarm clock bell
drags me into clattering hum of this sleep waking drone

there is no place to run
except back to sleep
in search of a better waking, better place
though no place rings any more true to me than I do to
guards, soldiers, police
they can see, hear, feel it right down to their boots

dark skinned women
who don’t say the words the boys yell, MARICON
but think it
as they pull their children closer, away down the aisle

pale skinned women push their lips together even more tightly
stare right through me

boys, man-boys still sweating from the gym
wait in the check-out line
bulging bodies make the motion of elbowing me out of the way
they are standing still
breathing hard
impatient waiting
as the cashier addresses me by two different pronouns in the same sentence
calls me ma’am and sir before handing me my change

my leave to go out
home
up the hill
door slam

there is no place to run
except back to sleep
when this world is a swimming silver mirage
I can see right through it all
clear through to nothing
not like other spheres
that look surreal, like paintings
but are solid if I touch them

everything bends away from me here
so that I can never connect
the illusion of my anti-gravity bends the illusion of this world
distance is always maintained
pretense is always preserved

in this worst waking place
there is no place to run
except back to sleep
in search of a better waking.