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.