Monday, April 24, 2017

This Might Not Make Sense Now, But Don’t Worry, It Will

By Noah Michelson

For Paolo Fanoli 

When I ask Paolo how to draw the line between
not wanting to live anymore and wanting to die,
all he’ll quietly commit to is “that isn’t funny.”

I’m worried I worry him.

He says if I ever left him he would keep my body
under his bed and drag it out once a day to remember me,
prop up the less and less of me that’s left of me
and remind me of the world I left behind me — just look!
Some people can wake up every morning, open their
eyes and recognize something beautiful, even if it’s
just the sun slobbering across the bedroom floor with its
hot black tongue,

so, why can’t you?

He’s right, of course, but when I was 14, nothing was
more beautiful than the thought of the heavy gray
garage door guarding the far edge of my family’s driveway
and how sweetly, how surely it could kiss my head
apart from the rest of my body if only I asked it sweetly
enough.

Things were different then —

I still was afraid to ask for what I wanted then and I
spent my lunch hours holed up in the biology lab hiding
from the other boys, sobbing into my sandwich, another
pickled frog prince bobbing in his embalming fluid, one more

never-born piglet day-drunk on the useless daydream of
one day living someone else’s life on the other side of the glass
but we both know how that story ends.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Self-Help for Refugees

By Li-Young Lee

If your name suggests a country where bells
might have been used for entertainment

or to announce the entrances and exits of the seasons
or the birthdays of gods and demons,

it's probably best to dress in plain clothes
when you arrive in the United States,
and try not to talk too loud.

If you happen to have watched armed men
beat and drag your father
out the front door of your house
and into the back of an idling truck

before your mother jerked you from the threshold
and buried your face in her skirt folds,
try not to judge your mother too harshly.

Don't ask her what she thought she was doing
turning a child's eyes
away from history
and toward that place all human aching starts.

And if you meet someone
in your adopted country,
and think you see in the other's face
an open sky, some promise of a new beginning,
it probably means you're standing too far.

Or if you think you read in the other, as in a book
whose first and last pages are missing,
the story of your own birthplace,
a country twice erased,
once by fire, once by forgetfulness,
it probably means you're standing too close.

In any case, try not to let another carry
the burden of your own nostalgia or hope.

And if you're one of those
whose left side of the face doesn't match
the right, it might be a clue

looking the other way was a habit
your predecessors found useful for survival.
Don't lament not being beautiful.

Get used to seeing while not seeing.
Get busy remembering while forgetting.
Dying to live while not wanting to go on.

Very likely, your ancestors decorated
their bells of every shape and size
with elaborate calendars
and diagrams of distant star systems,
but with no maps for scattered descendants.

And I bet you can't say what language
your father spoke when he shouted to your mother
from the back of the truck, "Let the boy see!"

Maybe it wasn't the language you used at home.
Maybe it was a forbidden language.
Or maybe there was too much screaming
and weeping and the noise of guns in the streets.

It doesn't matter. What matters is this:
The kingdom of heaven is good.
But heaven on earth is better.

Thinking is good.
But living is better.
Alone in your favorite chair
with a book you enjoy
is fine. But spooning
is even better.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Marathon

By E. Ethelbert Miller

it’s a strange time which finds me jogging
in early morning
the deadness of sleep alive in this world
the empty parks filled with unloved strangers
buildings grey with solitude
now near the end of another decade
i am witness to the loss of my twenties
a promise invisible
i run without purpose
far from the north star
i run with the sound of barking dogs closing in
i have lost count of the miles
i am older and nothing much matters
or has changed

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Song for Mardi Gras

By Rolfe Humphries

(Variation on a Welsh refrain Dy garu di a gerais)

I have loved loving you
O my dear, my softly spoken,
Now the forty days draw near,
Vows are made, vows are broken
Fare thee well, my little slim-waist,
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my fond, O my darling,
In the season and beyond
Under moon, under star
Now the time comes to fast -
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my linnet, O my dove,
God have mercy on a sinner!
Fare the well and absent, love,
Moon and star must go to waste
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

I have loved loving you,
O my green, O my shadow,
In the ambush set between
Mountainside, moor, and meadow.
March be gone, April haste
Till Easter Monday all are chaste.

 
This poem originally appeared in The New Yorker on March 2, 1957.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trigger Guard

By Joanna Fuhrman

Everyone I ever loved is standing
on a platform with a gun.

In the cartoon version, a flag pops
with the word 'bang.'

In the soap opera version,
my face turns the color of merlot.

In the haiku version,
metal gleams in the narrow shadow.

In the Republican version,
two guns wrap themselves in a single flag.

In the Langpo version.
idolatry yips yaps paradigm the.

In my diary version,
I wonder why everyone hates me.

In the indie film version,
a gun flickers over a mumbled tune.

In the Chekhov version,
(well, you already know.)

In the 10 o'clock news version,
the crisis in violence is rising.

In the action film version,
a shot means profits are rolling.

In the catalog version,
the smoke's hue is a burnished moss.

In the teen movie version,
a nerdy gun removes her glasses.

In the lucid dream version,
I kiss a muzzle and it blossoms.

In the music video version,
a gun turns into a mouth.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Babi Yar

By Yevgeni Yevtushenko

No monument stands over Babi Yar.
A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.
I am afraid.
Today, I am as old
As the entire Jewish race itself.

I see myself an ancient Israelite.
I wander o’er the roads of ancient Egypt
And here, upon the cross, I perish, tortured
And even now, I bear the marks of nails.

It seems to me that Dreyfus is myself.
The Philistines betrayed me – and now judge.
I’m in a cage. Surrounded and trapped,
I’m persecuted, spat on, slandered, and
The dainty dollies in their Brussels frills
Squeal, as they stab umbrellas at my face.

I see myself a boy in Belostok
Blood spills, and runs upon the floors,
The chiefs of bar and pub rage unimpeded
And reek of vodka and of onion, half and half.

I’m thrown back by a boot, I have no strength left,
In vain I beg the rabble of pogrom,
To jeers of “Kill the Jews, and save our Russia!”
My mother’s being beaten by a clerk.

O, Russia of my heart, I know that you
Are international, by inner nature.
But often those whose hands are steeped in filth
Abused your purest name, in name of hatred.

I know the kindness of my native land.
How vile, that without the slightest quiver
The antisemites have proclaimed themselves
The “Union of the Russian People!”

It seems to me that I am Anna Frank,
Transparent, as the thinnest branch in April,
And I’m in love, and have no need of phrases,
But only that we gaze into each other’s eyes.
How little one can see, or even sense!
Leaves are forbidden, so is sky,
But much is still allowed – very gently
In darkened rooms each other to embrace.

“They come!”

“No, fear not – those are sounds
Of spring itself. She’s coming soon.v Quickly, your lips!”

“They break the door!”

“No, river ice is breaking…”

Wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,
The trees look sternly, as if passing judgement.
Here, silently, all screams, and, hat in hand,
I feel my hair changing shade to gray.

And I myself, like one long soundless scream
Above the thousands of thousands interred,
I’m every old man executed here,
As I am every child murdered here.

No fiber of my body will forget this.
May “Internationale” thunder and ring
When, for all time, is buried and forgotten
The last of antisemites on this earth.

There is no Jewish blood that’s blood of mine,
But, hated with a passion that’s corrosive
Am I by antisemites like a Jew.
And that is why I call myself a Russian!


NOTES Translated by Benjamin Okopnik, 10/96

Saturday, April 1, 2017

American Nightmare, Day Two*

By Carol Seitchik

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  Margaret Mead


Be vigilant, America.
This is what Feminism looks like.
This is what democracy looks like.

Females are as strong as hell
when women of the world resist.
And you haven’t seen nasty yet.

This march is not about you, Donny.
You’re out of your element.
Feminism is my Trump card.

Keep your laws off my body.
Our daughters need to know
their bodies are their own.

Action is an antidote for despair.
But now, hell hath no fury
like a woman reborn.

Women united are stronger
than a country divided.
I voted for love not hate.

I will not be silent.
I will not play dead.
I will fight.

I am woman hear me roar.
Hear us, hear our voices.
This is just the beginning.

*All taken from signs from the various marches


Carol Seitchik comes to poetry after a long career in the visual arts. Her poems have appeared in the anthology, A Feast of Cape Ann Poets and various journals such as Endicott Review, Zingology, Gemini Press, and Heartlodge. She has been nominated for a Pushcart award and has won prizes from the North Shore Poets Forum, Byline and the Indiana Review. Carol is a member of Cape Ann Poets and lives in Beverly, MA.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Tinos, August 2012

By Anastasia Vassos

The island holds dust like a bowl,
but not for long. When the wind cracks,
the sand snakes. The priest’s shutters
are open. The rooster blusters
the morning sun.

In the center of the powdery town
a modern-day Sisyphus ascends
to the Virgin Mary’s church on hands
and knees – the bone he has to pick
with God between his teeth.
Dust in his lungs, his coarse face
is flooded blood-hot, a scrim of heat
rising off his back like a mirage.

We walk the sandy roads hand
in hand and observe this sacred contour.
We stop for bread, tomatoes, cheese.
A bottle of water. We bow our heads
having never been hungry.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

All the World's a Stage

By William Shakespeare

JACQUES:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

From from As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Book of Vashti

By Bonnie Lyons

(Esther 1)

Yes, you're Jews
but aren't you also women?
How can you celebrate Esther,
Mordechai's pawn, who only rose
to the occasion when he threatened
her personally. Until then, she was
content to remain Queen and blind
herself to the destruction
of the Jews.

Blind herself.
As you do now.

Read it again
but read it
as women:

We women were celebrating together
in our part of the palace,
when Ahasuerus, after seven days of drinking,
his heart "merry with wine"
ordered me to display myself
for the other men
like a whore.

When I refused,
he wanted to laugh it off
admit he was drunk and foolish,
but the other men, like all drunken men
in a mob, goaded him
to set the manly example.

And he did.
Banishing me and taking my lands,
jewels, and homes like a child
who grabs his playmate's toys.
The official account doesn't record
what happened next: how I lived
with the other cast-off women
in poverty and pride.

Yes, Esther, the fair young virgin,
using her beauty like a whore
conniving as a slave,
ensured the survival of the Jews
something temporary and local -
But even now
she blinds you,
binds you
to your weakness.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Change of Address

By Deborah Paredez

Rate your pain the physical
therapist instructs and I am trying
not to do what they say
women do lowballing the number
trying hard not to try so hard
to be the good patient scattered
assurances lining the aisles like
dead petals and me left
holding nothing but what’s been
emptied out obviously I am over-
thinking it when I settle on someplace
in the middle six or seven
times a week I walk past the street
vendor on Broadway and say
nothing while eyeing the same
pom-topped hat the physical
therapist asking me now
for the name of that Chinese place
where I sometimes go asking
for the patient just before me
a street vendor in need
of a cheap massage as I lay
the plain wreckage of my shoulders
in the shallow hollows
the street vendor’s body has left
on the padded table in the center
of the story I sometimes read
to my girl a cap seller sleeps
under a tree’s shade waking
to find the monkeys in the
branches above have plundered
his wares he waves his hands shakes
his fists until his rage makes him
throw his cap to the ground and the
monkeys mimic him and down
float his caps his fury finally
fulsome enough to restore
what he’s lost you’ve got to find
another way to move the physical
therapist modeling for me the poses
to mimic assuring her I won’t move
what’s left of the heavy boxes later
unpacking the last of them I learn
about the woman who once lived
here Charlotte who twisted the cap and shook
out the pills Charlotte who swallowed
and slipped into sleep in her last act
of volition here in this bedroom where
the westward windows go on longing
for dawn and I am trying to move in
a new way to pull the mess of sloughed
hair from the bathtub drain to move
in the space of another’s suffering
scrub the caked toothpaste
from the sink make a home
in the space where suffering
may meet its end.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Responsibility

By Grace Paley

It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the poet to stand on street corners
giving out poems and beautifully written leaflets
also leaflets they can hardly bear to look at
because of the screaming rhetoric

It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy to hang out and
prophesy

It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes

It is the responsibility of the poet to go in and out of ivory
towers and two-room apartments on Avenue C
and buckwheat fields and army camps

It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman

It is the poet’s responsibility to speak truth to power
as the Quakers say

It is the poet’s responsibility to learn the truth from the
powerless

It is the responsibility of the poet to say many times: there is no
freedom without justice and this means economic
justice and love justice

It is the responsibility of the poet to sing this in all the original
and traditional tunes of singing and telling poems

It is the responsibility of the poet to listen to gossip and pass it
on in the way storytellers decant the story of life

There is no freedom without fear and bravery there is no
freedom unless
earth and air and water continue and children
also continue

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman to keep an eye on
this world and cry out like Cassandra, but be
listened to this time.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Be Like the Cactus

By Kimii Nagata

Let not harsh tongues, that wag
in vain,
Discourage you. In spite of
pain,
Be like the cactus, which through
rain,
And storm, and thunder,
remain.


Kimii Nagata was a child in a Japanese internment camp in the United States. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

immature little narcissists

By Linda Crate

i never voted for you,
i implored my friends not to
because anyone who
feels women are nasty or to be
grabbed by the pussy
is too emotionally unstable
for office—
i tire of this country's rage against women
of people like you using money
to silence them
when they're assaulted or raped
and then your minions
want to say there's no rape culture
but i guess they've never had to walk down
the street and be catcalled when you're
in your work uniform and i suppose they've never
been looked at like a piece of meat or whistled
at when all they wanted was to be
left alone—
men like you make me sick
because you don't even deserve to be called men.
you're just boys pretending
angry when anyone sees through your paper thin alibis
the blame always belonging to someone else


Linda M. Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh yet raised in the rural town of Conneautville. Her poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has three published chapbooks: A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press) and Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon), and If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications). Her fantasy novel Blood & Magic was published in March 2015. The second novel of this series Dragons & Magic was published in October 2015. Her third novel Centaurs & Magic was published November 2016.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

No Mirrors in my Nana's House

By Ysaye Maria Barnwell

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

I never knew that my skin was too black.
I never knew that my nose was too flat.
I never knew that my clothes didn’t fit.
I never knew there were things that I’d missed,
cause the beauty in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun);
…was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

I was intrigued by the cracks in the walls.
I tasted, with joy, the dust that would fall.
The noise in the hallway was music to me.
The trash and the rubbish just cushioned my feet.
And the beauty in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).
…was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

The world outside was a magical place.
I only knew love.
I never knew hate,
and the beauty in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).
…was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
There were no mirrors in my Nana’s house,
no mirrors in my Nana’s house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

Monday, February 27, 2017

Grief

By Robert Pinsky

I don’t think anybody ever is
Really divorced, said Lenny. Also,
I don’t think anybody ever is
Really married, he said. Because

English was really his second language
And because of Yiddish and its displaced
Place in the world, he never really
Believed in his own prose. He wrote

Sentences the way a great boxer moves.
Near the end he told me “I’m in Hell”—
Something Lenny might have said about
Hunting for a parking space in Berkeley.

Mike too was himself. His last month,
Too weak to paint or make prints,
He sat and made drawings of flowers:
Ink attentive to rhythms of beach rose,

Wisteria, lily—forms like acrobats
Or Cossack dancers. Mike had a vision
Of his body dead on his studio floor
Seen from high above— he didn’t feel sad

Or afraid at seeing it, he said, just
Sorry for the person who would find it.
You can’t say nobody ever really dies:
Of course they do: Lenny died. Mike died.

But the odd thing is, the person still makes
A shape distinct and present in the mind
As an object in the hand. The presence
In the absence: it isn’t comfort—it’s grief.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

On the Freedom of the Press

By Benjamin Franklin

 While free from Force the Press remains,
Virtue and Freedom chear our Plains,
And Learning Largesses bestows,
And keeps unlicens’d open House.
We to the Nation’s publick Mart
Our Works of Wit, and Schemes of Art,
And philosophic Goods, this Way,
Like Water carriage, cheap convey.
This Tree which Knowledge so affords,
Inquisitors with flaming Swords
From Lay-Approach with Zeal defend,
Lest their own Paradise should end.

The Press from her fecundous Womb
Brought forth the Arts of Greece and Rome;
Her Offspring, skill’d in Logic War,
Truth’s Banner wav’d in open Air;
The Monster Superstition fled,
And hid in Shades her Gorgon Head;
And lawless Pow’r, the long kept Field,
By Reason quell’d, was forc’d to yield.

Friday, February 17, 2017

What I Mean When I Say Harmony

By Geffrey Davis & F. Douglas Brown

1.
dear boy be the muscle:
make music to the bone—risk
that mercurial measure
of contact there are those
who touch a body and leave it
graceful be that kind
of wonder —and if I ever
catch you confusing
a pulse for a path or a bridge
to beat loneliness your blood
will be the object of discussion
I will ask to see it back
if only to know the shared sinew
if only to relight your blessing
if only to rekindle the song
carried in your hands

2. The Remix
ode to the boy in me singing at the table so rude
but the hum-a-long mingles with your husky laughter
ode to the father in you wringing something out of nothing
ode to [dutiful] stitched into your fingers and not:—[obligatory drudgery]
and yes ode to the ghosts now roving your cupboards and bed
ode to your lingering music a mixtape of meals and memory
ode to what you still offer I suckle it down throughout the night
taste everything passed between your fingers

3. Side B
dear boy aint nothing
not about bodies
we have more than one
sun more than one way
to gasp inside the heat
and arms of praise
worship the warmth
of each loaded light let your body
grow fragile an offertory —sweet—
lick bite know the knot
of your desire hold it
in your mouth let it live
let it split do not leave this earth
without tasting what passes
between fingers son
always go deep find the seed
in each fruit’s buried longing
if it is yours sing it mine

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Remission

By Chelsea Krieg

Astronomers have shown that dead stars known as white dwarfs can re-ignite and explode as supernovas.
                                                                         – BBC News Science and Environment

When Dad got a tattoo, you laughed –
said you beat him to it. Three black specks

marking the cream swell of your breast
where months before, doctors aimed machines,

humming clean the still space the cells grew
abnormally like weeds in a flowerbed.

A constellation, you called it – Ursa major,
DracoOrion – shaping, naming the dark

freckles more permanent than your own
infant galaxies. When the doctor says, remission,

I imagine this constellation collapsing
into white dwarfs – remnants of dead stars

absent the fusion that makes them shine,
burn with heat. Now, I hold my breath,

watch their halos hover in the glow
of your skin, fear the explosion.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

New Year for the Trees

By Marge Piercy

It is the New Year of the Trees, but here
the ground is frozen under the crust of snow.
The trees snooze, their buds tight as nuts.
Rhododendron leaves roll up their stiff scrolls.

In the white and green north of the diaspora
I am stirred by a season that will not arrive
for six weeks, as wines on far continents prickle
to bubbles when their native vines bloom.

What blossoms here are birds jostling
at feeders, pecking sunflower seeds
and millet through the snow: tulip red
cardinal, daffodil finch, larkspur jay,

the pansybed of sparrows and juncos, all hungry.
They too are planters of trees, spreading seeds
of favorites along fences. On the earth closed
to us all as a book in a language we cannnot

yet read, the seeds, the bulbs, the eggs
of the fervid green year await release.
Over them on February’s cold table I spread
a feast. Wings rustle like summer leaves.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Water is Life

By Joy Harjo

I heard they started drilling today
Water is Life
I heard the sound of bit hit bone
Water is Life
I heard the blood rush up from earth's heart
Water is Life
I heard the children asking for a drink
Water is Life
What will it take to make the takers hear the song
water makes as it runs over stone?
What will it take for the takers to feel the sound of the unborn
crying for water as they emerge from mother's earth?
What will it take for everyone to see that they carry water's blood
in every circular cell?
What will it take to stop eating at the trough of greed?
I heard they started drilling today.
What will it take to believe
Water is life
Water is life
Water is life
Uewvt Hesaketvtos.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Snow

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Once with my scarf knotted over my mouth
I lumbered into a storm of snow up the long hill
and did not know where I was going except to the top of it.
In those days we went out like that.
Even children went out like that.
Someone was crying hard at home again,
raging blizzard of sobs.

I dragged the sled by its rope,
which we normally did not do
when snow was coming down so hard,
pulling my brother whom I called by our secret name
as if we could be other people under the skin.
The snow bit into my face, prickling the rim
of the head where the hair starts coming out.
And it was a big one. It would come down and down
for days. People would dig their cars out like potatoes.

How are you doing back there? I shouted,
and he said Fine, I’m doing fine,
in the sunniest voice he could muster
and I think I should love him more today
for having used it.

At the top we turned and he slid down,
steering himself with the rope gripped in
his mittened hands. I stumbled behind
sinking deeply, shouting Ho! Look at him go!
as if we were having a good time.
Alone on the hill. That was the deepest
I ever went into the snow. Now I think of it
when I stare at paper or into silences
between human beings. The drifting
accumulation. A father goes months
without speaking to his son.

How there can be a place
so cold any movement saves you.

Ho! You bang your hands together,
stomp your feet. The father could die!
The son! Before the weather changes.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ragged Old Flag

By Johnny Cash

I walked through a county courthouse square
On a park bench an old man was sitting there
I said, your old courthouse is kinda run down
He said, naw, it'll do for our little town
I said, your old flagpole has leaned a little bit
And that's a ragged old flag you got hanging on it

He said, have a seat, and I sat down
Is this the first time you've been to our little town?
I said, I think it is
He said, I don't like to brag
But we're kinda proud of that ragged old flag

You see, we got a little hole in that flag there when
Washington took it across the Delaware
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing say can you see
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams

And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the texas flag, but she waved on though
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg
And the south wind blew hard on that ragged old flag

On Flanders field in World War one
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun
She turned blood red in World War Two
She hung limp and low a time or two
She was in Korea and Vietnam

She went where she was sent by Uncle Sam
She waved from our ships upon the Briny foam
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home
In her own good land here she's been abused
She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused

And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in
'Cause she's been through the fire before
And I believe she can take a whole lot more

So we raise her up every morning
We take her down every night
We don't let her touch the ground and we fold her up right
On second thought, I do like to brag
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that ragged old flag

Saturday, February 4, 2017

War Cry

By Cherrie Moraga

lo que quiero es
tierra
si no tierra, pueblo
si no pueblo, amante
si no amante, nino
si no nino
soledad
tranquilidad
muerte

tierra.

what I want is
earth
if not earth, city
if not city, people
if not people, child
if not child
solitude
peace
death

earth.

(Translated by Eve Lyons)

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Answer

By Robinson Jeffers

Then what is the answer?—Not to be deluded by dreams.
To know the great civilizations have broken down into violence, and their
   tyrants come, many times before.
When open violence appears, to avoid it with honor or choose the least
   ugly faction; these evils are essential.
To keep one’s own integrity, be merciful and uncorrupted and not wish for
   evil; and not be duped
By dreams of universal justice or happiness. These dreams will not be
   fulfilled.
To know this, and know that however ugly the parts appear the whole
   remains beautiful. A severed hand
Is an ugly thing, and man dissevered from the earth and stars and his
   history...for contemplation or in fact...
Often appears atrociously ugly. Integrity is wholeness, the greatest beauty is
Organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of
   the universe. Love that, not man
Apart from that, or else you will share man’s pitiful confusions, or drown in
   despair when his days darken.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Lower Economics

By Gary Beck

In the mall shoppers come and go
as mindless as the buffalo,
herded for their own distraction
into havens of attraction,
with offers of acquisition
for a simple cash transaction
by the consumers who lost sight
of how to curb their appetite.


Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director, and as an art dealer when he couldn’t make a living in theater. He has 11 published chapbooks and 3 more accepted for publication.  Fault Lines, Tremors, PerturbationsRude Awakenings and The Remission of Order will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. His forthcoming novels will be published by Gnome on Pigs Productions and by Dreaming Big Publications. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been also been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Gate A-4

Wandering around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal, after learning my flight had been delayed four hours, I heard an announcement: “If anyone in the vicinity of Gate A-4 understands any Arabic, please come to the gate immediately.” Well— one pauses these days. Gate A-4 was my own gate. I went there.

An older woman in full traditional Palestinian embroidered dress, just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing. “Help,” said the flight agent. “Talk to her . What is her problem? We told her the flight was going to be late and she did this.”
I stooped to put my arm around the woman and spoke haltingly. “Shu-dow-a, shu-bid-uck, habibti? Stani schway, min fadlick, shu-bit-se-wee?” The minute she heard any words she knew, however poorly used, she stopped crying. She thought the flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for major medical treatment the next day. I said, “No, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late, who is picking you up? Let’s call him.”
We called her son, I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian poets I know and let them chat with her? This all took up two hours.
She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life, patting my knee, answering questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies— little powdered sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts— from her bag and was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single traveler declined one. It was like a sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the mom from California, the lovely woman from Laredo— we were all covered with the same powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookie.
Then the airline broke out free apple juice and two little girls from our flight ran around serving it and they were covered with powdered sugar too. And I noticed my new best friend— by now we were holding hands— had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.
And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world. Not a single person in that gate— once the crying of confusion stopped— seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere. Not everything is lost.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

There it is

By Jayne Cortez

My friend
they don’t care
if you’re an individualist
a leftist a rightist
a shithead or a snake

They will try to exploit you
absorb you confine you
disconnect you isolate you
or kill you

And you will disappear into your own rage
into your own insanity
into your own poverty
into a word a phrase a slogan a cartoon
and then ashes

The ruling class will tell you that
there is no ruling class
as they organize their liberal supporters into
white supremist lynch mobs
organize their children into
ku klux klan gangs
organize their police into killer cops
organize their propaganda into
a devise to ossify us with angel dust
pre-occupy us with western symbols in
african hair styles
innoculate us with hate
institutionalize us with ignorance
hypnotize us with a monotonous sound designed
to make us evade reality and stomp our lives away
And we are programmed to self destruct
to fragment
to get buried under covert intelligence operations of
unintelligent committees impulsed toward death
And there it is

The enemies polishing their penises between
oil wells at the pentagon
the bulldozers leaping into demolition dances
the old folks dying of starvation
the informers wearing out shoes looking for crumbs
the lifeblood of the earth almost dead in
the greedy mouth of imperialism
And my friend
they don’t care
if you’re an individualist
a leftist a rightist
a shithead or a snake

They will spray you with
a virus of legionaire’s disease
fill your nostrils with
the swine flu of their arrogance
stuff your body into a tampon of
toxic shock syndrome
try to pump all the resources of the world
into their own veins
and fly off into the wild blue yonder to
pollute another planet

And if we don’t fight
if we don’t resist
if we don’t organize and unify and
get the power to control our own lives
Then we will wear
the exaggerated look of captivity
the stylized look of submission
the bizzare look of suicide
the dehumanized look of fear
and the decomposed look of repression
forever and ever and ever
And there it is

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Populist Manifesto No. 1

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Poets, come out of your closets. Open your windows. Open your doors. You've been holed up too long. No time now for our little literary games. No time now for our paranoias and hypochondrias. No time now for fear and loathing. Time now only for light and love. Poets, descend to the street of the world once more and open your minds and eyes. Clear your throat and speak up.

Poetry is dead. Long live poetry. Don't wait for the revolution, or it'll happen without you. Poetry, the common carrier for the transportation of the public to higher places. Poetry still falls from the skies into our streets still open. They haven't put up the barricades yet, the streets still alive with faces, lovely men and women still walking their lovely creatures everywhere. In the eyes of all, the secret of all still buried there. Whitman's wild children still sleeping there. Awake and walk in the open air.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Nasty Woman

By Nina Mariah Donovan 

I'm a Nasty Woman.
Not as nasty as a man who looks like he bathes in cheeto dust.
Not as nasty a man who is a diss track to America.
From Back to broken Back he's stomped on, his words are just more white noise ruining this national anthem.
I'm not as nasty as confederate flags being tattooed across my city;
maybe the south actually is going to rise again
Or maybe it never really fell
Because we're still drowning in vanilla coated power
Slavery has just been reinterpreted into the prison system
Black lives are still in shackles and graves just for being black in front of people who see melanin as animal skin
Tell me of a decade that didn't have traces of white hoods burning up our faith in humanity.
I'm not as nasty as a swastika painted on a pride flag
And I didn't know that devils could be resurrected but I feel Hitler in these streets
A mustache traded in for a Toupee 
The Nazis renamed The Cabinet 
Conversion therapy the new gas chamber,
Shaming and electrocuting the gay out of America
turning rainbows into suicide notes.
I'm not as nasty as racism, or fraud, or homophobia, sexual assault, transphobia, white supremacy, white privilege, ignorance, or misogyny
Not as nasty as trading girls like pokemon before their bodies have even evolved.
Not as nasty as your own daughter being your favorite sex symbol
Like wet dreams infused with your own genes.
But yeah!
I'm a nasty woman.
A phunky
Crusty
Bitchy
Loud
Nasty woman.
Not as nasty as the combo of Trump and Pence being served into my voting booth, 
But I'm nasty like the battles women fought to get me in that voting booth.
Nasty like the fight to close the wage gap.
Nasty like conversations trying to remind people there is such thing as a wage gap.
Tell me that this is only because women usually go into lower paying fields.
So why did last year's top actresses make less than half of what the top actors did?
Do you realize that the World Cup shelf of the U.S. men's soccer team is as empty as Trump's promises
But the women's team has scored three World Cups,
In 2015, brought in 20 million more dollars in revenue than the men's team,
but is still paid 75% less?
See even when women go into high paying careers, their wages are still cut with blades sharpened by testosterone.
Tell me why the work of a black woman and a hispanic women is only worth 63 and 54 percent of a white man's privileged paycheck?
This is not a feminist myth;
this is inequality.
So we are not here to be debunked
We are here to be respected.
We are here to be nasty
like blood stained bedsheets.
In case you forgot,
women don't choose when or if they get their periods!
Trust me, if could we would!
We don't like throwing away our favorite pairs of underwear!
But men can choose to not have sex
And they know how to live without a full head of hair,
so why are tampons and pads still taxed, but Viagra and Rogaine isn't?
Is your erection really more important than protecting the messy parts of my womanhood?
Is the thinning of your hair really more embarrassing than the period-staining of my jeans?
I know it seems petty to complain about a few extra cents
But it's just the finishing touch on a pile of change I have yet to feel in this country.
So don't try to justify our injustices with excuses that smell like your security when you're walking alone to the bathroom
or your car
or down the street.
Security my eyes have yet to see
Their too busy praying to my feet
So you don't mistake eye contact for wanting physical contact
I've been zipping up my smile so you don't think I want to unzip your jeans.
I know you forget to examine the reflection of your own privilege
You may be afraid of the truth
But I'm not afraid to be honest
I'm not afraid to be nasty
Yeah I'm nasty
like the struggle of women still beating equality into the world,
because our rights have been beaten out of us for too long.
And our fight will continue to embody our nastiness.
I'm nasty like red, white, and blue bruises.
Nasty like Elizabeth, Amelia, Rosa, Eleanor, Condoleezza, Sonia, Malala, Michelle.
Our mothers, our sisters, us sisters are all nasty like history
And our pussies
ain't for grabbing
They're for reminding you that our walls are stronger than America's ever will be.
They're for birthing new generations of
Filthy
Vulgar
Bossy
Brave
Proud
Nasty women.
So if you a nasty woman
say hell yeah.

Ashley Judd read a version of this poem at the 2017 Women's March in Washington D.C.   The original poem can be seen and heard performed here.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I long to be king

By Xiaogang Zhao

I am ground glass opacity (GGO) in the lung,
A vague figure shrouded in mystery and strangeness,
Like looking at the moon through clouds,
Like seeing beautiful flowers in the fog.

I long to be king,
With my fellows swimming in every vessel.
My people crawl in your organs and body,
Holding the rights for life or death, I tremble with excitement.

When young you called me “atypical adenomatous hyperplasia”,
Then when I had matured, you declared me “adenocarcinoma in situ”,
When fully developed, your fearful denomination: “invasive adenocarcinoma”.
You forgot my strenuous journey to become the king.

From tiny to strong,
From humble to arrogant.
None cared when I was young,
But all fear me we when full grown.

I’ve been nourished on the delicious mist and haze,
That sweetly warmed my heart,
Always loving when you were heavy drunk and smoking,
Creating me a cozy home.

When I was less than eight millimeters, I was so fragile,
Waiting for a chance to grow up.
Now, more than eight millimeters, I am more mature,
And considered worthy of notice.

My continuous growth gives me a chance to be king,
As I break through layers of obstacles,
Spanning the mountains and waters.
My fellows march to every corner and occupy every region.

My quest to become king was full of obstacles,
I was cut until almost dead in childhood,
Burned once I’d matured,
And poisoned when older.

Happiness after sorrow, rainbow after rain.
I faced surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy,
But continued to chase my dream,
Some would have given up, but I will be the king.

I long to be king, with fellows and subordinates,
I long to be king, to have people’s fear and respect
I long to be king, to dominate my domain,
I long to be king, to direct your fate.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Portrait of an Alcoholic with a Craving

By Kaveh Akbar 

I’ve lost the unspendable coin I wore around
          my neck that protected me from you, leaving it
bodyhot in the sheets of a tiny bed in Vermont. If you
          could be anything in the world
                                              you would. Just last week they found the glass eye
                                 of a saint buried in a mountain. I don’t remember
                                              which saint or what mountain, only
                                 how they said the eye felt warm
in their palms. Do you like
          your new home, tucked
away between brainfolds? To hold you
          always seemed as unlikely
                                              as catching the wind in an envelope. Now
                                 you are loudest before bed, humming like a child
                                              put in a corner. I don’t mind
                                 much; I have never been a strong sleeper, and often
the tune is halfway lovely. Besides, if I ask you to leave
          you won’t. My hands love you more
than me, wanting only to feed you and feed you.
          Tonight I outrank them
                                              but wisely you have prepared for famine.
                                 I am trying to learn from all this.
                                              It was you who taught me that if a man
                                 stands in silence for long enough
eventually only the silence remains. Still,
          my desire to please you is absolute.
Remember the cold night we spent
          spinning on my lawn?
                                              I wore only basketball shorts
                                 and a pair of broken sandals.
                                              I tied my hair back and
                                 laid out a hammer, some rope,
a knife. What I was building was a church.
          You were the preacher and I the congregation,
and I the stage and I the cross and I the choir.
          I drank all the wine and we sang until morning.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Differences of Opinion

By Wendy Cope

1.  HE TELLS HER

He tells her that the earth is flat -
He knows the facts, and that is that.
In altercations fierce and long
She tries her best to prove him wrong.
But he has learned to argue well
He calls her arguments unsound
And often asks her not to yell.
She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The earth goes on being round.

2. YOUR MOTHER KNOWS

Your mother knows the earth's a plane,
And, challenged, shed's a martyr's tear.
God give her strengths the bear this pain -
A child who says the earth's a sphere.

Challenged, she shed's a martyr's tear
It's bad to make your mother cry.
By telling her the world's a sphere
It's very bad to tell a lie.

It's bad to make your mother cry
It's bad to think your mother odd
It's very bad to tell a lie.
All this has been ordained by God.

It's very bad to think your mother odd
The world is round. That's also true.
All this has been ordained by God.
It's hard to see what you can do.

The world is round. That must be true.
She's praying, hoping you will change.
It's hard to see what you can do.
Already people find you strange.

She's praying, hoping you will change.
You're difficult, you don't fit in.
Already people find you strange.
You know your anger is a sin.

You're difficult, you don't fit in.
God give her strength to bear this pain.
You know your anger is a sin.
Your mother knows the earth's a plane.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Watching the Jet Planes Dive

By William Stafford

We must go back and find a trail on the ground
back of the forest and mountain on the slow land;
we must begin to circle on the intricate sod.
By such wild beginnings without help we may find
the small trail on through the buffalo-bean vines.

We must go back with noses and the palms of our hands,
and climb over the map in far places, everywhere,
and lie down whenever there is doubt and sleep there.
If roads are unconnected we must make a path,
no matter how far it is, or how lowly we arrive.

We must find something forgotten by everyone alive,
and make some fabulous gesture when the sun goes down
as they do by custom in little Mexico towns
where they crawl for some ritual up a rocky steep.
The jet planes dive; we must travel on our knees.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Baby, You’re Much Too Fast

By Katherine Perry

We were thirteen, or almost,
and I had a swimming pool in my yard.
We poured canola oil on our skin
and stretched out on faded beach towels
between the bright blue waves
and a boom box. Cassette wheels turned,
and we listened,
ears too close to be cool,
and gulped down lyrics
like the Bacardi her father mixed with Coke,
like the answers to our afraid-to-ask questions
were pouring out of those speakers
and we would walk confidently in middle-school halls
with our hands wrapped around a wisdom
we thought we weren’t supposed to have
yet.

Prince was with us, his gender and color liminal,
playing a guitar that bellowed the ache
of longing we were just beginning
to understand, and his voice
enveloped us, seduced us, and required
we listen to the entire album:
every note, a thing to be savored.
Back then, 1999 was so far away
that when we sang with him,
we knew the end of the world
would come at 2,000 zero zero,
and so we bit down with all our might
on the leather strap of tonight that he offered,
and with tween bodies, we mimicked his sexiness,
and wished for more of our own to arrive.
We wanted to want like Prince.

I remember looking at the purple
cover, those eyes in the design,
and feeling that now I might need to cover myself.
That maybe, as the cars drove down the street,
they could see our utter nakedness,
our bodies shining like a wave in the summer sun.

Katherine D. Perry is an Associate Professor of English at Perimeter College of Georgia State University. Some of her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Women’s Studies Quarterly, The Dead Mule of Southern Literature, Eco-Chick, Poetry Quarterly, Melusine, Southern Women’s Review, Bloodroot, Borderlands, Women’s Studies, RiverSedge, Rio Grande Review, and 13th Moon. She works in Georgia prisons to bring literature and poetry to incarcerated students and is currently building a prison initiative with Georgia State University to bring college courses into Georgia state prisons. She lives in Decatur, Georgia with her spouse and two children

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year

By May Sarton

Let us step outside for a moment
As the sun breaks through clouds
And shines on wet new fallen snow,
And breathe the new air.
So much has died that had to die this year.

We are dying away from things.
It is a necessity—we have to do it
Or we shall be buried under the magazines,
The too many clothes, the too much food.
We have dragged it all around
Like dung beetles
Who drag piles of dung
Behind them on which to feed,
In which to lay their eggs.
Let us step outside for a moment
Among ocean, clouds, a white field,
Islands floating in the distance.
They have always been there.
But we have not been there.
We are going to drive slowly
And see the small poor farms,
The lovely shapes of leafless trees
Their shadows blue on the snow.
We are going to learn the sharp edge
Of perception after a day’s fast.
There is nothing to fear.
About this revolution…
Though it will change our minds.
Aggression, violence, machismo
Are fading from us
Like old photographs
Faintly ridiculous
(Did a man actually step like a goose
To instill fear?
Does a boy have to kill
To become a man?)
Already there are signs.
Young people plant gardens.
Fathers change their babies’ diapers
And are learning to cook.
Let us step outside for a moment.
It is all there
Only we have been slow to arrive
At a way of seeing it.
Unless the gentle inherit the earth
There will be no earth.

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