Saturday, December 30, 2017

So you want to be a writer?

By Charles Bukowski

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
fame,
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
else,
forget about it.


if you have to wait for it to roar out of
you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
sleep
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Union Sundown

By Bob Dylan

 Well, my shoes, they come from Singapore
My flashlight’s from Taiwan
My tablecloth’s from Malaysia
My belt buckle’s from the Amazon
You know, this shirt I wear comes from the Philippines
And the car I drive is a Chevrolet
It was put together down in Argentina
By a guy makin’ thirty cents a day

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Well, this silk dress is from Hong Kong
And the pearls are from Japan
Well, the dog collar’s from India
And the flower pot’s from Pakistan
All the furniture, it says “Made in Brazil”
Where a woman, she slaved for sure
Bringin’ home thirty cents a day to a family of twelve
You know, that’s a lot of money to her

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Well, you know, lots of people complainin’ that there is no work
I say, “Why you say that for
When nothin’ you got is U.S.–made?”
They don’t make nothin’ here no more
You know, capitalism is above the law
It say, “It don’t count ’less it sells”
When it costs too much to build it at home
You just build it cheaper someplace else

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Well, the job that you used to have
They gave it to somebody down in El Salvador
The unions are big business, friend
And they’re goin’ out like a dinosaur
They used to grow food in Kansas
Now they want to grow it on the moon and eat it raw
I can see the day coming when even your home garden
Is gonna be against the law

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way

Democracy don’t rule the world
You’d better get that in your head
This world is ruled by violence
But I guess that’s better left unsaid
From Broadway to the Milky Way
That’s a lot of territory indeed
And a man’s gonna do what he has to do
When he’s got a hungry mouth to feed

Well, it’s sundown on the union
And what’s made in the U.S.A.
Sure was a good idea
’Til greed got in the way.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

If

By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Unity

By Pablo Neruda

There is something dense, united, settled in the depths,
repeating its number, its identical sign.
How it is noted that stones have touched time,
in their refined matter there is an odor of age,
of water brought by the sea, from salt and sleep.

I’m encircled by a single thing, a single movement:
a mineral weight, a honeyed light
cling to the sound of the word “noche”:
the tint of wheat, of ivory, of tears,
things of leather, of wood, of wool,
archaic, faded, uniform,
collect around me like walls.

I work quietly, wheeling over myself,
a crow over death, a crow in mourning.
I mediate, isolated in the spread of seasons,
centric, encircled by a silent geometry:
a partial temperature drifts down from the sky,
a distant empire of confused unities
reunites encircling me.

Monday, December 25, 2017

I'm Trying To Find a Poem About Christmas That I Actually Like

but they are mostly dated and filled
with words like thine and o’er and behold.

And yes, I do want something about the snow,
and the light as it falls on the snow,

but I could do without the angels today,
or anything unreachable that’s supposed to be

looking out for us down here. And yes, I do
want something about the trees, both outside

and inside, and about the singing, and about
the laying out of the table, or the looping

of ribbons, or the tucking in of children. But
I’m wishing we could leave God out of it.

It’s not God’s job to hang out with us right now
and fix things. I want something that uses

filling stockings as a metaphor for choosing
small kindnesses to tuck into each person’s

heart. Something that reminds us that the horse
knows the way, so if we could just find that horse

and hold on, we’ll come out of all this OK.
Something that, yes, is filled with the glistening

and the sparkling and all things aglow, because
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky—
Yes, that’s the kind of thing I want, all of us

outrunning the storm that’s pushing us out of the year,
and we’re climbing right over the tired pile of reindeer

to what’s really up there for us. The snow coming
down. The way we shape it with our hands and throw.


By Brittney Corrigan
Previously Published in Rattle, December 2017

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice Chant

By Annie Finch

Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
now you are uncurled and cover our eyes
with the edge of winter sky
leaning over us in icy stars.
Vines, leaves, roots of darkness, growing,
come with your seasons, your fullness, your end.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Dear Straight People

Dear Straight People,

Who do you think you are?
Do you have to make it so obvious that I make you uncomfortable?
Why do I make you uncomfortable?
Do you know that makes me uncomfortable?
Now we’re both uncomfortable.

Dear Straight People,
You’re the reason we stay in the closet.
You’re the reason we even have a closet.

I don’t like closets, but you made the living room an unshared space
and now I’m feeling like a guest in my own house.

Dear Straight People,
Sexuality and gender? Two different things
combined in many different ways.
If you mismatch your socks, you understand.

Dear Hip-Hop,
Why are you fascinated with discovering gay rappers?
Gay people rap. Just like gay people ride bikes and eat tofu.


Dear Straight People,
I don’t think God has a sexual orientation,
but if she were straight, she’d be a dope ally.
Why else would she invent rainbows?

Dear Straight Women,
I mean, “Straight Women.”
Leave me the fuck alone!

Dear Straight Men,
If I’m flirting with you
it’s because I think it’s funny. Just laugh.


Dear Straight People,
I’m tired of proving that my love is authentic. So I’m calling for reparations.
When did you realize you were straight? Who taught you?
Did it happen because your parents are divorced?
Did it happen because your parents are not divorced?
Did it happen because you sniffed too much glue in 5th grade?

Dear Straight People,
Why do you have to stare at me when I’m holding
my girlfriend’s hand like I’m about to rob you?

Dear Straight People,
You make me want to fuckin’ rob you!

Dear Straight Allies,
thank you, more please!

Dear Straight Bullies,
You’re right. We don’t have the same values.
You kill everything that’s different.
I preserve it.
Tell me, what happened to
Jorge Mercado?
Sakia Gunn?
Lawrence King?
What happened to the souls alienated
in between too many high school walls,
who planned the angels of their deaths in math class,
who imagined their funerals as ticker-tape parades,
who thought the afterlife was more like an after party.
Did you notice that hate
is alive and well in too many lunch rooms,
taught in the silence of too many teachers,
passed down like second hand clothing
from too many parents.

Dear Queer Young Girl,
I see you.
You don’t want them to see you
so you change the pronouns in your love poems to “him” instead of “her.”
I used to do that.

Dear Straight People,
You make young poets make bad edits.

Dear Straight People,
Kissing my girlfriend in public without looking to see who’s around
is a luxury I do not fully have yet.
But tonight, I am drunk in my freedom,
grab her hand on the busiest street in Philadelphia,
zip my fingers into hers and press our lips firmly,
until we melt their stares into a standing ovation, imagine
that we are in a sea of smiling faces,
even when we’re not
and when we’re not,
we start shoveling,
digging deep into each other’s eyes we say,
“Hey Baby, can’t nothing stop this tonight”
because tonight, this world is broken
and we’re the only thing
that’s going to keep it together.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Good Timber

By Douglas Malloch

The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth,
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
This is the common law of life.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Know This

By Laura Gail Grohe

Know this: The world is not a safe place.
You are not guaranteed a place at the table.
In fact, you will know grief so profound
it will crush the breath in your chest.

And yet the sun will still rise
and daffodils will glow yellow in spring.
And you will know joy so profound
it will stop the breath in your chest.
And it is between these two
that the work is done.
Speak Truth. Create art.
Build your own table of plenty.
And love, love with all that you are.
Love as if your life depended upon it:
It does.




















Support Laura's art:  https://linensproject.wordpress.com/

Saturday, December 2, 2017

We are the ones

who will break the glass ceiling
who will fight for what is right
who will not grow weary in doing good
who will reap what we sow
who will not give up.
who will teach girls they can do anything
who will not forget the battles of women
who will never relent
who will make history
hers, as it always was.

By Kathryn Dillard


Kathryn Dillard lives in northern California and works as a teacher at a local K-8 Waldorf school. She studied English and creative writing at University of California-Davis. In her free time, she enjoys writing, gardening and playing with her 9 month old son.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Speech to the Young Speech to the Progress-Toward (Among them Nora and Henry III)

By Gwendolyn Brooks

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
"Even if you are not ready for day
it cannot always be night."
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.
Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

After Harvey

By Rukmini Kalamangalam

The first rain after the hurricane
We held our breath
Tried not to imagine what it would feel like to be drowning again
So soon after the taste of stolen air
Replaced the salty breathlessness of rising tides
The first rain after the hurricane
We were ready before the flash-flood warning, already watching as
Water lapped at the curb
Feasted on the rotted remains of gutted houses
Tried to wash away the evidence of its crimes
The first rain after the hurricane
We saw a pack of wild dogs at CVS
Snarling and slavering in red wellington boots
They watched us with hungry eyes
Snouts sniffing the air for threats from the sky & each other
The first rain after the hurricane,
The water washed away as quick as it had come
Leaving streets dark & empty &
Water still priced 3.99 a gallon
We scoured the clouds for signs of false promises
The first rain after the hurricane,
We tethered our homes together,
Waited to become chains of floating memories
Prayed for a second chance at survival,
Our heads still bowed as the rain evaporated, leaving only stillness behind

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A List of Praises

By Anne Porter

Give praise with psalms that tell the trees to sing,
Give praise with Gospel choirs in storefront churches,
Mad with the joy of the Sabbath,
Give praise with the babble of infants, who wake with the sun,
Give praise with children chanting their skip-rope rhymes,
A poetry not in books, a vagrant mischievous poetry
living wild on the Streets through generations of children.

Give praise with the sound of the milk-train far away
With its mutter of wheels and long-drawn-out sweet whistle
As it speeds through the fields of sleep at three in the morning,
Give praise with the immense and peaceful sigh
Of the wind in the pinewoods,
At night give praise with starry silences.

Give praise with the skirling of seagulls
And the rattle and flap of sails
And gongs of buoys rocked by the sea-swell
Out in the shipping-lanes beyond the harbor.
Give praise with the humpback whales,
Huge in the ocean they sing to one another.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

When Giving Is All We Have

By Alberto Ríos

One river gives
Its journey to the next.



We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Central Square

By Eve Lyons

Being robbed
makes everyone a suspect:
the man coming out of his apartment
next door, the garbage man,
the man on the street chatting
into his cell phone.
This is not how I want to live.
And the man with the drunken slur,
who invades people’s space until
they shove him away, I am sure
this is not how he wants to live his life
either. Stealing people’s backpacks
only to find class notes and
confidential papers,
computer disks and prescription glasses.
This is not what this time,
this brief blip in the cosmos,
should be. I want to sort out
“the beautiful,” like my third grade friend
sorted out the beautiful, sleek racing cars
from the beat up matchbox ones.
Not even a hesitation - just throw back
what isn’t beautiful.
Throw it back.



Published in The Texas Observer, March 16, 2001
Nominated for a 2001 Cambridge Poetry Award (Narrative category)
Reprinted in Nest of Vipers, June 2002

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Poem for Magic

By Quincy Troupe

take it to the hoop, “magic” johnson,
take the ball dazzling down the open lane
herk & jerk & raise your six-feet, nine-inch frame
into the air sweating screams of your neon name
“magic” johnson, nicknamed “windex” way back
in high school
cause you wiped glass backboards
so clean, where you first juked and shook
wiled your way to glory
a new-style fusion of shake-&-bake
energy, using everything possible, you created your own
space to fly through--any moment now
we expect your wings to spread feathers for that spooky takeoff
of yours--then, shake & glide & ride up in space
till you hammer home a clothes-lining deuce off glass
now, come back down with a reverse hoodoo gem
off the spin & stick in sweet, popping nets clean
from twenty feet, right side

put the ball on the floor again, “magic”
slide the dribble behind your back, ease it deftly
between your bony stork legs, head bobbing everwhichaway
up & down, you see everything on the court
off the high yoyo patter
stop & go dribble
you thread a needle-rope pass sweet home
to kareem cutting through the lane
his skyhook pops the cords
now, lead the fast break, hit worthy on the fly
now, blindside a pinpoint behind-the-back pass for two more
off the fake, looking the other way, you raise off-balance
into electric space
sweating chants of your name
turn, 180 degrees off the move, your legs scissoring space
like a swimmer’s yoyoing motion in deep water
stretching out now toward free flight
you double-pump through human trees
hang in place
slip the ball into your left hand
then deal it like a las vegas card dealer off squared glass
into nets, living up to your singular nickname
so “bad” you cartwheel the crowd toward frenzy
wearing now your electric smile, neon as your name

in victory, we suddenly sense your glorious uplift
your urgent need to be champion
& so we cheer with you, rejoice with you
for this quicksilver, quicksilver,

quicksilver moment of fame
so put the ball on the floor again, “magic”
juke & dazzle, shake & bake down the lane
take the sucker to the hoop, “magic” johnson,
recreate reverse hoodoo gems off the spin
deal alley-oop dunkathon magician passes
now, double-pump, scissor, vamp through space
hang in place
& put it all up in the sucker’s face, “magic” johnson,
& deal the roundball like the juju man that you am
like the sho-nuff shaman that you am, “magic,”
like the sho-nuff spaceman you am

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Unetaneh Tokef for America

By Douglas Sagal

Today it is written, today it is sealed in the United States of America-
Who shall die, and who shall be injured
who shall be scarred for life, and who shall be left disabled;
who by full automatic fire, and who by semi auto;
who by AR, and who by AK;
who by pistol and who by revolver;
who by Ruger, and who by Smith and Wesson;
who by Sig Sauer, and who by Colt;
who by Kimber, and who by Springfield Armory;
Who by CZ, and who by Beretta;
Who by HK, and who by Glock;
But repentance, prayer and charity, will do absolutely nothing to avert the decree, nothing,
for our politicians are too frightened.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Saying is better than not saying

By Ruth Goring

1. Last night a couple of church friends and I were at the Chicago O’Hare protest against the Muslim ban and the border wall. It was beautiful. A young ponytailed Middle Eastern–looking man led most of the chants; he jumped up and down with manic energy, though his voice eventually cracked into a piccolo range. He was beautiful.
2. As we prepared to leave, I used the bathroom and found out that I was bleeding.
3. Early this morning I was still bleeding. I emailed my boss to request a sick day and went to sleep.
4. When I woke up, I called my medical group to make an appointment. A nurse asked about my symptoms and said I should see an ob-gyn within three days. My ob-gyn didn’t have an appointment available till March.
5. Of all the network’s ob-gyns in the city of Chicago, there was only one, an elderly white male, who had any appointment times available before March. It was today at noon. I took it.
6. I arrived on time but had to wait a long time after I was taken to a room, after the nurse came to take my blood pressure, and after she returned to get the instruments ready.
7. I told both the nurse and the doctor that this area of my body is extremely sensitive nowadays, that the instrument they were going to use had caused me great pain a couple of years earlier.
8. The doctor proceeded to do a first check, sans instrument, quickly and roughly. I cried out, then lay there crying.
9. “Relax your muscles,” he said as he reached for the instrument. “I can’t relax when it hurts so much,” I wailed.
10. He stopped and pulled back without deploying the instrument. “OK,” he said. “Get up and get your clothes on after we leave the room.” I did.
11. He came back and said, “There is always a plan B.” So now the plan is to do an ultrasound, and if it shows thickened tissue, they’ll do minor surgery to get what they need for a biopsy. I asked about sedation and he said yes, they can make it painless.
12. Why didn’t they believe me when I said the other way would be too painful? Why not start with plan B? Why, after all these years and so many medical advances, are they still routinely sticking thick, rigid rods into women rather than developing supple, flexible instruments that could do the job just as well?
13. Oh. Because older white men.
14. (Last time I had a mammogram, the technician did tell me that machines with curved lines are finally on their way. Finally.
15. As I drove to get a few groceries, the news came on my radio. American consular officials in various embassies around the world have sent a message to the White House explaining that the directive to stop and deport refugees and visitors and immigrants from seven Muslim countries is creating ill will, that ISIS is cheering, that the US will be forfeiting many economic benefits from its immigrants.
16. Later as I headed home, the news was back on. The White House sent a message back: conform to the directive or give up your job.
17. I turned off the radio, overwhelmed with sadness. I thought of an old friend of my parents who has been dogging my Facebook posts, those where I express my political beliefs and concerns most passionately, and arguing relentlessly. Never with the slightest acknowledgment of common Christian faith, or of any common ground at all. With no grace. I have tried to be respectful and focus on the topic at hand.
18. Yesterday I called on people in certain states to be in touch with their senators in opposition to the appointment of Betsy DeVos. This old friend, a resident of one of those states, said thank you, I will call to ask mine to support DeVos.
19. I thought about married friends who may have to forgo a trip to see the husband’s family. His homeland isn’t one of the seven, but it is a Muslim-majority country. He is Christian.
20. I thought about the bleeding. At least the doctor did retreat to plan B, because I yelled.
21. The bleeding seems to have petered out for now. I am home now,  decaf Constant Comment. I have an appointment very soon for the ultrasound.
22. I sent the old friend a polite PM about her impoliteness; I said I need a break. Then I blocked her.
23. I will keep yelling.

Ruth Goring’s poetry collections are Soap Is Political (Glass Lyre, 2015) and Yellow Doors (WordFarm, 2003); her children’s picture book Adriana’s Angels / Los ángeles de Adriana (Sparkhouse) came out this fall. Ruth’s poems have appeared, or will soon, in RHINO, New Madrid, Crab Orchard Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Aeolian Harp 3, CALYX, and the anthology Misrepresented People: Poetic Responses to Trump’s America (NYQ Books). She edits books at the University of Chicago Press and teaches an editing course at the Graham School for Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Leaving the Pain Clinic

By William Brewer

Always this warm moment when I forget which part of me
I blamed. Never mind the pills kicking in, their spell
that showers the waiting room, once full of shame,
in a soft rain of hot sparks that pity sometimes is,
how it mends the past like a welder seams metal,
and isn’t that why we’re all here, addicts
and arthritics–we close our eyes completely
but the edges only blur–and though the door’s the same,
somehow the exit, like the worst wounds, is greater
than the entrance was. I throw it open for all to see
how daylight, so tall, has imagination. It has heart. It loves.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Being in This World Makes Me Feel Like a Time Traveler

visiting a past self. Being anywhere makes me thirsty.
When I wake, I ask God to slide into my head quickly before I do.
As a boy, I spit a peach pit onto my father’s prayer rug and immediately

it turned into a locust. Its charge: devour the vast fields of my ignorance.
The Prophet Muhammad described a full stomach as containing
one-third food, one-third liquid, and one-third air.

For years, I kept a two-fists-long beard and opened my mouth only to push air out.
One day I stopped in a lobby for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres
and ever since, the life of this world has seemed still. Every night,

the moon unpeels itself without affection. It’s exhausting, remaining
humble amidst the vicissitudes of fortune. It’s difficult
to be anything at all with the whole world right here for the having.

By Kaveh Akbar 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Turn off the lights

By Tyler Lockett

Turn off the lights, turn off the lights,
He don’t want y’all to see what’s going on in his life
Turn off the lights, turn off the lights,
So I can see what living in the pitch black is really like
Because my bro is in the dark and he’s been falling apart
Cause a woman that he loved he let get too close to his heart

Now he don't know where to start
Now he got a lot on his mind
Now he told me it's better if he was gone
and he commit suicide
Cause he been losing people left and right
That brought him up in life
And he been trying to live for God
But he feel like nothing been going right
So he feel like it's better if he tried to take his own life
He sent pictures to his wife of the pills he's gonna take at night
Tell her to kiss his son Liam
Cuz who knows if daddy ever gonna see him
again if he go night-night.

Turn off the lights, turn off the lights
He don’t want y’all to see what’s going on in his life
Turn off the lights, turn off the lights,
So I can see what living in the pitch black is really like
Because my bro is in the dark and he’s been falling apart
Cause a woman that he loved he let get too close to his heart

And now he's feeling lost and he don't know what to do
And there's only three of us in the crew that he really been talking to
And we've been trying to help him
But it's like he's so far gone
Taleah says he oversees, he probably feels all alone
But I don't think he sees how killing himself is wrong
But he says he's tired of fighting and he just want to let it go
So we're reaching out to him
And we're talking to him because we love him
But every time we try and help him he be feeling like we judge him
He's telling us not to judge him but just to walk with him
But if he jumps off that cliff we're gonna have to jump off and get him

Turn off the lights, turn off the lights,
He don’t want y’all to see what’s going on in his life
Turn off the lights, turn off the lights,
So I can see what living in the pitch black is really like
Because my bro is in the dark and he’s been falling apart
Cause a woman that he loved wants to let him go and start over

And now he's getting closer and closer to the edge
Explaining why he wants to off himself
So we can get it through our heads
He wants us to accept it, cause part of his life is hectic,
He's over this guy stuff
He says he's losing his direction
And we don't know what to say back
We’re waiting for a text back, because he’s eight hours away
And if we don’t hear from him, we afraid that he took the pills
And if he did, then life about to get real
And I don’t think he understands how a part of us feels
Because if he takes his own life, a part of us is going to be killed
And if he is going to be gone forever,
we’re going to have to take care of his kids

So we need to turn on the lights, turn on the lights
So he can see everything that’s important in his life
Turn on the lights, turn on the lights
So we can show him everything pitch black comes to the light
Cuz my bro's been in the dark, cuz he's been falling apart
He's been opening up, he's been sharing his heart

And now it's time for us to start showing him the bigger picture
How his sons need him
Cuz they need a father figure in their life right now
Cuz when they grow up they want to make their daddy proud
Like when they're out there playing sports they want to see him in the crowd
And as long as he's in the crowd they've got a smile on their face
And they'd rather have daddy around and not have him far away
And they don't wanna look at pictures every day and see his face
And they don't want the only time they talk to daddy be when they pray

Turn on the lights, turn on the lights
So he can see everything that’s important in his life
Turn on the lights, turn on the lights
So we can show him everything pitch black comes to the light
Cuz my bro was in the dark, cuz he was falling apart
He's been opening up, he's been sharing his heart

And I've been knowing this dude ever since the fifth grade
And it hurts so much how he says he wants to go away
He sent it to me on Friday night
And I was texting to him before I went out that night
And then I told my two bros the next day
And we was talking in a group the whole day
And all we could really say was just please don't do it
Bro don't do it you're not the only one in this world
who has to go through it
Just please don't do it bro don't do it
you're not the only one in this world
who has to go through it
But he said I'm in the dark, I'm falling apart
And we said just please don't do it bro don't do it
you're not the only one in this world
who has to go through it
But he said I'm in the dark, I'm falling apart
I gave her everything I had and she took everything that I got
And now I'm feeling lost and I ain't got nowhere to go
I'm running for my life but I don't see no end zone
And so we don't really know what the ending results are gonna be
Guess we'll have to see when he gets back from overseas
To be continued.

This poem can be heard by the author here.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Relax

By Ellen Bass

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat–
the one you never really liked–will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up–drug money.
There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice–one white, one black–scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Real Revolution is Love

By Joy Harjo

I argue with Roberto from the slick-tiled patio
where house plants as big as elms sway in a samba
breeze at four or five in the Managua morning
after too many yerbabuenas and as many shots of
golden rum. And watch Pedro follow Diane up
her brown arm, over the shoulder of her cool dress,
the valleys of her neck to the place inside her
ear where he isn't speaking revolution. And Alonzo
tosses in the rhetoric made of too much rum and
the burden of being an American in a country
he no longer belongs to.

What we are dealing with here are ideological
differences, political power, he says to
impress a woman who is gorgeously intelligent
and who reminds me of the soft oasis
of my lover's cheek. She doesn't believe
anything but the language of damp earth
beneath a banana tree at noon, and will soon
disappear in the screen of rum, with a man
who keeps his political secrets to himself
in favor of love.

I argue with Roberto, and laugh across the
continent to Diane, who is on the other side
of the flat, round table whose surface ships
would fall off if they sailed to the other
side. We are Anishnabe and Muscogee.
We have wars of our own.
Knowing this we laugh and laugh,
until she disappears into the poinsettia forest
with Pedro, who is still arriving from Puerto Rico.
Palm trees flutter in smoldering tongues.
I can look through the houses, the wind, and hear
quick laughter become a train
that has no name. Columbus doesn't leave
the bow of the slippery ship.

This is the land of revolution. You can do anything
you want, Roberto tries to persuade me. I fight my way
through the cloud of rum and laughter, through lines
of Spanish and spirits of the recently dead whose elbows
rustle the palm leaves. It is almost dawn and we are still
a long way from morning, but never far enough
to get away.

I do what I want, and take my revolution to bed with
me, alone. And awake in a story told by my ancestors
when they speak a version of the very beginning,
of how so long ago we climbed the backbone of these
tortuous Americas. I listen to the splash of the Atlantic
and Pacific and see Columbus land once more,
over and over again.

This is not a foreign country, but the land of our dreams.

I listen to the gunfire we cannot hear, and begin
this journey with the light of knowing
the root of my own furious love.

Monday, October 2, 2017

vegas

By Charles Bukowski

there was a frozen tree that I wanted to paint
but the shells came down
and in Vegas looking across at a green sunshade
at 3:30 in the morning,
I died without nails, without a copy of the Atlantic Monthly,
the windows screamed like doves moaning the bombing of Milan
and I went out to live with the rats
but the lights were too bright
and I thought maybe I'd better go back and sit in a
poetry class:

             a marvelous description of a gazelle
             is hell;
             the cross sits like a fly on my window,
             my mother’s breath stirs small leaves
             in my mind;

and I hitch-hiked back to L.A. through hangover clouds
and I pulled a letter from my pocket and read it
and the truckdriver said, what’s that?
and I said, there's some gal up North who used to
sleep with Pound, she's trying to tell me that H.D.
was our greatest scribe; well, Hilda gave us a few pink
Grecian gods in with the chinaware, but after reading her
I still have 140 icicles hanging from my bones.


I'm not going all the way to L.A., the truckdriver said.


it's all right, I said, the calla lilies nod to our minds
and someday we’ll all go home
together.


in fact, he said, this is as far
as we go.
so I let him have it; old withered whore of time
your breasts taste the sour cream of dreaming . . .
he let me out
in the middle of the desert;
to die is to die is to die,


old phonographs in cellars,
joe di maggio,
magazines in with the onions . . .


an old Ford picked me up
45 minutes later
and, this time,
I kept my mouth
shut.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Blue Hair & Fortune Cookies

By Najah LaVerne

Can I get a fortune cookie?
I'll pay you $1, the homeless man said.
Why should this simple question startle the staff
of Panda Express, while making its patrons laugh?
2017 has revealed more women with blue hair
Than any other time in my more than 60 years.
I ponder: Is it magic,
Because "black lives matter,"
Or is it that politics are now flaming red?


Najah LaVerne Haqiqah is a writer and an International Poet Society’s second place winner (2008). She has published two chapbooks and she is currently completing her first full-length book of poem. She is a retired journalist and adjunct professor of English Composition. She volunteers as a docent for the Los Angeles Public Library and promotes Peace, Prayer and Forgiveness Day initiated in 2006 to inspire peace and forgiveness with regard to the September 11, 2001 attack on the USA.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Prayer for Our Country

By George Clooney

I pray for my country.
I pray we can find more that unites us than divides us.
I pray that our leaders want to do the same.
I pray that young children like Tamir Rice can feel safe in their own neighborhood.
I pray for all of our children.
I pray for our police and our first responders.
I pray for the men and women of our armed forces.
I pray that dissent will always be protected in this great country.
I pray for a more perfect union
And when I pray, I kneel.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Days of Awe

By Alicia Ostriker


elul: psalm 27

we are told to say the following
every day for a month
in preparation for the days of awe:

you are my light my help
when I’m with you I’m not afraid
I want to live in your house

the enemies that chew my heart
the enemies that break my spine
I’m not afraid of them when I’m with you

all my life I have truly trusted you
save me from the liars
let me live in your house

***

rosh hashanah

the birthday of
the innocent earthling
and the day hagar and ishmael
found water in the desert

in memory of whom
mud staining our shoes
water flowing in handfuls
we sniff the smell of living dying things

reach into our pockets
for the bread that represents
our sins, toss it in, praying release
us, help us, forgive us

the river answers
by swallowing our crumbs

do our prayers travel upward
do they defy gravity
like rain splashed on the windshield
of a car speeding through storm

in ten days we will go hungrier
pray harder

***

yom kippur

we destroy we break we are broken
and this is the fast you have chosen
on rosh hashana it is written
on yom kippur it is sealed

who shall live and who shall die
which goat will have his throat cut
like an unlucky

spitting a red thread and which goat
will be sent alive to the pit where the crazies are
thread lightly tied around its neck

who will possess diamonds and pearls
and who will be killed
by an addicted lover

who shall voyage the web of the world
like an eagle, and who shall curl to sleep
over a steam grate like a worm

who shall be photographed and whose
face will disappear like smoke

this is the fast you have chosen, turn return
how to turn like leaves like a corner
what is our knowledge, what is our strength

I am like the stones people place on graves to make them a little heavier
such a stone says, in its oracular way, don’t come back or return only as grass
but it is tired of being a stone, it wishes to be open, it would like to be an egg

honeybees manufacture honey, a power station generates electricity
cotton plants extrude smooth fibre, and my cells secrete anger
my mind propagates envy, but repentance, prayer and good deeds

avert the stern decree, I am like a ramshackle house during a hurricane
struck by guilt waves and fear waves, the walls could collapse any time
but the foolish old woman who lives there refuses to leave

Monday, September 11, 2017

October 18, 2001

Today, driving to work, I had to stop
and wait while the MAX train
crossed in front of me, car after car
filled with people on their way to work.
I could see them, every face, every suit
and hairstyle, perfectly clear through the glass:
one lady in a lavendar skirt and coat was smiling.
Tears filled my eyes, by the time the train
passed I was crying. And that is what it has been
like walking through this city, going to work.
Yesterday, I glanced up at the tallest building
and tried to calculate the number that would be
inside, tried to imagine the hole it would leave
if it collapsed straight down.
Every day in the elevator
I look hard at the person next to me,
not the one I know, but the stranger I have yet
to meet, the one I never will, who could have
disappeared into melted steel and dust
lost to my world forever. Every airplane is ten
times louder than it should be, and has a strange,
eerie look, like a bullet shot from an oversized gun
pulled by a giant hand to hit something far away,
something close. When I breathe I remember
I could be taking in the powdery spores of death,
and not know. Each night I come home and think
about all the people I know who are far from me,
I think about what I would say, how I would say it,
and it is not much different than what I would have
said two months ago: death is only two steps away,
the world is small, anything might happen, I love you.


Written by Ariana Kramer on October 18, 2001

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Last Election

By John Haines

Suppose there are no returns,
and the candidates, one
by one, drop off in the polls,
as the voters turn away,
each to his inner persuasion.

The front runners, the dark horses,
begin to look elsewhere,
and even the President admits
he has nothing new to say;
it is best to be silent now.

No more conventions, no donors,
no more hats in the ring;
no ghost-written speeches,
no promises we always knew
were never meant to be kept.

And something like the truth,
or what we know by that name -
that for which no corporate
sponsor was ever offered -
takes hold in the public mind.

Each subdued and thoughtful
citizen closes his door, turns
off the news.  He opens a book
speaks quietly to his children,
begins to live once more.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The President Elect

By Norman Stock

I wake to hear the latest news
Trump’s adviser dislikes Jews
should I take cover, should I run
will I be under the gun
with Donald Trump it's hard to say
he keeps changing every day
first he’s in a Twitter war
then he’s talking to Al Gore
and  gets a phone call from Taiwan
is he taking China on
or just kidding, what’s the deal
is this nincompoop for real
does he even have the guts
to straighten out, or is he nuts
are we facing the abyss
with this madman, or is this
like his campaign was, just a con
what the fuck is going on
whatever this election meant
it made him the president
as I said when it was done
holy shit, the bastard won

Pickled Dreams Naked, Buying Breakfast For My Kamikaze Pilot, winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Contest. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, College English  The New York Quarterly, Verse, The New England Review, Denver Quarterly, and many other magazines, as well as in anthologies and textbooks. The recipient of awards from the Writer’s Voice, Poets & Writers’ Maureen Egen Writers Exchange, the Bennington Writing Workshops, and the Tanne Foundation, he has also been a Bread Loaf fellow, a Sewanee scholar, and a finalist for Poet Laureate of Queens. Formerly the Acquisitions Librarian at Montclair State University, from which he retired  in 2005, he lives with his wife, Lydia Chang, a clinical psychotherapist, in Jackson Heights New York.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

By Jeremy Rutledge

 If you want
to pray for Houston
you have to pray
in her way

pray like Beyoncé
when she was
at HSPVA
or Billy and Dusty
shooting pool
at Rudyard's

pray like you're
sitting over soup
at Spanish Flowers
or pho at Mai's
steaming your glasses

pray like the kids
playing soccer
on the east side
or mutton busting
at the livestock show

pray like the runners
in Memorial Park
lacing them up
or the researchers
in the medical center
looking into microscopes

if you want
to pray for Houston
you have to pray
as quietly as
the Rothko Chapel
or Houston Zen Center

and you have to pray
as loudly as
the old scoreboard
at the Astrodome
after a José Cruz
home run

you have to pray
sitting under
a live oak tree
or standing next to
an azalea bloom
while your skin
clams in the heat

if you want to pray
for Houston
you have to pray
without pretense
this ain't Dallas
and in a neighborly way
as friends come out
to check on each other
in the rain
and those
who are far away
watch screens
and wipe our eyes

if you want to pray
for Houston
raise a bottle of Shiner
to the gray sky
and say that 130 mile an hour winds
and 9 trillion gallons of rain
are no match
for a city of such life
and diversity

you can fill up our bayou
but you will never rain
on our parade

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Beaumont to Detroit: 1943

By Langston Hughes

Looky here, America
What you done done -
Let things drift
Until the riots come.

Now your policemen
Let your mobs run free.
I reckon you don’t care
Nothing about me.

You tell me that hitler
Is a mighty bad man.
I guess he took lessons
From the ku klux klan.

You tell me mussolini’s
Got an evil heart
Well, it mus-a-been in Beaumont
That he had his start -

Cause everything that hitler
And Mussolini do,
Negroes get the same
Treatment from you.

You jim crowed me
Before hitler rose to power -
And you’re STILL jim crowing me
Right now, this very hour.

Yet you say we’re fighting
For democracy
Then why don’t democracy
Include me?

I ask you this question
Cause I want to know
How long I got to fight
BOTH HITLER – AND JIM CROW

Monday, August 21, 2017

Seeing the eclipse in Maine

By Robert Bly

It started about noon. On top of Mount Batte,
We were all exclaiming. Someone had a cardboard
And a pin, and we all cried out when the sun
Appeared in tiny form on the notebook cover.

It was hard to believe. The high school teacher
We’d met called it a pinhole camera,
People in the Renaissance loved to do that.
And when the moon had passed partly through

We saw on a rock underneath a fir tree,
Dozens of crescents—made the same way—
Thousands! Even our straw hats produced
A few as we moved them over the bare granite.

We shared chocolate, and one man from Maine
Told a joke. Suns were everywhere—at our feet.

Friday, August 18, 2017

An Oregon Message

By William Stafford

When we first moved here, pulled
the trees in around us, curled
our backs to the wind, no one
had ever hit the moon—no one.
Now our trees are safer than the stars,
and only other people's neglect
is our precious and abiding shell,
pierced by meteors, radar, and t he telephone.

From our snug place we shout
religiously for attention, in order to hide:
only silence or evasion will bring
dangerous notice, the hovering hawk
of the state, or the sudden quiet stare
and fatal estimate of an alerted neighbor.

This message we smuggle out in
its plain cover, to be opened
quietly: Friends everywhere—
we are alive! Those moon rockets
have missed millions of secret
places! Best wishes.

Burn this.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sonnet 130

By William Shakespeare

 My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

New Colossus (re-write)

By Stephen Colbert

Give me your wealthy, your rich, your huddled MBAs yearning to be tax-free.
Send these, the English-speaking, fully insured to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door and lift my leg upon your filthy poor.

P.S. No fatties, please.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Trump Wall

By William Marr

Built at the border of our hearts
this wall of the 21st century will grow 
drawing nourishment from all dark corners
of human nature
to become the Great Wall
of America

Hold it!
are you trying to come in
or get out

William Marr has published volumes of poetry (two in English and the rest in his native Chinese language), 3 books of essays, several books of translations, and 10 eBooks. His most recent published work, Chicago Serenade, is a trilingual (Chinese/English/French) anthology of poems published in Paris in 2015. His poetry has been translated into more than ten languages and included in over one hundred anthologies.  Some of his poems are used in high school and college textbooks in Taiwan, China, England, and Germany.   He is a former president of the Illinois State Poetry Society and has received numerous honors, including several awards for his poetry and translations. His Website, The Art World of William Marr displays some of his literary and artistic works.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Prospective Immigrants Please Note

By Adrienne Rich

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.

If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.

Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.

If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily

to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely

but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?

The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Courage

By Anne Sexton

It is in the small things we see it.
The child's first step,
as awesome as an earthquake.
The first time you rode a bike,
wallowing up the sidewalk.
The first spanking when your heart
went on a journey all alone.
When they called you crybaby
or poor or fatty or crazy,
and made you into an alien.
You drank their acid,
and concealed it.

Later,
if you faced the death of bombs and bullets,
you did not do it with a banner,
you did it with only a hat to
cover your heart.
You did not fondle the weakness inside you,
though it was there.
Your courage was a small coal
that you kept swallowing.
If your buddy saved you
and died himself in so doing,
then his courage was not courage,
it was love; love as simple as shaving soap.

Later,
if you have endured a great despair,
then you did it alone,
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off our heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.
Next, my kinsman, you powdered your sorrow,
you gave it a back rub
and then you covered it with a blanket
and after it had slept a while
it woke to the wings of the roses
and was transformed.

Later,
when you face old age and its natural conclusion
your courage will still be shown in the little ways,
each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen,
those you love will live in a fever of love,
and you'll bargain with the calendar
and at the last moment
when death opens the back door
you'll put on your carpet slippers
and stride out.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Third Gender

By Kit Yan

all right so gender should be as simple as gay or straight
cuz if you are attracted to the opposite gender
you’re straight
if you are attracted to the same gender
well i guess you’re gay
therefore if you have a penis you’re a man
and if you have a vagina you’re a woman
straight shot
straight answer
gender
see gender is man next to woman
not touching but separate
gender is america’s controlled nationalism bullshit
gender is birth certificates for babies born into gender
housing applications check boxes and even getting an email address
this is gender
but i ask you
is it truly worth
embarrassment
imprisonment
or harassment
for your gender identity?
so excuse me are you a man or are you a woman
and you’ve changed your name to Kit now
so do you wanna be straight?
and you look like a boy now so you’re straight, right?
but back when you were Laura you were gay
as if sexuality and gender were something that you could purchase on impulse
pulling up to the register and carefully picking out
gay straight
man or woman
neatly packaged for easy consumption
then you should be able to do it with ease
purchasing a gold foiled bar of gay and plastic bag of man
and walking out of that grocery store fabulously onto the set of Queer Eye
but it’s not that easy
because sometimes my gender is
boy who looks like a girl who likes boys
and sometimes my gender is trans
and sometimes my gender is chilling out in between
but most of the time my gender is fuck you mind your own business
but it can’t be that way
because gender is so rigidly defined
neatly outlined and nicely colonized
organized and clearly understandable
yet the gap is becoming gendered and
i’m standing in line for the bathroom with
girls birls boys bis transsexual transgendered queer questioning curious polyamorous intersexed flexual asexual trisexual omnisexual multisexual pansexual gender neutral genderqueer multigendered androgynous drag king drag queen butch femme fairy two-spirit bear dyke lipstick tranny boi (with an i) ftm mtf boydyke bi-dyke half-dyke queerboi ex-straight and that’s just the beginning
but ask a member of the Zuni tribe about the lhamana’s gender
and they’ll tell you it’s lhamana
the South Asians about the hijaras
and they’ll tell you that it’s hijaras
the Hawaiians about mahus
and they’ll tell you that it’s mahu
the Americans about the trannies
and they’ll tell you that they don’t know
see there may be as many as a million genders identities and sexualities
just floating around waiting for the right person to snatch them up
put them on and proudly parade around in their new skin
unrestricted by layers and identity
or limitations of culture society or social construction
this new gender is a function of inner desire and
genuine understanding of self to be lived
so go ahead
and show us where the bathroom is

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Our Son Swears He Has 102 Gallons of Water in His Body

By Naomi Shihab Nye

Somewhere a mistaken word distorts the sum:
divide becomes multiply so he’d wrestle his parents
who defy what he insists. I did the problem
and my teacher said I was right!
Light strokes the dashboard.
We are years away from its source.
Remember that jug of milk?
No way you’re carrying one hundred of those!
But he knows. He always knows. We’re idiots
without worksheets to back us up. His mother never remembers
what a megabyte means and his dad fainted on an airplane once
and smashed his head on the drinks cart. We’re nice but we’re
not always smart. It’s the fact you live with, having parents.
Later in a calmer moment his dad recalculates
the sum and it comes out true.
Instead of carrying giant waterfalls inside,
we’re streams, sweet pools, something to dip into
with an old metal cup, like the one we took camping,
that nobody could break.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Safe Place

By Nikki Grimes

Dream killers daily stalk the streets of you and
travel, trying to trip us up, but we can give them the slip. I have 
learned to protect my heart-songs. I keep them wrapped
in the well wishes of  my  family, the encouragement of my
truest friends. Sometimes, using pen and ink, I anchor my dreams
and let them sink in the margins of a diary. Or, maybe I slide them in
a smooth sandalwood box buried beneath my bed. But
dream called impossible?  That I tuck between the silken
folds of my private thought - tough as steel, thing as cloth. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

For a Poet

By Countee Cullen

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold;
Where long will cling the lips of the moth,
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth;
I hide no hate; I am not even wroth
Who found the earth's breath so keen and cold;
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Autism Screening Questionnaire — Speech and Language Delay

By Octavio De La Paz

1. Did your child lose acquired speech?

A fount and then silence. A none. An ellipse
between — his breath through
the seams of our windows. Whistle
of days. Impossible bowl of a mouth — 
the open cupboard, vowels
rounded up and swept under the rug.

2. Does your child produce unusual noises or infantile squeals?

He’d coo and we’d coo back. The sound
passed back and forth between us like a ball.
Or later, an astral voice. Some vibrato
under the surface of us. The burst upon — 
burn of strings rubbed
in a flourish. His exhausted face.

3. Is your child’s voice louder than required?

In an enclosure or a cave it is difficult to gauge
one’s volume. The proscenium of the world.
All the rooms we speak of are dark places. Because
he cannot see his mouth, he cannot imagine


4. Does your child speak frequent gibberish or jargon?

To my ears it is a language. Every sound
a system: the sound for dog or boy. The moan
in his throat for water — that of a man with thirst.
The dilapidated ladder that makes a sentence
a sentence. This plosive is a verb. This liquid
a want. We make symbols of his noise.


5. Does your child have difficulty understanding basic things (“just can’t get it”)?

Against the backdrop of the tree he looks so small.

6. Does your child pull you around when he wants something?

By the sleeve. By the shirttail. His light touch
hopscotching against my skin like sparrows.
An insistence muscled and muscled again.


7. Does your child have difficulty expressing his needs or desires using gestures?

Red-faced in the kitchen and in the bedroom
and the yellow light touches his eyes
which are open but not there. His eyes
rest in their narrow boat dream and the canals
are wide dividing this side from this side.

8. Is there no spontaneous initiation of speech or 
communication from your child?

When called he eases out of his body.
His god is not our words nor is it
the words from his lips. It is entirely body.
So when he comes to us and looks we know
there are beyond us impossible cylinders
where meaning lives.

9. Does your child repeat heard words, parts of words, or tv commercials?

The mind circles the mind in the arena, far in — far in
where the consonants touch and where the round
chorus flaunts its iambs in a metronomic trot. Humming
to himself in warm and jugular songs.


10. Does your child use repetitive language (same word or phrase over and over)?

A pocket in his brain worries its ball of lint.
A word clicks into its groove and stammers
along its track, Dopplering like a car with its windows
rolled down and the one top hit of the summer
angles its way into his brain.

11. Does your child have difficulty sustaining a 
conversation?

We could be anywhere, then the navel of the red moon
drops its fruit. His world. This stained world drips its honey
into our mouths. Our words stolen from his malingering afternoon.

12. Does your child use monotonous speech or wrong pausing?

When the air is true and simple, we can watch him tremble
for an hour, plucking his meaning from a handful of utterances
and then ascend into the terrible partition of speech.

13. Does your child speak the same to kids, adults, or objects (can’t differentiate)?

Because a reference needs a frame: we are mother and father
and child with a world of time to be understood. The car radio
plays its one song. The song, therefore, is important.
It must be intoned at a rigorous time. Because rigor
is important and because the self insists on constant vigils.

14. Does your child use language inappropriately (wrong words or phrases)?

Always, and he insists on the incorrect forms.
The wrong word takes every form for love — 
the good tree leans into the pond,
the gray dog’s ribs show, the memory
bound to the window, and the promise of the radio
playing its song on the hour. Every wrong form
is a form which represents us in our losses,
if it takes us another world to understand.

This poem was previously published in Poetry Magazine in July/August 2017.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

I Hear America Singing

By Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, 
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, 
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, 
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, 
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, 
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, 
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown, 
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, 
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else, 
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, 
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Let America Be America Again

By Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Climate Change Theories After Another Surprise Snowstorm

By Adam Stone

I’m not really a summer guy
I like winter
I like winter because I like snow
I like snow like I like my men:
Deep
Untouched in photographs
Shoveled off my porch before I go to work
I like my snow like I like my men
Accumulating softly while I sleep.
I like my men like I like my snow,
Which is to say
At the beginning of the season
I remember them fondly
But the minute they require me
 to do the least amount of work
I hope to never see one of those flakes again
I like my men like I like my snow
Light and fluffy at first
But heavier and more full of grit
the deeper you dig
I like my men like I like my snow
In theory
I like men
I like snow
I’m often judged harshly by those who don’t understand
My appreciation of either
And why do I like snow?
Is it in my genes?
Or do I like it because I was raised
in a climate where winter was tolerated
if not full accepted.
I like my men like I like my snow -
Oh god.  Temporary?
Just for a few months out of the year?
It’s been a long time since I lived anywhere temperate
So do I maybe like snow
Because I’ve spent over half my life identifying
As someone who likes snow?
No. I could never live in a climate lacking winter.
I tried that once in college
And again in my mid-twenties when I was
Chasing the mechanical rabbit of heteronormative success
That I was told would make me happy
But I like snow
I don’t always want to like snow
But I do always like snow
Even when it is inconvenient
Even when it keeps me from achieving something
That I believe I have the right to achieve
Even when it means the world is too cold to bear
Without protection.


Adam Stone is an amazing slam poet who lives in the Boston area.  You should hear his work any time you can.