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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