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.

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