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.