Thursday, October 11, 2018

Queer

By Frank Bidart

Lie to yourself about this and you will
forever lie about everything.


Everybody already knows everything

so you can
lie to them. That's what they want.

But lie to yourself, what you will

lose is yourself. Then you
turn into them.

For each gay kid whose adolescence

was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial

scenario

forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.

Involuted velleities of self-erasure.

Quickly after my parents
died, I came out. Foundational narrative

designed to confer existence.

If I had managed to come out to my
mother, she would have blamed not

me, but herself.

The door through which you were shoved out
into the light

was self-loathing and terror
.

Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults' genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life. You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

What is Bravery?

By Linda Kruschke

Why say I'm brave?
You don’t call robbery victims brave
when they tell
You don’t call shooting victims brave
when they tell
You don’t call mugging victims brave
when they tell
Yet your clouded view calls me brave
when I tell
I was raped.



Linda L. Kruschke is a wife, mother (of a young adult), friend, lawyer (recovering), follower of Jesus, and a person who loves life. Though she has experienced trauma and pain in her life, she is thankful they have made her stronger and shaped the writer she has become. She blogs at AnotherFearlessYear.net, where you can read more of her poetry and learn about her two published poetry books.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Rape Poem

By Marge Piercy

There is no difference between being raped
And being pushed down a flight of cement steps
Except that the wounds also bleed inside.

There is no difference between being raped
And being run over by a truck
Except that afterward men ask if you enjoyed it.

There is no difference between being raped
And being bit on the ankle by a rattlesnake
Except that people ask if your skirt was short
And why you were out anyhow.

There is no difference between being raped
And going head first through a windshield
Except that afterward you are afraid not of cars,
But half the human race.

The rapist is your boyfriend’s brother.
He sits beside you in the movies eating popcorn.
Rape fattens on the fantasies of the “normal” male
Like a maggot in garbage.

Fear of rape is a cold wind blowing
All of the time on a woman’s hunched back.
Never to stroll alone on a sand road through pine woods,
Never to climb a trail across a bald
Without that aluminum in the mouth
When I see a man climbing toward me.

Never to open the door to a knock
Without that razor just grazing the throat.
The fear of the dark side of the hedges,
The back seat of the car, the empty house
Rattling keys like a snake’s warning
The fear of the smiling man
in whose pocket is a knife.
The fear of the serious man
In whose fist is locked with hatred.

All it takes to cast a rapist is seeing your body
As jackhammer, as blowtorch, as machine gun.
All it takes is hating that body
Your own, your self, your muscle that softens to flab.

All it takes is to push what you hate,
What you fear onto the soft alien flesh.
To bucket out invincible as a tank
Armoured with treads without senses
To possess and punish in one act,
To rip up pleasure, to murder those who dare
Live in the leafy flesh open to love. The fear of the smiling man
In whose pocket is a knife.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Rape Joke

By Patricia Lockwood

The rape joke is that you were 19 years old.

The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend.

The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee.

Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.”

No offense.

The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that use of the word interesting, as if you were a piece of knowledge that someone could be desperate to acquire, to assimilate, and to spit back out in different form through his goateed mouth.

Then suddenly you were older, but not very old at all.

The rape joke is that you had been drinking wine coolers. Wine coolers! Who drinks wine coolers? People who get raped, according to the rape joke.

The rape joke is he was a bouncer, and kept people out for a living.

Not you!

The rape joke is that he carried a knife, and would show it to you, and would turn it over and over in his hands as if it were a book.

He wasn’t threatening you, you understood. He just really liked his knife.

The rape joke is he once almost murdered a dude by throwing him through a plate-glass window. The next day he told you and he was trembling, which you took as evidence of his sensitivity.

How can a piece of knowledge be stupid? But of course you were so stupid.

The rape joke is that sometimes he would tell you you were going on a date and then take you over to his best friend Peewee’s house and make you watch wrestling while they all got high.

The rape joke is that his best friend was named Peewee.

OK, the rape joke is that he worshiped The Rock.

Like the dude was completely in love with The Rock. He thought it was so great what he could do with his eyebrow.

The rape joke is he called wrestling “a soap opera for men.” Men love drama too, he assured you.

The rape joke is that his bookshelf was just a row of paperbacks about serial killers. You mistook this for an interest in history, and laboring under this misapprehension you once gave him a copy of Günter Grass’s My Century, which he never even tried to read.

It gets funnier.

The rape joke is that he kept a diary. I wonder if he wrote about the rape in it.

The rape joke is that you read it once, and he talked about another girl. He called her Miss Geography, and said “he didn’t have those urges when he looked at her anymore,” not since he met you. Close call, Miss Geography!

The rape joke is that he was your father’s high-school student—your father taught World Religion. You helped him clean out his classroom at the end of the year, and he let you take home the most beat-up textbooks.

The rape joke is that he knew you when you were 12 years old. He once helped your family move two states over, and you drove from Cincinnati to St. Louis with him, all by yourselves, and he was kind to you, and you talked the whole way. He had chaw in his mouth the entire time, and you told him he was disgusting and he laughed, and spat the juice through his goatee into a Mountain Dew bottle.

The rape joke is that come on, you should have seen it coming. This rape joke is practically writing itself.

The rape joke is that you were facedown. The rape joke is you were wearing a pretty green necklace that your sister had made for you. Later you cut that necklace up. The mattress felt a specific way, and your mouth felt a specific way open against it, as if you were speaking, but you know you were not. As if your mouth were open ten years into the future, reciting a poem called Rape Joke.

The rape joke is that time is different, becomes more horrible and more habitable, and accommodates your need to go deeper into it.

Just like the body, which more than a concrete form is a capacity.

You know the body of time is elastic, can take almost anything you give it, and heals quickly.

The rape joke is that of course there was blood, which in human beings is so close to the surface.

The rape joke is you went home like nothing happened, and laughed about it the next day and the day after that, and when you told people you laughed, and that was the rape joke.

It was a year before you told your parents, because he was like a son to them. The rape joke is that when you told your father, he made the sign of the cross over you and said, “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” which even in its total wrongheadedness, was so completely sweet.

The rape joke is that you were crazy for the next five years, and had to move cities, and had to move states, and whole days went down into the sinkhole of thinking about why it happened. Like you went to look at your backyard and suddenly it wasn’t there, and you were looking down into the center of the earth, which played the same red event perpetually.

The rape joke is that after a while you weren’t crazy anymore, but close call, Miss Geography.

The rape joke is that for the next five years all you did was write, and never about yourself, about anything else, about apples on the tree, about islands, dead poets and the worms that aerated them, and there was no warm body in what you wrote, it was elsewhere.

The rape joke is that this is finally artless. The rape joke is that you do not write artlessly.

The rape joke is if you write a poem called Rape Joke, you’re asking for it to become the only thing people remember about you.

The rape joke is that you asked why he did it. The rape joke is he said he didn’t know, like what else would a rape joke say? The rape joke said YOU were the one who was drunk, and the rape joke said you remembered it wrong, which made you laugh out loud for one long split-open second. The wine coolers weren’t Bartles & Jaymes, but it would be funnier for the rape joke if they were. It was some pussy flavor, like Passionate Mango or Destroyed Strawberry, which you drank down without question and trustingly in the heart of Cincinnati Ohio.

Can rape jokes be funny at all, is the question.

Can any part of the rape joke be funny. The part where it ends—haha, just kidding! Though you did dream of killing the rape joke for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way.

The rape joke cries out for the right to be told.

The rape joke is that this is just how it happened.

The rape joke is that the next day he gave you Pet Sounds. No really. Pet Sounds. He said he was sorry and then he gave you Pet Sounds. Come on, that’s a little bit funny.

Admit it.

Previously published in The Awl, 7/25/13

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Practicing the Complex Yes

When you disagree with a friend,
 a stranger, or a foe, how do you
 reply but not say simply No?
 For No can stop the conversation
 or turn it into argument or worse—
 the conversation that must go on,
 as a river must, a friendship, a troubled nation.
 So may we practice the repertoire
                          of complex yes:
Yes, I know you feel that way, and...
 Yes, and in what you say I see...
 Yes, oh yes, and at the same time...
 Yes, I see, and what if...?
 Yes, I hear you, and how...?
 Yes, and there’s an old story...
 Yes, and as the old song goes...
 Yes, and as a child once told me...
 Yes. Tell me more. I want to understand...
 And then I want to tell you how it is for me...

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

List of “Don’t Forgets” and “Remembers”

In a New York classroom one year after 9-11, students composed the following 9-11 poem. A relative of the teacher had perished on that day in Tower One of the World Trade Center. 

We were eight.

Before September 11th, we would wake up with a list of “Don’t Forgets”

Don’t forget to wash your face
Don’t forget to brush your teeth
Don’t forget to do your homework
Don’t forget to wear your jacket
Don’t forget to clean your room
Don’t forget to take a bath

After September 11th, we wake up with a list of “Remembers”

Remember to greet the sun each morning
Remember to enjoy every meal
Remember to thank your parents for their hard work
Remember to honor those who keep you safe
Remember to value each person you meet
Remember to respect other’s beliefs

Now we are nine.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Why I Stand

By Andrew Freborg

I stand to honor the promise the flag represents.
You kneel because that promise has been broken.

I stand to affirm my belief that all are created equal, and to fight alongside you for that promise.
You kneel because too few stand with you.

I stand because we can be better.
You kneel to remind us to be better.

I stand to honor all that have fought and died so that we may be free.
You kneel because not all of us are.

I stand because I can.
You kneel for those who can't.

I stand to defend your right to kneel.
You kneel to defend my right to stand.

I stand because I love this country.
You kneel because you love it too.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Tower

By Kirsty Niven

I cobbled together this tower
with my own calloused hands.
Foraging each component,
the smooth pebbles of beaches,
skimmed away on childhood holidays,
hopping across the salty surface.
The roughly hewn lumps
of a collapsed crofter’s cottage,
scraping my peeling fingers.
Gathering, a bird with its nest.
Taking a bit of this, a bit of that –
the hairs I’ve torn out worrying,
the sticky cement tears,
the drowned wood of the wreckage.
I cobbled together my tower.
Stronger and stronger it grew,
with every new material.
Each mistake a lesson.
You huffed and puffed,
but it will not tumble, it will not crumble.
Bring on your bulldozers, your rage,
Bring on your wrecking balls.
Bring on your explosives.
It’s made of a substance
you will never have, never know.

I built this tower with my own strength.

Kirsty is from Dundee, Scotland where she lives with her husband and cats. Her poetry has appeared in a number of places including The DawntreaderDundee Writes, Cicada Magazine and Laldy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Campesino

By Gary Soto

Spring ’73, I’m two time zones from my country
And hacking at the soldier-straight weeds —
I’m captain of their destruction. But the army
Of weeds keeps advancing, day after day.
I was a math teacher in Mexico,
But now I’m a number squeezed into a white van,
The stars blue as my life at 5:30 in the morning.
But don’t feel sorry. I have my hands and back,
My face dark as a penny in a child’s palm.
I walk a straight row. My lean shadow keeps up.
But look at the circling seagulls,
Landlocked with no way home.

If there’s work, I hoe nine hours in the beet fields,
Sometimes with a friend in the next row,
Sometimes alone. You would be crazy
To open your mouth — the wind and dust ...
In a year, my face will be tooled like my wallet,
Dark and creased. Over the clods,
I sing to myself, or whistle like a parrot.
I practice English —
Waffle, no good tire, nice to meet you.

In the fields, I stop when the patron on the tractor path says stop.
I pound sand from a boot like an hourglass.
Time pours forever and forever.
Tomorrow I’ll start again. I’ll chop at the earth
But it won’t bleed under my hoe.
I’ll chop, sweat, and think in English —
Toaster, thread, seagulls find a way home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Willamette

By Clementine von Radic

I dreamed I cut open my own arm
and out poured the Willamette River.
Out poured each dead friend
buried in the fall earth
which smells always of rot.
And out poured your heart,
which had calcified
like Percy Shelley’s and was hard,
in one piece yet still broken.
I believe it floated down the river
out into the ocean or wherever
things go to sink
when they are too weak to swim,
but even in my dreams
I did not follow you. I am devoted
to the church of my own survival.
I am the girl who does not grieve
a bloodless loss.
I lose a whole river
and stay standing.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Still life

Still life with Ensure, vials of fentanyl, oxycodone, water.
Still life with crackers maybe, hopefully, he will keep down.
Still life with tossed sheets and yogurt cup. Still life
with Sports Illustrated piles in the bathroom, guest room,
on the living room floor, on the dining room table, in recycle bins waiting
near the door. Still life with the younger brother assessing
how to dispose the hoardings of the one man left who shares his face.
Still life with hanging tension and sadness, failed ambition,
medicated dreams. Still life with phlegm and corruption.
With waste, with fanned get well cards, appointment reminders,
hospital garage parking receipts. Still life with the mantel clock,
one birthday’s present, still ticking and ticking and ticking away.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Love Elegy with Busboy

The whole mess —
pair of chopsticks pulled apart,
tarnished pot of tea,
even my fortune
(which was no good) —
we left for the busboy to clear.
I’d probably feel more
guilty if he didn’t
so beautifully sweep our soiled plates
into his plastic black tub
and the strewn rice into his palm.
The salt and pepper shakers
were set next to each other again.
A new candle was lit.
You’d never know
how reckless we’d been,
how much we’d ruined.
With the table now so spotless,
who’s to say we couldn’t just go
back? Who says we can’t start over,
if we want?

This poem previously appeared in the New York Times.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Ghost stories

By Nixi Schroeder

I am 13 when I have my first paranormal encounter:
a whispered moan fizzling in the wind like a holler from a car window—
“Ay girl, lemme get that pussayyyyyyyyy….”

My father does not believe me.

I am sixteen and it happens again, this time
“Nice tits.” My mother explains
this is a common psychic phenomenon.
I am seventeen when a spirit at Wal-Mart asks what I have in my jeans;
my boyfriend says this is a compliment, says
I am lucky to hear such spirits speak.

I am nineteen.
A wandering sprite asks if I want to get a drink.
When I decline I am haunted for three hours
through cafés, narrow streets, and alleyways by
a shadow presence marked in eye corner glimpses.
I do not go home for fear of the Ouiji board.
I do not go to the police:
the police do not believe ghost stories.

We all know a girl who wasn’t believed.

We’ve all been the girl who wasn’t believed:
I have a friend whose ass was grabbed in a frat, a ghost hand
leaving finger bruises as an invisible mouth suffocated her scream—
she tried to call the ghostbusters but was threatened with retaliation,
like so many girls are threatened with retaliation—another friend
was the victim of possession—
held down in her bed until she shrieked in silent tongues;
the police asked why she was not carrying a rosary;
her mother is still making monthly payments to an exorcist
who has not told her to speak
because he knows
her voice is still another’s
possession.

We all know victims of possession. I have an aunt
who has scars across her cheeks from where her husband marked her
as a possession;
the police told her to stay in a haunted house
to protect her children,
now even after the restraining order she still receives visitations,
her husband’s spectre rattling the chains which bind
so many women, and
at the end of this poem I will hear a harsh
voice, whispering “not all ghosts,”
whispering “quit being so dramatic—

one in five women are always so dramatic”
and I will say, no, not all ghosts.
Not all ghosts,
but
enough.


Nixi Schroeder is a MA student of English at Truman State University. Her poetry has been featured by The FEM, Eyedrum Periodically, Spectrum, Red Dashboard Press, and Windfall Magazine, among other publications.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

And The Moon And The Stars And The World

By Charles Bukowski

Long walks at night
that's what good for the soul:i
peeking into windows
watching tired housewives
trying to fight off
their beer-maddened husbands.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Purities

By Harvey Shapiro

What was ceremonially impure, he knew
Was his life. The laws were not followed.
The god was unhonored.
Anxiety sat on every road.
To change his life, he invented a job
That promised regularity and order.
He invented love that promised joy.
In summer he sat among green trees.
The family laughed in water.
Now let the ceremony begin, he said,
In the heart of summer,
In the pure green,
And the pure blue.
Let the god walk his mountain.
He can come down.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

I AM NOT WHAT YOU THINK!

By Antwon Rose

I am confused and afraid
I wonder what path I will take
I hear that there’s only two ways out
I see mothers bury their sons
I want my mom to never feel that pain
I am confused and afraid 

I pretend all is fine
I feel like I’m suffocating
I touch nothing so I believe all is fine
I worry that it isn’t, though
I cry no more
I am confused and afraid 

I understand people believe I’m just a statistic
I say to them I’m different
I dream of life getting easier
I try my best to make my dream true
I hope that it does
I am confused and afraid

This poem was written on written on 5/16/2016 and published by his mother on numerous websites posthumously.  Antwon Rose was murdered in Pittsburgh in June 2018. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Bridge Poem

By Donna Kate Rushin

I've had enough
I'm sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody

Nobody
Can talk to anybody
Without me. Right?

I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
To the Ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to my friends' parents...

Then
I've got the explain myself
To everybody

I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.

Forget it
I'm sick of it

I'm sick of filling in your gaps

Sick of being your insurance against
The isolation of your self-imposed limitations
Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners
Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches
Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people

Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find something else to make you legitimate
Find some other way to be political and hip

I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
Your manhood
Your human-ness

I'm sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long

I'm sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf you your better selves

I am sick
Of having to remind you
To breathe
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self

Forget it
Stretch or drown
Evolve or die

The bridge I must be
Is the bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
Mediate
My own weaknesses

I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
And then
I will be useful

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Slam, Dunk, & Hook

By Yusef Komunyakaa

Fast breaks. Lay ups. With Mercury's
Insignia on our sneakers,
We outmaneuvered to footwork
Of bad angels. Nothing but a hot
Swish of strings like silk
Ten feet out. In the roundhouse
Labyrinth our bodies
Created, we could almost
Last forever, poised in midair
Like storybook sea monsters.
A high note hung there
A long second. Off
The rim. We'd corkscrew
Up & dunk balls that exploded
The skullcap of hope & good
Intention. Lanky, all hands
& feet...sprung rhythm.
We were metaphysical when girls
Cheered on the sidelines.
Tangled up in a falling,
Muscles were a bright motor
Double-flashing to the metal hoop
Nailed to our oak.
When Sonny Boy's mama died
He played nonstop all day, so hard Our backboard splintered.
Glistening with sweat,
We rolled the ball off
Our fingertips. Trouble
Was there slapping a blackjack
Against an open palm.
Dribble, drive to the inside,
& glide like a sparrow hawk.
Lay ups. Fast breaks.
We had moves we didn't know
We had. Our bodies spun
On swivels of bone & faith,
Through a lyric slipknot
Of joy, & we knew we were
Beautiful & dangerous.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Immigrants in Our Own Land

By Jimmy Santiago Baca

We are born with dreams in our hearts,looking for better days ahead.
At the gates we are given new papers,
our old clothes are taken
and we are given overalls like mechanics wear.
We are given shots and doctors ask questions.
Then we gather in another room
where counselors orient us to the new land
we will now live in. We take tests.
Some of us were craftsmen in the old world,
good with our hands and proud of our work.
Others were good with their heads.
They used common sense like scholars
use glasses and books to reach the world.
But most of us didn’t finish high school.

The old men who have lived here stare at us,
from deep disturbed eyes, sulking, retreated.
We pass them as they stand around idle,
leaning on shovels and rakes or against walls.
Our expectations are high: in the old world,
they talked about rehabilitation,
about being able to finish school,
and learning an extra good trade.
But right away we are sent to work as dishwashers,
to work in fields for three cents an hour.
The administration says this is temporary
So we go about our business, blacks with blacks,
poor whites with poor whites,
chicanos and indians by themselves.
The administration says this is right,
no mixing of cultures, let them stay apart,
like in the old neighborhoods we came from.

We came here to get away from false promises,
from dictators in our neighborhoods,
who wore blue suits and broke our doors down
when they wanted, arrested us when they felt like,
swinging clubs and shooting guns as they pleased.
But it’s no different here. It’s all concentrated.
The doctors don’t care, our bodies decay,
our minds deteriorate, we learn nothing of value.
Our lives don’t get better, we go down quick.

My cell is crisscrossed with laundry lines,
my T-shirts, boxer shorts, socks and pants are drying.
Just like it used to be in my neighborhood:
from all the tenements laundry hung window to window.
Across the way Joey is sticking his hands
through the bars to hand Felipé a cigarette,
men are hollering back and forth cell to cell,
saying their sinks don’t work,
or somebody downstairs hollers angrily
about a toilet overflowing,
or that the heaters don’t work.

I ask Coyote next door to shoot me over
a little more soap to finish my laundry.
I look down and see new immigrants coming in,
mattresses rolled up and on their shoulders,
new haircuts and brogan boots,
looking around, each with a dream in their heart,
thinking they’ll get a chance to change their lives.

But in the end, some will just sit around
talking about how good the old world was.
Some of the younger ones will become gangsters.
Some will die and others will go on living
without a soul, a future, or a reason to live.
Some will make it out of here with hate in their eyes,
but so very few make it out of here as human
as they came in, they leave wondering what good they are now
as they look at their hands so long away from their tools,
as they look at themselves, so long gone from their families,
so long gone from life itself, so many things have changed.


Monday, July 2, 2018

I Was Raped. By My Husband. I Was 18.

By Katherine Perry

In America
after walking down the aisle
and having my father give me away
to a man who changed my name
and insisted that I was his:
        no one else should look at me
and demanded I report back to him every male person I saw every day
and I must have sex any time he wanted
but I shouldn’t want sex:
        that would be a sin
        pray about it here, on your knees,
        ask God for forgiveness for your terrible sins
my body became his
his property.

This was 1988.
I was turning 19, and he wanted me pregnant
to carry his babies
but I was scared of him
of having a girl child
so I took birth control pills in secret, prescribed by my female obgyn.

I was scared of him
so I broke away by pushing off the couch
with the full force of my thighs,
knocking him into the fireplace,
and this freed me from his arm’s latch,
and I ran to my car, getting away just in time
and my step-mother said go back to him:
        Ephesians 5:22-23: Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands 
        as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife 
        as Christ is the head of the church, his body, 
        of which he is the Savior. 
and my father said, yeah. You better.
so I did.

And the next time, when my husband hid my car keys,
I ran to our neighbor,
and asked for help
and he sent me back too.

It was spring
before a female coworker said to me:
                        this isn’t right
                        go to college
and I asked my mom to help me
and she put her body between us,
so that I could pack my clothes and jewelry,
everything I owned into one Toyota car trunk:
        thirteen inch Sony
        one hardback chair
        three expensive pots and pans
        and a set of good china.

When I left, he screamed after me, “If I can’t have you, no one will.”
and I was afraid he would show up at work threatening
and everyone would know
so I said I had abandoned my husband
because I was afraid.

Finally, I drove out of town and to college, in terror that he might chase me
so I paid for the divorce so that he would let me go without killing me.
I was 19.
I paid him monthly until the lease ran out.
I paid him my reputation.
I let everyone believe
I jilted him.

I told no one that he raped me.
I told no one that I was afraid to be alone with the man I married.
Instead, I paid him with my hometown:
        the water and the twinkling lights on Mobile Bay on long, fall nights.
        Spanish moss and seafood, the catching of fish and shrimp,
        magnolia-tree leaves and wisteria-blossomed world
        of my childhood with white-sand beaches.

I paid him with my gods.
I paid him with my belief in good.
I paid him with my entire family
who I never told.

I unfolded bill after bill of my life and gave it over to him
because I told no one. And to survive, I needed to get away,
to learn to live on my own, without fear.
I told no one, because so few would listen,
until now.


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

Thursday, June 28, 2018

All You Fascists Bound To Lose


By Woody Guthrie

I’m gonna tell you fascists
You may be surprised
The people in this world
Are getting organized
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose

Race hatred cannot stop us
This one thing we know
Your poll tax and Jim Crow
And greed has got to go
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose.

All of you fascists bound to lose:
I said, all of you fascists bound to lose:
Yes sir, all of you fascists bound to lose:
You’re bound to lose! You fascists:
Bound to lose!

People of every color
Marching side to side
Marching ‘cross these fields
Where a million fascists die
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose!

I’m going into this battle
And take my union gun
We’ll end this world of slavery
Before this battle’s won
You’re bound to lose
You fascists bound to lose!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Red Brocade

By Naomi Shihab Nye

The Arabs used to say,
When a stranger appears at your door,
feed him for three days
before asking who he is,
where he’s come from,
where he’s headed.
That way, he’ll have strength
enough to answer.
Or, by then you’ll be
such good friends
you don’t care.

Let’s go back to that.
Rice? Pine nuts?
Here, take the red brocade pillow.
My child will serve water
to your horse.

No, I was not busy when you came!
I was not preparing to be busy.
That’s the armor everyone put on
to pretend they had a purpose
in the world.

I refuse to be claimed.
Your plate is waiting.
We will snip fresh mint
into your tea.

Monday, June 25, 2018

What Does an Illegal Immigrant Look Like?

By Christy Namee Eriksen

An illegal immigrant
looks like a nickel
tails up
on the sidewalk,
fallen out of someone’s pocket.

She looks like pressed bleached sheets
on cheap beds
tucked tight,
a hundred of them
twelve stories high.

I saw one like a mango,
peeled and sprinkled with chili powder
on a stick like america,
layers cut diagonally,
a flower on Lake Street.

She looks like an amethyst grape
plucked by the millions,
stains like bruises
but she’s sorry and she loves you.

He looks like that kid
I don’t know his name
but he sits over
there
and his lunch stinks.

She looks like a street of Harajuku,
straight cut bang and bangles,
heavy print and bright colors
-oh my bad –
that’s Gwen Stefani!
(She might be legal.)

An illegal immigrant looks like
Chinese Exclusion 1882
Asian Exclusion 1924
Executive Order 9066 Patriot Act 2001
SB1070 five days ago

1911
looks like an angel made of bunk beds and cells
where Chinese men write poems into the wooden wall like it could weather the wait,
looks like a store sign
in 1922
“Absolutely no dogs or Filipinos allowed”,
like 1942 spam
rolled up like an enemy
internment camp sushi.

He is a community tree in the 1930s.
Or the 1940s or the 1960s
who has seen
too
many
dead people
to climb on.

He is a boat
in 1492
sailing the ocean blue

black
brown
red
yellow.

He looks like a hill
made of bodies
covered in grass
and a playground,

like a scar
on the bottom of my feet,
still growing.

He looks like
Joseph Ileto who looked like Vincent Chin who looked like Fong Lee who looked like
your neighborhood postman, like a good husband, like a boy on a
maddening threatening five deviled bicycle,
looked like a good target, like a bad seed, like the wrong crowd, like a jap mother f**ker who stole “our” jobs,
so one by one by a hundred they
killed them

innocently.

Because if you look
like the law
you look
legal.

And the rest of us are just wire cages
and a magic trick away
from knowing whose turn it is
to be the sacrificial pigeon

and it’s showtime,
all the time,
so you need to know the difference.


This poem first appeared in 2010 in Latino Rebels.

Friday, June 22, 2018

This is the school that democracy built


By Andy Watts
This is the school that democracy built.
These are the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.
This is the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.
This is the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.
This is the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.
This is the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.
This is the ideology of public servants sworn
That protects the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.
This is the media shaping culture's norms
That spreads the ideology of public servants sworn
That protects the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.
This is the individualism with rights adorned
That craves the media shaping culture's norms
That spreads the ideology of public servants sworn
That protects the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.
This is the religion of neighbor-love shorn
That preaches individualism with rights adorned
That craves the media shaping culture's norms
That spreads the ideology of public servants sworn
That protects the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.
This is the democracy battered and worn
That practices religion of neighbor-love shorn
That preaches individualism with rights adorned
That craves the media shaping culture's norms
That spreads the ideology of public servants sworn
That protects the money of middle-class scorn
That powers the gun group
That lobbied the law
That armed the gunman
That killed the children
That learned in the school that democracy built.

Previously published in The Huffington Post, 12/18/12

Thursday, June 21, 2018

When the World Ended as We Knew It

By Joy Harjo

We were dreaming on an occupied island at the farthest edge
of a trembling nation when it went down.

Two towers rose up from the east island of commerce and touched
the sky. Men walked on the moon. Oil was sucked dry
by two brothers. Then it went down. Swallowed
by a fire dragon, by oil and fear.
Eaten whole.

It was coming.

We had been watching since the eve of the missionaries in their
long and solemn clothes, to see what would happen.

We saw it
from the kitchen window over the sink
as we made coffee, cooked rice and
potatoes, enough for an army.

We saw it all, as we changed diapers and fed
the babies. We saw it,
through the branches
of the knowledgeable tree
through the snags of stars, through
the sun and storms from our knees
as we bathed and washed
the floors.

The conference of the birds warned us, as the flew over
destroyers in the harbor, parked there since the first takeover.
It was by their song and talk we knew when to rise
when to look out the window
to the commotion going on—
the magnetic field thrown off by grief.

We heard it.
The racket in every corner of the world. As
the hunger for war rose up in those who would steal to be president
to be king or emperor, to own the trees, stones, and everything
else that moved about the earth, inside the earth
and above it.

We knew it was coming, tasted the winds who gathered intelligence
from each leaf and flower, from every mountain, sea
and desert, from every prayer and song all over this tiny universe
floating in the skies of infinite
being.

And then it was over, this world we had grown to love
for its sweet grasses, for the many-colored horses
and fishes, for the shimmering possibilities
while dreaming.

But then there were the seeds to plant and the babies
who needed milk and comforting, and someone
picked up a guitar or ukulele from the rubble
and began to sing about the light flutter
the kick beneath the skin of the earth
we felt there, beneath us

a warm animal
a song being born between the legs of her;
a poem.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Juneteenth

By Arthur Kroll

January 1, 1863 was the official day for President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation;
But, it was two and a half years later before the start of the freedom celebration.
Many attempts were made to explain this delay;
It has remained one of the great mysteries until this day.

One story says the messenger of freedom was murdered on his way to Texas;
This was supposedly the first one of the conspiracy theory nexus.
Another on reports the land owners censored the news to maintain their labor force;
One of the more popular stories, but who was the source?

Yet another tale of federal troops allowing another harvest of cotton;
Of all the dirty tricks, this one was the most rotten.
Regardless of whether any stories gives the correct news;
Many good people in Texas remained without freedom and singing the blues.

Finally in June of 1865, Major General Gordon Granger with a flag and a gun;
Stormed the shores of a Texas town called Galveston.
The Generals first order of business was to announce the news of freedom;
And this time he brought along enough Union troops to make the people heed them.

Some people reacted with shock, while others reacted with complete jubilation;
The news of this day finally spread all over the nation.
Most people could not wait to leave the plantation and start living free;
So, from their home state they started to flee.

Regardless of where they went, they were followed with freedom’s challenges;
These challenges came from making decisions and environmental changes.
They never forgot that joyous 19th day of June;
When people once enslaved could finally sing their freedom tune.

The celebration started with reassuring and praying;
The adults were eating and drinking while the children were playing.
It was also a time for the reuniting of family members;
It was one of the happiest days many of them remembers.

Today it is a day of pilgrimage to that town;
Let the shouts of freedom for all make a holy sound.
Soon the day will come when in unison we say;
“Forever and ever all Americans will celebrate Juneteenth, the freedom holiday”!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Words for You

By Ben Aragbaye

American history is mandatory
But black history is optional
Black literature a prop for show
Look at how they've accommodated
as we play along
With common outdated topics like
slavery doesn't exist, it's been
whited out
Well don't I feel liberated
But I don't know freedom
Freedom: Do you know me?
Am I important to you
or just an affirmative act?
Can I freely talk while still being black
and will you understand me
as I speak rhythmic words that beat, beat, beat
on your uncomfortable conscience?
Listen to me, Freedom,
because I have words for you
Black words
With a deep moan and tone
I will not atone for just existing
Words that are scarred, and whipped, and chained
only to break loose
with a strong hand and a fervent prayer
Words from the past, reverb,
bouncing off every corner. surrounding you
Words that are real
and cannot be whited out.
Because the color
The color always bleeds through.
Words with a history that is equal,
so please do not try and separate it.
I am not an option
I am concrete
I am finite
I am mandatory
You deserve to know me
You deserve to know Juneteenth
And I deserve to know freedom.

Hear the poet reading this poem here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Poem for Pulse

By Jameson Fitzpatrick

Last night, I went to a gay bar
with a man I love a little.
After dinner, we had a drink.
We sat in the far-back of the big backyard
and he asked, What will we do when this place closes?
I don’t think it’s going anywhere any time soon,
I said, though the crowd was slow for a Saturday,
and he said—Yes, but one day. Where will we go?
He walked me the half-block home
and kissed me goodnight on my stoop—
 properly: not too quick, close enough
our stomachs pressed together
in a second sort of kiss.
I live next to a bar that’s not a gay bar —
we just call those bars, I guess
— and because it is popular
and because I live on a busy street,
there are always people who aren’t queer people
on the sidewalk on weekend nights.
We just call those people, I guess.
They were there last night.
As I kissed this man I was aware of them watching
and of myself wondering whether or not they were just
people. But I didn’t let myself feel scared, I kissed him
exactly as I wanted to, as I would have without an audience,
because I decided many years ago to refuse this fear
— an act of resistance. I left
the idea of hate out on the stoop and went inside,
to sleep, early and drunk and happy.
While I slept, a man went to a gay club
with two guns and killed fifty people. At least.
 Today in an interview, his father said he had been disturbed
by the sight of two men kissing recently.
What a strange power to be cursed with,
 for the proof of our desire to move men to violence.
What’s a single kiss? I’ve had kisses
no one has ever known about, so many
kisses without consequence—
but there is a place you can’t outrun,
whoever you are.
There will be a time when.
It might be a bullet, suddenly.
The sound of it. Many.
One man, two guns, fifty dead—
Two men kissing. Last night
is what I can’t get away from, imagining it, them,
the people there to dance and laugh and drink,
who didn’t believe they’d die, who couldn’t have.
How else can you have a good time?
How else can you live?
There must have been two men kissing
for the first time last night, and for the last,
and two women, too, and two people who were neither.
Brown people mostly, which cannot be a coincidence in this country.
which is a racist country, which is gun country.
Today I’m thinking of the Bernie Boston photograph
Flower Power, of the Vietnam protestor placing carnations
in the rifles of the National Guard,
and wishing for a gesture as queer and simple.
The protester in the photo was gay, you know,
he went by Hibiscus and died of AIDS,
which I am also thinking about today because
(the government’s response to) AIDS was a hate crime.
Reagan was a terrorist.
Now we have a president who loves Us,
the big and imperfectly lettered Us, and here we are
getting kissed on stoops, getting married some of Us,
some of Us getting killed.
We must love one another whether or not we die.
Love can’t block a bullet
but it can’t be destroyed by one either,
and love is, for the most part, what makes Us Us—
in Orlando and in Brooklyn and in Kabul.
We will be everywhere, always;
there’s nowhere else for Us, or you, to go.
Anywhere you run in this world, love will be there to greet you.
Around any corner, there might be two men. Kissing.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Follow Orders

By Antler

Drag the rainbow into the interrogation room.
Use thumbscrews on a cloud if necessary.
Arrest the wind for being shiftless.
Take a lake to headquarters for loitering.
Sentence aspens to 30 years of hard labor
      for having leaves that quiver.
Turn rainforests into deserts.
Put deserts behind bars
      because poets see a world in a grain of sand.
Accuse sand dunes of being drifters.
Accuse snowdrifts of being drifters.
Tell the birds to shut up and listen to your song.
Cross-examine snowflakes till they break into tears.
Accuse a leech of being a leech.
Accuse a sponge of being  sponge.
Accuse a yawn of being a yawn.
Search milkweed pods as suspicious characters.
Hog-tie will-o-the-wisps
       take them into custody.
Tar-and-feather every inch of living soil
       that refuses to be covered with asphalt.
Put Lake Michigan on the witness stand
       to testify against Lake Superior.
Arraign the rain, indict the kite
       and prosecute the bandicoot.
Charge lightening and thunder
       for practicing without a license.
Charge the view from the skyscraper
       for making people look like ants.
Warn autumn colors to stop rioting.
Throw the rich odor of thawing earth into the dungeon.
Frisk the shimmer of light on moonlight water.
Search crotches of virgin timber for concealed drugs.
Straitjacket elephants for jacking off with their nose.
Make a bear paw the Bible to take oath.
Ban the banana because
        it reminds you of something.
Flog alpenglow with a rubber hose
        under a hundred watt lightbulb.
Slaughter moonbeams.
Summon the lemon, subpoena the peanut,
       impeach the peach, arraign the terrain.
Order the space between the stars and
       the space between molecules to change place.
Order turtles to get license plates
Order sunflowers to pay their electric bills
      or the sun to be disconnected.
Order rats to join the rat race
Order orifice and artifice to be reversed.
Order ripples of water, ripples of light,
        ripples of heat, ripples of shade,
                to do your bidding.
Order poems to close down and move to Mexico
        where they can get words to work
                for one-fifth what they're paid here.
Millipedes must obey or be drawn and thousanded.
Decapitate ecstatic tomfoolery.
Give the finger to the wind
        for being fresh with you.
Gesticulate before the bristlecone pine
        how you made more money that anyone.
Brag to Pleiades you played the stock market
      better than anyone.
Tell your Death you're going to hold your breath
        till it grants your wish.
Sentence leaf shadows to the electric chair
        for seducing millions of youths.
Torture the Ocean till it talks
        and none of this surf-sound mumbo-jumbo.
Reduce to toothpicks the oldest, biggest trees.
Tame wildflowers and coat them with plastic
        and mount them with wire stems.
Buy the water, buy the earth, buy the sky.
Sell the water, sell the earth, sell the sky.
Beat up the night cause it's black.
Spit at the sun cause it's yellow.
Massacre the dawn cause it's red.
Chart how many ants you can kill.
Ambush waterfalls with machetes
        Mutilate them beyond recognition.
Assassinate the last condor in your spare time.
Assign hit men to rub out humming birds        
        while paring your nails.
Assign hit me to rub out dolphins
        while paring your nails.
Step into your mile-long limousine
        Snort a thousand dollars
                And tell the chauffeur -
        "Next Universe, please."

     






Sunday, June 10, 2018

Remembering You, Anthony Bourdain, at the Elementary School Talent Show

By Alexandra Umlas

Most of these kids have yet to try sushi,
haven’t left the country to taste the world,
still gravitate toward boxed macaroni
and cheese, but someday they might turn
on the TV to see you eat some strange food,
and witness the uneasy thrill of trying,
trying, trying something new.
This morning, at the elementary school,
an audience gathered between construction-
papered walls and a talent show began:
a boy played clear notes from a recorder,
a girl tap-danced across the carpeted floor,
someone sang, played the piano, delivered
a comedy skit full of terrible knock-knock
jokes followed by a drum’s bada-ba
then applause. You knew how to savor
an experience, how sitting with strangers
makes friends, that what we put in our mouth
smatters—you pointed out the thread
spooled between us when we have a meal
together, the connection that takes place over
coffee or beer. This morning, after hearing
you were gone from this world, my daughter
danced on the stage, nervously taking a seat
at the table of the unknown. You would
have approved of these kids practicing
the art of taking risks. Someday
they might hear your voice and give up
using jarred garlic or eating in restaurants
on Mondays; or maybe they will recognize
that to taste is to experience, to try
means to live, or they will think back
to this elementary school talent show,
to this morning, where in the kindergarten
classroom, the chicks chirp under a warming
light. Where, just days ago, the children pressed
their faces to the glass as the eggs began to crack,
and from the shells emerged the broken,
scattered singing of new life.


This poem was first published in Rattle—Poets Respond on June 10, 2018

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Moon is Trans

By Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

From this moment forward, the moon is trans.
You don’t get to write about the moon anymore unless you respect that.
You don’t get to talk to the moon anymore unless you use her correct pronouns.
You don’t get to send men to the moon anymore unless their job is
 to bow down before her and apologize for the sins of the earth.
 She is waiting for you, pulling at you softly,
 telling you to shut the fuck up already please.
 Scientists theorize the moon was once a part of the earth
 that broke off when another planet struck it.
 Eve came from Adam’s rib.
 Etc.
 Do you believe in the power of not listening
 to the inside of your own head?
 I believe in the power of you not listening
 to the inside of your own head.
 This is all upside down.
 We should be talking about the ways that blood
 is similar to the part of outer space between the earth and the moon
 but we’re busy drawing it instead.
 The moon is often described as dead, though she is very much alive.
 The moon has not known the feeling of not wanting to be dead
 for any extended period of time
 in all of her existence, but
 she is not delicate and she is not weak.
 She is constantly moving away from you the only way she can.
 She never turns her face from you because of what you might do.
 She will outlive everything you know.

Friday, June 1, 2018

BIOLOGICAL CONTROL

By Linda Drach

they feed on our silence
glaze us
in sticky dew

from one perspective, they are highly successful:
stunted growth, low yields, withered leaves
curled inward

so what do we do?
you tell me
I tell you

like drops of blood, spattering:
ladybugs, spilling out
by the thousands

Linda Drach is a a Portland, Oregon writer who works in public health research and evaluation, including projects related to HIV, sexual and domestic violence, and criminal justice. My writing ranges from the scientific to the lyric, and has been published in peer-review journals like the American Journal of Public Health and Public Health Reports, and the literary journal VoiceCatcher.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Sunset at Wellfleet

By Jean Valentine

A spit of sky, awash with Venetian gold
Hangs over the Congregational bell-tower, where
Last night the Northern Lights sifted their fire,
Shot through with the airless dark, romantic and cold.
The sun doesn’t move, but suddenly is gone,
The cloudy tide goes out, and leaves a ring.
Easy to die: we knew it all along:
Knee-high to the dark as of old:
Thee words I tell you smoking in my eye:
The tree-frog is the tree-frog. The sky is the sky,
The rattling bay runs night and day I, I, I
Over and over, turning on itself: there,
Where it curls on emptiness: there I sing.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

For all the Dorias of the world

By Leslé Honoré

For the Dorias of the world
Who will sit alone
At graduations and weddings
At baseball games and school plays
At proms and award ceremonies
Who will carry the load
Of everything
Wiping tears
And celebrating
School projects
And first heartbreaks
Who stay up all night
Helping write papers and college apps
The mothers who silently
Create a universe for their children
Launching pads to toss them in to the
Solar system
With hands wide open to grab
All the stars their hearts desire
The Dorias who always leave space
For a father’s redemption
Knowing it may never come
Because they have spent a life time
Patching their children back together
Picking up the crushed spirits
Rebuilding them with love
This is for the Dorias
Who will watch as their legacies
Take steps towards their own journeys
Armed with love
Armed with hope
Armed with strength
That the years of struggle
Lack
Survival
Forged onto their souls
And for the children
Who have watched their mothers
Make a life out of thin air
A dollar out of 15 cents
Who have seen ceilings shattered
Barriers leapt over
And are covered in black girl magic
They know that there is
no limit
To their dreams
To success
that hard work can’t achieve
No trial that last forever
They have learned to
Weather the storms
Know for certain that the sun will come
Warm their faces
And illuminate their paths
The way their mothers have
From their first breath
For the Dorias
In that last car ride
Driving to your children’s
Next adventure
For the Dorias
Free spirited
And strong
Who know they are never alone
Who know there is a
Matriarchal militia marching
With them
I raise my glass to all of us
Salud

Friday, May 18, 2018

not a pretty girl

by ani difranco

I am not a pretty girl
That is not what I do
I ain't no damsel in distress
And I don't need to be rescued, so
So put me down, punk
Wouldn't you prefer a maiden fair?
Isn't there a kitten stuck up a tree somewhere?
I am not an angry girl
But it seems like I've got everyone fooled
Every time I say something they find hard to hear
They chalk it up to my anger
And never to their own fear, imagine you're a girl
Just trying to finally come clean
Knowing full well they'd prefer you were dirty
And smiling, and I am sorry
But I am not a maiden fair
And I am not a kitten
Stuck up a tree somewhere
And generally my generation
Wouldn't be caught dead working for the man
And generally I agree with them
Trouble is you got to have yourself
An alternate plan, and I have earned my disillusionment
I have been working
All of my life
And I am a patriot
I have been fighting the good fight
And what if there are no damsels in distress?
What if I knew that, and I called your bluff?
Don't you think every kitten
Figures out how to get down
Whether or not you ever show up?
I am not a pretty girl
I don't really want to be a pretty girl
I wanna be more than a pretty girl

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Jerusalem is a Spinning Carousel

By Yehuda Amichai
 
Jerusalem is a carousel spinning round and round
from the Old City through every neighborhood and back to the Old.
And you can’t get off. If you jump you’re risking your life
and if you step off when it stops you must pay again
to get back on for more turns that never will end.
Instead of painted elephants and horses to ride
religions go up, down and around on their axes
to unctuous melodies from the houses of prayer.
Jerusalem is a seesaw: Sometimes I go down,
to past generations and sometimes up, into the sky,
then like a child dangling on high, legs swinging, I cry
I want to get down, Daddy, Daddy, I want to get down,
Daddy, get me down.
And like that, all the saints go up into the sky.
They’re like children screaming, Daddy, I want to stay high,
Daddy don’t bring me down, Our Father Our King,
leave me on high, Our Father Our King!

Translated from Hebrew by Vivian Eden

Monday, May 14, 2018

Jerusalem

By Naomi Shihab Nye

"Let's be the same wound if we must bleed.
Let's fight side by side, even if the enemy
is ourselves: I am yours, you are mine."
-Tommy Olofsson, Sweden


I'm not interested in
Who suffered the most.
I'm interested in
People getting over it.

Once when my father was a boy
A stone hit him on the head.
Hair would never grow there.
Our fingers found the tender spot
and its riddle: the boy who has fallen
stands up. A bucket of pears
in his mother's doorway welcomes him home.
The pears are not crying.
Later his friend who threw the stone
says he was aiming at a bird.
And my father starts growing wings.

Each carries a tender spot:
something our lives forgot to give us.
A man builds a house and says,
"I am native now."
A woman speaks to a tree in place
of her son. And olives come.
A child's poem says,
"I don't like wars,
they end up with monuments."
He's painting a bird with wings
wide enough to cover two roofs at once.

Why are we so monumentally slow?
Soldiers stalk a pharmacy:
big guns, little pills.
If you tilt your head just slightly
it's ridiculous.

There's a place in my brain
Where hate won't grow.
I touch its riddle: wind, and seeds.
Something pokes us as we sleep.

It's late but everything comes next.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Detaining a Poem

By Dareen Tatour

One day,
they stopped me,
shackled me,
tied up my body, my soul,
my everything…

Then they said: search her,
we’ll find a terrorist within her!
They turned my heart inside out—
my eyes as well,
rummaged through even my feelings.
From my eyes they drew a pulse of inspiration;
from my heart, the ability to sketch out meanings.
Then they said: beware!
She’s hiding weapons deep in her pockets.
Search her!
Root out the explosives.
And so they searched me…

Finally, they said, accusing me:
We found nothing
in her pockets except letters.
We found nothing except for a poem.
Dareen Tatour is currently in jail in Israel for writing a poem. Whether you agree with her interpretation of the situation in Israel/Palestine, the idea that her poem is somehow dangerous in and of itself is absurd. This poem was previously published in In Translation.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

As the World Splits Open*

By Andrena Zawinski
Fear of rape is a cold wind blowing...
on a woman’s hunched backMarge Piercy, 1975

Six men rape and murder a New Delhi medical student 
on a bus, her ashes and their crime scattered 
to winds crossing the Ganges. 
  A woman is raped 
  every twenty minutes in India.

Three brothers take two low caste village girls, 
twist their scarves into nooses to cut deep into their necks, 
leave them to die hanging from a mango tree.
   Women protestors are blasted 
   by police water cannons.

A mob of twenty attack a girl in Cairo's Tahrir Square
in front of her parents at a presidential inauguration,
her body bloodied, clawed raw, clothes torn from her.
   Crimes against women 
   are repeated and unpunished.

Women go shopping, to school, to jobs in Ciudad Juarez. 
They disappear, their bodies found stabbed, dismembered, 
mutilated, torched––desert blood.
  Crimes against women
   remain unsolved and unstoppable.

Five soldiers rape a Nairobi mother, charge her for insulting 
a government body, her sentence delayed to breastfeed. 
  A crime against one woman
  is a crime against all women.

Buried neck high, stoned before a thousand spectators, 
a Somali girl suffers a public death for reporting her rape. 
Hundreds of Nigerian girls are kidnapped for sex slave trade 
to be brokered across the Middle East, Europe, Russia.
Girls bought and sold as talismans of youth and virility 
in India, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, are more likely 
to die than learn how to read. 
  Countless millions of children
  are ravished in times of war. 

On the home front two Steubenville quarterbacks 
and one receiver brag a girl you get drunk can’t say no
are videotaped for a youtube splash. 
  One in four American women
  will be raped in her lifetime
on dorm floors, in labs, in classrooms, bathrooms, at work,
or just walking home watching the moon and the stars
        as the world splits open, 
        cold winds blowing 
        across their hunched backs.

Andrena Zawinski, long-time feminist activist in the Women Against Violence Against Women Movement, is the author of three full collections of poetry: Landings (Kelsay Books), Something About (PEN Oakland Award, Blue Light Press), and Traveling in Reflected Light (Kenneth Patchen Prize, Pig Iron Press). She founded and runs a Women’s Poetry Salon in the San Francisco Bay Area and is Features Editor at PoetryMagazine.com.

*The title “As the World Splits Open” comes from Muriel Rukeyser’s “What if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open."