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."

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bleak Sunlight

A collaborative slow renga written by Fiona Lesley Bennett, Andrea Witzke Slot, Eve Lyons, and Katherine Perry from January-April, 2017

Wild geese streaming in ribbons
across the sky, too many to count
like the women, marching

and bundled in winter coats, knitted hats,
flying together through historic streets.

Branches brush windows,
while sleepers toss violently.
Televisions glow,

the moon glows, lies low in the sky.
The crowd roars with chants and cheers.

A daughter peers through solid glass;
bleak sunlight appears on the swept kitchen floor.
She watches orange fade into white.

The air tepid and full of threat
as day breaks on dark water.

Yellow light spreads gold and purple
soon the sun's angry glare will be here,
we'll play in the ocean.

She chewed the mandarin peel, waiting.
Without paying, she took three more and ran.

A masterclass in initiative, just him
and the chair, the different ways
you could get up out of it.

Leaves decompose, become dirt.
We all have to let go sometimes.

In cupped palms, she cradles an orchid:
not a ghost or impossible-to-find rarity,
but standard white petals promising fertility.

Morning’s milky mist falls soft on worried lands.
Children wake in the flowers, blinking.

Monday, April 23, 2018

No Hands

By Carol Muske-Dukes

He rode “no hands,” speeding
headlong down the hill near
our house, his arms extended,
held rigid away from his body,
our small daughter behind him
on the bike in her yellow sunsuit,
bareheaded. She held on to him
for her life. I watched them from
above – helpless: a failed brake.
Far below us, a stop-sign rose
like a child’s toy shield. He could
not stop, he would not. That hunger
for display overrode danger, illusions
of safety. Even death had less to do
with it than the will’s eventual triumph
over stasis: how he’d finally fly free
and how she might accompany him,
as an audience travels with a performer,
an object of regard. Downward, fast –
so what cannot stop holds on, holds on
to a mind flying away from itself, seeking
release from the soul speeding away, yet
staying close as breath, even at this distance.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Visions at 74

By Frank Bidart

The planet turns there without you, beautiful.
Exiled by death you cannot
touch it. Weird joy to watch postulates
lived out and discarded, something crowded
inside us always craving to become something
glistening outside us, the relentless planet
showing itself the logic of what is
buried inside it. To love existence
is to love what is indifferent to you
you think, as you watch it turn there, beautiful.
World that can know itself only by
world, soon it must colonize and infect the stars.
You are an hypothesis made of flesh.
What you will teach the stars is constant
rage at the constant prospect of not-being.

Sometimes when I wake it’s because I hear
a knock. Knock,
Knock. Two
knocks, quite clear.
I wake and listen. It’s nothing.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Madam Physician

By Fae Kayarian

Madam Physician-
I never saw myself in medicine
until I met you.

I only knew of straight white men,
wearing straight white coats,
who always assured me that
It’s too complicated to explain
and You should try something else.

All I’ve ever wanted to be
is a clinician, a physician, a doctor,
but all people can ever see
is just a girl, a female, a woman.

Madam Physician-
Seeing you changed how
I see myself.

You commanded the operating room,
not by force or fear,
but with a presence that announced
We must do our best
and Let’s fight with everything we’ve got.

I can’t imagine being
a clinician, a physician, a doctor,
who transcends the label of
being just a girl, a female, a woman.

Madam Physician-
I will always be humbled by the gift
you gave me.

I can remember your eyes,
always focused and always giving,
that looked into mine as you told me
You are worthy of dreaming
and You have a place in medicine.

Madam Physician-
I am everything I am
I can become everything I wish to be.

Fae Kayarian lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where she is an undergraduate student enrolled in the Behavioral Neuroscience program at Northeastern University. She is also a research student and a volunteer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. She is a proud Bostonian, and enjoys running, biking and discovering music venues in the city.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Genetics of Leaving

By Shauna Barbosa

Inside, this vessel feels like the 1996 spelling bee when I forgot
u in language. Vovo left Fogo
to Praia. Now she has two sons named José.
Islands apart, I already jelly fished every memory that’s stuck
inside. Saltwater
nostalgia stung, rinsed right up off me.

Vovo left and came back, not recognizing my thirteen-year-old
aunt, her new haircut
resembling the first José. I contracted. I expanded.
I pushed temporary waters behind me. I already forgot
I’ve got two versions of my climb. The one I swam and, I—

I only climbed this mountain to take a picture at the top,
bell-shaped bodies all forgotten.

All this bad luck because I split a pole.
If I could open my mouth
I’d ask my grandmother why
she took so long to return to her first set of fish.
I’d ask if she’s aware she has two sons named the same.
She’s got two versions of herself,
one in the land of a free, haircut, two, me.

As soon as you start to love a city,
a thick-bodied flight attendant touches your shoulder
walking down the aisle. Thought that was affection.

I took care of that part of myself in a complicated way.
There’s only one temperature that’s good enough for a mother
to bring back the u of this vessel that is no longer the you
around my neck.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Testimony

By Hafizah Geter

for Tamir Rice (2002-2014)

Mr. President,
After they shot me they tackled my sister.
The sound of her knees hitting the sidewalk
made my stomach ache. It was a bad pain.
Like when you love someone
and they lie to you. Or that time Mikaela cried
all through science class and wouldn't tell anyone why.
This isn't even my first letter to you!
In the first one I told you about my room
and my favorite basketball team
and I asked you to come visit me in Cleveland
or to send you autograph. In the second one
I thanked you for your Responsible Citizenship.
I hope you are proud of me too.
Mom says you made being black beautiful again
but that was before someone killed Trayvon.
After that came a sadness so big it made everyone
look the same. It was a long time before we could
go outside again.  Mr. President, it took one whole day
for me to die and even though I'm twelve and not afraid of the dark
I didn't know there would be so much of it
or that there would be so many other boys here
and so many names to remember.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Deception

By Natalie Calderon

America, the so-called land of the free
 But is it still free if I take a knee?
Our president wants to “Make America Great Again”
But keeps putting roadblocks in the path of equality
I’m worried things will only get worse from here
I adjure to feel secure but how can I when
My so-called leader is acting so immature
My hope in humanity is fading
Because of all the degrading
My heart hurts as racism is pervading
I feel anger in my soul as it anchors my stomach
My spirit is damaged by the baggage of hate I carry
But I must stay strong for the struggles to come
I just hope my pride doesn’t go numb


This poem was selected by Nicholas Kristof and the Poetry Society of America from a call for poems of resistance to Trump's policies.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dear Basketball

By Kobe Bryant 

From the moment
I started rolling my dad’s tube socks
And shooting imaginary
Game-winning shots
In the Great Western Forum
I knew one thing was real:

I fell in love with you.

A love so deep I gave you my all —
From my mind & body
To my spirit & soul.

As a six-year-old boy
Deeply in love with you
I never saw the end of the tunnel.
I only saw myself
Running out of one.

And so I ran.
I ran up and down every court
After every loose ball for you.
You asked for my hustle
I gave you my heart
Because it came with so much more.

I played through the sweat and hurt
Not because challenge called me
But because YOU called me.
I did everything for YOU
Because that’s what you do
When someone makes you feel as
Alive as you’ve made me feel.

You gave a six-year-old boy his Laker dream
And I’ll always love you for it.
But I can’t love you obsessively for much longer.
This season is all I have left to give.
My heart can take the pounding
My mind can handle the grind
But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.

And that’s OK.
I’m ready to let you go.
I want you to know now
So we both can savor every moment we have left together.
The good and the bad.
We have given each other
All that we have.

And we both know, no matter what I do next
I’ll always be that kid
With the rolled up socks
Garbage can in the corner
:05 seconds on the clock
Ball in my hands.
5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1

Love you always,
Kobe

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Seven Deadly Sins of Marriage

By Sherman Alexie

Envy

How odd to be jealous of one's lover's
Long ago lovers, when one should thank them
For their various failures. And strengths.
And odder, this desire to rank them

As she must rank them, but will never say.
Where is the handsome Christian? Or the one
Who said he wasn't married? Or the short
British man whose parents were far more fun?

And what about the existentialist
Who kissed so well she swooned in the street,
But was far too rational to feel joy?
I celebrate the men who preceded me --

Just as the bank celebrates its debtors --
Because they make me look so much better.


Pride

A female fan, upon meeting my wife,
Said, "Oh, wow, you must have a wonderful life
Since you have such a wonderful writer
For a husband. That book, The Fistfighter,

Is so charming. Your husband must be charming, too."
And my wife thought, What a literate fool!
Only the poet's spouse fully learns the truth:
We writers are the worst kind of cruel,

Because we worship our own stories and poems,
And what human can compete with metaphors?
Writers stand still and yet vacate our homes
Inside our fantasies. We are word-whores,

With libidos and egos of balsa wood.
We'd have sex with our books, if only we could.


Gluttony

If I were single, would I be thinner?
Do I overeat because I don't compete
With the flat-bellied bachelors? Or do we
Thick husbands look and feel thicker

Whenever our wives see a slender man?
Or does it matter? Of course, it matters.
I can't stick with any weight loss plan,
And though my extra twenty won't shatter

Any scales, I despise my love handles,
And often feel ugly and obese.
But my lovely wife always lights the candles,
Disrobes, and climbs the mountain called me,

Because wives can love beyond the body
And make mortal husbands feel holy.


Greed

Every summer, my wife travels to France
To spend a week or two with her good friend.
Of course, my sons and I welcome the chance
To de-evolve and cave it up, and yet,

I sometimes wish that my wife gave me all
Her love and attention. But it's selfish
To want such devotion. There should be walls
Inside any marriage. My wife can wish

For more privacy and solitude
Without me thinking it cold and rude.
She should have friends I rarely meet,
If ever, and I shouldn't let my needs

Become demands, but when I'm most alone,
I often wish my wife was always home.


Sloth

To save time, I put the good pots and pans
In the dishwasher and ruined the damn things.
And, once again, my wife can't understand
How thoughtless I can be. And, again, I sing

The same exhausted song: I forgot, I forgot.
When left up to me, the bills go unpaid,
The fruits and vegetables go unbought,
And the master and twin beds go unmade.

Once, when a teacher wondered why our son
Spent so much time lying on the classroom floor,
My wife said, "Because he's seen it often before."
On a basketball court, I will madly run,

But anywhere else, I will use sedate
Opportunities to pontificate.


Wrath

In the hotel room next to mine, women
Talk and laugh and keep me awake 'til three.
Exhausted and soaked with sweat and venom,
I stare at the walls and think of twenty

Ways to get revenge for their selfish crimes.
At five a.m., as I walk by their door,
I pocket their PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB sign,
And then, from my taxi to the airport,

I ring their room. "Who the hell is this?"
Asks a woman, still drunk and irate.
And I say, "Hey, I just wanted to wish
You a good morning and a great fucking day."

When I tell my wife about my adolescent rage,
She shrugs, rolls her eyes, and turns the page.


Lust

Yes, dear wife, we were younger and slender
(And, damn, I had terrible hair and clothes).
Our marriage was new, exciting, and tender.
Naked in front of me, you still felt exposed,

And I had yet to learn how to touch you
Properly. But now, sweetheart, I've memorized
The curves of your breasts, belly, and thighs,
As you've memorized me, and if we do

Each other less often than we should or need,
Then we can blame time's ground and pound
And not the lack of carnality,
Because, D, I still want to lay you down

Hour by hour, and make you cry for more,
As I cry for you, adoring and adored.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

You Make The Culture

By Amy King 

The words became librarians, custodians of people
I looked for on the bridge.
I forgot my own face.
I read the book backwards, and
I painted your name in lace
(I drink only the milk of script as beer).
I dislocate all gallery aesthetics,
I carry keys for Baltimore and
Go where no one is my name.
I wish I could sculpt a healing street
from a blanket of guns. The way the sun drops
behind a one-armed cop & we default
to believing in voices. This is the trough of sleep
we draw from. Even gravity works at night.
If I pull your speech on the carpet of impossibility,
will you speak this immediate need for movement?
The immediate need of not drowning in public?
I will walk with the sharks of our pigments
if that’s what inconclusive data requires,
until we leave rooms that hold us apart.
What you see as a small minority, I see
as closer to liberatory. Nothing comes from the center
that doesn’t break most everything in parts.
I break bread with the handwriting of words.
Nothing of appearance is always an illusion.
Lend me your book when you finish
writing it. I’ll be the first to fill in its spaces.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Negotiations

By Rae Armantrout

1.
 The best part
is when we’re tired
of it all
in the same degree,
a fatigue we imagine
to be temporary,
and we lie near each other,
toes touching.

What’s done is done,
we don’t say,
to begin our transaction,
each letting go of something
without really
bringing it to mind
until we’re lighter,
sicker,
older
and a current
runs between us
where our toes touch.

It feels unconditional.

2.

Remember this, we don’t say:
The Little Mermaid
was able to absorb
her tail,
to form legs.
This meant that
everything’s negotiable and that everything is played out
in advance

in secret.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Subterranean Homesick Blues

By Bob Dylan

Johnny's in the basement
Mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement
Thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat
Badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough
Wants to get it paid off
Look out kid
It’s somethin’ you did
God knows when
But you’re doin’ it again
You better duck down the alleyway
Lookin’ for a new friend
The man in the coon-skin cap
and the big pen
Wants eleven dollar bills
You only got ten
Maggie comes fleet foot
Face full of black soot
Talkin’ that the heat put
Plants in the bed but
The phone’s tapped anyway
Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May
Orders from the D.A.
Look out kid
Don’t matter what you did
Walk on your tiptoes
Don’t try “No-Doz”
Better stay away from those
That carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose
Watch the plain clothes
You don’t need a weatherman
To know which way the wind blows
Get sick, get well
Hang around a inkwell
Ring bell, hard to tell
If anything is goin’ to sell
Try hard, get barred
Get back, write braille
Get jailed, jump bail
Join the army, if you fail
Look out kid
You’re gonna get hit
By users, cheaters
Six-time losers
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool
Lookin’ for a new fool
Don’t follow leaders
Watch the parkin’ meters
Get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better not chew gum
The pump don’t work
’Cause the vandals took the handles

Monday, February 5, 2018

Not Enough

By F.I. Goldhaber

Your tears are not enough.
Your prayers are not enough.
Your shares are not enough.
Your hashtags are not enough.

Your grief for one dead black man
will not erase systemic
racism that has imbued
this country since its founding.

Get off Facebook. Take to the
streets. If only black faces
show up, protesters will be
dismissed as rabble rousers.

Bear witness. Take videos
and distribute them to lift
the veil of secrecy from
rampant police malfeasance.

Your tears are not enough.
Your prayers are not enough.
Your shares are not enough.
Your hashtags are not enough.

Demand police accept blame,
face murder charges, prison.
Punish cops who refuse to
testify against their own.

Insist on changing laws that
target POC, protect
cops. Fire judges who send black
men to prison but not white.

Recognize your privilege.
Use it to foster change, to
hold others accountable.
Don't shrug off racist jokes, posts.

Your tears are not enough.
Your prayers are not enough.
Your shares are not enough.
Your hashtags are not enough.

Leave the echo chamber and
expand your world view. Read books
written by POC, buy
POC movies, music.

Teach your children to respect
diversity. Expose them
to stories featuring non-
white heroes and good guys.

Educate your parents, your
Fox News watching uncle, and
your neighbor who displays the
confederate flag inside.

Your tears are not enough.
Your prayers are not enough.
Your shares are not enough.
Your hashtags are not enough.

Don't accept the status quo.
Never assume it's only
someone else's affliction.
Police murder white men, too.

Don't condone cop shootings, but
don't blame all POC for
their deaths. Accept that we all
suffer when race wars explode.

Racism creates toxic
environments that only
hate can sustain. That poison
is tearing our world apart.

Your tears are not enough.
Your prayers are not enough.
Your shares are not enough.
Your hashtags are not enough.

F.I. Goldhaber has worked as a reporter, editor, business writer, and marketing communications consultant, and she has produced news stories, feature articles, editorial columns, and reviews for newspapers, corporations, governments, and non-profits in five states. Now her poetry, fiction, and essays appear in paper, electronic, and audio magazines, books, newspapers, calendars, anthologies, and street signs. Her fourth collection, Food ♦ Family ♦ Friends explores how those three things send us feasting, flinching, and/or frolicking through life.