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.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

I want a president

By Zoe Leonard

I want a dyke for president. I want a person with aids for president and I want a fag for vice president and I want someone with no health insurance and I want someone who grew up in a place where the earth is so saturated with toxic waste that they didn’t have a choice about getting leukemia. I want a president that had an abortion at sixteen and I want a candidate who isn’t the lesser of two evils and I want a president who lost their last lover to aids, who still sees that in their eyes every time they lay down to rest, who held their lover in their arms and knew they were dying. I want a president with no air conditioning, a president who has stood on line at the clinic, at the dmv, at the welfare office and has been unemployed and laid off and sexually harassed and gaybashed and deported. I want someone who has spent the night in the tombs and had a cross burned on their lawn and survived rape. I want someone who has been in love and been hurt, who respects sex, who has made mistakes and learned from them. I want a Black woman for president. I want someone with bad teeth [and an attitude], someone who has eaten [that nasty] hospital food, someone who crossdresses and has done drugs and been in therapy. I want someone who has committed civil disobedience. And I want to know why this isn’t possible. I want to know why we started learning somewhere down the line that a president is always a clown: always a john and never a hooker. Always a boss and never a worker, always a liar, always a thief and never caught.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Story Like Mine

By Halsey

It's 2009 and I'm 14 and I'm crying
Not really sure where I am but I'm holding the hand of my best friend Sam
In the waiting room of a Planned Parenthood
The air is sterile and clean, and the walls are that not grey, but green
And the lights are so bright they could burn a whole through the seam of my jeans
My phone is buzzing in the pocket
My mom is asking me if I remembered my keys 'cause she's closing the door and she needs to lock it
But I can't tell my mom where I've gone
I can't tell anyone at all
You see, my best friend Sam was raped by a man that we knew 'cause he worked in the after-school program
And he held her down with her textbook beside her
And he covered her mouth and he came inside her
So now I'm with Sam, at the place with a plan, waiting for the results of a medical exam
And she's praying she doesn't need an abortion, she couldn't afford it
And her parents would, like, totally kill her

It's 2002 and my family just moved and the only people I know are my mom's friends, too, and her son
He's got a case of Matchbox cars and he says that he'll teach me to play the guitar if I just keep quiet
And the stairwell beside apartment 1245 will haunt me in my sleep for as long as I am alive
And I'm too young to know why it aches in my thighs, but I must lie, I must lie

It's 2012 and I'm dating a guy and I sleep in his bed and I just learned how to drive
And he's older than me and he drinks whiskey neat and he's paying for everything
This adult thing is not cheap
We've been fighting a lot, almost 10 times a week
And he wants to have sex, and I just want to sleep
He says I can't say no to him
This much I owe to him
He buys my dinner, so I have to blow him
He's taken to forcing me down on my knees
And I'm confused 'cause he's hurting me while he says please
And he's only a man, and these things he just needs
He's my boyfriend, so why am I filled with unease?

It's 2017 and I live like a queen
And I've followed damn near every one of my dreams
I'm invincible and I'm so fucking naive
I believe I'm protected 'cause I live on a screen
Nobody would dare act that way around me
I've earned my protection, eternally clean
Until a man that I trust gets his hands in my pants
But I don't want none of that, I just wanted to dance
And I wake up the next morning like I'm in a trance and there's blood
Is that my blood?
Hold on a minute

You see I've worked every day since I was 18
I've toured everywhere from Japan to Mar-a-Lago
I even went on stage that night in Chicago when I was having a miscarriage
I mean, I pied the piper, I put on a diaper
And sang out my spleen to a room full of teens
What do you mean this happened to me?
You can't put your hands on me
You don't know what my body has been through
I'm supposed to be safe now
I earned it

It's 2018 and I've realized nobody is safe long as she is alive
And every friend that I know has a story like mine
And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment
But then heroes like Ashley and Simone and Gabby, McKayla and Gaga, Rosario, Aly
Remind me this is the beginning, it is not the finale
And that's why we're here
And that's why we rally
It's Olympians and a medical resident and not one fucking word from the man who is President
It's about closed doors and secrets and legs and stilletos from the Hollywood hills to the projects in ghettos
When babies are ripped from the arms of teen mothers and child brides cry globally under the covers
Who don't have a voice on the magazine covers
They tell us take cover

But we are not free until all of us are free
So love your neighbor, please treat her kindly
Ask her story and then shut up and listen
Black, Asian, poor, wealthy, trans, cis, Muslim, Christian
Listen, listen and then yell at the top of your lungs
Be a voice for all those who have prisoner tongues
For the people who had to grow up way too young
There is work to be done
There are songs to be sung
Lord knows there's a war to be won

Monday, January 15, 2018

Shafro

By Terrance Hayes

Now that my afro’s as big as Shaft’s
I feel a little better about myself.
How it warms my bullet-head in Winter,

black halo, frizzy hat of hair.
Shaft knew what a crown his was,
an orb compared to the bush

on the woman sleeping next to him.
(There was always a woman
sleeping next to him. I keep thinking,

If I’d only talk to strangers...
grow a more perfect head of hair.)
His afro was a crown.

Bullet after barreling bullet,
fist-fights & car chases,
three movies & a brief TV series,

never one muffled strand,
never dampened by sweat--
I sweat in even the least heroic of situations.

I’m sure you won’t believe this,
but if a policeman walks behind me, I tremble:
What would Shaft do? What would Shaft do?

Bits of my courage flake away like dandruff.
I’m sweating even as I tell you this,
I’m not cool,

I keep the real me tucked beneath a wig,
I’m a small American frog.
I grow beautiful as the theatre dims.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Snow Day

By Billy Collins

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Snow Is Deep on the Ground

By Kenneth Patchen 

The snow is deep on the ground.   
Always the light falls
Softly down on the hair of my belovèd.

This is a good world. 
The war has failed. 
God shall not forget us. 
Who made the snow waits where love is. 

Only a few go mad. 
The sky moves in its whiteness 
Like the withered hand of an old king.   
God shall not forget us. 
Who made the sky knows of our love. 

The snow is beautiful on the ground.   
And always the lights of heaven glow   
Softly down on the hair of my belovèd.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Daddy Gave Me Away

over an all-you-can-eat
buffet, a Gravely lawn mower
my only dowry.

So I moved from daddy's home
to his shiny new kitchen,
where I learned to cook
country fried steak
for a husband's fattening stomach
and washed dirty work
uniforms to kill the smell
of grease and soured sweat.

I learned the recipes
by heart at first, and then
gradually learned to dash
in spices for interest,
praying for a secret ingredient,
for some perfect seasoning
to make the deal my daddy made
work, to make my life bearable.

At 17, I knew nothing of the trade,
but time and heat gave rise
to a woman, and she left him,
his kitchen, stomach, mower,
and daddy too.

No daddy, I'm not through,
If God made man from dust,
I can do better.

By Katherine Perry

Katherine Perry has a new book of poetry out, Long Alabama Summer.