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."