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.