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