Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Contract Says: We'd Like the Conversation to be Bilingual

by Ada Limón

When you come, bring your brown-
ness so we can be sure to please

the funders. Will you check this
box; we’re applying for a grant.

Do you have any poems that speak
to troubled teens? Bilingual is best.

Would you like to come to dinner
with the patrons and sip Patrón?

Will you tell us the stories that make
us uncomfortable, but not complicit?

Don’t read the one where you
are just like us. Born to a green house,

garden, don’t tell us how you picked
tomatoes and ate them in the dirt

watching vultures pick apart another
bird’s bones in the road. Tell us the one

about your father stealing hubcaps
after a colleague said that’s what his

kind did. Tell us how he came
to the meeting wearing a poncho

and tried to sell the man his hubcaps
back. Don’t mention your father

was a teacher, spoke English, loved
making beer, loved baseball, tell us

again about the poncho, the hubcaps,
how he stole them, how he did the thing

he was trying to prove he didn’t do.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

What Have I Done?

By Shannon Leigh

She stands
Hands shaking
Lips moving in prayer
to a god they tell her is not listening
Outside it is cold and the faces of her attackers
line the cement walls like bathroom tiles
She has come to kill her baby.
That is what they say
Holding pictures of cut up stillbirths
Trying to tell her the thing inside her is shaped like us
when two days earlier on the ultrasound
a nurse showed her the gills.
She does not need anyone to tell her
it is more than a clump of cells
At eight weeks she already knows her daughter’s colors
Baby blue and bright pink
Like infant fireworks.
The shape of nose and eyes so very familiar
this child,
who would grow up to welfare and gun shots
asking why thunder seems so close
and where daddy was.
She stands
and prays.
Daughter,
Look away from this world and be with God
There is no mercy in the streets for little girls
and I would not be able to protect you from monsters
I was twelve when my mother failed me
They called her murderer
Her heart stretches out
and touches tendrils that one day could be human
I have been there.
Stood there before protesters
telling me God wants my baby to be born
while I remember the faces of the children I worked with
seven to a bedroom
eating rice for three days and starving for four
the children too old or so-called troubled to find homes
whose homeless mothers birthed them on cardboard boxes
and cut the cords with a broken vial.
Oh yes
The world surely needs more babies
whose parents would not be able to educate them
because their own educations were cut short
who know daddy as the man who hurt my mommy
who ever knew they were anything less than wanted.
Children know
They flounder under the weight of their parents’ bitter yokes
and grow to question their very worth
My clump of cells would grow up seeing my dead dreams
Twining around my arms like vines
holding me down to a life I could learn to love
But that is not why God made a heart
strong enough to make my own decisions.
They call me reckless and irresponsible
A slut and and a murderer
When abstinence education makes women believe their boyfriends
when they say you can’t get pregnant the first time
I pumped chemicals into my body for years
skin browning from untested carcinogens
Condoms break
And despite the rhetoric of fundamentalist men
afraid of the sacred
sex is beautiful
If done right and consciously
What drove me to this
they said God can help manage
But last time I checked
It’s been thousands of years since lost children
were rained down manna
And if your God knows me
like I believe He does
Fully and intimately
Exposed and unworthy
My beginning and my ending
He already knows what I am doing
Do not question your God’s omnipotence
in my name
It is blasphemy
to say you know more about my body
than the Creator of it
I stand
I will bear no child
who will think love means war
who will tell women making the choice to save two lives
that they are whores
Who belive God created the universe in seven days
and man can interpret it in four
I stand
And for the women who should stand proudly
but shove secrets into boxes
I ask
What have we done
that you wouldn’t have?


To hear a reading of this poem, go here.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Mother's Day Proclamation

By Julia Ward Howe

Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly: "We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
From the bosom of a devastated
Earth a voice goes up with
Our own.
It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war, Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God - In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Friday, May 10, 2019

U.S.

By Marge Piercy 

We force children to go to school
Schools are shooting galleries
We force children to experience death.
Don't go to a concert
you might die
Don't go to the mall
you might die
Don't go to the library
you might die
Don't go to the movies
you might die
Above all, don't go to college
you might die
Every bullet sprayed is money
for some corporation.
Every child who died is profit
for the NRA
Every murder brings contributions
to senators, congressmen, governors
and a President who couldn't care less
How much to any of us care
if a child bleeding out is not ours
We live in a gunhappy country
Some grow richer
Some never come home
Some never grow up

Copyright 2019 Marge Piercy. Shared with permission.  

Monday, May 6, 2019

This note in my hand

By Melissa Kelly


I’m not that little girl
So vulnerable and small
With thick glasses and braids
I’m not that innocent child
That kept secrets and was afraid
The things you did to me
In your drunken rage
I felt dirty and used
My soul bruised
You were mean and cold
And as stand before you
I need you to understand
It was not okay to put me through
It was never something fathers do
For so long  I felt guilt and shame
I hid behind the lies and pain
While you lived carefree
I built this prison around me
Today I’ll break free.

Melissa Kelly is a poet and short story writer from Long Island, NY. You can see some of her work in WestWard Quarterly Magazine, Plum Tree Tavern, Soft Cartel, and Amethyst Review

Thursday, May 2, 2019

A Walk To Caesarea

By Hannah Senesh

Eli, Eli, she loh yigamer leolam
Hachol vehayam,
Rishroosh shel hamayim
Berack hashamayim
T'filat ha'adam

My Lord, my God
I pray that these things never end
The sand and the sea,
The rush of the water
The sky’s glitter
The prayer of man.

Hannah Senesh died after emigrating from Hungary to Palestine and participating in the resistance effort during the Holocaust.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Advice to a Young Poet

By Kendel Hippolyte
"What is poetry which does not save nations or people?” – Czselaw Milosz

Ask the question.
Not once but forty-nine times.
And, perhaps at the fiftieth,
you will make an answer.
Or perhaps not. Then
ask it again. This time
till seventy times seven. Ask
as you open the door
of every book of poems that you enter.
Ask it of every poem,
regardless of how beautiful,
that whispers: “Lie with me.”
Do not spare your newborn.
If the first cry, first line
is not a wailing for an answer,
abandon it. As for the stillborn,
turn the next blank white sheet over,
shroud it. Ask the clamouring procession
of all the poems of the ages –
each measured, white-haired epic,
every flouncing free verse debutante –
to state their names, where they have come from
and what their business is with you.
You live in the caesura of our times,
the sound of nations, persons, breaking around you.
If poetry can only save itself,
then who will hear it after it has fled
from the nations and the people that it could not save
even a remnant of for a remembering?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Palace

It’s hard to remember who I’m talking to
     and why. The palace burns, the palace
is fire
     and my throne is comfy and
square.

Remember: the old king invited his subjects into his home
to feast on stores of apple tarts and sweet lamb. To feast on sweet lamb of
     stories. He believed
   
they loved him, that his goodness
had earned him their goodness.

Their goodness dragged him into the street
and tore off

his arms, plucked
     his goodness out, plucked his fingers out
               like feathers.

There are no good kings.
Only beautiful palaces.

Who here could claim to be merely guilty?
     The mere.
     My life
growing monstrous
with ease.

To be an American my father left his siblings
               believing
he’d never see them again. My father
               wanted to be Mick Jagger. My father
     went full ghost,
ended up working on duck farms for thirty years, once a sleep
     a couch,
     he coughed up a feather.

     America could be a metaphor, but it isn’t.
     Asleep on the couch, he coughed up a white duck feather.

There are no doors in America.
Only king-sized holes.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Pesach

By Bracha Meschaninov

House cleaned
more or less
kitchen surfaces covered
more or less
food ready
more or less
an experience of redemption
more or less

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Love Poem

By Timothy Liu

The Lindt Easter bunny

you said was "solid" 

chocolate turned out

to be hollow—its head
caved in when I peeled
back the gold foil

which was probably
better left wrapped,
every language having

its own version of “beer
goggles.” Sometimes
I like your mouth best

when there’s nothing in it,
just two rows of teeth
surrounding a tongue
stunned into silence.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Instructions from the Flight Crew to a Poet of African Descent Living in a State of Emergency

By Kate Rushin

First,
Secure your own oxygen.
Breathe normally,
Then teach the children.
Be not deceived.
Be not of two minds.
We are inadequate
Gasping, fighting for air.
Treasure your song.
Walk to the river
Give thanks at the grotto
Memorize poplar trees
Imitate barn swallows
Be still. Let the deer
Look into your eyes.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Things That Have Lost Their Power

By Sei Shonagon

A woman who has taken off her false locks to comb the short hair that remains. A large tree that has been blown down in a gale and lies on its side with its roots in the air. The retreating figure of a sumo wrestler who has been defeated in a match. A man of no importance reprimanding an attendant. A woman, who is angry with her husband about some trifling matter, leaves home and goes somewhere to hide. She is certain that he will rush about looking for her; but he does nothing of the kind and shows the most infuriating indifference. Since she cannot stay away forever, she swallows her pride and returns.

Translated by Ivan Morris

Monday, April 1, 2019

Early Evening Visit

By Roxanne Cardona

1.
I admired his penmanship, the red snap
on tie. His shirt, the very white of it,
the beating heart of his elocution.

Joe folded creases of himself
into his seat, curled his "j" s like a nacre
shell, his sharp pencils poked holes into

lined paper. The broken light of him wrapped
into his Batman backpack. I gold starred all
his efforts in my second-grade classroom.

2.
All five feet nine of him stands above
my desk, in the end light of today. Ten years
between second grade and this moment.

His hair curls in wet rings. Joe’s eyes falling
heavy into their lids, the very glint of them,
unnatural as me in this empty school.

Held in the surprise of him.
He's helloing me. And, You look so good-ing me.
His steps neat and clean walk themselves out.

3.
The five o'clock air turns around my car,
its dark. Drive me home pretty teacher?
But it's not the ride he wants. And it's No,

no, no, as we slow dance around the car.  
A yank and a click get me in. Joe pulls,
pulls the passenger side door. I twist my key,

rip open the engine. He beats his fists, steeled,
sharp into the locked door. My wheels
race to put distance and time between us.


Roxanne Cardona was born in New York City, of Puerto Rican descent. She has had poems published in Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine and West View. She studied with Philip Schultz in his Master Class, Writers Studio, NYC for over ten years and currently, Jennifer Franklin, HVWC, NY. She has a BA and MS from Hunter College, MS from the College of New Rochelle. She was an elementary school teacher and principal in the South Bronx. Roxanne resides in Teaneck, NJ with her husband. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Ode to the Unbroken World, Which is Coming

By Thomas Lux

It must be coming, mustn't it?
Churches and saloons are filled with decent humans.
A mother wants to feed her daughter,
 fathers to buy their children things that break.
 People laugh, all over the world, people laugh. 
We were born to laugh, and we know how to be sad;
 we dislike injustice and cancer,
 and are not unaware of our terrible errors.
 A man wants to love his wife. His wife
wants him to carry something.
 We're capable of empathy, and intense moments of joy.
 Sure, some of us are venal, but not most.
There's always a punchbowl, somewhere, in which floats a…
 Life's a bullet, that fast, and the sweeter for it.
 It's the same everywhere:
Slovenia, India,
Pakistan, Suriname—people like to pray,
 or they don't,
 or they like to fill a blue plastic pool
 in the back yard with a hose and watch their children splash. 
Or sit in cafes, or at table with family.
 And if a long train of cattle cars passes along West Ridge
 it's only the cattle from East Ridge going to the abattoir.
 The unbroken world is coming,
 (it must be coming!), I heard a choir,
 there were clouds, there was dust,
 I heard it in the streets, I heard it announced by loudhailers
 mounted on trucks.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Lamb

By Linda Gregg

It was a picture I had after the war.
A bombed English church. I was too young
to know the word English or war,
but I knew the picture.
The ruined city still seemed noble.
The cathedral with its roof blown off
was not less godly. The church was the same
plus rain and sky. Birds flew in and out
of the holes God’s fist made in the walls.
All our desire for love or children
is treated like rags by the enemy.
I knew so much and sang anyway.
Like a bird who will sing until
it is brought down. When they take
away the trees, the child picks up a stick
and says, this is a tree, this the house
and the family. As we might. Through a door
of what had been a house, into the field
of rubble, walks a single lamb, tilting
its head, curious, unafraid, hungry.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Yesterday

By W. S. Merwin

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father’s hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don’t want you to feel that you
have to
just because I’m here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don’t want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

won't you celebrate with me

By Lucille Clifton

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Imprint on Bench of a Bus Stop

By Hardarshan Singh Valia

The snow flake
falling on a bench
of a bus stop
refused to cover the space
that was left empty
by a female fast-food worker
whose complaint
of workplace sexual harassment
fell on deaf ears.
The snow flake
attached to
a lonely tear
meandered around
the empty space
and dissolved quietly
into an undulating image
crying for a shape.

This poem was written on January 15, 2019, in response to a TV documentary by Gretchen Carlson entitled ‘Breaking the Silence’. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

OK to Say

By Laurinda Lind

It’s the opposite of what John
Lennon said he saw through

the installation spyglass in
the leading version of how

he got his second wife and is
what the so-called president

said one week between planes
when asked if he would fire

the special counsel working out
whether he’s sold the country off

overseas, it’s what most of them
said to Spacey or wanted to say

to Weinstein or couldn’t say
to Cosby or meant to say

to Moore or were terrified
wouldn’t work once they tried

it on Trump. One consonant
only and one vowel coming

out the mouth by way of the nose:
No. And what it means is no.


Laurinda Lind lives in northern New York where not long ago, wind blew trees down flat and unroofed a school. Her work has appeared in Blueline, Comstock Review, Constellations, Paterson Literary Review, and Radius; also anthologies Visiting Bob: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of Bob Dylan (New Rivers Press) and AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss and Grief (Radix Media). In 2018, she won first place in both the Keats-Shelley Prize for adult poetry and the New York State Fair poetry competition.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

On Any Given Sunday

By Chad Goller-Sojourner
On Any Given Sunday 
A parishioner has just been sexually assaulted;
Someone is wrestling with another unplanned pregnancy;
The girl in the third pew has been made to share her father’s bed;
Someone has gambled away the rent money, again;
Someone is going to Church for the first time, in search of a message of hope—
And they are not saved.
On Any Given Sunday
A parishioner is struggling with addiction;
The choir director has just discovered he is HIV Positive;
A 15-year-old acolyte is starving himself to death because he thinks he is fat;
A young couple is keeping up appearances by taking separate cars to Church Even though they just spent the night together
And they are not saved.
On Any Given Sunday
A parishioner has just lost his union job;
The mother of the church has to choose between buying food and filling a prescription;
A 17-year-old altar boy is off fighting an unholy war because his parents can’t afford to send him to college;
And they are not saved.
On Any Given Sunday
An Elder’s wife is using make-up to conceal last night’s beatings;
The junior choir soloist has chosen to give her classmates oral sex, rather than spend another semester in isolation;
A Deacon is embezzling Church funds to support his pornography addiction;
An usher is contemplating suicide;
Someone is going to Church for the last time, still in search of a message of hope.
And they are not saved.
Yet On Any Given Sunday
A pastor can be found pontificating on the “Wickedness of Same-Sex Marriage.”
And still they:
The parishioner
The girl in the third pew
The choir director
The 15-year-old acolyte
The young couple
The mother of the church
The 17-year-old altar boy
The Elder’s wife
The junior choir soloist
The Deacon, and
The usher—
They are still not saved

Friday, February 22, 2019

this beginning may have always meant this end

By Camille Dungy

coming from a place where we meandered mornings and met quail, scrub jay, mockingbird, i knew coyote, like everyone else, i knew 
cactus, knew tumbleweed, lichen on the rocks and pill bugs beneath, rattlers sometimes, the soft smell of sage and the ferment of cactus pear. coming from this place, from a place where grass might grow greener on the hillside in winter than in any yard, where, the whole rest of the year, everything i loved, chaparral pea, bottle brush tree, jacaranda, mariposa, pinyon and desert oak, the kumquat in the back garden and wisteria vining the porch, the dry grass whispering long after the last rains, raccoons in and out of the hills, trash hurled by the hottest wind, the dry grass tall now and golden, lawn chairs, 
eucalyptus, everything, in a place we knew, every thing, we knew, little and large and mine and ours, except horror, all of it, everything could flame up that quickly, could flare and be gone

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The New Colossus

By Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Nutritionist

By Andrea Gibson 
The nutritionist said I should eat root vegetables
Said if I could get down 13 turnips a day
I would be grounded,
rooted.
Said my head would not keep flying away to where the darkness is.
The psychic told me my heart carries too much weight
Said for 20 dollars she’d tell me what to do
I handed her the twenty,
she said “stop worrying darling, you will find a good man soon.”
The first psychotherapist said I should spend 3 hours a day sitting in a dark closet with my eyes closed, with my ears plugged
I tried once but couldn’t stop thinking about how gay it was to be sitting in the closet
The yogi told me to stretch everything but truth,
said focus on the outbreaths,
everyone finds happiness when they can care more about what they can give than what they get
The pharmacist said klonopin, lamictil, lithium, Xanax
The doctor said an antipsychotic might help me forget what the trauma said
The trauma said don’t write this poem
Nobody wants to hear you cry about the grief inside your bones
My bones said “Tyler Clementi dove into the Hudson River convinced he was entirely alone.”
My bones said “write the poem.”
The lamplight.
Considering the river bed.
To the chandelier of your fate hanging by a thread.
To everyday you could not get out of bed.
To the bulls eye on your wrist
To anyone who has ever wanted to die.
I have been told, sometimes, the most healing thing to do-
Is remind ourselves over and over and over
Other people feel this too
The tomorrow that has come and gone
And it has not gotten better
When you are half finished writing that letter to your mother that says “I swear to God I tried”
But when I thought I hit bottom, it started hitting back
There is no bruise like the bruise of loneliness kicks into your spine
So let me tell you I know there are days it looks like the whole world is dancing in the streets when you break down like the doors of the looted buildings
You are not alone and wondering who will be convicted of the crime of insisting you keep loading your grief into the chamber of your shame
You are not weak just because your heart feels so heavy
I have never met a heavy heart that wasn’t a phone booth with a red cape inside
Some people will never understand the kind of superpower it takes for some people to just walk outside
Some days I know my smile looks like the gutter of a falling house
But my hands are always holding tight to the ripchord of believing
A life can be rich like the soil
Can make food of decay
Can turn wound into highway
Pick me up in a truck with that bumper sticker that says
“it is no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a sick society”
I have never trusted anyone with the pulled back bow of my spine the way I trusted ones who come undone at the throat
Screaming for their pulses to find the fight to pound
Four nights before Tyler Clementi jumped from the George Washington bridge I was sitting in a hotel room in my own town
Calculating exactly what I had to swallow to keep a bottle of sleeping pills down
What I know about living is the pain is never just ours
Every time I hurt I know the wound is an echo
So I keep a listening to the moment the grief becomes a window
When I can see what I couldn’t see before,
through the glass of my most battered dream, I watched a dandelion lose its mind in the wind
and when it did, it scattered a thousand seeds.
So the next time I tell you how easily I come out of my skin, don’t try to put me back in
just say here we are together at the window aching for it to all get better
but knowing as bad as it hurts our hearts may have only just skinned their knees knowing there is a chance the worst day might still be coming
let me say right now for the record, I’m still gonna be here
asking this world to dance, even if it keeps stepping on my holy feet
you- you stay here with me, okay?
You stay here with me.
Raising your bite against the bitter dark
Your bright longing
Your brilliant fists of loss
Friend

if the only thing we have to gain in staying is each other,
my god that’s plenty
my god that’s enough
my god that is so so much for the light to give
each of us at each other’s backs whispering over and over and over
“Live”
“Live”
“Live”

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

You Don't Know What Love Is (An evening with Charles Bukowski)

By Raymond Carver

You don't know what love is Bukowski said
I'm 51 years old look at me
I'm in love with this young broad
I got it bad but she's hung up too
so it's all right man that's the way it should be
I get in their blood and they can't get me out
They try everything to get away from me
but they all come back in the end
They all came back to me except
the one I planted
I cried over that one
but I cried easy in those days
Don't let me get onto the hard stuff man
I get mean then
I could sit here and drink beer
with you hippies all night
I could drink ten quarts of this beer
and nothing it's like water
But let me get onto the hard stuff
and I'll start throwing people out windows
I'll throw anybody out the window
I've done it
But you don't know what love is
You don't know because you've never
been in love it's that simple
I got this young broad see she's beautiful
She calls me Bukowski
Bukowski she says in this little voice
and I say What
But you don't know what love is
I'm telling you what it is
but you aren't listening
There isn't one of you in this room
would recognize love if it stepped up
and buggered you in the ass
I used to think poetry readings were a copout
Look I'm 51 years old and I've been around
I know they're a copout
but I said to myself Bukowski
starving is even more of a copout
So there you are and nothing is like it should be
That fellow what's his name Galway Kinnell
I saw his picture in a magazine
He has a handsome mug on him
but he's a teacher
Christ can you imagine
But then you're teachers too
here I am insulting you already
No I haven't heard of him
or him either
They're all termites
Maybe it's ego I don't read much anymore
but these people who build
reputations on five or six books
termites
Bukowski she says
Why do you listen to classical music all day
Can't you hear her saying that
Bukowski why do you listen to classical music all day
That surprises you doesn't it
You wouldn't think a crude bastard like me
could listen to classical music all day
Brahms Rachmaninoff Bartok Telemann
Shit I couldn't write up here
Too quiet up here too many trees
I like the city that's the place for me
I put on my classical music each morning
and sit down in front of my typewriter
I light a cigar and I smoke it like this see
and I say Bukowski you're a lucky man
Bukowski you've gone through it all
and you're a lucky man
and the blue smoke drifts across the table
and I look out the window onto Delongpre Avenue
and I see people walking up and down the sidewalk
and I puff on the cigar like this
and then I lay the cigar in the ashtray like this and take a deep breath
and I begin to write
Bukowski this is the life I say
it's good to be poor it's good to have hemorrhoids
it's good to be in love
But you don't know what it's like
You don't know what it's like to be in love
If you could see her you'd know what I mean
She thought I'd come up here and get laid
She just knew it
She told me she knew it
Shit I'm 51 years old and she's 25
and we're in love and she's jealous
Jesus it's beautiful
she said she'd claw my eyes out if I came up here
and got laid
Now that's love for you
What do any of you know about it
Let me tell you something
I've met men in jail who had more style
than the people who hang around colleges
and go to poetry readings
They're bloodsuckers who come to see
if the poet's socks are dirty
or if he smells under the arms
Believe me I won't disappoint em
But I want you to remember this
there's only one poet in this room tonight
only one poet in this town tonight
maybe only one real poet in this country tonight
and that's me
What do any of you know about life
What do any of you know about anything
Which of you here has been fired from a job
or else has beaten up your broad
or else has been beaten up by your broad
I was fired from Sears and Roebuck five times
They'd fire me then hire me back again
I was a stockboy for them when I was 35
and then got canned for stealing cookies
I know what's it like I've been there
I'm 51 years old now and I'm in love
This little broad she says
Bukowski
and I say What and she says
I think you're full of shit
and I say baby you understand me
She's the only broad in the world
man or woman
I'd take that from
But you don't know what love is
They all came back to me in the end too
every one of em came back
except that one I told you about
the one I planted
We were together seven years
We used to drink a lot
I see a couple of typers in this room but
I don't see any poets
I'm not surprised
You have to have been in love to write poetry
and you don't know what it is to be in love
that's your trouble
Give me some of that stuff
That's right no ice good
That's good that's just fine
So let's get this show on the road
I know what I said but I'll have just one
That tastes good
Okay then let's go let's get this over with
only afterwards don't anyone stand close
to an open window

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Jakarta, January

By Sarah Kay

After Hanif Abdurraqib & Frank O’Hara

It is the last class of the day & I am teaching a classroom of sixth graders about poetry & across town a man has walked into a Starbucks & blown himself up while some other men throw grenades in the street & shoot into the crowd of civilians & I am 27 years old which means I am the only person in this room who was alive when this happened in New York City & I was in eighth grade & sitting in my classroom for the first class of the day & I made a joke about how mad everyone was going to be at the pilot who messed up & later added, how stupid do you have to be for it to happen twice? & the sixth graders are practicing listing sensory details & somebody calls out blue skies as a sight they love & nobody in this classroom knows what has happened yet & they do not know that the school is in lockdown which is a word we did not have when I was in sixth grade & the whole class is laughing because a boy has called out dog poop as a smell he does not like & what is a boy if not a glowing thing learning what he can get away with & I was once a girl in a classroom on the lucky side of town who did not know what had happened yet & electrical fire is a smell I did not know I did not like until my neighborhood smelled that way for weeks & blue skies is a sight I have never trusted again & poetry is what I reached for in the days when the ash would not stop falling & there is a sixth grade girl in this classroom whose father is in that Starbucks & she does not know what has happened yet & what is a girl if not a pulsing thing learning what the world will take from her & what if I am still a girl sitting in my classroom on the lucky side of town making a careless joke looking at the teacher for some kind of answer & what if I am also the teacher without any answers looking back at myself & what is an adult if not a terrified thing desperate to protect something you cannot save? & how lucky do you have to be for it to miss you twice? & tomorrow a sixth grade girl will come to class while her father has the shrapnel pulled from his body & maybe she will reach for poetry & the sky outside the classroom is so terribly blue & the students are quiet & looking at me & waiting for a grown-up or a poem or an answer or a bell to ring & the bell rings & they float up from their seats like tiny ghosts & are gone

Thursday, January 31, 2019

People Getting Divorced

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

People getting divorced
                  riding around with their clothes in the car
        and wondering what happened
                        to everyone and everything
                           including their other
                                              pair of shoes
                 And if you spy one
                      then who knows what happened
                                           to the other
                                       with tongue alack
       and years later not even knowing
                                if the other ever
                                       found a mate
                                   without splitting the seams
                                      or remained intact
                                                        unlaced
       and the sole
                     ah the soul
                                  a curious conception
           hanging on somehow
                                  to walk again
                                        in the free air
                           once the heel
                                        has been replaced

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The moth-eater

By Sarah Bigham

Alone in the attic
The moth-eater waits
For those who come calling
And just want to take

The blankets and dowries
The moth-eater keeps
Giving chase to the thieves
Who flutter and creep

Fabrics are brittle
When set against time
As are old diaries and
Books coated in grime

I do not tear at the seams
I do not leak from the core
I do not fade away slowly
Dripping conscience through pores

The moth-eater guards
The moth-eater eats
And the moth-eater growls
While I dream in my sleep

Send indictments and tweets
There is a committee that greets
Conmen and liars
And launderers and cheats

Empaneled in Washington
Other moth-eaters wait
For those who went trawling
And just wanted to take.


Sarah Bigham writes from the United States where she lives with her kind chemist wife, three independent cats, an unwieldy herb garden, and near-constant outrage at the general state of the world tempered with love for those doing their best to make a difference. Find her at www.sgbigham.com.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A Modest Proposal

By Joy Ladin

Let’s not kill or die today.
Let’s make angels out of yarn, men of snow, mashed potato animals
that smile as we spoon
their eyes of melted butter.

Instead of killing ourselves or one another,
let’s neatly stack anxiety’s sweaters
and scratch our itchy trigger fingers
by whittling turtles for our mothers,

or pretending to understand Heidegger,
or imagining the sexual embrace
through which time and space
first conceived of matter.

If we still aren’t over killing and dying,
we can search the stacks for library books
that haven’t circulated in generations
and savor the mold

that spores their spines
the way wine snobs savor the nose
of vintage wines bottled
between wars to end all wars.

Look, we’ve played all day
and haven’t spilled a drop of blood
apart from the occasional paper cut.
In an hour or two, when it’s very dark,

let’s make up stories out of stars,
and fill them with all the killing and dying
we didn’t do today, except in our imaginations.
Let’s pull our comforters over our heads

and sing ourselves to sleep
like good little civilizations.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Some Things, Say The Wise Ones

By Mary Oliver

Some things, say the wise ones who know everything,
are not living. I say,
You live your life your way and leave me alone.

I have talked with the faint clouds in the sky when they
are afraid of being behind; I have said, Hurry, hurry!
and they have said, Thank you, we are hurrying.

About cows, and starfish, and roses there is no
argument. They die, after all.

But water is a question, so many living things in it,
but what is it itself, living or not? Oh, gleaming

generosity, how can they write you out?

As I think this I am sitting on the sand beside
the harbor. I am holding in my hand
small pieces of granite, pyrite, schist.
Each one, just now, so thoroughly asleep.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dark

By Jericho Brown

I am sick of your sadness,
Jericho Brown, your blackness,
Your books. Sick of you
Laying me down
So I forget how sick
I am. I’m sick of your good looks,
Your debates, your concern, your
Determination to keep your butt
Plump, the little money you earn.
I’m sick of you saying no when yes is as easy
As a young man, bored with you
Saying yes to every request
Though you’re as tired as anyone else yet
Consumed with a single
Diagnosis of health. I’m sick
Of your hurting. I see that
You’re blue. You may be ugly,
But that ain’t new.
Everyone you know is
Just as cracked. Everyone you love is
As dark, or at least as black.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Second November

By Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins

Two years alive without you
day into night somehow winds a life.
Day into night in rooms where women are dying where
Mrs. Richman waits for the scary angel to come,
that last doctor who says no,
I don’t think you’re going
to make it this time.
She waits for her sons to come visit
the same ages we were
twenty eight and twenty nine,
old enough to lose their mother.

In rooms where women die and bring life
invoking your name into my face mask
I pray you’re proud of me
I wonder if I’ll ever be enough.

Jonathan got your brilliance with his violent birth
as sure as he grabbed your anger
his baby hands that didn’t care
if they were warmly regarded or slapped.
Your daughter articulate only in love,
diplomat in any conflict
running from frowns as fast as from blows.

Mother, loosen my tongue
or adorn me with a lighter burden. These people who wait for your posthumous issue
say you changed their lives, clutch
your fourteen books, the film, the poster.
They don’t know how warm your hug was at night,
how big your bites of the last Baby Ruth
what a pain in the ass you were,
the most generous person I’ve ever known. I see you Mom
cooking in the kitchen, strong brown hands on the table
a cup of chicken broth with the biggest thigh left over from last night’s supper
reviewing The New York Times.

I see you Mom, lying in that bed
finally ready, after the seasons and the surgeries
and the long long fight
the pain you almost never talked about
putting on your game face
more and more often as you,
growing into your glory even in your dying
went out like a flame
a tongue of lava pulled to the sea.

Momma, the day spins into night
I do my best work at three a.m. now
it’s twins this time, feet first
your smile sits in the smaller one’s face
I know now why ancients felt possessed by the dead
how am I supposed to let go
I need you.
The world is full
of motherless children and now
I am one of them
as the days spin into nights spin into my life
without my children’s grandmother
without your voice singing through the receiver
without that demanding woman who always
wanted what she wanted
and usually got it
but told me I was old enough
not to let my wants hurt me
now that I am forever without
you.

This poem was first published in Mom Egg Review in 2017.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

20/20

By Susan P. Blevins

Let’s hope
by the time we
get to 2020, if
we’re not blown
up by nuclear
weapons by then,
or rotted from the
inside out by un-
fettered pollution,
or shot while we pray,
that we are as a
nation, blessed with the
improbable gift of
20/20 vision.