Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Holy Sonnet 10: Death, Be Not Proud

By John Donne 

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Ode On a Grecian Urn

By John Keats


Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed 
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Tiger

By William Blake

Tiger Tiger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tiger Tiger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

On His Blindness

By John Milton

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Friday, July 12, 2019

Daffodils

By William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Sonnet 18

By William Shakespeare 

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Bus Station

By Sheenagh Pugh

Passengers on the move, not moving,
becalmed in a between place

intently into their palms.
eyes flickering, picking up messages,

the price of gold, what’s happening in Iran,
their faces backlit; they are no spectators

to a global exchange where thoughts,
like cash on a Baldwin Flyer. It’s off-key,

with static, we should hear a buzz
the sound this glow would make, that wells

into the room whose windows
only on our own reflections.

on the way elsewhere. Dead quiet, staring
They are talking with their quick fingers,

catching the latest news. They know
tomorrow’s weather; they scan the world,

but part of the play, tuned in
facts, rumours, insults zip along wires

this silence, it should hum, crackle
pitched just too low for eavesdroppers,

from a dozen tiny screens
are dark with winter, looking out

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Let America Be America Again

By Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Hold onto your hats, boys

By Katherine Perry 

A reckoning stands before you

her hands clenched in tight fists
and she has said no 
one too many times
to someone who has not listened
to a man who has not heard the message
and now you all have to change
to make all of the accommodations
that you never had to make before.

You no longer can have what you want
whenever you want it.
You can now learn what it is we want:
it is not, and has never been, a mystery.

If biology is the problem, 
we want you to masturbate
instead of sticking it in us.
Do it alone. In private.

We want to decide where and when and if
we have sex with you.
And when you ask, and we say no,

you must obey.

Yes, go home unsatisfied.
You think we don’t? 
We do. We always have. 

And we will continue to ruin every single one of you
who has committed these felonies against us
until you get this right.


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

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Dear America

By Jose Bello

Our Administration has failed
They passed laws against our people
Took away our rights and our freedom
and still expect to be hailed?
Chales!
Dear America,
You and your administration caused fear -
fear through separation.
Instead of building trust with our people
do y'all prefer this racial tension?
Oppressed.
I live my life in frustration.
Private prisons, political funding,
mass incarceration - you make the connection.
I speak for the victims who pay for this scam -
Vietnamese, Jamaican, African, Cambodian,
Mexican, Salvadoran, on and on.
Together we stand.
We demand respect.
We want our dignity back.
Our roots run deep in this country,
now that's a true fact.
Dear Americans,
What's the whole point of repeating these facts?
Well I'm here to let you know
We want to feel safe
Whether we're Brown, Asian, or Black.
We don't want your jobs,
we don't want your money.
We're here to work hard. pay taxes, and study.
The fight has begun.
"We will never be apart chiquito"
is what I promised my son.
Y'all can try and justify your actions
and try and make excuses
The bottom line here is that in the end
the people always triumph
and the government loses.
Dear America,
Do not consider this a threat
Our intentions are the continue making America great
It's time to begin standing up for what's right
Criminalizing children,
separating families
"Our national security" -
Does this make it alright?
No. It doesn't and it won't.
The youth have to stand up
We have to unite with our peers
Let's begin educating our children
Speak wisdom into their ears
Because at the end of the day
I am you, and you are me.
Together we are.
Sincerely,
Those seeds you tried to bury.

Jose Bello was picked up by ICE two days after reciting this poem in protest.  Resist! 


Monday, July 1, 2019

It Should’ve Been A Red Flag

By Alexandria Warneke

When you got so damn angry at the person that parked too close to your car in the lot that you took a hot sauce packet and poured it all over their window and yelled
“they did that because they knew it was my car that asshole”

During the 2016 election when you kept telling me a woman can never be president And that you’d be bothered by me following my dream of being a lawyer because that would mean you’d make less than me

It would hurt your ego
When every time I saw you you’d ask me “so like how many weeks until you’ll be ready”
Every time
I’d tell you it’s not a thing I can put a time limit on I just don’t feel comfortable that’s all

Then you hit me
And called me a cunt
And fucked me while I cried

And all you ever worry about is your ego.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

To Go to Lvov

By Adam Zagajewski

To go to Lvov. Which station
for Lvov, if not in a dream, at dawn, when dew
gleams on a suitcase, when express
trains and bullet trains are being born. To leave
in haste for Lvov, night or day, in September
or in March. But only if Lvov exists,
if it is to be found within the frontiers and not just
in my new passport, if lances of trees
—of poplar and ash—still breathe aloud
like Indians, and if streams mumble
their dark Esperanto, and grass snakes like soft signs
in the Russian language disappear
into thickets. To pack and set off, to leave
without a trace, at noon, to vanish
like fainting maidens. And burdocks, green
armies of burdocks, and below, under the canvas
of a Venetian café, the snails converse
about eternity. But the cathedral rises,
you remember, so straight, as straight
as Sunday and white napkins and a bucket
full of raspberries standing on the floor, and
my desire which wasn’t born yet,
only gardens and weeds and the amber
of Queen Anne cherries, and indecent Fredro.
There was always too much of Lvov, no one could
comprehend its boroughs, hear
the murmur of each stone scorched
by the sun, at night the Orthodox church’s silence was unlike
that of the cathedral, the Jesuits
baptized plants, leaf by leaf, but they grew,
grew so mindlessly, and joy hovered
everywhere, in hallways and in coffee mills
revolving by themselves, in blue
teapots, in starch, which was the first
formalist, in drops of rain and in the thorns
of roses. Frozen forsythia yellowed by the window.
The bells pealed and the air vibrated, the cornets
of nuns sailed like schooners near
the theater, there was so much of the world that
it had to do encores over and over,
the audience was in frenzy and didn’t want
to leave the house. My aunts couldn’t have known
yet that I’d resurrect them,
and lived so trustfully; so singly;
servants, clean and ironed, ran for
fresh cream, inside the houses
a bit of anger and great expectation, Brzozowski
came as a visiting lecturer, one of my
uncles kept writing a poem entitled Why,
dedicated to the Almighty, and there was too much
of Lvov, it brimmed the container,
it burst glasses, overflowed
each pond, lake, smoked through every
chimney, turned into fire, storm,
laughed with lightning, grew meek,
returned home, read the New Testament,
slept on a sofa beside the Carpathian rug, there was too much of Lvov, and now
there isn’t any, it grew relentlessly
and the scissors cut it, chilly gardeners
as always in May, without mercy,
without love, ah, wait till warm June
comes with soft ferns, boundless
fields of summer, i.e., the reality.
But scissors cut it, along the line and through
the fiber, tailors, gardeners, censors
cut the body and the wreaths, pruning shears worked
diligently, as in a child’s cutout
along the dotted line of a roe deer or a swan.
Scissors, penknives, and razor blades scratched,
cut, and shortened the voluptuous dresses
of prelates, of squares and houses, and trees
fell soundlessly, as in a jungle,
and the cathedral trembled, people bade goodbye
without handkerchiefs, no tears, such a dry
mouth, I won’t see you anymore, so much death
awaits you, why must every city become Jerusalem and every man a Jew, and now in a hurry just pack, always, each day, and go breathless, go to Lvov, after all it exists, quiet and pure as a peach. It is everywhere. TRANSLATED BY RENATA GORCZYNSKI

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Back to Previous ICE Agents Storm My Porch

By Maria Melendez Kelson

 The Indiscriminate Citizenry of Earth
are out to arrest my sense of being a misfit.
“Open up!” they bellow,
hands quiet before my door
that’s only wind and juniper needles, anyway.

You can’t do it, I squeak from inside.
You can’t make me feel at home here
in this time of siege for me and mine, mi raza.
Legalized suspicion of my legitimacy
is now a permanent resident in my gut.

“Fruit of the prickly pear!” they swear,
striding up to my table
to juice me a glass of pink nectar.
They’ve brought welcome baskets
stuffed with proof I’m earthling.

From under a gingham cover,
I tug a dark feather
iridescing green — cohering
to “magpie” thought,
to memory’s chatter,
to mind. Mine.

And here they have my mind translated
into a slate-surfaced pond, which
vibrates in the shape
of a cottonwood’s autumn molt,
which trees me to dirt, which soils me
heat & freeze —

But you’ll always be
one definitive document short! I complain.
Doubts can forever outstrip
your geo-logic.

For which they produce
a lock of my natal dust,
bronzed
to the fluttering fiber
of lacebark pine.

Where’d they get that stuff?

The baskets are bottomless,
and it’s useless for me to insist
on being distinct.
Undergoing re-portation,
I’m awakened to a Center,

where walls
between all beings
are dreamt to dissolve.

Friday, June 28, 2019

My Family Never Finished Migrating We Just Stopped

By José Olivarez

we invented cactus. to survive the winters
we created steel. at my dad’s mill
i saw a man dressed like a Martian
walk straight into fire. the flames
licked his skin, but like a pet, it never bit him.
in the desert, they find our baseball caps,
our empty water bottles, but never our bodies.
even the best ICE agents can’t track us
through the storms, but i have a theory.
some of our cousins don’t care about LA or Chicago;
they build a sanctuary underneath the sand,
under the skin we shed, so we can wear
the desert like a cobija, under the bones
of our loved ones, bones worn thin
as thorns to terrorize blue agents,
bones worn thin as guitar strings,
so when the wind blows
we can follow the music home.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Real Revolution is Love

By Joy Harjo

I argue with Roberto from the slick-tiled patio
where house plants as big as elms sway in a samba
breeze at four or five in the Managua morning
after too many yerbabuenas and as many shots of
golden rum. And watch Pedro follow Diane up
her brown arm, over the shoulder of her cool dress,
the valleys of her neck to the place inside her
ear where he isn't speaking revolution. And Alonzo
tosses in the rhetoric made of too much rum and
the burden of being an American in a country
he no longer belongs to.

What we are dealing with here are ideological
differences, political power, he says to
impress a woman who is gorgeously intelligent
and who reminds me of the soft oasis
of my lover's cheek. She doesn't believe
anything but the language of damp earth
beneath a banana tree at noon, and will soon
disappear in the screen of rum, with a man
who keeps his political secrets to himself
in favor of love.

I argue with Roberto, and laugh across the
continent to Diane, who is on the other side
of the flat, round table whose surface ships
would fall off if they sailed to the other
side. We are Anishnabe and Muscogee.
We have wars of our own.
Knowing this we laugh and laugh,
until she disappears into the poinsettia forest
with Pedro, who is still arriving from Puerto Rico.
Palm trees flutter in smoldering tongues.
I can look through the houses, the wind, and hear
quick laughter become a train
that has no name. Columbus doesn't leave
the bow of the slippery ship.

This is the land of revolution. You can do anything
you want, Roberto tries to persuade me. I fight my way
through the cloud of rum and laughter, through lines
of Spanish and spirits of the recently dead whose elbows
rustle the palm leaves. It is almost dawn and we are still
a long way from morning, but never far enough
to get away.

I do what I want, and take my revolution to bed with
me, alone. And awake in a story told by my ancestors
when they speak a version of the very beginning,
of how so long ago we climbed the backbone of these
tortuous Americas. I listen to the splash of the Atlantic
and Pacific and see Columbus land once more,
over and over again.

This is not a foreign country, but the land of our dreams.

I listen to the gunfire we cannot hear, and begin
this journey with the light of knowing
the root of my own furious love.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

America

By Tony Hoagland

Then one of the students with blue hair and a tongue stud
Says that America is for him a maximum security prison

Whose walls are made of RadioShacks and Burger Kings, and MTV episodes
Where you can’t tell the show from the commercials,

And as I consider how to express how full of shit I think he is,
He says that even when he’s driving to the mall in his Isuzu

Trooper with a gang of his friends, letting rap music pour over them
Like a boiling Jacuzzi full of ballpeen hammers, even then he feels

Buried alive, captured and suffocated in the folds
Of the thick satin quilt of America

And I wonder if this is a legitimate category of pain,
Or whether he is just spin doctoring a better grade,

And then I remember that when I stabbed my father in the dream last night,
It was not blood but money

That gushed out of him, bright green hundred-dollar bills
Spilling from his wounds, and—this is the weird part--,

He gasped, “Thank god—those Ben Franklins were
Clogging up my heart—

And so I perish happily,
Freed from that which kept me from my liberty”--

Which is when I knew it was a dream, since my dad
Would never speak in rhymed couplets,

And I look at the student with his acne and cell phone and phony ghetto clothes
And I think, “I am asleep in America too,

And I don’t know how to wake myself either,”
And I remember what Marx said near the end of his life:

“I was listening to th cries of the past,
When I should have been listening to the cries of the future.”

But how could he have imagined 100 channels of 24-hour cable
Or what kind of nightmare it might be

When each day you watch rivers of bright merchandise run past you
And you are floating in your pleasure boar upon this river

Even while others are drowning underneath you
And you see their faces twisting in the surface of the waters

And yet it seems to be your own hand
Which turns the volume higher?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

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.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Pride Poem

By Karen Garrabrant

I am privileged to be queer & here

beneath the entertainment stages and in the wiring,
at the bottom of the beer cozy.

Stringing together the booths selling everything
from Utilikilts and chirping wood frogs to chicken on a stick

are the long shadows of our ghosts who couldn’t make it here today.

Behind the banners of rainbow flags and generous sponsors
are the sore knuckles and hoarse voices who know what time it is
on government clocks right now,

and for those paying attention,
we’ve come so far to be here & queer
and proud,
but we still have far to go.

Pride celebration is a perfect example of so many lessons
like how there’s something for everyone
like how many of us there are
like how necessary this space still is
like how some of us would rather integrate than assimilate
and that, as a celebration like this one proves,
there’s room enough for everyone.

Despite the blow-up balloons of corporate logos
trying to appeal to our target market
like we’re a red bull’s eye
(because, you know they love our money
but hate our sin)
I come to Pride to remember
in the decade before I was born,
people in this tribe were arrested for kisses,
twined fingers,
meeting for a drink
and following the blood in their hearts.

I come to Pride remembering that in my life time
it was flagrant queens in too-tall heels and caked make-up
who by sticking up for themselves,
proved it's the radicals among us
who often make the biggest changes
for all of us.

I come to Pride because this year
two of my friends and countless others
whose numbers are whimpered away with
"we can't be sure it was a hate crime"
made hospital visits because they were
bashed for being faggots.

I come to Pride remembering that I have a Queer Nation,
that I still Act-Up
and that Silence will not Equal My Death

I come to Pride because
somewhere tonight someone is healing from surgery,
stepping into freedom from bindings or accessories
into a body that’s always been under the surface
and I want that body to be seen on its own terms
and met there with respect.

I come to Pride because
it is always somebody’s first time
first kiss
first love
and I believe in furtive firsts
becoming solid seconds
following the freedom
of a self-defined life
rather than a life hung on rungs
of someone else's expectations.

I come to Pride
enduring the heat
and enjoying the sweaty hugs of friends
because somewhere and right here
lives are in motion
following their own trajectories
of love & discovery
epiphany & possibility
just as names have done before them
and faces will follow afterwards.

I come to Pride because
the nation in this planet
holding us in orbit
hasn’t caught up with the ways
people are already living in it
and have been living in it
on the ground
both before us and right now,
but the future of changing that orbit
both for the ghosts
for us
and for those coming
is up to us.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Femme Fatale

By Paula Rudnick   
                           
I wasn’t a feminist when I was young,
before I found out about the bhurka’d women
whose husbands came home to beat them
and the Botox’d women
whose husbands came home to screw the nanny.
I didn’t know about the 10-year-olds raped by mother’s boyfriends
or the 14 year-olds pimped on city streets
or the 20-year-olds stoned in villages 
for getting pregnant out of wedlock
while their lovers were released.
I didn’t know about the girls whose mothers cut their vulvas
so they’d be more desirable for marriage
or the girls whose mothers slapped them when they menstruated
so they’d think twice before they spread their legs. 
I didn’t know about the women who weren’t taught to read
so men could feel they were smarter
or the women not allowed to work
so idle men could feel in charge.
But once I knew, I wanted more than boyfriends
who would take me to the prom.
I wanted to be someone who said things that rattled cages
in a voice that rose above the buzz
of men who said I talked too loud.

This poem first appeared in Moon Magazine in February of 2019. 

Since retiring from the entertainment industry, Paula Rudnick dabbled in memoir/short fiction, with the requisite unfinished novel in the drawer (do people still use drawers?). She began writing poetry in 2015, a form that nicely marries OCD tendencies with a short attention span and a busy schedule… much of it recently devoted to grassroots political work. Currently, she resides in Southern Los Angeles with her husband and their poodle Lola.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

morning

By Steven Vogel

explosions
at one AM
reach for
Normandy,
for Gettysburg.
their dark salute
and its ten echoes
do not descend
to the grave,
but they cover
the heavens
with memory.

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.