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.