Wednesday, November 15, 2017

When Giving Is All We Have

By Alberto Ríos

One river gives
Its journey to the next.



We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Central Square

By Eve Lyons

Being robbed
makes everyone a suspect:
the man coming out of his apartment
next door, the garbage man,
the man on the street chatting
into his cell phone.
This is not how I want to live.
And the man with the drunken slur,
who invades people’s space until
they shove him away, I am sure
this is not how he wants to live his life
either. Stealing people’s backpacks
only to find class notes and
confidential papers,
computer disks and prescription glasses.
This is not what this time,
this brief blip in the cosmos,
should be. I want to sort out
“the beautiful,” like my third grade friend
sorted out the beautiful, sleek racing cars
from the beat up matchbox ones.
Not even a hesitation - just throw back
what isn’t beautiful.
Throw it back.



Published in The Texas Observer, March 16, 2001
Nominated for a 2001 Cambridge Poetry Award (Narrative category)
Reprinted in Nest of Vipers, June 2002

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Poem for Magic

By Quincy Troupe

take it to the hoop, “magic” johnson,
take the ball dazzling down the open lane
herk & jerk & raise your six-feet, nine-inch frame
into the air sweating screams of your neon name
“magic” johnson, nicknamed “windex” way back
in high school
cause you wiped glass backboards
so clean, where you first juked and shook
wiled your way to glory
a new-style fusion of shake-&-bake
energy, using everything possible, you created your own
space to fly through--any moment now
we expect your wings to spread feathers for that spooky takeoff
of yours--then, shake & glide & ride up in space
till you hammer home a clothes-lining deuce off glass
now, come back down with a reverse hoodoo gem
off the spin & stick in sweet, popping nets clean
from twenty feet, right side

put the ball on the floor again, “magic”
slide the dribble behind your back, ease it deftly
between your bony stork legs, head bobbing everwhichaway
up & down, you see everything on the court
off the high yoyo patter
stop & go dribble
you thread a needle-rope pass sweet home
to kareem cutting through the lane
his skyhook pops the cords
now, lead the fast break, hit worthy on the fly
now, blindside a pinpoint behind-the-back pass for two more
off the fake, looking the other way, you raise off-balance
into electric space
sweating chants of your name
turn, 180 degrees off the move, your legs scissoring space
like a swimmer’s yoyoing motion in deep water
stretching out now toward free flight
you double-pump through human trees
hang in place
slip the ball into your left hand
then deal it like a las vegas card dealer off squared glass
into nets, living up to your singular nickname
so “bad” you cartwheel the crowd toward frenzy
wearing now your electric smile, neon as your name

in victory, we suddenly sense your glorious uplift
your urgent need to be champion
& so we cheer with you, rejoice with you
for this quicksilver, quicksilver,

quicksilver moment of fame
so put the ball on the floor again, “magic”
juke & dazzle, shake & bake down the lane
take the sucker to the hoop, “magic” johnson,
recreate reverse hoodoo gems off the spin
deal alley-oop dunkathon magician passes
now, double-pump, scissor, vamp through space
hang in place
& put it all up in the sucker’s face, “magic” johnson,
& deal the roundball like the juju man that you am
like the sho-nuff shaman that you am, “magic,”
like the sho-nuff spaceman you am

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Unetaneh Tokef for America

By Douglas Sagal

Today it is written, today it is sealed in the United States of America-
Who shall die, and who shall be injured
who shall be scarred for life, and who shall be left disabled;
who by full automatic fire, and who by semi auto;
who by AR, and who by AK;
who by pistol and who by revolver;
who by Ruger, and who by Smith and Wesson;
who by Sig Sauer, and who by Colt;
who by Kimber, and who by Springfield Armory;
Who by CZ, and who by Beretta;
Who by HK, and who by Glock;
But repentance, prayer and charity, will do absolutely nothing to avert the decree, nothing,
for our politicians are too frightened.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Saying is better than not saying

By Ruth Goring

1. Last night a couple of church friends and I were at the Chicago O’Hare protest against the Muslim ban and the border wall. It was beautiful. A young ponytailed Middle Eastern–looking man led most of the chants; he jumped up and down with manic energy, though his voice eventually cracked into a piccolo range. He was beautiful.
2. As we prepared to leave, I used the bathroom and found out that I was bleeding.
3. Early this morning I was still bleeding. I emailed my boss to request a sick day and went to sleep.
4. When I woke up, I called my medical group to make an appointment. A nurse asked about my symptoms and said I should see an ob-gyn within three days. My ob-gyn didn’t have an appointment available till March.
5. Of all the network’s ob-gyns in the city of Chicago, there was only one, an elderly white male, who had any appointment times available before March. It was today at noon. I took it.
6. I arrived on time but had to wait a long time after I was taken to a room, after the nurse came to take my blood pressure, and after she returned to get the instruments ready.
7. I told both the nurse and the doctor that this area of my body is extremely sensitive nowadays, that the instrument they were going to use had caused me great pain a couple of years earlier.
8. The doctor proceeded to do a first check, sans instrument, quickly and roughly. I cried out, then lay there crying.
9. “Relax your muscles,” he said as he reached for the instrument. “I can’t relax when it hurts so much,” I wailed.
10. He stopped and pulled back without deploying the instrument. “OK,” he said. “Get up and get your clothes on after we leave the room.” I did.
11. He came back and said, “There is always a plan B.” So now the plan is to do an ultrasound, and if it shows thickened tissue, they’ll do minor surgery to get what they need for a biopsy. I asked about sedation and he said yes, they can make it painless.
12. Why didn’t they believe me when I said the other way would be too painful? Why not start with plan B? Why, after all these years and so many medical advances, are they still routinely sticking thick, rigid rods into women rather than developing supple, flexible instruments that could do the job just as well?
13. Oh. Because older white men.
14. (Last time I had a mammogram, the technician did tell me that machines with curved lines are finally on their way. Finally.
15. As I drove to get a few groceries, the news came on my radio. American consular officials in various embassies around the world have sent a message to the White House explaining that the directive to stop and deport refugees and visitors and immigrants from seven Muslim countries is creating ill will, that ISIS is cheering, that the US will be forfeiting many economic benefits from its immigrants.
16. Later as I headed home, the news was back on. The White House sent a message back: conform to the directive or give up your job.
17. I turned off the radio, overwhelmed with sadness. I thought of an old friend of my parents who has been dogging my Facebook posts, those where I express my political beliefs and concerns most passionately, and arguing relentlessly. Never with the slightest acknowledgment of common Christian faith, or of any common ground at all. With no grace. I have tried to be respectful and focus on the topic at hand.
18. Yesterday I called on people in certain states to be in touch with their senators in opposition to the appointment of Betsy DeVos. This old friend, a resident of one of those states, said thank you, I will call to ask mine to support DeVos.
19. I thought about married friends who may have to forgo a trip to see the husband’s family. His homeland isn’t one of the seven, but it is a Muslim-majority country. He is Christian.
20. I thought about the bleeding. At least the doctor did retreat to plan B, because I yelled.
21. The bleeding seems to have petered out for now. I am home now,  decaf Constant Comment. I have an appointment very soon for the ultrasound.
22. I sent the old friend a polite PM about her impoliteness; I said I need a break. Then I blocked her.
23. I will keep yelling.

Ruth Goring’s poetry collections are Soap Is Political (Glass Lyre, 2015) and Yellow Doors (WordFarm, 2003); her children’s picture book Adriana’s Angels / Los ángeles de Adriana (Sparkhouse) came out this fall. Ruth’s poems have appeared, or will soon, in RHINO, New Madrid, Crab Orchard Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Aeolian Harp 3, CALYX, and the anthology Misrepresented People: Poetic Responses to Trump’s America (NYQ Books). She edits books at the University of Chicago Press and teaches an editing course at the Graham School for Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Be Angry at the Sun

By Robinson Jeffers

That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.

Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you. Watch the wheel slope and turn,
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.

Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.

You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante's feet, but even farther from his dirty
Political hatreds.

Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Leaving the Pain Clinic

By William Brewer

Always this warm moment when I forget which part of me
I blamed. Never mind the pills kicking in, their spell
that showers the waiting room, once full of shame,
in a soft rain of hot sparks that pity sometimes is,
how it mends the past like a welder seams metal,
and isn’t that why we’re all here, addicts
and arthritics–we close our eyes completely
but the edges only blur–and though the door’s the same,
somehow the exit, like the worst wounds, is greater
than the entrance was. I throw it open for all to see
how daylight, so tall, has imagination. It has heart. It loves.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Being in This World Makes Me Feel Like a Time Traveler

visiting a past self. Being anywhere makes me thirsty.
When I wake, I ask God to slide into my head quickly before I do.
As a boy, I spit a peach pit onto my father’s prayer rug and immediately

it turned into a locust. Its charge: devour the vast fields of my ignorance.
The Prophet Muhammad described a full stomach as containing
one-third food, one-third liquid, and one-third air.

For years, I kept a two-fists-long beard and opened my mouth only to push air out.
One day I stopped in a lobby for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres
and ever since, the life of this world has seemed still. Every night,

the moon unpeels itself without affection. It’s exhausting, remaining
humble amidst the vicissitudes of fortune. It’s difficult
to be anything at all with the whole world right here for the having.

By Kaveh Akbar 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Turn off the lights

By Tyler Lockett

Turn off the lights, turn off the lights,
He don’t want y’all to see what’s going on in his life
Turn off the lights, turn off the lights,
So I can see what living in the pitch black is really like
Because my bro is in the dark and he’s been falling apart
Cause a woman that he loved he let get too close to his heart

Now he don't know where to start
Now he got a lot on his mind
Now he told me it's better if he was gone
and he commit suicide
Cause he been losing people left and right
That brought him up in life
And he been trying to live for God
But he feel like nothing been going right
So he feel like it's better if he tried to take his own life
He sent pictures to his wife of the pills he's gonna take at night
Tell her to kiss his son Liam
Cuz who knows if daddy ever gonna see him
again if he go night-night.

Turn off the lights, turn off the lights
He don’t want y’all to see what’s going on in his life
Turn off the lights, turn off the lights,
So I can see what living in the pitch black is really like
Because my bro is in the dark and he’s been falling apart
Cause a woman that he loved he let get too close to his heart

And now he's feeling lost and he don't know what to do
And there's only three of us in the crew that he really been talking to
And we've been trying to help him
But it's like he's so far gone
Taleah says he oversees, he probably feels all alone
But I don't think he sees how killing himself is wrong
But he says he's tired of fighting and he just want to let it go
So we're reaching out to him
And we're talking to him because we love him
But every time we try and help him he be feeling like we judge him
He's telling us not to judge him but just to walk with him
But if he jumps off that cliff we're gonna have to jump off and get him

Turn off the lights, turn off the lights,
He don’t want y’all to see what’s going on in his life
Turn off the lights, turn off the lights,
So I can see what living in the pitch black is really like
Because my bro is in the dark and he’s been falling apart
Cause a woman that he loved wants to let him go and start over

And now he's getting closer and closer to the edge
Explaining why he wants to off himself
So we can get it through our heads
He wants us to accept it, cause part of his life is hectic,
He's over this guy stuff
He says he's losing his direction
And we don't know what to say back
We’re waiting for a text back, because he’s eight hours away
And if we don’t hear from him, we afraid that he took the pills
And if he did, then life about to get real
And I don’t think he understands how a part of us feels
Because if he takes his own life, a part of us is going to be killed
And if he is going to be gone forever,
we’re going to have to take care of his kids

So we need to turn on the lights, turn on the lights
So he can see everything that’s important in his life
Turn on the lights, turn on the lights
So we can show him everything pitch black comes to the light
Cuz my bro's been in the dark, cuz he's been falling apart
He's been opening up, he's been sharing his heart

And now it's time for us to start showing him the bigger picture
How his sons need him
Cuz they need a father figure in their life right now
Cuz when they grow up they want to make their daddy proud
Like when they're out there playing sports they want to see him in the crowd
And as long as he's in the crowd they've got a smile on their face
And they'd rather have daddy around and not have him far away
And they don't wanna look at pictures every day and see his face
And they don't want the only time they talk to daddy be when they pray

Turn on the lights, turn on the lights
So he can see everything that’s important in his life
Turn on the lights, turn on the lights
So we can show him everything pitch black comes to the light
Cuz my bro was in the dark, cuz he was falling apart
He's been opening up, he's been sharing his heart

And I've been knowing this dude ever since the fifth grade
And it hurts so much how he says he wants to go away
He sent it to me on Friday night
And I was texting to him before I went out that night
And then I told my two bros the next day
And we was talking in a group the whole day
And all we could really say was just please don't do it
Bro don't do it you're not the only one in this world
who has to go through it
Just please don't do it bro don't do it
you're not the only one in this world
who has to go through it
But he said I'm in the dark, I'm falling apart
And we said just please don't do it bro don't do it
you're not the only one in this world
who has to go through it
But he said I'm in the dark, I'm falling apart
I gave her everything I had and she took everything that I got
And now I'm feeling lost and I ain't got nowhere to go
I'm running for my life but I don't see no end zone
And so we don't really know what the ending results are gonna be
Guess we'll have to see when he gets back from overseas
To be continued.

This poem can be heard by the author here.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Rape Joke

By Patricia Lockwood

The rape joke is that you were 19 years old.

The rape joke is that he was your boyfriend.

The rape joke it wore a goatee. A goatee.

Imagine the rape joke looking in the mirror, perfectly reflecting back itself, and grooming itself to look more like a rape joke. “Ahhhh,” it thinks. “Yes. A goatee.”

No offense.

The rape joke is that he was seven years older. The rape joke is that you had known him for years, since you were too young to be interesting to him. You liked that use of the word interesting, as if you were a piece of knowledge that someone could be desperate to acquire, to assimilate, and to spit back out in different form through his goateed mouth.

Then suddenly you were older, but not very old at all.

The rape joke is that you had been drinking wine coolers. Wine coolers! Who drinks wine coolers? People who get raped, according to the rape joke.

The rape joke is he was a bouncer, and kept people out for a living.

Not you!

The rape joke is that he carried a knife, and would show it to you, and would turn it over and over in his hands as if it were a book.

He wasn’t threatening you, you understood. He just really liked his knife.

The rape joke is he once almost murdered a dude by throwing him through a plate-glass window. The next day he told you and he was trembling, which you took as evidence of his sensitivity.

How can a piece of knowledge be stupid? But of course you were so stupid.

The rape joke is that sometimes he would tell you you were going on a date and then take you over to his best friend Peewee’s house and make you watch wrestling while they all got high.

The rape joke is that his best friend was named Peewee.

OK, the rape joke is that he worshiped The Rock.

Like the dude was completely in love with The Rock. He thought it was so great what he could do with his eyebrow.

The rape joke is he called wrestling “a soap opera for men.” Men love drama too, he assured you.

The rape joke is that his bookshelf was just a row of paperbacks about serial killers. You mistook this for an interest in history, and laboring under this misapprehension you once gave him a copy of Günter Grass’s My Century, which he never even tried to read.

It gets funnier.

The rape joke is that he kept a diary. I wonder if he wrote about the rape in it.

The rape joke is that you read it once, and he talked about another girl. He called her Miss Geography, and said “he didn’t have those urges when he looked at her anymore,” not since he met you. Close call, Miss Geography!

The rape joke is that he was your father’s high-school student—your father taught World Religion. You helped him clean out his classroom at the end of the year, and he let you take home the most beat-up textbooks.

The rape joke is that he knew you when you were 12 years old. He once helped your family move two states over, and you drove from Cincinnati to St. Louis with him, all by yourselves, and he was kind to you, and you talked the whole way. He had chaw in his mouth the entire time, and you told him he was disgusting and he laughed, and spat the juice through his goatee into a Mountain Dew bottle.

The rape joke is that come on, you should have seen it coming. This rape joke is practically writing itself.

The rape joke is that you were facedown. The rape joke is you were wearing a pretty green necklace that your sister had made for you. Later you cut that necklace up. The mattress felt a specific way, and your mouth felt a specific way open against it, as if you were speaking, but you know you were not. As if your mouth were open ten years into the future, reciting a poem called Rape Joke.

The rape joke is that time is different, becomes more horrible and more habitable, and accommodates your need to go deeper into it.

Just like the body, which more than a concrete form is a capacity.

You know the body of time is elastic, can take almost anything you give it, and heals quickly.

The rape joke is that of course there was blood, which in human beings is so close to the surface.

The rape joke is you went home like nothing happened, and laughed about it the next day and the day after that, and when you told people you laughed, and that was the rape joke.

It was a year before you told your parents, because he was like a son to them. The rape joke is that when you told your father, he made the sign of the cross over you and said, “I absolve you of your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” which even in its total wrongheadedness, was so completely sweet.

The rape joke is that you were crazy for the next five years, and had to move cities, and had to move states, and whole days went down into the sinkhole of thinking about why it happened. Like you went to look at your backyard and suddenly it wasn’t there, and you were looking down into the center of the earth, which played the same red event perpetually.

The rape joke is that after a while you weren’t crazy anymore, but close call, Miss Geography.

The rape joke is that for the next five years all you did was write, and never about yourself, about anything else, about apples on the tree, about islands, dead poets and the worms that aerated them, and there was no warm body in what you wrote, it was elsewhere.

The rape joke is that this is finally artless. The rape joke is that you do not write artlessly.

The rape joke is if you write a poem called Rape Joke, you’re asking for it to become the only thing people remember about you.

The rape joke is that you asked why he did it. The rape joke is he said he didn’t know, like what else would a rape joke say? The rape joke said YOU were the one who was drunk, and the rape joke said you remembered it wrong, which made you laugh out loud for one long split-open second. The wine coolers weren’t Bartles & Jaymes, but it would be funnier for the rape joke if they were. It was some pussy flavor, like Passionate Mango or Destroyed Strawberry, which you drank down without question and trustingly in the heart of Cincinnati Ohio.

Can rape jokes be funny at all, is the question.

Can any part of the rape joke be funny. The part where it ends—haha, just kidding! Though you did dream of killing the rape joke for years, spilling all of its blood out, and telling it that way.

The rape joke cries out for the right to be told.

The rape joke is that this is just how it happened.

The rape joke is that the next day he gave you Pet Sounds. No really. Pet Sounds. He said he was sorry and then he gave you Pet Sounds. Come on, that’s a little bit funny.

Admit it.

Previously published in The Awl, 7/25/13

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Relax

By Ellen Bass

Bad things are going to happen.
Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
and your cat will get run over.
Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
melting in the car and throw
your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
Your husband will sleep
with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
out of her blouse. Or your wife
will remember she’s a lesbian
and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat–
the one you never really liked–will contract a disease
that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
every four hours. Your parents will die.
No matter how many vitamins you take,
how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
your hair and your memory. If your daughter
doesn’t plug her heart
into every live socket she passes,
you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
and called the used appliance store for a pick up–drug money.
There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
And two mice–one white, one black–scurry out
and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
She looks up, down, at the mice.
Then she eats the strawberry.
So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
Oh taste how sweet and tart
the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
crunch between your teeth.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

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.

Monday, October 2, 2017

vegas

By Charles Bukowski

there was a frozen tree that I wanted to paint
but the shells came down
and in Vegas looking across at a green sunshade
at 3:30 in the morning,
I died without nails, without a copy of the Atlantic Monthly,
the windows screamed like doves moaning the bombing of Milan
and I went out to live with the rats
but the lights were too bright
and I thought maybe I'd better go back and sit in a
poetry class:

             a marvelous description of a gazelle
             is hell;
             the cross sits like a fly on my window,
             my mother’s breath stirs small leaves
             in my mind;

and I hitch-hiked back to L.A. through hangover clouds
and I pulled a letter from my pocket and read it
and the truckdriver said, what’s that?
and I said, there's some gal up North who used to
sleep with Pound, she's trying to tell me that H.D.
was our greatest scribe; well, Hilda gave us a few pink
Grecian gods in with the chinaware, but after reading her
I still have 140 icicles hanging from my bones.


I'm not going all the way to L.A., the truckdriver said.


it's all right, I said, the calla lilies nod to our minds
and someday we’ll all go home
together.


in fact, he said, this is as far
as we go.
so I let him have it; old withered whore of time
your breasts taste the sour cream of dreaming . . .
he let me out
in the middle of the desert;
to die is to die is to die,


old phonographs in cellars,
joe di maggio,
magazines in with the onions . . .


an old Ford picked me up
45 minutes later
and, this time,
I kept my mouth
shut.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Blue Hair & Fortune Cookies

By Najah LaVerne

Can I get a fortune cookie?
I'll pay you $1, the homeless man said.
Why should this simple question startle the staff
of Panda Express, while making its patrons laugh?
2017 has revealed more women with blue hair
Than any other time in my more than 60 years.
I ponder: Is it magic,
Because "black lives matter,"
Or is it that politics are now flaming red?


Najah LaVerne Haqiqah is a writer and an International Poet Society’s second place winner (2008). She has published two chapbooks and she is currently completing her first full-length book of poem. She is a retired journalist and adjunct professor of English Composition. She volunteers as a docent for the Los Angeles Public Library and promotes Peace, Prayer and Forgiveness Day initiated in 2006 to inspire peace and forgiveness with regard to the September 11, 2001 attack on the USA.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Prayer for Our Country

By George Clooney

I pray for my country.
I pray we can find more that unites us than divides us.
I pray that our leaders want to do the same.
I pray that young children like Tamir Rice can feel safe in their own neighborhood.
I pray for all of our children.
I pray for our police and our first responders.
I pray for the men and women of our armed forces.
I pray that dissent will always be protected in this great country.
I pray for a more perfect union
And when I pray, I kneel.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Days of Awe

By Alicia Ostriker


elul: psalm 27

we are told to say the following
every day for a month
in preparation for the days of awe:

you are my light my help
when I’m with you I’m not afraid
I want to live in your house

the enemies that chew my heart
the enemies that break my spine
I’m not afraid of them when I’m with you

all my life I have truly trusted you
save me from the liars
let me live in your house

***

rosh hashanah

the birthday of
the innocent earthling
and the day hagar and ishmael
found water in the desert

in memory of whom
mud staining our shoes
water flowing in handfuls
we sniff the smell of living dying things

reach into our pockets
for the bread that represents
our sins, toss it in, praying release
us, help us, forgive us

the river answers
by swallowing our crumbs

do our prayers travel upward
do they defy gravity
like rain splashed on the windshield
of a car speeding through storm

in ten days we will go hungrier
pray harder

***

yom kippur

we destroy we break we are broken
and this is the fast you have chosen
on rosh hashana it is written
on yom kippur it is sealed

who shall live and who shall die
which goat will have his throat cut
like an unlucky

spitting a red thread and which goat
will be sent alive to the pit where the crazies are
thread lightly tied around its neck

who will possess diamonds and pearls
and who will be killed
by an addicted lover

who shall voyage the web of the world
like an eagle, and who shall curl to sleep
over a steam grate like a worm

who shall be photographed and whose
face will disappear like smoke

this is the fast you have chosen, turn return
how to turn like leaves like a corner
what is our knowledge, what is our strength

I am like the stones people place on graves to make them a little heavier
such a stone says, in its oracular way, don’t come back or return only as grass
but it is tired of being a stone, it wishes to be open, it would like to be an egg

honeybees manufacture honey, a power station generates electricity
cotton plants extrude smooth fibre, and my cells secrete anger
my mind propagates envy, but repentance, prayer and good deeds

avert the stern decree, I am like a ramshackle house during a hurricane
struck by guilt waves and fear waves, the walls could collapse any time
but the foolish old woman who lives there refuses to leave

Monday, September 11, 2017

October 18, 2001

Today, driving to work, I had to stop
and wait while the MAX train
crossed in front of me, car after car
filled with people on their way to work.
I could see them, every face, every suit
and hairstyle, perfectly clear through the glass:
one lady in a lavendar skirt and coat was smiling.
Tears filled my eyes, by the time the train
passed I was crying. And that is what it has been
like walking through this city, going to work.
Yesterday, I glanced up at the tallest building
and tried to calculate the number that would be
inside, tried to imagine the hole it would leave
if it collapsed straight down.
Every day in the elevator
I look hard at the person next to me,
not the one I know, but the stranger I have yet
to meet, the one I never will, who could have
disappeared into melted steel and dust
lost to my world forever. Every airplane is ten
times louder than it should be, and has a strange,
eerie look, like a bullet shot from an oversized gun
pulled by a giant hand to hit something far away,
something close. When I breathe I remember
I could be taking in the powdery spores of death,
and not know. Each night I come home and think
about all the people I know who are far from me,
I think about what I would say, how I would say it,
and it is not much different than what I would have
said two months ago: death is only two steps away,
the world is small, anything might happen, I love you.


Written by Ariana Kramer on October 18, 2001

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Last Election

By John Haines

Suppose there are no returns,
and the candidates, one
by one, drop off in the polls,
as the voters turn away,
each to his inner persuasion.

The front runners, the dark horses,
begin to look elsewhere,
and even the President admits
he has nothing new to say;
it is best to be silent now.

No more conventions, no donors,
no more hats in the ring;
no ghost-written speeches,
no promises we always knew
were never meant to be kept.

And something like the truth,
or what we know by that name -
that for which no corporate
sponsor was ever offered -
takes hold in the public mind.

Each subdued and thoughtful
citizen closes his door, turns
off the news.  He opens a book
speaks quietly to his children,
begins to live once more.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The President Elect

By Norman Stock

I wake to hear the latest news
Trump’s adviser dislikes Jews
should I take cover, should I run
will I be under the gun
with Donald Trump it's hard to say
he keeps changing every day
first he’s in a Twitter war
then he’s talking to Al Gore
and  gets a phone call from Taiwan
is he taking China on
or just kidding, what’s the deal
is this nincompoop for real
does he even have the guts
to straighten out, or is he nuts
are we facing the abyss
with this madman, or is this
like his campaign was, just a con
what the fuck is going on
whatever this election meant
it made him the president
as I said when it was done
holy shit, the bastard won

Pickled Dreams Naked, Buying Breakfast For My Kamikaze Pilot, winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Contest. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, College English  The New York Quarterly, Verse, The New England Review, Denver Quarterly, and many other magazines, as well as in anthologies and textbooks. The recipient of awards from the Writer’s Voice, Poets & Writers’ Maureen Egen Writers Exchange, the Bennington Writing Workshops, and the Tanne Foundation, he has also been a Bread Loaf fellow, a Sewanee scholar, and a finalist for Poet Laureate of Queens. Formerly the Acquisitions Librarian at Montclair State University, from which he retired  in 2005, he lives with his wife, Lydia Chang, a clinical psychotherapist, in Jackson Heights New York.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

By Jeremy Rutledge

 If you want
to pray for Houston
you have to pray
in her way

pray like Beyoncé
when she was
at HSPVA
or Billy and Dusty
shooting pool
at Rudyard's

pray like you're
sitting over soup
at Spanish Flowers
or pho at Mai's
steaming your glasses

pray like the kids
playing soccer
on the east side
or mutton busting
at the livestock show

pray like the runners
in Memorial Park
lacing them up
or the researchers
in the medical center
looking into microscopes

if you want
to pray for Houston
you have to pray
as quietly as
the Rothko Chapel
or Houston Zen Center

and you have to pray
as loudly as
the old scoreboard
at the Astrodome
after a José Cruz
home run

you have to pray
sitting under
a live oak tree
or standing next to
an azalea bloom
while your skin
clams in the heat

if you want to pray
for Houston
you have to pray
without pretense
this ain't Dallas
and in a neighborly way
as friends come out
to check on each other
in the rain
and those
who are far away
watch screens
and wipe our eyes

if you want to pray
for Houston
raise a bottle of Shiner
to the gray sky
and say that 130 mile an hour winds
and 9 trillion gallons of rain
are no match
for a city of such life
and diversity

you can fill up our bayou
but you will never rain
on our parade