Thursday, March 15, 2018

Poetry Thursday, Women's History Month

 ~Sara Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell,
   All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
   Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder in a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
   Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
   Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
   Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
   Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstacy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Poetry Thursday, Rumi returns

I want to sing 
like the birds sing, 
not worrying about 
who hears or 
what they think.


Friday, March 02, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday, Still Black History Month

 ~Rickey Laurentiis

I could string him back up the tree, if you’d like.
     Return his skin’s meaning to an easy distance, coal dust, blaze
And Willie Brown him. You
     Love how the blood muddies the original,
The way it makes a stage of my speechifying, this leeching
     Capital from his dying,
Like an activist. I know

I’m not supposed to sing

Of his ringing
     Penetrability, some hole I open impose
On the form—but all I see is bullets, bullets discerning him,
     As years ago it was rope.
I could pull it tighter, finger each bullet deeper,
     If you’d like, an inch rougher,
Far enough to where becomes that second heat, erotic.

I could use the erotic,

If you’d like,
     So ungarish, baring not too frank
A mood, subtle so you need it.— Funny
     How some dark will move illicit if you close your eyes,
The way, say, my black
     Pleasure is named too explicit for a page, but this menace
I put in it is not.

I could yank and knot

The rope, if you’d like, him like a strange fragment
     In them trees,
And the word “again” spelled out about his neck
     Would be the rope’s predicate till let wild, patterned and
Fierce his moan.
     It is a tragedy. No. It is a sonnet, how I know
Already how he ends,

But I could make him

Her, if you’d like, regender them till merely
     Canvas for your “empathy,”
Soup for my mouth. Still, if I could but just get
     This blunt,
Burnt lynched body up
     From on
Out the pocket behind my eye

All trees could be themselves again, all sound.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Poetry Thursday

~Seamus Heaney, 1939 - 2013

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

For a while, I collected Nobel Laureates in literature ... ok, not collected the actual people or even their books, but their public appearances. It is something for which I will be forever indebted to Princeton. Mr. Heaney is one of them. Magical. And this poem is gorgeous.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


AKA Will you keep in touch?

She said, "Will you keep in touch?"

This was after She had already asked if I would come visit her, had offered me a car, and acted like She could get me an intro to someone who is already my colleague.

I was telling someone else about my birthday trip to Nashville and the deer herd when She chirped, "When is your birthday?" both inserting herself, unwelcome, into the conversation and demonstrating how little She remembered about me. I looked at her quizzically and answered, "February 2nd."

"Oh, you are an Aquarian like me?" She said, big smile (I should say big fake smile).

I can't remember my exact reply, but I insinuated that She should know that. If we were friends once, She would know that. The only reason to try to rekindle a relationship is if we were friends once.

"My memory is so bad," She cooed, and did the head tilt to reinforce how cute She is. Barf emoji.

Why does anyone think that claiming to have a bad memory is somehow a get out of jail free card?

I don't have a bad memory.

I remember with visual precision.  Maybe it is just my curse.

I remember in such a way that a song comes on, it will evoke the emotions as well as the actions I etched in my memory about a situation.

I remember words, deeds, promises, and missteps (theirs and mine).

Who, however, wouldn't remember the woman who slept with everyone's boyfriends, especially the boyfriends of women She claimed to feel really close to?

There is more, but there is no need for more than that.

When I reminded a mutual friend just who She was, that friend said, "It was twenty five years ago," (true) and "She was nice to me, to us, this weekend."

She, had, in fact, rescued mutual friend's husband from the side of the road with a flat tire, and bought said husband a new tire for the car.

She throws money and attention.

I looked from mutual friend to her husband and said, "Be careful. That's how She does it."

I continued, "She ingratiates herself. Then goes for the partner."

Mutual friend's husband said, "I did get a vibe." I couldn't tell if he was kidding, and neither could his wife, so she said, "Really?" He only nodded in assent; I guess he wasn't kidding.

Even though She was with her husband at the time; it is no matter.  She also dropped into at least one conversation that he was husband number four.  Like everyone else, expendable, replaceable, just holding space until the next one came along, etc.

She asked, "Will you keep in touch?" [Note She had never given me any contact info and I had not offered any either.]

I looked at her, again hoping She could read my mind so I wouldn't have to curse aloud at her. She did her head droop which I understood to mean please. "Sure," I answered with my most tentative voice.

She could have the winning numbers to the lottery and I wouldn't take them from her.

Not Poetry Thursday

~Kiki Petrosino

                           After Anne Sexton
Some ghosts are my mothers
neither angry nor kind
their hair blooming from silk kerchiefs.
Not queens, but ghosts
who hum down the hall on their curved fins
sad as seahorses.

Not all ghosts are mothers.
I’ve counted them as I walk the beach.
Some are herons wearing the moonrise like lace.
Not lonely, but ghostly.
They stalk the low tide pools, flexing
their brassy beaks, their eyes.

But that isn’t all.
Some of my ghosts are planets.
Not bright. Not young.
Spiraling deep in the dusk of my body
as saucers or moons
pleased with their belts of colored dust
& hailing no others.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


There is a deep well of pain, but it is like an old bruise. I only feel it when something pushes up against it. Really hard.

In the span of two days, I heard from three people who I care for deeply about the loss of a loved one. In each case, I knew the person who died, but not awfully well. I knew each well enough to mourn their loss to the universe, but not well enough to speak to their lives.

But the losses buffeted me anyway. Gently, at first, slow tears welled in my eyes and my heart was full of compassion for my friend who lost her mother, her father, her boyfriend.

Next the circumstances threatened to blow me over.

One is a mother whose funeral the daughter will not be able to attend lest she lose her ability to stay in this country. Damned GOP and their ridiculousness. The rage, the helplessness, the anguish I feel is only a small measure of what that daughter feels.

One is a daughter who has lost now both mother and father in the span of four months. She is in shock right now. She can believably say she is glad to not see either in pain. She is heartened that she and her sister did all that they could to bring their parents comfort in their last days. But the hard road of living in a world without those parents, whose strength and faith and love are measured by their daughters' lives, is just beginning. The first year is shock and rawness, but the blinding pain is waiting just around the corner. The second year will feel like the year of firsts - first Christmas without them, some milestone the grandparents did not get to see, and the need/yearning to have just one more talk about something with mom or dad. I know this road too well, so the pain feels fresh as if someone has just fiercely slapped me across the face.

One is a girlfriend (seems odd to call a grown woman that), a lover, a confidant who lost her love before they could really begin a life together. These circumstances are the ones that spring from my mouth first when I talk about these losses. In some way, they are the lesson: don't wait; live now; do what makes you happy; be with the person who brings you joy. It is remorseful grief, biting like the memory of tripping over something in public but not falling. It is deep and imperceptible to those around you, but it winds its way around your heart, threatening to squeeze the life out of it. This might be why one tries to grasp on to the lesson, cheerfully determined to not have to live this remorse again. But the deep loss of a loved one will not just rest in remorse, it will coil through her body, when she alone causing her body to writhe and her mind to seek oblivion.

I am unable to do more for these people than write them notes to say my heart aches with theirs.

But my grief is so close to the surface that my tears are for my losses and the anguish of grief as much as it is for theirs.

Not Poetry Thursday

American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin
~Terrance Hayes

But there never was a black male hysteria
Breaking & entering wearing glee & sadness
And the light grazing my teeth with my lighter
To the night with the flame like a blade cutting
Me slack along the corridors with doors of offices
Orifices vomiting tears & fire with my two tongues
Loose & shooing under a high-top of language
In a layer of mischief so traumatized trauma
Delighted me beneath the tremendous
Stupendous horrendous undiscovered stars
Burning where I didn’t know how to live
My friends were all the wounded people
The black girls who held their own hands
Even the white boys who grew into assassins

Monday, February 26, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday

Portrait in Graphite and Ornamental Hagiography
~C. Dale Young

You may not believe it, but I have tried,
set my sights on the morning star
in belief it would guide me. I have tried.

I have tried, as the Jesuits taught, to be
singular, to be whole, to be one. The labor
of this was exhausting. Time reveals things

one need not appreciate when young, and I fear
being singular, being one, is something
damned near impossible for someone

like me. Saint Jerome, cloistered in a tiny room,
found his singular calling in updating
the Latin Bible with his knowledge of Greek texts.

In Assisi, Saint Francis updated nature, called birds
out of the trees. I am, unfortunately, no saint.
Fractured, divided to the quick, I am incapable

of being singular. And the old nun who taught Art
at my high school, who called me a stupid mongrel,
understood this very fact long before I did.

Profession, family, belief: I can see now
my background challenges me, prevents me
from remaining true to only one thing. The fog,

settled over Ocean Beach, settles the matter
by embracing everything indiscriminately,
and I want to understand why I notice

such things. For most of my life, I have desired
a category, a designation, but maybe
that desire was misplaced? Maybe it was just

another failure, a failure of imagination?
Outside, two hummingbirds cross-stitch the air.
They have lived here for so long, lived

off the “nectar” I boil up for them each week,
that they show me no semblance of fear or distrust—
they hover and feed near me with violent precision.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday

You’re really faithful to your abusers, aren’t you?
 ~Samiya Bashir

Like love: first you pick up; then you lay down; then discard; then discard; then discard. That’s love. Right? Did somebody say Dominoes? The problem of a street game is you. You’re already doing it wrong. Doing it wrong before you wake up. Before you walk up the street. Cross the crowded corner. Case in point: When you reach the bones table, you stop. Stare. Consider. Count. Think: This is a lovely afternoon for a friendly game of dominoes! Call next. Figure they don’t hear. Call next again. You call louder. You call in Spanish. Then you walk (again, with the walking) into the bodega. Come out with four 40oz bottles. Suddenly somebody hears. Suddenly the smell of holes burning pockets. Suddenly, the game you watch ends. Like love. Right? Somebody?

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday

In the Evening
~Fenton Johnson

In the evening, love returns,
   Like a wand’rer ’cross the sea;
In the evening, love returns
   With a violet for me;
In the evening, life’s a song,
   And the fields are full of green;
All the stars are golden crowns,
   And the eye of God is keen.

In the evening, sorrow dies
   With the setting of the sun;
In the evening, joy begins,
   When the course of mirth is done;
In the evening, kisses sweet
   Droop upon the passion vine;
In the evening comes your voice:
   “I am yours, and you are mine.”

Friday, February 23, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday

Merry Autumn
~Paul Laurence Dunbar

It’s all a farce,—these tales they tell
     About the breezes sighing,
And moans astir o’er field and dell,
     Because the year is dying.

Such principles are most absurd,—
     I care not who first taught ’em;
There’s nothing known to beast or bird
     To make a solemn autumn.

In solemn times, when grief holds sway
     With countenance distressing,
You’ll note the more of black and gray
     Will then be used in dressing.

Now purple tints are all around;
     The sky is blue and mellow;
And e’en the grasses turn the ground
     From modest green to yellow.

The seed burrs all with laughter crack
     On featherweed and jimson;
And leaves that should be dressed in black
     Are all decked out in crimson.

A butterfly goes winging by;
     A singing bird comes after;
And Nature, all from earth to sky,
     Is bubbling o’er with laughter.

The ripples wimple on the rills,
     Like sparkling little lasses;
The sunlight runs along the hills,
     And laughs among the grasses.

The earth is just so full of fun
     It really can’t contain it;
And streams of mirth so freely run
     The heavens seem to rain it.

Don’t talk to me of solemn days
     In autumn’s time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
     And these grow slant and slender.

Why, it’s the climax of the year,—
     The highest time of living!—
Till naturally its bursting cheer
     Just melts into thanksgiving.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Poetry Thursday

King of Kreations
 ~Angel Nafis

Onliest man who lay hands on me. Pointer finger pad between my eyes.
Pinky knuckle cool on cheekbone. God of precision, blade at my throat,

 for a half hour, you love me this way. Together we discover what I got
from my folks—widows peak, dandruff, hair growing fast in concentric

Claude, so damn beautiful, I can count on one hand the times I’ve
directly in your face, for fear I might never come back. You knower of

To get right I come to you. When I’m finna interview. When I’m finna
or party. When I must stunt, I come to you—

It is mostly you, but, not always. After all you gotta eat too.
So sometimes it’s Percival, face like stones, except when he’s smiling.
Sometimes it’s Junior who sings the whole time he lines up the crown.

No matter how soft my body       or how many eyes find it and peel
               when I walk in the shop              in the chair, I am of them.
                              Not brother. Not sister.           When he wields the                 razor and takes me
                                             low it’s like when a woman gets close to the
     mirror to slide the lipstick
                                                           on slow. Draws a line so perfect she
     cuts her own self from the clay.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday

Dear Mama (4)
~Wanda Coleman

when did we become friends?
it happened so gradual i didn’t notice
maybe i had to get my run out first
take a big bite of the honky world and choke on it
maybe that’s what has to happen with some uppity youngsters
if it happens at all

and now
the thought stark and irrevocable
of being here without you
shakes me

beyond love, fear, regret or anger
into that realm children go
who want to care for/protect their parents
as if they could
and sometimes the lucky ones do

into the realm of making every moment
laughing as though laughter wards off death
each word given
received like spanish eight

treasure to bury within
against that shadow day
when it will be the only coin i possess
with which to buy peace of mind

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday

 ~Robin Coste Lewis

Pleasure is black.

I no longer imagine

        where my body
        stops or begins.

Skin transparent.
Face speckled

by the spit
of several centuries.

All the borders stare at the same fires.

Oh Mamere,

        I’m sorry.

Here I am.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday

May Perpetual Light Shine
~Patricia Spears Jones

We have encountered storms
Perfect in their drench and wreck

Each of us bears an ornament of grief
A ring, a notebook, a ticket torn, scar
It is how humans know their kind—

What is known as love, what can become
the heart’s food stored away for some future

Love remains a jewel in the hand, guarded
Shared fragments of earth & air   drift & despair.

We ponder what patterns matter other than moons and tides:
musical beats—rumba or waltz or cha cha cha
cosmic waves like batons furiously twirling
colors proclaiming sparkle of darkness
as those we love begin to delight
in the stars embracing

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday

praise poets and their pens
 ~JP Howard

dedicated to my 30/30 crew

praise daily poems in my inbox
how they make me laugh in one stanza,
then break my heart the next
praise how poets hold onto our first loves,
and scent of mama, now gone
praise how we nurture our child self,
gently wrap her around stanzas,
baby girl is resilient
praise our spunk and our sadness,
let our writing heal
at home, at work, in caf├ęs, even in the ICU
praise how we hold our memories up to light,
gentle and cupped in palm of hands
praise our rough and sexy poems,
sometimes that’s all we need
fiyah in the sheets
praise bebop and jazz
how my foot taps when i
speak your poems out loud
praise power of music and mama
who played Nancy Wilson all night long,
crying behind a closed door.
praise how i wrote a new poem this week,
while my sick child laid on my lap,
because everyone needs to heal, especially mamas.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday

Given to Rust
 ~Vievee Francis

Every time I open my mouth my teeth reveal
more than I mean to. I can’t stop tonguing them, my teeth.
Almost giddy to know they’re still there (my mother lost hers)
but I am embarrassed nonetheless that even they aren’t
pretty. Still, I did once like my voice, the way it moved
through the gap in my teeth like birdsong in the morning,
like the slow swirl of a creek at dusk. Just yesterday
a woman closed her eyes as I read aloud, and
said she wanted to sleep in the sound of it, my voice.
I can still sing some. Early cancer didn’t stop the compulsion
to sing but
there’s gravel now. An undercurrent
that also reveals me. Time and disaster. A heavy landslide
down the mountain. When you stopped speaking to me
what you really wanted was for me to stop speaking to you. To
stifle the sound of my voice. I know.
Didn’t want the quicksilver of it in your ear.
What does it mean
to silence another? It means I ruminate on the hit
of rain against the tin roof of childhood, how I could listen
all day until the water rusted its way in. And there I was
putting a pan over here and a pot over there to catch it.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday, buzzing

~Kevin Young

The honey bees’ exile
     is almost complete.
You can carry

them from hive
     to hive, the child thought
& that is what

he tried, walking
     with them thronging
between his pressed palms.

Let him be right.
     Let the gods look away
as always. Let this boy

who carries the entire
     actual, whirring
world in his calm

unwashed hands,
     barely walking, bear
us all there

buzzing, unstung.

About the Bees
~Justin Phillip Reed

I do think of them
from time to time—
just now sucking the pulp

of a tangerine
the taste of which
is mostly texture,

in this spin-drunk season
that seems to forget
—us. —itself.

At the job I lost,
their husk carcasses
with the locust bean’s

cracked brown pods
rustled on the brick steps
leading into the white-walled

hours of computer screen;
their compressed toil
missing from the hives

they left agape in the backyard
of the next-door neighbor
who, recently divorced,

had brought us the jars
of honey I spooned into teas
I sipped in the break room

and watched at the window
as he continued to tend
the needle palm and hydrangea.

In the age of loss there is
the dream of loss
in which, of course, I

am alive at the center—
immobile but no one’s queen—
enveloped (beloved) in bees,

swathed in their wings’
wistful enterprise. They pry
the evolved thin eyelids

behind which I replay
the landscape as last I knew it
(crow feathers netting redder suns),

their empire’s droning edge
mindless in the spirals of
my obsolescing ears.

Beneath my feet
what kind of earth
I’m terrified to break

into sprint across to free
myself, to free them
from the myth they make

of me and then bury
below their dance
of manufactory;

what kind of future
they could die for if
punching into me their stings—

what future without risking
the same; and while, in either body
the buzzards of hunger conspire,

what kind of new
dread animal,
this shape we take?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Poetry Thursday, Harlem Renaissance

When I Rise Up
 ~Georgia Douglas Johnson

When I rise up above the earth,
And look down on the things that fetter me,
I beat my wings upon the air,
Or tranquil lie,
Surge after surge of potent strength
Like incense comes to me
When I rise up above the earth
And look down upon the things that fetter me.

Dead Leaves
~Georgia Douglas Johnson

The breaking dead leaves ’neath my feet
A plaintive melody repeat,
Recalling shattered hopes that lie
As relics of a bygone sky.

Again I thread the mazy past,
Back where the mounds are scattered fast—
Oh! foolish tears, why do you start,
To break of dead leaves in the heart?

I've Learned to Sing
~Georgia Douglas Johnson

I've learned to sing a song of hope,
I've said goodbye to despair,
I caught the note in a thrush's throat,
I sang---and the world was fair!
I've learned to sing a song of joy
It bends the skies to me,
The song of joy is the song of hope
Grown to maturity.

I've learned to laugh away my tears
As through the dark I go
For love and laughter conquer fears
My heart has come to know.

I've learned a song of happiness
It is a song of love
For love alone is happiness
And happiness is love.

 ~William Stanley Braithwaite

I am glad daylong for the gift of song,
     For time and change and sorrow;
For the sunset wings and the world-end things
     Which hang on the edge of to-morrow.
I am glad for my heart whose gates apart
     Are the entrance-place of wonders,
Where dreams come in from the rush and din
     Like sheep from the rains and thunders.