Thursday, July 25, 2019

Poetry Thursday

Before Quiet
~Hazel Hall

I will think of water-lilies
Growing in a darkened pool,
And my breath shall move like water,
And my hands be limp and cool.

It shall be as though I waited
In a wooden place alone;
I will learn the peace of lilies
And will take it for my own.

If a twinge of thought, if yearning
Come like wind into this place,
I will bear it like the shadow
Of a leaf across my face.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Poetry Thursday

Untitled [Executions have always been public spectacles]
 ~mónica teresa ortiz

Executions have always been public spectacles. It is New Year’s 2009 in Austin and we are listening to Jaguares on the speakers. Alexa doesn’t exist yet so we cannot ask her any questions. It is nearly 3 AM, and we run out of champagne. At Fruitvale Station, a man on his way home on a train falls onto the platform, hands cuffed. Witnesses capture the assassination with a grainy video on a cell phone. I am too drunk, too in love, to react when I hear the news. I do not have Twitter to search for the truth. Rancière said looking is not the same as knowing. I watch protests on the television while I sit motionless in the apartment, long after she left me. Are we what he calls the emancipated spectator, in which spectatorship is “not passivity that’s turned into activity” but, instead, “our normal situation”? Police see their god in their batons, map stains and welts on the continents of bodies. To beat a body attempts to own it. And when the body cannot be owned, it must be extinguished.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Poetry Thursday

Brief Interval
 ~Cheryl Clarke

I knew what I was about
stroking your lovely
neck in the perilously
interval at the intersection of
desire, the real, and feminist
And if the intersection is three
or four points of variance,
divergence, diversion,
aversion, and hapless brief
larger than the grid,
in dread of a walled corner,
a piano stool, a
contraband .38,
and that flip of an
eye eros,
oh, throat

I don’t do well with
expectation. Come up
here if it’s too cool a
story below with your
windows cracked.
Higher is warmer
in this last,

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Poetry Thursday, Food for Thought

They Don’t Love You Like I Love You
 ~Natalie Diaz

My mother said this to me
long before Beyoncé lifted the lyrics
from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs,

and what my mother meant by
Don’t stray was that she knew
all about it—the way it feels to need

someone to love you, someone
not your kind, someone white,
some one some many who live

because so many of mine
have not, and further, live on top of
those of ours who don’t.

I’ll say, say, say,
I’ll say, say, say,
What is the United States if not a clot

of clouds? If not spilled milk? Or blood?
If not the place we once were
in the millions? America is Maps

Maps are ghosts: white and
layered with people and places I see through.
My mother has always known best,

knew that I’d been begging for them,
to lay my face against their white
laps, to be held in something more

than the loud light of their projectors
of themselves they flicker—sepia
or blue—all over my body.

All this time,
I thought my mother said, Wait,
as in, Give them a little more time

to know your worth,
when really, she said, Weight,
meaning heft, preparing me

for the yoke of myself,
the beast of my country’s burdens,
which is less worse than

my country’s plow. Yes,
when my mother said,
They don’t love you like I love you,

she meant,
Natalie, that doesn’t mean
you aren’t good.

                                                     *The italicized words, with the exception of the final stanza, come from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs song "Maps."

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Poetry Thursday

We, Made of Bone
~Mahtem Shiferraw

These days, I refuse to let you see me
the way I see myself.

I wake up in the morning not knowing
whether I will make it through the day;

reminding myself of the small, small things
I’ve forgotten to marvel in;

these trees, blood-free and bone-dry
have come to rescue me more than once,

but my saving often requires hiding
yet they stand so tall, so slim and gluttonous

refusing to contain me; even baobab trees
will split open at my command, and

carve out fleshless wombs to welcome me.
I must fall out of love of the world

without me in it, but my loves have
long gone, and left me in a foreign land

where once I was made of bone,
now water, now nothing.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Poetry Thursday, perhaps the best title ever

No, Kanye, it’s not LIKE we’re mentally in prison
 ~Erica Dawson
         for my grandfather

We don’t have heirlooms. Haven’t owned things long enough. We’re
     hoarding us
in our stories.                        Like October 26—the Oklahoma Quick
Stop gas at 90¢ and, in 158 more days,

Passion of the Christ in a wildlife
refuge with Rabbits foot and Black
Capped birds—when Edgar Whetstone shoots

himself. Like August 4, 1919. Like Ada Willis births
the boy conceived with Boy gone somewhere. Like her prayers and
     circa 10
years past and Mr. Charlie saying, Edgar reads (you call that clean?)

but please, girl, coloreds don’t become
doctors. Like Edgar trashed his books.
Like served, discharged. Like funeral

director close to doctor as it got.                Formaldehyde wrecked
like Time to get up out the South Detroit inspect dynamics burn
a house down torch the county jail.           Like now, October. Like I

searching the internet, one shot
of the asylum’s blurry hall
empty but for an organ’s pipes.

I saw Edgar deluding hymns rousing the two of us in Rock
of Ages followed by Philippians 1:21—to die
is gain. No way to prove the claim, you die in dream, you die for real.

Our family still hanged from trees.
Like if they ever fall, no one
will hear it someday for a while.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

poetry thursday, back dating ...

I hope to God you will not ask
~Esther Belin

I hope to God you will not ask me to go anywhere except my own country. If we go back, we will follow whatever orders you give us. We do not want to go right or left, but straight back to our own land.              —Barboncito

I hope to God you will not ask

Me or my People to send

Postcard greetings: lamented wind

Of perfect sunrisings, golden

Yes, we may share the same sun setting

But the in-between hours are hollow

The People fill the void with prayers for help

Calling upon the Holy Ones

Those petitions penetrate and loosen

The binds you tried to tighten

Around our heart, a tension

Blocking the wind, like a shell

Fluterring inside, fluttering inside

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Poetry Thursday

Another Day
~Craig Morgan Teicher

It should be difficult,
always difficult, rising
from bed each morning,
against gravity, against

dreams, which weigh
like the forgotten names
of remembered faces.
But some days it’s

easy, nothing, to rise,
to feed, to work, to
commit the small graces
that add up to love,

to family, to memory,
finally to life, or
what one would choose
to remember of it, not

those other leaden
mornings when sleep
is so far preferable
to pulling over one’s

head the wet shirt
of one’s identity again,
the self one had been
honing or fleeing

all these years,
one’s fine, blessed
self, one’s only,
which another day fills.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Poetry Thursday

 ~Ama Codjoe

When I rose into the cradle
of my mother’s mind, she was but
a girl, fighting her sisters
over a flimsy doll. It’s easy
to forget how noiseless I could be
spying from behind my mother’s eyes
as her mother, bulging with a baby,
a real-life Tiny Tears, eclipsed
the doorway with a moon. We all
fell silent. My mother soothed the torn
rag against her chest and caressed
its stringy hair. Even before the divergence
of girl from woman, woman from mother,
I was there: quiet as a vein, quick
as hot, brimming tears. In the decades
before my birthday, years before
my mother’s first blood, I was already
prized. Hers was a hunger
that mattered, though sometimes
she forgot and I dreamed the dream
of orange trees then startled awake
days or hours later. I could’ve been
almost anyone. Before I was a daughter,
I was a son, honeycomb clenching
the O of my mouth. I was a mother—
my own—nursing a beginning.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Poetry Thursday

Post Impressions (VI)
 ~E. E. Cummings

into the strenuous briefness
handorgans and April

i charge laughing.
Into the hair-thin tints
of yellow dawn,
into the women-coloured twilight

i smilingly
glide.      I
into the big vermilion departure

(Do you think?)the
i do,world
is probably made
of roses & hello:

(of solongs and,ashes)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Poetry Thursday, Elegy

Elegy, Surrounded by Seven Trees
~Rachel Eliza Griffiths
              for Michele Antoinette Pray-Griffiths

Ordinary days deliver joy easily
again & I can’t take it. If I could tell you
how her eyes laughed or describe
the rage of her suffering, I must
admit that lately my memories
are sometimes like a color
warping in my blue mind.
Metal abandoned in rain.

My mother will not move.

Which is to say that
sometimes the true color of
her casket jumps from my head
like something burnt down
in the genesis of a struck flame.
Which is to say that I miss
the mind I had when I had
my mother. I own what is yet.
Which means I am already
holding my own absence
in faith. I still carry a faded slip of paper
where she once wrote a word
with a pencil & crossed it out.

From tree to tree, around her grave
I have walked, & turned back
if only to remind myself
that there are some kinds of
peace, which will not be
moved. How awful to have such
wonder. The final way wonder itself
opened beneath my mother’s face
at the last moment. As if she was
a small girl kneeling in a puddle
& looking at her face for the first time,
her fingers gripping the loud,
wet rim of the universe.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Poetry Thursday

~Robin Beth Schaer

The dead are for morticians & butchers
to touch. Only a gloved hand. Even my son
will leave a grounded wren or bat alone
like a hot stove. When he spots a monarch
in the driveway he stares. It’s dead,
I say, you can touch it. The opposite rule:
butterflies are too fragile to hold
alive, just the brush of skin could rip
a wing. He skims the orange & black whorls
with only two fingers, the way he learned
to feel the backs of starfish & horseshoe crabs
at the zoo, the way he thinks we touch
all strangers. I was sad to be born, he tells me,
because it means I will die. I once loved someone
I never touched. We played records & drank
coffee from chipped bowls, but didn’t speak
of the days pierced by radiation. A friend
said: Let her pretend. She needs one person
who doesn’t know. If I held her, I would
have left bruises, if I undressed her, I would
have seen scars, so we never touched
& she never had to say she was dying.
We should hold each other more
while we are still alive, even if it hurts.
People really die of loneliness, skin hunger
the doctors call it. In a study on love,
baby monkeys were given a choice
between a wire mother with milk
& a wool mother with none. Like them,
I would choose to starve & hold the soft body.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Poetry Thursday, May...

To Theodore
 ~George Marion McClellan

Such are the little memories of you;
They come and go, return and lie apart
From all main things of life; yet more than they,
With noiseless feet, they come and grip the heart.
Gay laughter leading quick and stormy tears,
Then smiles again and pulse of flying feet,
In breathless chase of fleeting gossamers,
Are memories so dear, so bitter-sweet.

No more are echoes of your flying feet.
Hard by, where Pike’s Peak rears its head in state,
The erstwhile rushing feet, with halting steps,
For health’s return in Denver watch and wait.
But love and memories of noiseless tread,
Where angels hovered once, all shining fair,
To tuck you in your little trundle bed,
Kneel nightly now in agony of prayer.

I woke this morning thinking of my brother who would have been 59 next week. April is cruel and May is bittersweet... here we go again...

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Poetry Thursday

The Body Remembers
~Yusef Komunyakaa

I stood on one foot for three minutes & didn’t tilt
the scales. Do you remember how quickly

we scrambled up an oak leaning out over the creek,
how easy to trust the water to break

our glorious leaps? The body remembers
every wish one lives for or doesn’t, or even horror.

Our dance was a rally in sunny leaves, then quick
as anything, Johnny Dickson was up opening

his arms wide in the tallest oak, waving
to the sky, & in the flick of an eye

he was a buffalo fish gigged, pleading
for help, voiceless. Bigger & stronger,

he knew every turn in the creek past his back door,
but now he was cooing like a brown dove

in a trap of twigs. A water-honed spear
of kindling jutted up, as if it were the point

of our folly & humbug on a Sunday afternoon, right?
Five of us carried him home through the thicket,

our feet cutting a new path, running in sleep
years later. We were young as condom-balloons

flowering crabapple trees in double bloom
& had a world of baleful hope & breath.

Does Johnny run fingers over the thick welt
on his belly, days we were still invincible?

Sometimes I spend half a day feeling for bones
in my body, humming a half-forgotten

ballad on a park bench a long ways from home.
The body remembers the berry bushes

heavy with sweetness shivering in a lonely woods,
but I doubt it knows words live longer

than clay & spit of flesh, as rock-bottom love.
Is it easier to remember pleasure

or does hurt ease truest hunger?
That summer, rocking back & forth, uprooting

what’s to come, the shadow of the tree
weighed as much as a man.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

los dias nefastos comienzan de nuevo

It's cold and foggy out this morning, it fits perfectly with my state of mind and mood.

I feel both like I am walking in the fog and yet clear, painful memories keep cutting deep.

Tears flow just thinking about the trauma of that morning six years ago.

I'll come back and tell you more if I have the strength, for now, please just send me peaceful thoughts.


Six years ago today, we forced the doctors to sit with all of us ... to explain what was really going on with my sister.

Six years ago today, we let go.

Well, I don't know that we really let go. I didn't let go. But the headache I had been suffering lifted for the first time in three days.

I have to construct a wall around my heart to even write these words.

I wonder if I will ever be far away enough from this to actually remember those days in the hospital. I wonder if those days will remain in the "nefastos" category forever.

And tears fall down my face and little splashes of tears dirty my glasses, and I still can't REMEMBER, but the grief pierces my heart.

And even though I cannot will myself to remember all that happened in those days, I get flashes of the story as if it were a movie, and sometimes these wake me from sleep.

In sleep, I am in that panic mode of what can I do to make this stop. I used to be able to change the trajectory of my dreams, but this is not just a nightmare, it is reality.

Yesterday we sat around the table and shared some of the the trauma of the last six year with a friend we haven't seen in a while.

The tears welled up in her eyes. I felt bad, but we don't talk about it, and her presence gave us the space to do it.

I am exhausted. Sleep is hard, not as bad as it was all those years ago. But in the darkness, I remember that night I arrived. I had the mijo with me. His dad was at the hospital over night with Chila. As soon as the room was dark, the mijo asked me, Do you think she can get better?

What could I say? I told him I did.

You can't expect a miracle if you don't believe.

Last week, after six years, we talked about the trauma. I had the mijo with me for three days, and as always, it was bittersweet. And he asked me as soon as we were alone. Nowadays the questions are not as straightforward as they were that night. He asks a really hard, oblique question. He sees how I handle it. If I say something he can trust, I might get another one. I have to guess at context and meaning. I have to navigate the bombs. And if I do a good job, I get a little window into what is bothering him.

This time, eventually, after several hard questions, I said to him that he is allowed to have emotions ... that the trauma of losing someone when he was so young will stay with him, that it is okay to talk about it, to take care of himself.

I reminded him that at the hospital he was so worried about others - it's who he is, it's what he inherited from her.

He had a box of tissues, and if he saw a tear fall down someone's face, he was at that person's side, offering solace. He was scared to death, and he was consoling others. And afterwards, he was so worried about his dad, his own emotions did not get to be aired.

I took him to grief group every week. I suggested the one on one, but he didn't want to talk about it.

And now, here we are, and I worry, but I am glad that he still trusts me.

And I worry that if I could have just cried in front of him that maybe I would have helped him more. But even now I can't just let go and wail even though my soul is doing just that.

I am exhausted.

I say that feeling emotions is exhausting.

But maybe it holding them in that is exhausting.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Poetry Thursday

It’s Not Easy Being Green
~Debra Kang Dean

Whatever her story is, today
and every day that I’m here,
she’s here in her long, quilted green coat,

her companion—a beagle?—
nose to the ground, its tail
a shimmy. Unlidded to

lidded trash can they go, and
all along the fence lining the stream,
looking, I think, for whatever

salvageable cast-offs can be found.
By all appearances, she doesn’t need to,
but who knows, maybe she does.

The day after the first snow, she’d stopped,
asked, What’s that you’re doing? and, to my answer,
Yes, she’d said, of course, taiji.

Today, as I turned southwest
into Fair Lady Works the Shuttles, in it
lost, there they were, close by, again,

her companion sniffing along the fence
at court’s edge, and she, standing by. I want
to believe by now that she and I have gone

beyond just being fair-weather friends
as, moving on without pause, we simply
smile, nod, say, Hello. Or don’t.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


It's amazing how numbers can make perspective so incredibly important.

Almost 21 years ago, my sister-in-law gave birth to my nephew ... and named him a not-approved name. It broke all my mother's rules, and was, generally, not preferred by my sisters.

So, when my mom's cockatiel started hatching babies, they all took turns naming the birds what they would have named my nephew. I can't remember all the names, there were at least five baby birds. I remember Cristian and Joaquin, but there were others, and finally, ET. My older sister said that the little baby birds that my mom was hand feeding, no feather yet, looked like ET, and they had run out of their preferred baby boy names.

Turns out they were all girls, so the names had to be modified. My mom gave away at least two of the babies since she already had two adult birds.

ET turned out to be a pearl cockatiel, beautiful with her little pearls on the tail feathers and a yellow-tinged stomach. The only one to be so beautiful.

One bird will be friends with the human; two birds don't even care about human interactions; three birds or more, and only one male, apparently makes mean girls like qualities emerge.

The other birds ganged up on ET her whole life, pecked at her mercilessly, causing her shoulders to be bald, no feathers will grow back after years of abuse. My mom always thought it was about competition for the male, but maybe it was bird envy. ET is really like the Cinderella of birds.

Why did my mother never remove her from that cage? I can't say, but she didn't. Perhaps my mom has more Darwin characteristics than I know.

And slowly the birds began to die.  I wasn't here for any of this, really, except occasional trips home. So, I would only hear from my mother, so and so died, on a catch up call.

But now I am here and I get to see day to day the update.

A couple of weeks ago the last of ET's sisters passed away. They are almost 21 after all. One morning, my mother found just ET sitting up on the perch and the other on the floor of the cage.

She is now only one, and her demeanor has changed. 

The birds have always asked for attention. Somehow they know the sound of my father's truck. As soon as he pulls up, the squawking begins. He always greets them in the morning and when he comes in, too. They always remind him, just in case he forgets, to come say hi. And it is like a neon sign, Dad's home!

I found out recently it is not just the attention they like from him, though they did love that. He gives them treats. Of course he does, my dad is the treat purveyor for all animals in this house.

Now ET is much more demanding ... and I assume that it is because she is lonely. Birds like to be in a flock, even if it is only two.

So, we all take turns going out to see her. Dad even throws out some bird seed right outside the door in front of her cage. Little sparrows come and chat with ET through the screen door. I wonder if they speak the same bird language.

She is still skittish after years of having to protect herself. But if you get low, especially if you bend your head, so she can just see your hair, she will make a little cooing sound.

No touching, no putting your fingers near, but talking is welcomed.

She gets as close as she can to you, she bends her head down like yours, she cranes the neck to get the best view, and she makes her little welcome sound.

And if you walk away too soon, she screeches or she just calls out - depends on how far away you get before she sounds the alarm.

I am teaching my niece to spend time with ET when she is here. ET can use all the attention and companionship she can get. And it is a lovely, fairly quiet moment of meditation to spend time with the little bird.

Working on renaming her with some better, nicer name ... something with the initials E.T. but I haven't landed on the right combo yet.

Note 1: mom's name rule states that given names should be in English with equivalents that are also acceptable in Spanish. The rule theoretically comes from my mom's experience growing up, where her name was always translated into English, including on all of her documents. (I am not convinced that she didn't do the actual translating herself since she also doesn't like the name in Spanish.) My mother broke her own rule with my younger sister, giving her the French equivalent rather than an English equivalent. But she was the baby, and it was clearly a new age in the world, or so we all believe.

Note 2: no mother needs to get approval, but she can also not prevent criticism, aloud or whispered behind her back.

Friday, April 12, 2019

comment that turned into a post

I intend to post.

I draft pieces and they feel flat and ugly and stupid and they languish.

But, sometimes, what I am feeling does come out, in response to others. I wrote this response to Anne Nahm on her post. And I realized it wasn't a comment. It was a post, wanting to come out. So, unfiltered, here it is.

Grief has changed my life... I can't say all in bad ways, but it is really hard to find the good ways (and, truthfully, when I do, I get bitterly angry about those changes, too).
When the experts say, everyone grieves in their own way, it's irritating, but true. 
The first year, for me, was interrupted when I had another major loss (brother first and then seven months later, sister). In the first seven months, I went from being unable to sleep or eat and wanting to claw through the floor, to feeling like I might be ok. 
And then the second loss. I completely lost it, but in a very strange way ... not unlike what you describe, but also different. I crawled in a "I'm ok" hole and stayed there, refusing to feel, heal, or deal.  
And then everyone else in my family fell apart in very open, real ways. My reaction to that was: I'M OK, I can handle it all! I will fix everyone. I can stick to all my plans and all my deadlines, EVERYTHING IS FINE! 
When I scheduled my qualifying exams, no one even thought to say, Are you sure you can do this? 
In fact, no one checked in on me. 
Friends I have known for year, for whom I have been a major emotional support for every little thing in their lives, did not even call me to see how I was.
I was busy. I was holding everyone else up. 
When I mentioned to a virtual stranger how hard the weekly calls with my mom and sister-in-law and brother-in-law were straining me because I couldn't take any more pain, she shamed me. 
Apparently, it was my job to be OK! FINE! Nothing to look at here...
I was so beyond dealing with the grief that I saw my sister everywhere. I would see her drive by in a car. I would glimpse across a crowded mall, and lose her before I could catch up.  
And I would think, good, she got away. She doesn't have to deal with this. I was developing an intricate story about how she was living a new, better, unfettered life..
And this month will be SIX YEARS since I lost my sister, and I just barely started crying about it a year ago... and it still comes out as yelling and screaming and angry and conflicted and and and ... it seeps out whichever way it wants to, when it wants to, unbidden, unwelcome...
All this to say, it really is different for everyone. 
And whatever gets you through the day. [And all those other things people say which are all too true.]
But also there is no way around grief. You have to go through it. When you feel you have the strength to face the loss, the scrubbed memories may just come rushing back and rushing out. And even when you are not "ready" ...
I checked in on you the other day because I want you to know that your grief matters... whatever stage or feeling or denying, it all matters, to me, and to a lot of others... but you don't need to post anything. You don't need to entertain me.
I will keep checking on you. <3

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Poetry Thursday, um... got stuck in draft folder...

~Nathalie Handal

We walk through clouds
wrapped in ancient symbols

We descend the hill
wearing water

Maybe we are dead
and don’t know it

Maybe we are violet flowers
and those we long for

love only

our unmade hearts

On attends, on attends

Wait for Duras and Eminescu
to tell us in French then Romanian

light has wounds
slow down—
memory is misgivings

Wait until the nails
get rusty
in the houses of our past.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Poetry Thursday, a bit late, but totally worth the wait...

I used to be a roller coaster girl
~ jessica Care moore
(for Ntozake Shange)

 I used to be a roller coaster girl
7 times in a row
No vertigo in these skinny legs
My lipstick bubblegum pink
                         As my panther 10 speed.

never kissed

Nappy pigtails, no-brand gym shoes
White lined yellow short-shorts

Scratched up legs pedaling past borders of
humus and baba ganoush
Masjids and liquor stores
City chicken, pepperoni bread
and superman ice cream

Yellow black blending with bits of Arabic
Islam and Catholicism.

My daddy was Jesus
My mother was quiet
Jayne Kennedy was worshipped
by my brother Mark

I don’t remember having my own bed before 12.
Me and my sister Lisa                                shared.

Sometimes all three Moore girls slept in the Queen.

You grow up so close
never close enough.

I used to be a roller coaster girl
Wild child full of flowers and ideas
Useless crushes on       polish boys
in a school full of       white girls.

Future black swan singing
Zeppelin, U2 and Rick Springfield

Hoping to be Jessie’s Girl

I could outrun my brothers and
Everybody else to that

reoccurring line

I used to be a roller coaster girl
Till you told me I was moving too fast
Said my rush made your head spin
My laughter hurt your ears

A scream of happiness
A whisper of freedom
Pouring out my armpits
Sweating up my neck

You were always the scared one
I kept my eyes open for the entire trip
Right before the drop I would brace myself
And let that force push my head back into

That hard iron seat

My arms nearly fell off a few times
Still, I kept running back to the line
When I was done
Same way I kept running back to you

I used to be a roller coaster girl
I wasn’t scared of mountains or falling
Hell, I looked forward to flying and dropping
Off this earth and coming back to life

every once in a while

I found some peace in being out of control
allowing my blood to race
through my veins for 180 seconds

I earned my sometime nicotine pull
I buy my own damn drinks & the ocean
Still calls my name when it feels my toes
Near its shore.

I still love roller coasters
& you grew up to be
of all girls who cld