Monday, December 1, 2014

Will We Work Together?

Will We Work Together?
by Marge Piercy

You wake in the early grey
morning in bed alone and curse
me, that I am only
sometimes there. But when
I am with you, I light
up the corners, I am bright
as a fireplace roaring
with love, every bone in my back
and my fingers is singing
like a tea kettle on the boil.
My heart wags me, a big dog
with a bigger tail. I am
A new coin printed with
your face. My body wears
sore before I can express
on yours the smallest part
of what moves me. Words
shred and splinter.
I want to make with you
some bold new thing
to stand in the marketplace,
the statue of a goddess
laughing, armed and wearing
flowers and feathers. Like sheep
of whose hair is made
blankets and coats, I want
to force from this fierce sturdy
rampant love some useful thing.

(editor's note: Happy anniversary, James. I love you so much)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Walking Into Love

Walking Into Love 
by Marge Piercy

I could not tell
if I climbed up or down.
I could feel
that the ground
was not level
and often I stumbled.
I only knew
that the light was poor,
my hands damp
and sharp fears
sang, sang like crickets
in my throat.

As I climb above the treeline,
my feet are growing numb,
blood knocks in my wrists and forehead.
Voices chitter out of gnarled bushes.
I seem to be carrying
a great many useless objects,
a saw, a globe, a dictionary,
a doll leaking stuffing,
a bouquet of knitting needles,
a basin of dried heads.
Voices sigh from calendar pages
I have lived too long to love you.
Withered and hard as a spider
I crawl among bones:
awful charnel knowledge
of failure, of death, of decay.
I am old as a stone.
Who can make soup of me?
A spider-peddler with pack of self
I scrabble under a sky of shame.
Already my fingers are thin as ice.
I must scuttle under a rock
and hide in webs
of mocking voices.

3. Mediation is my favorite position
Peace, we have arrived.
The touch point 
where words end
and body goes on.
That's all:
finite, all five-sensual
and never repeatable.
Know you and be known,
please you and be pleased
in act:
the antidote to shame
is nakedness together.
Words end,
body goes on
and something
small and wet and real
is exchanged.

The eyes of others
measure and condemn.
The eyes of others are watches ticking no.
My friend hates you.
Between you I turn and turn
holding my arm as if it were broken.
The air is iron shavings polarized.
Faces blink on and off.
Words are heavy, heavy.
I carry them back and forth in my skirt.
They pile up in front of the chairs.
Words are bricks that seal the doors
Words are shutters on the eyes
and lead gloves on the hands.
The air is a solid block.
We cannot move.

Sometimes your face
burns my eyes.
Sometimes your orange chest
scalds me.
I am loud and certain with strangers.
Your hands on the table
make me shy.
Your voice in the hall:
words rattle in my throat.
There is a bird in my chest
with wings too broad
with beak that rips me
wanting to get out.
I have called it
an idiot parrot.
I have called it
a ravening eagle.
But it sings.
Bird of no name
your cries are red and wet
on the iron air.
I open my mouth
to let you out
and your shining
blinds me.

Suddenly I see it:
the gradual ease.
I no longer know how many times.
Afternoons blur into afternoons,
evenings melt into evenings.
Almost everyone guesses --
those who don't never will.
The alarms have stopped
except in my skin.
Tigers in a closet
we learn gentleness.
Our small habits together
are strange
as crows' tears
and easy as sofas.
Sometimes, sometimes
I can ask for what I want:
I have begun to trust you. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Mother Told Us Not To Have Children

by Rebecca Gayle Howell 

She’d say, Never have a child you don’t want.
Then she’d say, Of course, I wanted you

once you were here. She’s not cruel. Just practical.
Like a kitchen knife. Still, the blade. And care.

When she washed my hair, it hurt; her nails
rooting my thick curls, the water rushing hard.

It felt like drowning, her tenderness.
As a girl, she’d been the last

of ten to take a bath, which meant she sat
in dirty water alone; her mother in the yard

bloodletting a chicken; her brothers and sisters
crickets eating the back forty, gone.

Is gentleness a resource of the privileged?

In this respect, my people were poor.
We fought to eat and fought each other because

we were tired from fighting. We had no time
to share. Instead our estate was honesty,

which is not tenderness. In that it is
a kind of drowning. But also a kind of air.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Poet's Work

Poet's Work
by Lorine Niedecker

   advised me:
         Learn a trade

I learned
   to sit at desk
         and condense

No layoff
   from this

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"If Your Uterus Runs on Birth Control Standard Time, Allow Me to Jog Your Memory"

"If Your Uterus Runs on Birth Control Standard Time, Allow Me to Jog Your Memory"
by Mindy Nettifee

It is truly something, after all these years,
how it never fails to catch me by surprise, at least a little,
despite the week of warning signs,
the swollen sore breasts sulking in the cage of an underwire,
the awesome overreaction parade.

How it casts the previous three days in a radical new light—
explaining the asshole on Friday who spoke four decibels too loud
and wore his ego like a unitard of burrs;
why I struggled not to cry when that text message took that tone with me;
why I drank way too much at the Neil Diamond impersonator concert
and kissed that girl full on the flower;
why I ate shit biking home the next day;
why I lay on the couch for hours and hours watching movie previews
and eating chocolate popsicles and feeling sorry for myself;
why I grew forests wanting you to come back.

Slightly dazed at the small rosy sunset of evidence,
I tilt my head to the side and relive it all,
letting the humiliation do its humble work.

I am suddenly not unraveling, sweetwonderfuljesus.
I am not a crazy person, trapped in a spiraling universe
of increasingly implacable darkness and despair.
I am not losing it at all,
or I am, but in the most familiar unchangeable way.
It’s just the goodbye party I am never invited to but always throwing.
Just the unwinding of the world’s oldest clock,
the one that will wake me up two weeks from now
in the dark first hours of the morning
with its soft insistent ticking.

Happiness is a Hot Mess

Happiness is a Hot Mess
by Lauren Zuniga

There are vegetables overflowing from every surface.
Growing from pots, saved from dumpsters, crooked
sculptures in bowls. The windows are open. Sampson
and Delilah are necking, frenzied black fur and growl.

Lemon Engine is learning the banjo. Cigarette perched
on bottom lip. Clumsy claw hammer. Occasionally,
she looks up to see if she is disturbing anyone. Even
the ceramic owls are tapping their feet. The ants two-
step along mean trails of cayenne. No one is going

The shower curtain keeps falling. The door is off its
hinges. This house is not used to such warm sirens.
Rising up smells like lavender oil and a pile of sweaty
girls. I fell off my bike yesterday; I’ve been admiring
the wound all morning.

Abundance is a handmade grail, filled with mulberry
mead. All these years, I had mistaken it for a clean
house and full bank account. When it came, I didn’t
even notice the casual spill. How it stained the linens.
How it made every crevice glow so loud and sweet.

From an Atlas of the Difficult World

From an Atlas of the Difficult World
by Adrienne Rich

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains’ enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your hand
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

My Vincent Warren Period

My Vincent Warren Period
by Prudence Chamberlain

I feel joyfully
in the mornings
& I make coffee
am not hung over
open my laptop
to begin again
with poems
almost a lady lazarus
of 9am but less
internal rhyme
& a little less feeling

It’s like that time I joined
the Labour Party & ignored
all of their e-mails until
a local representative turned
up on the door step
like some dispossessed
disenfranchised ideology in a
sad greying suit

I had a paintbrush in my hand; ripped trousers;
sometimes I’m so butch & so great & had been
painting a wall
but I see myself reflected
in the eyes of others & I know I’m O’Hara
fairy not Myles urban gunslinger

since I’ve met you
I can’t stop for writing
& this better not be
my Vincent Warren period

where you go off to Canada
leave me with an ugly STI
& my death is imminent
& if we’re honest you’re
not the beauty of the Bolshoi ballet in a body
but there’s something in the fragile
between that obvious collar bone &
the line of your shirt that subtlety of
masculine I love all the way through
your jaw line

we’re all such straight lines aren’t we?
The way we fall & fuck & think

So I dance to show tunes all the way across
my bed which is paisley & made
& think about my ineffectual political subjectivities

How I Became Impossible

How I Became Impossible
by Mary Ruefle

I was born shy, congenitally unable to do anything
profitable, to see anything in color, to love plums,
with a marked aversion to traveling around the room,
which is perfectly normal in infants.
Who wrote this? were my first words.
I did not like to be torched.
More snow fell than was able to melt,
I became green-eyed and in due time traveled
to other countries where I formed opinions
on hard, cold, shiny objects and soft, warm,
nappy things. Late in life I began to develop
a passion for persimmons and was absolutely delighted
when a postcard arrived for the recently departed.
I became recalcitrant, spending more and more time
with my rowboat. All my life I thought polar bears
and penguins grew up together playing side by side
on the ice, sharing the same vista, bits of blubber
and innocent lore. One day I read a scientific journal;
there are no penguins at one pole, no bears
on the other. These two, who were so long intimates
in my mind, began to drift apart, each on his own floe,
far out into the glacial seas. I realized I was becoming
impossible, more and more impossible,
and that one day it really would be true.


by Chelsey Minnis 

It seems like I'm growing more and more like a clown. First of all, I'm always
sad. Secondly, all my knives are made out of rubber. Thirdly, it's like my house
is on fire.

No, I'm definitely becoming more like a clown. I have a tendency to want to put
on clown clothes. As soon as I put the clown clothes on I feel faintly happier...

Another sign is that I constantly feel like I'm alone in a dressing room. Most
of the time I feel amused. Anyway, the only thing good about the circus is
the tigers.

I realize that I could get both legs cut off by the circus train or get frightened
by an elephant. But it's very depressing to sit around in a clown suit and think
about death.

Sometimes I don't feel happy unless I'm in my clown suit. And I enjoy hitting
people on the head with a foam club. I really do...

When people see me they realize that it looks very sophisticated to wear a clown
suit and smoke a cigarette. This is how I get all the ladies because they think I'm
very droll.

People don't understand how you turn into a clown. You turn into a clown
because you feel more and more like putting on a clown suit. When you're
around people you sense a kindliness. It makes you so nervous you can't
stay calm. Which is why it feels perfectly normal to wear orange pants.

Plus, it's very subversive to wear bow ties. You can't imagine how jolly
everything is. And the fright wigs... I don't want to be a clown but I'm
sure to be one. My mother was a clown.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Short Poems from Ursula K. Le Guin

Peace Vigils
by Ursula K. Le Guin

My friend, self, fool,
have you been standing
with a lighted candle
for five years
in the rain?
What for?

I guess to show
a candle can keep burning
in the rain.

The Next War
by Ursula K. Le Guin

It will take place,
it will take time,
it will take life,
and waste them.

These poems are from The Wild Girls, part of PM Press' Outspoken Authors Series. Please consider purchasing this book for your collection, and supporting anarchist presses.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Brooklyn Apartheid

Brooklyn Apartheid 
by Alok Vaid-Menon 

(Editor's Note: It's worth the extra click.) 

Monday, January 6, 2014


by Adrienne Rich

the quality of being complete; unbroken condition; entirety (Webster)

A wild patience has taken me this far

as if I had to bring to shore
a boat with a spasmodic outboard motor
old sweaters, nets, spray-mottled books
tossed in the prow
some kind of sun burning my shoulder-blades.
Splashing the oarlocks. Burning through.
Your fore-arms can get scalded, licked with pain
in a sun blotted like unspoken anger
behind a casual mist.

The length of daylight
this far north, in this
forty-ninth year of my life
is critical.

The light is critical: of me, of this
long-dreamed, involuntary landing
on the arm of an inland sea.
The glitter of the shoal
depleting into shadow
I recognize: the stand of pines
violet-black really, green in the old postcard
but really I have nothing but myself
to go by; nothing
stands in the realm of pure necessity
except what my hands can hold.

Nothing but myself?....My selves.
After so long, this answer.
As if I had always known
I steer the boat in, simply.
The motor dying on the pebbles
cicadas taking up the hum
dropped in the silence.

Anger and tenderness: my selves.
And now I can believe they breathe in me
as angels, not polarities.
Anger and tenderness: the spider's genius
to spin and weave in the same action
from her own body, anywhere --
even from a broken web.

The cabin in the stand of pines
is still for sale. I know this. Know the print
of the last foot, the hand that slammed and locked the door,
then stopped to wreathe the rain-smashed clematis
back on the trellis
for no one's sake except its own.
I know the chart nailed to the wallboards
the icy kettle squatting on the burner.
The hands that hammered in those nails
emptied that kettle one last time
are these two hands
and they have caught the baby leaping
from between trembling legs
and they have worked the vacuum aspirator
and stroked the sweated temples
and steered the boat there through this hot
misblotted sunlight, critical light
imperceptibly scalding
the skin these hands will also salve.