Monday, July 24, 2017

(While I was fearing it, it came)

(While I was fearing it, it came)
by Emily Dickinson

While I was fearing it, it came,
   But came with less of fear,
Because that fearing it so long
   Had almost made it dear.
There is a fitting a dismay,
   A fitting a despair.
’T is harder knowing it is due,
   Than knowing it is here.
The trying on the utmost,
   The morning it is new,
Is terribler than wearing it
   A whole existence through.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Teacher

The Teacher
by Zachary B. Johnston
the stretch bone cab hauls
us fast from our swamp
down a pocked rain-wetted
highway to Ebenezer cemetery.
We pass her yard. The cypress
there stands straight, but the
house she kept sags on its blocks,
the weight of dying just settled
in its boards. My last visit, she
could still climb stairs. Her nurse
gone home, I sat on the bed’s edge.
Her radiation burns like Chicago,
walking to the bakery on St. Paul
or outside the door for a smoke.
I asked what did she expect from
dying? She said it’s uncomplicated;
we’re like the lilacs, we odor a while
then aches our burden stem. That’s
chemo talking. The car stops. We’re all
her students, come to learn this lesson.
We brace open the hatch and draw
her out of the long car.

Friday, May 12, 2017

November 11, 1831: Nat Turner

November 11, 1831: Nat Turner
 by Jill McDonough

Jerusalem, Virginia

Of course Turner's mind - restless, inquisitive,
observant of every thing - would turn his rage
to visions of the Spirit at work. He gives
accounts in his Confession of spirits engaged
in battle, blood on the corn, and hieroglyphs
on leaves that told him what to do. My class
in the prison disagrees, has trouble with
Nat Turner, with the visions, violent acts
against children who "never hurt him". Upset,
one blurts out, "I was tortured and abused
by my boyfriend, then killed some other guy, and that
ain't right. He's cold in the ground. What'd he do
to me?" Next we review what they did when he died:
flesh rendered to grease, a money-purse made of his hide.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Satan Says

Satan Says 
by Sharon Olds

I am locked in a little cedar box
with a picture of shepherds pasted onto
the central panel between carvings.
The box stands on curved legs.
It has a gold, heart-shaped lock
and no key. I am trying to write my
way out of the closed box
redolent of cedar. Satan
comes to me in the locked box
and says, I'll get you out. Say
My father is a shit . I say
my father is a shit and Satan
laughs and says, It's opening .
Say your mother is a pimp.
My mother is a pimp. Something
opens and breaks when I say that.
My spine uncurls in the cedar box
like the pink back of the ballerina pin
with a ruby eye, resting beside me on
satin in the cedar box.
Say shit, say death, say fuck the father,
Satan says, down my ear.
The pain of the locked past buzzes
in the child's box on her bureau, under
the terrible round pond eye
etched around with roses, where
self-loathing gazed at sorrow.
Shit. Death. Fuck the father.
Something opens. Satan says
Don't you feel a lot better?
Light seems to break on the delicate
edelweiss pin, carved in two
colors of wood. I love him too,
you know, I say to Satan dark

in the locked box. I love them but
I'm trying to say what happened to us
in the lost past. Of course , he says
and smiles, of course. Now say: torture .
I see, through blackness soaked in cedar,
the edge of a large hinge open.
Say: the father's cock, the mother's
cunt , says Satan, I'll get you out .
The angle of the hinge widens
until I see the outlines of
the time before I was, when they were
locked in the bed. When I say
the magic words, Cock, Cunt,
Satan softly says, Come out .
But the air around the opening
is heavy and thick as hot smoke.
Come in , he says, and I feel his voice
breathing from the opening.
The exit is through Satan's mouth.
Come in my mouth, he says, you're there
already , and the huge hinge
begins to close. Oh no, I loved
them, too, I brace
my body tight
in the cedar house.
Satan sucks himself out the keyhole.
I'm left locked in the box, he seals
the heart-shaped lock with the wax of his tongue.
It's your coffin now , Satan says.
I hardly hear;
I am warming my cold
hands at the dancer's
ruby eye---
the fire, the suddenly discovered knowledge of love.

Friday, February 17, 2017

from The Book of Light: thel ; c.c.rider b

by Lucille Clifton

was my first landscape,
red brown as the clay
of her georgia.
sweet attic of a woman,
repository of old songs.
there was such music in her;
she would sit, shy as a wren
humming alone and lonely
amid broken promises,
amid the sweet broken bodies
of birds.

c.c. rider

who is that running away
with my life? who is that
black horse, who is that rider
dressed like my sons, braided
like my daughters? who is that
georgia woman, who is that
virginia man, who is that light-eyed
stranger not looking back?
who is that hollow woman? who am i?
see see rider, see what you have done.

[from The Book Of Light (1993) , Copper Canyon Press ]