Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Offing

Offing 
by Hoa Nguyen

What your dark eyes take back
to itself, hugged in a curve
of toughness. The land between us is flat.
Let's say we are ruined, Minneapolis,
bricked against ourselves. A red rag
in the kitchen. This isn't important or I am.

I never wanted to touch you
and still do. How can we pray or find
what collects in heaven, Father?
I'd be surprised by elegance,
meaning something like rugs
and leather. Soft and tough. This.

I want belief like this. Leaving
the sea is a rag doll I once was. Texas
clouds in dreams, swinging. My loving you
once, mud puddle, swing set.

from Red Juice. pg 45

[I'm Almost Your Cat's Pajamas]

[I'm Almost Your Cat's Pajamas]
by Hoa Nguyen

I'm almost your cat's pajamas
your topsy turvy all over
almost a pinup of yarnballs
at the rest-stop of undeclared wars
(the way Descartes faked it)
give me history or give me
a name unknown in zoology
So I can be anything but empty doll
all jammed body doll    a pregnancy
to be "natural"

from Red Juice, pg. 9

My Love for Nature

My Love for Nature
by Fatimah Asghar

All this tall grass has ruined my gold
acrylic nails & I know something’s dead
just beyond my window. I grew up
with rats running my floorboards
& know the smell straining from a body
once caught in a trap. In the city
what little I have of an ass
is always out, a simple wind blow
from Marilyn Monroe-ing the street.

Here, in all this nature, there is nobody
but me & my 5 friends for a week
& I promised myself I’d be naked
but the first day I found a tick
clinging to my arm hair for dear
life & decided no way I’m exposing
my pussy to the elements. My love
for nature is like my love for most things:
fickle & theoretical.

Too many bugs & I want a divorce.
Last week, before I was here
my uncle drove me from our city
to the suburbs & sang “Project Chick”
in the car. When we parked
he asked me to take off my shoes
& there we walked, silent, barefoot
circling the lake, trying to not step
in goose shit.

He walked in front & I trailed behind
both our hands clasped behind our backs.
When you were my daughter,
those were the happiest days of my life.
I wish you would come home.

My love for the past is like my love
for most things. I only feel it when
I’m gone. Best to stay gone
so I’m always in love. If I look
at something too long it forgets
its joy. All the floorboards carry
death. My gold nails are fake
& chipped. My bare feet skirt the shit.


Source: Poetry (September 2016)

Saturday, September 16, 2017


AMERICAN SONNET FOR MY PAST AND FUTURE ASSASSIN
by Terrance Hayes


Seven of the ten things I love in the face
Of James Baldwin concern the spiritual
Elasticity of his expressions. The sashay
Between left & right eyebrow, for example.
The crease between his eyes like a tuning
Fork or furrow, like a riverbed branching
Into tributaries like lines of rapturous sentences
Searching for a period. The dimple in his chin
Narrows & expands like a pupil. Most of all,
I love all of his eyes. And those wrinkles
The feel & color of wet driftwood in the mud
Around those eyes. Mud is made of
Simple rain & earth, the same baptismal
Spills & hills of dirt James Baldwin is made of.

reposted from LitHub

Friday, September 8, 2017

(it's all good, it's all fucked)

(It was all good, it was all fucked)
from That Winter The Wolf Came 
By Juliana Spahr
reposted from Lana Turner Journal

It’s all good, I would say, it’s all fucked. And then I would breathe. And then, again, it’s all good; it’s all fucked. Again, breathe. And then, it’s all good; it’s all fucked. Breathe again. I might do this while walking. Or while driving in the car. Or while lying down, before taking a nap.



It was Non-Revolution. Or it was me. Or it was Non-Revolution and me. I was unsure what it really was. Maybe it was my thoughts. My thoughts at one minute about Non-Revolution. About the smell of Non-Revolution. Sweat, urine, sage, pot, rotting food, hay, all mixed together. Perhaps about Non-Revolution’s body. I am sure I am not the only one who has thought it exceptional, but I am also just as sure that by the standards of bodies, Non-Revolution’s is fine but not exceptional. That is the point. That is why Non-Revolution is called Non-Revolution, why they have revolution as a possibility in their name but it is a modified and thus negated possibility so as to suggest they are possibly neither good nor fucked. Still something about Non-Revolution’s smell and body had gotten into me. It was thick except when it was not. And not thick except when it was. It had this odd patch of hair on its lower back. Except when it didn’t. And it tasted slightly sour, off. Except when it was sweet, on. At any moment though, to me, it was like something so excellent I could not get enough of it.



I will not go on. I do not need to. You know desire’s perceptual alterations as well as I do, the way that what might repulse someone not going around saying it’s all good, it’s all fucked might become the very thing that makes someone else go around saying it’s all good, it’s all fucked. Our relation was brief. We spent some time together. A few months. Maybe. Perhaps just a few weeks. Depends on how you count it. It happened. It was all fucked. Tongue and hands on clit or cock. Fistfights too. Miscommunication. Constant emergencies. It unhappened. Text after text. Then it happened again. Tongue and hands. Also injuries. Illnesses. More miscommunication. Status updates. Deep emotional confusion. It was all good. Hand in hand. Exuberant, giggling desire. Then it unhappened again. And still, joy. Laughter. Care. Almost psychedelic. A feeling that at moments hinted at rivers running backwards. A flooding in other words. Wind and rain and hatred of capitalism with tongue on tongue. Stuff like that. Happening. All fucked. Unhappening. All good. And also, happening. All good. Unhappening. All fucked.



And during these moments of happening, of compassion and dedication, giggling exuberance, hands around waist, turning around and pushing into the wall for the deep moment of tongue against tongue, Non-Revolution was an uneven lover. At moments there. At other moments not. Often Non-Revolution was off with others. Tongue somewhere else in the corner of some other plaza somewhere. This hurt me and it didn’t hurt me. I was jealous. I’ll admit it. I wanted all of the possibility of revolution all the fucking time. I was willing to take it modified and negated even. But I was not jealous in the conventional way. I was jealous that I was not there with the exuberance at every moment. I wanted to be. I wanted to be there. I wanted to be there all the time, to be inside every moment, to always be on the lips of Non-Revolution and whomever Non-Revolution was touching with their tongue, whatever parts of bodies of Mexico City, Santiago, El Alto, Madrid, Cairo, Suez, Istanbul. I wanted to be everywhere that Non-Revolution was. I wanted to be with Non-Revolution and everyone Non-Revolution was with.



I was so classic, so clich├ęd those months. I joined all the social media and then I checked all the social media I had just joined all the time. I got up each morning just to check my phone, click its button to light it up to see if anyone had texted while I was sleeping. And then, still holding my phone, not yet dressed, uncombed and unbrushed, I would click to check my email. Always looking for Non-Revolution, looking for the white and pink mists of the gases, the burning bus and the burning car too, Non-Revolution wearing a traffic cone hat throwing rocks at the cops as they retreat, the ice pick and the car tires, the hammer and the window, the chair flying through the air, the paint bomb on the visor. And then after that, if nothing was doing, I would calm down, eat breakfast, realize I had not missed something during the night that I did not want to miss. Then after breakfast, I would one by one go through the social media looking for Non-Revolution in the status updates and photos and links of friends and friends of friends. And I often felt a tingling excitement when I found Non-Revolution in the feeds of friends of friends. Non-Revolution in these moments often looked happy, looked a lover, a little drunk, a little stimulated too, a little sweaty, flushed.



I so wanted to be with Non-Revolution, I even went to the assemblies, wanted to be at the assemblies, even though they were often long and it was often cold and I was often sitting outside on concrete, shivering up from the butt. I wanted to be with. I could not drag myself away. At moments this desire made sense. I mean is it not a universal desire to be with under a light urban night sky? With a crowd that moves from annoyance at the man who keeps interrupting to yell I love Michael Jackson to be with this man as we all begin to call out I love Michael Jackson one by one and then the sound guy puts on Smooth Criminal and everyone then rushes the stage, dancing hard? At other moments, off the pigs, a history so rich, so failed, so sad, and yet still so resistant. There, sing-chanting no more pigs in our community which is followed by the hard beat of off the pigs. And then the pigs are there coming, of course, and Non-Revolution is texting me. Non-Revolution is high above me in a building, talking with lawyers about Non-Revolution who got arrested earlier, beaten, and has been taken to the hospital. Non-Revolution can see more police gathering behind the ones to whom we are again sing-chanting no more pigs in our community. Leave, Non-Revolution texts. Leave, now. And I am so caught in the moment, I can’t leave. I can’t stop the hard beat chanting of off the pigs with. Then more police come around the corner, some of them rushing in to grab some of us, part of the crowd screaming, part of it trying to pull back those who are getting snatched, part of it running like gazelles towards me, and I run ahead of them, with them and away from them to get out of their way. Then suddenly police running towards me and us and then I am running with in between the police, their line is not holding, and I see Non-Revolution running down the street beside me and I say hey and nothing else as we run together, grabbing each others hands, and run down the street, into the bar. Again.



During these weeks, these months, Non-Revolution was a particularly cloudy and confused meme. Like wind and rain and rivers running backwards. I had no control. When I wondered it, wondered how it could be like this for me at this moment, I blamed it on the art. For all the art I have ever loved has been for whatever it is that Non-Revolution was suggesting it could possibly be. For the river running backwards. For the wind and the rain. And I am someone who loves art, who has always loved art, despite. Despite its institutions and its patronages and its nationalisms and its capitalisms. All the art that has had a crowd scene in it in which the crowd has been loved, I have loved. The moment in realist painting of the riot when the perspective switches from the soldiers’ point of view to that of the crowd and the people in the crowd are individuals flowing over and out of the space in the painting and the dog is barking causing a horse to rear up and the soldiers in the crowd are at risk, isolated from the rest of the soldiers who are off there far in the distance, and one of the rioters in the crowd has a spy glass trained on these soldiers and the crowd seems to be having fun, even the dog joining in, things tumbling. The crowd in this moment. Complicated, but still joyous, transitory, momentary, experiencing this one moment of freedom before what we know is to come because we know history and we know the crowd will not win. Just one day I noticed this, and I should say that I was able to notice this because I had sing-chanted with, from then on, a different sort of art. All art either with the crowd or with the police. All art coming down to that simple divide.



When I was off doing non-revoutionary things, such as drinking the whites newly arrived from Croatia with the poets or eating the thinly sliced cured meats at the bar with the historian of revolution who disdained Non-Revolution, I kept thinking about wanting to be with instead. At moments I would give myself over. I would just get up and leave, leave the historian of revolution who kept pressing his leg against mine while mocking my attraction to Non-Revolution, and walk out of the bar and down the street to the plaza to be with. And when I got to with, it was entirely possible, likely even, that Smooth Criminal was playing and a form of dancing that made no sense was going on, messy, chaotic, slightly frightening in its uneven physicality and very likely at that moment the sky was a deep, dark clear, with no stars because of the lights on the buildings. There jostled in that crowd by the felonious and the thieving and the sincere and the oppositionally defiant and the stoned and the overeducated and underemployed and the constantly shaking and the drunk all the time and the missing teeth and the bloodstained crescendo Annie and even by the socialist with the small yapping dog, at that moment I would feel I had made a right decision. Were we okay? Like Annie, of course we were not, would not ever be because we were Non-Revolution. We were with instead. But not just any old sort of with, but with each other in the hatred of capitalism. And if I was a poet of many centuries previous, I’d call that the sweetest wine of the beloved.



When I say Non-Revolution and a river running backwards, it was not that the ground rippled and quivered. Not that chasms opened up. Not that sand and dirt exploded from the ground like volcanic eruptions and blotted out the sun as the water ran backwards and boats were dragged upstream. Not that. It was more like there was a river that led into a lake and then there was a long drought and as the water dried up, the lake began to seep slowly out into the river. This was how the river ran backwards. Slowly, in a small way, incrementally, over time. Still it was a time when a river ran backwards and those times are rare enough that I felt lucky to be able to say the river is running backwards, lucky to notice it and put my hands into it and feel it running backwards, wet, cool.



It was all fucked and it was all good while it lasted. But eventually Non-Revolution and me were over. It was not that one day I woke up and knew it was over. What we had, Non-Revolution and I, was like all relationships, built to last. But unlike many relationships, everything was against us. Yes, we cared for each other. Yes, we learned to tend to each other’s wounds too, to medicate and to bandage. But we suffered from a larger social lack of care or worse a relentless disdain. We were together but we were in it alone at the same time. Except the state was there with us in all sorts of ways. And we suffered from too much of a different sort of care from the state. And we knew history. We knew we would not be together long.



But still long after it was clear it was over we kept texting. Kept emailing. I continued looking through the feeds of friends of friends for Non-Revolution, clicking like when I found them. At first everything was just less. The texting had fewer jokes. Less innuendo. Less love. The images were less triumphant. Benefits, BBQs, squats. Then the rains came and after that the snows and then the rivers filled up and they fed into the lake and the lake filled up slowly and the river no longer ran backwards. And all at once the social media feeds filled up with poets who got Shirley Manson as their alt-rock grrrl, newly bathed and trimmed little dogs, cats with moustaches, babies in funny hats. I still got up each morning and looked for Non-Revolution in the feeds of friends and friends of friends but I noticed they looked less often like a lover. More often they looked tired and run down. They were starting a social center or a school of some sort or assemblying an anthology for a revolutionary theory reading group. They were building out walls, hammers in their hands, attempting to build a plaza within. I knew this happens. The move from Non-Revolution with its minor insurrections to social center. I knew going into it that it never lasts with Non-Revolutions. I never thought it would. I just knew I wanted it in whatever moment I could get it. If it did not end, if it became Revolution, I knew that would be hard. That was an entirely different lover, one I was not sure I was ready for and yet longed for so much that they often showed up in my dreams and led me by a hand into an incredible sadness and a high so intense that the personal sadness would become incidental to the possibility. I mean I will take that hand and be lead to whatever room when it comes because oh my god, the body of Revolution is something magnificent. But I also know that at that moment I will know the meaning of it’s all fucked so hard. And yet still, that hand and the body attached to it. There is no not taking it.



One day, thinking my obsessive thoughts about Non-Revolution, I walk into a coffee shop and sit down before my computer. By one day I mean today. I mean right now. This is where I am now, writing this story of the most minor of uprisings. A story about how when I entered into this one for a brief period of time I agreed to experience all the emotions and I realized that there was a good chance that one of them would be sadness. Minor sadness, I had hoped. What I have now, even though minor, is a sadness that has made it hard for me to concentrate. The coffee shop is full of light and tables and there is a milky sort of air and I am drinking a coffee that has a smoothness to it that coffee just now is beginning to have. I am writing about the sadness that came over me, over us. But not just sadness. Melancholy. Nostalgia. Anger too. Frustration. Bitterness. I do not know why I want to write this but I feel as if it is something I have to do. I write about who this us could possibly be. If it could possibly be. About how I am still texting with Non-Revolution about missing the Non-Revolution. I write about the last year. The dissolution. I write about the social centers. About being the only woman for a while in the revolutionary theory reading group until I wasn’t and it was mainly women. About the possible snitches and disrupters, about who got paid by the state for that work and who just idiotically did it for free. I write about the drugs, those we sold and those we bought and what both these acts did to us, did for us. And I write about the fights we have had among ourselves over the last year. Because we have fought hard. About how we perform these fights for each other with our teeth showing a little and the fights from the outside might have looked like the end of any us but to us the fights felt familiar and we fought with our teeth a little but also with our hearts in our hands to get back to life, to refuse to die, to just feel. We fought because we became through fight. And because we don’t agree and because we cared with an intensity. I am unsure of my metaphors. Were we wolves? Were we we even? Were we lovers or were we just a brief hook up? Was Non-Revolution the hard dancing one sometimes does to feel less middle aged? Does it even matter?



As I am writing this absurdly specific and muddled story that I am knowing I will eventually be deleting in the near future, I am also listening to a woman who is talking loudly at the table beside me. She is talking to an old friend she has not seen for years, a friend who had been in a moment with her. She is telling a story similar to the one I am trying to tell but of ten, fifteen years previous. She talks about the moment when she went to go meet what she thought would be two hundred people and when she got there three thousand people were there. And then she knew something was kicking off. As she tells it, she is off and running, the months after that are a blur of tearing apart the police barricades and burning them in the bonfire, warming her hands on various fires, marshmallows too, running around a corner into a police line, accidentally, the person beside her screaming who made this route?, who made this route?, then on the other side, blood pouring out of a jaw, a head, an arm, in a nun’s habit, running down the street, gaining volition so as to put the ice pick into the sidewall, barely stopping to pull it out with a twist, unarresting a friend, pulling on her arm until the friend twists free, and they go tumbling, together, police running after her, their clubs raised, a dog running beside her yapping, yapping, later in jail, getting a 104 degree fever and being taken off to the sick ward, lost for days. She is talking about the moment when she felt something. She was there. She was there with. And she can’t stop talking about it. It is clear that she has lost something and she barely holds onto it and she can’t find it again and this is a loss.



I turn back to my writing. I am unsure what I think about her story. It moves me. I identify with her sadness that her Non-Revolution is gone but I am also wondering why was she not with me in the last few years. What kept her away from being with, being with me? I wanted her as I wanted everyone. When I resurface, she is talking about meeting her partner. And how when she saw her she tried to kiss her right away and the partner turned her head and said not yet and everyone in the bar laughed at her but she said she knew then, she knew something about being awake and she would be awake with this woman. This moment too. Then about her son being born, the moment when his heart began to beat and the body filled with the oxygen and the blood turned red and then there was the scream and the scream would be the scream for years to come. He is still screaming she said and I knew what she meant too. That moment. With. With. With. I am listening to her and I am with her. She knows something, how this being with can be easily described with the private emotions of love and desire, the same emotions that are pillaged and packaged in popular music. This is the language she has, a language given to her by multinational corporations. A language of idealized family. I realize it might not be your language. You might have your heroic moments, your bromantic odes of insurrection. Those too.



And yet as she talks, I am listening and I am writing. And as she talks about her own specific story, I am thinking about how she is saying something about how there are not that many possible loves. When I think that I am not thinking omething about lovers. There are endless possible lovers. There are more than seven billion possible lovers most days. The categories of love, however, are multiple and yet also limited. When I decided to have a child I said I wanted to have a child because I wanted to experience all the loves. I had experienced many loves of the limited possible loves. I had loved many ways too. I had put parts of my body inside other bodies and let other bodies enter mine. And I had not done this and I had still loved with an intensity. Variously. I inventoried these loves sometimes. Some of them I liked. Some of them I didn’t. But I studied these loves and I coveted them and I held onto them and I respected them. But before I had a child, I had not yet known the love of growing another body inside my body. And I had not yet known the love of letting that body come out and go off into the world. And after that, I needed to also learn to love the toddler who takes off, loving the moment when love runs away and from the running gets both attention and freedom from attention, gets being alive and gets this will go on, gets to know that this running towards and running away will be life in its best moments, because it feels so good, so now, so full of every best moment yet to come. Before I just knew running. The love of running. I did not yet know the love of the lover of running. But after, I learned to love the lover of running. I am writing that down. I am writing this down. I am not happy with any of it. I turn off my computer with annoyance. I finish my coffee. And I leave. I walk out into a warm late afternoon, leaves still on the trees but not for long, sun at a slant, and go to meet a friend.



My friend waits for me on a nearby corner. We hug, decide to get dinner in a bar. We eat fried fish. Drink dark beers. There is also a coleslaw that is heavy on mayonnaise. The beer cuts the grease in my mouth and I am glad to have it. The bar is warm, vibrant, feels as if it has been there for years but I know it is new, fake, and I don’t really care. We talk about Non-Revolution. About how they are. About where they might be now. Will they come back? What is left of them? My friend is years younger than I am and more experienced too. She thinks of the last few years as life, not as a lover she met on the street and took up with briefly. She has been in and out of jail. House arrested too. She has blockaded several ports. I tell her as we talk about how so many of the poets that I know, many of them poets that I love in a certain complicated way, are writing about their hesitations about being with Non-Revolution. I have a long list of poems, books of poems, prose too, blog posts, status updates, interviews, conversations at parties. I tell her how I am abandoning the mantra of it’s all good, it’s all fucked and now I just walk around muttering fuck all y’all. I am sensitive, I told her. They are hurting me, I told her. They keep writing justifications about how they refused to throw down with Non-Revolution. They mention Non-Revolution’s bad aesthetics, their awkard dancing, their bad teeth, the way they were always stoned, or easy, or a mess. Too thick, they say. Hair on back, as if that was a meaningful insult. Smelly maybe too. Like sweat, urine, sage, pot, rotting food, hay, all mixed together. Or sometimes it was about them. Because they were in a break up. Because they were in a relationship. Because they had a young child. Because they liked wine, especially French ones. Because it made them feel awkward. Because Bifo told them it was okay not to. Because they were writers and they wrote FTP, they didn’t have to sing-chant with an anti-capitalist crowd. Because they donated on kickstarter instead. Or they watched the livestream. And I couldn’t stop reading their accounts and then on top of them, I told her, I was feeling both rejected by Non-Revolution who never texted anymore, not even FTP, and then trivial for falling in love with such a minor uprising, for taking a brief hook up so seriously, for feeling so sad. And there I would be reading, listening, and yet at same time petulantly going fuck all y’all, and then I would say to myself that at least I had once grabbed the hand of Non-Revolution. At least I knew that moment. At least I knew something about the sour and the sweet, about the smell of sweat, urine, sage, pot, rotting food, hay, all mixed together, running down the street, holding hands. And come on, that moment. That moment. Sometimes one gets to go one’s entire life thinking one will show up for that moment if it just came and it never comes. It is not like any one individual gets to call it into existence. It comes to you as it comes to others, slowly building and then suddenly there, comes as a sort of lucky. And a version of it came to me, an imperfect version, but still I let all its minorness into me. And now I was something running backwards, something unable to be writing, something nostalgic.



My friend looks at me and she says what is wrong with you? and I say nothing, I’m just confused. And then she says I was worried you were choking; you had a funny expression. It’s like that. A sort of choking. A staring off into space that often preceeds a coughing-choking. The it of it’s all fucked; it’s all good. The depression that follows after the most mundane of uprisings is over. Life feels less. And might for a long time. It might be years before a day will go by that I do not think about Non-Revolution. Wonder where they are. Wonder what they are doing. Want them back in my social media feeds. Want them to text me from the plaza, the park, the statue saying we are here, come down. Want them to say it is kicking off or throwing down in the coded way one has to use in the time of the NSA, something that says bring your tools and your masks and your vinegars, something that says FTP.



My friend goes on. She makes a joke about poets and kickstarters, a joke about poets having money. And god bless them she adds. She is trying to cheer me up and yet trying also to respect me. This respect thing is taking some work on her part. I can tell that it is puzzling my friend that I have held onto every possible turn of phrase ever said by a poet and read it as critique, as mattering in some way. She has read nothing of what I am talking about. She doesn’t even know the poets really. She does not understand why it matters to me. I know she finds art at best trivial, at worst capitalist. And I also know she appreciates that when there is a kickstarter, it is mainly the poets who donate. But still she says the obvious things that any friend would say to someone who first goes around muttering it’s all fucked, it’s all good and who now goes around muttering fuck all y’all. She begins by saying something about how I had it all wrong, how it’s more like people are writing heroic stories in which they write themselves into Non-Revolution’s advances and say their way of loving is loving Non-Revolution. But she gets it, she gets that I am there going no, they didn’t, they didn’t love Non-Revolution like I loved Non-Revolution. Maybe they didn’t put their hands in the water when it ran backwards, didn’t feel that moment. And yet, she continues, they loved and might have even made out, maybe even fucked Non-Revolution. Maybe you see it as without your intensity but, she continued, why not have some compassion for those who according to you missed out? You put your hands in the water and the backwards water was something you had not felt before and it made you moist and now the water goes forward as it always has. I get it, she says, relationships I have been in have ended and I too have felt sad about this. But, she says next, why the resentment? Is it really that terrible to see someone claim to have loved a lover that you have also loved?



We have several more beers and we continue talking and she is generous to me and at some moment she says you can still think of yourself as pretty despite it all and I start to cry because she has realized something about how I am trivial and then we realize we have to leave. She has to go to work. I will go home to read. We hug on the street corner. I watch her walk off, confident, with many years of walking off ahead of her. I stand on the corner for a few minutes feeling lost, with a funny almost choking expression on my face. I decide to walk home. It will take an hour but it will let me find myself. I get out my phone. I don’t bother to check my feeds. I know nothing is throwing down near me. I am, after all, standing on the corner of 14th Street and Broadway, so I would know it if something was. Instead I put on my earphones and click on the app that imitates the radio. A country song about abandonment is playing, about laying down on the bathroom floor, about wasting all those tears. The poem begins and ends with the singer crying on the bathroom floor but the song resolves it too. I’m through with all the crying the song states, even though the song gets all its power from being about the soft crying after being left standing on the street corner. I begin walking, determined, head down.

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

thel 
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 ]