I am thrilled to have my poem “A Gospel of Birds” featured with the work of Rajani Radhakrishnan and Carrie Van Horn at Poets United today. Thanks Sherry Marr and all of the folks who commented on our work.
The irony of race and entitlement dining together from Robert Okaji.
While Reading Billy Collins at Bandera’s Best Restaurant, Words Come to Me
And having no other paper at hand,
I scrawl on a dollar bill, “I want to speak
the language of smoke.” My invisible friend
interrupts. That is a white man’s dilemma.
At least you have a dollar and a pen.
“But I’m only half-white,” I reply, “with half
the privilege.” Then you must bear double
the burden,he says. This version of math
twists my intestines into a Gordian knot,
as does the concept of half equals twice,
or in terms I might better comprehend,
one beer equals four when divided by color
or accent and multiplied by projection.
The unsmiling waitress delivers my rib-eye
as I’m dressing the salad, and the check appears
just after the first bites of medium-rare beef
hit my palate, certainly before I can answer the
never-voiced question “would you like…
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Wonderful advice from Robert Okaji. The link to the rest of Robert’s poem doesn’t seem to work at the end of the reblogged poem. So for a direct link to his site to read this wonderful poem, click here.
How to Write a Poem
Learn to curse in three languages. When midday
yawns stack high and your eyelids flutter, fire up
the chain saw; there’s always something to dismember.
Make it new. Fear no bridges. Accelerate through
curves, and look twice before leaping over fires,
much less into them. Read bones, read leaves, read
the dust on shelves and commit to memory a thousand
discarded lines. Next, torch them. Take more than you
need, buy books, scratch notes in the dirt and watch
them scatter down nameless alleys at the evening’s first
gusts. Gather words and courtesies. Guard them carefully.
Play with others, observe birds, insects and neighbors,
but covet your minutes alone and handle with bare hands
only those snakes you know. Mourn the kindling you create
and toast each new moon as if it might be the last one
to tug your personal tides. When driving, sing…
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A poignant poem this morning from my friend Ryan Stone, along with a spectacular photo of a walk in the Dandenong’s.
I wake a full hour early
for the rare gift
of a walk in the woods
with my father.
He is a silent giant
among misty ghost gums.
I tell him, Watch!
See how fast I can run.
He doesn’t yell when I trip
and fall, but lifts me
At the end of the trail
I study my grazes—jagged
and bloody. He tells me
he’s leaving my mum.
On the walk home
I gaze at the gum trees
and fragmented clouds, thinking
they should look different somehow.
This poem is a departure for me. I found myself channeling Hemingway after reading for the third or fourth time A Moveable Feast — perhaps the best and least known guidebook for Paris. My thanks to Scot at Rusty Truck for publishing it this week.
At 3 a.m.
after one more day
without words, Paris
takes you in like a whore,
not surprised you’re back
for another fuck in the dark.
November. Brittle rain
scrapes the bone.
You walk the sheen of cobbles
to the Seine, where bodies,
freshly guillotined, once floated,
heads left behind in baskets,
past the great cathedral, gargoyled,
buttressed, to the boîte
on St. Louis where absinthe
and jazz make love, and a girl
comes to rub against you
like she knows your name.
– Sarah Russell
first published in Rusty Truck
Photo by Nicolas Vigier
A haunting poem today by Carolyn Forché that highlights the refugee crisis. Poetry Foundation published it this week, but I didn’t see a way to reblog, so here it is in its entirety.
We were thirty-one souls all, he said, on the gray-sick of sea
in a cold rubber boat, rising and falling in our filth.
By morning this didn’t matter, no land was in sight,
all were soaked to the bone, living and dead.
We could still float, we said, from war to war.
What lay behind us but ruins of stone piled on ruins of stone?
City called “mother of the poor” surrounded by fields
of cotton and millet, city of jewelers and cloak-makers,
with the oldest church in Christendom and the Sword of Allah.
If anyone remains there now, he assures, they would be utterly alone.
There is a hotel named for it in Rome two hundred meters
from the Piazza di Spagna, where you can have breakfast under
the portraits of film stars. There the staff cannot do enough for you.
But I am talking nonsense again, as I have since that night
we fetched a child, not ours, from the sea, drifting face-
down in a life vest, its eyes taken by fish or the birds above us.
After that, Aleppo went up in smoke, and Raqqa came under a rain
of leaflets warning everyone to go. Leave, yes, but go where?
We lived through the Americans and Russians, through Americans
again, many nights of death from the clouds, mornings surprised
to be waking from the sleep of death, still unburied and alive
but with no safe place. Leave, yes, we obey the leaflets, but go where?
To the sea to be eaten, to the shores of Europe to be caged?
To camp misery and camp remain here. I ask you then, where?
You tell me you are a poet. If so, our destination is the same.
I find myself now the boatman, driving a taxi at the end of the world.
I will see that you arrive safely, my friend, I will get you there.
Poem by Carolyn Forché
Strength and sadness and anger in Rajani Radhakrishnan‘s words.
they sat there in the evening light, cups of tea
and hot bhajiyas on the plastic table, people calling
out from the street as they passed, asking about their
children, their mothers, even as their wives waited
in their kitchens and bedrooms, they sat there and
thought about a pink cheeked girl, how they could
steal her, keep her, break her, destroy her, and they
smiled at the people passing and asked for more tea
and took calls from uncles and brothers and the birds
sang as they came back to their nests and they talked
of a child and how they would kidnap her and sedate
her and who would rape her and who would kill her
even as their wives waited in their kitchens and
bedrooms and their mothers prayed in temples so
their sons would live longer and they asked for more
tea and smoked cigarettes till…
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She doesn’t know King David watches,
doesn’t know his lust — blind
to her virtue, her marriage.
I serve this most beautiful of women,
make the water warm, the soap fragrant.
I pour sweet oil between her breasts,
watch it drip on thighs and belly.
She is wed to Uriah, away at war,
but she’s lonely for men’s praise,
looks often in the basin
to measure her own beauty.
I fear the king’s desire. Their eyes meet,
and I know his will is hers as well.
God will smite them in their coupling.
What will become of me who keeps
their secrets? Are my loyalties to king
or God or to my mistress whom I love
as David loves her, as Uriah loves her.
My secrets must remain more secret still.
This fine poem by my friend Steve Deutsch was published today by Nixes Mate Review.
New in Issue 7 of Nixes Mate http://nixesmate.pub/issue-7-spring-2018/Review
On that endless day in February –
when I found out
you wouldn’t be coming home,
I hitched a ride to Lewistown
in a car so beat up
it might have been lifted
from a junkyard on Route 220.
The delinquents that drove it
were thoroughly stoned
and moved in fractal time –
abruptly, like mechanical dolls
wound for infinity.
We took the grade
down Seven Mountains sideways
laughing at fuck knows what.
They tossed me out
at the train station
just over the river –
a place so desolate and cold
the vegetation that grew there
could not be found
anywhere else on earth
I sat on the icy asphalt
and cradled my backpack,
as if the contents –
some ludes and librium,
two nickel bags,
rolled sweat socks,
and a stuffed dog named Lucky,
could save me from the…
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