Tuesday, May 29, 2012



i wanted it, wrapped & labeled, but not then.
privately i could move my hands slowly, peel
the envelope’s lips & address the photos with a
cautious eye. public exchange does this.

here, take my poems, i want to say,
but they only look pretty while drunk, it’s an

yet i want to be imperfect with you

we are afraid, it is
so fucking huge & liberating...

(& i forgot to mention, beautiful.)

january 2005

Sunday, May 27, 2012

nightclub by billy collins

By Billy Collins

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don’t hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts of love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else’s can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o’clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

water by sherman alexie

By Sherman Alexie
I know a woman
who swims naked
in the ocean
no matter the season.
I don’t have a reason
for telling you this (I never
witnessed her early morning
dips into the salt) other than
to let you know that I once found
the thought of her nudity erotic
but now can only imagine
the incredible cold, how I would want
to cover her body with my coat
and tell her how crazy she is
for having so much faith
in two parts hydrogen, one part oxygen.
While reading a mystery novel (I
don’t remember the title), I
dropped a cup of hot tea
into my lap. Third degree burns
on my thighs, penis, and scrotum. I
still have the scars and once told
a white woman they were the result
of a highly sacred Spokane Indian adulthood ceremony.
I knew a man
who drowned in three inches of water.
Rain collected
in a tire track.
His family and friends accuse me
of making light
of his death, but I insist
on my innocence. Lord, I think
his death is tragic, possibly epic
the first and last act
of a reservation opera, and I wish
I could use his name here, make him
remembered, but I am forbidden
from doing so by tribal laws
that are more important than any poem.
But I want to give him a name
that means what I say, and I so I name him
Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Noah, Adam.
Boo tells me, “Whenever I feel depressed or lonely
I drink a glass of water and immediately feel better.”
In the unlikely event of a water landing
you can use your seat cushion as a floatation device.
I worry about this.
I wonder if the puny cushion can possibly support
my weight. I am a large man. In the unlikely event
of a water landing, you can use your seat cushion
as a floatation device. Of course, we don’t crash.
We land safely. We always land safely. And Ha! Ha!
the flight attendant tells the disembarking passengers
to drive safely away from the airport because driving is
so much more dangerous, statistically speaking, than flying.
I want to slap her across the mouth, statistically speaking.
In the unlikely event of a water landing, you can use
your seat cushion as a floatation device. I am suddenly afraid
of gravity so I take my seat cushion off the plane. I steal
the damn thing and run through the airport, chased
by an ever increasing number of security people,
men and women, so I’m glad this airport has progressed
beyond an antiquated notion of gender roles. But wait,
I have no time to be liberal, I have to run fast, so I do run fast
with that seat cushion pressed tightly against my chest.
I cannot run fast enough in such an awkward position
as I am a large man with large hands. I cannot easily hide.
I cannot blend into the crowd. I cannot duck behind
the counter of the Burger King and ask for your order, your order, your order.
Oh, in the event of a water landing, you can use your seat cushion
as a floatation device, and here I am, running, and praying as I run,
every step shouting Lord, Lord, Lord, every other step whispering
amen, amen, amen.
At the restaurant, I ask the waiter to leave the pitcher of water
because I drink lots of water.
I can’t do that, he says.
Why not? I ask.
Because we never leave the pitcher, he says.
Not once? I ask.
Never, he says, have we ever left a whole pitcher of water, not once
in the entire history of this restaurant. It is impossible for us to do so.
It is inconceivable for us to even consider such a thing. Who knows
what would happen if we set such a precedent?
When I was seven, I took swim lessons at the YMCA
from three beautiful teenagers who all seemed like women to me.
They hugged me when they saw me waiting in line
to see JAWS at the Fox Theater in downtown Spokane.
Where are those girls now? Somewhere, they are being women.
Do they remember teaching me how to swim? Do they
recognize my face when they pick up the local newspaper
or see my photograph on the back of my latest book?
Oh, strange, strange ego.
Here, I’ve decided I want them to love me from afar. I want them
to regret their whole lives because they were once sixteen year old
swimmers who never stopped to passionately kiss
the seven year old me, as I floated
from the deep end of the pool back to the shallow.
My brother, the big one, says, “It ain’t water
unless it’s got some Kool-aid in it.”
My wife, the Hidatsa Indian, grew up in Southern California
with a swimming pool. Wow!
Her father, the trickster, called relatives back home
in North Dakota. Called them in late December
when trees were exploding in the high plains cold.
Called them and said, He held the phone up to the air, toward
the empty pool, because it was too cold to swim in December, even
in Southern California, but the North Dakota Indians didn’t know
any better, so they were jealous and happy at the same time.
My wife, just a child then of five or ten or eighteen years old,
heard the slurred laughter of her father, the drunk, and
maybe he would laugh and get off the phone and be charming
or maybe he would be the cruel bastard, but there was no way
of knowing until he got off the phone, so she’d sit in her room
with a glass of water on the windowsill, oh, she’d be praying
to that glass of water, oh, she’d be praying
like everything was two parts broken heart and one part hope.

Thursday, May 24, 2012



i am left with angry fingers, hollow throat
for you to pack the bags in heat of shame
we were young, that will remain the excuse
but i had not called your game, did not know you were not a miracle,
woke you up with orange juice, you grabbed at the familiar
remember we once held hands, close to being strangers
friends then, remember? before interlaced bodies & heat so much
chin up, leaving this, we will head out, head west
i pitched, you pouted, i packed, you cried
like stitches, this trip was an attempt to heal
twelve photos of sunsets, two rivers conjoining
what chest, what heavy breath & rising water
the only words i said were sung to the building fire
in a haunt of werewolves & almost-fallen leaves
a retreat that moved chess pieces, a horse
not to speak, maybe to gesture
following the other's boots over rocks and crevices
prepared to pack camp, hike inland
heard boundary, thought waters
you looked at the tangible and called it permeable
wondered if i'd make the close calls
didn't think i could draw or see sideways
apparently my shirt hat pants skin teeth were not quite real
apparently my fractured edges looked like borders to push across
even with all that access & charm, those good lies in your pockets
the page starts with the last look
forgotten, familiar


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

the stargazer by diane wakoski

the stargazer

i read
in the newspaper today
that a tiny wasp may rescue dying american elms,
the old war of babies,
the fastest growing larvae eating others up,
you learn to fight back,
to take what you want,
to eat a lot
and protect your sleep
when you're young;
                              i look at the stars
on this clear night
with corny thoughts about distance and time,
wondering what it means
to survive,
if you have to eat others
to do it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

to search by pablo neruda

to search

from the dithyramb to the root of the sea
stretches a new kind of emptiness:
i don't want much, the wave says,
only for them to stop their chatter,
for the city's cement beard
to stop growing:
we are alone,
we want at last to scream,
to pee facing the ocean,
to see seven birds of the same color,
three thousand green gulls,
to seek out love on the sand,
to break in our shoes, to dirty
our books, our hat, our mind
until we find you, nothing,
until we kiss you, nothing,
until we sing you, nothing,
nothing without nothing, without being
nothing, without putting an end
to truth.

Thursday, May 17, 2012



i bet you are
just way more brilliant than i know
what to do with. i'm already

breaking up with you, you're way
too smart you live
in your head your head is too
big takes up so much
space your body
is inattentive
see! listen.

what's your

i want the naked
emotion the untethered
ship and a clear
view of that choppy
sea. listen,

your brain is fucking
brilliant, i get it
but what good
is it what good
is it going to do

the answer:
doesn't include



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Weathering Out by Rita Dove

Weathering Out

She liked mornings the best—Thomas gone
to look for work, her coffee flushed with milk,

outside autumn trees blowsy and dripping.
Past the seventh month she couldn’t see her feet

so she floated from room to room, houseshoes flapping,
navigating corners in wonder. When she leaned

against a doorjamb to yawn, she disappeared entirely.

Last week they had taken a bus at dawn
to the new airdock. The hangar slid open in segments

and the zeppelin nosed forward in its silver envelope.
The men walked it out gingerly, like a poodle,

then tied it to a mast and went back inside.
Beulah felt just that large and placid, a lake;

she glistened from cocoa butter smoothed in
when Thomas returned every evening nearly

in tears. He’d lean an ear on her belly
and say: Little fellow’s really talking,

though to her it was more the pok-pok-pok
of a fingernail tapping a thick cream lampshade.

Sometimes during the night she woke and found him
asleep there and the child sleeping, too.

The coffee was good but too little. Outside
everything shivered in tinfoil—only the clover

between the cobblestones hung stubbornly on,
green as an afterthought . . .

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

to hold accountable? what does that mean?

excerpts from the revolution starts at home, edited by ching-in chen, jai dulani & leah lakshmi piepzna-samarasinha

“what we call 'community accountability' (some call it transformative justice, others call it as many names as there are people) has existed for as long as we hold collective memory. A simple definition of community accountability: any strategy to address violence, abuse or harm that creates safety, justice, reparations, and healing, without relying on police, prisons, childhood protective services, or any other state systems. Instead of police and prisons, community accountability strategies depend on something both potentially more accessible and more complicated: the communities surrounding the person who was harmed and the person who caused harm.”

“since this person was surrounded by enablers, it is easy to imagine how they would not move to a place of truly looking within and understanding male-bodied privilege, consent, and healthy relationships. . . admittedly, I see the appeal of shaming and community call-outs. But ultimately, I think this helps stunt the perpetrator's growth process, creating a false sense of relief for the person (and community) wronged. Accountability could mean so many different things. . . as in organizing, I believe in the escalation model as part of an accountability process. Using the escalation model involves finding people who can commit to working with both parties to heal while creating and maintaining realistic boundaries. Escalation becomes necessary when perpetrators refuse to engage in the process, maintain agreements or change their behavior.”- bran fenner

“too often we remain silent as a community when confronted by cycles of abuse, allowing violence to fester like a wound on someone's forehead. We all see but try not to look. Why?! What are we afraid of? Is it the significant amount of work it takes to create a long term vision for alternatives to policing, the complications of organizational impacts? I am tired of our seeing a community member abuse their partner without response – or with an inadequate one, where we have one meeting, take great notes, and subsequently drop the ball.” -bran fenner

“for the community to hold somebody accountable they have to actually think that what happened was wrong. So therefore you can't rely on a romanticized notion of community or even assume that community actually exists. For a community-based response to be effective requires a political organizing component to it that actually creates communities that offer accountability.” -andrea smith

“this watershed document ['community-accountability working document: principles/concerns/strategies/models'] frankly addressed many of the concerns and questions we were dreaming on- the importance of not forgetting to center survivor safety and needs while saying 'fuck the police'; the allure of, and problems with, public shaming of abusers as a tactic; and, perhaps most difficult of all, our real questions about whether community members who behaved in violent, manipulative ways could really ever transform, and ultimately end, those patterns.”

“their critiques of gender violence also failed to address the disturbing paradox of prevalent intimate violence within activist communities, and the degree of collusion, refusal, and/or incapacity to address this urgent issue. . . anyone can choose to abuse; anyone can be abused. As feminists of color, we knew that our stories were much more complex- that race, class, gender, ability, sexuality, immigration status, and more contributed to our choices and our relationships. . . we hoped that the specific truth of our stories would be enough, as famously prophesied by the poet muriel rukeyser, to split open the world.”

“if we are interested in building a movement that will not constantly be subverted by internal differences, then we must build from the inside out, not the other way around. Coming to terms with the suffering of others has never meant looking away from our own.” -cherrie moraga

*all quotes not attributed to someone are from the introduction, and are the writings of the editors.

Monday, May 14, 2012

renovating the womb by jeffrey mcdaniel

Renovating the Womb

by jeffrey mcdaniel

Dear Mom, thanks for giving birth to me
and not having an abortion. 2% of my time
on Earth has been spent inside your body -
more than all my girlfriends combined.

I enjoyed my time in the uterus, reading
what the previous fetuses had written
on your walls. That's how I learned
to spell. That's how I came out speaking.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

at best it was

at best it was

an honorable mention of
names, dropped like jesus
as a baby.

god i am so blessed
ly alone tonight. it's warm
enough to wear no socks
on the back stoop. no
snow. no snacks.

xmas sunday teeters along, full
of a huge moon &
like witches sprung,
zombies amassed, every
day is hollow. that brilliance

of a promiscuous promenade
through the mundane but spontaneous
pseudo-urban, pseudo-rural
thirst that is, nature.
thirty thousand documented and grouped
yet plenty more uncategorized humans
groping a seaside curtain

some six block radius
corners home. the new one,
same as no other but
yesterday was similar & doused
with sun. everything's hot
like the electric bass that surprised
me wrapped in tinfoil & wire,
presented by generous friends
i don't deserve. even a skull drawn
to remind the audience that i come
from the dead of a late late night,
& i've been listening

because i have the room unshared
by lovers & it is merely
a transitory muse. i want to be the available one,
which sometimes means remote
ears & secrets,

might someone's parents be potentially
proud to glimpse the Adult in every idea
i pass through, to somehow peek into
all the nights drinking, the group sex-
usual therapy? i am (not) sleeping
in a tropical-themed guest room
that was once pink & called
mine. instead i chew on ends
of pens & pull from bottles of anesthesia,
under the impressive presumption
that distance makes the heart grow
huge. and unavailable.


Friday, May 11, 2012

dressed in distraction

dressed in distraction

a cold shower deters
careful questions:
her head injury?
your heart’s inquiries?

to revisit grief & graves
on that farm in virginia,
my received unanswers
take a louder sleep back.

not safe and soft and sweated
like the hottest cat bath,
your beforehand intends.
no, backhand don’t

talk to thats and misses! here
we pack down and press, backwater
aims at bitter and bitten,
fingers tipped to this side of silence.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Crows in a Strong Wind by Cornelius Eady

Crows in a Strong Wind
Off go the crows from the roof.   
The crows can’t hold on.
They might as well
Be perched on an oil slick.

Such an awkward dance,   
These gentlemen
In their spottled-black coats.   
Such a tipsy dance,

As if they didn’t know where they were.   
Such a humorous dance,
As they try to set things right,
As the wind reduces them.

Such a sorrowful dance.   
How embarrassing is love
When it goes wrong

In front of everyone.

from Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1997).

Sunday, May 6, 2012



on a tree, ready.
with thumb or ground,
a bruise. careful,

this is sweet.
what timing.

yesterday was a stone, tasteless and just breathing, maybe even through a mouth
today evaporates like sushumna breath, tongue, desire turned inside out, a star explosion

can you see it

the shape of a pear, skin speckled, a variety described in small tomatoes or heavenly bodies
a texture, layered like gritty custard apple, like someone buried in a blanket

yesterday was blank eyes,
today, broomsticks.
swept through, the storm.

all ripe,
new face.

not my hands, taken.
at the gravel, in the grave.

add heavy rain, add fullest moon.
add let go, add give in

the walls of this flesh depend on the width of this breath, nobody is alone
something around the spin of day, the spin of night and season is on

its tender way.
here, the steps

to meet it, the dance


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Parsley by Rita Dove


1. The Cane Fields

There is a parrot imitating spring
in the palace, its feathers parsley green.   
Out of the swamp the cane appears

to haunt us, and we cut it down. El General   
searches for a word; he is all the world   
there is. Like a parrot imitating spring,

we lie down screaming as rain punches through   
and we come up green. We cannot speak an R—
out of the swamp, the cane appears

and then the mountain we call in whispers Katalina.
The children gnaw their teeth to arrowheads.   
There is a parrot imitating spring.

El General has found his word: perejil.
Who says it, lives. He laughs, teeth shining   
out of the swamp. The cane appears

in our dreams, lashed by wind and streaming.   
And we lie down. For every drop of blood   
there is a parrot imitating spring.
Out of the swamp the cane appears.

2. The Palace

The word the general’s chosen is parsley.   
It is fall, when thoughts turn
to love and death; the general thinks
of his mother, how she died in the fall
and he planted her walking cane at the grave   
and it flowered, each spring stolidly forming   
four-star blossoms. The general

pulls on his boots, he stomps to
her room in the palace, the one without   
curtains, the one with a parrot
in a brass ring. As he paces he wonders   
Who can I kill today. And for a moment   
the little knot of screams
is still. The parrot, who has traveled

all the way from Australia in an ivory   
cage, is, coy as a widow, practising   
spring. Ever since the morning   
his mother collapsed in the kitchen   
while baking skull-shaped candies   
for the Day of the Dead, the general   
has hated sweets. He orders pastries   
brought up for the bird; they arrive

dusted with sugar on a bed of lace.   
The knot in his throat starts to twitch;   
he sees his boots the first day in battle   
splashed with mud and urine
as a soldier falls at his feet amazed—
how stupid he looked!— at the sound
of artillery. I never thought it would sing   
the soldier said, and died. Now

the general sees the fields of sugar   
cane, lashed by rain and streaming.   
He sees his mother’s smile, the teeth   
gnawed to arrowheads. He hears   
the Haitians sing without R’s
as they swing the great machetes:   
Katalina, they sing, Katalina,

mi madle, mi amol en muelte. God knows   
his mother was no stupid woman; she   
could roll an R like a queen. Even   
a parrot can roll an R! In the bare room   
the bright feathers arch in a parody   
of greenery, as the last pale crumbs
disappear under the blackened tongue. Someone

calls out his name in a voice
so like his mother’s, a startled tear
splashes the tip of his right boot.
My mother, my love in death.
The general remembers the tiny green sprigs   
men of his village wore in their capes   
to honor the birth of a son. He will
order many, this time, to be killed

for a single, beautiful word.
NOTES: On October 2, 1937, Rafael Trujillo (1891-1961), dictator of the Dominican Republic, ordered 20,000 blacks killed because they could not pronounce the letter “r” in perejil, the Spanish word for parsley.

from Museum (Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1983).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

This Bridge Across by Christopher Gilbert

  This Bridge Across

  A moment comes to me and 
  it's a lot like the dead 
  who get in the way sometimes
  hanging around, with their ranks
  growing bigger by the second
  and the game of tag they play
  claiming whoever happens by.
  I try to put them off
  but the space between us
  is like a country growing closer
  which has a language I know
  more and more of me is
  growing up inside of, and
  the clincher is the nothing
  for me to do inside here
  except to face my dead
  as the spirits they are,
  find the parts of me in them --
  call them back with my words.
  Ancestor worship or prayer?
  It's a kind of getting by--
  an extension of living
  beyond my self my people taught me,
  and each moment is a boundary
  I will throw this bridge across.
from Across the Mutual Landscape.  Graywolf Press, 1984.