I, Too

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Photo by TJ Parker

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

~ Langston Hughes

Love Songs (section III)

Photo by TJ Parker
Photo by TJ Parker

We might have coupled
In the bed-ridden monopoly of a moment
Or broken flesh with one another
At the profane communion table
Where wine is spilled on promiscuous lips

We might have given birth to a butterfly
With the daily news
Printed in blood on its wings.

~ Mina Loy

Foreclosing on That Peril

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Photo by TJ Parker

I’ll keep explaining—because maybe you still don’t get it
Those children in California (substitute any state), dead from gunfire—
Let me begin again in a little roof garden with my friend
A perverse reader, he listens to my stories as if they were TV
I mean he mocks me lovingly on the roof and at the library book sale
My friend is not a banker but a prison activist
He used to be a philosopher, but like many philosophers, he’s taken a turn
that should be easy to understand
The trajectory from philosopher to activist is like the curve of a single brushstroke across a large canvas
Artists in the fifties paid attention to that
I hate flat language like this, but I’m pretty flat
sometimes. You have to be your own dictator
and the law is, hate yourself if you have to, but don’t stop doing the thing you said you were going to do
As I tell my daughters often
Emotion is a site of unraveling (JB)
I admit, gripping my T-shirt
I wish I were writing in prose an unfolding intensity that shocks history professors and prison activists equally
Later, in the grass, we’ll practice gymnastics and that way contribute our sweat
to Our Ephemeral City

~ Julie Car

White Sands

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Photo by TJ Parker

—Walking along a ridge of white sand—
it’s cooler below the surface—

we stop and, gazing at an expanse
of dunes to the west,
watch a yellow yolk of sun drop to the mountains—

an hour earlier, we rolled down a dune,
white sand flecked your eyelids and hair—

a claret cup cactus blooms,
and soaptree yuccas
move as a dune moves—

so many years later, on a coast, waves rolling to shore,
wave after wave,

I see how our lives have unfolded,
a sheen of
wave after whitening wave—

and we are stepping barefoot,
rolling down a dune, white flecks on our lips,

on our eyelids: we are lying in a warm dune
as a full moon
lifts against an ocean of sky—
~ Arthur Sze

Winter Trees

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Photo by TJ Parker

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

~ William Carlos Williams

To Live in the Zombie Apocalypse

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Photo by TJ Parker

The moon will shine for God
knows how long.
As if it still matters. As if someone

is trying to recall a dream.
Believe the brain is a cage of light
& rage. When it shuts off,

something else switches on.
There’s no better reason than now
to lock the doors, the windows.

Turn off the sprinklers
& porch light. Save the books
for fire. In darkness,

we learn to read
what moves along the horizon,
across the periphery of a gun scope—

the flicker of shadows,
the rustling of trash in the body
of cities long emptied.

Not a soul lives
in this house &
this house & this

house. Go on, stiffen
the heart, quicken
the blood. To live

in a world of flesh
& teeth, you must
learn to kill

what you love,
& love what can die.

~ Burlee Vang

I Have Not Come Here to Compare Notes But to Sit Together in the Stillness at the Edge of This Wound

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Photo by TJ Parker

Asked if it isn’t weird to be at an awards ceremony with Gregory Peck,
Dylan says, “Well, listen, everything’s weird. You tell me something

that’s not weird.” He might as well have said “big,” that his songs are
a witness to magnitude, that your poems are. And why shouldn’t they be?

Look at the epic of your life, at the people in it, all heroic. And to think
it began with an accident. Somebody looked up at the night sky and saw a star,

somebody in Cracow or Belgrade, maybe, or the city where you live now.
Carbon, nitrogen . . . there was an explosion, and now you have to pay attention

to everything. At the party, everyone was talking about the crappy TV series
that’s so popular, and you didn’t say you wanted better, wanted more.

That same night, you met the man you’d love so hard it made your teeth hurt.
He said, “Hey, baby,” and you snapped, “I’m not your baby.”

I have nothing to say to you, really. I just want to see what I’m looking at.
I want so much not to listen to you after all this time but to hear.

~ David Kirby

from “Please Bury Me in This”

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Photo by TJ Parker

Now my neighbor through the wall playing piano, I imagine, with her eyes closed.

When she stops playing, she disappears.

I am still waiting for the right words to explain myself to you.

When there was nothing left to smoke, I drew on my lips with a pen until they were black.

Or is this what it means to be empty: to make no sound?

I pressed my mouth to the wall until I’d made a small gray ring.

Or maybe emptiness is a form of listening.

Maybe I am just listening.

~ Allison Benis White

Song of the Open Road, IV

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Photo by TJ Parker

The earth expanding right hand and left hand,
The picture alive, every part in its best light,
The music falling in where it is wanted, and stopping where it is not wanted,
The cheerful voice of the public road, the gay fresh sentiment of the road.

O highway I travel, do you say to me Do not leave me?
Do you say Venture not—if you leave me you are lost?
Do you say I am already prepared, I am well-beaten and undenied, adhere to me?

O public road, I say back I am not afraid to leave you, yet I love you,
You express me better than I can express myself,
You shall be more to me than my poem.

I think heroic deeds were all conceiv’d in the open air, and all free poems also,
I think I could stop here myself and do miracles,
I think whatever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me,
I think whoever I see must be happy.

~ Walt Whitman

Lacquer Prints [By Messenger]

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Photo by TJ Parker

One night
When there was a clear moon,
I sat down
To write a poem
About maple trees.
But the dazzle of moonlight
In the ink
Blinded me,
And I could only write
What I remembered.
Therefore, on the wrapping of my poem
I have inscribed your name.

~ Amy Lowell

Divine Overdose

The Underground
Photo by TJ Parker

We are even more modern
we are free
not to know
pining pining
til the trees are in
their autumn beauty
who knows why
we are free
an LP of poetry
left on in the apartment
while I walk my love
to the subway
she turns to gold
in the light banking off
the ball-fields
and to have to think
of that small
pale body asleep
I return I take the stairs
3 at a time
and now my heart is sore

~ Matthew Rohrer

Lunchtime With Woodwinds

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Photo by TJ Parker

I wish I could write a song
to make the world
yield to this rushing

lapping what starts
tonguing what parts
any possible other world than this

inertia for pink medallion
inertia for those skeptics
in the building

who think of the unknown
as hemorrhage—quick stop
that thing from surfacing

I want to rub along
the webbing I want nothing but
the cove’s yawning jaw

for how else could possibility emerge
you see that honey
seeping through cracks?

let’s consider unbearable facts
beat this meat against the rocks
you call that virtue? knock knock

is this the proper place for the symposium?
small of my back requests unfolding
requests enveloping entry

call the operators
to open pathways
to vessels which gleam

rightly and rush
to make this here inlet
a humid blue bowl

to resist enclosure
and the loaded laying down
of structure on soft earth

as desire can never perish
blind in the rush of weeds
trying to get a glimpse

of the law
falling away
and in passing breathing lift

~ Alli Warren

52 Thoughts: Eighth Thought

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Photo by TJ Parker

Forgiveness.

I walk down the hallway at night
House asleep
Creaks and wind and chimes filter in
I’m at my in-laws house
There’s sickness here
And a kind of hope for better
… feeling better and being better
They love me
I feel that
It’s mutual
I write poems at night when I can’t sleep
I don’t remember them in the morning
After sleep finally comes and washes them away
I think that night work is my best work
Just saying
But it gets me through the hours
Filled with creaks and wind and stray whining cats outside
There’s something special to this forgetting
As if mysteries were revealed to me
Then taken away again
I know they are there
Just out of reach
But there nonetheless
Magic
It’s because of this I forgive myself
Forgiveness for the forgetting
I walk down the hallway at night

~ TJ Parker

The Map

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Photo by TJ Parker

The failure of love might account for most of the suffering in the world.

The girl was going over her global studies homework

in the air where she drew the map with her finger

touching the Gobi desert,

the Plateau of Tiber in front of her,

and looking through her transparent map backwards

I did suddenly see,

how her left is my right, and for a moment I understood.

~ Marie Howe

Hot Springs

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Photo by TJ Parker

after Robert Francis’s “Silent Poem”

rain storm rock pore flow path earth crust
thrust fault drip slope trough dam blue ooze

tile floor stained glass sitz bath rust stain
sun porch deck chair sky light gas lamp

foot bridge leaf twitch dirt trail red oak
white tail hoof prints moss stump wood thrush

chert flake clay shard pit mine whet stone
knife blade green gorge creek mud blue tent

fire ring wood smoke sign post steep road
store front plate glass stone arch tile roof

street light pump house brick walk steam grate
hot wisp guard rail foot soak spa town

~ Davis McCombs

What Would Gwendolyn Brooks Do

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Photo by TJ Parker

Dawn oversees percolating coffee
and the new wreckage of the world.

I stand before my routine reflection,
button up my sanity,
brush weary strands of hair with pomade
and seal cracked lips of distrust
with cocoa butter and matte rouge.

I ready myself once again
for morning and mortify.
Stacking poetry and bills in a knapsack;
I bundle up hope (it’s brutal out there).

For a moment, I stand with ghosts
and the framed ancestors surrounding me.
I call out, hoping she can hear me
over the day-breaking sirens—
hoping she’s not far away,
or right down the street,
praying over another dead black boy.

How will we make it through this, Ms. Brooks?

Hold On.

When she held a body,
she saw much worse than this.
I know she was earshot and fingertip close to oppression.
She saw how hateful hate could be.
She raised babies, taught Stone Rangers,
grew a natural and wrote around critics.

She won a Pulitzer in the dark.

She justified our kitchenette dreams,
and held on.
She held on to all of us.

Hold On, she whispers.

Another day, when I have to tip-toe
around the police and passive-aggressive emails
from people who sit only a few feet away from me.
Another day of fractured humans
who decide how I will live and die,
and I have to act like I like it
so I can keep a job;
be a team player, pay taxes on it;
I have to act like I’m happy to be
slammed, severed, and swindled.
Otherwise, I’m just part of the problem—
a rebel rouser and rude.

They want me to like it, or at least pretend,
so the pretty veils that blanket who we really are—
this complicated history, can stay pretty and veiled
like some desert belly dancer
who must be seen but not heard.

Hold On.

We are a world of lesions.
Human has become hindrance.
We must be stamped and have papers,
and still, it’s not enough.
Ignorance has become powerful.
The dice that rolls our futures is platinum
but hollow inside.

Did you see that, Ms. Brooks?
Do you see what we’ve become?
They are skinning our histories,
deporting our roots,
detonating our very right to tell the truth.
We are one step closer to annihilation.

Hold On, she says, two million light years away.

She’s right.
Hold On everybody.
Hold On because the poets are still alive—and writing.
Hold On to the last of the disappearing bees
and that Great Barrier Reef.
Hold On to the one sitting next to you,
not masked behind some keyboard.
The one right next to you.
The ones who live and love right next to you.
Hold On to them.

And when we bury another grandmother,
or another black boy;
when we stand in front of a pipeline,
pour another glass of dirty drinking water
and put it on the dining room table,
next to the kreplach, bratwurst, tamales, collards, and dumplings
that our foremothers and fathers—immigrants,
brought with them so we all knew that we came from somewhere;
somewhere that mattered.
When we kneel on the rubbled mosques,
sit in massacred prayer circles,
Holding On is what gets us through.

We must remember who we are.
We are worth fighting for.
We’ve seen beauty.
We’ve birthed babies who’ve only known a black President.
We’ve tasted empathy and paid it forward.
We’ve Go-Funded from wrong to right.
We’ve marched and made love.
We haven’t forgotten—even if they have—Karma is keeping watch.

Hold On.
Hold On everybody.
Even if all you have left
is that middle finger around your God-given right
to be free, to be heard, to be loved,
and remembered…Hold On,
and keep
Holding.

~ Parneshia Jones

Time I’m Not Here

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

All day on all my days,
the lives I’m not to process wash in;

 

anxieties lullaby on
and quite like to be gotten among;

but now—and now—one old,
abundant flower just screws up the room.

~Graham Foust

Letter to the Northern Lights

 

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Photo by TJ Parker

The light here on earth keeps us plenty busy: a fire
in central Pennsylvania still burns bright since 1962.

Whole squads of tiny squid blaze up the coast of Japan before sunrise. Of course you didn’t show when we went

searching for you, but we found other lights: firefly,
strawberry moon, a tiny catch of it in each other’s teeth.

Someone who saw you said they laid down
in the middle of the road and took you all in,

and I’m guessing you’re used to that—people falling
over themselves to catch a glimpse of you

and your weird mint-glow shushing itself over the lake.
Aurora, I’d rather stay indoors with him—even if it meant

a rickety hotel and its wood paneling, golf carpeting
in the bathrooms, and grainy soapcakes. Instead

of waiting until just the right hour of the shortest
blue-night of the year when you finally felt moved

enough to collide your gas particles with sun particles—
I’d rather share sunrise with him and loon call

over the lake with him, the slap of shoreline threaded
through screen windows with him. My heart

slams in my chest, against my shirt—it’s a kind
of kindling you’d never be able to light on your own.

~Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Detail of the Fire

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Photo by TJ Parker

A man with a bandage is in the middle of something.
Everyone understands this. Everyone wants a battlefield.

Red. And a little more red.

Accidents never happen when the room is empty.
Everyone understands this. Everyone needs a place.

People like to think war means something.

What can you learn from your opponent? More than you think.
Who will master this love? Love might be the wrong word.

Let’s admit, without apology, what we do to each other.
We know who our enemies are. We know.

~Richard Siken

Detail Of The Hayfield

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Photo by TJ Parker

I followed myself for a long while, deep into the field.

Two heads full of garbage.

Our scope was larger than I realized,
which only made me that much more responsible.

Yellow, yellow, gold, and ocher.
We stopped. We held the field. We stood very still.

Everyone needs a place.

You need it for the moment you need it, then you bless it—
thank you soup, thank you flashlight—

and move on. Who does this? No one.

~Richard Siken

The Way The Light Reflects

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Photo by TJ Parker

THE PAINT doesn’t move the way the light reflects,
so what’s there to be faithful to? I am faithful
to you, darling. I say it to the paint. The bird floats
in the unfinished sky with nothing to hold it.
The man stands, the day shines. His insides and
his outsides kept apart with an imaginary line—
thick and rude and imaginary because there is
no separation, fallacy of the local body, paint
on paint. I have my body and you have yours.
Believe it if you can. Negative space is silly.
When you bang on the wall you have to remember
you’re on both sides of it already but go ahead,
yell at yourself. Some people don’t understand
anything. They see the man but not the light,
they see the field but not the varnish. There is no
light in the paint, so how can you argue with them?
They are probably right anyway. I paint in his face
and I paint it out again. There is a question
I am afraid to ask: to supply the world with what?

~Richard Siken

10 Word Review – No Matter The Wreckage (book)

no-matter-the-wreckagePoems. Considered. Captivating. Emotion. Pictures. Language. Luminous. Feel. Riveting. YES.

Detail of the Woods

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Photo by TJ Parker

I looked at all the trees and didn’t know what to do.

A box made out of leaves.
What else was in the woods? A heart, closing. Nevertheless.

Everyone needs a place. It shouldn’t be inside of someone else.
I kept my mind on the moon. Cold moon, long nights moon.

From the landscape: a sense of scale.
From the dead: a sense of scale.

I turned my back on the story. A sense of superiority.
Everything casts a shadow.

Your body told me in a dream it’s never been afraid of anything.

~Richard Siken

B by Sarah Kay

I’m still reading the book of Sarah Kay’s poetry called, “No Matter The Wreckage”. I read this gem, then found her performance of it as part of her TED talk.  It’s worth a listen, probably more than one listen.  When I read it, then listened to it, I thought of my grand daughter.  It will do that to you, make you think of your daughter, your mother, your grand daughter if you have one.  It will make you think of the daughter you haven’t yet had.  It will make you think, and feel.

Hands by Sarah Kay

I’m currently reading a book of poetry by Sarah Kay called “No Matter The Wreckage”.  I can tell you, as a person who has read a lot of poetry, this girl is fantastic.  I just read the following poem in the book, went to look for it online to post, and found this video.  She is known for her spoken word poetry, which I didn’t know until I went looking for the poem online.  This video was made a while ago.  In it she is only 18.  I can’t tell you how impressed with her I am.  Her use of language, the visual impressions she leaves, not to mention the emotion in it.  Wow.  Just… wow.

In my head I read this more slowly than she speaks it here, but her performance of it adds so much to the meat of it.

I give you… “Hands”, by Sarah Kay