Small Craft Talk Warning

All poetry is about hope.
A scarecrow walks into a bar.
An abandoned space station falls to earth.
When probing the monster’s brain,
you’re probably probing your own.
A beautiful woman becomes a ghost.
I hope I never miscalculate the dosage
that led to the infarction
of my lab rabbit again.
All poetry is a form of hope.
Not certain, just actual
like love and other traffic circles.
I cried on that airplane too,
midwest patchwork below
like a board game on which
mighty forces kick apart the avatars.
I always wanted to be the racecar
but usually ended up a thumbtack.
When I was young, sitting in a tree
counted as preparation and later
maybe a little whoopie in the morgue.
So go ahead, thaw the alien, break
the pentagram but watch out for
the institutional hood ornaments.
It’s not a museum, it’s a hive.
The blood may be fake
but the bleeding’s not.

~Dean Young – 1955

The Creative Drive

Photo by Tamra Parker

The Northeast has lost millions of poems,
reducing the canopy. Just a few days ago,
high winds knocked a poem onto a power line

A recent study found that poems increased
the sale price of a home by close to $9,000.
The years, however, have not been kind to poems.

a few blocks from my house.
I had not expected to lose so many at once.
“We’ve created a system that is not healthy

for poems,” said someone. Over the next thirty years,
there won’t be any poems where there are overhead wires.
Some poems may stay as a nuisance,

as a gorgeous marker of time.

~ by Catherine Barnett

Poem: How Can Black People Write About Flowers at a Time Like This

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Photo by TJ Parker

dear reader, with our heels digging into the good mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown & lord knows I have been called by what I look like more than I have been called by what I actually am & I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this exercise. which, too, is an attempt at fashioning something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anything worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics arrive to the tongue first. say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out
grandfather
clock. he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent
heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning,
you could scatter his whole mind across a field.

~Hanif Abdurraqib

About This Poem

“I was at a reading shortly after the election, and the poet (who was black) was reading gorgeous poems, which had some consistent and exciting flower imagery. A woman (who was white) behind me—who thought she was whispering to her neighbor—said ‘How can black people write about flowers at a time like this?’ I thought it was so absurd in a way that didn’t make me angry but made me curious. What is the black poet to be writing about ‘at a time like this’ if not to dissect the attractiveness of a flower—that which can arrive beautiful and then slowly die right before our eyes? I thought flowers were the exact thing to write about at a time like this, so I began this series of poems, all with the same title. I thought it was much better to grasp a handful of different flowers, put them in a glass box, and see how many angles I could find in our shared eventual demise.” — Hanif Abdurraqib

Hanif Abdurraqib is the author of The Crown Ain’t Worth Much (Button Poetry, 2016), his first poetry collection, which was nominated for the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award. He is also the author of the essay collection They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us (Two Dollar Radio, 2017). He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

At Harlem Hospital across the street from the Schomburg the only thing to eat is a Big Mac

Next Stop
Photo by TJ Parker

after Z. S.

Still, somehow we are
carousel. We spin bodies
to the wall and back.

We are woman and
man and man. We
are surgeon and

operation. We are
everybody we love.
We are inside them.

We are inside and we
are laughing. We are
man and we will die too.

We know that much.
We are our own
shadow. We are want

of touch. We are woman
and man and man don’t look.
We are curvature—look!

We are train.
We are star.
We are big

tiny spiders. We are
crawling. We are biting.
We are hungry. We are

a stopped carousel. We are
bodies dropped to the floor.
We are shaking. We are our own.

Still, somehow, we are
laughter. We are the doorway out.
We are (again) the doorway in.

~ Samiya Bashir

Anthropocene Blues

sound de-territorializes
weather
and my love clings to you
sings to you
in the “new weathers”
within a tragedy
of the Anthropocene

nothing
not
held hostage
by the hand
of Man

can we resist?
will we fail?
to save our world?

we dream replicas of ourselves
fragile, broken
robotic thought-bubbles

inside the shadow
a looming possibility
this new year
to wake up

could it be?

an anthropoid scared
from the forest
slow in development
now infantilized
much like us

stressed yet
perhaps
ready to resist
this scenario?

the forest made the monkey
& the cave & steppe: the human
and now
what makes us suppler
more human?

climate grief?
a fierce tenderness toward
the destruction of our world?

questions
or actions?

[my love for you
sings for you, world
I’ve got those Anthropocene….
Anthropocene….
blues…..]

~ Anne Waldman

Spaces

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Photo by TJ Parker

I do not know how
she felt, but I keep

thinking of her—
screaming out to an empty street.

I had been asleep
when I heard a voice

screaming, Help!
and frantic, when I opened my door.

I remember her shoulders
in the faded towel I found

before she put on my blue sweats
and white T-shirt. Call 911

please, she said.
When the officer arrived

I said, I found her there after the—
But she said,

No, that wasn’t what
happened.

What must be valued
I’m learning,

in clarity and in error,
are spaces

where
feelings are held.

Here—in a poem?
And elsewhere

~ Jenny Johnson

Let Them Not Say

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Photo by TJ Parker

Let them not say: we did not see it.
We saw.

Let them not say: we did not hear it.
We heard.

Let them not say: they did not taste it.
We ate, we trembled.

Let them not say: it was not spoken, not written.
We spoke,
we witnessed with voices and hands.

Let them not say: they did nothing.
We did not-enough.

Let them say, as they must say something:

A kerosene beauty.
It burned.

Let them say we warmed ourselves by it,
read by its light, praised,
and it burned.

~ Jane Hirshfield

Thoughts While Walking

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Photo by TJ Parker

A steel hush freezes the trees.
It is my mind stretched to stiff lace,
And draped on high wide thoughts.

My soul is a large sallow park
And people walk on it, as they do on the park before me.
They numb my levelness with dumb feet,
Yet I cannot even hate them.

~ Maxwell Bodenheim

Tuesday

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Photo by TJ Parker

Days been dark
don’t say “in these dark days”
done changed my cones and rods

Sometimes I’m the country
other times the countryside

I put my clothes back on
to take them off again

~ Fady Joudah

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

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

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