Blood of My Pen / aralee strange

Blood of my pen the black ink spilt at my feet
the unwritten take root reach deep

Your grief is a river
and cannot be pushed
and cannot be forded with ease
can burn can freeze deep enough to walk upon
one lonely step after another clear to the other side

Road weary traveler hunkered down anticipating wind chill
look yonder above the horizon
might be clouds might be mountains
dog snake raven enemies of the evil eye
surround you whispering in tongues to
swim amongthe millions silvering the river
hear the hawk in wheeling freedom

     It is us who are holy
     who negotiate the holy firm daily
     spirits kissed and wrapped in the night
     divine shines from our eyes

     We see much
     we understand nothing
     deep the deep
     flux and mystify

A far cry from the high thin whine of humanity
above the horizon
might be clouds might be mountains
snake dog raven enemies of the evil eye
surround you

luna the moon rises

it is enough

Bigger Than Thomas / Fabrice Julien


For all the Native Sons in the world,

Who wish to be Bigger than Thomas,

Searching & Seeking for the promised land,

This is my paying homage to you...

The shit you endure,

The shit you endure,

is unfathomable to the masses,

A majority of whom pretend that discrepancies don't exist between the classes.


Please remind them,

Remind them of their negligence,

They placed you in this position years prior,

& through generations have looked on with blind eyes..

To the negative elements to which you've succumbed,

To the negatives stereotypes to which you've become,

With hearts that feel nothing at these sights,

& demeanor that barricade the lights of exposure,


A Civil Rights Act passed so that you could be a Soldier,

& lose your life protecting the freedom that you don't have.

A freedom that you won't have,

A freedom that you can't grab,

& that life you'll live will surely become sad,


And Why?

Because of precedence,

& a lack of hesitance

Towards ways of the past..

& a reluctance to abolish ideas that should not last..

This is for the Native Sons in the world

Who wish to be Bigger than Thomas...

This is my paying homage..


Cause you exist,

I know..

You persist,

And it shows.

Keep persevering,

We shall grow.


Do you recall when you were 6?

& Your grandfather too went into cardiac arrest?

Yeah, the Native Sons and I recall this rather strange memory?

They took ours to Grady,

But yours to Emory..


& because of class,

Yours is here,

But ours is gone..


Fortifying discrepancies as as they remain strong..

In our current world.


Native Sons,

This is my homage,

Be Bigger than Thomas.

still a could till / ralph la charity

the journey there was taxing
the return was taxing, too
will be so my lot from now on :
to interrupt & intercept, or pause or linger
& check for when all is said & aye
done & sail namore could be my lot
the fade of countless lingers' spell
each borne venturing afterimage-wrought
piecemeal be said be still be could
this being's patchwork worded stalk
how the eye's roving fractures a-swirl
intermittent brief chaos & mute alarm
shimmery-soft spots o'erlain upon the field
the stroke of being ending e'er I pen
there sits a simple poet at the very last
still open still a could till the very least
now the soul's hoving postures slumped
now the heart    the brood     the wee hour
now the wane     the bow     & the lyre

The Slice / Bob Brussack


Here’s a story I tell to myself.
It’s part of the mythology of me.
I’m eight or nine.
It’s ‘58, then, or ‘59,
And fins are in,
And chrome.
There’s Crisco
And Crest,
And starched white blouses
Outshine the mornings,
And cuff-linked commuters
Clatter to the city.
But not today.
It’s a Saturday. Must be.
In the spring or summer.
I’m within the long, low confines
Of the farmers market.
I’m holding, or balancing in my hand,
The protagonist.
A slice of pizza.
It might be nestled in wax paper.
I don’t remember.
I do remember the crust.
What’s in a name?
Maybe this.
What’s called “crust”
Should be crusty.
And this crust is exquisitely, delicately crusty,
Oven-bestowed with a patina
Of gentle, teasing resistance,
Yielding at the slightest pressure.
Then, beyond the crust,
A complex, layered mystery
Of textures and tastes
Worthy of Da Vinci’s brush.
In the half-century since,
I’ve sometimes entertained the fancy
That what I encountered that Saturday
Was not a pizza, but “the” pizza,
The Platonic ideal of pizza,
The Olympian template
We’re fated to know only
As imperfect shadow.
By some quantum hiccup,
Some one-in-a-zillion shot, perhaps,
Was I granted privileged access
For a moment to another place?
I don’t know. But I do know this.
All these years
I’ve wandered the world,
A pizza Demosthenes,
And nothing has come close.

For My Father / Pilar Quintana


On the day my mother died, you said:
It should have been me.
I comforted you—no.
But I knew what you meant.

She was the strong one.
You were the dreamer.
You built businesses that could not succeed.
She pulled us out of bankruptcy.

Who would rein us in now?
Lick our wounds when we fell?
Scold us when we stood
too close to the edge…

We had let go the anchor
and set ourselves adrift.
Nothing but the stars to guide us.
And all we saw in stars were pretty patterns.

You left my mother once and went
to Florida, following a star.
I asked you years later
how you did it.

How did you have the courage
to pick up the pieces of
the mess you had left behind,
to walk over it, the regret--

The regret, how did you live with
the regret… You smiled.
You said, you think too much.
You just do it.

On the day you died, I looked at you
and whispered, not yet…
you have not taught me yet
how to dream.

How to ride wild horses bareback,
fall headlong in the thorns and
pluck them, as if they were roses
from the edge of the cliff.

How to read the stars
--dim they were now--
and believe they revealed
secrets in their pretty patterns.

It should have been me…
But you were wrong.
And oh how beautiful your errors.
How powerful your consent to flaws.

You stand on your thorny cliff,
pluck a single rose,
bare-handed,
and hold it out to me.






War Song / Erika Land


Please don’t sing me a war song.

When I turn on the radio and I hear a war song as innocent as it may
be, thanking me and my fellow warriors for a job well done;

I am filled with tears, not tears of joy but of pain, excruciating
pain that punches me in the chest. Pain that stems from those
horrific thoughts I have when a thank you war song reminds me of
all the friends I have lost and my heart begins to palpitate.

It reminds me of the daily fighting, the dodging many bullets, the ducking for cover from an incoming mortar.

It reminds me of all the little kids who have been killed, some of
them innocently, some as enemies.

It reminds me of the strides I have taken to not be afraid of
children who want nothing more than to shake a soldier’s hand.

I ask you to not sing me a war song, not because I don’t appreciate
it. I understand you just want me to know that my fighting was not
in vain and not everyone takes what I have done for granted.

I ask you to not sing me a war song because when I hear one I am
sent into a trance and images kaleidoscope, but not in that good
amazing geometric way.

Images of blood and guts collide and bounce off each other awakening
my other senses that won’t let me forget the stench of charred
flesh, the way my comrades body parts felt in my hands, the screams of women, men, children, and my fellow soldiers, the way the dirt tasted when it splattered on my teeth after that I E D exploded and I was thrown to the dirt.

I am not trying to put a damper on thank you war songs but when I hear one I find myself crying, because I am filled with emotion that rips into my core and I am reminded of all the friends I have lost, and how powerless I was.

I am reminded of the many men and women I have had to watch transition from this world into the next, offering comfort but nothing more.

I could not help them in their last hour. I could do nothing about being sent to war. I cannot do anything about the tragedies that come along with war.

But I can ask you, to please not sing me a war song.

selections from Mermaid Gravy / Julie Wells


III.

Monogrammed towels are not in your
future. I see answers and questions.
I see beauties stripping off dresses to reveal hot patient skin
too sweet for you. I see women in your future
women who cannot change oil, but can afford

for you to, daily. I see hairs rolling on your bed
breaking words into bars, notes, chords. I see you
stepping in, becoming the song you should.
I see your voice pretend help is for the unfit only.

I see your essential voice in the background: help.
I see escape creep into your neck as she sleeps. I see speed
in your synapses as she lies in your bed. I see Heaven devouring
   you.
I see riches dehydrating even your tongue. I see
pink shirts in your closet. I see tapas filling you

with indecision. I see your unsteady stick house.
I see you jumping in sheets and I see Sugar waiting for you
to finish. I see monogrammed towels in her eyes. You see.
You see answers and questions. I see beauties
stripping off dresses to reveal hot skin.

IX.

I cannot see my face. Shallow eyes shave
morning fuzz. Silence questions its existence:
long air, insulation, shredded art. Language
is an atom tossed from the hand of absence,
a glass balloon hoping for teeth, shrieking at the pain
of losing nothing, trapping itself in cans.
Language questions the subconscious duet
we all hide. Language questions
our paradoxical feminine masculinity,
and let me tell you how not perfect the answer.
Let me tell you how radioactive.
Let me tell you how you’ll breathe.

XVIII.

Try to hold on
to our origami rose.
Allow letters
to close shops.
Roll on the grass.

Attend carbon turns.
See beauty in the lie of yes
as my dyslexic tongue

says no. Attach
by a thin thread.
Hold our alphabet.

Disclaim Twenty-third Street
sidewalks. Disrobe your pyramid
of skin. Let me tell you.
Be a duet of amber and wood.
Layer ribbons on top.

XXIII.

It’s about the paradoxical femininity
of tough leather. It’s about a scream
an answer to stillness and shallow eyes.
It’s about causal art: filled with ghosts and steam,
breathing pink air, tossed from the hand of language,
sharp chunks of gold. It’s about your mouth
made of pennies and garnets, spilling words and smoke
and carbon and burning echoes. It’s about the shriek
of glass falling from your fingers and the pain
of losing something you’ll never own. It’s about leaning
closer. It’s about telling. It’s about a definition
which is not equivalent to a set of points.

Rumbling Trucks / Michael McQuarrie

The rumbling trucks are at it again,
The rumbling trucks are at it again,
All day long they rumble rumble rumble
through my walls and into my most personal,
my most sanctimonious clunk clunk rumble
As if rumbling were the natural,
More natural, most natural action.
The damn neighbors have a tank or a bulldozer
in the front yard, rumbling and clunking
through my most concentrated language studies,
my most concentrated studies on articulation and poetic device and
Not on rumbling.
I didn’t know a small town, a veritable village had so many
rumbling trucks, so many rumbling trucks,
so many muffler-deprived rumble rumble rumbl-ing trucks,
so many rumbling truck fans caught halfway between barbarity and
  civility
and not wearing shirts while revving their rumbling engines.
The rumbling trucks are at it again,
The rumbling trucks are at it again.

For Hamza al-Khateeb / Andrew Mandelbaum


From my father's roof I am rising, circling
the loss I cannot gather in these permeable wings

The bridge from pigeon to dove
The broken body of a child
From obedience to unruly honor
The broken body of a child
Iron soaked dendrites of memory and desire
the scent-map of shattered promise

From this day I will carry my own words
Home or elsewhere
Words feathered into fury
Talons curled and burned but
Unbanded

Human Rights Festival / Donald Harris

Human rights? What do you know of human rights? Of love, of life, of laughter, of longing? You bring in your acts and your speakers to parade and primp and promote themselves. Have you said one word about the humanity or the rights of the schizoaffective, the bipolar, the obsessive-compulsive? Are you unable to hear the sorrow of those who are not supposed to break through the silence? "As the sparks fly upward, so is a man born to trouble," but have you ever seen the sparks fly upward from a mind on fire? We will sing beneath the pallor of a sodden moon. Would you see the face of madness? Then look into a mirror. Look into the eye of the blonde in skimpy red garb, trying to hustle a john on a corner of Broad. You have lost your job, you have lost your life's savings, you have lost your wife. What are you going to do now? I'm going to Disney World.

Good Egg, Bad Egg / Kathy Prescott


A gift of backyard eggs is a rainbow of unblemished pleasures. 
I love the colors of the smooth shells: warm sand, hazy sky blue, 
as well as the one that names itself.

The pulp paper container safeguards the fragile contents.

Printed on the lid is a simple line drawing of a farm scene 
with three abbreviated chickens scratching the foreground.

Those birds spark a memory of our old, smoky den, where my father - still held together in his cufflinks and starched white shirt - puzzles out the crossword with his mechanical pencil.

Sometimes, if I come close, he’ll sketch a figure 8 in the margins of the newspaper, adding two M’s with a flourish (one on top for a comb, another to the side for a beak) - then wings and feet – and magically, before my eyes - a rooster!

“Cock-a-doodle-do” he says matter-of-factly.

I thought him a genius. Turns out he was drunk.

“Eight em”, my dad puns, chuckling into the bourbon humidity of his moustache.

He declares the end of my day through his halo of smoke, “Shadrach, Meshach and To-Bed-We-Go”. Leaving him behind, I head down the hall, not to the fiery furnace but to my bedroom, where the dreams are.

No way to judge an egg by its cover.

Here’s a helpful hint I read somewhere:

How To Determine If An Egg Is Good:

Submerge the egg in question in deep water. If it sinks, it’s fresh and fit to eat. If it floats, it’s bad and best thrown out.

This sounds disturbingly similar to another type of dunking:

How To Determine If A Woman Is A Witch:

First, bind up the suspect. Find the deep water and throw her in. If she sinks, she’s innocent and her reward waits in heaven. If she floats, she’s a witch and best burned at the stake.

I save the broken shells in their protective carton as wistful reminders.

Eggs were meant to be coddled. And Daddy blew perfect smoke rings.