"This Black Body Pt. II" - Jay Morris


"This Black Body Pt. II" - Jay Morris


Black body an assumption
Black body an expectation
Black body a projection
Black body in the media
Black body violent
Black body a problem before it walks through 
the door.

80% of black bodies graduate high school.
Record breaking
Still can't break stereotypes.

Black body collateral.
Black body disturbed the peace.
Black body gunned down in the street.
Black body a weapon.
Black body brokers peace treaty with blood.
Black body scapegoat sacrificed on the altar of racial pedagogy.

One black body killed every 28 hours
by people sworn to protect all bodies.

Black body unknown.
Black body featureless.
Black body homogeneous.
Black body blasphemous.
Black body never nuanced. 
Black body seen in its entirety in one glance.
Black body doesn't measure up to Eurocentric standards of beauty.
Black body feels worthless.

Unnoticed black bodies develop eating disorders.
Black body can never starve itself of its color.

Black body alone.
Black body afraid.
Black body looking, looking.
Black body never found.
Black body lost.
Black body drowning in pools of shadow.

Black body absorber of light 
Solar panel - Unpredictable, inconsistent, an unstable energy source at best
Black body absorber of light
Black hole - Collapsing, unescapable, kept at a cosmic distance
Black body absorber of light
Weeded out - Photosynthetic, artificial, fibrous, invasive species.

Black body blood-borne.
Black body tainted.
Black body carrier of biracial bug.
Black body transmits shame.
Black body inherits blame.
Black body a legacy of chains.

This black body trying to break free.
This black body a destroyer.
This black body trying to destroy assumptions.
This black body trying to defy expectations.
This black body trying to demystify projections.

This black body is trying.
This black body is trying.

"This Black Body Pt. II" was originally posted on Jay Morris' website.

"The View from Grandma's Kitchen" - Bob Ambrose




"The View from Grandma's Kitchen" - Bob Ambrose
Athens, Georgia
October 22, 2014

Day after faithful day 
Grandmother Gilmore rose before dawn 
in a tiny log home, carved into Carolina woods.
Grandpa sleeps 

as she tiptoes to 
her snug kitchen, warm as a womb 
standing by the iron-stained sink 
looking out 

on a weathered well-house 
hard by the side yard oak 
hemmed in by hickory 
flanked by the forest 

in darkness beyond. 
Night softens, coffee perks and oats congeal 
as she stirs and hums her Gospel songs - 
Maxwell House 

Quaker Oats 
and Precious Lord would see her through. 
Did she dream of their life in the city again? 
She lived high on the hog 

for a Hickerson girl 
till God laughed and times turned - 
the good life got away again.
With Peace in the Valley 

the black night recedes 
through shadows and gray 
to one more day much like the last. 
The mama cat 

would be hungry again 
so she scrapes a plate of table scraps 
to place beside the back porch step 
with a dish of milk 

for the kittens to lap.
She butters another pan biscuit 
for the faraway grandchild hovering 
by the kitchen table 

carried aloft 
on comic book dreams. She pours his juice 
in a jelly jar as he bides his time 
to warmth of day 

to find his own way 
through the woods and the fields 
through the toils and the snares 
till he no longer hears 

her own voice in his mind.
But memory bears her blessed assurance 
from over the Jordan in Beulah Land. 
So I rise in the darkness 

a half century on, still humming 
her early morning song, still dreaming 
my way through the vastness beyond 
but perking and stirring a day like the last.


Poem and photo of Jean Hickerson Gilmore and her daughter, Ruth,  originally posted on Bob Ambrose's poetry site Reflections in Poetry.

"Butter" - Elizabeth Alexander




"Butter" - Elizabeth Alexander


My mother loves butter more than I do,
more than anyone. She pulls chunks off
the stick and eats it plain, explaining
cream spun around into butter! Growing up
we ate turkey cutlets sauteed in lemon
and butter, butter and cheese on green noodles,
butter melting in small pools in the hearts
of Yorkshire puddings, butter better
than gravy staining white rice yellow,
butter glazing corn in slipping squares,
butter the lava in white volcanoes
of hominy grits, butter softening
in a white bowl to be creamed with white
sugar, butter disappearing into
whipped sweet potatoes, with pineapple,
butter melted and curdy to pour
over pancakes, butter licked off the plate
with warm Alaga syrup. When I picture
the good old days I am grinning greasy
with my brother, having watched the tiger
chase his tail and turn to butter. We are
Mumbo and Jumbo’s children despite   
historical revision, despite
our parent’s efforts, glowing from the inside
out, one hundred megawatts of butter.

“Butter” by Elizabeth Alexander originally appeared in her collection Body of Life, 1996. Illustration by Mark McGinnis.


"Untitled" - Lisa Mende




"Untitled" - Lisa Mende


pinprick of just a memory
stirred and simmered slow 
     with the promise of dill back of throat 
         through the nose inhaled secretly.
let no one see your eyes steamed wet 
      let no one see your wrist clutching fingers on a wooden spoon 
         spare and seamed, constant stirring
the cutting board redolent of onion, 
      despised soggy celery vying for the carrot's crunch
through the pinprick a melody whistled like a symphony, 
       sung with the rapturous pain 
           of a shared humanity of haunted Bedouins, 
your dream buddies
       primal memories of the constant throb and thrum
            tempered with a grief so rich that even anger cannot touch it
stir and swell and swell and consume
       one feathered kiss way in the past to sweeten the pot, 
            the bath, the bowl, the empty dish


This untitled poem by Lisa Mende was originally composed for Firemouth Salon, a monthly poetry group meeting in Watkinsville, Georgia.

"In Thanksgiving" - Gregory de Rocher




"In Thanksgiving" - Gregory de Rocher


For the only recent opening of windows too long closed.

For the present night air nursing in its solicitous bosom
the swelling cricket cries muting the wailing, far-off train,
and the relentless tinnitus of a tireless insomnia.

For that little girl who so long ago accepted that little boy's hand
as they crouched together, regaining their secret place in the bushes
where they touched each other's Innocence.

For that adolescent poem whose incipit read
"On this unlit alban candle,"
still coruscating like a thousand sparklers.

For that young woman in black tights and Repettos at the ciné-club,
whose plaid skirt was closed with a shiny pin,
and whose dark turtleneck reached her copper hair.

For that terrified young mother so attentive to her first-born's
soft steady snore, praying it would never cease.

For this night, and for these presences, breathing beside me,
visitations not lost, spirits still here, hovering, all of them.

And finally for you, yes, and perhaps most of all, you,
Witnesses of these reminiscings whose moment
you too have now lived, and made come into Being.

For the awakening
to what not yet exists,
yet insists upon being.

"The poem I don’t want to write - A working draft" - Emily Katherine





"The poem I don’t want to write 
- A working draft" - Emily Katherine


The poem I don’t want to write is sitting on the couch, 
looking smug, sipping her third cup of coffee at 5pm
Go on, she says, I dare you
I raise my eyes a bit, but it’s like staring at the sun – too 
hot, too bright, to close to searing my retinas
I blink away after-images of tiger lilies, look at her knees 
instead
They are bare, dust in the creases of her skin – her knee 
caps are maps of my childhood,
all bikes and bruises and hunting down imaginary wild 
things in the woods out back
Her knees are boney and strong – they don’t need my 
helping hands to push them off the earth and allow her to 
stand.

The poem I don’t want to write reads the news over my 
shoulder in the morning
I turn to her, a challenge, but she just laughs
tells me there’s not a enough time before work and I’m 
not saying anything the BBC or NPR won’t say anyway.
she says you can’t, you will sound too country, too white, 
too privileged, too young, to have any real knowledge of 
the world
She says my doubt is infectious, best to hide it away, 
isolate the sickness
She says “you’re voice isn’t strong enough and when you 
raise it, you’re not raising an army, you’re just shouting.”
I finish my coffee, put the mug in the sink and head into 
the office

The poem I don’t want to write watches me put on 
makeup in the evening, pre-date
She has indelible red lipstick, she says this is vital, this 
color
she says red is blood, and red is power and red is 
dominance
and surely I must need some power painted on me,
because if I was really strong, I would practice the 
principles I preach, go out
naked face and flat shoes and fall into the open arms of t
he world, sure they will be there to catch me
But since I tiptoe a tightrope, stretching between my city 
sky-scraper-self and a man I hope is an architect, with 
building plans in his heart and masonry in his blood -
obviously I need some false convictions to believe in
obviously I need this make-up mask to hide behind
obviously I can’t hold her finger-polished hand to the 
page and force out the anger like hot steam congealing 
into words – I feel it constricting my middle, at the idea I 
have to smile
at the idea I have to “not be such a bitch”
at the idea I should take it as a compliment
at the idea that I do take it as a compliment

the poem I don’t want to write is looming shadows, nights 
I can’t sleep, words stopped up in my throat, looking for 
signs in the wrinkles of the sheets, hot face warming the 
pillow, praying for a prayer to appear in a language I don’t 
speak – but will try like hell to learn
She listens
She is not always smiling
she holds my hand
rest, she says
she’ll stay here with me, she says
steady back against my bedroom wall,
until I’m ready to write her down


Emily Katherine's website is Gut Punch Poetry. (Photo by Michelle Castleberry)

"Wine from Rumi's bottle" - Shafkat Khan




"Wine from Rumi's bottle" - Shafkat Khan

Falling in love is much like
reading Rumi's poems.

Never ask if this is the best
poem this night,
but ask if the poem
speaks to you.

Ask if the bottle
from which you drink
is a gift,
and not if that bottle is the best
you could buy at the last call
of the Vintner.

The Vintner wishes you to
taste the wine,
feel it in your tongue,
infuse the sweet aroma in your breath;
and neither to own
nor to enslave the wine.

The wine you want to own
may not ever be truly yours.
But, at the end of the night,
the bottle that
holds you gently at a kiss's distance
wishes of your lips.
Only at that hour
the two of you become one,
for you become the lover, keeper, and dreamer
of the bottle.

Falling in love is much like
reading Rumi's poems.
If you're wishing for a different poem,
you keep on wishing.
Because gathering close to the heart
what is yours,
and not asking if it is the
best you can gather is the secret of love.

Open the bottle.
Breathe in your lover's breath.
Drink the Red.
Kiss the lips.
Read of Rumi.
Or the glow of the morning sun
can never caress your naked flesh.
Or the silver of the fullest moon
can never shine on your naked soul.

---

A note from Shafkat:  "Dedicated to Michelle Castleberry and Matt DeGennaro.  The muse for this poem is a secret who I keep deep in my bottle. And of course, Rumi."

"War stories" - Sharon D. McCoy

"War stories" - Sharon D. McCoy

“The Kid’s War,” he wanted to call it. I don’t think he ever read
Vonnegut’s Children’s Crusade. He just saw it that way, too. 
Maybe that’s the way they all are. Stories to craft a
narrative box for surreal horror that cannot be contained. 
Stories to push back the nightmares haunting years,
lifetimes, never able to grow up, grow past
get away, be unafraid, always taken back in the
reaches of the night. Brotherhood we listeners can glimpse
only in the foggy breath of the stories.
He saw in surprise on the airfield one day, a face he knew
A boy from his hometown, his high school. They spoke
Excitedly, made plans for coffee and conversation when the planes
Returned. Waving jauntily, they climbed into their birds, patting the painted
Ladies’ butts for luck – See you on the ground, babe.
Strange serendipity it seemed, their planes next to each other in aerial
Formation. Looking across the cold cacophony of sky, taking comfort in the
Familiar face he knew was in that turret, watching at the very moment flak
Shattered it, bursting light and smoke. On the ground again he rushed to
Help. They handed him a hose and said,“Find the dogtags for his folks, if you can.”
Irrevocable and irremovable, forever a part of who you are.
I mean, can you ever really get beyond that?  Legs
keep moving, life keeps going, but the image must
be imprinted in more than memory in more than nightmare.
New joys, new life, new loves, new mundane realities
piling one after the other making marking a lifetime,
but the cold feel of the hose, burning even altitude-numbed fingers,
survivor’s guilt and unanswered questions, looking
for meaning, a reason to keep this story going, wondering why
I wake with night sweats – stiff silent gaping terror – once again lost behind
Enemy lines.  We were reported killed in action, I later learned.  But really just lost – 
Short on rations, ammunition, fuel for the last tank, protective shell we cannot lose
Tired, scared, searching, boots leaking, hushing wounded moaning softly inside—
Must keep them quiet, safe. Finding what we did not want to find – oh, god, why us?
Soldiers, surrendering.  Surrendering, oh, god, to us.  They outnumber us,
Could take us, but they lay down their arms, tired of war.  Bastards. 
We are, too.  Not enough food for us, let alone them.  Not enough guards to watch.
Not safe to let them go. My choice. No choice.  Rivers of blood undammed – my own damned
Purple heart. No choice. My choice. Even now, how hard to see even their children as human.
Irrevocable and irremovable, forever a part of who you are.
I mean, can you ever really get beyond that?  Even wounded legs
keep moving, life keeps going, but the image must
be imprinted in more than memory in more than nightmare.
New joys, new life, new loves, new mundane realities
piling one after the other making marking a lifetime,
but the cold feel of the unspeakable choice unspoken except in nightmare
survivor’s guilt and unanswered questions, looking
for meaning, a reason to keep this story going, wondering why
Sobbing on the cold bathroom floor, rocking, lost in my own vomit – Happy New Year!
A gentle touch, a quiet voice. No – cannot trust – but warm arms break through
Barriers of memory.  Our last day, shipping out, going home at last. The little boy
Shyly offering the “kind American soldier” a sandwich.  I watched him take it,
My scowl washed away as he ruffled the boy’s hair, thinking of his own son.
Little boy – oh god, so little – scampering off with that shy smile.  My buddy,
My brother, raised the sandwich to his lips, hungry for so much more than food, never
Dreaming of the live explosive lodged between the bread.  Never close my eyes without seeing –
Not him, but them. I tried, but I failed, oh, god, I failed. Their son, clutching her waist below
Her hollow eyes. In that moment I knew I’d lost the race with the black-bordered telegram.
Irrevocable and irremovable, forever a part of who you are.
I mean, can you ever really get beyond that?  Even wounded must
keep moving, life keeps going, but the image must
be imprinted in more than memory in more than nightmare.
New joys, new life, new loves, new mundane realities
piling one after the other making marking a lifetime,
but the cold feel of the failed mission that no alcohol or drugs could drown
survivor’s guilt and unanswered questions, looking
for meaning, a reason to keep this story going, wondering why
Silent screams pierce my dreams. Ears shattered and screaming, I bolt upright,
Reaching for the needle, seeing her there sleeping, and I know she will leave me.
But the needle is my only hope for silence.  Intel told us it was a Viet Cong stronghold. 
We hammered it, hammered it with shells. Shells. Hit the surrounding jungle with napalm. 
Guns at the ready, tense, knowing this could be our last, going in. Not even birds
Disturbed the burn. We searched, but nothing.  No bodies, no weapons, nothing left.
Off to the side, finally, I saw, the blasted, crumbling remains of a wall. My trigger finger tight
I rounded the rubble – a temple wall, I could see, I do not know why. Huddled behind, torn,
Fragmented bodies of old women and children – children, oh god, mouths gaping silent screams
Only heroin and alcohol can drown, even now.  I reach for the needle, knowing she will leave me.
Irrevocable and irremovable, forever a part of who you are.
I mean, can you ever really get beyond that? Even wounded must
keep moving, life keeps going, but the image must
be imprinted in more than memory in more than nightmare.
New joys, new life, new loves, new mundane realities
piling one after the other making marking a lifetime,
but the cold silent screams of those we cannot hear
survivor’s guilt and unanswered questions, looking
for meaning, a reason to keep this story going, wondering why
We tell stories to children. Stories to ourselves who used to be children and somehow
Never stop. Stories to craft a narrative box for surreal horror that cannot be contained. 
Stories to push back the nightmares that haunt years, lifetimes,
Never able to grow up, grow past, get away, be unafraid,
Always taken back in the reaches of the night. Lost childhood.
A brotherhood we listeners can glimpse only in the foggy breath of the stories.