"The Girl's Guava Tree" - Bob Ambrose

"The Girl's Guava Tree" - Bob Ambrose
And the good earth sustains

Thanks to the El Rural Centro Metodista.
Mirador, Costa Rica
March 10, 2010; revised March 30, 2015

Beyond the gravel-pocked streets
lined with cinder-block shops

and child-packed homes
capped with corrugated tin

christened in the sweat of strangers
called from a far land

past the worn-out weed field
trampled by children to dusty flat

where rough tracks fork left
below fenced hills of cane and cattle

down, down the rutted path
to the rushing boulder stream

where a nimble girl parts barbed wire
and clambers up the guava tree

through distant light she smiles
and shares

(photo by Bob Ambrose)

"the bridge" - E.s. Sutherland

"the bridge" - E.s. Sutherland

the light like sweet sustenance
sets the people to swarm
like night bugs around a streetlamp
as I watch from an open window
voyeur to the pattern of things

every soul ablaze with joy's inferno
tiny sparks igniting sacred circles
the chain links of community
the realization that flying is a state of mind
of mine, of ours, the hours
of this oblong existence growing thin now
these ecstasies of ecstatic now-ism
like mortality could never pull us away

from all these endless moments of celebration
healing laughter that erupts from the gut
and fills the air with tiny bubbles of hope
every living thing caught up in it
enveloped by the idea of transcendence

to leap over the sadness
imprisoning us in this terminal condition
so skyscraper tall and suffering 
like an unmovable wall
the streaks of our life left behind
a bridge out of the darkness

E.s. Sutherland, from Lexington, KY, is a past featured reader at Word of Mouth. "the bridge" is from his 2007 book, incommunicado. He recently posted the poem to honor the 50 years since the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, March 9, 1965, in Selma, Alabama.

"We Will Be Shelter" - Emily Katherine

*inspired by Andrea Gibson’s anthology, by the same title

My sister bought me Andrea Gibson’s anthology, “We Will Be Shelter,” for Christmas.  It’s a beautiful collection of poems that reflect social justice themes, paired with organizations that support social justice causes. It got me thinking – how can I be shelter?  And thus, I arrived at this poem. 

1. The day my mother told me there are some things I shouldn’t tell her
I became a woman.
She said some things were too painful and the sharing of them only made her worry
and then made me worry about her worrying and it was a cycle we could forget
with closed mouths and throats that hummed instead of sang.
I didn’t stop telling her things.
But I stopped being oblivious to effect of my words

2. They say you will step over many bodies if you walk this road,
they say at first it won’t get better, but it might get different,
that if you can believe in change, even for 5 minutes at a time, you have a chance.
I remember standing in a circle of held hands the day I had 102 days clean
my face uplifted like a received blessing
the press of calloused flesh to my tender palm a benediction
I remember the first time I could go to the laundromat without being afraid of running
into my past
and the way my name began to fall from other mouths like it was welcome there
and not just a bad taste
I will never forget my unrelated brother and the day he died,
the wind whipped up from the lake so fast it could be felt from NY to Georgia
His smile is a wrinkle on my heart now

3. There are easy rules to follow too, if easy is what you are looking for
– don’t google your symptoms. ever
– don’t weigh yourself, your body is more than the sweet tug of gravity and anyway, God, doesn’t it feel good to be anchored to the world now?
– sing in the shower, in the car, while making dinner – give your throat every chance to practice forming sound and rhythm so that when you need it, your voice will ring out like a true bell
– and never give up
– just don’t

4. When I was 17, I wrote a list of ways I would stop apologizing for my presence
I didn’t know then that my body was already forming question marks over every word
that to stop saying sorry meant learning a new language
putting these bones to new use, digging these bones into the ground like tent poles
staking out my territory in the flesh landscape I was given
and learning to be grateful for every hill and valley that can be used to shelter you
I didn’t know that you needed refuge too
I didn’t know refuge could be a ship setting sail for new lands
look, we have come up to the top deck and even now, I can see the future spread out
like shiny lights in the distance

5. These are the ways I can be shelter
This woman that I am, this stitched together tongue, this humming throat
rubbed raw from finding harmony in the silence
This square hand I have, linked like a circuit breaker to my heart
go ahead, grab it
let this be rule 6: there is never a wrong time to reach out
no reason too good or bad, big or small.
These are the ways I can be shelter
the way I remember my brother who didn’t get to live to see the disease shaken
the stories I still tell about my chosen sons, that I gave freely back to the world
the poems I have written for my unborn daughter
and the way I have strung hope like Christmas lights around the entrance to my heart
and written messages to the future saying “be better’
This is how I am shelter
how I have swung the doors wide open, sifted sunlight through my ribs
built a safe room out of my arms and put them around you
sang every lullaby I knew into the phone until even the static on the other end of the line
hummed along
laid my body in the shape of a comma next to yours,
so that you didn’t have an excuse to end the sentence
told you “don’t you ever stop telling me things.”

"Divided Attention" - Gregory de Rocher

"Divided Attention" - Gregory de Rocher

It starts in your late forties
Fifties, sixties, or seventies.
Your car keys are not in their assigned shallow bowl
or your cell phone in your left shirt pocket
where it always is

So you retrace your late night movements
hoping to regain the "ah hah" that will bring back
order into your morning.

Or you are preparing breakfast
as you have for two or three or even fourscore years
and wonder as you confidently opened
the left cupboard door
what is was you needed among the array of objects
Staring back at you, blankly.

Or you are reminded in a flash
as you and your friends are guffawing over jokes
of an even funnier one to share when the one in progress
reaches its punch line and the laughter begins to subside.
The one you were bristling to tell has sunk
leaving not the least telltale ripple.

The drafts of forgetfulness,
cold and remorseless,
snatching the present
we no longer inhabit.

"Riding Coltrane Home" - Sharon D. McCoy

"Riding Coltrane Home" - Sharon D. McCoy
(a nonce sonnet for the New Year)

Sing to me, John, the reed’s vibrations
soaring and filling the empty spaces
with improvised hope.  Anticipation.
The promise of the lush life awakens

instead of crushing with its weight, swollen
ineffable impermanence, agony, dread -- 
not forgotten or defied, not fallen
or bowed, restless verve and growth unended

Purposeful, longing, improvised refrain
unlocking the creative force of shit
transformed, lush life that will not be constrained.
Lifting your breath in streams, wailing lyric

acceptance.  Embrace.  Vibrant pitch, swaying on
that impossible edge, death playing on.

December 31, 2014

"Opening day" - Mark Bromberg

"Opening day" - Mark Bromberg

On opening day the sun is too bright, the leaves
too green; as if intoxicated with sap
each bough nods in every breeze,
and the sun spins crazily to its collapse.

This is the drunken vernacular of earth.
In confusion and the wild plan
of new things spring will not still itself
nor be advised by man.

How can it be? To follow Winter's slow 
and lazy sleep, to shake
each branch and bud in bloom,
then leap into furious April, make

rain in secret ambush hide
for every blade of grass. The mad Architect
of Spring must keep his witless masters
tossed in sleep, to reflect

 man has no design or towers
surpassing the insanity of flowers.

"Gallipoli" - A Poet Bee

There were a total of 56 hospital ships operating 
in the Gallipoli campaign in the Mediterranean/Aegean Sea in 1915.
 By the war’s end these distinctively marked ‘white ships’ 
had transported 47,000 patients.

"Gallipoli" - A Poet Bee

On a hospital ship
at Gallipoli, 1915,
long before 'n after
song be fore 'n aft,
'er laughter
got soldiers,
not so old in years,
to forget
dreadful wounds,
the storm's cold,
their fears.
It brought some
comfort 'n calm,
warm thoughts,
Christmas memories
of distant mothers,
sweathearts, wives,
sisters and daughters.
Soft female respite from
dawn's dark bravery,
by Jingo, manly
slaughter of lives.
Thank you nurses,
one and all.


Now later, a hundred years,
much war rememberance
and sadly,
still savagery
across Ottoman lands.
The cruel curse
of repeatin' history
by misunderstanding cultures,
not by forgettin'.

With outdated battleships,
sunk or scrapped,
our drones now safely
inflict pain
over foreign bands.
The ends are just the same --
stir hatred, no peace, tears.
Vengeance explained,
no mystery,
my eye,
den yours.

Heed not the foolish,
arrogant ideas again.
Feed not the violence.
Use our power to protect,
refrain, and so silence
the cycle of misery.

      Dedicated to my grandfather,
      who served in the British Navy
      on a hospital ship at Gallipoli;
      my son, who served with the
      U.S. Marines in the 2nd Gulf War,
      and my grandchildren-to-be,
      whom I hope will never have to
      repeat such service and folly.

[The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign, the Battle of Gallipoli or the Battle of Çanakkale (Turkish: Çanakkale Savaşı), was a campaign of World War I that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula in the Ottoman Empire between 25 April 1915 and 9 January 1916.]

"Angel of Mercy" - Kodac Harrison

"Angel of Mercy" - Kodac Harrison

Just the other day I was sitting in the park watching an old man. He had a smokestack spewin' from his lips, a hole in his hat, and nothing at his fingertips -- except the city ... and everybody knows the city can be hard and cold if you ain't got nothin' to bribe it with, so he's competin' with the pigeons for the crumbs ...

But then along comes his salvation. She takes him in, puts a little soup in his bowl, a little love in his heart, because she's an angel of mercy.

Now when I got up this mornin' I felt like I was in some kind of meat grinder with a bunch of horses 'n kangaroos, maybe a few cows ... you know, this burger ain't the real thing! It ain't a hundred percent ... what's yer beef, buddy? But you know they'll chew you up and spit you out like spent Bazooka bubblegum ... somebody come along 'n step on ya, grind yer ass into the pavement as they walka-walka-walka-walka down the street ...

But then along comes your salvation. She takes you in, scrapes you up off the street, puts you on your feet again.

Because she's an angel of mercy -- she's an angel.

Kodac Harrison is the featured reader at tonight's Word of Mouth open mic, 8 p.m. upstairs at The Globe. After earning a BS from Georgia Institute of Technology, an MBA from Tulane, and leaving the Army as a first lieutenant, Kodac Harrison committed himself to a life as an artist. He's made 17 recordings of original music and spoken word, made seven tours of Europe, co-edited four anthologies of poetry, and sold his original paintings. He held  the visiting McEver chair of poetry at Georgia Tech in 2010. He is chairman of Poetry Atlanta and also hosts the award-winning Java Monkey Speaks weekly open mic in Decatur. In the summer of 2013, Kodac Harrison released The Turtle and the Moon, a book of his poems and lyrics. His latest music CD is The Lucky One [2015].

"Lost" - Alex Johns

"Lost" - Alex Johns

I was so focused on writing
that a roach had lighted,
ninja-quiet, unnoticed

on my bald skull, 
my lightbulb with ears:

an armored astronaut now perched 
upon a virgin surface.

At least a minute had passed,
at least a day in a bug's life,

before I felt it make its way
from my crown down my spine.     I 

flailed and raged like a ninja on Xanax, and
when it fell, despite its skill, revealed there

on the arm of the chair for what it was, 

alien, exoskeletal,
almost black,

I slammed down my fist
and in the process hit the black X
in the corner of the screen
to end the software's session,

and I lost the poem,

the best one I've ever written.

This story is literally true.

The poem would have been truer,

the way stars each scream
a secret,

the way every dream
seems to be an example of something, 
but you can't know what
just yet, 

perhaps primordial chaos,
perhaps of future times,
perhaps of something
psychic, extinct, or otherwise divine.

Then you forget.