be mad


Why Some People Be Mad at Me Sometimes
Lucille Clifton

they ask me to remember
but they want me to remember
their memories
and i keep on remembering
Photo by Fredy Jacob on Unsplash

ugly mouth


Invisible Dreams
Toi Derricotte

La poesie vit d’insomnie perpetuelle
—René Char

There’s a sickness in me. During
the night I wake up & it’s brought
a stain into my mouth, as if
an ocean has risen & left back
a stink on the rocks of my teeth.
I stink. My mouth is ugly, human
stink. A color like rust
is in me. I can’t get rid of it.
It rises after I
brush my teeth, a taste
like iron. In the
night, left like a dream,
a caustic light
washing over the insides of me.
What to do with my arms? They
coil out of my body
like snakes.
They branch & spit.
I want to shake myself
until they fall like withered
roots; until
they bend the right way—
until I fit in them,
or they in me.
I have to lay them down as
carefully as an old wedding dress,
I have to fold them
like the arms of someone dead.
The house is quiet; all
night I struggle. All
because of my arms,
which have no peace!
I’m a martyr, a girl who’s been dead
two thousand years. I turn
on my left side, like one comfortable
after a long, hard death.
The angels look down
tenderly. “She’s sleeping,” they say
& pass me by. But
all night, I am passing
in & out of my body
on my naked feet.
I’m awake when I’m sleeping & I’m
sleeping when I’m awake, & no one
knows, not even me, for my eyes
are closed to myself.
I think I am thinking I see
a man beside me, & he thinks
in his sleep that I’m awake
writing. I hear a pen scratch
a paper. There is some idea
I think is clever: I want to
capture myself in a book.
I have to make a
place for my body in
my body. I’m like a
dog pawing a blanket
on the floor. I have to
turn & twist myself
like a rag until I
can smell myself in myself.
I’m sweating; the water is
pouring out of me
like silver. I put my head
in the crook of my arm
like a brilliant moon.
The bones of my left foot
are too heavy on the bones
of my right. They
lie still for a little while,
sleeping, but soon they
bruise each other like
angry twins. Then
the bones of my right foot
command the bones of my left
to climb down.
Photo by K8 on Unsplash

the black body


Magical Negro #84: The Black Body
Morgan Parker

Give it a new verb.
Stop writing poetry.
Go outside. Make blood.
The body is a person.
The body is a person.
The body is a person.
The body is a person.
The body is a person.

Photo by David Jorre on Unsplash


second language


Second Language
Jericho Brown

You come with a little
Black string tied
Around your tongue,
Knotted to remind
Where you came from
And why you left
Behind photographs
Of people whose
Names need no
Pronouncing.  How
Do you say God
Now that the night
Rises sooner?  How
Dare you wake to work
Before any alarm?
I am the man asking,
The great grandson
Made so by the dead
Tenant farmers promised
A plot of land to hew.
They thought they could
Own the dirt they were
Bound to.  In that part
Of the country, a knot
Is something you
Get after getting knocked
Down, and story means
Lie.  In your part
Of the country, class
Means school, this room
Where we practice
Words like rope in our
Hope to undo your
Tongue, so you can tell
A lie or break a promise
Or grow like a story.

Photo by Tim Boote on Unsplash


the mother


The Mother
Gwendolyn Brooks

Abortions will not let you forget.
You remember the children you got that you did not get,
The damp small pulps with a little or with no hair,
The singers and workers that never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a sweet.
You will never wind up the sucking-thumb
Or scuttle off ghosts that come.
You will never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Return for a snack of them, with gobbling mother-eye.
I have heard in the voices of the wind the voices of my dim killed children.
I have contracted. I have eased
My dim dears at the breasts they could never suck.
I have said, Sweets, if I sinned, if I seized
Your luck
And your lives from your unfinished reach,
If I stole your births and your names,
Your straight baby tears and your games,
Your stilted or lovely loves, your tumults, your marriages, aches, and your deaths,
If I poisoned the beginnings of your breaths,
Believe that even in my deliberateness I was not deliberate.
Though why should I whine,
Whine that the crime was other than mine?—
Since anyhow you are dead.
Or rather, or instead,
You were never made.
But that too, I am afraid,
Is faulty: oh, what shall I say, how is the truth to be said?
You were born, you had body, you died.
It is just that you never giggled or planned or cried.
Believe me, I loved you all.
Believe me, I knew you, though faintly, and I loved, I loved you

chagall’s village


In Chagall’s Village
Rose Ausländer

Screen Shot 2019-12-20 at 22.19.01


Im Chagall-Dorf

Schiefe Giebel
hängen am

Der Brunnen schlummert
beleuchtet von

Die Bäuerin
melkt die Ziege
im Traumstall.

der Kirschbaum am Dach
wo der bärtige Greis

Die Braut
schaut ins Blumenaug
schwebt auf dem Schleier
über der Nachtsteppe.

Im Chagall-Dorf
weidet die Kuh
auf der Mondwiese
goldne Wölfe
beschützen die Lämmer.

soft targets


Soft Targets
Deborah Landau
It was good getting drunk in the undulant city.
Whiskey lopping off the day’s fear.

Dawn came with an element of Xanax.
Dusk came and I dumbed myself down.

Where there were brides, grooms–
bored boysoldiers with iphones and guns.

I’m a soft target, you’re a soft target,
and the city has a hundred hundred thousand softs.

The pervious skin, the softness of the face,
the wrist inners, the hips, the lips, the tongue,

the global body,
its infinite permute softnesses.

Soft targets, soft readers, drinkers,
pedestrians in rain–

In the failing light we walked out
and now we share a room with it

(would you like to read to me in the soft,
would you like to enter me in the soft,

would you like a lunch of me in the soft,
in its long delirium?)

The good news is we have each other.
The bad news is: Kalashnikov assault rifles,

a submachine gun, pistols, ammunition,
and four boxes packed with thousands of small steel balls.

O you who want to slaughter us, we’ll be dead soon
enough what’s the rush.

And this our only world.
As you can see it has a problem.

As you can see the citizens are hanging heavy.
The citizens’ minds are out.

Eros, eros, in Paris we stayed all night
in a seraphic cocktail haze

despite the blacked out theater,
the shuttered panes.

Tonight we’re the most tender of soft targets,
reclining by the river pulpy with alcohol and all a-sloth.

Monsieur can we get a few more?
There are unmistakable signs of trouble,

but we have days and days still.
Let’s be giddy, maybe. Time lights a little fire.

We are animal hungry down to our delicate bones.
O beautiful habits of living, let me dwell on you awhile.

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

checking a trap


Mysterious Neighbors
Connie Wanek

Country people rise early
as their distant lights testify.
They don’t hold water in common. Each house
has a personal source, like a bank account,
a stone vault. Some share eggs,
some share expertise,
and some won’t even wave.
A walk for the mail elevates the heart rate.
Last November I saw a woman down the road
walk out to her mailbox dressed in blaze orange
cap to boot, a cautious soul.
Bullets can’t read her No Trespassing sign.
Strange to think they’re in the air
like lead bees with a fatal sting.
Our neighbor across the road sits in his kitchen
with his rifle handy and the window open.
You never know when. Once
he shot a trophy with his barrel resting on the sill.
He’s in his seventies, born here, joined the Navy,
came back. Hard work never hurt a man
until suddenly he was another broken tool.
His silhouette against the dawn
droops as though drought-stricken, each step
deliberate, down the driveway to his black mailbox,
prying it open. Checking a trap.


husband dying


Not knowing…

The Woman Whose Husband Was Dying
Ted Kooser

She turned her eyes from mine, for within mine
she knew there wasn’t room for all her sorrow.
She needed a plain that she could flood with grief,
and as she stood there by the door I saw the distance
before her slowly filling, as if from hidden springs,
and she stepped outside, and placed one foot
and then the other on the future, and it held her up.

eastern standard time


Eastern Standard Time
Billy Collins

Poetry speaks to all people, it is said,
but here I would like to address
only those in my own time zone,
this proper slice of longitude
that runs from pole to snowy pole
down the globe through Montreal to Bogota.

Oh, fellow inhabitants of this singular band,
sitting up in your many beds this morning—
the sun falling through the windows
and casting a shadow on the sundial—
consider those in other zones who cannot hear these words.

They are not slipping into a bathrobe as we are,
or following the smell of coffee in a timely fashion.

Rather, they are at work already,
leaning on copy machines,
hammering nails into a house-frame.

They are not swallowing a vitamin like us;
rather they are smoking a cigarette under a half moon,
even jumping around on a dance floor,
or just now sliding under the covers,
pulling down the little chains on their bed lamps.

But we are not like these others,
for at this very moment on the face of the earth,
we are standing under a hot shower,

or we are eating our breakfast,
considered by people of all zones
to be the most important meal of the day.

Later, when the time is right,
we might sit down with the boss,
wash the car, or linger at a candle-lit table,
but now is the hour for pouring the juice
and flipping the eggs with one eye on the toaster.

So let us slice a banana and uncap the jam,
lift our brimming spoons of milk,
and leave it to the others to lower a flag
or spin absurdly in a barber’s chair—
those antipodal oddballs, always early or late.

Let us praise Sir Stanford Fleming
the Canadian genius who first scored
with these lines the length of the spinning earth.

Let us move together through the rest of this day
passing in unison from light to shadow,
coasting over the crest of noon
into the valley of the evening
and then, holding hands, slip into the deeper valley of night.