passing love

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Passing Love
Langston Hughes

Because you are to me a song
I must not sing you over-long.

Because you are to me a prayer
I cannot say you everywhere.

Because you are to me a rose —
You will not stay when summer goes.

“I feel most colored when…”

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I Feel Most Colored When I Am Thrown Against a Sharp White Background
Morgan Parker

After Glenn Ligon after Zora Neale Hurston

Or, I feel sharp white.
Or, colored against.
Or, I am thrown. I am against. Or, when white I sharp. I color.
Quiet. Forget. My country is a boat.
I feel most colored when I swear to god.
I feel most colored when it is too late.
When I am captive
The last thing on my mind is death.
I tongue elegy.
I color green because green is the color of power.
I am growing two fruits.
I feel most colored when I am thrown against the sidewalk.
It is the last time I feel colored.
Stone is the name of the fruit.
I am a man I am a man I am a woman I am a man I am a woman I am protected and served.
I background my country.
My country sharp in my throat.
I pay taxes and I am a child and I grow into a bright fleshy fruit.
White bites: I stain the uniform.
I am thrown black typeface in a headline with no name.
Or, no one hears me.
I am thrown bone, “Unarmed.”
I feel most colored when my weapon is I.
When I get what I deserve.
When I can’t breathe.
When on television I shuffle and widen my eyes.
I feel most colored when I am thrown against a mattress, my tits my waist my ankles buried in.
White ash. Everyone claps.
I feel most colored when I am the punchline. When I am the trigger.
In the dawn, putrid yellow, I know what I am being told.
My country pisses on my grave.
My country bigger than god.
Elegy my country.
I feel most colored when I am collecting dust.
When I am impatient and sick. They use us to distract us.
My ears leak violet petals.
I sharpen them. I sharpen them again.
Everyone claps.

 

Oughta Be a Woman

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Oughta Be a Woman
June Jordan
Washing the floors to send you to college
Staying at home so you can feel safe
What do you think is the soul of her knowledge
What do you think that makes her feel safe

Biting her lips and lowering her eyes
To make sure there’s food on the table
What do you think would be her surprise
If the world was as willing as she’s able

Hugging herself in an old kitchen chair
She listens to your hurt and your rage
What do you think she knows of despair
What is the aching of age

The fathers, the children, the brothers
Turn to her and everybody white turns to her
What about her turning around
Alone in the everyday light

There oughta be a woman can break
Down, sit down, break down, sit down
Like everybody else call it quits on Mondays
Blues on Tuesdays, sleep until Sunday
Down, sit down, break down, sit down

A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Courage that cries out at night
A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Bravery kept outa sight
A way outa no way is too much to ask
Too much of a task for any one woman

ganymede

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Ganymede
Jericho Brown

A man trades his son for horses.
That’s the version I prefer. I like
The safety of it, no one at fault,
Everyone rewarded. God gets
The boy. The boy becomes
Immortal. His father rides until
Grief sounds as good as the gallop
Of an animal born to carry those
Who patrol and protect our inherited
Kingdom. When we look at myth
This way, nobody bothers saying
Rape. I mean, don’t you want God
To want you? Don’t you dream
Of someone with wings taking you
Up? And when the master comes
For our children, he smells
Like the men who own stables
In Heaven, that far terrain
Between Promise and Apology.
No one has to convince us.
The people of my country believe
We can’t be hurt if we can be bought.

 

those winter sundays

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Those Winter Sundays
Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

evening song

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Evening Song
Jean Toomer

Full moon rising on the waters of my heart, 
Lakes and moon and fires, 
Cloine tires,
Holding her lips apart. 

Promises of slumber leaving shore to charm the moon, 
Miracle made vesper-keeps, 
Cloine sleeps, 
And I’ll be sleeping soon. 

Cloine, curled like the sleepy waters where the 
        moon-waves start, 
Radiant, resplendently she gleams, 
Cloine dreams, 
Lips pressed against my heart. 

mastercard

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I Take Master Card
(Charge Your Love to Me)
Nikki Giovanni
I’ve heard the stories
’bout how you don’t deserve me
’cause I’m so strong and beautiful and wonderful and you could
never live up to what you know I should have but I just want to let you know:I take Master Card

You can love me as much as your heart can stand
then put the rest on
account and pay the interest
each month until we get this thing settled You see we modern women do comprehend
that we deserve a whole lot more
than what is normally being offered but we are trying
to get aligned with the modern world

So baby you can love me all
you like ’cause you’re pre-approved
and you don’t have to sign on
the bottom line

Charge it up
’til we just can’t take no more
it’s the modern way

I take Master Card
to see your Visa
and I deal with a Discover but I don’t want any American
Express ’cause like the Pointer Sisters say:  I need a slow hand.

‘valentine of desire’

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Not Touching
Billy Collins
The valentine of desire is pasted over my heart
and still we are not touching, like things

in a poorly done still life
where the knife appears to be floating over the plate
which is itself hovering above the table somehow,

the entire arrangement of apple, pear, and wineglass
having forgotten the law of gravity,
refusing to be still,

as if the painter had caught them all
in a rare moment of slow flight
just before they drifted out of the room
through a window of perfectly realistic sunlight.

stake

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Stake
Jericho Brown

I am a they in most of America.
Someone feels lost in the forest 
Of we, so he can’t imagine
A single tree.  He can’t bear it.
A cross. A crucifixion.  Such
A Christian. All that wood
Headed his way in the fact
Of a man or a woman who
Might as well be a secret, so
Serious his need to see inside.
To cut down. To tell. How
Old will I get to be in a nation
That believes we can grow out
Of a grave? Can reach. Climb
High as the First State Bank.
Take a bullet. Break through
Concrete. The sidewalk.
The street someone crosses
When he sees wilderness where
He wanted his city. His cross-
Tie. His telephone pole.
Timber. Timbre. It’s an awful
Sound, and people pay to hear
It. People say bad things about
Me, though they don’t know
My name. I have a name. 
A stake. I settle. Dig. Die. 
Go underground. Tunnel
The ocean floor. Root. Shoot
Up like a thought someone
Planted. Someone planted
An idea of me. A lie. A lawn
Jockey. The myth of a wooded
Hamlet in America, a thicket,
Hell, a patch of sunlit grass
Where any one of us bursts into
One someone as whole as we.