Poem of the Week: “Who Said it was Simple,” by Audre Lorde

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Who Said it was Simple

Audre Lorde

 

There are so many roots to the tree of anger

that sometimes the branches shatter

before they bear.

 

Sitting in Nedicks

the women rally before they march

discussing the problematic girls

they hire to make them free.

An almost white counterman passes

a waiting brother to serve them first

and the ladies neither notice nor reject

the slighter pleasures of their slavery.

But I who am bound by my mirror

as well as my bed

see causes in colour

as well as sex

 

and sit here wondering

which me will survive

all these liberations.

 

 

 

Audre Lorde, “Who Said It Was Simple” from From a Land Where Other People Live. Copyright © 1973 by Audre Lorde.

 

Poem of the Week: “On the Pulse of Morning,” by Maya Angelou

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ON THE PULSE OF MORNING

As delivered at the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, January 20, 1993

                        ~Maya Angelou

 

A Rock, A River, A Tree
Hosts to species long since departed,
Marked the mastodon,
The dinosaur, who left dried tokens
Of their sojourn here
On our planet floor,
Any broad alarm of their hastening doom
Is lost in the gloom of dust and ages.

 

But today, the Rock cries out to us, clearly, forcefully,
Come, you may stand upon my
Back and face your distant destiny,
But seek no haven in my shadow.
I will give you no hiding place down here.

 

You, created only a little lower than
The angels, have crouched too long in
The bruising darkness
Have lain too long
Face down in ignorance.
Your mouths spilling words

 

Armed for slaughter.
The Rock cries out to us today, you may stand upon me,
But do not hide your face.

 

Across the wall of the world,
A River sings a beautiful song. It says,
Come, rest here by my side.

 

Each of you, a bordered country,
Delicate and strangely made proud,
Yet thrusting perpetually under siege.
Your armed struggles for profit
Have left collars of waste upon
My shore, currents of debris upon my breast.
Yet today I call you to my riverside,
If you will study war no more. Come,
Clad in peace, and I will sing the songs
The Creator gave to me when I and the
Tree and the rock were one.
Before cynicism was a bloody sear across your
Brow and when you yet knew you still
Knew nothing.
The River sang and sings on.

 

There is a true yearning to respond to
The singing River and the wise Rock.
So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew
The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek
The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik,
The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
They hear. They all hear
The speaking of the Tree.

 

They hear the first and last of every Tree
Speak to humankind today. Come to me, here beside the River.
Plant yourself beside the River.

 

Each of you, descendant of some passed
On traveller, has been paid for.
You, who gave me my first name, you,
Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you
Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
Forced on bloody feet,
Left me to the employment of
Other seekers — desperate for gain,
Starving for gold.
You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede, the German, the Eskimo, the Scot,
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought,
Sold, stolen, arriving on the nightmare
Praying for a dream.
Here, root yourselves beside me.
I am that Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.
I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours — your passages have been paid.
Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.
History, despite its wrenching pain
Cannot be unlived, but if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

 

Lift up your eyes upon
This day breaking for you.
Give birth again
To the dream.

 

Women, children, men,
Take it into the palms of your hands,
Mold it into the shape of your most
Private need. Sculpt it into
The image of your most public self.
Lift up your hearts
Each new hour holds new chances
For a new beginning.
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

 

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
Here, on the pulse of this fine day
You may have the courage
To look up and out and upon me, the
Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
No less to Midas than the mendicant.
No less to you now than the mastodon then.

 

Here, on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister’s eyes, and into
Your brother’s face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope —
Good morning.

 

 

 

Poem of the Week: “Kissing in Vietnamese” by Ocean Vuong

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Kissing in Vietnamese

Ocean Vuong

 

My grandmother kisses

as if bombs are bursting in the backyard,

where mint and jasmine lace their perfumes

through the kitchen window,

as if somewhere, a body is falling apart

and flames are making their way back

through the intricacies of a young boy’s thigh,

as if to walk out the door, your torso

would dance from exit wounds.

When my grandmother kisses, there would be

no flashy smooching, no western music

of pursed lips, she kisses as if to breathe

you inside her, nose pressed to cheek

so that your scent is relearned

and your sweat pearls into drops of gold

inside her lungs, as if while she holds you

death also, is clutching your wrist.

My grandmother kisses as if history

never ended, as if somewhere

a body is still

falling apart.

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by Ocean Vuong. Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database, via poets.org

Poem of the Week: Elegy for Idle Curiosity, by Lucia Perillo

Out of this whirl: The Whirlpool Galaxy (M51) and companion galaELEGY FOR IDLE CURIOSITY

by Lucia Perillo

 

 
I used to ask aloud such things as: why is the moon round,

buffed only by the chamois cloth of space?

But now I hold my tongue, or else people start to tap

apparatus they’ve strapped to their hips

as if they were knights.  They are knights,

assailed by the uncertain.  When it stands to reason

that we must be somewhere on the map: the self

tends to be the only one not knowing where it is.

 

No more paddling the murk of pointless speculation,

wondering if the force that stirs the whirlpool

also winds the spider’s web.  A person can’t just wobble

with her mouth open–it arouses

the surveillance.  Instead we’re supposed to be

like traffic lights, vigilant in every season.

No more standing like a chanterelle, spewing out ten thousand spores,

penetrating the substrate, laying a fiber everywhere.

 

From Time Will Clean the Carcass Bones, Copper Canyon Press, 2016.

 

Poem of the week: “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” By Bob Dylan

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Johnny’s in the basement, mixing up the medicine
I’m on the pavement, thinking about the government
The man in the trench coat, badge out, laid off
Says he’s got a bad cough, wants to get it paid off
Look out kid, it’s somethin’ you did
God knows when, but you’re doin’ it again
You better duck down the alley way, lookin’ for a new friend
The man in the coon-skin cap in the big pen
Wants eleven dollar bills, you only got ten.

Maggie comes fleet foot, face full of black soot
Talkin’ that the heat put, plants in the bed but
The phone’s tapped anyway, Maggie says that many say
They must bust in early May, orders from the DA
Look out kid, don’t matter what you did
Walk on your tip toes, don’t try, ‘No Doz’
Better stay away from those that carry around a fire hose
Keep a clean nose, watch the plain clothes
You don’t need a weather man, to know which way the wind blows.

Get sick, get well, hang around an ink well
Ring bell, hard to tell, if anything is goin’ to sell

Try hard, get barred, get back, write Braille

Get jailed, jump bail Join the army, if you fail
Look out kid, you’re gonna get hit
But losers, cheaters, six-time users
Hang around the theaters
Girl by the whirlpool, lookin’ for a new fool
Don’t follow leaders, watch the parkin’ meters.

Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed, try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift, twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid, they keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle, don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals

Don’t wanna be a bum, you better chew gum
The pump don’t work
‘Cause the vandals took the handles.

Subterranean Homesick Blues” by Bob Dylan, originally released in 1965 as a single on Columbia Records

http://www.vevo.com/watch/USSM21501576?utm_medium=embed_player&utm_content=song_title&syn_id=346C2586-D3F8-4B75-BA0D-398FDB6E4C08 

Poem of the Week: “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation,”by Natalie Diaz

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Angels don’t come to the reservation.
Bats, maybe, or owls, boxy mottled things.
Coyotes, too. They all mean the same thing—
death. And death
eats angels, I guess, because I haven’t seen an angel
fly through this valley ever.
Gabriel? Never heard of him. Know a guy named Gabe though—
he came through here one powwow and stayed, typical
Indian. Sure he had wings,
jailbird that he was. He flies around in stolen cars. Wherever he stops,
kids grow like gourds from women’s bellies.
Like I said, no Indian I’ve ever heard of has ever been or seen an angel.
Maybe in a Christmas pageant or something—
Nazarene church holds one every December,
organized by Pastor John’s wife. It’s no wonder
Pastor John’s son is the angel—everyone knows angels are white.
Quit bothering with angels, I say. They’re no good for Indians.
Remember what happened last time
some white god came floating across the ocean?
Truth is, there may be angels, but if there are angels
up there, living on clouds or sitting on thrones across the sea wearing
velvet robes and golden rings, drinking whiskey from silver cups,
we’re better off if they stay rich and fat and ugly and
’xactly where they are—in their own distant heavens.
You better hope you never see angels on the rez. If you do, they’ll be marching you off to
Zion or Oklahoma, or some other hell they’ve mapped out for us.
Natalie Diaz, “Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation” from When My Brother Was an Aztec. Copyright © 2012 by Natalie Diaz. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.
Photo Credit: https://decolonization.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/gaagegoo-dabakaanan-miiniwaa-debenjigejig-no-borders-indigenous-sovereignty/

Poem of the Week: “Slowly,” by Denise Levertov

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Slowly

~Denise Levertov

 

Spirit has been alone

of late. Built a house

of fallen leaves

among exposed tree-roots.

Plans dreamily

to fetch water

 

from a stone well.

Sleeps

hungrily.

Waking,

is mute,

listening. Spirit

doesn’t know

what the sound will be,

song or cry.

Perhaps

 

one word. Holds

at heart a

red thread, winding

 

back to the world,

 

to one who holds the far end,

far off.

Spirit

throws off the quilts

when darkness

is very hearvy,

 

shuffles among

the leaves

upstairs and down

 

waiting.

Wants

the thread to vibrate

 

again. Again! Crimson!

 

Meanwhile refuses

visitors, asks

those who come

no questions,

answers none. Digs in

for winter,

slowly.

 

 

from Life in the Forest, New Directions, 1978.