Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Rain,” by Claribel Alegria

RAIN

Rain

                                ~ Claribel Alegria

As the falling rain

trickles among the stones

memories come bubbling out.

It’s as if the rain

had pierced my temples.

Streaming

streaming chaotically

come memories:

the reedy voice

of the servant

telling me tales

of ghosts.

They sat beside me

the ghosts

and the bed creaked

that purple-dark afternoon

when I learned you were leaving forever,

a gleaming pebble

from constant rubbing

becomes a comet.

Rain is falling

falling

and memories keep flooding by

they show me a senseless

world

a voracious

world—abyss

ambush

whirlwind

spur

but I keep loving it

because I do

because of my five senses

because of my amazement

because every morning,

because forever, I have loved it

without knowing why.

 

From Casting Off by Claribel Alegría. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. Copyright © 2003 by Curbstone Press.

 

Advertisements
Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “The White Poet Wants to Know Why I Don’t Write More Arab Poems,” by Leila Chatti

The White Poet Wants to Know Why I Don’t Write More Arab Poems

Because, while a war blooms at the margins

of the other country that claims me, still

 

I am here with my ordinary grief and its language.

 

Because every time I open my mouth

I am an Arab opening my mouth

 

and the poem is, and isn’t, responsible.

 

Sometimes I have to shake

the sand from my story

like a shoe by the side of the road.

 

I have lost nearly everyone I love, and all

to mundane tragedies.

 

I have never felt in my bones a bomb’s

radius of light.

 

The truth is I can only write about God

so many times

 

before he starts listening.

 

The truth is, like you

some days I am struck

 

by pleasure so simple and insistent

I can’t resist—the sun offering indiscriminate

 

brightness against my window, on the table

an empty glass glittering

 

—or sometimes, too, I am unwilling

to mention the wild

 

flowers staked in the field like flags.

 

Previous published in the Summer 2017 issue of The Georgia Review 

Please join us Wednesday, April 18 as we welcome Leila for a reading at 7 p.m. and as she announces the winner of the Annie Balocating Prize. Details at Poetry.RCAH.msu.edu

Posted in poem of the week, Spring Poetry Festival

Poem of the Week: “Tapestry,” by Carolyn Forché

Please join us this week in welcoming Carolyn Forché for our Spring Poetry Festival. For full schedule, visit our website.

Millefleur-Tapestry (1)

Tapestry

There is no album for these, no white script on black
paper, no dates stamped in a border, no sleeve, no fire,
no one has written on the back from left to right.
Your hair has not yet fallen out nor grown back—
girl walking toward you out of childhood
not yet herself, having not yet learned to recite
before others, and who would never wish to stand
on a lighted proscenium, even in a darkened house,
but would rather dig a hole in a field and cover herself
with barn wood, earth and hay, to be as quiet as plums turning.
There is no calendar, no month, no locket, but your name
is called and called in the early storm. No one finds
you no one ever finds you. Not in a small grave
dug by a child as a hiding place, nor years
later in the ship’s hold, not in the shelter, nor high
on the roof as the man beside you leapt, not
in a basket crossing a vineyard, nor in a convent
kitchen on the last night, as a saint soon to be
murdered told you how to live your life,
never found you walking in the ruins of the blown
barracks, wading in the flooded camp, taking cover
in the machinist’s shop, or lighting every votive
in the Cathedral of St. Just, with its vaulted
choir and transept, a wall of suffering souls.
It was just as Brecht wrote, wasn’t it? “You came
in a time of unrest when hunger reigned.
You came to the people in a time of uprising
and you rose with them. So the time
passed away which on earth was given you.”
Gather in your sleep the ripened plums.
Stay behind in the earth when your name is called.

Carolyn Forché

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “April,” by Anita Skeen

Mountain-avens

April

April is the cruelest month….

–T.S. Eliot

 

April is the killer month,

the month of late frost smothering

apple and cherry blossoms,

the month of too much blooming

too soon in too many colors.

How many shades of pink

exist, how many constellations

of purple in the grass, how many

galaxies of pear petals twinkling

in the field after last night’s storm?

The jonquils in their symphony

of yellow, each one claiming

to be First Trumpet, the tulips

holding high their bowls for rain.

The smiley-faced dandelions

are back, ready to take over

the world. There’s too much

happiness out there. The birds

can’t keep their mouths shut,

tweeting us before the sun

is even up. Lilacs show some

restraint, as do the azaleas,

not flaunting their hallmark

flowers until later. Bees lunge

dizzy with pollen, bumping

into walls, dropping from gutters

like bungee jumpers. For some

of us, spring’s not all that nifty.

Not all things return to life.

Graves will not open to give back

captives. Persephone does not

come home. All this floral hoopla,

too funereal. We’re relieved

when it’s time to flip the switch

to nightfall where just shapes

and silhouettes border the path.

Stars remain their constant selves,

a comfort they’re so far away.

 

                                                      ~ Anita Skeen

 

Join us this week as we celebrate ten years of the RCAH Center for Poetry with founder/Director Anita Skeen, and original assistants Stephanie Glazier and Lia Greenwell. Visit our Facebook event for details.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: i come to the city, by Cheryl Clarke

Tailored-Tomboy-Kicks-Up-The-Dust-In-Tomboy-Style-Fashion-7

i come to the city

 for protection
and to witness the thick transactions
of women
and women
and dance with my head.
My turns are calculated
to end on the right foot
to subdue the hip movements.
The city fumes with expectations
and the smells of women
wanting women.
I been in love
six times in the last six months
and ain’t done tryin yet.

Cheryl Clarke

 

Join the RCAH Center for Poetry as we welcome Cheryl Clarke, Wednesday, March 28, for a 3 p.m. talk in the LookOut! Gallery: Gwendolyn Brooks: “Bad Woman” Poet in the Streets and at the Margins, and for a 7 p.m. reading of her own work, in the RCAH Theater.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Spring and All,” by William Carlos Williams

 

sprout-933892_1920

Spring and All

by William Carlos Williams

 

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast — a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines —

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches —

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind —

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

One by one objects are defined —
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance — Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Languages” by Carl Sandburg

 

610sandburgradio

There are no handles upon a language

Whereby men take hold of it

And mark it with signs for its remembrance.

It is a river, this language,

Once in a thousand years

Breaking a new course

Changing its way to the ocean.

It is mountain effluvia

Moving to valleys

And from nation to nation

Crossing borders and mixing.

Languages die like rivers.

Words wrapped round your tongue today

And broken to shape of thought

Between your teeth and lips speaking

Now and today

Shall be faded hieroglyphics

Ten thousand years from now.

Sing—and singing—remember

Your song dies and changes

And is not here to-morrow

Any more than the wind

Blowing ten thousand years ago.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Recreation” by Audre Lorde

 

audre lorde

Coming together

it is easier to work

after our bodies

meet

paper and pen

neither care nor profit

whether we write or not

but as your body moves

under my hands

charged and waiting

we cut the leash

you create me against your thighs

hilly with images

moving through our word countries

my body

writes into your flesh

the poem

you make of me.

 

Touching you I catch midnight

as moon fires set in my throat

I love you flesh into blossom

I made you

and take you made

into me.

 

Audre Lorde, “Recreation” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997 by Audre Lorde. Reprinted with the permission of Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., http://www.nortonpoets.com.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “I Want To Work in a Hospital” by Cortney Davis

I Want To Work in a Hospital

where it’s okay

to climb into bed with patients

and hold them—

pre-op, before they lose

their legs or breasts, or after,

to tell them

they are still whole.

 

Or post-partum,

when they have just returned

from that strange garden,

or when they are dying,

as if somehow because I stay

they are free to go.

 

I want the daylight

I walk out into

to become the flashlight they carry,

waving it as we go together

into their long night.

 

Poem courtesy of http://www.cortneydavis.com/

Cortney Davis’ Taking Care of Time is the inaugural winner of the Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize. This book will be available for sale from Michigan State University Press through their website at www.msupress.org and at bookstores in March 2018.

The RCAH Center for Poetry will represent Wheelbarrow Books at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) conference in March 2018, where there will also be copies available.

Posted in poem of the week

Poem of the Week: “Mothers” by Nikki Giovanni

the last time i was home

to see my mother we kissed

exchanged pleasantries

and unpleasantries pulled a warm

comforting silence around

us and read separate books

 

i remember the first time

i consciously saw her

we were living in a three room

apartment on burns avenue

 

mommy always sat in the dark

i don’t know how i knew that but she did

 

that night i stumbled into the kitchen

maybe because i’ve always been

a night person or perhaps because i had wet

the bed

she was sitting on a chair

the room was bathed in moonlight diffused through

those thousands of panes landlords who rented

to people with children were prone to put in windows

she may have been smoking but maybe not

her hair was three-quarters her height

which made me a strong believer in the samson myth

and very black

 

i’m sure i just hung there by the door

i remember thinking: what a beautiful lady

 

she was very deliberately waiting

perhaps for my father to come home

from his night job or maybe for a dream

that had promised to come by

“come here” she said “i’ll teach you

a poem: i see the moon

               the moon sees me

               god bless the moon

               and god bless me

i taught it to my son

who recited it for her

just to say we must learn

to bear the pleasures

as we have borne the pains

 

Nikki Giovanni, “Mothers” from My House. Copyright © 1972 by Nikki Giovanni.

Source: The Collected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (2003)