Thursday, April 19, 2018

Fannie Lou Hamer by Kamilah Aisha Moon


Fannie Lou Hamer

                  “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired!”  
 
She sat across the desk from me, squirming.
It was stifling. My suite runs hot
but most days it is bearable.  
 
This student has turned in nothing,
rarely comes to class. When she does,
her eyes bore into me with a disdain
born long before either of us.  
 
She doesn’t trust anything I say.
She can’t respect my station,
the words coming out of these lips,
this face. My breathing
is an affront. It’s me, she says.  
 
I never was this student’s professor—
her immediate reaction
seeing me at the smart board.
But I have a calling to complete
& she has to finish college,
return to a town where
she doesn’t have to look at,
listen to or respect anyone
like me—forever tall, large
& brown in her dagger eyes,
though it’s clear she looks down
on me. She can return—
if not to her hometown, another
enclave, so many others, where
she can brush a dog’s golden coat,
be vegan & call herself
a good person.  
 
Are you having difficulty with your other classes?  

No.  

Go, I say, tenderly.
Loaded as a cop’s gun,
she blurts point-blank
that she’s afraid of me. Twice.
My soft syllables rattle something
planted deep,
so I tell her to go where
she’d feel more comfortable
as if she were my niece or
godchild, even wish her
a good day.  
 
If she stays, the ways
this could backfire! 
Where is my Kevlar shield
from her shame?  
 
There’s no way to tell
when these breasts will evoke
solace or terror. I hate
that she surprises me, that I lull
myself to think her ilk
is gone despite knowing
so much more, and better.  
 
I can’t proselytize my worth
all semester, exhaust us
for the greater good.
I can’t let her make me
a monster to myself—
I’m running out of time & pity
the extent of her impoverished
heart. She’s from New
England, I’m from the Mid-South.
Far from elderly, someone
just raised her like this
with love.  
 
I have essays to grade
but words warp
on the white page, dart
just out of reach. I blink
two hours away, find it hard
to lift my legs, my voice,
my head precious to my parents
now being held
in my own hands.  
 
How did they survive
so much worse, the millions
with all of their scars!
What would these rivers be
without their weeping,
these streets without
their faith & sweat?  
 
Fannie Lou Hamer
thundered what they felt,
we feel, into DNC microphones
on black and white TV
years before
I was a notion.  
 
She doesn’t know who
Fannie Lou Hamer is,
and never has to.
  
 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

I Am in Love, Hence Free to Live by Vera Pavlova


I Am in Love, Hence Free to Live

I am in love, hence free to live
by heart, to ad lib as I caress.
A soul is light when full,
heavy when vacuous.
My soul is light. She is not afraid
to dance the agony alone,
for I was born wearing your shirt,
will come from the dead with that shirt on.

(Translated by Steven Seymour)

 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Lost Pilot by James Tate


The Lost Pilot 
 
       for my father, 1922-1944
 
Your face did not rot
like the others—the co-pilot,   
for example, I saw him
 
yesterday. His face is corn-
mush: his wife and daughter,   
the poor ignorant people, stare
 
as if he will compose soon.
He was more wronged than Job.   
But your face did not rot
 
like the others—it grew dark,
and hard like ebony;
the features progressed in their
 
distinction. If I could cajole
you to come back for an evening,   
down from your compulsive
 
orbiting, I would touch you,   
read your face as Dallas,   
your hoodlum gunner, now,
 
with the blistered eyes, reads   
his braille editions. I would
touch your face as a disinterested
 
scholar touches an original page.   
However frightening, I would   
discover you, and I would not
 
turn you in; I would not make   
you face your wife, or Dallas,   
or the co-pilot, Jim. You
 
could return to your crazy   
orbiting, and I would not try   
to fully understand what
 
it means to you. All I know   
is this: when I see you,   
as I have seen you at least
 
once every year of my life,   
spin across the wilds of the sky   
like a tiny, African god,
 
I feel dead. I feel as if I were   
the residue of a stranger’s life,   
that I should pursue you.
 
My head cocked toward the sky,   
I cannot get off the ground,   
and, you, passing over again,
 
fast, perfect, and unwilling   
to tell me that you are doing   
well, or that it was mistake
 
that placed you in that world,
and me in this; or that misfortune   
placed these worlds in us. 

 

Monday, April 16, 2018

Late Echoes by John Ashbery


Late Echoes
 
Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.
Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.
Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day. 

 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

To Be a Good Buddhist Is Ensnarement by Jenny Xie


To Be a Good Buddhist Is Ensnarement
 
The Zen priest says I am everything I am not.  
In order to stop resisting, I must not attempt to stop resisting. 
I must believe there is no need to believe in thoughts. 
Oblivious to appetites that appear to be exits, and also entrances. 
What is there to hoard when the worldly realm has no permanent vacancies? 
Ten years I’ve taken to this mind fasting. 
My shadow these days is bare.  
It drives a stranger, a good fool. 
Nothing can surprise. 
Clarity is just questioning having eaten its fill. 

 

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Homewrecker by Ocean Vuong


Homewrecker

& this is how we danced: our mothers’
white dresses spilling from our feet, late August

turning our hands dark red. & this is how we loved:
a fifth of vodka & an afternoon in the attic, your fingers

through my hair—my hair a wildfire. We covered
our ears & your father’s tantrum turned

to heartbeats. When our lips touched the day closed
into a coffin. In the museum of the heart

there are two headless people building a burning house.
There was always the shotgun above

the fireplace. Always another hour to kill—only to beg
some god to give it back. If not the attic, the car. If not

the car, the dream. If not the boy, his clothes. If not alive,
put down the phone. Because the year is a distance

we’ve traveled in circles. Which is to say: this is how
we danced: alone in sleeping bodies. Which is to say:

this is how we loved: a knife on the tongue turning
into a tongue.

 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Reading to My Father by Jorie Graham


Reading to My Father

I come back indoors at dusk-end. I come back into the room with

your now finished no-longer-aching no-longer-being

body in it, the candle beside you still lit—no other

light for now. I sit by it and look at it. Another in

from the one I was just peering-out towards now, over

rooftops, over the woods, first stars.

The candle burns. It is so quiet you can hear it burn.

Only I breathe. I hear that too.

Listen I say to you, forgetting. Do you hear it Dad. Listen.

What is increase. The cease of increase.

The cease of progress. What is progress.

What is going. The cease of going.

What is knowing. What is fruition.

The cease of. Cease of.

What is bloodflow. The cease of bloodflow

of increase of progress the best is over, is over-

thrown, no, the worst is yet to come, no, it is

7:58 p.m., it is late spring, it is capital’s apogee, the

flow’s, fruition’s, going’s, increase’s, in creases of

matter, brainfold, cellflow, knowing’s

pastime, it misfired, lifetime’s only airtime—candle says

you shall out yourself, out-

perform yourself, grow multiform—you shall self-identify as

                                  still

mortal—here in this timestorm—this end-of-time

storm—the night comes on.


Last night came on with you still here.

Now I wait here. Feel I can think. Feel there are no minutes in you

Put my minutes there, on you, as hands—touch, press,

feel the flying-away, the leaving-sticks-behind under the skin, then even the skin

abandoned now, no otherwise now, even the otherwise gone.

I lay our open book on you, where we left off. I read. I read aloud—

grove, forest, jungle, dog—the words don’t grip-up into sentences for me,

                   it is in pieces,

I start again into the space above you—grandeur wisdom village

tongue, street, wind—hornet—feeler runner rust red more—oh

more—I hear my voice—it is so raised—on you—are you—refinery portal

land scald difference—here comes my you, rising in me, my feel-

                   ing your it, my me, in-

creasing, elaborating, flowing, not yet released from form, not yet,

still will-formed, swarming, mis-

informed—bridegroom of spume and vroom.

I touch your pillowcase. I read this out to you as, in extremis, we await

those who will come to fix you—make you permanent. No more vein-hiss. A

                   masterpiece. My phantom

father-body—so gone—how gone. I sit. Your suit laid out. Your silver tie. Your

                   shirt. I don’t know

                   what is

needed now. It’s day. Read now, you’d say. Here it is then, one last time, the

                   news. I

                   read. There is no

precedent for, far exceeds the ability of, will not

                   adapt to, cannot

                   adapt to,

but not for a while yet, not yet, but not for much longer, no, much

sooner than predicted, yes, ten times, a hundred times, all evidence

                   points towards.

                   What do I tell my child.

Day has arrived and crosses out the candle-light. Here it is now the

silent summer—extinction—migration—the blue-jewel-

butterfly you loved, goodbye, the red kite, the dunnock, the crested tit, the cross-

billed spotless starling (near the top of the list) smokey gopher—spud-

wasp—the named storms, extinct fonts, ingots, blindmole-made-

tunnels—oh your century, there in you, how it goes out—

how lonely are we aiming for—are we there

yet—the orange-bellied and golden-shouldered parrots—

I read them out into our room, I feel my fingers grip this

page, where are the men who are supposed to come for you,

most of the ecosystem’s services, it says,

will easily become replaced—the soil, the roots, the webs—the organizations

of—the 3D grasses, minnows, mudflats—the virtual carapace—the simulated action of

forest, wetland, of all the living noise that keeps us

company. Company. I look at you.

Must I be this machine I am

become. This brain programming

blood function, flowing beating releasing channeling.

This one where I hold my head in my hands and the chip

slips in and click I go to find my in-

formation. The two-headed eagle, the

beaked snake, the feathered men walking sideways while looking

ahead, on stone, on wall, on pyramid, in

sacrifice—must I have already become when it is all still

happening. Behind you thin machines that ticked and hummed until just now

are off for good. What I wouldn’t give, you had said last night, for five more

minutes here. You can’t imagine it. Minutes ago.

Ago. It hums. It checks us now, monitoring

this minute fraction of—the MRI, the access-zone, the

aura, slot, logo, confession-

al—I feel the hissing multiplying

satellites out there I took for stars, the bedspread’s weave, your being tucked-in—

goodnight, goodnight—Once upon a time I say into my air,

and I caress you now with the same touch

as I caress these keys.