Friday, February 25, 2011

Keep Digging: Afaa M. Weaver

What Elizabeth Bishop Could Not Know
by Afaa M. Weaver

Black women keep secrets tied up in hankies
they stuff in their bras, secrets of how their necks
are connected to their spines in the precise gyration
of a jelly sweetened in nights they had to keep
to themselves, nights prowlers came in to change
the faces of their children, secrets like the good
googa mooga laughter they do with each other
when something affirms their suspicions, when
their eyes are made the prayerbooks of fate crafted
in the wisdom that knows there is no north or south
in black wandering, searching the new land, a song
they wrestle from black men, the broken ones
who had to be shown where and how to stand,
how to respect pain and the way it governs itself,
secrets, things made out of generations and not kept
in the glass selections of an old juke box.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

In Miniature by Katherine Sánchez Espano

In Miniature
by Katherine Sánchez Espano

When I was seven, I lived in the coach car
of a toy train on the living room floor.
I used the windows as binoculars
to study my father.
A hair follicle was a coin
in the wrong currency,
his boots as loud
as a signed receipt.
Unemployment checks on the credenza
were flat like Midwest plains.

Even now I appreciate the uncertainty
of a briefcase returned to its place
by the front door.
At midnight, the brass clock
interviewed the evening
and found it wanting.

My father from his great height
could never understand the joy of riding
in circles, each trip revealing a detail
not noticed before:
the crack on the wall that resembles
a river on a parchment map,
the dropped ficus leaf on the carpet
as green as a rainforest mountain.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Be Kinder to Yourself

For The Dead

I dreamed I called you on the telephone
to say: Be kinder to yourself
but you were sick and would not answer

The waste of my love goes on this way
trying to save you from yourself

I have always wondered about the left-over
energy, the way water goes rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting long after midnight

— Adrienne Rich
"My stories are a mix of fairytale and autobiography, and my aim in all my work is to communicate my belief that the world is a magical place.” -- David Lucas


Monday, February 14, 2011

The Benjamin Franklin of Monogamy by Jeffrey McDaniel

The Benjamin Franklin of Monogamy
Jeffrey McDaniel

Reminiscing in the drizzle of Portland, I notice
the ring that's landed on your finger, a massive
insect of glitter, a chandelier shining at the end

of a long tunnel. Thirteen years ago, you hid the hurt
in your voice under a blanket and said there's two kinds
of women—those you write poems about

and those you don't. It's true. I never brought you
a bouquet of sonnets, or served you haiku in bed.
My idea of courtship was tapping Jane's Addiction

lyrics in Morse code on your window at three A.M.,
whiskey doing push-ups on my breath. But I worked
within the confines of my character, cast

as the bad boy in your life, the Magellan
of your dark side. We don't have a past so much
as a bunch of electricity and liquor, power

never put to good use. What we had together
makes it sound like a virus, as if we caught
one another like colds, and desire was merely

a symptom that could be treated with soup
and lots of sex. Gliding beside you now,
I feel like the Benjamin Franklin of monogamy,

as if I invented it, but I'm still not immune
to your waterfall scent, still haven't developed
antibodies for your smile. I don't know how long

regret existed before humans stuck a word on it.
I don't know how many paper towels it would take
to wipe up the Pacific Ocean, or why the light

of a candle being blown out travels faster
than the luminescence of one that's just been lit,
but I do know that all our huffing and puffing

into each other's ears—as if the brain was a trick
birthday candle—didn't make the silence
any easier to navigate. I'm sorry all the kisses

I scrawled on your neck were written
in disappearing ink. Sometimes I thought of you
so hard one of your legs would pop out

of my ear hole, and when I was sleeping, you'd press
your face against the porthole of my submarine.
I'm sorry this poem has taken thirteen years

to reach you. I wish that just once, instead of skidding
off the shoulder blade's precipice and joyriding
over flesh, we'd put our hands away like chocolate

to be saved for later, and deciphered the calligraphy
of each other's eyelashes, translated a paragraph
from the volumes of what couldn't be said.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

27 by Nerisa del Carmen Guevara

Jennifer Caviola
portrait of jeffrey
--Nerisa del Carmen Guevara

And by the time I reach 80
I would have fallen in love with
An entire city.
All the people on the streets
Would follow me down with
A knowing.
All hate gone. All sorrow.
The word absence would not
make sense.

The dinosaurs are still underground;
All the species the eco-warriors were not able to save
Have walked without regret to wastelands they haven’t found yet;
Most of the people we love, walking or dead,
Are sometimes in the dust we sweep out on Sundays.
The trees always leave an instant mix,
Just add water
And we are still
Remembering even what we try to forget.

The once loved, the once loving,
The kept, the abandoned,
Finally making sense of it all.


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ruby by Rebecca Frederickson

by Rebecca Frederickson

Three years dead, and already I can't remember you.
I won't go back to your last years in institutions,
where you slugged a nurse and refused to eat
anything but chicken in a mug and soda crackers.
Before death, we can boil down to what has been
the worst in us and then our grandchildren
must be trusted to forget.

Ruby, I'll go way back to the raspberries,
colour of your name, colour of your nose,
and your bad thumb, thumb your ruined with a thorn
while picking the ripe, red ones.
You fed us bowls filled with fruit
and crawling with short white worms.
Afraid to make a fuss in front of you,
I piled on white sugar and the canned milk
you kept out all day on your slick Formica table

Ruby, your beautiful name, a jewel
birthstone for July, a hard hard rock
like the one that grew in your heart.
Eleven children and not one of them
named something gorgeous.
Eddie, Sam, Irene, and my father, Billy.
As if you knew better than to give
names that could refract light,
roll pleasure and possibility off the tongue.
Charlie, Bobby, Raymond, and Grace,
humble enough to forgive their father
for the sting of the willow switch.

You married a barrel-chested butcher, settled
in Valhalla, Alberta, to make leftsa and rosettas,
lutefisk for Easter and Christmas.
You'd whisper bible stories in Norwegian,
till he'd fall asleep, then lie awake,
thinking what paradise might really be like:
not gold and the thick white wings of angels,
but Boise, Idaho, and the Irishman who kissed you there,
whose hair smelled of pipe smoke.
He was studying to be a doctor
and you have had him just like that,
you told me—your hip broken
the time I went to see you in the hospital.

Ruby, I never did figure out what happened to your leg,
why it was stiff at the knee, straight as a cane.
Something to do with the raspberry thorn
in your thumb, the infection that went through you.
I mean to look up at the name in a doctor's book
but you're buried now, just outside of La Glace,
in your brown stockings and flowered house-dress.
Most days I don't remember to think of you.
I have on portrait, looking down;
it shows off your eyelids and lashes.
I used to get angry when they said we looked alike,
but it's our eyes, and the wideness of our faces.

Born again in your twenties,
you built your life around the prophecy
that all your children would be saved.
You were visited once by an angel
who accepted fresh-baked buns and jam
and spoke with you in the Norwegian
you hadn't heard for years—
your husband, Valhalla, gone.
You asked neighbours about this
great, tall man who had come on foot,
but they shook their heads. Only you had seen him.

Ruby, I'd like to ask you more about the angel.
When he looked into your eyes, did he mention
how they could bend light in ripples around the room?
Were his hands rough from the field, or soft, like a child's?

Friday, February 11, 2011

& You Deal With It

Long Distance II
by Tony Harrison

Though my mother was already two years dead
Dad kept her slippers warming by the gas,
put hot water bottles her side of the bed
and still went to renew her transport pass.

You couldn't just drop in. You had to phone.
He'd put you off an hour to give him time
to clear away her things and look alone
as though his still raw love were such a crime.

He couldn't risk my blight of disbelief
though sure that very soon he'd hear her key
scrape in the rusted lock and end his grief.
He knew she'd just popped out to get the tea.

I believe life ends with death, and that is all.
You haven't both gone shopping; just the same,
in my new black leather phone book there's your name
and the disconnected number I still call.



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

snow & action

“What you are will show in what you do.”

-- Thomas Edison

Leadership and reliability can be frustrating and lonely endeavors, and they can be fulfilling and real and beautiful, too. Inspiration: we talked about this once a class I took in grad. school: Conceptual Art.

Here, we kept inspiration journals, looked at them, and talked about the role of the artists. How can you keep going when you're alone a lot of the time? The same goes for leadership -- whether young and in a club or older and a supervisor. I suppose it links to self-definition, pay it forward, and effort.
There is so much snow barreling towards New England. I am in the house, hoodie and sweats in place, and I refuse to go out. There's something nice about this: being forced inside, taking the time to read. I missed this. What I don't miss? Dangerous driving conditions. Shoveling. Slipping. The left headlight of my car blown because I slid into a snow bank (at my house, in my parking spot: disappointing).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

sound effects: jonathan safran foer & sarah dessen

I thrive with white noise. Sound. Any sound. Repetitive. Mash-ups, hip hop, country, soul, jazz, blues, pop, whatever: I thrive with sound all around me.

The house I grew in was too small, and my parents were over-the-top. My mother's voice was a rasping bullhorn, my father was one-part charming joker & one part explosive volcano -- silence spotted between that dichotomy (I am more like him than I like to admit).

Thus, listening to music is a near-constant activity: it's on when I drive, when I read, when I work, and when I clean. It focuses me. All the activity and sounds and lyrics allow my brain to settle in on something.

Most memories come complete with a soundtrack. Driving with my father? Kenny Rogers or Patsy Cline. High school hijinxs with Mecca? Everything from Sublime and Spice Girls to Nelly Furtado and "Teenage Dirtbag." Stories and memories include songs. Get-togethers in college? Journey and Queen. Camp? "World's Greatest," Stevie Wonder, & Jackson 5.

I haven't read the book, but the following quotation rings true:

“Because a song can take you back instantly to a moment, a place, or even a person. No matter what else has changed in you or the world, that one song stays the same, just like that moment. Which is pretty amazing, when you actually think about it.”

-- Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

I'm able to relive past loves, challenges, moments, deaths, and celebrations with the change of a CD or the scroll of an iPod. The starting lines of a song move me somewhere else. Talk about time travel. Talk about nostalgia.