he didn’t know he was so shook
it started in his system/an erratic prance
some mechanism gone wet
codeine induced cellulitis, acid trails and flashes
he had nightmares about his mother pinching him in his sleep
his youth authority internment
the scar up his ass where they removed some thing
the lesbian he loved in Yucaipa
the black bird smashed against the window
of the stolen car
he began to sweat out his nights
when he woke his long dark brown hair was plastered
to his head. he was always dripping
it got so she couldn’t stand laying next to him
the stench nauseated her, caused her to vomit
sometimes she made him sleep outside on the porch
so she could get an occasional night’s rest
but most times she took breath by mouth
he went to the hospital
they took tests and found nothing
he went to the police
profuse sweating was not a crime
he took daily showers
the water bill went up
the seams in his clothes began
to mold and erode
the sheets and comforter would not
his septic sweat permeated everything
seeped down thru the mattress into
the earth beneath their bed
one summer’s midnight as they slept in his dampness
there was an earthquake
it measured 8.2 on the Richter scale
the bed split open the soft moist mouth of a scream
and she watched with mixed emotions
as he fell thru
"Is this what they have brought me, being hungry, the Sun and the Moon?"
– Notes From a Bottle Found at the Beach at Carmel by Evan S. Connell
"Love poetry was the outcome of the bitter feelings of loneliness and deprivation which overwhelmed the [Palestinian] Arab population after 1948. The feeling that they were a defeated minority began with the passage of time to change into a feeling of defiance, and they succeeded in confronting their hard circumstances face to face.
Resistance was not an easy choice; it was rather a daily battle with a ferocious enemy who considered it a question of life and death. And as the measure of persecution became fiercer, resistance consolidated. Contrary to the poetry of exile, the poetry of resistance emerged with an astonishing revolutionary spirit completely free from the sad and tearful trend. Strangely enough, it quickly reverberated with all the political upheavals of the Arab countries.
Resistance poetry did not only witness a change in purport and poetic effect but also in form and technique. It rejected the traditional poetic forms and adopted modern techniques without losing force. As to purport, resistance poetry resorted to various mediums of expression:
1. Love. The love from woman is completely integrated with the love of the homeland. Woman and Earth are completely assimilated in one great love and transformed into the great cause of liberation.
2. Satire. The enemy and the henchmen are ridiculed and the acts of suppression are expressed with bitter irony. This trend expresses a lively and an unconquerable spirit which considers all happenings as an ephemeral and transitional condition which sooner or later must and will be changed and put back to normality.
3. Defiance and challenge. The enemy is exposed and put face to face with the staunch and fearless spirit of the fighters."
– Resistance Literature in Occupied Palestine by Ghassan Kanfani.
The professor stabbed his chest with his hands curled like forks
before coughing up the question
that had dogged him since he first read Emerson:
Why am I “I”? Like musk oxen we hunkered
while his lecture drifted against us like snow.
If we could, we would have turned our backs into the wind.
I felt bad about his class’s being such a snoozefest, though peaceful too,
a quiet little interlude from everyone outside
rooting up the corpse of literature
for being too Caucasian. There was a simple answer
to my own question (how come no one loved me,
stomping on the pedals of my little bicycle):
I was insufferable. So, too, was Emerson I bet,
though I liked If the red slayer think he slays—
the professor drew a giant eyeball to depict the Over-soul.
Then he read a chapter from his own book:
He didn’t care if our heads tipped forward on their stalks.
When spring came, he even threw us a picnic in his yard
where dogwood bloomed despite a few last
dirty bergs of snow. He was a wounded animal
being chased across the tundra by those wolves,
the postmodernists. At any moment
you expected to see blood come dripping through his clothes.
And I am I who never understood his question,
though he let me climb to take a seat
aboard the wooden scow he’d been building in the shade
of thirty-odd years. How I ever rowed it
from his yard, into my life—remains a mystery.
The work is hard because the eyeball’s heavy, riding in the bow.
"Because I’m the size of what I see / And not the size of my stature"
– The Keeper of the Flocks by Fernando Pessoa
They played with the pebble
Pebble like any pebble
Played with it as though it had no heart
They got mad at the pebble
Broke it in the grass
Startled they saw its heart
They opened the heart of the pebble
In the heart a snake
Sleeping spool without dreams
They roused the snake
The snake gushed upward
They ran far away
They looked from a distance
The snake coiled itself round the horizon
Like an egg it ate it
They came back to the place of the game
No trace of snake grass or pieces of pebble
No trace of anything the circle
They looked at each other and grinned
They winked at each other
We lived in a pocket of Time.
It was close, it was warm.
Along the dark seam of the river
the houses, the barns, the two churches,
hid like white crumbs
in a fluff of gray willows & elms,
till Time made one of his gestures;
his nails scratched the shingled roof.
Roughly his hand reached in,
and tumbled us out.
How far from heaven the stars are,
how far the heart from the page.
We don’t know what counts–
It’s as simple as that, isn’t it,
we just don’t know what counts.
Mid-winter in Charlottesville,
soul-shunt and pat-down, crumbs
Snow-flecked across the back yard, then gone on the sun’s tongue.
These are the four lessons I’ve learned,
One from Martha Graham,
three others from here and there–
Walks as though you’d been given one brown eye and one blue,
Think as though you thought best with somebody else’s brain,
Write as though you had in hand the last pencil on earth,
Pray as though you were praying with someone else’s soul.
Sometimes there’s a wind in the Georgia dusk
That cries and cries and cries
Its lonely pity through the Georgia dusk
Veiling what the darkness hides.
Sometimes there’s blood in the Georgia dusk,
Left by a streak of sun,
A crimson trickle in the Georgia dusk.
Sometimes a wind in the Georgia dusk
Scatters hate like seed
To sprout its bitter barriers
Where the sunset bleed.
And I will show that there is no imperfection in the present,
and can be none in the future,
And I will show that whatever happens to anybody it may
be turn’d to beautiful results,
And I will show that nothing can happen more beautiful
And I will thread a thread through my poems that time and
events are compact,
And that all the things of the universe are perfect miracles,
each as profound as any.
I will not make poems with reference to parts,
But I will make poems, songs, thoughts, with reference to
And I will not sing with reference to a day, but with refer-
ence to all days.
And I will not make a poem nor the least part of a poem but
has reference to the soul,
Because having look’d at the objects of the universe, I find
there is no one nor any particle of one but
but has reference to the soul.
the java fires the lava flowing in my brain
hot wet sex-rider screaming stains
black cold heart bleeds lightning and rain
as the dame in tight red takes the names of
simpatico lames. bass notes cut rainbows thru me
trues me like falling ten stories into love
leaves me drunk and gliding on sweet brown
water like Jesus walking on jazz
the one and only Wanda Coleman
What if I told you Rappaccini also had a son?
Would you believe me?
During Indian summer 1955, I decided to live life sideways–
head pointing to Manhattan, heart in the west.
My father takes me to Disneyland. He tells me America
rises from a sea of blood. Learn to cry while you laugh.
When I was a teenager, I was mother’s keeper.
I disappeared from the kitchen to make history.
What is the difference between revolution and resolution?
I learned retard intonation with a Dixie twang.
Colorism makes clowns of us all.
I taught Malcolm X how to fix a hex.
Not everyone loves fingering on improper pianos.
A lifetime of playing to empty audiences
ignites a raging fire of intellect and verbosity.
Diane Arbus lent me her eyes.
I consulted my I Ching and found a world missing.
White teeth and a big smile.
Melodrama rides on my tongue.
Fame made me a unknown woman.
I don’t get paid for describing misery. I don’t get paid.
Let me explain about Mami Wata.
That will tell you why I’m here and not there.
How long will I survive Los Angeles sans moolah?
I’m holding my breath. Keep counting.
Connubial love is a slow roast over hot wood
while dancing from a noose. No escape.
Mother died three years ago.
She has been trying to reach me in my sleep.
There is no poison I have not swallowed.
I have known blackness.
The late September night is a train of thought, a wound
That doesn’t bleed, dead grass that’s still green,
No off-shoots, no elegance,
the late September night,
Deprived of adjectives, abstraction’s utmost and gleam.
It has been said there is an end to the giving out of names.
It has been said that everything that’s written has gone hollow.
It has been said that scorpions dance where language falters and
It has been said that something sines out from every darkness,
that something shines out.
Leaning against the invisible, we bend and nod.
Evening arranges itself around the fallen leaves
Alphabetized across the back yard,
That braille us and sign us, leaning against the invisible.
Our dreams are luminous, a cast fire upon the world.
Morning arrives and that’s it.
Sunlight darkens the earth.
Atena reaches her hand down into the water and pulls up her heart, a pulse-less fossil. The sky and the sea assimilate into one surface, one shadow, and Atena rubs her fingers over the objects cratered surface the way a blind woman reads braille. In her palm it is a comet, a whale’s tooth, a stone ruin whose time spent in absence from the body, from behind Atena’s pallid flesh, is marked by the multiplicity of its scars. She cannot see, but she closes her eyes anyway. Disgusted, she throws it back, whispering sea-salted curses that dissolve in the dark as it descends the abyss.
There is a place somewhere in south Dartmouth where a bend in the road meets the open temperament of the sea, where Buzzards Bay makes a brief inclination into the rolling fields of the peninsula and where a soft slither of beach meets bridge meets bird of prey.
Atena imagines herself standing on this road, on this bridge, but what she does not imagine is that she is underwater, and having reached up out of the sea and into the sky, she has brought back the moon.
Now it is hurtling back into the ether and from a distance–a boat or the farther edges of the shore–it might appear to the person standing there as if a pearl had risen from its nautical womb and exploded desperately into the sky, and from this enchanted eyewitness we can expect the invention of a new mythology of the stars.
It slows in space until it is nearly motionless, suspended. What Atena also doesn’t imagine is that in her throw she was reserved, the slightest resistance, a muscle spasm laced with vestigial reluctance, a physical caution. And so now the moon remains caught in orbit, rotating around the planet in a tortured dance, so close it pulls at her like an old nightmare, beyond the grasp of her soggy human hands. The ellipse of the moon–no heart can forgive a new chain. It tugs away and Atena can feel the ripping of her skin, feel it dragging away from her under the rip current. The pain is intense and drives her mad and in her madness the whole sea writhes. The entire ocean convulses in her agony, the ocean, washed in the spiteful glowing spit, the merciless reflections of her lunar organ, salivates with foam. Storms sweep men off their feet and under the the raging flatline of the waves.
Is looking up at the sky
like looking through a glass pane
trapped from the inside?
Is her heart glowing?
Is it warm? A candle.
Or is it cold? Is the light
Merely a reflection?
Is new love merely light off an old mirror?
Half Moon (3rd Quarter)
Darkness moves across the plane
Of the moons surface
Like the shadow of the Osprey’s wings over the water
As it plunges for it’s prey.
Like a trapeze between light and shadow.
Atena’s heart half-wrapped in netting
Heavy with rot and unstrung with decay.
Like the port that once survived here not off the land
But off the water
She is rusting all over.
Eyes two craters
Ancient and empty.
This the hour of her greatest
Relief of a temporary deceit
Of solitude of breathing in
In having forsaken begging
In heaven forsaken begging
In having held two hands to her chest
And not wished to fill it.
In having a garden-of-Paradise
Not well watered
But with buckets filled from the rising tide.
The ocean is not filled by tears
But it is filled
For which we thirst.
Half Moon (First Quarter)
She could drown for a half
She could see her whole
Split down the middle
One day she swore she saw someone
Walk across it leaving flimsy footprints
The way she does in the beach sand.
They walked to the edge of the curving shoreline
And dipped their feet into the darkness
How could it float up there?
She thought something so heavy
Could only sink.
She’s been thinking she’s hearing things lately
beating wings over her head
The shadows of the trees
Suddenly the shadows of talons.
She waits for death in the maritime.
Men sail on the horizon
The sails look like folded letters
But they never arrive.
Children skip stones, mistake
Her for a mermaid,
The kids from the city come down and swim and have sex
Under the throbbing light of her heartbeat.
She can’t stand the billions
That live under her
Light not like blood or fire but bitter and what they call
Cool and what she calls
The fishermen’s Medusa.
Does the pale moon blush?
Does she starve for the eclipse?
Does the fullness of the moon compare
With the fullness of the labyrinthine sea?
I play it cool
And dig and jive.
That’s the reason
I stay alive.
As I live and learn,
Dig And Be Dug