Monday, December 30, 2013

a winter solstice poem (still under construction)

new books arrived in the laundry room
(my wife lets me do laundry more often since I retired)

German novels, African American history,
Native American languages, British plays -
I thumb through all the new additions,

while the whites wash and the colors dry. 
An eclectic collection, well kept (I can tell) and
carefully read by a conscientious reader,

perhaps a tenant, now departed, her books
abandoned, left behind to testify
on her (or his) behalf.  And launderers

like me now benefit from such largesse.
I thumb through them all,
and wonder will my volumes end up here.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Poems by ModPo'ers: Lowell Murphree

Still and All

Still and all, if you ask in that way, I might reply – “peace.”
Although the wind would likely disagree and would be
Pressed to bring the gushing creek to share the thought

Among our loose wrapped memories are few 
With ribbons tied -- 
No disappointment showing

The fireplace chafes at 
Keeping all that pent up sun between the blackened dogs
And calmly turning twisted pine unto soot

Something’s wild and vengeful
In your eyes – something like to hate that 
Shakes the earth and strips the forest bare

Tornados, hurricanes, wars and derision, 
Let these come Christmas Eve. 
We’ll find some virtue in combatting 
Joy in gritting our bared gnashing teeth

It’s when becalmed our canyons start to gape
Our wolves are still, I 
Know my insides come unzipped 

It’s then I cannot stand or understand 
The shepherd or the sheep 
But longing (though I wish it weren’t so) 
And thoroughly betrayed by -- Love. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Poems by ModPo'ers: Sophia Pandeya


Elongated in your tresses I am
the opposite of sleep
Shab-e-Yalda, tonight
it is myself that I weave

Poet, pour the night’s
darkest wine, let me unlock
the keys to my ruin
your lips, Shab-e-Yalda!

Your wine is a deep
inkwell, let me drink it all
and die, no need to write
my name, just see

the stars, Shab-e-Yalda!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Poems by Modpo'ers: Mark Herron

Winter Solstice

The shortest day is upon us, and our structures
Built to observe, like Stone Henge, the pyramids
Track the sun’s alignment, demonstrate this day
We look out, on this, the closest day to Heaven

If each concentric sphere were like our world
They too would face the Sun, not this Earth
Our guiding constellations - people and animals
They would turn their backs on us as well

We watch the Sun each year; we map his path
Beloved being, like us, we wonder at your span

Like fond farewell, the Sun but lingers in the sky
Again, we pray the days run longer from here
In hope, dread, we measure on this shortest day
For a longer tomorrow, another beautiful year

Monday, December 16, 2013

Poetry by ModPo'er Mary Thompson Hardwick


Can’t cheat

Another one
Out of gas

Read “Life”
at Death

Road tired

Big Bang

Feverish sleep


Saturday, December 14, 2013

December 14, 2013 meeting of the DC Politics and Prose Poets Society

Today Isn’t Everything
by Pablo Neruda

Something of yesterday clings to today,
a flag or a potsherd;
or simply a notion of light,
the scum on a midnight’s aquarium,
an unwithering thread---
essential tenacity, gold in the air:
something persists, whatever passes away
a little diminished, to fall under the arrows
of the hostile sun and its combats.

Else, why
in the glowing autonomy
of the positive day
that we lived
did a portent of seagulls
stay on, circling back as if it would stagger
the mix of its blue with the blue
that had vanished?

I tell you:

Inside the light
your soul makes its circle,
refining itself to extinction, 
or enlarging its rings like the stroke of a bell.

And between death and rebirth
the space is less grand
than we thought, the frontier
less implacable.
Light’s shape is round as a ring
and we move ourselves by its movements.

Translation: Ben Belitt
From Late and Posthumous Poems: 1968-1974

Sunday, December 8, 2013

a short poem for a sad moment (originally titled Metro Center)

He always knew
his enemies
would not be able
to destroy him -

nor would
violence or disease
conspire to
take him out –

nor would he be
behind the wheel
when he crossed
the River Jordan –

one night he would
fall asleep, as usual,
and wake up
in Beulahland.

a luta continua...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A favorite poem of my favorite high school math teacher

A Prayer
By John Drinkwater (1882–1937)

LORD, not for light in darkness do we pray,
Not that the veil be lifted from our eyes,
Nor that the slow ascension of our day
            Be otherwise.

Not for a clearer vision of the things        5
Whereof the fashioning shall make us great,
Not for the remission of the peril and stings
            Of time and fate.

Not for a fuller knowledge of the end
Whereto we travel, bruised yet unafraid,        10
Nor that the little healing that we lend
            Shall be repaid.

Not these, O Lord. We would not break the bars
Thy wisdom sets about us; we shall climb
Unfetter’d to the secrets of the stars        15
            In Thy good time.

We do not crave the high perception swift
When to refrain were well, and when fulfil,
Nor yet the understanding strong to sift
            The good from ill.        20

Not these, O Lord. For these Thou hast reveal’d,
We know the golden season when to reap
The heavy-fruited treasure of the field,
            The hour to sleep.

Not these. We know the hemlock from the rose,        25
The pure from stain’d, the noble from the base,
The tranquil holy light of truth that glows
            On Pity’s face.

We know the paths wherein our feet should press,
Across our hearts are written Thy decrees:        30
Yet now, O Lord, be merciful to bless
            With more than these.

Grant us the will to fashion as we feel,
Grant us the strength to labour as we know,
Grant us the purpose, ribb’d and edged with steel,        35
            To strike the blow.

Knowledge we ask not—knowledge Thou hast lent,
But, Lord, the will—there lies our bitter need,
Give us to build above the deep intent
            The deed, the deed.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

ModPo'er Monica Saviron reviews New York Film Festival films with a poet's sensibility

Read her essay on the first nine films in Lumiere here.  Check out how she masterfully weaves ModPo poets and their works into her review.

Read her essay on the next 14 films here.   Same as above, but also check out how she riffs about the relationship between poetry and film.   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Poems by ModPo'ers: Mark Snyder

Let’s go dance (End of ModPo ’13)

after reading the first poem
my head went numb–
have I answered your question?
how do I get started?
a quick rough sketch, warts and all
I think you’re going to enjoy THIS–
when they were good they were incredible.

Most of us don’t sleep,
I’m pretty sure Al doesn’t.

Most of these poets would have been sent
to the Ministry of Love and vaporized,
bourgeois decadence–
degenerate art–
making sense is overrated.

What do you make of her use of windows and doors?
What else could she have meant by Paradise?
I hadn’t the slightest idea.
You’re only disqualified from the group
if you forget your towel. Don’t panic.

How would one avoid the “splinter”
that shunts the brain out of its groove?

What do you see?
Isn’t any creative work bullshit
if you look at it in a certain way?

What I assume you shall assume–
she leads her alien invasion
as Williams dances like a lunatic
and Kathleen and the baby sleeps downstairs.

I’m not a lit guy, so I don’t know.
It’s always a conversation between you and the poet
Experiment, see what works for you.

Let’s go dance in front of the mirror
but make sure you have at least
one post per week
in the poem-specific subforums.

My ModPo wrap-up poem: Goodbye but not farewell

Goodbye but not farewell.
We will continue our conversations
and social media chats –
with new friends,
with old friends.

And we will continue writing poems:
together in small groups,
and at home, alone,
in the midnight hour that is not
midnight, but that
floats between isha and fajr -
the darkest part of night -
when passions die,
and distractions fall to the side.

The songwriting teacher said all I needed
was a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary –
but it hasn’t proven sufficient –

and there are no final words, anyway,
no bridge, no chorus, no refrain,
just a tight hug, a soft sigh, a tender kiss,
and a throw-away “see-you-tomorrow,”
maybe, if you’re lucky. And all my
countrymen are poets, and sailors.

No, goodbye is not farewell.
There is SloPo on Facebook,
and sudden spoon is resurrecting,
and the Breakfast Club opera is on track,
and KWH is always open,
and there are Sunday get-togethers in DC
whenever you are passing through.

And all our blogs and our websites are up,
and NaPoWriMo comes in April,
and Postcard Poetry Fest comes in August,
and before you know it, ModPo14!

Poems by ModPo'ers: Therese Pope

Mothers of Poetry

Who is this mother?
She sits and waits by a window
Tears streaming down her cheeks
With bratty babe sniffling at her sleeve

Is she Jane Austen's melancholy, forlorn side-kick
The kind who reads too much weepy Shakespeare
By candlelight, on a stormy night?

A hopeful Romantic
Now withered by form

Is her blood noble
Or is she strong and brazen
Stein-like, contemplating sentences?

A wild vixen who shushes grammar
Sinister, slinking
Sneaking up behind you
To scare the daylights out of rhyme

Look how she poses
Dabbing at her cheek

Who are these mothers?
Dancing around silky syllables
Accenting hazy lines
Plying us with
Diatribes that never really speak

These mothers of poetry
Slumping in overstuffed chairs
That never fade with time

Forcing a half-smile
And with a woeful wink,
They wait for us
Words pressed to silent lips.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

ModPo Webcast 11/18/2013

Poems by ModPo'ers: Megan Worrell-Lupton


Modern & Contemporary American Poetry
                        Anti Modern
                       Green glass
                     We are the grass
                     Mending the Wall
                    Cut up into pieces
               and scattered on the floor
                         on the Page
                         In my hand
13 Ways to connect with Toronto, Ecuador, Hawaii, Sydney,
Israel, San Fran, South Carolina, Connecticut, Philadelphia-
                 etc etc etc etc Etc etc
            In wild room dancing to 12 tones
                   and in this moment
                    this is the moment

                         the Poem...

                    To lift Kelly's cup
          and sip together-to another year of

                  And Let the Splinter

From the beautiful mountains of North Carolina,
Love and Many Blessings,
I'll see you in the forums
and again next year. Until we re-open the present....

-Megan L. Worrell-Lupton

Poems by ModPo'ers: Sara P. Dias

Ciao without a Vuvu

(to Wallace Stevens, after ‘Farewell without a Guitar’)

Spring’s bright promise has come to this.
So the thousand-dreamed home fails to show.
Ciao, those days.

The thousand-dreamed home
Speaks to this trumpet of lies
At its most venal culmination –

A Cape Flats gale,
A vast, stark corrugation,
In which a cab drives home without its riders,

Shades down. The recurrence of recounting,
The shunt and shuttles of raw senses
Of the riders that were,

Are ticking constructions,
Of zinc and sun, of state banality
And of those others and their desires.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Poems by ModPo'ers: Maria Milonaki

Who said that shelters are there to protect?
Who said that words mean promises?

            Who told you that love is forever?

I know almost nothing. Just time and distance.

I hide, forget and seek. The name of the game is oblivion.

I rest in peace. I fly in dreams.

I was once crucified. Where is my martyrdom.

How many times have you closed your eyes to your death.

Is shadow to shade, what loneliness is to solitude.

Has love always been an enigma and life a mystery?

Where do you plan to raise your voice.
In darkness or in light?
How to do you plan to raise it?
In a song or in a box?
When do you plan to raise your voice?
In life or after death?

Count to three and you will rise, my resurrection.

Did you rehearse your today-self yesterday?
Is your suit suitable?

Did you put on your smile or your grave facade
on the morning mirror reflection?

Is the mirror reflecting you or
are you reflecting the mirror image?

Did you have your first sip of coffee,
before or after praying to your god?

Will you sharpen your knife before
killing your desires or will you offer them slow,
painful death (the name of the death is waiver).

Did they teach you how to follow that path
or did you lose track of yourself on your own?

Did you tie your laces standing or sitting?

That has always been a fateful choice.
Which of the two do you prefer, a life or life?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Poems by ModPo'ers: De Cesare Patrizia - And I Die

And I die.

And I die
The Giants I hold up the umbrella
of misbehaviour
and turn the square axle
my dark sky
clouds and storms that befit me
savory nights
the regalia of my Opera
where no glittered stars.
So wild a den I
to complain in my hair disease incurable.
My syllables in its leghold trap.
Here's the Hunter
It was spring, a day!

(reprinted here with the author's permission)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Experimentation in standard time

Autumn urban afternoons
get shorter and sweeter -

standing in the middle of I street
I await a very specific angle on the bow
as my ship called Earth comes about:
a unique perspective on how time passes –

in the distance you can see Virginia:
but how many beats per measure
are there in Standard time?

the future is reaching back to join us,
to warn us, to help us alter course
to starboard so we can pass port to port –
the present and the future,
like two ships, passing in a storm.

We post to a blog or sing a song:
we write some non-rhyming words
we call poetry –

and time is a social construct
a contractual agreement we accept
from fear of things we don’t know –
dawn to dusk, high noon
to the darkest part of night –

a 24 second shot clock.
We sink a three pointer
that leaves a vacuum in its wake –
the chain nets echo its refrain.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Rainy Night in Foggy Bottom

Rainy Night in Foggy Bottom

When it rains all night in Foggy Bottom
you can smell the swamp beneath us - 
the old rotted tree roots, the tadpoles,
the water moccasins skimming - 

The swamp is only ever ten feet away –
and all that separates us is asphalt,
and gas and water pipes,
and underground telephone lines.

It’s pitch black down there –
dark from lack of light,
black as a night without stars –
even the water is black.

The level of the swamp rises
as our own level imperceptibly falls,
both at an accelerating rate –
soon we will be together.

Friday, October 4, 2013

What the H--- Happened in Washington, DC? (a postcard poem)

a distressed driver
takes a wrong turn,
turning in a strange,
over-militarized city -
overturned and shutdown
and upside-down -
a fallen town -
and she panics...

did she really have to die?
and what was her sin?
her capital punishment
crime? Capital crime
in the capitol?

and which politician gave
the "shoot to kill"
order?  shoot to kill?

and why?

and who/what
have we all become?

"southern trees
bear strange fruit" -
and my soul is spinning
at 78 rpm.

please tell me again
why she had to die?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sterling Brown, Cabaret

Rich, flashy, puffy-faced,
Hebrew and Anglo-Saxon,
The overlords sprawl here with their glittering darlings.
The smoke curls thick, in the dimmed light
Surreptitiously, deaf-mute waiters
Flatter the grandees,
Going easily over the rich carpets,
Wary lest they kick over the bottles
Under the tables.

The jazzband unleashes its frenzy.

Now, now,
To it, Roger; that's a nice doggie,
Show your tricks to the gentlemen.

The trombone belches, and the saxophone
Wails curdlingly, the cymbals clash,
The drummer twitches in an epileptic fit

Muddy water
Round my feet
Muddy water

The chorus sways in.
The 'Creole Beauties from New Orleans'
(By way of Atlanta, Louisville, Washington, Yonkers,
With stop-overs they've used nearly all their lives)
Their creamy skin flushing rose warm,
O, le bal des belles quarterounes! *
Their shapely bodies naked save
For tattered pink silk bodices, short velvet tights,
And shining silver-buckled boots;
Red bandannas on their sleek and close-clipped hair;
To bring to mind (aided by the bottles under the tables)
Life upon the river--

Muddy water, river sweet

(Lafitte the pirate, instead,
And his doughty diggers of gold)

There's peace and happiness there
I declare

(In Arkansas,
Poor half-naked fools, tagged with identification numbers,
Worn out upon the levees,
Are carted back to the serfdom
They had never left before
And may never leave again)

Bee--dap--ee--DOOP, dee-ba--dee-BOOP

The girls wiggle and twist

Oh you too,
Proud high-stepping beauties,
Show your paces to the gentlemen.
A prime filly, seh.
What am I offered, gentlemen, gentlemen. . . .

I've been away a year today
To wander and roam
I don't care if it's muddy there

(Now that the floods recede,
What is there left the miserable folk?
Oh time in abundance to count their losses,
There is so little else to count.)

Still it's my home, sweet home

From the lovely throats
Moans and deep cries for home:
Nashville, Toledo, Spout Springs, Boston,
Creoles from Germantown;--
The bodies twist and rock;
The glasses are filled up again. . . .

(In Mississippi
The black folk huddle, mute, uncomprehending,
Wondering 'how come the good Lord
Could treat them this a way')

Down in the Delta

Along the Yazoo
The buzzards fly over, over, low,
Glutted, but with their scrawny necks stretching,
Peering still.)

I've got my toes turned Dixie ways
Round that Delta let me laze

The band goes mad, the drummer throws his sticks
At the moon, a papier-mache moon,
The chorus leaps into weird posturings,
The firm-fleshed arms plucking at grapes to stain
Bending, writhing, turning

My heart cries out for

(Down in the valleys
The stench of the drying mud
Is a bitter reminder of death.)

Dee da dee D A A A A H

A.B. Spellman, Groovin' Low

my swing is more mellow
these days: not the hardbop drive
i used to roll but more of a cool
foxtrot. my eyes still close
when the rhythm locks; i’ve learned
to boogie with my feet on the floor
i’m still movin’, still groovin’
still fallin’ in love

i bop to the bass line now. the trap set
paradiddles ratamacues & flams
that used to spin me in place still set me
off, but i bop to the bass line now
i enter the tune from the bottom up
& let trumpet & sax wheel above me

so don’t look for me in the treble
don’t look for me in the fly
staccato splatter of the hot young horn
no, you’ll find me in the nuance
hanging out in inflection & slur
i’m the one executing the half-bent
dip in the slow slowdrag
with the smug little smile
& the really cool shades

Monday, July 22, 2013

To my brothers- and sisters-at-arms

Strangely, I am getting a lot of hits on this poem, first posted on April 24, 2013.  Here, by popular demand:

To my brothers and sisters at-arms (veterans)

“I will write the evangel poem of comrades and of love,
For who but I should understand love with all its sorrow and joy?
And who but I should be the poet of comrades?” --Whitman

That bitter, acrid taste that war
and combat leaves in your mouth -
cleaves your tongue -
and gives you a sixth sense about things…

For example, the guy out front:
the leader. Will he die for you?
If so, then you will die for him,
or live, make his mission yours,
and accomplish it.

But if he won’t,
and your sixth sense will tell you so,
then neither will you for him.
And his goal is his alone and can go to hell.

And if you are out in front,
will you die for the men and women
in your care?
If so, then they will die for you,
or live, and make your mission theirs,
and accomplish it.

But if not, you should quit faking
and just go home. Because those
behind you, in your charge, following you,
will already have a sixth sense of things.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A poem for Grandpap Dick Rankin

A poem about my great great grandfather, from things my father told me. Of course, my father was only six when his great grandfather died.  And my father passed away over 30 years ago. It all leaves much to the imagination to recreate (i.e., he probably made shit up, and I am probably making some shit up too!).

Grandpap Rankin

First of all, thank you for visiting the cemetery
every now and then, and cleaning the graves

of the old folks.  New generations have forgotten,
but they wouldn’t be, now, if we had not been then –

When I was barely a boy, I run off with rebel soldiers,
did odd jobs, cooked for them, tended to the horses.

None of us farmers knew that much about war.
Legend is true, I returned to Browns Summit with a box full

of Confederate money.  Warn’t no count, no way.
Rebel soldiers give it to me. I swear.  It was my pay.

Buried that box in a tobacco field in Jackson after the war,
same field where I buried mason jars of moonshine I made,

to keep it cool and to hide it from the revenuers.
Cool on a summer day.  Best in Guilford County,

the white folks used to say. The war freed the slaves, or
so they said.  I didn’t know much about politics, still don't,

or taking sides, or fighting, but I did know we had a good master,
a kind, Christian man.  Now your daddy and his sister were just children

when I transferred to the next world.  But I watched them grow up and
tried to take care of them, best I could.  It ain’t easy

moving back and forth between worlds.  And yes, I made
a bit of moonshine in my day.  Drank a little, too,

more towards the end.  Best in Guilford County.
Hid it from the revenuers.  Cool on a hot summer day.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Channeling Grandma Lena

Locust Grove

“Will all visitors please stand and state your name?”

“Again, will all visitors please stand, and state your name?”

“You, in the middle, you may start us off!”

My name is Raymond Maxwell.

“Raymond Maxwell, are you Raymond’s boy?”

Yes sir, I am.  They went to Jackson Methodist,
down the road a piece.  But my grandmother was a
member here, and my Aunt Roxie, and my Aunt Liza.

“So, brother Raymond, what is your testimony today?”

Well, I didn’t exactly come prepared…

“What you mean, prepared?  Your grandmother would have testified.

“Yeah, brother Raymond, she and her sisters, they all would testify!”

“Yeah, brother Raymond, you gotta testify!”

ok.  OK! 

If Grandma Lena were here today,
She would call this is a beautiful day,
And she’d say our God is a Gracious Master.

But she would warn us
“judgment is turned backwards,
and justice standeth afar off …”

She would tell us
“truth is fallen in the streets,
and equity cannot enter…”

Then she would pause, and squint,
and look each member of the congregation 
in the eye –

And she would say, “Truth faileth,
and he that departeth from evil
maketh himself a prey…”

And she would report that the Gracious Master
saw what was going on, and it displeased him
that there was no judgment –

“And he saw that there was no man,
and he wondered why there was no intercessor –

And her eyes would brighten,
and she would tell us that the Lord’s
own right arm brought him salvation,
and his righteous, it sustained him…
and that we needed to do the same.

That is what she would tell you today.

That is my testimony. 


For a Friday: poem by Jennifer

Power, an oft-grievous foe,
can scorch the path
of the mightiest man--
even when righteousness 
steels his soul
and strength is his only sin.
Fear not the altered road
or the uncertain horizon.

We know true power
lies in the man's mirror--
framed by freedom and faith,
family and friendship.
Unfettered, he can move forward,
unburned, with love as his salve.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday thoughts

I did a close read of Rachel Jeantel's remarks last night and I found her words to be, actually, quite profound.

"The Jury,
they old.
That's old school people.

(not a jury of Zimmerman's peers, and especially not a jury of Martin's peers and he is the one who is actually on trial here. The jury members have an old, antiquated way of thinking that defies logic or reason, an old, defective school of ignorance and division and false attribution)

We in a new school.
Our generation."

(there is a marked generational divide that has nothing to do with old divisions like race, gender, national origin, or even educational level. The new school is the one that will solve the problems of the old because the old school has run out of ideas. The new generation has solutions, and if we allow them, they will save us as well.)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Some thoughts for a Thursday (Liner notes from a Stevie Wonder album)

From Stevie Wonder's Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants 

"Each life has its own beat,
moving through space
at its own pace,
standing still for no one,

and yet you,
as if not caring,
though knowing how precious
it was to you,
gave to me selflessly,
life's most priceless possession,
your time. 

It is only my wish
that you feel your time
not to have been given 
in vain. 

For waiting is not
what I meant for you -
but to share with me
the images of life
that God has sent me through -

and if this life affords me 
the chance to share with you
the new 
and hidden knowledge,
through song,
I will move as swiftly
as life demands -
but never so fast
as not to give you
my very best."  
                               --Stevland Morris 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fragments 7/8/13

walking up the hill from the Brookland Metro Station,
crossing the street and entering the engineering building,
these words wafted past me like a southern breeze:

“Pray for Egypt.  
Umm al Dunya, we pray for thee.
God Almighty, hear our prayer.”

Stickball - Chuck Sullivan (A Summertime Poem)

In the middle
of the concrete heat
boys manning our
sneakered positions tarred
in the block’s summer field
We hustled out
fates into shape
on the city’s sweating face
in the lean, bouncing grace
of our broomstick, rubber ball game
bound by the sewers and parked cars
of our Outlaw Little League
While on the sidelines
dreaming in our cheers
the old men watched
bleachered on brownstone stoops
and iron fire escapes
making small book on the shadowy
skills of stickball stars
lost in the late-inning sun
of the stadiumed street’s
priceless, makeshift diamond

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Pashto Landay

ُExamples of Pashto landay.

پاس په كمر ولاړه ګله!
 نصيب دچايي اوبه زه درخيژومه
O Flower that you grow on the mountain side;
The duty to water you belongs to me, but to whom would you belong?

زړه مي هلك دي راته ژاړي
چه رانه غواړي دپردي باغچوګلونه
My heart is like a child; it cries,
and demands flowers from a stranger’s garden.

ستا به د ګلو دوران تير شۍ
زما به پاته شۍ دزړه سوۍ داغونه
The blooming season of your beauty will pass;
But the scorched patches on my heart will always remain fresh.

په ګل ګلاب دي و ويشتمه
تر لاس دي جارشم دښمنانو وليدمه
You have thrown a rose at me;
blessed be thy hands, but malevolent eyes have noticed.

مخ دي ګلاب سترګي دي شمعي
نه پري پوهيږم چه بورا كه بتنګه شمه
Your face is a rose and your eyes are candles;
Faith! I am lost, should i become a butterfly or a moth?

زه دپسرلۍ تر ګل تازه وم
ستا په بيلتون كښي لكه پاڼه زيړه شوم
I used to be more fresh than spring blossoms, O Beloved!
But your separation has turned me yellow like an autumn leaf.

ستا په يوه تومت رنګ زيړشو
زه دتومت جامي په غاړه ګرزومه
Your cheeks have been paled with only one slander;
while I am clothed from head to foot with calumnies.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Some poetry by Fred Douglass on July 4, 1852

The words of Frederick Douglass' speech of July 4, 1852 resonate with us today, and with today's American slaves and trafficked human beings:

"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour."

Here's a link to the whole speech, performed by Danny Glover.  Priceless!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Sonnet #51

Dinner and the Revolution

Filomena is on the phone
with Teresinha in Lisboa

I always know because they
speak a Portuguese I can’t follow

um crioulo duplo
uma lingua de cozinha

it’s tudo bem for me,
‘cause the revolution
will not be circumcised

so they can have their
kitchen secrets, just as long
as they remember to call me --
‘cause I want to be around
for dinner and for the revolution...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Sonnet for a Sunday - Sting (Fragile)

If blood will flow when
flesh and steel are one,
drying in the colour of the evening sun -
tomorrow's rain will
wash the stains away,
but something in our minds will always stay --
Perhaps this final act was meant
to clinch a lifetime's argument,
that nothing comes from violence
and nothing ever could -
for all those born beneath an angry star
lest we forget how fragile we are --
On and on the rain will fall like tears from a star,
On and on the rain will say how fragile we are.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Shakespeare's Sonnet #25

Let those who are in favour with their stars 
Of public honour and proud titles boast, 
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars, 
Unlook'd for joy in that I honour most. 
Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread 
But as the marigold at the sun's eye, 
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die. 
The painful warrior famoused for fight, 
After a thousand victories once foil'd, 
Is from the book of honour razed quite, 
And all the rest forgot for which he toil'd:
   Then happy I, that love and am beloved 
   Where I may not remove nor be removed.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Morning Walk - Summer Solstice

I make my morning walk today,
it is the summer solstice, after all –
the first morning of summer,
the longest day, the shortest night –

But what good is that, I ask –
a short night is not worth a plug nickel 
(to use my father’s vernacular) –

we love the night,
we make love at night,
sweet love we hope 
will never end,
an endless night of love –
we dream pure dreams 
at night, and pray 
those dreams come true –
we plot and strategize 
our plan of attack 
in the wee hours, 
at the midnight hour, 
at night.  

Of what value, then,
is a short night? 

Crossing the bridge, 
I shift my timepiece 
from 88five to 103five,
“traffic and weather 
together, on the eights,”
and the neurons start to fire
in rapid succession…

the tide is high – 
portions of the shore 
normally exposed
are submerged.  
I pause and watch
as the crawling critters 
flee the flood and seek 
refuge on higher ground,
inching closer and closer 
to the human walking trail –

I see tall stalks 
of phytolacca americana
growing in groves
along the shore, 
sprouting long green leaves,
greens my ancestors used to eat, 
as they headed north
to escape an immoral 
oppression. “It’s poison 
if you don’t cook it right…”
I can hear them whisper 
through the rush 
of the running tide…

my baby sister is writing poetry 
again, mostly in her letters.
I think about her as I turn the corner
onto Frances Scott Key Bridge.  
She is the better poet,
she has the gift, 
the power to apaziguar o dor –
that’s what friends are for.

I’m nearing home, 
my walk almost done.
The longest day of the year
opens its arms before me.
“From the Shenandoah 
to the Chesapeake,”
WTOP says on the radio --
all day long.