29 November 2015

Something about the heat this year

by James Grinwis

Snapshot with Wolf

Wolf made of gems.
Wolf made of alligator scales,
pine wood, and gems.
Like a length of gristle,
a lanky cartilage, loveliness,
the wolf. A strand of grit
attached to bone, a heart made of
love-pulp encased in a boot. Something
about the heat this year, the way
it curdles the armpits
and the spaces between fingers,
other spots. Something about
losing the whole of one's work
because of an accident
and feeling no desire at all
to embark on it again,
opening the skull
to a fullness of missing.
Inside the wolf's belly,
it is warm: yellow adobe
covered with small, colorful sculptures,
Klezmer and Bedouin music,
the little booths occupied by,
in alternating time,
heavy drinkers, emaciated
insomniacs, desperate office workers,
pipe fitters, tea afficionados. Those with
massive schedules and those
with no sensitivity to such.
A little crate full of toys
occupies one corner,
on a shelf far above the others,
the old shotgun full of buckshot
which has not been used for years;
a museum piece, a lichened rock.
The landscape melts.
I am feeding on small things
scurrying along dusty canals in the landscape,
to become an appendage
of the wolf, placentally attached,
waiting for a sun spike
to nudge all the plants and stuff
up from frozen sleep.

From The American Poetry Review, November/December 2015.

22 November 2015

The world begins at a kitchen table

by Joy Harjo

Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.

            From "The Woman Who Fell From the Sky,” 1994.

15 November 2015

Would I have seen a white bear?

                                                      by Lawrence Sterne

A WHITE BEAR! Very well. Have I ever seen one? Might I ever have seen one? Am I ever to see one. Ought I ever to have seen one? Or can I ever see one?

Would I have seen a white bear (for how can I imagine it?)

If I should see a white bear, what should I say? If I should never see a white bear, what then?

If I never have, can, must or shall see a white bear alive; have I ever seen the skin of one? Did I ever see one painted? – described? Have I never dreamed of one?

Did my father, mother, uncle, aunt, brothers or sisters, ever see a white bear? What would they give? How would they behave? How would the white bear have behaved?

Is he wild? Tame? Rough? Smooth?

Is the white bear worth seeing?

Is there no sin in it?

Is it better than a 

from Tristram Shandy, 1759-66.

08 November 2015

The Joseph my parents were thinking of in naming me

by Carl Dennis

Joseph's Work

In the great scheme of things, my job --
Overseeing the prduce at Sunshine Market,
Maintaintaining quality in the bins – can't be listed
Among the jobs of first importance,
I realize, but it does require some talent,
The same displayed on a larger scale
By the Joseph my parents were thinking of
In naming me, the favorite son of Jacob,
Who ended up as the overseer
Of all the Egyptian granaries.

It's true my work doesn't use all my gifts,
But neither did Joseph's work use all of his.
His gift for interpreting dreams, for instance,
Though it won him his place, wasn't required
Any time afterwards. If he used it then,
He used it at home, on weekends, the place and time
I use for playing my trumpet or teaching friends
Stretches for easing aches in their backs and knees.

And his work didn't ask him to use his talent
For forgiving wrongs. He would have been free
To spurn his brothers when they came from Canaan
In the time of famine to buy grain, those culprits
Who'd stolen his coat of many colors
Ten years before and thrown him into a pit,
Enraged that their father loved him the most.

Instead, he hugged them, weeping with joy,
Just as I, at moments less dramatic,
Have forgiven my brothers their bullying,
Though none of them has ever apologized.
And I've forgiven my fahter for not intervening.

Every Sunday when the weather's good
I sit for at least an hour on a bench in the graveyard
A block from my house and wonder how many
Of the dead around me might have been happier
If they's managed to put away thoughts of blame,
How many, if they couldn't managed to wish
Their enemies well, managed at least
Not to wish them ill, which is still worth something.

Friends or enemies, if they visit my store on Monday
To finger and sniff the fruit, let them find,
In a mound of pears or plums within their budget,
A few fit to be served at any feast.

From The American Poetry Review, November/December 2015.

01 November 2015

Open up this obsidian skin

                                                        by Emi Mahmoud


I was walking down the street when a man stopped me and said,
Hey yo sistah, you from the motherland?
Because my skin is a shade too deep not to have come from foreign soil
Because this garment on my head screams Africa
Because my body is a beacon calling everybody to come flock to the motherland
I said,
 I’m Sudanese, why?
He says, 
‘cause you got a little bit of flavor in you,
I’m just admiring what your mama gave you
Let me tell you something about my mama She can reduce a man to tattered flesh without so much as blinking
Her words fester beneath your skin and the whole time,
You won’t be able to stop cradling her eyes.
My mama is a woman, flawless and formidable in the same step.
Woman walks into a warzone and has warriors cowering at her feet
My mama carries all of us in her body,
on her face, in her blood and
Blood is no good once you let it loose
So she always holds us close.
When I was 7, she cradled bullets in the billows of her robes.
That same night, she taught me how to get gunpowder out of cotton with a bar of soap.
Years later when the soldiers held her at gunpoint and asked her who she was
She said, I am a daughter of Adam, I am a woman who the hell are you?

The last time we went home, we watched our village burn,
Soldiers pouring blood from civilian skulls
As if they too could turn water into wine.
They stole the ground beneath our feet.
The woman who raised me
turned and said, don't be scared 
I'm your mother, I’m here, I won’t let them through.My mama gave me conviction.
Women like her
Inherit tired eyes,
Bruised wrists and titanium plated spines.
The daughters of widows wearing the wings of amputees
Carry countries between their shoulder blades.
I’m not saying dating is a first world problem, but these trifling moterfuckers seem to be.
The kind who’ll quote Rumi, but not know what he sacrificed for war.
Who’ll fawn over Lupita, but turn their racial filters on.
Who’ll take their politics with a latte when I take mine with tear gas.
Every guy I meet wants to be my introduction to the dark side,
Wants me to open up this obsidian skin and let them read every tearful page,
Because what survivor hasn’t had her struggle made spectacle?
Don’t talk about the motherland unless you know that being from Africa
means waking up an afterthought in this country.
Don’t talk about my flavor unless you know that
My flavor is insurrection, it is rebellion, resistance
my flavor is mutiny
It is burden, it is grit and it is compromise
And you don't know compromise until you’ve rebuilt your home for the third time
Without bricks, without mortar, without any other option
I turned to the man and said,
My mother and I can’t walk the streets alone back home any more.
Back home, there are no streets to walk any more.

YaleNews, 26 October 2015