Monthly Archives: March 2011



Sometimes, I guess, this is all you have to say.

Fuck You Poem # 45
Amy Gerstler

Fuck you in slang and conventional English.
Fuck you in lost and neglected lingoes.
Fuck you hungry and sated; faded, pock marked and defaced.
Fuck you with orange rind, fennel and anchovy paste.
Fuck you with rosemary and thyme, and fried green olives on the side.
Fuck you humidly and icily.
Fuck you farsightedly and blindly.
Fuck you nude and draped in stolen finery.
Fuck you while cells divide wildly and birds trill.
Thank you for barring me from his bedside while he was ill.
Fuck you puce and chartreuse.
Fuck you postmodern and prehistoric.
Fuck you under the influence of opium, codeine, laudanum and paregoric.
Fuck every real and imagined country you fancied yourself princess of.
Fuck you on feast days and fast days, below and above.
Fuck you sleepless and shaking for nineteen nights running.
Fuck you ugly and fuck you stunning.
Fuck you shipwrecked on the barren island of your bed.
Fuck you marching in lockstep in the ranks of the dead.
Fuck you at low and high tide.
And fuck you astride anyone who has the bad luck to fuck you, in dank hallways,
bathrooms, or kitchens.
Fuck you in gasps and whispered benedictions.

And fuck these curses, however heartfelt and true,
that bind me, till I forgive you, to you.

Old loves and new memories.


I have been dreaming a lot of an old love of mine. I did not know at the time that lovers remained in your dreamworld, years after you stopped holding their hand. The dreams are peaceful, glowing. Sweet the remnants of what was so hard to walk away from, years ago. I have been thinking-debating, discussing, agonizing- about the notion of what loves stay with us, and which ones fade away, like sugar. I had been aching knowing that the pain we feel passes away, and love can be found again, and no feeling is permanent. It makes the mourning useless, and the fear useless, for if we can stop crying over death, we can stop crying over life. And then, as poetry does, today this poem came to me. I was sailing around online, discovering a new voice courtesy of my lovely Rewa, and found this. This is what I have been dreaming of this week. Small miracles.

Washing the Elephant

by Barbara Ras
March 15, 2010 .

Isn’t it always the heart that wants to wash

the elephant, begging the body to do it

with soap and water, a ladder, hands,

in tree shade big enough for the vast savannas

of your sadness, the strangler fig of your guilt,

the cratered full moon’s light fuelling

the windy spooling memory of elephant?

What if Father Quinn had said, “Of course you’ll recognize

your parents in Heaven,” instead of

“Being one with God will make your mother and father

pointless.” That was back when I was young enough

to love them absolutely though still fear for their place

in Heaven, imagining their souls like sponges full

of something resembling street water after rain.

Still my mother sent me every Saturday to confess,

to wring the sins out of my small baffled soul, and I made up lies

about lying, disobeying, chewing gum in church, to offer them

as carefully as I handed over the knotted handkerchief of coins

to the grocer when my mother sent me for a loaf of Wonder,

Land of Lakes, and two Camels.

If guilt is the damage of childhood, then eros is the fall of adolescence.

Or the fall begins there, and never ends, desire after desire parading

through a lifetime like the Ringling Brothers elephants

made to walk through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel

and down Thirty-fourth Street to the Garden.

So much of our desire like their bulky, shadowy walking

after midnight, exiled from the wild and destined

for a circus with its tawdry gaudiness, its unspoken


It takes more than half a century to figure out who they were,

the few real loves-of-your-life, and how much of the rest—

the mad breaking-heart stickiness—falls away, slowly,

unnoticed, the way you lose your taste for things

like popsicles unthinkingly.

And though dailiness may have no place

for the ones who have etched themselves in the laugh lines

and frown lines on the face that’s harder and harder

to claim as your own, often one love-of-your-life

will appear in a dream, arriving

with the weight and certitude of an elephant,

and it’s always the heart that wants to go out and wash

the huge mysteriousness of what they meant, those memories

that have only memories to feed them, and only you to keep them clean.

The part where she talks about it taking half a century is what I have been wondering myself.

to have and have not.


In case you didn’t know what would make you cry and hold your breath in the middle of the day, in a lit office somewhere, the whole life you felt behind you materializing like a vague dream you cant shake loose, your future undrawn by pen ink, the husky green eyes of your mother on the blurry edges of everything you ever loved, around you, read this. From Rewa Z, posted on her FB wall, in innocence and love.

“You can’t have it all” by Barbara Ras.

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands

gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger

on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.

You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look

of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite

every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,

you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,

though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam

that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys

until you realize foam’s twin is blood.

You can have the skin at the center between a man’s legs,

so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,

glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,

never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who’ll tell you

all roads narrow at the border.

You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,

and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave

where your father wept openly. You can’t bring back the dead,

but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands

as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful

for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful

for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels

sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,

for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,

the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.

You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,

at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping

of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.

You can’t count on grace to pick you out of a crowd

but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,

how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,

until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,

and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind

as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,

you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond

of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas

your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.

There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother’s,

it will always whisper, you can’t have it all,

but there is this.



The last few words, for the last time, burying the final letters of a dead love poem.

Dubai, 26/03/2011

It only hurts in the mornings, before language.

It has taken days to commit this poem to breath.
The words far flung
nailed themselves to my reclined body,
to my limbs as wide as the city between us, and were adamantly born.
There is a continent between us.
Entire civilizations between us.
The soft words you didn’t mutter between us,
my feet trudging hallways interior,
to move away, a railing between us,
keeps me from stumbling,
defeat imprinted on every still image of our flight.

The taxi speeds through lights,
through the darkness of the last time I saw your eyes.
It is dawn outside and I have crawled the night,
parched animal in heat,
anxious for an ocean of hands not your own.

A radio prayer is wistful,
a voice supplicant to a god we never loved between us.
The driver does not make sense of this,
but I ask him to let the words pulsate loud,
fill the empty air, fill the damn hole in my chest, fill the failure you bequeathed us.
Me, a woman clothed in
willful nakedness, a taxi driver silent, and garish it is, this despair.

I, a heathen. You,
the man who does not love me.

A prayer in a city with little faith.

The driver and I, mute. Perhaps he thought, let God mend her. Perhaps, I thought so too.

The Arabic words were tongues of peace, as quiet as the hum of your absence inside me, present.

I have been glancing at brown men,
hair of yours, eyes of yours, solid muscles of yours,
those k’s and t’s and quick raspy words tumbled out like quakes you perpetually assaulted a welcoming body I gave.
the rolling fruits of trees I fathom not,
I listen
I listen to the pitches of voices repeating you,
the lilt and flow of all that we needed to translate,
badly, between us.

Language barred to me,
frozen in words- your fingers-,
the pauses- your breath in sleep-,
the laughter- your thrusting body-,
the cries- our kisses that ripen-,
the questions exclamations- punctuation of all that ended-,
a dictionary of mystery
I hunted,
a maze of you, till
there was only bare gravel for toes bleeding, till there was nothing but fog as far as the arms can hold.
The letters of your language- little darts-
poisoned memory,
a book, untold.

The nighttime city understands.
A brown man writes on stone. He longs for other homes, and arms he may have known. He speaks your language, and other beautiful brown eyes that speak my own, explain.

“That which your heart desires and pains for the most, is the most inaccessible”.

I ache in abandoned places.
I am not of stone.

And here we are, writers, together,
a lexicon of English resplendent,
un-ending flourishes in your fancy ink pen,
your curvy turns of phrases clever, signify nothing,
repel those raw
frantic verses I cried an everyday a storm of lines
showered into the illusionary green field I painted of you. That ritual I worshipped.
But you,
you have no faith.

And here we are, writers, separate.
And here we are,
a million words possible, and no way for you to ever understand.
And I,
the thousand ways I did not translate.

It hurts the most in the mornings, before language.



A flame of gratitude, shot through like a beam of violet glowing light, straight from my center within, that haunted place where poetry resides, aimed straight at the center of your forehead, to envelop you in a small slice of magic, that other world I obsess about.
Or maybe, just a quick hug if you can tell me what you think the next poem is about!

“There are different wells within your heart.

Some fill with each good rain,

Others are far too deep for that.

In one well

You have just a few precious cups of water,

That “love” is literally something of yourself,

It can grow as slow as a diamond

If it is lost.

Your love

Should never be offered to the mouth of a


Only to someone

Who has the valor and daring

To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife

Then weave them into a blanket

To protect you.

There are different wells within us.

Some fill with each good rain,

Others are far, far too deep

For that.”

by Hafiz.

Thoughts from a suspended blandness of spirit.


I havent been writing much. Anything I wrote was about the lack of desire to write, and hence, should ultimately end in the trash can of word history, or in the pile of notebooks by my bed which are left to history to laugh at, 30 years from now.
Suspended between a year ago and today, living for only tonight, wondering what one makes of the desire to run, and the desire to verbalize fleeing and staying, loving and hating, hiding and revealing, the skin aching and the mind revolting against that drug, the habitual loss and customary healing, the strength born of saying no when you have exhausted the venues to saying yes, the heart that palpitates at your name and the fingers that shut that screen down in anger, the memories of all the tender dawn profiles of your sleep and the ringing of ears at words imprinted of harshness and refusal. The dichotomy of love and hate, surrender and rebellion, this vicious little cycle of love, and here we are, so afraid.

I will leave you with two poems that may or may not have anything to do with the above, but they are lovely. The first is a gift from our dear poetician Frank, and the second is a gift from poetry godesses in the name of Adrienne Rich. I hope you enjoy.

How To Like It

These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let’s go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let’s tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let’s pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let’s dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn’t been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let’s go down to the diner and sniff
people’s legs. Let’s stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man’s mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let’s go to sleep. Let’s lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he’ll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he’ll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let’s just go back inside.
Let’s not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing. The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let’s go make a sandwich.
Let’s make the tallest sandwich anyone’s ever seen.
And that’s what they do and that’s where the man’s
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept-
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.

Stephen Dobyns.

and for ms Rich…I have adored this poem for years and years. Maybe it is because I write this from an office that I remember, maybe it is because I will always remember this poem, sent to me by a dear friend, over ten years ago. The power and longevity of language, yet how meaningless are the words we utter to each other sometimes.

From “An Atlas of the Difficult World”.

I know you are reading this poem
late, before leaving your office
of the one intense yellow lamp-spot and the darkening window
in the lassitude of a building faded to quiet
long after rush-hour. I know you are reading this poem
standing up in a bookstore far from the ocean
on a grey day of early spring, faint flakes driven
across the plains’ enormous spaces around you.
I know you are reading this poem
in a room where too much has happened for you to bear
where the bedclothes lie in stagnant coils on the bed
and the open valise speaks of flight
but you cannot leave yet. I know you are reading this poem
as the underground train loses momentum and before running
up the stairs
toward a new kind of love
your life has never allowed.
I know you are reading this poem by the light
of the television screen where soundless images jerk and slide
while you wait for the newscast from the intifada.
I know you are reading this poem in a waiting-room
of eyes met and unmeeting, of identity with strangers.
I know you are reading this poem by fluorescent light
in the boredom and fatigue of the young who are counted out,
count themselves out, at too early an age. I know
you are reading this poem through your failing sight, the thick
lens enlarging these letters beyond all meaning yet you read on
because even the alphabet is precious.
I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove
warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your
because life is short and you too are thirsty.
I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language
guessing at some words while others keep you reading
and I want to know which words they are.
I know you are reading this poem listening for something, torn
between bitterness and hope
turning back once again to the task you cannot refuse.
I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else
left to read
there where you have landed, stripped as you are.
Adrienne Rich

Anyone else here feeling stripped, perhaps, of who they are?