Tag Archives: poetry

riding the wave of necessary poetry…

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Another of my favorite activist poets is Asha Bandele. The following poem is one of two I will post here. I love her work.
I don’t really feel like writing much today. Everything is mundane. Oats and raisins and juice. Trying not to smoke. Coffee, not enough, but need to be careful. The sea is the same gorgeous as ever. Mundane. My clothes need to be picked up off the couch. I have phone calls to make and procrastinate. I grow one year older tomorrow, but I’ll be pretty much the same as I am today. Mundane.
This poem however, is not.

in response 2 a brother’s question about what he should do when his best friend beats up his woman
Asha Bandele

snatch him up by the back of his neck run him into his own fist
twice
tell him who the real enemy is show him
make him swallow his own teeth do not help when they scratch the inside
of his throat tell him it was his fault u did this
make his eyes swell up and & pus so he looks like a freak make him go to
work lie that & have to come up with excuses to his co-workers & friends
tell him the witeman made u do it tell him you’re sorry tell him u
love him tell him u didn’t mean to then kick his ass again
Question him on why he’s such a coward
Interrogate his ass
Make him beg for forgiveness Watch him crawl
Put The Word Out In The Streets……
THERE’S AN ENEMY IN OUR PRESENCE THERE’S AN
ENEMY IN OUR PRESENCE IT DOES NOT THINK IT ONLY
ATTACKS IT MAKES WEAK-ASS EXCUSES IT TAKES NO
RESPONSIBILITY IT PICKS ON PEOPLE SMALLER THAN
ITSELF IT READS SHARAZAD ALI
IT WORSHIPS MILES DAVIS IT DESTROYS BLKLIFE
IT LIES IT LIES

and if he finally understands
then go to him
find out where it started
search for burns beneath his flesh
peel back his pain
be a brother a real good brother
whisper haki madhubuti sonia sanchez in his ear
sing sweet honey songs
let him cry
let him sleep in your arms
stand alone if u have to
this is the right thing to do
let the others babble hate while u break centuries of vicious cycles
face the contradictions the bellies sliced open & jaws wired shit
the assholes torn &
the bloodied vaginas
this is what it looks like do not turn away now
babies beat out of wombs spines curved uneven legs that no longer walk
dead eyes that cannot see tomorrow liver imprinted with callused feet–
face the contradiction that looks like u smell like u
that tastes like u
& push out the violence be unafraid to be a man
who confronts men about women
be unafraid to be a man who confronts big small mean common nasty
everyday men
about women
be unafraid to be a man
who confronts
himself.

June Jordan, warrior.

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I saw this this morning, before really even having my first cup of coffee, or before the world had set in. I was looking at the sea, its edges had blurred with the sky, sending a blue wave of freedom crashing into my mind. I experience always an awareness that I am blessed. This body moves how it wants, these fingers say what they will. This is privilege.
no, this is a right, that we have come to see as a privilege. Sisters of mine do not look out at blue edges of the universe and fly. Some of them do not have eyes. Some of them do not have voices.
Fortunately, we have words, we have images.

This is very graphic, but I thought to share:

http://blogs.tampabay.com/photo/2009/11/terrorism-thats-personal.html

As for today’s poem, I am choosing one of June Jordan’s poems that I love. If you dont know who June Jordan is, you MUST google her name and read her work. She changed so much of my life last year.

Poem about my rights
June Jordan

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want
to do with my own body because I am the wrong
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/
or far into the woods and I wanted to go
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking
about children or thinking about the world/all of it
disclosed by the stars and the silence:
I could not go and I could not think and I could not
stay there
alone
as I need to be
alone because I can’t do what I want to do with my own
body and
who in the hell set things up
like this
and in France they say if the guy penetrates
but does not ejaculate then he did not rape me
and if after stabbing him if after screams if
after begging the bastard and if even after smashing
a hammer to his head if even after that if he
and his buddies fuck me after that
then I consented and there was
no rape because finally you understand finally
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was
wrong again to be me being me where I was/wrong
to be who I am
which is exactly like South Africa
penetrating into Namibia penetrating into
Angola and does that mean I mean how do you know if
Pretoria ejaculates what will the evidence look like the
proof of the monster jackboot ejaculation on Blackland
and if
after Namibia and if after Angola and if after Zimbabwe
and if after all of my kinsmen and women resist even to
self-immolation of the villages and if after that
we lose nevertheless what will the big boys say will they
claim my consent:
Do You Follow Me: We are the wrong people of
the wrong skin on the wrong continent and what
in the hell is everybody being reasonable about
and according to the Times this week
back in 1966 the C.I.A. decided that they had this problem
and the problem was a man named Nkrumah so they
killed him and before that it was Patrice Lumumba
and before that it was my father on the campus
of my Ivy League school and my father afraid
to walk into the cafeteria because he said he
was wrong the wrong age the wrong skin the wrong
gender identity and he was paying my tuition and
before that
it was my father saying I was wrong saying that
I should have been a boy because he wanted one/a
boy and that I should have been lighter skinned and
that I should have had straighter hair and that
I should not be so boy crazy but instead I should
just be one/a boy and before that
it was my mother pleading plastic surgery for
my nose and braces for my teeth and telling me
to let the books loose to let them loose in other
words
I am very familiar with the problems of the C.I.A.
and the problems of South Africa and the problems
of Exxon Corporation and the problems of white
America in general and the problems of the teachers
and the preachers and the F.B.I. and the social
workers and my particular Mom and Dad/I am very
familiar with the problems because the problems
turn out to be
me
I am the history of rape
I am the history of the rejection of who I am
I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of
myself
I am the history of battery assault and limitless
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind
and my body and my soul and
whether it’s about walking out at night
or whether it’s about the love that I feel or
whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or
the sanctity of my national boundaries
or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity
of each and every desire
that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic
and indisputably single and singular heart
I have been raped
be-
cause I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong age
the wrong skin the wrong nose the wrong hair the
wrong need the wrong dream the wrong geographic
the wrong sartorial I
I have been the meaning of rape
I have been the problem everyone seeks to
eliminate by forced
penetration with or without the evidence of slime and/
but let this be unmistakable this poem
is not consent I do not consent
to my mother to my father to the teachers to
the F.B.I. to South Africa to Bedford-Stuy
to Park Avenue to American Airlines to the hardon
idlers on the corners to the sneaky creeps in
cars
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination
may very well cost you your life.

April is a wondrous month.

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The past 24 hours have been amazing. Highs and lows and everything ripe in between. Change, to the better,
and the remembrance of why I love whom I love.
Meeting Marilyn Hacker, virtually, having her contribute her kind words to my new book, learning of how poetry can join women across borders across hearts in galaxies different across the globe that we can reduce to the imprint of my palm against yours.
The past 24 hours have been amazing. I remember June Jordan. I remember Suheir Hammad. I remember my dear friend, poet undiscovered, Amahl, I remember my luminous mother and the legacy of generosity she left me. I remember Jean Makdissi and the history made in Beirut in the 70’s that is our inheritance beyond gold and land. I remember my sister, shining example of all that is right in our short breath lives.
I remember why I like poetry.
Here is Adrienne Rich, being the strong, wonderful woman that she is.

“North American Time”:

I
When my dreams showed signs
of becoming
politically correct
no unruly images
escaping beyond border
when walking in the street I found my
themes cut out for me
knew what I would not report
for fear of enemies’ usage
then I began to wonder

II
Everything we write
will be used against us
or against those we love.
These are the terms,
take them or leave them.
Poetry never stood a chance
of standing outside history.
One line typed twenty years ago
can be blazed on a wall in spraypaint
glorify art as detachment
or torture of those we
did not love but also
did not want to kill

We move but our words stand
become responsible
and this is verbal privilege

III
Try sitting at a typewriter
one calm summer evening
at a table by a window
in the country, try pretending
your time does not exist
that you are simply you
that the imagination simply strays
like a great moth, unintentional
try telling yourself
you are not accountable
to the life of your tribe
the breath of your planet

IV
It doesn’t matter what you think.
Words are found responsible
all you can do is choose them
or choose
to remain silent. Or, you never had a choice,
which is why the words that do stand
are responsible
and this is verbal privilege

V
Suppose you want to write
of a woman braiding
another woman’s hair–
staightdown, or with beads and shells
in three-strand plaits or corn-rows–
you had better know the thickness
the length the pattern
why she decides to braid her hair
how it is done to her
what country it happens in
what else happens in that country

You have to know these things

VI
Poet, sister: words–
whether we like it or not–
stand in a time of their own.
no use protesting I wrote that
before Kollontai was exiled
Rosa Luxembourg, Malcolm,
Anna Mae Aquash, murdered,
before Treblinka, Birkenau,
Hiroshima, before Sharpeville,
Biafra, Bangla Desh, Boston,
Atlanta, Soweto, Beirut, Assam
–those faces, names of places
sheared from the almanac
of North American time

VII
I am thinking this in a country
where words are stolen out of mouths
as bread is stolen out of mouths
where poets don’t go to jail
for being poets, but for being
dark-skinned, female, poor.
I am writing this in a time
when anything we write
can be used against those we love
where the context is never given
though we try to explain, over and over
For the sake of poetry at least
I need to know these things

VIII
Sometimes, gliding at night
in a plane over New York City
I have felt like some messenger
called to enter, called to engage
this field of light and darkness.
A grandiose idea, born of flying.
But underneath the grandiose idea
is the thought that what I must engage
after the plane has rage onto the tarmac
after climbing my old stair, sitting down
at my old window
is meant to break my heart and reduce me to silence.

IX
In North America time stumbles on
without moving, only releasing
a certain North American pain.
Julia de Burgos wrote:
That my grandfather was a slave
is my grief; had he been a master
that would have been my shame.
A poet’s words, hung over a door
in North America, in the year
nineteen-eighty-three.
The almost-full moon rises
timeless speaking of change
out of the Bronx, the Harlem River
the drowned towns of the Quabbin
the pilfered burial mounds
the toxic swamps, the testing-grounds
and I start to speak again.

April 1st- poem for today.

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I plan to post a poem here every day for the month of April, which is Poetry Month. Not necessarily my own, or by the Poeticians, but just random poetry I love…hope you will come back every day and read a new poem. It usually adds a little something something to one’s day…Hope it will to yours.
We have a Poetician event on April 15th, follow this lead to see the Facebook invite if youre in Dubai:

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=104935026213049&ref=nf

Here it today’s poem. It is long and incomprehensible but I think it fits well with the topic of writing. I have a small fondness for it. I wrote this one in NYC. Hope you get through it…

Becoming Poetry
09/2008,
New York.

until i am inspired by merely the breath alive
in no imposed conscious desire
until i can clearly paint the orbit of the stars
around your smile
those veins we all share
despite enemies and
differences assumed
and wars declared
until i can hear the din of your thoughts landing
safely on mine, i cannot venture forth
an understanding total of
the meaning of
the verb to write

bad opening stanzas converge to plot in
me this desire to try
for until i can muscle up the heart to follow each
thought speeding to the center of that abyss
we name memory
how filled with sorrow it is this
graveyard of images habitual, hard it
is to rescue these
thoughts
we deem precious we deem vital
we deem immortal after the seconds they stay
death comes quick to words that are fragile
they that deserve the paper shroud are few and
far from the empty fullness of the mind

and until i learn to save a child from the lives spent in fear
until i can hollow out that throbbing section
of hurt on your face
until i can scavenge and retrieve every painful trace
of life’s blows to your space
embrace away the frown you wear at dusk
every toss unpleasant of our shared sleep
until you no longer weep without knowing why
until i eradicate those cries, of every
single forgotten child, until the calm can
stain and continue to seep
peace
until love is the only possible answer to the
questions our hearts grasp and keep
unless i summon all that in the flick of a spell-weaving
wrist, then open wide my fingers to hold your hand
till all the healing words run steady
stay deep
this cannot be named the journey to write

deceased poems taunt me on a bewitched night
they float around unfocused
ripe for the picking but
well out of this sour woman’s way
they taint the stillness of an urban night, another
morn to wake up empty
until i can burst open, kinetically
magnetically
aligned with all the hopes you muster at the start of each work
week, harried
and forlorn and abandoned we are to desks and uniforms and
forgotten language of the old raw methods as
we inspire and expire in a new universe
silent
i tire of holding this net for poems to catch
my hair a nest of fire
eyes stuck in the mire of banality
and fingers tapping to rule a miniscule empire
i tire, and drive forth the will
to abandon this hunt
admit to the feeble kill
and only then, when i immerse my lungs
in words and paper to render
me blind, until the yoke of this ink has strangled me
i am shackled long and deep and wide
and cannot hide the predator inside
until i am a full captive of myself
alone coercing poems out of flight
until then
until i can guard the love we all
need to hide, and abide by the laws of metaphysics
betrothed to kindness, and the madness of lives spent wiping
words off all the dirty surface
until then, until the reconciliation between neurons
arching impulses that are poison
all these letters in time spent alone
until I am free to be
the owner of myself, all facets pressed and dried and collected
like a flower picked by a sad bride
on her wedding night, to be that flower that shelters you
for years brushed aside by
death
and until i am declared a woman losing her mind
by those who have seen it before
until i can roar in the whispers i send to you
that i want to write
i must first be taught to court the stars at night
to twist the moon
into shapes that while away the unslept time
till finality explains itself to me
in laymen terms i can respect and admire
until then
until i figure out
why cells wont obey me, until i can verbally
emphatically put down in letters you may translate
everything we need to know about love
and hate
until then i can only say i tried, and i tried and tried

until the spiritual stories make sense to me
and are real, not role-playing characters that are so far
imaginary, because one must believe in something
ultimately, and until i can trust to believe what
my eyes don’t see
until we can quantify love, and describe what
it is to just be, until we measure the weight
of friendship on scales of our entwined palms
until we convince the resurrection daily of another day
to stop being the only way
i must find my own means to pray, to yearn for the flesh to say
and ask for and receive another brand new
day, only then, when i am filled with queries no longer
and clear is the home in which I am to stay
then you can proclaim
hey
she would have done well to try and write

until you love me beyond the decay day by day
of my hair and skin organs voice smell laugh kiss fuck hold
and eyes
and say,
always that melodious death of our say
vocal chords extinguished in a harmony of silence
that is the only way, only then when we can
sing all that we need to pray
i will write to you then
to tell you i love you too

no matter the decay

only when the earth explains herself in languages familiar
in long winded dreams of our nights, sobriety
astray
in short bursts of song that is the music
enabling life
enabling my desire to stay
when all the sound clusters to dwell in soundtracks
of beauty, when i am starry and
alight, when this is my gift
to myself, drifting to spaces leaving the soil
to trek the mysterious pages that are vile
adversaries of anyone wanting to write and write and drift aloft
the letters that only you can say
until that day
writing falls always short of my voices that stray
and only when and only if, only how, i can come to know
how quick your feelings come in and go, to know
how i can traverse the distance between hopes
and words, in all the unworded chatter
our skin buzzes, when that geography
of minutiae tells me about the crests and valleys
in your chest, breathing in love for me
when the seas are but a fraction of our home together, only then,
lover, friend or family
stranger in nights smiling, strangers but for the pen,
only then can one dare to try and write

until i can stop time from winning
always spinning stories to steal my seconds
to find the immortality
one needs to willfully awake in mornings
futility lingering a cobweb of fear to trap me here
arms bound, eyes extinguished
death a mere breath away

until until until i can still
the cries of every child buried in the lives spent in fear,
until i can hollow out that throbbing section
of hurt on your face
until then,
i cannot ever really write

and so
and so what
and what if
what does all this wanton seeking say
about what you and i are doing
right now, here in this precious time we have not killed
memories of words to ever stay
even if only for

today

know this
know that this is all i am left to say
know that i love you
today
and know how
my love comes to me invisible
loud and clear to convey

everything we try to place on the insides
of our space, in every trace outline of thought you left behind
lied in divinity, beside
everything else sacred inside
outside
your gorgeous mind
is reborn to life, forever and ever more
and is
becoming poetry

everything we try not to say, that we leave behind, to die
on the edges of our infinite way, all of that
which my fingers cannot bring
to you
all that ever bathed in light and dark
to span the horizon which is etched for evermore
is for now, and forever
at your core
even your savage inhuman core
is alive
is your own indelible mark
and is
becoming poetry.

Maria, a love affair.

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Maria is a whirlwind of words that work up a dust storm of language evoking desire, longing, breathlessness and beirut moments we can all relate to. I thank her for joining our little band and for her poems.
And for her love affair with Beirut.

Love Affair

I cannot remember if
it was you who loved
me, or if it was I
who had a dark
love affair with your
city.

I cannot remember what
it was like to take you for
granted, with your alleys smelling like
trampled down
green, tobacco-laced
humidity, like
home, lingering like
the perfect nonchalant
evening.

I remember what it was
like when your only
sound was the voices of
young people wanting to
leave you, always wanting to
get out, to travel over
seas, far, far away from
you, to never come back, to
never have any doubts about the
necessity to turn their
backs on you.

I remember what it
was like to despise you, a
city impossible in its
bullet-holed
buildings, contradictory with its
flower vendors walking about,
throwing cigarette butts on your
ground. I
remember what it was like to
slam my wrists on my steering
wheel in your sun. I remember the
price I paid for
loving your son.

And then I left. We all
did. We assumed you’d always
stand tall under your smog,
we assumed we’d always
have time to live in the
land of Fairouz’s
songs. Having been
under seas seven times till
now, we never thought
twice about how you would
resurface with your narrow
winding roads, caverns haunted
by all your fleeing souls. But
with each despoiling
war, you
could be slipping a
little further away. And
even though we leave
you, we find ourselves
breaking promises to other
lovers, always
coming back for more.

Jehan, oh Jehan, How I love your words.

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Jehan is one of the delights of running the Poetician gang. Even though she ran off and is now living between kabul and nine other locations, I still love her. And her big eyes. And blue shoes. And small poems that leave me wondering how she can say so much in three lines while I need to ramble for 6 pages.
From all over the ME, but specifically from Palestine, comes a girl with so much attention to the unsaid in our world, and for her efforts to read with us in different countries and for her shy smiles and straight bangs, I thank Jehan and hug her virtually.

SplitEnds
by Jehan Bseiso

Your last note said ‘his name is Adam, he does not remind me of you.’
Postcards and letters,
Some open, some lying with their face down on the kitchen table.

I unlearn reading.
Alphabetics can be such mathematics. And I was never good at counting.

Remember the woman in the tube who thought she was Um Kulthoum?

I never let my thoughts wander anymore, but they touch your face from time to time.
Memory, a vault that the mind can open only in dreams.

Accidental remembering, or not being able to forget her voice

thick, heavy: ‘Ya Habibi…’

I pin my hope down with a tack.
On the fridge, a photo of you with a big fish you caught.
You look small.

You were always a fan of the dramatic, avant-garde theatre, in the style of Gertrude Stein.
I prefer her quiet poetry.

This just one of the ways in which we didn’t meet. There are others.

Endings.

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From my new book, from the chapter Lust. Something I wrote a year ago, but I guess endings are all the same. How does one know if a break up is the specific one that’s going to haunt you for the rest of your life?
How sad it is that the hurt one feels at the beginning of a break-up fades after a while…would we survive intense mourning for extended time?
It makes me wonder what kind of love one has to experience in order to emotionally wear black forever.

When my mother died, my grandmother never wore another bright color ever again, not for the ten years she lived after.
How do you mourn?

Endings
04/2009,
Dubai.

2- I thought of you
your body moving in mine
that trail of caresses I wanted never to end
I took that map to lands you knew not
spoken in languages you knew not
with friends, with love, with myself alone
I thought of you
I took this body wasted by absence
by her presence to lands you cared not for
to the weary images to the ancient homes of our people
to my childhood and the loss of mother
to the grinding old age of my father
to the question that is my future
to the harmony of
love I found in lands separate from you, lands distant
lands you cared for no longer, and
I thought of you when the night crawled into
my bed, and I thought of you
when the sun snatched the dream from my hands
and I thought of you when the stars told me stories
of visions that left me in wonder
and I thought of you when my conversations stilted
and when silence provided an escape
for the sadness
that we ingested
into our bodies of heaviness
into our bodies of hunger
I thought of you

I found protection from your glances, from
this love we never protected from
half chances, and the nights were half ablaze
turgid with thunder
the rain kept me wet in the dry heaves of this battle I retched
and I thought of you as the skies opened
to let the sky wash us clean of this
rancid daily grind
of this inner voice that cuts off my breath
every night
that lets me smolder

And against that
against the slow decay of realization
that I shared your dark skin
with strangers
against the sharp brittle lightening punch to the gut
there is no continent wide enough
no land distant enough
no retreat safe enough
no matter how high the fence
no matter how far the border.