The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (41- 44)

41.

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There is no power

There is no power to a cursed god

A dumb god

A rabid god

A terrible, terrible god

 

However

There is power to a nature that doesn’t care about curses

 

42.

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My fiction is a seduction — let’s get married

My fiction does not lie — c’mon, let’s get married

Fiction doesn’t cajole or threaten — what is it with you?  you have nothing to lose

Fiction will carry you, light as nothing but your actual weight

Fiction will place you there, right there, in medias res

 

Once there was a girl who had started to run long before the story started

& then you became the girl

& then you were the one that was chasing her

& then you became the fiction and the girl became the teller

 

What fiction is that if it’s not true?

C’mon. Let’s do it. Let’s get married today

 

43.

2014-08-02 20.25.13

 

A thirsty god finds me at the shore

selling water by the cup

A thirsty god, a broke god stands before me

You pay first, I tell him

You pay first

 

So this thirsty god tosses a couple of coins into the metal bucket

& draws deeply from the cup

Another cup?

You pay first

 

My god turns his pockets inside out

Shows me his wallet, his overdrawn credit cards

You pay first, I tell the damned god

 

I’ll give you a wish

A wish from a cheap god, a broke god

 

I wish, I begin

I wish I knew if she still wore that pink underwear

 

My god sputters out the water in his mouth

That’s it?

Not world peace?

 

I meet his incredulity with steady eyes

My wish, god, not yours

Who died and made you judge?

 

Christ, my god mutters, his lips still wet

Jesus Christ

 

44.

2014-08-03 11.18.32

 

Once a woman came to give a talk

I sat in the audience, rows and rows and rows away

almost in the back

 

After the introduction she got up from the front row

She wore all black — black top, black pants, black scarf

but as she got up there was a flash of pink at her waistline

 

 

 

 

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (36-40)

36.

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On the other side of Saturday

she is shiny with desire

Today, not so much

 

Desire for what?

A clean house?

Well-behaved children?

A successful practice?

An unwavering hand at her back?

 

Saturdays leave much to be desired:

Breakfast in bed for a tired woman

One day in the year, two, three — a bouquet of flowers

Weloveyouweloveyouweloveyouwedo

A lopsided smile

A sensuous pinch

 

Ah, bwana. Lakini wewe?

Let us not arouse the dead

 

37.

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Distinctions:

1. Your loveliness — for this there is no struggle

2. Your location on the east gate.  No one is coming to acknowledge your presence

3. The relationship between a stiff breeze and a full skirt

4. There is nothing else

 

38.

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Grace Lee Boggs on the period of transition:

“I’m very conscious of that sense of time. How long will I live? How long should I live?  I’m very conscious of what time it is on the clock of the world.  As I have grown older, I think in terms of centuries, whereas eight or nine years ago, I was only talking about decades.”

It’s almost morning on the clock of the world

The chandelier in the living room used to swing on its own, remember?

A pale sky

A tired night

 

It’s almost morning on the clock of the world

The earth itches and convulses

The chandelier swings wildly

I’m remembering the first sign that the cold season was over: earthworms wriggle out

I’m remembering the first sign that the cold season will never be over: Grace Lee Boggs is gone

 

39.

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This is only an idea:

– That the spell is complete and no one has to believe it, least of all you

– That the narrative matters

– That banners spell doom

– And friendship isn’t blood.  Glue and horses are related by foot

 

This is only an idea:

– That some encounters are nothing more than the evidence of of humour from an old ghost

– That there is a frenetic energy to this story

– A fragile end and a distant close

 

This is an idea:

That this is in fact a story that we cannot poke with a finger.  We live in the shadows of castles and castles of clouds

On occasion, we look up and say: look! the rain is coming

 

40.

2014-08-03 11.18.32

 

I’m yearning to speak to you in a language in which blow means kuti

I want to speak to you of a breath that we can climb onto

A breath like a single note

A breath in which I’m holding on to you

Holding on to you on a note that time will not control

 

It’s on the breath out, isn’t it?

Kuti

It’s on the breath out, right?

 

Let’s climb back on to that note

Let’s try

Music is nothing without you

 

 

 

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (31-35)

31.

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Now I’m riding a wave of Hail Marys and underneath a chorus:

You’re only human

You’re only human

and with that, you’re just a woman

 

Deep baritones and alto currents and the occasional soprano spray

You cannot move in just yet

You cannot move in just yet

 

Now I’m standing at the threshold

A river of Hail Marys rushes by

There’s a tide I’m waiting for

Clear spirits will carry me there

 

32.

2014-08-02 20.25.13

 

She insists on walking on the edge of the ditch with her arms outstretched for balance

but

her mouth is tight with focus

 

The edge of the ditch, like the rest of it, is muddy

She slips

She catches herself

but she will not walk on the generous path like everyone else

 

– that’s for walkers, she says

– that’s for walkers

– I’m not a walker, she says

– I’m a balancer.  I hold the world divided in my palms

 

33.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

what night

what night what burning proof what riding in the wind
howling in the throats of hungry children, hanging strings of broken guitars
what burning proof of light

what incidence what music what leafy branches, now stark, naked, dry, whitened bark
what memories of life what shadows from the backs of women
bending over howling children with churning acid, burning insides, tight, round, hollow hot bellies what leaking

what night burning with proof?

what dry knuckles what country, what crescent moon, what red cross
what worries about what neck-laced bullets, shards, casings, strips of cloth, strips of stories, stories of people, people of a desert glowing with memories of leafy branches and the burning proof of night

what meaning what conclusions of our women raped with knives, hands, broken bottles, bayonets, sticks

wet shop window panes of winter countries glistening, shimmering rain stones bouncing, where we long for love in shiny diamond rings, blood rubies, topaz blue dangling from earlobes, glinting from the newest cell phones

coltane

what meaning in the screams of one woman long confounded by a polish man in the darkest heart of Africa what howling by the river red bottomed monkeys darting off the road, scattering off in the path of jeeps with the blue and white of United Nations, red and white of Red Cross, FAO, We Care, We Care, We Care, we don’t.

what need for the children staring back at the screen, for pennies a day, only pennies a day

less than the price of a grande cup of coffee, a latte, a half sweet, half decaf, no foam, skim milk, vanilla, double shot of espresso

less than the price of a daily paper

What lies.

 

 

34.

2014-08-04 16.58.39

Purple is to Lavender

(Alice Walker)

Purple is to lavender

What crimson is to red blood

Gushing through the sin-stained heart

Purple is to lavender

What royal is to blue

Sky, blue blood, blue day blues

Purple is to lavender

What light is to the absence of white

On your wedding day, wedding night

Wading, wading muck

Purple is to lavender

What right is

In the face of right ways

Right rules

Right, might, height

Purple is to lavender

What crimson is to red

Heartache to love

Blue days white nights

And you

 

 

 

35

2014-08-02 20.54.12

 

Possibly

If all possible permutations of words

Have been calculated, sentences spoken, sentiments undone, expressions underlined, scored, beaten, shot, gartered, quartered, bent, given, taken, delivered, stored, left, denied and burned in piles, with elephant tusks and women;

If all possible permutations of words have died at the cross with Christ,

Or buried in mass graves of Bosnia, Liberia, Congo, Haiti, Mexico, Rwanda, Acholi, China, Chile, Poland, Siberia, United States, Sudan and Sea-to-Sky highway in Canada;

If any words rose from the ashes in epic poetry and song from the silenced and then disappeared into the nothingness that trails like falling stars, like the smoky wisps behinds your eyelids;

I can still be certain of this – only those three words I hold will remain unsaid

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (26-30)

26.

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Last Tuesday you were standing right there

without your feet touching the ground

There you were, your hair whipping about your face

& your hands clasped & bound in the farthest corner of the ceiling were three right angles meet

your arms outstretched, handless

 

Last Tuesday, you said you were thirsty

Shall we go for a drink? you asked

I thought it was weird that you should be ready to go for a drink

just because you had your jacket and shoes on

 

How about your hands? I asked.

I only take them out on Wednesdays and Fridays when I need to use them

& I only let my feet touch the ground on Monday, Thursdays and Saturdays

 

You’re not Jesus on the cross. I don’t like it, I said

Well, you’re no devil on the mountain top and I still need a drink, you said

Are you coming?

 

 

27.

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Last Word

If that was the last word you’d ever utter

If that was the one

That turned earth’s belly outwards

With red fiery wordless screams

Beyond glowing

It would twist your tongue

Swelling that the back of your throat

Like God’s muttering of that first word

 

If that was the word that blinked out existence

Drawing itself out

Groaning like a birthing, like coming into being

Shredding that tongue

Melting, moulting

Beyond babies, beyond love, that last word

Would wrench the bejeezus out

Spaghetti like

White strips of fat, skin, pasta sauce blood, gore

 

That single word

That might have precipitated the beginning of the world

Tell me you won’t say it

Tell me you won’t say it

Tell me you won’t send the stars into the skies

Beaches outlined with white sands, black sand, red sand, mud, blood, baobab trees straining for light

By their roots

 

Keep it, don’t utter it

Don’t utter it it

Swallow it back

Let it germinate into something beautiful,

Something soft, something rhythmic

Like your heart and mine

Interlocked

Beat

Interlocked

Beat

Interlocked

 

This is your death

I don’t care to hear it

This is your death

Swallow it.

Let it grow into something beautiful

Something soft, something rhythmic

Something that will remain contained underneath your skin, now grey

Beyond your smile, now dry

Your eyes, now pale

This is your death

I’ll hold on to you until you implode inside me

The idea of you

Still brilliant with unstated grief

 

28.

2014-08-02 20.25.13

Last Request

Salome

Just before you lose your veil and offer everything to him

(You know this. And I know that you already know this. But know this from me. You’re such a tease)

One tousle, one shake of that fine head of hair

One last caress, Salome

Your fingertips against my scalp

Once more my face between your breasts

Once more, for the last time, before you offer everything else to him

A kiss on my nose, one on my lips, one on each cheek

A last lingering one on my forehead, Salome

Even as your eyes are locked in by his eyes

Just before you give in, Salome, one look back

A last glance so I can see the length of your neck

A single wish, Salome

Your voice after the dance, lingering in my ear

Give me this one last thing

That I can take with me, Salome

Your voice bearing my name – a testament of me in your voice

This is the right thing

This is the right thing to do

My face between your breasts, a caress on my scalp, kisses

Whisper my name against my ear, Salome

Before you offer my head to the king.

 

 

29.

2014-08-02 20.54.12

Stuff to do When Your Hometown is Burning

  1. Finish up your cup of tea before it gets cold, because you know you hate it cold.
  2. Think about calling your mother.
  3. Don’t call your mother. She’ll freak out.  Asking questions like hail pelting down, like pepper sneezed into your face, like unrelenting projectile vomit on your recently cleaned carpet.  Don’t call you mother.  She’ll freak out as if you knew much more than the headlines proclaim:  Gulu is in Flames.
  4. Change the channel.  Change. Change. Change. Nothing. None of the news media will carry it, and why should they?  Gulu is burning, but does not even warrant a lined script flowing at the bottom of your TV screen.
  5. Return to the internet site.  Read the article again.  Gulu is Burning.  Still burning.  Same title renders the burning a continuous and never ending act – Gulu is hell.
  6. Email a friend.  Enclose the link.
  7. Read your friend’s response – oh dear.
  8. Oh dear you, oh dear me, oh dear everything around you –scattered books on the table, papers, receipts from a cup of coffee and muffin that you hated, the latest O Magazine proclaiming secrets to an long and joyful life complete with beautiful skin – your hometown is burning.
  9. The dishes are stacked up in the sink.  They always are. Grape stalks on the kitchen counter, coffee grinds on the floor by the trash can.  A damp kitchen cloth.  Your hometown is burning.
  10. The face of a woman you know appears on the computer devoid of any apparent emotion.  What does it feel like when your hometown is burning?  How can you show it?  Where are the T-shirts, the arm bands, the youtube clips, the tweets, the letter writers, the dissenters, the peace lovers, the protesters, the batons, the loudspeakers, the police, the guns, the teargas, the burning tires in the middle of the road, the pickup trucks, goons throwing politicians to the back of the track and speeding away?  Where are the signs that your hometown is burning?
  11. Pink and yellow tulips in a vase.  Not any less gorgeous, even as dead stalks that cling to any semblance of life –opening up to the light through the blinds and closing up in the evening, sucking at what juices might be mixed in the water.
  12. Wash some dishes.
  13. Shower.
  14. Fix your hair.
  15. Wear lipstick.
  16. Remember to take your shades – it’s sunny outside.
  17. Call your mother.
  18. Listen to your mother freak out just like you thought she would . Why should this be happening to us again, why? When did it start? Who is doing this?  Not again, she wails, not again.
  19. Gulu is in flames as the fourth division pours out into the streets showing firepower, manly power, deadly, manly firepower.
  20. Your hometown is burning. So you take the bus, go to work, mark papers, submit a short story and think about dinner.

 

30.

2014-08-03 11.18.32

 

A Moment for Ali Farzat

This is not a love song

This is no revolution song

Cue redemption

Cue freedom

Cue democracy

And all those crazy ideas

That mean nothing when you can’t be yourself

This is not a poem

Not even a love poem

 

This is no poem for lost souls

The dead can go to hell

Where else are they going to go?

Abandoning us to this

Leaving us without love

Without song, without redemption

Freedom, democracy

 

This is nothing but a moment

Held among the stars

 

Stop, they said, stop

You can’t do that any more

So the stars shifted

Held the explosions like a breath sucked in

You can’t do that anymore

Do it and prepare to lose it all

 

Ali held his pencil in the air

Do it, they repeated, and prepare to lose it all

 

What good is a pencil in mid air

What good is a song unsung

A poem unrecited

A blank canvass, a baby unbirthed

What good is anything when you don’t have

Love, freedom, democracy and all those crazy ideas?

 

Ali had his pencils

Ali had pens, chalk, markers

Ali had pictures in his head that infuriated them

Enough to say stop that!

Do it again and prepare to lose it all

 

So Ali held his pencil in midair

Ali held his pencil inside that moment that the stars stood still

Warding off explosions in the sky

Waiting, waiting

 

Ali held his pencil mid air

While love, freedom and democracy

Danced about his eyes and ears

Like crazy ideas waiting to coalesce on paper

 

This is not a love song

This is no revolution

This is no redemption song

Thundering through the ground

This isn’t even a poem

Just a moment like the one when Ali held his pencil in midair

Imagining crazy ideas

Wanting for the encounter between paper and pencil

A marker, two, an image, two

Is all Ali wanted

To meet pencil to paper

 

Instead, Ali’s hand met the power of another man’s muscle

An arm free from those crazy ideas

Armed with the certainty of action and action just now

Do it and prepare to lose everything, they said

So Ali’s pencil never met the paper

 

What’s there to gain when your wrists are broken

When your body is so badly beaten

When stars fall from the sky

And no one sees them land among us?

What’s there to be free from, to love, to democratize when you can’t draw?

What’s there but nerve endings on fire, exploding stars contained in your palms

The world’s pain, now reflected in your body

The world`s pain, the one you can’t draw, Ali

What else is there, Ali?

 

This wasn’t a poem either

Just a moment

Just a moment between you and I

Between you and I, Ali

 

I write, because you can’t draw right now

I write, because you can’t draw.

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (21-25)

21.

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In this full moon

Two men get ready — a legacy and impending widowerhood

One man takes down a calendar from the kitchen wall

& re-marks the rest of the year in blue felt pen

then he sharpens the knives in the cupboard

no point in keeping blunt knives anymore

but he will keep the gold band for a while yet

The other makes his way up a mound of stories

clears his throat and begins his speech again

22.

2014-08-02 20.25.13

In this full moon

a man cuts out the remaining days of the calendar already marked in blue

miss, not miss, miss, not miss, miss, not miss

he strings them out on a clothes line to catch the sun tomorrow

We hear you, man

It was never going to be easy

23.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

The other man stands atop a mound of stories

Layers and layers of narratives, sketches, vignettes and the occasional poem

Right up there he leans on the podium and clears his throat

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m honoured to stand here today

A gold band glitters in the light

He’s married, don’t you know?

We hear you, man

We hear you, we’re not deaf

24.

2014-08-02 20.54.12

In this full moon

a man prepares his legacy by parsing out the relevant dead

the relevant dead being men from a thousand years ago

he points at a picture of two metal fragments

(what are the indications that this man may live on forever in light of the evidence

of these two metal fragments?

Pretty good, I’d say.  Pretty good)

As long as we forget that women still go missing

As long as we forget that women still get murdered

As long as we forget that the missing and murdered women come from that pile of stories

Miss, not miss, miss, not miss, miss, not miss

wedding bands, moonlight, madness and stories

So what is it, man?

25.

2014-08-04 16.58.39

Between this full moon and the one before it and the one before that

and before that and before that going back some time

a woman steps into a place that vibrates at such a high frequency

that she disappears altogether

we never see her again

we call her among the murdered and the missing women

what is it about the Franklin Expedition that we must never forget?

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (16-20)

 

16.

2014-08-04 16.58.39

 

 

Tell me a story, you said

Tell me a story  if you want me to stay

 

Once there was a woman in pieces

One arm here and one arm there

One leg flung across the living room

& her individual lashes were impossible to find in the patterned shag

 

17.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

Once there was a woman

who was struggling to put herself back together

Most of her torso was in the bathtub

& her tears were draining away in the kitchen sink

after having rinsed all the dishes from last night

 

18.

2014-08-03 11.18.32

Once there was a woman who hadn’t known

that care was what had kept the hinges of the elbows fluid

Take care of yourself

Take  care of yourself

Take care of yourself

 

Tell me a story if you want me to stay

 

There was a woman who went shopping at the dollar store

She managed to get a bottle of school glue between her teeth and paid for it in pennies

Her limbs re-fused when the white glue turned clear

but it was hard to glue the skin on her back properly

because her fingers had become tacky from all the gluing that day

 

Tell me another story

If you want me to stay

19.

2014-08-02 20.25.13

 

White butterflies by the rail road trucks

A motorcyle parked by a flower garden

A man plays guitar by the waterfront and sings a sad song

The sky is blue

The sky is clear

 

Tell me a story that is not a sequence of beauty

Tell me a complicated story so that I might forget that I should be happy

 

20.

2014-08-02 20.54.12

Once there was a woman who wanted to be a saint

So she conjured up a trophy at the mayor’s office and lined up at ticketing

 

(That doesn’t make sense)

 

Once there was a woman who wanted to be a saint

So the mayor walked right out of the office, right up to her at her place in line at the ticketing office

and handed her a trophy

Her parking tickets disappeared at that same moment

 

(That doesn’t make sense)

 

Well sainthood doesn’t make sense, does it?

How can we make miracles when we can’t see the precious that we are?

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (11-15)

11

.2014-08-02 20.54.12

 

These are the sorts of things we must never speak about:

-the way you make me feel

-the way you make me feel

-the way you make me feel

-the way you make me feel

 

So what is it we can speak of if we can’t even write about it?

 

12.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

It was you all along

Standing at the shore — willing me, willing me

 

I getting ready to cross the street at Broadway and MacDonald

& I dissolve into a puddle of water reflecting the amber light

Stop

Traffic above me, traffic all around

Horns everywhere and nowhere at all

 

You said you were thinking of me at the edge of the world

How long did you hold on to the water in your palm?

 

13.

2014-08-02 20.25.13

O, to be a single sheet of paper beneath your writing hand

A pen in this digital age

A pen hovers over me

Write

Mark me

Write all, all over me

 

14.

2014-08-03 11.18.32

The romance has settled and the curator of travellers have classified us:

Traders, explorers, discoverers, exiles, migrants, invaders, musicians

colonizers, lovers, takers, thinkers, investors, artists, mongrel,

slavers, hoarders of disease, artists, mongrels, green eyed slaves,

sailors, translator, immigrants, refugees, missionaries, adventurers,

thinkers

 

We stopped returning when home disappeared in a foggy past

Bury me here

I can no longer hear the music from my home

 

15.

2014-08-04 16.58.39

 

Tell me a story, the woman said, so I can make sense of my new self

Mold these bits into a woman

 

I can’t do that, the man said

You are already all woman

 

Here, lie down, sleep

Here, eat

Here let me bathe you

Here let me do your hair

Here, let me love you back

 

Now the room is full of soft creatures

– not speaking  but humming like the fridge

Ribbons, silk and lace in pastel

that’s what will distract him now

 

Why is this betrayal that he won’t look at you?

Why is this betrayal that your place at his feet is no longer enough?

Why must you grovel ?

What does it mean to not be seen?

What does it mean to know that you are not seen?

What does it mean to be invisible?

 

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (6-10)

 

 

 

10.

Sons Also Daughters 

For Tamara Symanska-Golik

 

Sons Also Daughters

Rummage through your life

Picking this, picking that

 

Killers all,

Sorting through your bones

Taking this, taking that

 

Also daughters

Picking at strands of hair

Gawking at roomfuls of combs, ribbons, brushes

 

Also daughters

Picking what seeds to save

Which to discard

What instances to remember

Which to forget

 

Sons also daughters

Killers all

Spreading seeds, writing code

One zero one zero

One for life

Zero for nought

One for air

Zero for everything else

 

Sons also daughters

Bear life

Hold the proof of your existence

In the stories they pick from your things

Your hair brush, your bones

Your fingernail clippings, you clothes, sheets

Shoes, you papers, love letters

Your old spices, the whole kitchen

Your memories of that place

Your loves, regrets, dead dreams

 

Also sons

Also daughters

Also sons

Also daughters

 

9.

2014-08-03 11.18.32

Enough

 

Enough with the uneasiness

The not belonging

The where are you from really where are you originally from

Enough with the how long have you been here have you been back when are you going back do you visit often aren’t you lucky to come from a place so warm do you like it here

Enough with the statistics that show that migrants come to this country with a higher level of education than the natural-born citizens and on average their children tend to do better than their parents maybe because they are born citizens but not natural-born citizens and why is there such a lack of nurses and doctors but we can’t trust the level of training they bring so they must mop the hospital floors and drive the gurneys to the morgue and drive taxis with their strong accents because they are used to driving in impossible traffic over there and at least they have a job in these days these terrible days these days of world-wide recession also called an economic down turn

My economic down turn happened way back when we left with some clothes, one photo album no books and plenty of hope because there was a shortage of nurses and they spoke English where we were going and it was not going to be so cold in the winter after all

My economic down turn happened when my job searches were limited to those that required high-school certificates and on the job training otherwise the directions to the human resources office led to the exit at the back of the building where a dark-skinned security guard held a cigarette between a yellowed thumb and index finger and had no smile for me

I want to go home

I’ve got the high-school certificate and years of misdirection, decades of living in paradise aren’t we lucky to live in paradise aren’t we lucky to have the mountains and the beaches and all this aboriginal art to look at to look at to look at don’t touch

I’ve done my stint at washing dishes for twelve-hour shifts working at the golden arches where customers demand white vanilla ice-cream no chocolate on it because I could never have understood that white vanilla ice cream was no swirl and what didn’t we have ice cream where I come from

We all want to go and live in paradise after all this after all this

After all we are not the inheritors of the riches in our backyard because we don’t have any trained geo-physicists to survey the land or ethics panels to tell us

That it is

Not right

not right

not right to

take

take

take

And leave us the pollution to deal with the high unemployment the shine gone from our dark skins the white smiles the ring-wormed children the long train of cervical cancer that they say is on its way to Africa

Now all I need is a passport and a country to call home

 

8.

2014-08-02 20.54.12

Smoke

I’ll never smoke again

Smoke

I’ll never drink again

Smoke

I’ll only drink for health and only red wine at that

Smoke

I already drank another one and hid away the can

Smoke

I lie

Smoke

I evade

Smoke

It’s all make up anyway

Smoke

We all die some day

Smoke

It’s not really a struggle, it’s a game, I can handle it

Smoke

You don’t matter

Smoke

What a fucking disaster

Smoke

I can’t wait to start again

 

7.

2014-08-04 16.58.39

Our lands like our bodies like our minds like our mines

for excavation

what’s your blood type?

what’s your blood type?

what’s your blood type?

will you be donating your organs?

If so, tick this box

 

If not tick this other box

Sign here and here and here and here and here

 

6.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

 

And so it was that we slid into things at the beginning of spider season

Spiders across the kitchen floor

Scuttling over the memory of us just there

 

Spiders along the wall exactly where your palms were

 

One spider hanged delicately, deliciously

hovered and then climbed up and disappeared into nowhere

Perhaps you were never here after all

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (1-5)

5.

2014-08-02 20.54.12

The Microphone is not a Gun

The fact that a man picks up a microphone – that’s it, you see? That’s what makes him a rapper. It’s not a gun, it’s only a microphone.

Eminem. Interview with Zadie Smith. “The Zen of Eminem,” for Vibe Magazine.

I agree.

It’s not appropriate to think that the microphone could be a gun – it’s not. It’s only a microphone.

Not like the blues weeping, dripping all sassy like, sexy like, painful like, relieved like, sad again, like no word ever spoken – it’s nothing. It’s only a microphone.

And microphones are dead.

No.

Microphones are not dead.

No

Microphones are dead.

No.

Microphones are not dead.

No.

A microphone will switch on a voice whose cross-hairs marks everyone in the room; more, everyone within earshot.

A microphone will illuminate the dogs, the cockroaches, the foreigners, illegal aliens, refugees, the bastards arriving here by ship, here to take our women, our men, talk our children out into the streets, into hazy drug addicted lives; here to convince us that it never happened, it never did, nobody touched their them, nobody, nobody sodomized our kids, not even in God’s name.

The microphone is not dead.

It’s dead.

It’s not dead.

(The microphone is dead without a voice)

The microphone is all your life reduced to nothing

You’re dead when the message comes through to say that you are, or soon will be anyway. The voice behind the microphone says — kill the bastards! Gas them! Hack them! Shoot them! Get rid of every single one of them.

It’s not a gun, Eminem says. It’s not a gun.

 

The microphone for sure is not the poet who proclaims the death orders.

It’s certainly not a pile of tusks in Mombasa waiting to catch a fire and scream nothing.

Don’t you know that elephant tusks have no voices?

 

Microphones are not flowers, not love songs, not God on the podium, not Christ, or Mohammed, wailing in the desert

God is love! God is love! God is Love!

There is only one God

There is only one God

There is only one God

And God is love in the priest’s hands, in the killer’s trigger finger, your mother’s hands, mine – all God’s love – tell us!

Tell us, God’s man, tell us!

 

This microphone is not a gun. It’s a microphone. It’s not God carrying on, spewing love from the mountain-top.

It’s only a microphone.

It’s not a gun aiming to shatter your innards, desecrate that temple of love that you carry about, as your thoughts disintegrate into dust motes that float only in the light.

 

But have no doubt. The microphone is not a gun, but it can and will kill you.

The one that will save you only needs to whisper the truth that you already carry in your veins –

You’re alright as you are.

You’re lovely as you come.

You’re beautiful even as you look away, even as you sigh, holding you head in your hands, thinking that you can’t take much more than this.

You’re here

You exist

I see you

You belong with me, with us.

I love you

I need no gun, no microphone for that.

4.

2014-08-03 11.18.32

Blue Grey for Jodie Martinson

 

We, who are peddlers of stories, only focus on the blue grey

It’s the blue grey you insist on, isn’t it?

 

Once there was a woman who lived and died, as we all do

But she had a story

 

 

We, peddlers of stories, trade in the dark

Un-mucking details

Clearing shadows

Sweeping the dusty edges of stories that might have been fun, or even funny

 

Once there was a woman with a story

And now there isn’t

 

It’s the blue grey in the shadows beneath the boats

At the marina on False Creek

Nobody looks there and nobody cares

Small waves, small waves

 

We peddle stories, what more is there?

 

Once there was a woman

What happened to her made us take second glance

 

Once, a woman with a story mattered because she had a story

We peddle these things as if they were nothing

One story, the next and the one after that

We get fixed

We get our fix

We fix

 

Once, there was a woman who lived and now doesn’t

She mattered because she had a story that piqued our interest

 

Once, there was a woman, six times, sixty six or six hundred

But none had a narrative like hers

 

Once, there was a woman whose narrative claimed her

Molded her, like clay, into someone

Someone who mattered when her story engulfed the headlines

Her details were important

Having been dusted off from the corners and shadows where no one looks

 

It’s your insistence on the blue grey, isn’t it?

Grey December skies, whitish, sometimes black, belie soft waves under the boats

At False Creek, where red-roofed houses upon houses overlook the water

Witnesses at everyone turn but none are interested

Except you and I, peddlers of stories

Who get our fix, fix and are fixed

3.

2014-08-02 20.25.13

I wish it were night

Because what I need to tell you needs night

 

It needs drawn curtains, Bob melody, warm blankets, sleeping children dreaming, sucking at their mouths and your dark skin

 

What I need to tell you

Needs night

Your hands cupping my shoulder, the heat in your eyes

 

This night

Tonight

This night I need to talk to you

This night needs me, needs you, needs black

No streetlights – black

No moon – black

 

No black thoughts of black people here there every place

That black is black is black is black is me is you

 

What I need to say needs you black night

black skirt on stained carpet

black stockings

black boots, bra, bangles in a gold heap jangling the day away now quiet

 

What I need to say needs night with thunder that tremors

rain in sheets

lightening that brightens the sky for a second — a truth that you are more than the sum of all the parts that make me feel good

:you are black soul

 

What I need to say needs no TV

no shadowing bombs in Beirut

boasting suicides bombs

bragging shots

competitions of displaced people inside outside

borders citizen refugees unwanted migrants vagrants

on the west side of a blue green planet with echoes of canned laughter

 

No fingers to my lips, love.

What I need to tell you

What I need to tell you

What I need to tell you

 

2.

2014-08-04 16.58.39

I’m holding your foot in my hand

Your right foot or left

Socked, and you’re not even Jesus

But

God, I need saving

 

I peel off your sock

or I put it back on

(I can’t remember now)

Your foot, socked in my hand

& you’re still not Jesus

I need saving

I need saving, my lord

My lord, I need saving

 

Your foot in my lap

I cradle it close

Slow enough to diffuse into my mind

 

In this moment

I am safe

 

 

1.

2014-08-04 15.47.32

How was it that in my mind I was walking through the field

Gathering armfuls of flowers

While you lay dying?

 

How is it that flowers don’t exist

that the most beautiful spot on the beach

is where you stood, hands in pocket, glum and scowling?

 

Race and stop, not much matters anyway

Stones and sand are evolutionary relatives

You and I are stars

Orion has become a coward, hiding behind the sun

And none of this happened

None of it happened.

The Rwanda Genocide, twenty years later: 100 Days of photographs + poems by Wangechi Mutu and Juliane Okot Bitek: Days 43 to 1

Originally posted on Zócalo Poets:

Wangechi Mutu_Days 3_2_1_The End_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

Wangechi Mutu_Days 3_2_1_The End_Rwanda Genocide 20th anniversary

 . . .

Juliane Okot Bitek
100 Days: a poetic response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days
.
Day 1
I have nothing
I stand before you with nothing
I am nothing

You stand before me with nothing

I don’t know what I know
but I know that you know nothing

Having come from nothing
To nothing & from nothing
Let my nothing meet your nothing

We may find something there.
.
Day 2
This will not be a litany of remembrances:

We know who the guilty are
The guilty know themselves

This is a charge against the witnesses
& those who cannot speak

This is a charge against those who speak incompletely
& incoherently

Against nature who saw everything & did nothing
against the bodies that dissolved
& the ones that refused to dissolve
those that insisted on writing the landscape with bones

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