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


2014-08-03 11.18.32

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



2014-08-02 20.25.13


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


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



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


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.




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





2014-08-02 20.54.12



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)


2014-08-04 15.47.32

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?




2014-08-04 16.58.39


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







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



2014-08-02 20.25.13

Last Request


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.




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.



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)


2014-08-03 11.18.32

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


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


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


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?


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)



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



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



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


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



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)


.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?



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


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?



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


Mark me

Write all, all over me



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,



We stopped returning when home disappeared in a foggy past

Bury me here

I can no longer hear the music from my home



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)





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



2014-08-03 11.18.32



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




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



2014-08-02 20.54.12


I’ll never smoke again


I’ll never drink again


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


I already drank another one and hid away the can


I lie


I evade


It’s all make up anyway


We all die some day


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


You don’t matter


What a fucking disaster


I can’t wait to start again



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



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)


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.


Microphones are not dead.


Microphones are dead.


Microphones are not dead.


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.


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


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


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



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


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




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

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

View original post 2,851 more words

100 Days: A Poetic Response to Wangechi Mutu’s #Kwibuka20#100 Days 1-10

Inspired by the quiet homage to the 1994 Rwanda Genocide that Wangechi Mutu started posting on social media on April 6, I decided to respond. I offer these poetic pieces as a way to think about the way in which we navigate through knowing about and understanding the genocide and other wars that endure.

Here are days 1-10 as they come

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

This is a charge against pain

against heartbreak

against laughter

against the dead.


Day 3

We were pock-marked by these things:

a torrent of accusations falling like rain

bayonet sticks


We were mocked

by faith in tiny shards

by the cross, with its pliant figure

representing grace

or representing the presence of God

What God in such a time?

What God afterwards?

What God ever?

Day 4

Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
Acel ariyo adek angwen
We have run out of days

Day 5
What do I remember?
Nothing but the contagion of stories
What do I want to say?
What do I want to say?

Day 6
Images from those days return like silent movies
The available light of the rest of this life and I
can’t hear anything
Just the silent movies

Day 7

Then we stumbled into the place where words go to die

& where words come from


First we bathed in it in it like sunbathers

then we washed ourselves in it

we rinsed our mouths out

shampooed our hair

swam in the words

& at night

we covered ourselves in words

& went to sleep


at night

the nightmares returned

but the dreams also came


Day 8

Justice woke up and went to work

but no one showed up


Justine, not justice, went to work

but no one showed up


Justice and not Justine

woke up and went to work

but no one showed up


women woke up and went to work

no one knows where Justine and/or

Justice are doing these days

Day 9
These days
circle and circle
some days soar from above like kites
others circle around and around
like hyenas waiting for the story to die

some sit
some stand in long legs
vultures wait
some stay some change seats
others come and go
some dive in
some walk, crawl, cycle
dial on the radio to listen
to stories in embers
stories aflame
stories in stories
stories stoking stories
stories stalking stories
stories in circles & circles

those stories haven’t yet killed me

Day 10

What indeed


the criminalizing function

of language in media?





Pumped full of bullets


& left to rot on the street






People murdered

Calculated and rated on a per hour basis

& sometimes exacted to ethnic & tribal






Never people you know

Until they are


Blog Hopping

I’ve been “tagged” by author and friend Daniela Elza to join in a game of blog hop. Daniela writes poetry, teaches and she’s an all round fabulous person. To see her post on:

I’m thrilled to be involved in this blog hopping. The rules of the game: answer four questions about your writing and writing process, and tag three more people.

What am I working on?

I’m working on a poetry project, 100 Days in which I post a poem everyday for 100 days.  I was and remain inspired by Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu
Wangechi began posting a photograph a day on social media on April 6, the twentieth anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide, Kwibuka 20. I knew I had to write poetry for that. Some of the poems have found a home here and here

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

It might not differ from other poetry projects in that it is still poetry but perhaps it may be different in that 100 Days is inspired by a photo project commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide.

Why do I write what I do?

I want to think through what it might mean to come through such a devastating event and never ever get over it or want to. I’m also using these poems to consider that which cannot be celebrated, that which may not be popular reading. How do I get so serious sounding sometimes? Jeez!

How does my writing process work?

Does it work? Yes, but only when it does. I think about something then I write it down. Sometimes I obsess over it and tinker with it a lot. Other times I do a basic clean up. My writing process depends on what I’m writing, I guess. For this project, I’ve spend a lot of time with a voice that is exhausted, angry, bitter and yet still hopeful. For what? I don’t know.

Thank you, Daniela Elza. I’ll be posting the bios of the next three blog hoppers soon.