Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Only Writing Advice I Have to Give

Work to the limits
of resolve
to strike away
the tiny flaws,

focus on fatal flaws,
familiar, resonant,
god, for instance,
or magic or mudslides

or death or tender feelings
or the girl on the roof
surveying the street,
contemplative and quiet,

or how it feels
to touch a pencil
to paper, watching shadows

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Round Trip to There and Back

How many different ways
to do a thing
to do one thing
to take a walk

take a hike
follow the river
follow the nose
in front of your face

stride right

high road and low
straight, narrow
and into the wind
along the ridge

and back
down trail
true north

through the pines
around the hot zone
and toxic places

shouldering loads
swinging free
bent by cares
and shuffling slow

full of hope
full of vigor
near the end
on a new path

this far and no further
focused and driven and dreaming hard
lovelorn and anguished
how many different ways

to walk or live or love

Friday, November 16, 2012

Up ours

once more to the barricades
in spirit if not in body
one can feel the rant rising
in the old radical

in the audience
we wonder that he has never learned
how to speak to skeptics
but insists

that all of us
bend over
to accept the gifts
only he
can ram
up our

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Do all cultures share reverence
for the moment of affirmation
soul to soul
people to community

That moment when one declares
I swear to you
that this is true
and we accept this word

grow our tribe
make our case
share our truth
and pledge

Where we gather
to bestow such honor
we each should tremble
for the chance to speak


Monday, November 12, 2012

So Much to Prove

There’s no need to confess all—
no matter that a single confession
has been known
 to clear the sinus

I have always felt
that I have much
to prove

and here,
seeking the value of confession,
I confess
that I have proved

so very little
to my father
and to the heart
breaking in my chest

not my own,
but his,
Dad’s heart,
and he and I

are flooded with the blood
of the sons
of the sons
of the sons

of the sons
it is here
after the flood

I will rebuild

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

So the poets say, so the poets tell us

Dedicated to Marrianne and to Margrete who are in Cleveland, getting out the vote for Barack.

I have my own poems,
I have my heart, my moon, my breath and my secrets,
I have my love to babies,
And my faith that more will rise as my children rose,

But it is the poems of others,
The words that tear and soothe,
The words that rip and drip and feed and drink
That lift me up and grow me strong and race my heart

Further than I would have dared or dreamed to go.
It was Walt Whitman who waked me.
“Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you,” he wrote,
“That you be my poem.” And I believed I could be.

Poet Essex Hemphill, smart and black and gay,
He touched me, too, and called
Sure black men to build walls of protection around
The beleagured in Anacostia and Harlem and the wavering poor.

Martin King reminded us that the great men of war
Spoke about peace as though they could deliver such a thing
By bombing us and killing us. Those who feel that war brings
Solutions to our problems “are sleeping through the revolution,”

Martin said. For every Viet Cong soldier we kill, we spend $500,000 to do so,
He said. And asked us how much we spend to educate a child or lift a sister
Out of poverty. And Audre Lorde, who reminded us constantly of the dead
We left behind and the dead we had yet to encounter, told us also about

The woman she loved who drew for her a bath of old roses.
And as Audre counted women caught in traps, one by one until
She reached the fifteenth one, the one with the courage to change
The question, Marge Piercy counted still others, living and dying

On street corners and discovered she was one of those with
The heart to endure and to love, “… the love we cupped so clumsily,”
the love raging and driving, “… an engine of light,” she wrote.
Just so did Langston Hughes remind us of the mourners, who

“Got up smiling, happy they were here.” And Dylan Thomas
Urged us to resist, “to not go gentle into that good night.”
How much did he charge us with, to waste nothing,
Least of all, ourselves? And having decided to live on,

How should we live? Anne Sexton tells us there is always more,
A for instance: the boy who finds a nickel and looks for a wallet,
Finds a string and looks for a harp, finds a golden key and
Unlocks a book of mysteries and fables and princesses and ogres.

This is something and there is more: the sunny days and open wounds
Of childhood, from where we came, troubled but standing,
And with Paticia Smith, “determined not to write a poem
Glorifying loss”

The uncontrasted gray of some days and other
Days of blood and tears and bursts of laughter.
Or as Ginsberg had it, “Candor ends paranoia…
Notice what you notice…catch yourself thinking.”

Of course, he adds, “others can measure their vision by what we see,”
Another way of saying that in our shared experiences and love lies
Liberation. Giovanni said that, too. “She’s our own star
shining from afar her life a beacon of who we are”

I am not a leader, but I know that there’s always another battle
And I hope to be there, following Martin, looking for ways that
Peaceful means can bring peaceful ends. In the meantime, as Giles said,
“There’s another Hellmouth under Cleveland,” and maybe we should go there.