AMERICA Although she feeds me bread of bitterness, And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth, Stealing my breath of life, I will confess I love this cultured hell that tests my youth. Her vigor flows like tides into my blood, Giving me strength erect against her hate, Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood. Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state, I stand within her walls with not a shred Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer. Darkly I gaze into the days ahead, And see her might and granite wonders there, Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand, Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand. Claude McKay, 1921 Shenandoah Literary
I keep a sachet of your smells in the corner of my mouth.
brown naked body sprawled beneath the sun scars of ritual and beauty crossing its belly where birds, dogs and people have left tracks soon made invisible by waxing tide
Thank you to the editors of Agape: A Creative Arts Magazine for first publishing this poem.
you would be my loon calling long past light, my mourning dove, my sweetest finch flashing sun from black as night. If my bird you were I'd feed you nectar from my palm and plant thick trees for you to rest and nest until I could transform my arms and hands to feathered limbs— our hearts remade as song.
Thank you to the editors of The Tishman Review for first publishing this poem.
LONGING TO BELONG
girl with eyes too large and milky teeth fairies must wait years for in a country that ripped her from Mama locked her in metal cage no laughter crosses her howl swells into lost others' sounds for families babies resounds past soiled dreams strips belonging as those ripping teach children how arms are weapons
is just the shadow of a dog... The dog is elsewhere, and constantly on the move.
THEY HOLD THE SEA
Contagious as your hummingbird smile may be, it is your hands... hands that sculpt ki into a dragon's mouth with arcs of mother-of-pearl framing rainbow flames that smell of warm milk and nutmeg, while your touch draws the breath of muscle to bone, then deeper. Too few lines cross your hands, large, almost too large, they hold the sea.
Thank you to the editor of Something Like Homesickness for first publishing this poem.
Ki–Japanese word meaning energy or life force.
In researching other poets in preparation for the Community of Writers, I’ve been especially impressed by an interview with Dawn McGuire, who is living one of the paths I would love to have lived. A neurologist, McGuire used to read her poetry with Judy Grahn, about whom Ani di Franco states, “When I was nineteen I discovered the poetry of Judy Grahn, and I was so moved by “A Woman is Talking to Death“, it’s still one of my favorite poems.”
Grahn’s poem illuminates where we rise from as a people and where too many remain stuck. I don’t understand bigotry, cruelty, or a lack of empathy, but do know when someone finds a way to clearly expose and trace its ripples. I’m relieved I couldn’t write “A Woman is Talking to Death,” because I wouldn’t want the experiences; however, I’d be grateful to write with this brilliance and power.
Dragonfly ascends; moon silent beneath the drum of wings screaming past.
Thank you to the editor of tinywords/haiku for first publishing this poem.
How she watched him turn me on the stairs, force his tongue in my nine year old mouth as she basked in the warmth of fire and merlot, and left me for weekends with his Marine Corps son though I cried, begged her not to, his crew cut head telling me to lie down, stop crying, spread my legs. And the Mother’s Day when she slapped my face, kicked my ribs, ripped the head off my doll because I was still making her gift when she woke—she screamed you worthless shit after all I’ve done these seven years. Even now I would forgive the nights from the time I was five that I pressed the cold glass of her bedroom window against my cheek while he beat her, waiting for her to tell me to run next door, call the police, forbidden to run before ordered, forced to listen to her pleas, his fist, the breaking chair. Forgive if she didn’t wish me dead or could engage in dialogue, but instead she remains three, six, twelve years old simultaneously, unwilling to approach maturity or sanity. I too have crawled the edge of madness, felt its sweet vortex as if cauterizing pain, but I keep stepping back from her outstretched arms, reaching always to pull me beside her.
Thank you to the editor of Writing Our Way Out of the Dark for first publishing this poem.