A poem from last Sunday

Amanda Moore was one of the readers at Britt Marie’s last Sunday. This was my favorite of the poems she read:

The Broken Leg

Eventually it comes between us:
not the plaster barricade
between every tender moment we might have,
but the dependence.

After the flurry of surgeons
and worry of permanent damage

there is the carrying of urine
the changing of bandages
the creak of crutches and incessant talk of scabs.
Like a shabby patch of grass
I am stretched out beneath him, trampled
and benignly offering servitude:
not the meal or the pillow, the TV or the bed or the Vicodin,
but the nagging truth behind it all.

In short, it’s unromantic,

this child in the shape of my husband,
this outstretched hand, rumpled head and hungry mouth.
And the bright side? Well, talk to me another day.
For now it is logistics and medicine,
car pools and take-out pizza, not laughing
while he climbs the stairs on his butt.
And it’s the weight of one house,
its dishes and litter and dust on my shoulders.
Continue reading

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A perfect pie

In LA, cooking for my daughter who is recovering from minor surgery.

Today, chicken pot pie. Very satisfying.

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The other poem…

Yesterday’s event at Britt Marie’s was just what a poetry event should be, short, varied, lively, moving and fun. The small wine bar was full to overflowing and the audience seemed to enjoy the poems. I know I enjoyed the other two poets’ work (Amanda Moore and Barbara Reynolds).  I hope to post a sample next week. But for now, here is the other poem that was considered not appropriate for a restaurant (because of the rape and pillage):

Two-step starting with a grapefruit

His rape and pillage
to my delicate evisceration.
His silence
to my effusion.
His eye roll
to my “let’s talk.”
to his ESPN. Continue reading

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Foolish Monday

I had a memorable workshop with Cornelis Eady at Squaw Valley one summer, and thought I’d share one of his poems this morning.

I’m a Fool to Love You

Some folks will tell you the blues is a woman,
Some type of supernatural creature.
My mother would tell you, if she could,
About her life with my father,
A strange and sometimes cruel gentleman.
She would tell you about the choices
A young black woman faces.
Is falling in love with some man
A deal with the devil
In blue terms, the tongue we use
When we don’t want nuance
To get in the way,
When we need to talk straight.
My mother chooses my father
After choosing a man
Who was, as we sing it,
Of no account.
This man made my father look good,
That’s how bad it was.
He made my father seem like an island
In the middle of a stormy sea,
He made my father look like a rock.
And is the blues the moment you realize
You exist in a stacked deck,
You look in a mirror at your young face,
The face my sister carries,
And you know it’s the only leverage
You’ve got.
Does this create a hurt that whispers
How you going to do?
Is the blues the moment
You shrug your shoulders
And agree, a girl without money
Is nothing, dust
To be pushed around by any old breeze.
Compared to this,
My father seems, briefly,
To be a fire escape.
This is the way the blues works
Its sorry wonders,
Makes trouble look like
A feather bed,
Makes the wrong man’s kisses
A healing.
Cornelius Eady
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Changing direction

It’s been another heavy week, but amazingly, our little Kensington Indivisible group had a bake sale that raised $1,016 forPlanned Parenthood this weekend.

In other news, I’ll be reading a week from Sunday (Mar 11) at Britt Marie’s on Solano Ave in Berkeley.

I won’t be reading this poem, though I had planned to.  It was censored due to the fact that this is a restaurant, and the curator didn’t think this poem would encourage people to eat.



Ode to Flatulence

Even the word fart is funny, plosive, puffed from the tongue.
Children adore them in any form, especially when gas bubbles up in the tub, ebullient, visible.
And fart jokes and frat boys a perfect concordance.
For new lovers, to fart in bed the shyest first risk of exposure.
The perfectly private pleasure, almost sexual, when a large, ripe one rumbles down the anal canal, released from the radiating folds of the small, slit-like aperture, to sing out its relief.
Or the opposite thrill, legs splayed in the packed yoga class or butt bared on massage table, the delight of restraint, spiced with a sort of dread, soldiers tense at the gates.
At work in your cube, you hope your coworkers might somehow believe it was somebody else, as the stink lingers in a foul cloud like a thought balloon, its little bubble stem pointed directly at you.
Yes, the fart is the ultimate joke, fetid as whale breath, no pretense possible as it spouts from the hole we don’t mention.
How the ability not to
lets everyone know you are versed in the ways of your tribe,
no longer a baby, out of control and beloved,
or even a toddler, taking the first steps toward shame.
When you can hold your fart, you are a person, too,
however small, however new to the trade,
someone who does what people do,
someone who knows how to wait.
Someone whose butt’s on straight.

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Another bullet poem

They are legion now, as are the bullets. This one from a moving anthology called Bullets into Bells (thoughtfully edited by Brian Clements, Alexandra Teague and Dean Rader), which combines poems with reactions from survivors of gun violence:

The Bullet, in Its Hunger 

The bullet, in its hunger, craves the womb
of the body. The warm thrum there. Begs always
release from the chilly, dumb chamber.
Look at this one whose glee
of escape was outshone only by the heavens
above him. The night’s even-keeled
breath. All things thus far dreams from
his cramped bunker. But now
the world. Let me be a ravenous diamond
in it, he thinks, chewing through the milky jawbone
of this handsome seventeen-year-old. Of course
he would love to nestle amidst the brain’s
scintillating catacombs (which, only for the boy’s dumb luck,
slipped away) but this will do. The bullet does
not, as the boy goes into shock, or as his best friend
stutters, palming the fluid wound, want to know the nature
of the conflict, nor the sound of the shooter’s
mother in prayer, nor the shot child’s future harmonies:
the tracheotomy’s muffled wheeze
threaded through the pencil’s whisper as the boy scrawls I’m
scared. No.ments
the bullet, like you, simply craves
the warmth of the body. Like you, only wants
to die in someone’s arms.

Ross Gay


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Your Monday vitamin comes from Split this Rock

Split this Rock is an organization that posts a poem every week–they advertise as “poems of provocation and witness.” This one really caught my attention:

Still Life with Bullets

Orlando Jones, a black actor, douses himself
in a bucket of bullets. I flinch. Bullet against
brown skin even without the bruised and
busted aftermath is no easy thing to bear. Even
at the distance of Facebook. There is nothing beautiful
about the gilt curves of each bullet, nothing admirable Continue reading

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An essay or a prose poem?

This was listed as an essay in Five Points journal, but I think of it as a prose poem:

What I Think About When Someone Uses “Pussy” as a Synonym for “Weak”

At the deepest part of the deepest part, I rocked shut like a stone. I’d climbed as far inside me as I could. Everything else had fallen away: Midwife, husband, bedroom, world: quaint concepts. My eyes were clamshells. My ears were clapped shut by the palms of the dead. My throat was stoppered with bees. Continue reading

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The exemplary sentence

I’ve been reading a slim novel by Forrest Gander called A Friend. It’s a novel in three parts that closely parallels a real life event. The part told by the lover, Sarah, is made up of mostly one-line statements about her lover and her grief at his death. Here are a few samples:

“The first man I went down on. You tasted like well water.”

“When you opened my shirt, you stepped back and said, They must be jealous of each other.”

“The red-bellied woodpecker swerves over the primroses and claps itself to the crab apple trunck as if a magnet had drawn it. In dreams, that’s how I come to you.”

“Not seeing the cup in the bathroom, you brought me a mouthful of water in your mouth.”

“You do not age. Someone else will watch me grow old.”

There are many others I could quote. The way they form a portrait of the beloved, the relationship, the grief, is extraordinary. And the short, final section is as gorgeous an aria of vulnerability and connectedness as I’ve ever read.

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Heat by Hirshfield

Your Monday poem on Wednesday, by Jane Hirshfield, Worth the wait, I hope.


My mare, when she was in heat,
would travel the fenceline for hours,
wearing the impatience
in her feet into the ground.

Not a stallion for miles, I’d assure her,
give it up.

She’d widen her nostrils,
sieve the wind for news, be moving again,
her underbelly darkening with sweat,
then stop at the gate a moment, wait
to see what I might do. Continue reading

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