Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "'Cuz He's Black" by Javon Johnson



So I’m driving down the street with my 4 year old nephew.
He, knocking back a juice box, me, a Snapple.

Today, y’all, we are doing manly shit.

I love watching the way his mind works;

He asks a million questions.

“Uncle, why is the sky blue?”

“Uncle, how do cars go?”

“Uncle, why don’t dogs talk?”

“Uncle, uncle, uncle.”

He asks, “Uncle, uncle, uncle.”

He asks, “Uncle, uncle, uncle.”

As if his voice box is a warped record and I try my best to answer every question, I do.

I say, “It’s because the way the sun lights up the outer space.”

“It’s because engines make the wheels go.”

“It’s because their minds aren’t quite like ours.”

I say, “Yes. No. No. Yes. No. Yes. No. I don’t know. Who knows? Maybe.”

We laugh.


He smiles, looks out the window, spots a cop car, drops his seat, and says, “Oh man, uncle. 5-0, we gotta hide.”

I’ll be honest, I’m not happy with the way we raise our black boys.

Don’t like the fact that he learned to hide from the cops well before he knew how to read.

Angrier that his survival depends more on his ability to deal with authorities than it does his own literacy.

“Get up!” I yell at him.

“In this car, in this family, we are not afraid of the law!”

I wonder if he can hear the uncertainty in my voice.

Is today the day he learns that uncle is willing to lie to him?

That I’m more human than I am hero?

We both know the truth is far more complex than ‘do not hide’.

Both know too many black boys who disappeared, names lost.

Know too many Trayvon Martin’s, Oscar Grant’s, and Abner Louima’s.

Know too many Sean Bell’s and Amadou Diallo’s.

Know too well that we are the hard-boiled son’s of Emmett Till,

Still, we both know it’s not about whether or not the shooter is racist.

It’s about how poor black boys are treated as problems well before we’re treated as people.

Black boys, in this country, cannot afford to play cops and robbers if we’re always considered the latter;

Don’t have the luxuries of playing war if we’re already in one.

Where I’m from, seeing cop cars drive down the street feels a lot like low-flying planes in New York City.

Where I’m from, routine traffic stops are more like minefields, any wrong move could very well mean your life.

And how do I look my nephew in his appled face and tell him to be strong when we both know black boys who are murdered every day simply for standing up for themselves?


I take him by the hand.

I say, “Be strong.”

I tell him. I say, “Be smart.”

“Be kind and polite.”

“Know your laws.”

“Be aware of how quickly your hand moves to pocket for wallet or ID.”

“Be more aware of how quickly an officer's hand moves to holster for gun.”

“Be black. Be a boy. Have fun.”

Cause this world will force you to become a man far more quickly than you’ll ever have to need to.

He lets go of my hand.

“But uncle,” he asks.

“Uncle, what happens if the cop is really mean?”

And it scares me to know that he, like so many other black boys, is getting ready for a war I can’t prepare him for.



by Javon Johnson




For more information on poet, Javon Johnson, see:


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/javon-Johnson

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Your Voice in the Chemo Room" by Max Ritvo



There is a white stone cliff over a dropping slope
sliced along with bare trees.


In the center of the cliff is a round dry fountain

of polished stone. By seizing my whole body up


as I clench my hand I am able to open

the fountain into a drain, revealing below it


the sky, the trees, a brown and uncertain ground.

This is how my heart works, you see?


This is how love works? Have some sympathy

for the great spasms with which I must open


myself to love and close again, and open.

And if I leapt into the fountain, there is just no


telling: I might sever myself clean, or crack

the gold bloom of my head, and I don’t know


onto what uncertain ground I might fold like a sack.



by Max Ritvo



For more information about poet, Max Ritvo, see:



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Listen Mr Oxford don" by John Agard



Me not no Oxford don
me a simple immigrant
from Clapham Common
I didn’t graduate
I immigrate

But listen Mr Oxford don
I’m a man on de run
and a man on de run
is a dangerous one

I ent have no gun
I ent have no knife
but mugging de Queen’s English
is the story of my life

I dont need no axe
to split up yu syntax
I dont need no hammer
to mash up yu grammar

I warning you Mr Oxford don
I’m a wanted man
and a wanted man
is a dangerous one

Dem accuse me of assault
on de Oxford dictionary
imagine a concise peaceful man like me
dem want me serve time

for inciting rhyme to riot
but I rekking it quiet
down here in Clapham Common

I’m not a violent man Mr Oxford don
I only armed wit mih human breath
but human breath
is a dangerous weapon

So mek dem send one big word after me
I ent serving no jail sentence
I slashing suffix in self defence
I bashing future wit present tense
and if necessary

I making de Queen’s English accessory to my offence

by John Agard

Photo Credit: Copyright: Jay Blessed 

For more information about poet, John Agard, see:



Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "This Is The Place" by Tony Walsh, a poem to honour the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing


This is the place
In the north-west of England. It’s ace, it’s the best
And the songs that we sing from the stands, from our bands
Set the whole planet shaking.

Our inventions are legends. There’s nowt we can’t make, and so we make brilliant music
We make brilliant bands
We make goals that make souls leap from seats in the stands
And we make things from steel
And we make things from cotton
And we make people laugh, take the mick summat rotten
And we make you at home
And we make you feel welcome and we make summat happen
And we can’t seem to help it
And if you’re looking from history, then yeah we’ve a wealth
But the Manchester way is to make it yourself.

And make us a record, a new number one
And make us a brew while you’re up, love, go on
And make us feel proud that you’re winning the league
And make us sing louder and make us believe that this is the place that has helped shape the world
And this is the place where a Manchester girl named Emmeline Pankhurst from the streets of Moss Side led a suffragette city with sisterhood pride

And this is the place with appliance of science, we’re on it, atomic, we struck with defiance, and in the face of a challenge, we always stand tall, Mancunians, in union, delivered it all
Such as housing and libraries and health, education and unions and co-ops and first railway stations
So we’re sorry, bear with us, we invented commuters. But we hope you forgive us, we invented computers.

And this is the place Henry Royce strolled with Rolls, and we’ve rocked and we’ve rolled with our own northern soul
And so this is the place to do business then dance, where go-getters and goal-setters know they’ve a chance
And this is the place where we first played as kids. And me mum, lived and died here, she loved it, she did.
And this is the place where our folks came to work, where they struggled in puddles, they hurt in the dirt and they built us a city, they built us these towns and they coughed on the cobbles to the deafening sound to the steaming machines and the screaming of slaves, they were scheming for greatness, they dreamed to their graves.

And they left us a spirit. They left us a vibe. That Mancunian way to survive and to thrive and to work and to build, to connect, and create and Greater Manchester’s greatness is keeping it great.
And so this is the place now with kids of our own. Some are born here, some drawn here, but they all call it home.
And they’ve covered the cobbles, but they’ll never defeat, all the dreamers and schemers who still teem through these streets.
Because this is a place that has been through some hard times: oppressions, recessions, depressions, and dark times.
But we keep fighting back with Greater Manchester spirit. Northern grit, Northern wit, and Greater Manchester’s lyrics.

And these hard times again, in these streets of our city, but we won’t take defeat and we don’t want your pity.
Because this is a place where we stand strong together, with a smile on our face, greater Manchester forever.
And we’ve got this place where a team with a dream can get funding and something to help with a scheme.
Because this is a place that understands your grand plans. We don’t do “no can do” we just stress “yes we can”
Forever Manchester’s a charity for people round here, you can fundraise, donate, you can be a volunteer. You can live local, give local, we can honestly say, we do charity different, that Mancunian way.
And we fund local kids, and we fund local teams. We support local dreamers to work for their dreams. We support local groups and the great work they do. So can you help us. help local people like you?

Because this is the place in our hearts, in our homes, because this is the place that’s a part of our bones.
Because Greater Manchester gives us such strength from the fact that this is the place, we should give something back.
Always remember, never forget, forever Manchester.


by Tony Walsh

Here is a video of the poet reading this poem at a vigil for the victims of this recent tragedy in Manchester:


For more information about poet, Tony Walsh, see:



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Like A Stone" by Chris Cornell


On a cobweb afternoon
In a room full of emptiness
By a freeway I confess
I was lost in the pages
Of a book full of death
Reading how we'll die alone
And if we're good, we'll lay to rest
Anywhere we want to go
In your house I long to be
Room by room patiently
I'll wait for you there
Like a stone
I'll wait for you there
Alone
On my deathbed I will pray
To the gods and the angels
Like a pagan to anyone
Who will take me to heaven
To a place I recall
I was there so long ago
The sky was bruised
The wine was bled
And there you led me on
In your house I long to be
Room by room patiently
I'll wait for you there
Like a stone
I'll wait for you there
Alone
Alone
And on I read
Until the day was gone
And I sat in regret
Of all the things I've done
For all that I've blessed
And all that I've wronged
In dreams until my death
I will wander on
In your house I long to be
Room by room patiently
I'll wait for you there
Like a stone
I'll wait for you there
Alone
Alone

by Chris Cornell

Today's post is to commemorate Chris Cornell, a musician, who died at age 52. Cornell made no secret of his battles with anxiety and depression and, sadly, it appears from news reports so far that Cornell took his own life.

RIP Chris Cornell. May you find in death the peace that often eluded you in life. You were a great musical artist and you will be sadly missed. My love and best wishes go out to your wife and your children for whom this is a most terrible and unnecessary tragedy.


For more information about musician, Chris Cornell, see:


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "The Trouble With Love Poems About Men" by Bethy Gylys



They're not of curves and shadows made.
They don't wear skirts to swoop and tease

the eye, nor toss their hair, nor sway.

So arduous to package men to please:

a slant of hip, or buttocks tucked in faded

jeans--they lack aesthetic flair.  A spray


of curls might fan their brows, or bellies bloom

above their belts. To paint men in the best

of light requires certain skill. The groom

looks better if he's built. He'll fill

his tux with sculpted flesh. His chest

will taper to the cummerbund. Still,


what work to capture men's appeal!

A rise between the legs will also shade

and shape their usual lines. Alas, revealed,

the bulge is but a stick. We live dismayed.

It's difficult to bring men warm regard.

We try. Their love is always hard.



by Beth Gylys



For more information about the poet, Beth Gylys, see:


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Poem for International Dylan Thomas Day: "Do not go gentle into that good night" by Dylan Thomas (1914 - 1953)



Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
by Dylan Thomas
From The Poems of Dylan Thomas, published by New Directions. Copyright © 1952, 1953 Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1937, 1945, 1955, 1962, 1966, 1967 the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 1938, 1939, 1943, 1946, 1971 New Directions Publishing Corp. 
Sunday May 14 is International Dylan Thomas Day and, although the above poem may have been almost anthologised to death, it is still one of my favourites of his poems so I hope you can enjoy it one more time.
For more information about the poet, Dylan Thomas, see:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Money" by Philip Larkin



Quarterly, is it, money reproaches me:
‘Why do you let me lie here wastefully?

I am all you never had of goods and sex.

You could get them still by writing a few cheques.’


So I look at others, what they do with theirs:

They certainly don’t keep it upstairs.

By now they’ve a second house and car and wife:

Clearly money has something to do with life


– In fact, they’ve a lot in common, if you enquire:

You can’t put off being young until you retire,

And however you bank your screw, the money you save

Won’t in the end buy you more than a shave.


I listen to money singing. It’s like looking down

From long French windows at a provincial town,

The slums, the canal, the churches ornate and mad

In the evening sun. It is intensely sad.



by Philip Larkin



For more information on the poet, Philip Larkin, see:


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Refugee Blues" by W.H. Auden

;


Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:

Yet there's no place for us, my dear, yet there's no place for us.


Once we had a country and we thought it fair,

Look in the atlas and you'll find it there:

We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.


In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,

Every spring it blossoms anew:

Old passports can't do that, my dear, old passports can't do that.


The consul banged the table and said,

"If you've got no passport you're officially dead":

But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.


Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;

Asked me politely to return next year:

But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?


Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;

"If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread":

He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.


Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;

It was Hitler over Europe, saying, "They must die":

O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.


Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,

Saw a door opened and a cat let in:

But they weren't German Jews, my dear, but they weren't German Jews.


Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,

Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:

Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.


Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;

They had no politicians and sang at their ease:

They weren't the human race, my dear, they weren't the human race.


Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,

A thousand windows and a thousand doors:

Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.


Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;

Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:

Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.



by W. H. Auden


For more information about the poet, W.H. Auden, see:


https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/w-h-Auden



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "My Mother's Eyes" by Andrew M. Bell



My mother’s eyes are castles in Ireland:
grey slate and green grass.
The spirit of the Celts lives in her eyes,
laughing, brimming kindness cups.
Time has blown her auburn flame to ash,
but her eyes are those
of a rare and fair “colleen”.
My mother’s eyes say:
“Take care.”
“Respect yourself.”
“Be vigilant.”
“Do what you know is right.”



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "The Carnival" by William Esther Williams (aka John Clarke, 29 July 1948-9 April 2017)


Williams was a doctor whose interest in Imagist poetry helped him greatly in his work. Very interested in nature, especially, like Marianne More, in the pantheistic resonance of great big animals.

THE CARNIVAL

Why is it that every year
On remote coastlines
Labour leaders 
Beach themselves?
Whole schools of them,
Apparently healthy Labour leaders
Thousands of miles off course and stranded,
Spume drifting from their tragic holes.

Why do they do it?
Is it not knowing where they are going?
Or is it guilt over where they have been?
There is no more futile prospect in nature
Than ordinary folk with flippers and buckets
Working urgently in the deepness of the shore
To turn the stricken Labour leaders around
Before nightfall.

From The Even More Complete Book of Australian Verse by John Clarke

Photo Credit: The Courier (photographer unknown)

RIP John Clarke, a good man gone too soon. You will be sorely missed. Thanks for making our lives happier, funnier and richer with your humour, your charisma and your good heart.

Photo Credit: Photographer unknown

Goodbye to your wonderful alter-ego, Fred Dagg. We DID know how lucky we are. And, sadly, now we know how lucky we were.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Now the Lifeguards Have All Gone Home" by Yehuda Amichai


Now the lifeguards have all gone home. The bay
is closed and what’s left of the sunlight
is reflected in a piece of broken glass,
as an entire life in the shattered eye of the dying.

A board licked clean is saved from the fate
of becoming furniture.
Half an apple and half a footprint in the sand
are trying to be some whole new thing together
and a box turning black
resembles a man who’s asleep or dead.
Even God stopped here and didn’t come closer
to the truth. The mistake that occurs once only
and the single right action
both bring a man peace of mind.
The balance pans have been overturned: now good and evil
are pouring out slowly into a tranquil world.

In the last light, near the rock pool, a few young people
are still warming themselves with the feelings
I once had in this place. A green stone in the water
seems to be dancing in the ripples with a dead fish,
and a girl’s face emerges from diving,
her wet eyelashes
like the rays of a sun resurrected for the night.


by Yehuda Amichai (translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch)


NOTE: This is how it feels now Summer is waning into Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. While readers in the Northern Hemisphere are watching blossoms and feeling the warming days of Spring with its anticipation of Summer, we are watching the leaves drop off the trees (although most of our native trees in Aotearoa are evergreen) and  witnessing the days growing shorter.

I had a lovely surf at dawn before work today, but I know that will be a fading opportunity until Spring and Summer return.

However, it's a cliché, but life is about the changing seasons and all seasons have their appeals and their downsides.


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For more about the poet, Yehuda Amichai, see:


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "The Hand That Signed the Paper" by Dylan Thomas

The hand that signed the paper felled a city;
Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,
Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;
These five kings did a king to death.

The mighty hand leads to a sloping shoulder,
The finger joints are cramped with chalk;
A goose's quill has put an end to murder
That put an end to talk.

The hand that signed the treaty bred a fever,
And famine grew, and locusts came;
Great is the hand that holds dominion over
Man by a scribbled name.

The five kings count the dead but do not soften
The crusted wound nor stroke the brow;
A hand rules pity as a hand rules heaven;
Hands have no tears to flow.

by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Image: Hulton Archive/Getty. Tinting by Dan Murrell

NOTE: When I was a callow youth of 15, I was a boarder at Sacred Heart College in Auckland. My fifth-form English teacher was a man named Brother Roger, a big, solid man with no-nonsense black-rimmed spectacles and a purplish hue to his chin and cheeks because he was rumoured to shave twice a day. Brother Roger loved his subject and he loved the beauty and power of language and he ignited my life-long love of poetry by introducing our class to some wonderful poets. Through him, I discovered the Romantic poets, the War poets, modern American poets and many of the luminaries of twentieth-century poetry.

The poem above by Dylan Thomas, published in 1936, (here reproduced from The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 3rd Edition) has stayed with me since the day Brother Roger brought it to my attention. It illustrated to me that poetry can make profound statements about life and the human condition with brevity and conciseness. Poetry can make us think and perhaps lead us to new insights.

I believe there has never been a time in human history when there was no conflict occurring somewhere in the world. Dylan Thomas wrote this with the Nazi spectre growing in Europe, but its subject will, sadly, be ever pertinent. The documentary maker, Michael Moore, asked US Congressmen if they had sons fighting in Iraq. None of them did. Theirs were the "hands" that signed the paper that sent many young, poor, uneducated, black, white and Hispanic men to their deaths.

"The Hand That Signed the Paper" is once again rising within my consciousness when I read in the newspaper that the bellicose President of the USA, Donald Trump, wants Congress to increase the military budget by $US54 Billion. He can only achieve this by cancelling many government-funded programmes that focus on the arts, health, disadvantaged minorities and, ironically, wounded and traumatised American war veterans.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Poem in honour of the victims from London's recent terrorist attack: Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 by William Wordsworth


Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!


by William Wordsworth


For more information about the poet, William Wordsworth, please see:


I offer this beautiful poem by William Wordsworth in honour of the victims from London's recent terrorist attack.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Anthem' by Leonard Cohen


The birds they sang at the break of day
Start again I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will be fought again
The holy dove She will be caught again
bought and sold and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring…

You can add up the parts but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march, there is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

by Leonard Cohen

NOTE: This is a song, obviously, and if you look up this song in the form of lyrics, it will probably be laid out differently. I have chosen to lay it out as above to serve the rhyming scheme and bring the poetic quality out from the song, once stripped of its music.
Let us not forget that Leonard Cohen started his creative journey as a poet and a novelist and published several critically well-received volumes of poetry before he ever set foot in a recording studio.
In these Trump-afflicted times, I, for one, really miss Cohen's celebration of the human spirit and his humility and compassion, both as a man and an artist.
RIP Leonard Norman Cohen September 21, 1934-November 7, 2016


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "What Kind of Times Are These" by Adrienne Rich


There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.


by Adrienne Rich


For more information about poet, Adrienne Rich, see:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/adrienne-rich

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Begin" by Brendan Kennelly


Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,

begin to the roar of morning traffic

all along Pembroke Road.

Every beginning is a promise

born in light and dying in dark

determination and exaltation of springtime

flowering the way to work.

Begin to the pageant of queuing girls

the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal

bridges linking the past and future

old friends passing though with us still.

Begin to the loneliness that cannot end

since it perhaps is what makes us begin,

begin to wonder at unknown faces

at crying birds in the sudden rain

at branches stark in the willing sunlight

at seagulls foraging for bread

at couples sharing a sunny secret

alone together while making good.

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending

that always seems about to give in

something that will not acknowledge conclusion

insists that we forever begin.

by Brendan Kennelly





For more information about the poet, Brendan Kennelly, see:


Brendan Kennelly is referring to Pembroke Road in Dublin, not the one in Wellington. 
 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "If You Knew" by Ellen Bass


What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the lifeline’s crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.

A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?

by Ellen Bass


For more information about poet, Ellen Bass, and to view her read this poem, please go to: