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National Poetry Month: Juan Felipe Herrera

National Poetry Month: Juan Felipe Herrera

April 21 / 18

National Poetry Month! Time to read and get inspired by great poetry with Juan Felipe Herrera.


Credit source: Poetry Foundation

Blood on the Wheel

     Ezekiel saw the wheel,
way up in the middle of the air.
TRADITIONAL GOSPEL SONG

Blood on the night soil man en route to the country prison
Blood on the sullen chair, the one that holds you with its pleasure
Blood inside the quartz, the beauty watch, the eye of the guard
Blood on the slope of names & the tattoos hidden
Blood on the Virgin, behind the veils,
Behind—in the moon angel’s gold oracle hair
                    What blood is this, is it the blood of the worker rat?
                    Is it the blood of the clone governor, the city maid?
                    Why does it course in s’s & z’s?
Blood on the couch, made for viewing automobiles & face cream
Blood on the pin, this one going through you without any pain
Blood on the screen, the green torso queen of slavering hearts
Blood on the grandmother’s wish, her tawdry stick of Texas
Blood on the daughter’s breast who sews roses
Blood on the father, does anyone remember him, bluish?
                    Blood from a kitchen fresco, in thick amber strokes
                    Blood from the baby’s right ear, from his ochre nose
                    What blood is this?
Blood on the fender, in the sender’s shoe, in his liquor sack
Blood on the street, call it Milagro Boulevard, Mercy Lanes #9
Blood on the alien, in the alligator jacket teen boy Juan
                    There is blood, there, he says
                    Blood here too, down here, she says
                    Only blood, the Blood Mother sings
Blood driving miniature American queens stamped into rage
Blood driving rappers in Mercedes blackened & whitened in news
Blood driving the snare-eyed professor searching for her panties
Blood driving the championship husband bent in Extreme Unction
                   Blood of the orphan weasel in heat, the Calvinist farmer in wheat
                   Blood of the lettuce rebellion on the rise, the cannery worker’s prize
Blood of the painted donkey forced into prostitute zebra,
Blood of the Tijuana tourist finally awake & forced into pimp sleep again
It is blood time, Sir Terminator says,
It is blood time, Sir Simpson winks,
It is blood time, Sir McVeigh weighs.
                   Her nuclear blood watch soaked, will it dry?
                   His whitish blood ring smoked, will it foam?
                   My groin blood leather roped, will it marry?
                   My wife’s peasant blood spoked, will it ride again?
Blood in the tin, in the coffee bean, in the maquila oración
Blood in the language, in the wise text of the market sausage
Blood in the border web, the penal colony shed, in the bilingual yard
                    Crow blood blues perched on nothingness again
                    fly over my field, yellow-green & opal
                    Dog blood crawl & swish through my sheets
Who will eat this speckled corn?
Who shall be born on this Wednesday war bed?
Blood in the acid theater, again, in the box office smash hit
Blood in the Corvette tank, in the crack talk crank below
Blood boat Navy blood glove Army ventricle Marines
in the cookie sex jar, camouflaged rape whalers
Roam & rumble, investigate my Mexican hoodlum blood
                    Tiny blood behind my Cuban ear, wine colored & hushed
                    Tiny blood in the death row tool, in the middle-aged corset
                    Tiny blood sampler, tiny blood, you hush up again, so tiny
Blood in the Groove Shopping Center,
In blue Appalachia river, in Detroit harness spleen
Blood in the Groove Virus machine,
In low ocean tide, in Iowa soy bean
Blood in the Groove Lynch mob orchestra,
South of Herzegovina, south, I said
Blood marching for the Immigration Patrol, prized & arrogant
Blood spawning in the dawn break of African Blood Tribes, grimacing
& multiple—multiple, I said
Blood on the Macho Hat, the one used for proper genuflections
Blood on the faithful knee, the one readied for erotic negation
Blood on the willing nerve terminal, the one open for suicide
Blood at the age of seventeen
Blood at the age of one, dumped in a Greyhound bus
Blood mute & autistic & cauterized & smuggled Mayan
& burned in border smelter tar
                    Could this be yours? Could this item belong to you?
                    Could this ticket be what you ordered, could it?
          Blood on the wheel, blood on the reel
          Bronze dead gold & diamond deep. Blood be fast.
Juan Felipe Herrera, “Blood on the Wheel” from Border-crosser with a Lamborghini Dream. Copyright © 1999 by Juan Felipe Herrera.  Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.
Source: Border-crosser with a Lamborghini Dream (University of Arizona Press, 1999)

In the Cannery the Porpoise Soul

In the cannery the porpoise soul
& the shadow fins of spirit boats lie awake
the hundred hooks & flying reels
one harpoon
& the silver fleshing in the nets
the mayor is waiting/counting scales
dreaming new quotas & tuna coasts
(under the table blood & payrolls
swim to the shores on a crucifix of oil)
in the cannery the porpoise soul
steals a dagger forthe engines throat
tuna fins etch an X
on the green stone of the ships floor
there are documents with worker sweat
files & rolled sleeve salt
a spear of sails & anchor years
(lost)
inside the shoulders & against the ropes
(somehow)
a policy gunned the waves back
before the porpoise sea was born
“In the Cannery the Porpoise Soul” from Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems by Juan Felipe Herrera. Copyright © 2008 Juan Felipe Herrera. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press. This material is protected from unauthorized downloading and distribution.
Source: Half of the World in Light (The University of Arizona Press, 2008)

War Voyeurs

for Clara Fraser

I do not understand why men make war.
Is it because artillery is the most stoic example
of what flesh can become?
Is it because the military plan is the final map
drawn by the wisest hunter?
Is it because the neutron ray is the invincible finger
no one will disobey?
or
Is it because the flood of blood is the proper penance
workers must pay for failing tribute at the prescribed
hour?
I do not understand why men make war.
Is it because when death is multiple and expanding, there
among the odd assemblages, arbitrary and unnamed, there
among the shrivelled mountains, distorted and hollow, there
among the liquid farms and cities, cold and sallow, there
among the splintered bones of children, women, men and cattle
there and only there, the eerie head of power is being born?
Is it because submission is the only gesture to be rehearsed,
to be dressed, to be modeled, to be cast, to be chosen
in the one and only one drama to be staged in the theater of
this world, where everyone must act with the backbone humbled
with the mascara of bondage, with the lipstick of slaves under
the light of gentle assassination with applause piercing the ground
forever?
or
Is it because war is the secret room of all things to be kept
sealed and contained, to be conquered and renamed woman
enclosed by an empire of walls, vaults, hinges and locks with
the hot key that men and only men must possess for an eternal
evening to visit and contemplate, to snap open a favorite window
and gaze at the calibrated murder as lovers of beauty?

“War Voyeurs” from Half of the World in Light: New and Selected Poems by Juan Felipe Herrera. Copyright © 2008 Juan Felipe Herrera. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press. This material is protected from unauthorized downloading and distribution.

Source: Half of the World in Light (The University of Arizona Press, 2008)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, be blessed!

 

Image source: Los Angeles Times
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Wednz Scene: Writing Contests

Wednz Scene: Writing Contests

April 18 / 18

Hello everyone…it’s Wednesday and looks like this month is halfway over. Hard to believe, but it’s happening. I’m always searching for contests to share with y’all and if there are writers out there who would love to put their story or poetry out there, here is your chance. Thanks to The Writer, they have contests you can enter to get your work noticed.


Credit source: The Writer

The Coming Change

Write a 2,000-word fictional short story using any nuance, definition, or understanding of the word “change.”

Deadline: May 15th, 2018

Grand prize: $1,000 and publication in our magazine

Word count: 2,000 words or less

Other prizes: Our second-place winner will receive $500 and publication on our website, writermag.com; our third-place winner will receive $250 and publication on writermag.com as well.

Not the writing contest for you? Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear when we launch a new one.

Click Here to Enter

 

 

2018 Nightjar Review Poetry Contest

Deadline

Monday, April 30, 2018

Categories

Entry Fees

Submit 1 poem for $6, or 3 poems for $15. No entry limits.

Prizes

Winner receives $200 and publication. Two finalists will also receive publication.

Description

2018 Judge: Jericho Brown
Contest submission window: January 30th to April 30th, 2018

Contest Judge: JERICHO BROWN is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems have appeared in The New Republic, The New Yorker, and Best American Poetry. His first book, Please (New Issues 2008), won the American Book Award, and his second book, The New Testament (Copper Canyon 2014), won the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal, Coldfront, and the Academy of American Poets. He is an associate professor in English and creative writing at Emory University in Atlanta.
Please submit one single poem ($6), a packet of three poems ($15), or any additional poem over a packet of three ($5) in a .doc or .docx file.
$200 cash prize + publication in Nightjar Review will be awarded to the winner.
All entries will also be considered for publication in Nightjar Review. The top two finalists are guaranteed publication.
All submissions must be anonymous: no name or contact information should appear on the poem. Entries must be submitted via Submittable. You may enter simultaneously submitted work as long as you notify us if the work is accepted elsewhere.
1st round of judging will be performed by Nightjar Review Editors and Readers. Finalists (approximately 10 to 12 poems) will then be forwarded to the Contest Judge for the final round of judging.
Winner will be selected by October 30th, 2018, along with two finalists at the judge’s discretion.
Entrants not selected as one of the 10-12 finalists will be notified of contest results and of the editors’ decision about publication of their entries by September 30th, 2018.
Winner and two finalists will be publicly announced by October 30th, 2018.

Contact Information

nightjarreview@gmail.com

Website

http://nightjarreview.com/2018-nightjar-review-poetry-contest.html

 

 

2-4-2 Poetry Contest

Deadline

Monday, May 7, 2018

Categories

Entry Fees

$9.95 to enter this and all contests at FanStory.com

Prizes

$100 Cash Prize

Description

A “2-4-2” is a poem that has three lines. The syllable count is 2-4-2. So the first line has two syllables. The second line has four. The third line has two syllables again. You can write about anything but keep the syllable count in mind while writing.

Contact Information

FanStory.com

Website

http://www.fanstory.com/contestdetails.jsp?id=104802

 

There are more contests. Go to http://www.writermag.com for articles, writing resources, and prompts. Enjoy your Wednesday, be blessed.

 

Image source: unknown

National Poetry Month / Phenomenal Woman & Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

National Poetry Month / Phenomenal Woman & Caged Bird by Maya Angelou

April 6 / 18

Hey…it’s Friday and I did almost forget that this month is National Poetry Month. This month, I will post poetry from such poetry legends like Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickenson, E.E. Cummings, and Maya Angelou. Speaking of Ms. Angelou, we just celebrated her birthday recently. She would’ve been 90 years old. Here are a few of her poems that are my favorites…


Credit Source: Poetry Foundation

 

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint, and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (Random House Inc., 1994)

Caged Bird

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
Maya Angelou, “Caged Bird” from Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing? Copyright © 1983 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, an imprint, and division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.
Source: The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (Random House Inc., 1994)

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, be blessed always!

 

Image source: League of Canadian Poets

Weeknd Scene: Future AWP Conference Dates

Weeknd Scene: Future AWP Conference Dates

March 24 / 18

Hello…the AWP or (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) Conference & Bookfair  2018 has passed, but don’t worry, found future dates and places for the next few events.


Credit Source: AWP

 

Future Conferences

Portland, Oregon

  • March 27–30, 2019 | Oregon Convention Center

San Antonio, Texas

  • March 4–7, 2020 | Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center

Kansas City, Missouri

  • March 3–6, 2021 | Kansas City Convention Center

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  • March 23–26, 2022 | Pennsylvania Convention Center

 

Conference Queries

Registration
registration@awpwriter.org
301-226-9716

Conference Events
events@awpwriter.org
301-226-9711

There will be more to add soon. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. Be blessed always.

Image source: Unknown

Weeknd Scene: Bread Loaf Environmental Conference 2018

Weeknd Scene: Bread Loaf Environmental Conference 2018

March 10 / 18

Hello, creative people! I have something for the literary peeps. The Bread Loaf Environmental Writer’s Conference 2018 will be taking place this June. Here are just a few things to look at…


Credit source: Middlebury Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference

5th Annual Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference

The 5th annual Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference is a week-long writers’ conference, based on the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference model, that’s designed to hone the skills of people interested in producing literary writing about the environment and the natural world. The conference is co-sponsored by the Middlebury College Environmental Studies Program and the Franklin Environmental Center.

 

2018 DATES AND LOCATION

Friday, June 1 – Thursday, June 7, 2018.  The conference will take place at the Bread Loaf Campus of Middlebury College in Ripton, Vermont.

 

PROGRAM AND SCHEDULE

The conference will incorporate the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference model of small, focused workshops coupled with specialized classes focusing on the craft of writing. Workshops will be limited to ten participants so that each manuscript will receive individual, focused attention, and critique. All participants will also meet individually with their workshop leader to amplify and refine what was said in the workshop itself. Established editors, literary agents, and publishers will give presentations on placing work in magazines and navigating the environmental book publishing world…5

Click here to see 2017 Schedule.

 

2018 FACULTY AND GUESTS

Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference will feature seven workshops with up to ten participants in each group. Faculty will include acclaimed nature and environmental writers including poets Brooks Haxton and Amber Flora Thomas; fiction writer Luis Alberto Urrea; and nonfiction writers Ted Genoways, Deirdre Heekin, Scott Russell Sanders, and Ginger Strand.  In addition to their literary accomplishments, each faculty member has been specifically chosen for their skill at guiding developing writers.

For more, please click on this link.

 

Image source: unknown

 

Creative Close-Up: Poets.org Presents 12 Poems for Black History Month

Creative Close-Up: Poets.org Presents 12 Poems for Black History Month

February 26 /18

Good Morning all! The last weekend of this month has passed. Before this month is out, I still have some creative works for Black History Month. Found twelve poems by African-American poets from the website poets.org. They asked twelve contemporary black poets from Tyehlmba Jess, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, to Toi Derricotte to choose one poem to read in the month of February and why. Here are those twelve poems from Gwendolyn Brooks to Langston Hughes.


Credit source: poets.org

 

 

We Real Cool

Gwendolyn Brooks

1917 – 2000

THE POOL PLAYERS. SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL. We real cool. We Left school. We Lurk late. We Strike straight. We Sing sin. We Thin gin. We Jazz June. We Die soon.

From The Bean Eaters by Gwendolyn Brooks, published by Harpers. © 1960 by Gwendolyn Brooks. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

won’t you celebrate with me

Lucille Clifton,

1936 – 2010

won’t you celebrate with me what i have shaped into a kind of life? i had no model. born in babylon both nonwhite and woman what did i see to be except myself? i made it up here on this bridge between starshine and clay, my one hand holding tight my other hand; come celebrate with me that everyday something has tried to kill me and has failed.

Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me” from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1991 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of BOA Editions, Ltd., boaeditions.org.

 

 

Heartbeats

Melvin Dixon,

1950 – 1992

Work out. Ten laps.
Chin ups. Look good.

Steam room. Dress warm.
Call home. Fresh air.

Eat right. Rest well.
Sweetheart. Safe sex.

Sore throat. Long flu.
Hard nodes. Beware.

Test blood. Count cells.
Reds thin. Whites low.

Dress warm. Eat well.
Short breath. Fatigue.

Night sweats. Dry cough.
Loose stools. Weight loss.

Get mad. Fight back.
Call home. Rest well.

Don’t cry. Take charge.
No sex. Eat right.

Call home. Talk slow.
Chin up. No air.

Arms wide. Nodes hard.
Cough dry. Hold on.

Mouth wide. Drink this.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

No air. Breathe in.
Breathe in. No air.

Black out. White rooms.
Head hot. Feet cold.

No work. Eat right.
CAT scan. Chin up.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
No air. No air.

Thin blood. Sore lungs.
Mouth dry. Mind gone.

Six months? Three weeks?
Can’t eat. No air.

Today? Tonight?
It waits. For me.

Sweet heart. Don’t stop.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

“Heartbeats” from Love’s Instruments (Tia Chucha Press, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Melvin Dixon. Used with the permission of the Estate of Melvin Dixon.

 

 

American History

Michael S. Harper,

1938 – 2016

Those four black girls blown up in that Alabama church remind me of five hundred middle passage blacks, in a net, under water in Charleston harbor so redcoats wouldn’t find them. Can’t find what you can’t see can you?

From Images of Kin by Michael S. Harper, published by University of Illinois Press. © 1970 by Michael S. Harper. Used with the permission of the University of Illinois Press. All rights reserved.

 

 

Hurricane

Four tickets left, I let her go—
Firstborn into a hurricane.

I thought she escaped
The floodwaters. No—but her

Head is empty of the drowned
For now—though she took

Her first breath below sea level.
Ahhh       awe       &       aw
Mama, let me go—she speaks

What every smart child knows—
To get grown you unlatch

Your hands from the grown

& up & up & up & up

She turns—latched in the seat

Of a hurricane. You let
Your girl what? You let

Your girl what?
I did so she do I did
so she do so—

Girl, you can ride
A hurricane & she do
& she do & she do & she do

She do make my river
An ocean. Memorial,
Baptist, Protestant birth—my girl

Walked away from a hurricane.
& she do & she do & she do & she do
She do take my hand a while longer.

The haunts in my pocket
I’ll keep to a hum: Katrina was
a woman I knew. When you were

an infant she rained on you & she

do & she do & she do & she do

From Hemming the Water. Copyright © 2013 by Yona Harvey. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com.

 

 

Middle Passage

Robert Hayden,

1913 – 1980

I

Jesús, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy:

       Sails flashing to the wind like weapons,
sharks following the moans the fever and the dying;
horror the corposant and compass rose.

Middle Passage:
voyage through death
to life upon these shores.

       “10 April 1800—
Blacks rebellious. Crew uneasy. Our linguist says
their moaning is a prayer for death,
ours and their own. Some try to starve themselves.
Lost three this morning leaped with crazy laughter
to the waiting sharks, sang as they went under.”

Desire, Adventure, Tartar, Ann:

       Standing to America, bringing home
black gold, black ivory, black seed.

Deep in the festering hold thy father lies,   
               of his bones New England pews are made,   
               those are altar lights that were his eyes.

Jesus    Saviour    Pilot    Me
Over    Life’s    Tempestuous    Sea

We pray that Thou wilt grant, O Lord,
safe passage to our vessels bringing
heathen souls unto Thy chastening.

Jesus    Saviour

       “8 bells. I cannot sleep, for I am sick
with fear, but writing eases fear a little
since still my eyes can see these words take shape
upon the page & so I write, as one
would turn to exorcism. 4 days scudding,
but now the sea is calm again. Misfortune
follows in our wake like sharks (our grinning
tutelary gods). Which one of us
has killed an albatross? A plague among
our blacks—Ophthalmia: blindness—& we
have jettisoned the blind to no avail.
It spreads, the terrifying sickness spreads.
Its claws have scratched sight from the Capt.‘s eyes
& there is blindness in the fo’c’sle
& we must sail 3 weeks before we come
to port.”

               What port awaits us, Davy Jones’ 
               or home? I’ve heard of slavers drifting, drifting,   
               playthings of wind and storm and chance, their crews   
               gone blind, the jungle hatred 
               crawling up on deck.

Thou    Who    Walked    On    Galilee

       “Deponent further sayeth The Bella J
left the Guinea Coast
with cargo of five hundred blacks and odd
for the barracoons of Florida:

       “That there was hardly room ’tween-decks for half
the sweltering cattle stowed spoon-fashion there;
that some went mad of thirst and tore their flesh
and sucked the blood:

       “That Crew and Captain lusted with the comeliest
of the savage girls kept naked in the cabins;
that there was one they called The Guinea Rose
and they cast lots and fought to lie with her:

       “That when the Bo’s’n piped all hands, the flames
spreading from starboard already were beyond
control, the negroes howling and their chains
entangled with the flames:

       “That the burning blacks could not be reached,
that the Crew abandoned ship,
leaving their shrieking negresses behind,
that the Captain perished drunken with the wenches:

       “Further Deponent sayeth not.”

Pilot    Oh    Pilot    Me

II

Aye, lad, and I have seen those factories,
Gambia, Rio Pongo, Calabar;
have watched the artful mongos baiting traps
of war wherein the victor and the vanquished

Were caught as prizes for our barracoons.
Have seen the nigger kings whose vanity
and greed turned wild black hides of Fellatah,
Mandingo, Ibo, Kru to gold for us.

And there was one—King Anthracite we named him—
fetish face beneath French parasols
of brass and orange velvet, impudent mouth
whose cups were carven skulls of enemies:

He’d honor us with drum and feast and conjo
and palm-oil-glistening wenches deft in love,
and for tin crowns that shone with paste,
red calico and German-silver trinkets

Would have the drums talk war and send
his warriors to burn the sleeping villages
and kill the sick and old and lead the young
in coffles to our factories.

Twenty years a trader, twenty years,
for there was wealth aplenty to be harvested
from those black fields, and I’d be trading still
but for the fevers melting down my bones.

III

Shuttles in the rocking loom of history,
the dark ships move, the dark ships move,
their bright ironical names
like jests of kindness on a murderer’s mouth;
plough through thrashing glister toward
fatamorgana’s lucent melting shore,
weave toward New World littorals that are
mirage and myth and actual shore.

Voyage through death,
voyage whose chartings are unlove.

A charnel stench, effluvium of living death
spreads outward from the hold,
where the living and the dead, the horribly dying,
lie interlocked, lie foul with blood and excrement.

Deep in the festering hold thy father lies,   
       the corpse of mercy rots with him,   
       rats eat love’s rotten gelid eyes. 

       But, oh, the living look at you 
       with human eyes whose suffering accuses you,   
       whose hatred reaches through the swill of dark   
       to strike you like a leper’s claw. 

       You cannot stare that hatred down 
       or chain the fear that stalks the watches 
       and breathes on you its fetid scorching breath;   
       cannot kill the deep immortal human wish,   
       the timeless will.

“But for the storm that flung up barriers
of wind and wave, The Amistad, señores,
would have reached the port of Príncipe in two,
three days at most; but for the storm we should
have been prepared for what befell.
Swift as the puma’s leap it came. There was
that interval of moonless calm filled only
with the water’s and the rigging’s usual sounds,
then sudden movement, blows and snarling cries
and they had fallen on us with machete
and marlinspike. It was as though the very
air, the night itself were striking us.
Exhausted by the rigors of the storm,
we were no match for them. Our men went down
before the murderous Africans. Our loyal
Celestino ran from below with gun
and lantern and I saw, before the cane-
knife’s wounding flash, Cinquez,
that surly brute who calls himself a prince,
directing, urging on the ghastly work.
He hacked the poor mulatto down, and then
he turned on me. The decks were slippery
when daylight finally came. It sickens me
to think of what I saw, of how these apes
threw overboard the butchered bodies of
our men, true Christians all, like so much jetsam.
Enough, enough. The rest is quickly told:
Cinquez was forced to spare the two of us
you see to steer the ship to Africa,
and we like phantoms doomed to rove the sea
voyaged east by day and west by night,
deceiving them, hoping for rescue,
prisoners on our own vessel, till
at length we drifted to the shores of this
your land, America, where we were freed
from our unspeakable misery. Now we
demand, good sirs, the extradition of
Cinquez and his accomplices to La
Havana. And it distresses us to know
there are so many here who seem inclined
to justify the mutiny of these blacks.
We find it paradoxical indeed
that you whose wealth, whose tree of liberty
are rooted in the labor of your slaves
should suffer the august John Quincy Adams
to speak with so much passion of the right
of chattel slaves to kill their lawful masters
and with his Roman rhetoric weave a hero’s
garland for Cinquez. I tell you that
we are determined to return to Cuba
with our slaves and there see justice done. Cinquez—
or let us say ‘the Prince’—Cinquez shall die.”

The deep immortal human wish,
the timeless will:

Cinquez its deathless primaveral image,
life that transfigures many lives.

Voyage through death
to life upon these shores.

Copyright © 1962, 1966 by Robert Hayden, from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden by Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Used by permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

 

 

We Should Make a Documentary About Spades

And here is all we’ll need: a card deck, quartets of sun people
Of the sort found in black college dormitories, some vintage
Music, indiscriminate spirits, fried chicken, some paper,

A writing utensil, and a bottomless Saturday. We should explore
The origins of a derogatory word like spade as well as the word
For feeling alone in polite company. And also the implications
Of calling someone who is not your brother or sister,

Brother or Sister. So little is known of our past, we can imagine
Damn near anything. When I say maybe slaves held Spades
Tournaments on the anti-cruise ships bound for the Colonies,
You say when our ancestors were cooped on those ships

They were not yet slaves. Our groundbreaking film should begin

With a low-lit den in the Deep South and the deep fried voice
Of somebody’s grandmother holding smoke in her mouth
As she says, “The two of Diamonds trumps the two of Spades

In my house.” And at some point someone should tell the story
Where Jesus and the devil are Spades partners traveling
The juke joints of the 1930s. We could interview my uncle Junior
And definitely your skinny cousin Mary and any black man

Sitting at a card table wearing shades. Who do you suppose
Would win if Booker T and MLK were matched against Du Bois
And Malcolm X in a game of Spades? You say don’t talk
Across the table. Pay attention to the suits being played.

The object of the game is to communicate invisibly
With your teammate. I should concentrate. Do you suppose
We are here because we are lonely in some acute diasporafied
Way? This should be explored in our film about Spades.

Because it is one of the ways I am still learning what it is
To be black, tonight I am ready to master Spades. Four players
Bid a number of books. Each team adds the bids
Of the two partners, and the total is the number of books

That team must try to win. Is that not right? This is a game
That tests the boundary between mathematics and magic,
If you ask me. A bid must be intuitive like the itchiness
Of the your upper lip before you sip strange whiskey.

My mother did not drink, which is how I knew something
Was wrong with her, but she held a dry spot at the table
When couples came to play. It’s a scene from my history,
But this probably should not be mentioned in our documentary

About Spades. Renege is akin to the word for the shame
You feel watching someone else’s humiliation. Slapping
A card down must be as dramatic as hitting the face of a drum
With your palm, not hitting the face of a drum with a drumstick.

You say there may be the sort of outrage induced
By liquor, trash talk, and poor strategy, but it will fade
The way a watermark left on a table by a cold glass fades.
I suspect winning this sort of game makes you feel godly.

I’m good and ready for who ever we’re playing
Against tonight. I am trying to imagine our enemy.
I know you are not my enemy. You say there are no enemies
In Spades. Spades is a game our enemies do not play.

From How to Be Drawn by Terrance Hayes, published on March 31, 2015, by Penguin Poets, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2015 by Terrance Hayes.

Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes,

1902 – 1967

Let America be America again. Let it be the dream it used to be. Let it be the pioneer on the plain Seeking a home where he himself is free. (America never was America to me.) Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed— Let it be that great strong land of love Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme That any man be crushed by one above. (It never was America to me.) O, let my land be a land where Liberty Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, But opportunity is real, and life is free, Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me, Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”) Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? And who are you that draws your veil across the stars? I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars. I am the red man driven from the land, I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek— And finding only the same old stupid plan Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak. I am the young man, full of strength and hope, Tangled in that ancient endless chain Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land! Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need! Of work the men! Of take the pay! Of owning everything for one’s own greed! I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil. I am the worker sold to the machine. I am the Negro, servant to you all. I am the people, humble, hungry, mean— Hungry yet today despite the dream. Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers! I am the man who never got ahead, The poorest worker bartered through the years. Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream In the Old World while still a serf of kings, Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true, That even yet its mighty daring sings In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned That’s made America the land it has become. O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas In search of what I meant to be my home— For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore, And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea, And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came To build a “homeland of the free.” The free? Who said the free? Not me? Surely not me? The millions on relief today? The millions shot down when we strike? The millions who have nothing for our pay? For all the dreams we’ve dreamed And all the songs we’ve sung And all the hopes we’ve held And all the flags we’ve hung, The millions who have nothing for our pay— Except the dream that’s almost dead today. O, let America be America again— The land that never has been yet— And yet must be—the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME— Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again. Sure, call me any ugly name you choose— The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, We must take back our land again, America! O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath— America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain— All, all the stretch of these great green states— And make America again!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

 

 

 

A Brief History of Hostility

In the beginning
there was the war.

The war said let there be war
and there was war.

The war said let there be peace
and there was war.

The people said music and rain
evaporating against fire in the brush
was a kind of music
and so was the beast.

The beast that roared
or bleated when brought down
was silent when skinned
but loud after the skin
was pulled taut over wood
and the people said music
and the thump thump
thump said drum.
Someone said
war drum. The drum said war
is coming to meet you in the field.
The field said war
tastes like copper,
said give us some more, said look
at the wild flowers our war plants
in a grove and grows
just for us

Outside sheets are pulling
this way and that.

Fields are smoke,
smoke is air.

We wait for fingers to be bent
knuckle to knuckle,

the porch overrun
with rope and shotgun

but the hounds don’t show.
We beat the drum and sing

like there’s nothing outside
but rust-colored clay and fields

of wild flowers growing
farther than we can walk.

Torches may come like fox paws
to steal away what we plant,

but with our bodies bound
by the skin, my arc to his curve,

we are stalks that will bend
and bend and bend…

fire for heat
fire for light
fire for casting figures on a dungeon wall

fire for teaching shadows to writhe
fire for keeping beasts at bay
fire to give them back to the earth

fire for the siege
fire to singe
fire to roast
fire to fuse rubber soles to collapsed crossbeams
fire for Gehenna

fire for Dante
fire for Fallujah
fire for readied aim

fire in the forge that folds steel like a flag
fire to curl worms like cigarette ash
fire to give them back to the earth

fire for ancient reasons: to call down rain
fire to catch it and turn it into steam
fire for churches
fire for a stockpile of books
fire for a bible-black cloak tied to a stake

fire for smoke signals
fire to shape gun muzzle and magazine
fire to leap from the gut of a furnace
fire for Hephaestus
fire for pyres’ sake
fire licking the toes of a quiet brown man
fire for his home
fire for her flag
fire for this sand, to coax it into glass

fire to cure mirrors
fire to cure leeches
Fire to compose a nocturne of cinders

fire for the trash cans illuminating streets
fire for fuel
fire for fields
fire for the field hand’s fourth death

fire to make a cross visible for several yards
fire from the dragon’s mouth
fire for smoking out tangos
fire to stoke like rage and fill the sky with human remains
fire to give them back to the earth
fire to make twine fall from bound wrists
fire to mark them all and bubble black
any flesh it touches as it frees

They took the light from our eyes. Possessive.
Took the moisture from our throats. My arms,
my lips, my sternum, sucked dry, and
lovers of autumn say, Look, here is beauty.
Tallness only made me an obvious target made of
off-kilter limbs. I’d fall either way. I should get a
to-the-death tattoo or metal ribbon of some sort.
War took our prayers like nothing else can,
left us dumber than remote drones. Make
me a loyal soldier and I’ll make you a
lamenting so thick, metallic, so tank-tread-hard.

Now make tomorrow a gate shaped like a man.
I can’t promise, when it’s time, I won’t hesitate,
cannot say I won’t forget to return in fall and
guess the names of the leaves before they change.

The war said bring us your dead
and we died. The people said music
and bending flower, so we sang ballads

in the aisles of churches and fruit markets.
The requiem was everywhere: a comet’s tail
disappearing into the atmosphere,

the wide mouths of the bereft men that have sung…
On currents of air, seeds were carried
as the processional carried us

through the streets of a forgetting city,
between the cold iron of gates.
The field said soil is rich wherever we fall.

Aren’t graveyards and battlefields
our most efficient gardens?
Journeys begin there too if the flowers are taken

into account, and shouldn’t we always
take the flowers into account? Bring them to us.
We’ll come back to you. Peace will come to you

as a rosewood-colored road paver
in your grandmother’s town, as a trench
scraped into canvas, as a violin bow, a shovel,

an easel, a brushstroke that covers
burial mounds in grass. And love, you say,
is a constant blade, a trowel that plants

and uproots, and tomorrow
will be a tornado, you say. Then war,
a sick wind, will come to part the air,

straighten your suit,
and place fresh flowers
on all our muddy graves.

Jamaal May, “A Brief History of Hostility” from The Big Book of Exit Strategies. Copyright © 2016 by Jamaal May. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Alice James Books, www.alicejamesbooks.org.

 

 

Coherence in Consequence

Imagine them in black, the morning heat losing within this day that floats. And always there is the being, and the not-seeing on their way to—

The days they approach and their sharpest aches will wrap experience until knowledge is translucent, the frost on which they find themselves slipping. Never mind the loose mindless grip of their forms reflected in the eye-watering hues of the surface, these two will survive in their capacity to meet, to hold the other beneath the plummeting, in the depths below each step full of avoidance. What they create will be held up, will resume: the appetite is bigger than joy. indestructible. for never was it independent from who they are. who will be.

Were we ever to arrive at knowing the other as the same pulsing compassion would break the most orthodox heart.

Excerpt from Plot, copyright © 2001 by Claudia Rankine. Used by permission of Grove/Atlantic, Inc. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited.

For My People

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
     repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues 
and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the 
gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
dragging along never gaining never reaping never
knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
and playhouse and concert and store and hair and Miss
Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn 
to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
people who and the places where and the days when, in
memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
were black and poor and small and different and nobody
cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to
be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
marry their playmates and bear children and then die
of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
    people’s pockets needing bread and shoes and milk and
land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in
the dark of churches and schools and clubs and
     societies, associations and councils and committees and 
conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and
devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,
preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by
false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
    all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless
generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs
    be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now 
rise and take control.

From This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989). Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker. Used with permission of the University of Georgia Press.

 

On Being Brought from Africa to America

Phillis Wheatley,

1753 – 1784

‘Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand That there’s a God, that there’s a Saviour too: Once I redemption neither sought nor knew. Some view our sable race with scornful eye, “Their colour is a diabolic die.” Remember, Christians, Negros, black as Cain, May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train.

This poem is in the public domain.

 

 

Great poems are they not? Enjoy the rest of your Monday, be blessed!

Image source: Bio.com, Notable Biographies, The New Yorker, Academy of American Poets, Black Then, My Poetic Side, KUOW, Poetry Foundation, Blue Flower Arts, Wikipedia, California Newsreel

 

Black History Focus: Octavia Butler

Black History Focus: Octavia Butler

February 6 / 18

Morning everybody! As I’ve stated, Shadowboxerinc is celebrating Black History Month by putting together a collective group of people who have put a creative mark. Today we have the late Octavia Butler.

I discovered her works sometime last year. Now I’m beginning to know a bit more about this legendary gem of a storyteller. Here is a small snippet from Goodreads about this writer…

Octavia Estelle Butler was an American science fiction writer, one of the best-known among the few African-American women in the field. She won both Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, she became the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

To Kindred, Fledgling, the Xenogenesis trilogy, Parable of the Sower, and the short story collection Bloodchild and Other Stories, Ms. Butler has left an incredible mark in science fiction. Found a video of Ms. Butler on Charlie Rose published on YouTube nine years ago. It was a great and interesting interview. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Want to know more about this author? You can click on this link www.biography.com/people/octavia-e-butler.

Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday, be always, always blessed.

 

 

Image source: African American Literature Book Club

 

 

Wednz Scene: Writer’s Digest 87th Annual Writing Competition

Wednz Scene: Writer’s Digest 87th Annual Writing Competition

January 24 / 18

Last post for today. Just discovered this competition this morning. Writer’s Digest is having their annual writing competition. Plain and simple information to pass along to those who are interested in entering. Read on…


Credit source: Writer’s Digest

 

WRITER’S DIGEST 

87TH ANNUAL 

WRITING COMPETITION

BELIEVE IN YOUR WORK & BEGIN YOUR NEXT CHAPTER

Don’t miss the competition that could transform your writing life!

ONE GRAND PRIZE WINNER WILL RECEIVE:

  • $5,000

  • His or her name on the cover of Writer’s Digest (subscriber edition)

  • A paid trip to the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference

ENTER IN 1 (OR MORE!)of 9 CATAGORIES:

  • Memoir/ Personal Essay

  • Genre Short Story

  • Mainstream/Literary Short Story

  • Magazine Feature Article

  • Rhyming Poetry

  • Non-Rhyming Poetry

  • Script

  • Children’s/Young Adult Fiction

  • Inspirational/Spiritual

EARLY BIRD DEADLINE: MAY 4, 2018

DEADLINE: JUNE 1, 2018

READY TO WRITER YOUR SUCCESS? IT ALL STARTS WHEN YOU ENTER TODAY!

www.writersdigest.com/writers-digest-competitions/annual-writing-competition

If your interested, you know exactly what to do. Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, be blessed.

 

 

Image source: unknown