Thursday, September 14, 2017

Maya Angelou

Our Grandmothers

She lay, skin down in the moist dirt, 
the canebrake rustling 
with the whispers of leaves, and 
loud longing of hounds and 
the ransack of hunters crackling the near 
branches.

She muttered, lifting her head a nod toward 
freedom, 
I shall not, I shall not be moved.


She gathered her babies, 
their tears slick as oil on black faces, 
their young eyes canvassing mornings of madness. 
Momma, is Master going to sell you 
from us tomorrow?


Yes. 
Unless you keep walking more 
and talking less. 
Yes. 
Unless the keeper of our lives 
releases me from all commandments. 
Yes. 
And your lives, 
never mine to live, 
will be executed upon the killing floor of 
innocents. 
Unless you match my heart and words, 
saying with me,


I shall not be moved.


In Virginia tobacco fields, 
leaning into the curve 
of Steinway 
pianos, along Arkansas roads, 
in the red hills of Georgia, 
into the palms of her chained hands, she 
cried against calamity, 
You have tried to destroy me 
and though I perish daily,


I shall not be moved.


Her universe, often 
summarized into one black body 
falling finally from the tree to her feet, 
made her cry each time into a new voice. 
All my past hastens to defeat, 
and strangers claim the glory of my love, 
Iniquity has bound me to his bed.


yet, I must not be moved.


She heard the names, 
swirling ribbons in the wind of history: 
nigger, nigger bitch, heifer, 
mammy, property, creature, ape, baboon, 
whore, hot tail, thing, it. 
She said, But my description cannot 
fit your tongue, for 
I have a certain way of being in this world,


and I shall not, I shall not be moved.


No angel stretched protecting wings 
above the heads of her children, 
fluttering and urging the winds of reason 
into the confusions of their lives. 
The sprouted like young weeds, 
but she could not shield their growth 
from the grinding blades of ignorance, nor 
shape them into symbolic topiaries. 
She sent them away, 
underground, overland, in coaches and 
shoeless.


When you learn, teach. 
When you get, give. 
As for me,


I shall not be moved.


She stood in midocean, seeking dry land. 
She searched God's face. 
Assured, 
she placed her fire of service 
on the altar, and though 
clothed in the finery of faith, 
when she appeared at the temple door, 
no sign welcomed 
Black Grandmother, Enter here.


Into the crashing sound, 
into wickedness, she cried, 
No one, no, nor no one million 
ones dare deny me God, I go forth 
along, and stand as ten thousand.


The Divine upon my right 
impels me to pull forever 
at the latch on Freedom's gate.


The Holy Spirit upon my left leads my 
feet without ceasing into the camp of the 
righteous and into the tents of the free.


These momma faces, lemon-yellow, plum-purple, 
honey-brown, have grimaced and twisted 
down a pyramid for years. 
She is Sheba the Sojourner, 
Harriet and Zora, 
Mary Bethune and Angela, 
Annie to Zenobia.


She stands 
before the abortion clinic, 
confounded by the lack of choices. 
In the Welfare line, 
reduced to the pity of handouts. 
Ordained in the pulpit, shielded 
by the mysteries. 
In the operating room, 
husbanding life. 
In the choir loft, 
holding God in her throat. 
On lonely street corners, 
hawking her body. 
In the classroom, loving the 
children to understanding.


Centered on the world's stage, 
she sings to her loves and beloveds, 
to her foes and detractors: 
However I am perceived and deceived, 
however my ignorance and conceits, 
lay aside your fears that I will be undone,


for I shall not be moved. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jack Gilbert

Finding Something 

I say moon is horses in the tempered dark,
because horse is the closest I can get to it.
I sit on the terrace of this worn villa the king's
telegrapher built on the mountain that looks down
on a blue sea and the small white ferry
that crosses slowly to the next island each noon.
Michiko is dying in the house behind me,
the long windows opens so I can hear
the faint sound she will make when she wants
watermelon to suck on so I can take her
to a bucket in the corner of the high-ceilinged room
which is the best we can do for a chamber pot.
She will lean against my leg as she sits
so as not to fall over in her weakness.
How strange and fine to get so near to it.
The arches of her feet are like voices
of children calling in the grove of lemon trees,
where my heart is as helpless as crushed birds.

Jack Gilbert


Married 

I came back from the funeral and crawled 
around the apartment, crying hard, 
searching for my wife's hair. 
For two months got them from the drain, 
from the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator, 
and off the clothes in the closet. 
But after other Japanese women came, 
there was no way to be sure which were 
hers, and I stopped. A year later, 
repotting Michiko's avocado, I find 
a long black hair tangled in the dirt. 

Janusz Szuber


The Crowing of Roosters 

The crowing of roosters at the change in the weather: 
Under a dark blue cloud the dark testicles of plums 
With their ash-gary coating and sticky cracks–
There are sweet scabs of dirty amber. 

Translated from Polish by Czeslaw Milosz

Friday, February 10, 2017

street poetry

I inhale a world,
budding with inv
isible actors, tel
ling their story,
whispering motio
nless, I watch the
ir movements, at
times quiet, at ti
mes violent. I list
en to their words
without letters,
only life  I am he
re, on this stage
too, a part of this
show, a breath of
this life.