Poetry

“still life–color study” — t’ai freedom ford

       July 13, 2013

Saturday afternoon: in the driveway between buildings they blow up
balloons—yellow, red, blue—for a 3-year-old’s party.

The intermittent pops startle me like random gunfire—remind me
of birthdays brown boys will no longer celebrate.

The DJ, having set up the speakers, begins to play—the music, a rapid fire
of bass thump, commandeers the apartment. We have no choice but leave.

An art show: canvases colored with boxes and lines—a grid of red
on a backdrop of yellow. We speak of the abstract with wine in our mouths.

Meanwhile, in an antechamber, six are sequestered. They speak of mali-
cious intent, blood, evidence, testimony—murder versus manslaughter.

We arrive home to a throng of brown bodies, hands clutching red cups,
and music: its insistent treble stabbing the ears.

Inside, we slam all windows, but the music still blares as my niece shoots
people on the video game—its sounds are too realistic to bear.

Instead, the news, a verdict is in: not guilty. And everything is a blur
of sound, my heart beating so fast I put a hand to my chest.

I watch the TV screen: a collage of abstractions—spotlights, microphones,
smiles, handwritten signs. I stare, as if it were a painting—

a smear of twisted faces smothered in gesso and oil, a grid of red
on a backdrop of yellow—to make sense of.

The party continues. The 3-year-old probably in bed dreaming of melted
ice cream, and I am tired of partying.

There is a police station a half block away and I want it to burn. Instead,
only the smoke of weed, the meaningless music droning on,

the popping of balloons. Sunday morning, the birds are angry—their
chirping a noisy chant: NO NO NO NO. Outside, the rubbery flesh

of balloons color the driveway like splotches of paint. In an instant,
those still lives of heave and breath—gone in a pop.

Standard
Poetry

“White Power” — Major Jackson

As it happened, I was twirling a cauliflower floret,
lost in Lewis’s wardrobe of pallid trees,
considering my country’s longing for homogenized milk
& bags of tube socks from Walmart,
which felt cancerous. What came to me like a surprise
snowfall in the soft evening of a snow globe,
one has to pinch salt and sprinkle in the palm,
repeatedly, especially when the temperature in mother’s
   trailer
has begun to drop. In this way, after your Constitution fades
you’ve your own hourglass and no one else to blame.

Standard
Poetry

“In a U-Haul North of Damascus” — David Bottoms

1
Lord, what are the sins
I have tried to leave behind me? The bad checks,
the workless days, the scotch bottles thrown across the fence
and into the woods, the cruelty of silence,
the cruelty of lies, the jealousy,
the indifference?

What are these on the scale of sin
or failure
that they should follow me through the streets of Columbus,
the moon-streaked fields between Benevolence
and Cuthbert where dwarfed cotton sparkles like pearls
on the shoulders of the road. What are these
that they should find me half-lost,
sick and sleepless
behind the wheel of this U-Haul truck parked in a field on Georgia
45
a few miles north of Damascus,
some makeshift rest stop for eighteen wheelers
where the long white arms of oaks slap across trailers
and headlights glare all night through a wall of pines?

2
What was I thinking, Lord?
That for once I’d be in the driver’s seat, a firm grip
on direction?

So the jon boat muscled up the ramp,
the Johnson outboard, the bent frame of the wrecked Harley
chained for so long to the back fence,
the scarred desk, the bookcases and books,
the mattress and box springs,
a broken turntable, a Pioneer amp, a pair
of three-way speakers, everything mine
I intended to keep. Everything else abandon.

But on the road from one state
to another, what is left behind nags back through the distance,
a last word rising to a scream, a salad bowl
shattering against a kitchen cabinet, china barbs
spiking my heel, blood trailed across the cream linoleum
like the bedsheet that morning long ago
just before I watched the future miscarried.

3
Jesus, could the irony be
that suffering forms a stronger bond than love?
Now the sun
streaks the windshield with yellow and orange, heavy beads
of light drawing highways in the dew-cover.
I roll down the window and breathe the pine-air,
the after-scent of rain, and the far-off smell
of asphalt and diesel fumes.

But mostly pine and rain
as though the world really could be clean again.

Somewhere behind me,
miles behind me on a two-lane that streaks across
west Georgia, light is falling
through the windows of my half-empty house.
Lord, why am I thinking about all this? And why should I care
so long after everything has fallen
to pain that the woman sleeping there should be sleeping alone?
Could I be just another sinner who needs to be blinded
before he can see? Lord, is it possible to fall
toward grace? Could I be moved
to believe in new beginnings? Could I be moved?

Standard
Poetry

“Door in the Mountain” – Jean Valentine

Never ran this hard through the valley

never ate so many stars

 

I was carrying a dead deer

tied on to my neck and shoulders

 

deer legs hanging in front of me

heavy on my chest

 

People are not wanting

to let me in

 

Door in the mountain

let me in

Standard
Non-Fiction, Quotes

James Baldwin said (2)

“I read everything. I read my way out of the two libraries in Harlem by the time I was thirteen. One does learn a great deal about writing this way. First of all, you learn how little you know. It is true that the more one learns the less one knows. I’m still learning how to write. I don’t know what technique is. All I know is that you have to make the reader see it. This I learned from Dostoyevsky, from Balzac.”

Standard
Poetry

“October” (6) – Louise Glück

Excerpted from Averno
6.

The brightness of the day becomes
the brightness of the night;
the fire becomes the mirror.

My friend the earth is bitter; I think
sunlight has failed her.
Bitter or weary, it is hard to say.

Between herself and the sun,
something has ended.
She wants, now, to be left alone;
I think we must give up
turning to her for affirmation.

Above the fields,
above the roods of the village houses,
the brilliance that made all life possible
becomes the cold stars.

Lie still and watch:
they give nothing but ask nothing.

From within the earth’s
bitter disgrace, coldness and barrenness

my friend the moon rises:
she is beautiful tonight, but when is she not beautiful?

Standard
Quotes

Helena Bonham Carter said —

“I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.”

Standard