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POETRY SWAP MEET: Poetry we don't usually know about, or?

Jade-Pandora
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Umit Singh Dhuga

Umit Singh Dhuga was born in Toronto in 1978

THE THREE DEGREES

i.m. Dalian Atkinson (1968-2016)

He’ll cross that bridge before he gets to it.
Cole finds Dozzell in acres of space.
Dozzell serves the ball up on a plate

for Atkinson whose blistering pace
leaves the polyester-short-shorted halfback
stranded. Atkinson chips the keeper, races

to the corner-flag (where the stewards are slack
at their stewardship over the Greene King Stand).
And bows. How do you feel about him being black?

Ipswich puts this question—this is England—
to Mrs Crawford, whose one solemn decree
is that you don’t take the biscuits, understand?

You don’t take. You ask. So “The Three Degrees”
were formed about three miles from Ipswich.
From the 1992-to-’93

season, this: In his own half of the pitch
with a one-touch trap from a lofted ball
(he’s done well there!) that forthwith lets him

ditch his marker he ignores Dean Saunders’ call
on the right flank and skips past two more
Wimbledon players and slows to a crawl

and you had to have known then that he’d score
because before he’s anywhere near the edge
of the eighteen-yard-box the last four

defenders stop running and Peter Fear
(of all players) looks back to Perry Digweed
(who’s minding net) and that’s when Atkinson

spears the lower half of the ball with the speed
of a toe-stub against a kitchen table’s leg.
The goalkeeper (the papers will read)

was on-rushing. He wasn’t. He’s able to
steady himself for the arched chip’s flounce and
leap with his left arm at full stretch. Rob Earle

watches as the ball finds the time to bounce
once in the six-yard-box before it ends
up in the back of the net. 3-2’s a trounce

when you lose to a goal like that, when you defend
their counter-attack of your counter-attack
in the nineties in a country called England.

So how do you feel about him being black?
_____________________________

Umit Singh Dhuga: ”A police officer has been charged with murder, after three years of painful procedural wrangling, in the death of Dalian Atkinson. Atkinson was tasered to death in the early hours of August 15, 2016. He was a celebrated black English football player who was part of the famed attacking trio known, when I was growing up in England in the 1980s, as ‘The Three Degrees’—you will note that the press was not exactly politically correct back then (or now). I found that the terza rima form suited the subject of three black athletes who connected so beautifully on and off the sports field and who inspired so many of us ‘coloured’ boys in England to persevere in sports despite racist abuse. It was thought to be ‘cute’ and ‘clever’ to call Cole, Dozzell, and Atkinson ‘The Three Degrees’ because they were black, played with flair, and wore stylish clothes. But we know now, and we should have known then, that this is racist. The fact that the Crown Prosecutor has—this week—laid charges against the rather taser-happy police in West Mercia, England, marks a milestone in the turbid British history of race relations. This poem celebrates Atkinson’s astonishing achievements as an athlete, but also points up the painful question which his first employer—Ipswich Town Football Club—had famously asked when Atkinson moved to Ipswich from Newcastle: ‘How do you feel about him being black?’”

Jade-Pandora
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Paul T. Corrigan

YOU MOVED YOUR WHOLE TOWN

The fog at the Biltmore Estate hangs thick and low over the rolling hills, the white oak, red maple, and green spruce, the ground yellow with stubble and leaves. A hundred dollars admission will show you the banisters, the forty-three bathrooms, the Gilded Age. But you need no tour guide. You are an exile returning, looking for your home. For one generation seven generations ago, you lived on this land. Two years after Emancipation, two weeks after Appomattox, two days after a Union general marched through the last of the Confederacy in the North Carolina mountains, you founded a free black town here. Old Shiloh. In Old Shiloh, you built your own barns, you baked your own loaves, you blessed your own God, you betrothed your own lovers, you buried your own dead. In Old Shiloh, your children knew not shackles, for the first time in three centuries.

Who can know the weight of that.

In Old Shiloh, you lived twenty years, till George Washington Vanderbilt asked you to move. What could you do. You moved your whole town. He didn’t threaten, didn’t have to. You’d had a long education in giving whites what whites want. Why decline the cash. Why risk your chance to start again. Your farms were falling apart, they said. You were happy to sell, they said. You were always happy, they said. You moved your whole town. He paid you to move, more than the going rate, promised jobs, and delivered. You built Biltmore. You tended his trees, grew his garden, cleaned his cutlery, fixed his food. And you moved your whole town. You moved your people, your plows, your houses, your cows, your wagons, your mules, your clothes, your tools, your bibles, your church. You moved your cemetery, carefully exhuming both headstones and bones.

Who can know the weight of that.

Surely, when you moved, you left things behind, things you might now find. The hills stayed. The trees. A broken axle here, a lost axe head there, a chipped plow shear, a mallet, a pulley, a chimney stone, the wild growth from an untilled field. You listen for your own coughs and laughs and love cries. You would have welcomed a neighbor. He came as an owner. You inhabited the land. He uninhabited it. Who needs two hundred square miles of backyard? It’s not the deeds on file at county records that define belonging but the deeds of adults and children walking and working the soil. You, like the Cherokee before you, belong here. These mountains stand older and grander than a white man’s ego. His two hundred fifty rooms can’t contain all this roiling air. The big house will crumble, and Old Shiloh will still be here. You must have known. Because you did not salt the ground when you left.

Who can know the weight of that.
____________________________

Comment from the artist, Robb Shaffer, on this selection: “The author of this work made me see the Biltmore Estate in a different perspective; it gave me an insight into how the place came to be. I liked the dramatic, fluid tone of the work and the picture that it painted as it tied into the photograph of the Biltmore backyard. Without scolding, the author helps the reader see what privilege can do, how privilege can move a town to clear a space for its own backyard. When the author mentions the native people displaced before the town was built, it invites further contemplation into how and why we are where we are, and the sacrifices people made in order for us to get there.”

Image: “Biltmore Backyard” by Robb Shaffer. “You Moved Your Whole Town” was written by Paul T. Corrigan for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2017, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.


Jade-Pandora
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Adrie Kusserow

AFTER HIS DEATH, THE DALAI LAMA LOOKS DOWN ON A YOGA CLASS

Perhaps because of the altitude,
since dying, he cannot sleep,
so all night he watches planet earth,
limping round the orbit like a disheveled bride,
ozone clinging like an ill-fitted wig,
dragging its bumpy train of Chinese plastics,
the refugees pushed up like rice to the sides of borders,
the swarms, the migrations pulsing north,
the bodies floating in flood after flood,
the hissing and praying, humming and tingling,
as minuscule embers of the internet glow.

In America, millions of dilated pupils absorb Kardashians,
as Mexican children huddle in an ICE cage.
Across the country crops are burning,
humans are snapping like little tyrants.
Televisions squawk their bright lights,
hawking shiny arguments. In suburbs,
pale teenage boys float like moons
in the blue fluid of their screens.

It was enough to make him turn away
to tinker with another broken watch,
until he heard the sound of OM, belted out,
at first like a bomb,
bulbous and confident,
then finally more humble,
becoming a whisper, wafer thin.

All across America, yogis
were rising and folding, sun salutating
and diving, each woman’s body punctual
and alluring, like the necks of black swans,
except for the dreadlocks poking
like tarantulas from their crowns.

That yoga had morphed as it moved West,
he did not mind,
that it was nothing like India
where the stern yogi barks out asanas
as if bored,
no props, no blocks,
no choices, no options, no
accommodations for special feelings
for unique practices.

Thanks to skillful means,
the dharma had gained footing
through the guise of Lululemon,
a spiritual materialism
held in place by capitalist claws
that sharpen on the soft backs of others.
But this would change in time.

Still they had a ways to go,
their moans and sighs
so long and overdrawn, so self-indulgent,
poses birthing long laborious vowels
announcing the depths of their stress.
The countless choices of poses given,
riddled with you decide, it’s up to you,
their warrior pose a bit too righteous,
their Namastes, cute curtsies,
denying the rapes of cultural
appropriation, Ujjayi breathing
more like steamboats
than the vastness of ocean,
savasanas like limp islands
each psyche shipwrecked by its own uniqueness.

Yes, yes, he nodded, a mantra slipping
through his breath, a harmless habit of his,
a Buddhist Tourettes.
They had yet to embody the yoke of yoga,
their senses still reporting
a solid body in time and space,
instead of the magic of northern lights,
flowing organisms
steered by millions of years of intelligence
devoted to constant change.

He chuckled again with delight,
in one year 98 percent of their atoms
would exchange for new ones,
exhaling not stress, not rage, but the universe,
(hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen
that just an instant before
was locked in solid matter),
their stomach, liver,
heart, lungs and brain
vanishing into thin air.

He could go on and on with his concatenations,
instead he adjusted his seat,
straightened his spine, worked his prayer beads,
reminding himself to be patient,
to watch his thoughts rise and fall like meteorites
across his mind, fireballs aglow with a feisty energy
that eventually fizzled and withered.
And when they did, quietly, gently,
he returned to his breath
and once more released the universe from its cage.

———————————————

Adrie Kusserow: “I read this article and watched its coverage on the New York Times ‘The Weekly’ about the blurry lines in yoga between sexual misconduct and proper adjustments during a pose and was reminded of how much yoga has morphed since coming West. Yoga has now entered the MeToo movement in America. And while my poem does not address this current issue in yoga, my imagination did lead me to reflect on what the Dalai Lama would think of yoga if he looked down on it from the cosmos after his death.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/08/the-weekly/yoga-consent-touch.html

Adrie Kusserow is a cultural anthropologist who works with Sudanese refugees in trying to build schools in war-worn South Sudan.

Jade-Pandora
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Anointing Obuh

An emerging writer from Africa. She enjoys reading, writing & a hearty meal. Her works are forthcoming at The Cabinet of Heed and Honey&Lime. She currently studies English and literature at a Nigerian University.

DON’T YOU GO

My mother is a tree, dried up by the Harmattan wind 
that blows through our family.
She sways, making the dust leap into the air like dancing figurines,
angels drunk on the praises of men.
As I dance, she reaches out to steady me.
Freyah, don’t go slipping on your tongue.
Don’t ask why father won’t come out to play.
What is an only child lying on the altar, 
burnt over with years of sacrifice, saying I do?
Who will hear words when they take up wings 
singing away their meanings?
My mother is the tree of life, 
I taste my destiny in her and know I will be fruitful.
As I dance, I feel my roots reaching out to steady me.
I hear those birds in my head singing, I do, I do.
I see him not come out to play. I see me. 
I’m blind. I can no longer see my mother.
I am the tree, I am the collector of dust.
_________________________________

Anointing Obuh: “Growing up in Africa puts you in the race for self-identity and self-fulfillment. I do not know what I was before I started writing. However, there is so much of reality, so much to write about. I see/feel Africa as a world of shapes and sounds, all trying to stand alone but constantly jamming into each other. So when I write as an African poet I am struggling with the quest for independence, continuously resisting being jammed together with those who have come before me and those who are yet to come. Even as Africa is a world cloaked with diverse narratives, you find there are two sides to its tales: the Speakable and the Unspeakable things. I have taken the job both as an African writer, and as a person, to tell those Unspeakable stories and tell them with fearless dexterity.”

AnonymousBystander
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Poet - Antjie Krog

I heard of her through her book Country of My Skull describing the work of South Africa's truth and reconciliation commission.  The poem I've chosen to share is from her book Body Bereft ... I hope this note inspires you to seek her out.

on my behalf

i no longer need to approach anybody on someone's behalf
i no longer need to be accountable for others
or to ask forgiveness on behalf of those who know no guilt

i no longer need to put anybody's marginalised
perspective on the table or imagine
myself into the skin of another

because the first forays of death have arrived
and the body slips like sand through
the fingers.  apathy neutralises the senses

as survival deploys its brutal forces. one gets cut
off from others and becomes more and more
familiar with the complete inward-turning of death -

drawer after drawer you are being emptied out
until only your empty inside moves your emptiness about


Jade-Pandora
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Bethany Schultz Hurst

SWEET AND GOLDEN SOUP

Fifty-six people have jumped from the same lamppost
on the Golden Gate Bridge. It must be secretly marked
safehouse or tell hard luck story here as if the bay
could be cajoled to offer up some scrap it’s been
withholding all this time. I crossed that expanse
in a ferry when I was eight on family vacation.
I didn’t think then about how many bodies
were beneath us. Earlier I’d shoplifted
for the first time. I thought I’d swiped
a sugar packet, but found out on the ferry’s deck
it was silica beads. Do Not Eat. I had no idea
what silica was except a disappointment and
a sorry start to a life of crime, and we were headed back
from Alcatraz. Later a street mime thought
my sister was pretty, escaped his glass box to give her
one imagined flower after another. My mother
pointed out hidden flaws in beautiful women
to give me hope for the future. Freckles, overbite.
O how I dreamed the Most Crooked Street
would be my home. But there was nothing secret
about that post-card obvious gash. Cars lined up
to traffic its perfect turns. Even when no one was looking
my sister clutched her make-believe bouquet.
My hand closed around my pocket’s worthless contraband.
In Chinatown, plucked chickens illuminated windows.
Dim sum and wonton were unopened gifts.
If I could read the restaurant names, one would say
Here is the place, here is a sweet and golden soup
that will ensure you are never hungry again,
but my parents thought they said dangerous neighborhood
so we went back to the hotel and had hamburgers.
On the way, my mother pointed out homeless people
by pretending they didn’t exist. Then I shared a bed with my sister
and remembered the cityscape from the ferry’s deck,
how from the distance I thought I might hold the city
in the flat of my hand or crush it between my fingers
to extract some kind of juice, sweet or bitter.
_______________________________

Bethany Schultz Hurst: “When I took piano lessons as a kid, I loved playing anything that involved grace notes. They were everything that declarative chords couldn’t be. Scored in tiny print and crossed out, they seemed like secrets, as if they existed in a different place than the rest of the song. I’m not very good at piano, though, so years later, I’m still exploring my fascination with peripheral text by writing poems.”

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Ukamaka Olisakwe
Ukamaka Evelyn Olisakwe (born 24 October 1982) is a Nigerian feminist author, short-story writer, and screenwriter.

SLUT


i
Grandmother said there is a slut trapped in every woman, a wild taboo that must never be set free.

So mother dipped her fingers in a tub of pomade, and massaged her daughter’s clitoris until the puny thing grew thinner and disappeared into the fold of skin.


ii
Ugwu nwanyi bu di ya. Imekwa enu, mee ani, ugwu nwanyi bu di ya. 

She packed up her books, took his name, and became dignified.


iii
Perhaps in the next life, she will come as a man. Perhaps she should make the best of this body. So she made her husband a pot of soup and prepared a table for him to eat. She laid back and watched him eat. 

And though his face was riddled with pleasure, she did not know the taste of her own food.


iv
I stood under a shower, my breasts drooping closer to my stomach, and I thought: oh, you sad things! It’s too early to fall asleep.


v
There was a masseuse who lived down the street. Her fingers were sleek and long, body thin and shapely. 

One day, I stretched on the bed and let her hands work my nerves, her fingers easing my knotted tension. 

My slut stirred, and I bit my tongue until I tasted my own blood.


vi
Tell me how to make you happy, he said. Here, take my hands, speak with them.

I don’t know what happy is, I said. What does it taste like?

Like the guavas after the rains had washed the trees of Harmattan dust, or the onugbu soup after mama had added the dollops of ogiri?


vii
Did I tell you about the girl who took a hammer to my slut’s cage and caused everything to fall apart? 

Sex had always been a ceremony for man’s orgasm. My hands were just tools to stir my husband’s eagerness, my body his to devour. He would hover above me, face stretched in taut lines, sweat breaking from the sides of his face. And I would think, oh, how beautiful it is for this giant to quiver above me like the okra branch in the winds. And when he collapsed on my chest, I would hold him and think, I had fulfilled my purpose. ’Cos what else was the purpose of the woman than to keep her man satiated?

Until Nneka. Wild one, with a body that tapered like a Coke bottle and limbs that stretched from heaven to earth. Nneka, with a mouth that spat words like hot corns, her head filled with sin. She gazed at my cage, shook her head at my slut and said, “Chai, who did this to you?”

Then she picked at my locks, tantric fingers exposing the other way of freedom, and I have never been the same again.


viii
Grandmother looked at daughter and said, “This one is spoiled.”

Mother shook her head and said, “Her chi succumbed to slumber and this happened.”

Daughter strutted away. A proud slut.


ix
My husband used to joke about how docile I was before I joined the choir. One day, he paused between thrusts to trap my moans with the flat of his palm.

“Who are you?” he asked. “I have never seen you like this before.”

I bit his hand, threw my head back, forced him down and he disappeared in between my thighs.

He has yet to emerge ever since.

________________________________

Ukamaka Olisakwe: “I was born in Kano, Nigeria, and am currently an MFA candidate at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I write poetry because it’s the only language the girl I carry inside speaks.”

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Mihir Vatsa



IN THE WINTER OF 2014 WE WERE ALWAYS TAKING HIS NAME

with lines and words by Jose Saramago and Robert Browning; for Peshawar, for our gods, and for the rest of us

1.

Because I could reach out to your hands
only when our foreheads were at gunpoint
Because the only light between us split
when there was nothing to wade through
and everything to crawl against
Because I could register your voice
only when we raised
angry placards on the streets
I realise the only thing worthy in the world
to extract love from
is conflict
2.

The history of mankind is the history of our misunderstandings with god, for he doesn’t understand us and we don’t understand him.

3.

Many years ago, before the birth of time, one god left our brother at the mercy of a bird because he is the reason today I can see your eyes slanting under a sunbeam. Many years ago, before the birth of time, one lustful god let down his robes in the guise of a husband. Many years ago, perhaps after the birth of time, one god sent the snake in—there should be no doubt here that he sent the snake for he is god         and god knows all         and god knew all         and god is truth

A truth so afraid of its own making it turned supreme.
4.

In the neighbourhood
the boy wakes up to expectations
he kneels, he remembers his god
he arranges his textbooks, he verifies the Pythagoras theorem
the square of the hypotenuse is no longer the sum of the squares of the sides
he, aware of the spelling of love
he, aware of the colour on his blazer
he, aware that six hours later
there will be an end to all prepositions
when he would cycle off to home—
5.


6.

My dear friend
The plateau is as cold as your affection
I am thinking of reaping a harvest of gloom
I am thinking of burying the scriptures
I am thinking of dying but it’s not that easy—I don’t want to go to hell
Therefore
I am counting on you to finish the job for me
I am counting on you to hoist your saffron | green | red | black | white | blue flag in front of my face till I climb the mast then trip between the threads
I am counting on you to furnish a report afterwards
Maybe a biography
7.

The question is not which god wants more blood
The question is which doesn’t
I am searching my database for a name
404 Not Found
8.

So let me trace instead the crevices on your skin under moonlight
You, so still beside the shrine
You, so lovely in your devotion
You, the sex appeal of death
9.

But you, my sergeants of justice
how many fingers will you break
how many theorems will you twist
how many colours will you spit
till you realise that even today
for all the ways you make love to a person
for all your great right causes
for all your concerned rebellion
the most supreme and honorable your
god has not said a word



Mihir Vatsa: A contemporary n  young poet with a shining purpose..whom had known & interacted in national poetry circuits. One Poetry shared here was published in Rattle -2014. His autobio reads..."Mihir Vatsa is the author of the poetry collection Painting That Red Circle White (Authors Press 2014) and more recently of a poetry chapbook Wingman (Aainanagar & Vayavya 2017). A former Charles Wallace Fellow (Poetry) at University of Stirling, Scotland, he is the winner, in India, of Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize and a Toto Funds the Arts Award for Writing in English. His poems appear in Word Riot, Rattle Poets Respond and SOFTBLOW, among others, and his work has been anthologised in Best Poetry (Eclectica Magazine 2016), 40 Under 40: An Anthology of Post Globalisation Poetry (Paperwall 2016), and the upcoming Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians by Sahitya Akademi, the Indian Academy of Letters. Mihir lives and writes in the plateau town of Hazaribagh in India.



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Chisom Okafor
Poet, nutritionist and bartender, lives in Lagos, Nigeria.

BIRTHING

In memory of Akin, beaten to death on the 17th of February, 2017, for being homosexual
Someday, a soul will come out of the field to claim it
and then, we will know.
—Kwame Dawes


i.
Here, seven nautical miles away, we let our canoe
trail the direction of wind. 
Here, where all things take their roots and a symphony still remains
of the water creatures below, like colours strewn on palettes, 
we’re pilgrims advancing by sight (and sound),
willing this cathedral of our bodies to find home again, 
within the glassy shimmer of water.
 
ii.
When my companion casts his net, 
I see the hands of a javelin thrower, and
I want those hands in exchange for mine.
To hold and be held like mine, at nights when rain clouds gather, 
and I’m looking up at the stars and not finding them there.
But there is no hidden starlit constellation overhead now, 
not even deep into nightfall yet,
and we’re rowing to the shacks on the other side,
lined up on dry land in a solemn procession,
and we’re pitched on both ends of this canoe, paddling away 
past boat parts in disuse, past tired retreating fishermen, 
past floating fish traps to dry land
where there are bamboo pillars, straight as soldiers on parade,
ready for the mating call of a whistling thrush hoisted onto a dais
on the riverbank. 
 
iii.
My lover swears he could trace the scape of the highland 
far into the village beyond, from this distance; 
the ridges stretching so thin that they disappear into the sunset.
There is a serenity in water that builds nests in my head,
shatters only when he grips his paddle again
for one more stroke like the swing of a broken racket, 
before we let us drift downstream with the tide.
They can’t follow us to this place, he tells me.
You can’t lynch who you don’t see.
Consider that all waters spring from an unseen circuit.
That love is water, which means that mine is a summation 
of thick droplets that heralds a rainstorm.
That love smells like loam washed clean at sunrise 
by liquid, ordinary as rain. 
That love is sunrise, 
which means that mine is the petals of a freshly watered rose 
blooming in the sun.
That love is a flowing stream.
That here, on this body of water is where lovers—
boys left for dead by the wayside—
find their names again.

_________________________________

Chisom Okafor: “I was born in Nigeria and still live in Nigeria. The themes of sexuality, history, my own childhood and family bonds (especially in dysfunctional families) influence my writing. I also write as a way of conversing with myself and finding a way to document my own memories.”

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Bob Hicok

THINGS RICH AND MULTIPLE AND ALONE

The litany goes on. First your hair
in the toilet bowl casts a shadow on the bottom
that resembles bacteria under the microscope
at Livonia Stevenson, then there’s mice in the wall.
These are pearls, he says to me, meaning the days
I think, that I have them at all, I just want concrete
from him, not a lecture on the no-armed man,
how he doesn’t complain under the underpass
where he lives. I say finally, how would we know,
it’s not like we hang under the underpass,
not as if the no-armed man could write you a letter,
“Dear Seller of Concrete, This is wonderful,
not having a grip on things.” I’ve been running
very fast up a hill. At the top, I stand and feel
for a moment how I’m at the top, it’s a sensation
all its own, as is turning to run back down,
as is spinning the Lazy Susan to watch flour
come into view and leave me again. Drinks
at five, dinner at seven: now you believe
in structure, little slices of beef on red plates,
her explanation at your elbow
of why the granting agency said no
to the man “you both know causally.” It sounds
like there’s a game of catch in that phrase,
or wearing familiar pants, or looking at cards
in your hand without any intent to win the game.
It’s more about the conversation around the table,
how we need these excuses with Kings on them
to pull up chairs to the moment and let it be
inclusive of us. I’ve always read monads
moan-ads, I don’t know why. Everything with a shell
around it, even the moments when nothing
seems to have a shell around it. One is left
with the sense that romanticism was a response
to the hooks people saw on every bird and lament
but had no thread to connect, or had vast spools
of thread but no feeling for the various eyes
of the various needles, and everything was lost
in full view of everything else. A vortex, if you will,
or a closet with no discipline, or a discipline
one order of magnitude above our understanding of it,
such that, when we’re being shown a face,
we see static. You didn’t know, at the exhibition,
that you were looking at a spiderweb full of pubic hairs
until you were told. Most of us thought it beautiful,
then the fact of the matter went around the room,
then we were disgusted by life and turned
against the artist, saying to people the next day,
it wasn’t much of a show, then looking at the bill,
trying to decide who had the calamari.
__________________________________

Bob Hicok: “I think of myself as a failed writer. There are periods of time when I’ll be happy with a given poem or a group of poems, but I, for the most part, detest my poems. I like writing. I love writing, and I believe in myself while I am writing; I feel limitless while I’m writing.”

Josh
Josh
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Imtiaz Dharker (b.1954) is a Pakistani born British poet, artist and documentary film-maker. Brought up in Glasgow she describes herself as a 'Scottish Moslem Calvinist', lived in Wales, and now London. Her poetry addresses issues of cultural identity and the search for home. She was married to Simon Powell (1952-2009) the founder of Poetry Live.


THE RIGHT WORD [2006]

Outside the door,
lurking in the shadows,
is a terrorist.

Is that the wrong description?
Outside that door,
taking shelter in the shadows,
is a freedom fighter.

I haven't got this right.
Outside, waiting in the shadows,
is a hostile militant.

Are words no more
than waving, wavering flags?
Outside your door,
watchful in the shadows,
is a guerrilla warrior.

God help me.
Outside, defying every shadow,
stands a martyr.
I saw his face.

No words can help me now.
Just outside the door,
lost in shadows,
is a child who looks like mine.

One word for you.
Outside my door,
his hand too steady,
his eyes too hard
is a boy who looks like your son, too.

I open the door.
Come in, I say.
Come in and eat with us.

The child steps in
and carefully, at my door,
takes off his shoes.


Jade-Pandora
Jade-Pandora
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Oh Josh, thank you for posting this.  It’s one of the reasons I created this forum thread after planning for almost two & a half years.

📖🙏🏻

Josh
Josh
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Jade-Pandora said:Oh Josh, thank you for posting this.  It’s one of the reasons I created this forum thread after planning for almost two & a half years.

📖🙏🏻


My pleasure. It's one of my favourite poems bridging the gap between in-yer-face anti-war poems and 'tranquilising' poems -- and does so by pressing home our common humanity whilst at the same time challenging the language of the war-mongering process.
:))
Josh.

Jade-Pandora
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Meghan Sterling

MAN SUBDUES TERRORIST WITH NARWHAL TUSK ON LONDON BRIDGE

It goes and goes. Another day
and I am in a mostly clean bathtub
enjoying quiet in the lavender-scented water
when you knock on the door—
Did you hear about the terrorist attack on London Bridge?
A man subdued the attacker with a Narwhal Tusk!

and giggling, you leave, letting that fill the room.
I lay back. Now I hear the occasional drip of the tap
and I let the scene unfold. A crowded afternoon. Brilliant blue sky.
Sudden screams, a man charging another with a Narwhal tusk.
The steel railing of the bridge, the November air.
People scattering, the chaos of extraordinary situations.
Smoke from a fire extinguisher, nothing in focus
except the tusk like a white light a man is lunging with,
an unwieldy foil. I imagine the feel of it in my hands,
the ivory helix, spots of decay, 5 feet long and 22 pounds.
Did you know, the original bridge is actually
out in Arizona somewhere?
I say to no one in the quiet bathroom,
the water cooling. But I remember London Bridge
as it stands. I was 20 and looking over dizzy into the water,
people rushing behind me. London always busy.
All the lives lived hustling, trying to survive cold winters
over this bridge, over the Thames rough with winds,
hands cupping candles in fingerless gloves, or selling matchsticks
and other clichés of 19th century period films of which I am a devotee,
and I remember a handsome young man in a white blazer
nervously smiling at me as he rested against the railing,
and I have thought about him on occasion for the last 20 years,
as if he was a gem I was searching for
but hadn’t the courage to pluck out of the stream.
And I remember crossing bridges without fear
of smiling men or terrorists or knives,
passing by the Narwhal tusks mounted on the wall
of the Fishmongers Hall without registering them
as possible weapons. Probable ones.
O, the innocence of 1999. When Narwhal tusks stayed on the wall,
when London Bridge was just a way for us to cross the water
between City of London and Southwark.

________________________________

Meghan Sterling: “My husband interrupted me while I was taking a bath to tell me about this news story. He thought it was funny, but it brought up a lot of feelings for me—namely, about being a young woman alone in London, feeling safe on the London Bridge, and the sadness and absurdity of having to use an artifact like a narwhal tusk to attack a terrorist.”


I am a writer and teacher living in Portland, Maine with my husband, Matthew, daughter, Adeline, and cat, Little B. I received my Bachelor’s in Literature from Bard College and my Master’s in Writing from Wesleyan University.


Jade-Pandora
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Olajide Salawu

FINALLY, MY GRANDFATHER UNDID DARKNESS

To fritter loneline ss, my grandfather chews his sticks of cigarettes
and finds company among the boulders at our veranda,
hitting them with his walking stick to punctuate his anger. 
Everyone has left him except the rocks and his Kadio radio,
which often reels out white noises and Afghan bombs.

He soon learned geography without an eye; 
and told me we need inner eye more to walk the atlas of life,
and for centuries the sockets have remained homes of human misery. 
Each night he would gamble his way through the rocks
and sit on his rocking chair facing the moon.  

My grandfather soon learned the divinity of darkness
because grief is sometimes painted with light. Today
he is breaking the day with his fingers and has locked
his ears within the walls. Like all blind, 
my grandfather does not need an eye to know that it is you.

________________________________

Olajide Salawu: “I want my verse to document human anguish in all forms. Likewise, I like my imagery to talk about love. Finally, I like bitter metaphors that speak against any forms of human oppression.”

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