Poetry # 138

So here we are. For some reason I’m in Chicago. For some reason thousands of people are occupying both public and private spaces in my country that’s not my country – that has been steadily and speedily destroying the Earth – flirting with the potential of an all-out uprising. Poetry, much like Bertolt Brecht’s take on art holds true:

“Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

I dig that. So as you read the poems, keep that in mind. Question everything. Break things. Fuck shit up.

Luis Rivas
Henry Ajumeze
Amber Bromer

Poetry Editors
Gloom Cupboard

Opening Times
By Richard Wink

I waited two
years for inspiration to arrive.

I paced, up and
down,

Wearing out
several pairs of

Chuck Taylor
All-stars in the process.

Then I twiddled
my thumbs

until they
became contorted

like arthritic
vines.

Inspiration
existed like a God.

You had to
believe it was there

in order for the
happening to take place.

And so, in a
state of apathy

I picked up a
papermate pen

And started
writing these confessional poems

about how
everything was created.

The process is
ego driven.

I have to bluff,
and boast,

and then make
people believe.

Convince them

my words

are worth
something.

Bio: Richard Wink is a writer and raconteur from Norwich, England.

Mother Wondering If Her Daughters are Growing Up Too Soon
By Kelley O’Brien

We were young and we wondered
if it was wrong to dance en pointe
on the thighs of our father’s mechanic.
He was thirty and this teeth were white,
cancerous and constantly in transit,
mapping our curls and our blushes
with another stressed night.
We were only children and couldn’t
have appeared thoughtful in our high heels
and lipstick and mini-skirts.  But our mechanic
would take our hands and he would smile
and tell us it was the theory of evolution
and at a second’s notice we would spill
silk from our balcony and stain our sheets
a brilliant shade of scarlet.

Bio: Kelley O’Brien is a currently studying Creative Writing and Film at Bowling Green State University. She enjoys cooking, painting, making her own jewelry, and having television marathons with her friends and younger brother. After college she plans to move to California and spend her free time writing on the beach.

Dance Me Slowly
By Melanie Greaver Cordova

sand falls between her tiny fingers

she is looking for a shell to bring back for mama

but she is far from home

and everything is yellow here

because the sun is young

tinkling music chimes

above the lulling waves and she squints to see

a golden merry-go-round

in a patch of dried out grass

as tall as she

elaborate and two-tiered and shining

she drifts toward it in a waltz

like the ocean current

like the beckoning wind

the sand from her toes sprinkles the faded horse

and as a sun flare

she flashes and disappears
Bio: Melanie Greaver Cordova is a graduate student in English and Creative Writing at New Mexico Highlands University.  She is currently working on her thesis, a magical realism novella set in western Russia.

Water is the World’s Consolation
By Sandra Florence

the back stroke at night looking up into the sky

a dark net of shattered glass

water laps a warm breeze drifts across your nose,

almost indescribable,

as if smelling,

breathing in

the stars, the sky, the underwater lights,

and the breeze

that has passed through the limbs

of mesquite trees

creosote bushes

an intense gold-green scent that sweeps everything

clean,

water is memory of drinking down the world,

full immersion into the dark stream,

for a moment your grandmother’s dress billows

in water,

your mother wipes away tears and the sticky

residue of leaves,

confrontation of water and flesh

discrete moments of solitude,

your chest aches and thumps,

the damp hair under your cap is electric and tingly

as you drift until you reach the other side

your hand touches the concrete wall

a deep dense odor of wet pavement

playing in the streets after a summer rain,

the hot asphalt steams under your tennis shoes

as you cross the street to find your friend.

Bio: Sandra Florence received her Masters in Creative Writing/Poetry from San Francisco State University. She moved to Tucson, Arizona where she has been teaching and writing for over 30 years. She taught at the University of Arizona for eighteen years, and a number of venues throughout the community working with refugees, the homeless, adolescent-parents, women in recovery, youth at risk. She has particular interests in writing and healing, community literacy, and writing as a tool for public dialogue. She currently teaches writing and literature at Pima Community College, Desert Vista Campus.

Breaking
By Luis Cuahtemoc Berriozabal

Breaking windows,

the pictures on

the walls because

I don’t like it here.

Busting the light bulbs

and the TV set,

I walk on shattered glass on the floor

and scream in agony.

I want to take the pain in.

I put my hand through a mirror,

take a swipe at my reflection

to make sure it is real.

I break the painting

hung on the wall

and the spines of all my notebooks.

It is terrible to be this way.

Everything is expendable.

The Trouble with Sobriety
By Ruth Foley

Once he was alone, letting go was nothing—

one day he remembered, and then

he forgot. He forgot to shower,

forgot to climb the creaking narrow stairs

to bed. Forgot to go to work again.

Forgot his brother, waiting on the phone.

Forgot his daughter.

He remembered some things—the  road

to the liquor store, and the canned food

aisle at Stop and Shop, and that once

he had loved and been forgotten.

He willed himself to sink, told himself

he’d show her, never seemed to notice

she’d long since stopped watching.

There was no one there by then but him,

nothing by the ocean but him. He might

have heard the water talking

to him, begging him to let the salt buoy him until

he could forget to float.

It might have been easy to listen.

He covered up the windows, blocked the doors,

turned off the lights at night in case

someone found a crack to peer through.

Holding on wasn’t hard, it wasn’t that,

it was never, never that.

His fingers didn’t bleed, his tendons

didn’t stretch and snap. He didn’t grow

tired from the fight. He never clenched

a fist. He listened to the calling, waded out,

sat with his back to the threatening,

embracing curl. He closed his eyes

against the shore, leaned towards

the waves, and floated, forgot, forgot.

Bio: Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches Englishfor Wheaton College. Her recent work is appearing or forthcoming in Adanna, qarrtsiluni, Redheaded Stepchild,and Umbrella, which nominated one ofher poems for a Pushcart Prize this year. She also serves as Associate PoetryEditor for Cider Press Review.

Headstrong
By Zachariah Middleton

I have, at a few low points,

prayed to slip

on the linoleum

coming out of the shower.

To greet the toilet’s porcelain smile

headfirst

and not wake up.

The prayer went something like this:

great forces

have avoided me

and I am the product

of petty arguments

when it doesn’t matter.

Who am I to ask for otherwise?

To ask for more Grace

than my fair share?

My faith:

that God will let me die

a quick and normal death.

Journey to Nowhere
By Vera J. Lee

I push traces of you into subconscious places

I know what was left of us

can’t be put together again.

Over time the lines of your silhouette

disappeared from on our bed.

Mercifully, your scent drifted

through the linens and settled

into the cracked pine floors.

She has made you a stranger.

And turned you into a hollowed figure—

absent of a soul and unrecognizable

now that your heart beats warmly

beneath her fingertips.

But I’m on a journey to nowhere.

Trapped between beginnings

surrounded by borderless vistas

with scenes that never change.

I grip two sets of small hands,

these fledglings wander aimlessly

through immovable landscapes with their mother—

and wait for our passage to end.

I drink the bittersweet tonic of hope

for my children.

She mends and hurts.

She promises and

gashes my heart again.

She is a relentless thirst without end.

Bio: Vera Lee is currently a faculty member at Drexel University.  When she isn’t writing about transforming schools into more equitable places to teach and learn, she enjoys writing poetry.  She lives with her children in New Jersey.  Her work has been published in Gloom Cupboard and Joyful.

The Communist
By Matt Sedillo

The history of my family

Was never taught me

I climbed my family tree

Like Hellen Keller

Deaf dumb and blind

Piecing together

What it meant

To be Mexican

What it meant

To be American

In the same place

At the same time

In a broken home

Under joint custody

In the historically

And still Mexican

Section of greater

East Los Angeles

My father

Raised by the belt buckle

By parents who would

Go months without speaking

Raised me under

The influence of the bottle

Under his raised voice

Raised fist

And high expectations

He raised

A stuttering shell shocked child

Horrified and contemptuous

My mother

Raised with love

Raised as a first generation

In a new country

A curious and beautiful woman

Raised me with a public library card

Raised a boy genius who knew

How to raise his hand

Who knew

How to raise questions

In the historically and still

Mexican section

Of greater East Los Angeles

I learned how to love

And I learned how to hate

In the same place

In the same time

By five

I could play chess

Roll with the punches

Quote Shakespeare

Identify the instruments

Of an orchestra

And fall asleep

To the sounds

Of gunshots

Pretended they were fireworks

To the sounds of my father

Screaming

Pretended it was the television

Under the cover of blankets

In the deepest loneliest stretches

Of night

By flashlight

I learned to read

Or pretend to sleep

To avoid life

By five

I had memorized

The names and terms

Of all the presidents

It became something

Of an obsession

Wanting to prove

Something

To someone

Just not sure who

By eight

I told my father

Thinking he would be proud

That I could see myself in the oval office

Before he sat me down and said son

We are Mexican

And this is America

Its not going to happen

The history of my family

Was never taught to me

I climbed that family tree

Bitter and thorny

Heard stories

How my great grandfather

Died sick

Off the Colorado

Black lung

He got

Slaving away

In the coal mines of America

Yet somehow

Died back in Mexico

Read a book about

Something called

The Mexican Repatriation act

And began to piece

Together

What brought him here

And what sent him back

While the story of how

My grandfather

Met my grandmother

Was made that much clearer

And I began to understand

That our whole family

Had been deported

In the nineteen thirties

For no reason other

Than their last name

And the color of their skin

And I spent the rest

Of my adolescence

Trying

To piece this together

How I may

Never had been born

Had that never happened

Yes I spent the better part

Of my life understanding

That oppression runs through

My veins

And that is not a history

That goes down easy

The boy genius

Who would be president

Now began to hate this country

And all that it stood for

And all that it had trampled over

The racism

That drove my mother’s father

Out of it

The poverty

That drove my father’s father

To become an alcoholic

That bitter legacy that never goes down easy

That drove

My father and I

To become

Alcoholics

Yes I hated all of it

The mindless consumption

The mindless labor

The pointless

Lifting and moving of boxes

The misery of living for a paycheck

A slave to next month’s rent

In a heartless economy

That drove me

To homelessness

As I slept in my car

Under the stars

Under a flag

Under old glory

Flying so

Arrogantly over me

And I hated the stares

Of coworkers

Who knew I had not

Seen a bed in weeks

Their whispers

That you could hear

Had never known

A shower

In a gas station sink

I hated the hatred

That tore me

From my father

The pride that kept

From my mother

Yes I hated this country

Its supposed meritocracy

Which now seemed

Poised

Guiltless and indifferent

To leave me

To death

Yes I hated all of it

When I lost the job

I shot

My days through

Aimless

Draining the river

Drowning my liver

Dipping into my savings

Wandering in the streets

Beaten down by the summer heat

I remembered

My mother

Reading Shakespeare

And I remembered

All that

I was supposed to be

Some kind of prodigy

Some kind of boy genius

So much potential

But now homeless

How the fuck did this happen

How the fuck could this happen

What the fuck happened

And I like I said

I hated this country

But not so much nearly

As I hated myself

And I found myself

In the library

Drunk

Applying for a card

Returned the next day

And the next

And I read

And I read

And I read

And I began to see

That the true history

Of this country

The real nature

Of its economy

Was something

That was never taught to me

That it was never a question

Of peoples

Or borders

Or personal failures

Or a new world order

There was no global conspiracy

It was not

The white man or the illuminati

But the nature

Of the global economy

The nature of private property

But most of all

I learned that

It was not my fault

And I knew then

That like Hellen Keller I had been

Deaf dumb and blind

But now

Now I could see

And just like her

I had taught myself how to read

I met people

I joined a movement

I read Marx

I read Engels

I read Lenin

And I realized

That I agreed with them

And I realized for the first time

That I belonged

That I was proletariat

That I was a communist

That I who had been a child

Who dreamed

Of becoming president

Grew into a man

Much more likely to write

His congressmen

Demand his resignation

Unless he could provide

A country worth living in

A country free of racism

Free of prisons

Free of the oppression

And exploitation of women

Free from the social Darwinism

That makes to beasts of all

Free to throw capitalism

Into the dustbin

Of history

The history

Of my family

The meaning

Of my life

My place in the world

Was never taught to me

It was something

I had to learn

For myself

Published by peace is illegal

I am a writer of pornography, of politics and murder.

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