On the Road

Sooner or later

she’s got to realize,
1969 at two and a half,
blonde pig tales, and
embroidered bell bottoms
was a banner year.
The best of ‘em.

When she said,
“I a hippie.”
She really had a good idea
of self–
back then.

These days, it’s just a run
for the money.
Watch your words, your back, and your
bank account. Forget those new
running shoes, I’ve decided. No shoes
will do just fine for this next part of the road.

What I want to be when I grow up
is everything I ever knew in the
sparkle of dandelions growing in
my backyard. I a hippie.
Not workin’ for the man or
the woman in his suit.

No, this jungle animal is breaking
free of this food chain. Dean and
Marylou would dig it. Time
for me to hit that high note too.

Under the Bridge

where the monsoon flows

over desert river rock
where nothing grows
but from the red clay floor
and the heart of a girl no more
a wise Inukshuk rises.

His steady hand pointing
toward the rising sun
his native soul sifted
from the bones of
whispered poems

Sonia Sanchez on the wind
my homegirls guiding
chalk poems on the walls
before flash flood and
raging rivers

left the beds dry

Bring it
big life
Bring it!

Island Exposed

I am an island
and you are the sea

Only you.  Surrounding me
under me, lapping gently over

smoothing my edges
until one day I feel exposed

and realize you are adrift.
Nature out of balance,

a tide out too long.
“I am the ocean.”

you want to say
but don’t

“I am tired of gazing at your weathered trees,
your stony beaches.

There are hundreds of islands,
new, different, in love with me like you.”

You say none of that.
You silently retreat.

“But, I love you,”
I say.

There is no ripple to that
whisper.

Only blowing dust in a desert
that was once the sea.

Speaking in Tongues

She sees the poets in the streets
Hegemonic voices penetrating  old walls
Oh, she may be a poetaster
Skipping ’round the outskirts of the throng
Planning to filibuster her initiation into the bloodless dusty stacks
They find her red flag brazen and her
White flag brash.  When she squeezes her way to the  podium
Creative writing workshop 101
Her child artist loses function of its neocortex
Yet consciousness prevails, her phoenix spirit rising
Before them a grotesque vaudevillian puppet
They cock their paper mache heads as if to say
“Is she speaking in tongues?” And when they carve up her sectile limbs
She does not bleed, she bows to the interconnectedness of their feet
”I am but an extension of you”
Like dawn chasing the moon.

Namaste

Yesterday, when going through an old email in-box, I came across one from In Our Books, the blog that my Danish friend Andrea Heiberg and her friend Ina started together.  It isn’t very often that they post, and Andrea hasn’t posted in a long time, so I thought I would check it out.  Ina posted about a free poem-a-day service that Poets.org offers if you subscribe.  She receives a poem in her in-box everyday, and yesterday was one by David Kirby.  

What was so meaningful about getting this poem sent via In Our Books, is that it is about touching the feet of our elders to tell them that they are like a god to us.  There is a line in the poem about wishing to have your elders that have passed with you again so that you can touch their feet and say,  “Namaste,” “I bow to the God within you”, or “The Spirit within me salutes the Spirit in you.”
 
It was extremely touching to me, because my father passed away almost two months ago, and yesterday was his birthday.  I was really missing him.  I did wish that I had him back in front of me so that I could say Namaste to him.  But, it was even more special because before he passed away, when I visited him, I rubbed his feet for the first time.  I am so glad to know that there is another meaning to touching the feet of your elders and that I had a chance to do this for my dad before he was gone.  Even though I did not say those words out loud, my actions had another meaning.  This is incredibly special to me, and I will be sure to hold onto that idea and to the poem.  
 
Thank you Ina and Andrea for leading me to that place when I needed it yesterday.
 

Get Up, Please

  by David Kirby
The two musicians pour forth their souls abroad
                         in such an ecstasy as to charm the audience
             like none I’ve ever seen before, and when
they finish, they rise and hug each other, 
                         and then the tabla player bends down
and touches the feet of the santoor player in an obvious gesture

of respect, but what does it mean? I don’t find out
                          until the next day at the Econolodge in Tifton, GA,
             where I stop on my way home after the concert
and ask Mrs. Patel, the owner, if she has ever heard
                         of these two musicians or knows
anything about the tabla and the santoor and especially the latter, 

which looks like the love child of a typewriter
                          and a hammered dulcimer only with a lot of extra wires
             and tuning posts, and she doesn’t seem to understand
my questions, though when I ask her about one person touching
                         the other’s feet and then bend down
to show her, she lights up and says, “It means he thinks the other

is a god. My children do this before they go off
                          to school in the morning, as though to say, ‘Mummy, 
             you are a god to us,’” and I look at her
for a second and then surprise us both when I say, “Oh, Mrs. Patel!”
                         and burst into tears, because I think,
first, of my own dead parents and then of little Lakshmi and Padma

Patel going off to their classes in Tift County schools,
                          the one a second-grader who is studying homophones
             (“I see the sea”) and the other of whom is in the fourth
grade, where she must master long division with
                          its cruel insistence on numbers lined
up under one another with exacting precision and then crawling

toward the page’s bottom as you, the divider, subtract
                         and divide again and again, all the while recording
             on the top line an answer that grows increasingly
lengthy as you fret and chew the tip of your pencil
                         and persevere, though before they grab
their books and lunch boxes and pile onto the bus, they take time

to touch Mrs. Patel’s feet and Mr. Patel’s as well,
                          assuming there is such a person. Later my friend
             Avni tells me you touch the feet of your elders
to respect the distance they have traveled
                          and the earth they have touched, and you
say “namaste”not because you take yoga at that little place

on the truck route between the t-shirt store
                          and the strip club but because it means “I bow
             to the light within you,” and often the people being
bowed to will stoop down and collect you as if to say
                         “You too are made of the same light!” 
Reader, if your parents are alive, think of them now, of all the gods

whose feet you never touched or touched enough. 
                          And if not your parents, then someone else.
             You know someone like this, right? Someone who belongs
to the “mighty dead,” as Keats called them.
                          Don’t you wish that person were here now
so you could touch their feet and whisper, “You are my god”?

I can’t imagine Keats saying, “You too are made
                          of the same light,” though I can see him saying,
             as he did to Fanny Brawne, “I have been astonished
that Men could die Martyrs for religion—I have
                          shudder’d at it—I shudder no more—I could
be martyr’d for my Religion—Love is my religion—I could die for that—

I could die for you.” My own feet have touched
                          the earth nearly three times as long as Keats’s did,
             and I’m hardly the oldest person
I know. So let this poem brush across the feet of anyone
                          who reads it. Poetry is
my religion—well, I wouldn’t die for it. I’d live for it, though.

About this poem:
“Anybody can stitch a bunch of parts together to make a creature – the secret is to know when to apply the current. In this case, the limbs and torso of my poem were just lying there when a stranger slipped them the juice. So here’s to music, poetry, and chance encounters that give you exactly what you need, especially when you don’t know it’s coming your way.” 

—David Kirby

- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23692#sthash.ItLBxOr2.dpuf

Time lost forever in Tucson

On the way to Tucson
my father is there dying
what has not been said is
everything that a little girl
ever wanted to say to her daddy

you are the king of my world
you have saved me from the greenest scaliest dragons
you are the reason that all men should have the strength
of Stetsons, the scent of English Leather, the softness of
tears for his children

you are how I know how to fight
and how I know how to fail
like all the others in your family before you
we have run out of time
stopped far short of the finish line
we gave up.  On each other.

Somehow I don’t think that’s what you meant
for us when I was small, or even when I last sat across from you
silently.  Maybe you want the chance just to say
before you go on,

“I love you my girl, and
I would slay a thousand dragons,
just to tell you that
you are the princess of my world.”

A Nation of Laws

We are a nation of laws.
Those with the right skin color
right bank account
right title
right network
if you’re packing heat
or wearing a badge
if you fall in love with right gender
if you do it in the right position
THEN, WE are a nation of laws
for you.

But,
if you are perceived by the above
to be an outlier
outside the bell curve
dare I say, deviant in thought
or behavior
should you wear a hoodie
in the dark of night
should you walk alone when
you’re black and young
and if someone follows you
should you fight
that is another story
another outcome
these laws are not for you.

We are a nation of laws,
your president admonishes.
Just make damn sure you can
pay your emergency room bill
if you’re on the wrong side of the gun
that the law allows him to carry
Your house, it goes to charity
not your same sex lover whose tax
burden will bury her if this nation of
laws has its way—and it will
continue
to have its way 

Lest we forget
That there is no longer a need
For such a thing as a Voting Rights Act. 
Because states no longer try to manipulate
Votes.  And even if they did, the Electoral College
will save us from our ignorance.  As long as they all
like it missionary style and shop convenience
in the light of day, we’re all okay.

No worries.
No worries.  Give us your poor.  Your ignorant.  Your gay. 
Your unarmed.  Your hoodied.  Don’t be afraid.
We’ll find a place for them all on the fringe. 
We. Are. A nation of laws.

Sanctuary

Fugitives
on the run from record mercury
seeking solace in the heights of cool pine bluffs
seeking to spend every moment from pancakes until Letterman
learning the lines of each other’s faces and
stories in each other’s eyes, so that we forget all day to eat. 

Suspended in a downpour
of newborn love and thunderstorms,
a vestibule on main street,
wholesome hometown antique shop, a cold rain, and steam
so hot from our kiss, it’s about to turn X-rated. 

Little hole in the wall,
off the sidewalk where people pass,
this is the place we choose.
Our sanctuary. 
A place we come to know,
we are for each other. 

We will always be together
and maybe the heat conjured up this road trip,
sent us up state in a small silver two-seater
so the thunderstorms could hold their ceremony
and the rain could baptize us in a makeshift altar
among passing strangers. 

Because that is where we could breathe each other,
and that is where our heat turned to wild-fire.
So hot it raged into this Latin love thing and
babies were born of it. We’re livin’ always in the heat.
Like that love that grew out of cool lust in the street.
There is no place else we ever want to be.

 

A Violent Act

It is every poet’s right
to commit violent acts
of terrorism on the page,
whether crimes of passion,
or result of oppressed rage. 

If she breaks that line
hatchet in hand
blows the poem apart
with an adverb that makes
her awkward critic un-
comfortable 

Well, accuse her then.
Try her for bad poetry.
Convict her of violent acts.
Sentence her to unknown status,
criticism, and mockery.  Strike her
lines with blood red. 

Every pause in the breath with
unconventional punctuation,
she stands tall at the edge
of a cliff and breaks
lines that others call violent
as they murder her right to expression.