when the sad go out to play, sing the sad song, kill time with either a rope or a hammer (don’t matter) - when the sad take the lonesome road, walk the tortuous line, kill time with either a rope or hammer (don’t matter) - but it does, it does: when the rope runs out, the hammer loses its head -
– it is transformed as it is birthed: as it becomes it is no more
– master’s tool no more, but the inch that peels off the foot
– it reverses the voyeuring oppressor’s gaze; it has survived by looking back, unrepentant, unfazed
– build your ivory tower upon it, and it spits it out, whole
– it is the silence that gnaws, knows
true is the cardboard box true too
the hunger &
the pigeon, now
But the fellah, the unemployed and the starving do not lay claim to truth. They do not say they represent the truth because they are the truth in their very being.
– Frantz Fanon, from “The Wretched of the Earth”
Sweet Sally took a cardboard box,
And in went pigeon poor.
Whom she had starved to death but not,
For lack of love, be sure.
– Gwendolyn Brooks, from “the ballad of the light-eyed little girl”
Some dust to be sure, some nails I will bring, we shall nail the dust to wind –
Can you will your shadow into being stone
And will it rain when the stone turns color?
I’ll think up some fire, you bring your clay, and pray earth to give us song –
“I know the answer lies somewhere around wherever love resides”. By Amina, our daughter.
Over the past few weeks of our lives in lockdown, we’ve had the pleasure of interacting with a small family of cats in our building. A mommy cat, who we saw through her pregnancy and her extreme neediness and shrill meow, and her three identical ginger kittens. We spent one fun evening with them in the entrance corridor of our house, feeding their hungry stomachs constantly for about 45 minutes, playing with them, and creepily watching them sleep (the last bit was just me). Despite the kittens being identical, I learned to differentiate them quickly based on their personalities. The biggest of the lot was the most playful, always chasing after the string I’d entice his little self with. The second one was the most timid yet curious; he’d always seem to want to play with his brother but greater fear of this human made him run back off to…
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when the urchin boy
girl go out to sea I
ask them of that old song the one
their parents’parents’parents’ knew by heart the one about
water & salt –
when the urchin boy
girl go out to sea I
ask them of that old song the
one about fire & salt & fire & naught and how loud
how loud it was –
People ask about the Cold Mountain way:
plain roads don’t get through to Cold Mountain.
Middle of the summer, and the ice still hasn’t melted.
Sunrise, and the mist would blind a hidden dragon.
So, how could a man like me get here?
My heart is not the same as yours, dear sir . . .
If your heart were like mine,
you’d be here already.
– Han Shan, “Cold Mountain Poems” (translated by Jerome Seaton)
When rain falls with conviction
I ask the woman,
“would you like to buy the sky?”
“No need as dying is near impossible.”
makes sense as death is a triangle
two sides in want of the third –
When there is no rain or when
when conviction fails, the
woman is silent, sky is up
For sale & death has no neighbor knocking
on its door asking, “is there a
song we can borrow for the night?”
Within each one of us there is some piece of humanness that knows we are not being served by the machine which orchestrates crisis after crisis and is grinding all our futures into dust…In what way do I contribute to the subjugation of any part of those who I define as my people? Insight must illuminate the particulars of our lives: who labors to make the bread we waste, or the energy it takes to make nuclear poisons which will not biodegrade for one thousand years; or who goes blind assembling the microtransistors in our inexpensive calculators?
– Audre Lorde, “Learning from the 60s”.
there is nothing tragic in the
the logic of being moss
perhaps the mouth goes dry
maybe your vocabulary
the green is no longer just a color
your mouth is no longer dry and you spout words as if
your dictionary is on fire –
what is tragic is the logic of
the nongreen wage, the math of
the unfed mouth – what goes
dry is the unsaid word,
the less than word, the feet that
knew no ground no wall but wail
this unfed mouth is word now
that soots your green with rage –
These historic changes – that peaked in the 19th century with the creation of the full-time housewife – redefined women’s position in society and in relation to men. The sexual division of labor that emerged from it not only fixed women to reproductive work, but increased their dependence on men, enabling the state and employers to use the male wage as a means to command women’s labor. In this way, the separation of commodity production from the reproduction of labor-power also made possible the development of a specifically capitalist use of the wage and of the markets as means for the accumulation of unpaid labor.
– Silvia Federici, “Caliban and the Witch”
I shamed my soul, lost heaven’s place,
when I fawned upon the oppressor’s flabby hand.
– Lance Jeffers (from his poem, “And God got down before the fool”)
so you respond
as the poet has to, as the poem
can (should?) so you despond
as the times
will have you, as this cess is
wont to so you sit, quiet
arm in bloodied
ink, eye in sullen slight fire
brewing on the potted page –
an eye sees what the pen holds out as premise
the field of X an algebra of
an eye begins what the pen hollows out as seed
tyranny of X an unknown of
fsetting the known
an eye opens what the pen stamps out as possible
imaginary X an amalgam of
steel & need
speak! as the soul wins
over the tranformative
mixups, the brazen fouls,
the unanticipations; speak!
when the round etches wilt
each hymn around the bell
of winter, when the curbs &
bevels mix unintended; speak!
“Because the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak. We can sit in our corners mute forever while our sisters and our selves are wasted, while our children are distorted and destroyed, while our earth is poisoned; we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles, and we will still be no less afraid.
Each of us is here now because in one way or another we share a commitment to language and to the power of language, and to the reclaiming of that language which has been made to work against us. In the transformation of silence into language and action, it is vitally necessary for each one of us to establish or examine her function in that transformation and to recognize her role as vital within that transformation.”
And I remind myself all the time now that if I were to have been born mute, or had maintained an oath of silence my whole life long for safety, I would still have suffered, and I would still die. It is very good for establishing perspective.”
We can learn to work and speak when we are afraid in the same way we have learned to work and speak when we are tired. For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.
for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”
– Audre Lorde, “The transformation of silence into language and action”
A fear of place, of breeding to Haunt the place, of want and if Of place, the trove giving love Of place, the trove matching it And mess of place -
If it is possible to have in language – popular or literary – hooks that thrive on an awe of the hallowed; words, poems, books that convey the sense that the key to this fascinating ineffable lies in somehow giving up your voice in favor of the few who have crossed on to the other side, the side that looks down only to be relieved; does that not goad us in forgetting genocide every took place, and even if it did, what’s the big deal?
This tree will not sound out
Beginnings; it will not prepare
A crowd to tumble the heart’s
Mend to a clearing; more acid
Is the earth’s bile dream believing
Catacombs to be phoenixes, armor
To be insufficient and the roots
Of earth as linking the ends: here
Where it starts and the outmost in