[The day, with all its pain ahead, is yours]


the day with all its pain


The day, with all its pain ahead, is yours.
The ceaseless creasing of the morning sea,
the fluttering gamboge cedar leaves allegro,
the rods of the yawning branches trolling in the breeze,
the rusted meadows, the wind-whitened grass,
the coos of the stone-colored ground doves on the road,
the echo of benediction on a house—
its rooms of pain, its verandah of remorse
when joy lanced through its open-hearted doors
like a hummingbird out to the garden and the pool
in which the sky has fallen. These are all yours,
and pain has made them brighter as absence does
after a death, as the light heals the grass.
And the twig-brown lizard scuttles up its branch
like fingers on the struts of a guitar.
I hear the detonations of agave
the stuttering outburstsof bougainvillea,
I see the acacia’s bonfire, the begonia’s bayonets,
and the tamarind’s thorns and the broadsides of clouds from the calabash
and the cedars fluttering their white flags of surrender
and the flame trees’ siege of the fort.
I saw black bulls, horns lowered, galloping, goring the mist
that rose, unshrouding the hillocks of Santa Cruz
and the olives of Esperanza
Andalusian idyll, and answer
and the moon’s blank tambourine
and the drizzle’s guitars
and the sunlit wires of the rain
the shawls and the used stars
and the ruined fountains.

SOURCE: Poetry Foundation (2004)





no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here


SOURCE: Common Dreams

PHOTO: “Confetti at a Fascist Parade” from Useful Fictions by Shubigi Rao, Taipei Biennial 2016, Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Taken on January 22, 2017.


Woman With Flower



I wouldn’t coax the plant if I were you.
Such watchful nurturing may do it harm.
Let the soil rest from so much digging
And wait until it’s dry before you water it.
The leaf’s inclined to find its own direction;
Give it a chance to seek the sunlight for itself.
Much growth is stunted by too careful prodding,
Too eager tenderness.

The things we love we have to learn to leave alone.

SOURCE: Star by Star (Detroit, MI: Harlo Press, 1965)


a litany for survival



For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive


SOURCE: The Black Unicorn (Norton, 1995)

PHOTO: “Desaparecidos,” art installation by Toym Imao


The Letter



Little cramped words scrawling all over the paper
Like draggled fly’s legs,
What can you tell of the flaring moon
Through the oak leaves?
Or of my uncertain window and the bare floor
Spattered with moonlight?
Your silly quirks and twists have nothing in them
Of blossoming hawthorns,
And this paper is dull, crisp, smooth, virgin of loveliness
Beneath my hand.

I am tired, Beloved, of chafing my heart against
The want of you;
Of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
And posting it.
And I scald alone, here, under the fire
Of the great moon.

SOURCE: Poets.org


Saint Joan



When I was seven, I had a vision:
I believed I would die. I would die
at ten, of polio. I saw my death:
it was a vision, an insight—
it was what Joan had, to save France.

I grieved bitterly, Cheated
of earth, cheated
of a whole childhood, of the great dreams of my heart
which would never be manifest.

No one knew any of this. 
And then I lived.

I kept being alive
when I should have been burning:
I was Joan, I was Lazarus.

of childhood, of adolescence. 
I was Lazarus, the world given to me again.
Nights I lay in my bed, waiting to be found out.
And the voices returned, but the world refused to withdraw.

I lay awake, listening. 
Fifty years ago, in my childhood.
And of course now.
What was it, speaking to me? Terror
of death, terror of gradual loss;
fear of sickness in its bridal whites—

When I was seven, I believed I would die:
only the dates were wrong. I heard
a dark prediction
rising in my own body.

I gave you your chance. 
I listened to you, I believed in you.
I will not let you have me again.

SOURCE: Poems 1962-2012 (Macmillan, 2014)

music & lyrics

Here’s Where the Story Ends


People I know, places I go
Make me feel tongue-tied
I can see how people look down
They’re on the inside

Here’s where the story ends

People I see, weary of me
Showing my good side
I can see how people look down
I’m on the outside

Here’s where the story ends
Oh here’s where the story ends

It’s that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore
Oh I never should have said the books that you read
Were all I loved you for
It’s that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes me wonder why
And it’s the memories of the shed that make me turn red
Surprise, surprise, surprise

Crazy, I know, places I go
Make me feel so tired
I can see how people look down
I’m on the outside

Here’s where the story ends
Oh here’s where the story ends

It’s that little souvenir of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore
And whoever would’ve thought the books that you brought
Were all I loved you for
Oh the devil in me said, go down to the shed
I know where I belong
But the only thing I ever really wanted to say
Was wrong, was wrong, was wrong

It’s that little souvenir of a colorful year
Which makes me smile inside
So I cynically, cynically say, the world is that way
Surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise

Here’s where the story ends
Oh here’s where the story ends

SOURCE: AZ lyrics