poetry of america

the signs as suburban haunts

ARIES: flattened paper boats scattered like the remains of a murdered animal along a dried up river, rundown motels with their blasted neon signs and smashed-in windows, pink streamers from some neighborhood child’s birthday party shuffling across the street like bright tumbleweed, a train rattling off into the breathless night & the trace remnants of a week old bonfire found in the middle of nowhere. 

TAURUS: chipped paint, shattered shot glasses lying across an abandoned pool table missing a few billiard balls, flyers rustling like autumn leaves against the tempestuous tides of the wind, advertising concerts & magic shows that took place in 2005, the sillage of old perfume clogging up the air, still thick as the scent of blood or wildflowers.

GEMINI: the corpse of a cigarette that hasn’t touched a mouth in months, a dilapidated playground where lost souls come out to play, threadbare curtains ripped like the wings of a dissected bird, strange red-brown stains across the hotel bedsheets, a gate grown weary with new-forming foliage & age, whining erroneously whenever maneuvered. 

CANCER: an empty casket, coffee rim imprints across hardwood tables, an old, tattered shoe lying haphazardly on the side of the road, a junkyard littered with ancient cars still soggy with stories, a pick-up with a broken windshield, a cadillac with a massacred paint job, someone’s motorcycle with blood staining the front tire, an askew portrait with eyes that follow you around the room.

LEO: a carnival horse with one eye scratched out, a daycare centre that shut down years ago, plagued with the colorful ghosts of children’s drawings still tacked to the crumbling walls, a spiral staircase that seems to shift direction when nobody’s paying attention, crunched up beer cans rolling across an empty rooftop & lichen kissing the concrete. 

VIRGO: the supermarket, flickering & eerie at night like the shadows unearthed beneath troubled eyes, owls stirring in between the murmuring trees, a single upturned grave in a cemetery that isn’t supposed to be notorious for hauntings, an old fountain still glistening with pennies that are no longer considered currency, a collapsed bottle of wine running the tiles red.

LIBRA: handprints imprinted onto fogged-up windows, red rooms crowded with developing photographs of people whose faces you recognize but cannot quite place, broken doll heads, a necklace that erupted into a sea of pearls, a deflated blow up kiddie pool collecting parched grass and critters, a busted arcade game & the laughter of people long gone still trapped inside the walls.

SCORPIO: books with grimacing yellow pages, someone attempting to sell you a cursed object on etsy, a leaky shower-head, a clock that’s stuck in time, a torn, unravelled couch sitting deserted in someone’s front lawn, candy stores that proclaim sales on expired sweets & ruddy patches of farmland. 

SAGITTARIUS: basements stacked with unwanted toys, a box of thin-mints, footsteps reverberating around the house when it’s 2 AM and you’re home alone, a burned down lemonade stand, that weird alien light in the third window of your neighbor’s house that never seems to get turned off, a certain rattling coming from the kitchen.

CAPRICORN: rain pummeling against damp ceilings, clothes ripped off the washing line, an empty aquarium, obscure little thrift stores that sell leather jackets from the eighties, gas station lights flirting with you from the distance, the alley where they say the vagabonds roam their night countries, sniffing up and dressing down and slitting the throats of angels.

AQUARIUS: those tiny coffee shops that fill you with nostalgia for places you’ll never visit, ‘JESUS LOVES YOU’ spray-painted across the sides of ramshackle buildings, an antique almirah scratched to high hell, a monster in the closet, the tunnel beneath the bridge that half the town believes is a gateway to hell, smoking up in trip mall parking lots. 

PISCES: halloween decor presented in shop windows a couple months early, visiting that lake where you heard that one kid drowned, the garage door slamming without cause or notice, storing fireflies in jars, drugstore makeup, birthday cake flavored oreos, a wheeled desk chair that seems to turn on its own when nobody’s in the office, a candle snuffed out on a windless evening.

“Are You A Feminist?”


I am five years old. My mother just told me to go fetch a sweater because an adult man would be coming over soon, and I need to cover up.

I am seven years old. A boy wouldn’t stop chasing me on the playground and throwing rocks at me. I’m upset. My best friend says it’s because he likes me and she told me boys are mean to girls they like.

I am ten years old. We just had our first health class in school. The teachers were trying to educate us on sexual assault. After class, my friends told me to scream fire instead of rape if I’m ever being attacked, because no one will come if they hear the word rape being screamed.

I am twelve years old. I just got my first period. A pad fell out of my book bag at school and everyone started laughing. Apparently, periods aren’t normal and they should be hidden at all costs.

I am fifteen years old. I’m in the office crying because a boy I don’t know kept following me down the hallway and grabbing my ass even after I told him to stop. The administrator scolds me.
“maybe you shouldn’t be wearing leggings if you don’t want that kind of attention”
she sends me home with a dress code violation. She marked the “distracting” box.

I am seventeen years old. I’ve just been slapped because a boy got angry with me after I wouldn’t let him put his hands down my pants. Apparently, I led him on by letting him copy my math assignment.

I am twenty-one years old. My best friend has bought me special nail polish to wear to the bar. She says it changes color if it’s dipped in a drink that has a date rape drug in it.

I am twenty-three years old. I’m reading this to the first class I will ever teach. A student raises her hand and says, “no offense, but doesn’t this stuff happen to every girl?”


So yes, I am a feminist. And when you ask me why, I will read this to you. Again, and again, and again.

—  v.j.v
Statistics...

I am a woman
I am black
I am a black woman
I am single
I am a single woman
I am a single black woman
I am a mother
I am a single mother
I am a single black mother
I am the mother of a son
I am the single mother of a son
I am the single black mother of a son
No matter how you put it.
According to societal standards, 
I am a statistic.
That makes me angry.
Angry that I am not seen as a person
A living, breathing, feeling human being.
I bleed when I am cut
I cry when I am sad
I eat when I am hungry
I get sick
I get tired
I feel happy 
I feel joy
I feel pain
I am real
More than a stat on a paper
My life matters
My son’s life matters
We matter…

#lillylady

#mslillyflowerlady

lillylady.weebly.com

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“I’ve left Earth in search of darker planets,

A solar system that revolves too near a black hole.

I left a patch of dirt in my place and many of you won’t know the difference.

I’ve left in search of a new God. I do not trust the God you have given us.

Take your God back, though his songs are beautiful, his miracles are inconsistent.

I have left Earth, and I wont stop until I find a place where my kin can be safe.”

“Dear White America”- Danez Smith, Rustbelt 2014

Revenge

Since you mention it, I think I will start that race war.

I could’ve swung either way? But now I’m definitely spending
the next 4 years converting your daughters to lesbianism;
I’m gonna eat all your guns. Swallow them lock stock and barrel
and spit bullet casings onto the dinner table;

I’ll give birth to an army of mixed-race babies.
With fathers from every continent and genders to outnumber the stars,
my legion of multiracial babies will be intersectional as fuck
and your swastikas will not be enough to save you,

because real talk, you didn’t stop the future from coming.
You just delayed our coronation.
We have the same deviant haircuts we had yesterday;
we are still getting gay-married like nobody’s business
because it’s still nobody’s business;
there’s a Muslim kid in Kansas who has already written the schematic
for the robot that will steal your job in manufacturing,
and that robot? Will also be gay, so get used to it:

we didn’t manifest the mountain by speaking its name,
the buildings here are not on your side just because
you make them spray-painted accomplices.
These walls do not have genders and they all think you suck.
Even the earth found common cause with us
the way you trample us both,

oh yeah: there will be signs, and rainbow-colored drum circles,
and folks arguing ideology until even I want to punch them
but I won’t, because they’re my family,
in that blood-of-the-covenant sense.
If you’ve never loved someone like that
you cannot outwaltz us, we have all the good dancers anyway.

I’ll confess I don’t know if I’m alive right now;
I haven’t heard my heart beat in days,
I keep holding my breath for the moment the plane goes down
and I have to save enough oxygen to get my friends through.
But I finally found the argument against suicide and it’s us.
We’re the effigies that haunt America’s nights harder
the longer they spend burning us,
we are scaring the shit out of people by spreading,
by refusing to die: what are we but a fire?
We know everything we do is so the kids after us
will be able to follow something towards safety;
what can I call us but lighthouse,

of course I’m terrified. Of course I’m a shroud.
And of course it’s not fair but rest assured,
anxious America, you brought your fists to a glitter fight.
This is a taco truck rally and all you have is cole slaw.
You cannot deport our minds; we won’t
hold funerals for our potential. We have always been
what makes America great.

-e.c.c.

Magda Portal (1900-1989) was a Peruvian poet, recognized as part of the literary vanguard not only of her native country, but of Latin America in general. She was also a feminist and political activist.

She was one of the founders of APRA, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance. She was exiled and even imprisoned for her political beliefs during the regime of Augusto Leguía. She served as the National Secretary of Women’s Affairs, and continued to fight for improved women’s rights in Peru.

I know, I know
If you could go back you
would walk with Jesus
You would march with King
Maybe assassinate Hitler
At least hide Jews in your basement
It would all be clear to you
But people then, just like you
were baffled, had bills
to pay and children they didn’t
understand and they too
were so desperate for normalcy
they made anything normal
Even turning everything inside out
Even killing, and killing, and it’s easy
for turning the other cheek
to be looking the other way, for walking
to be talking, and they hid
in their houses
and watched it on television, when they had television,
and wrung their hands
or didn’t, and your hands
are just like theirs. Lined, permeable,
small, and you
would follow Caesar, and quote McCarthy, and Hoover, and you would want
to make Germany great again
Because you are afraid, and your
parents are sick, and your
job pays shit and where’s your
dignity? Just a little dignity and those kids sitting down in the highway,
and chaining themselves to
buildings, what’s their fucking problem? And that kid
That’s King. And this is Selma. And Berlin. And Jerusalem. And now
is when they need you to be brave.
Now
is when we need you to go back
and forget everything you know
and give up the things you’re chained to
and make it look so easy in your
grandkids’ history books (they should still have them, kinehora)
Now
is when it will all be clear to them.
—  Danny bryck
Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Langston Hughes, 1902 - 1967

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) was a Chilean poet, and the first Latin American author to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. She achieved this in 1945, for her poems which deal with themes of nature, love, and Latin American identity, among others.

She was first recognized as a great poet when she won the national contest Juegos Florales in 1914. She soon became a widely acclaimed figure internationally, and worked for the League for Intellectual Cooperation within the League of Nations. In 1951 she was awarded the Chilean National Prize for Literature.