rain :: ron carlson

A person’s crying does not sound like rain.
It is not like rain at all. Rain has its
own ten sounds, none of them like crying.
What is rain? Sometimes it’s a patter.
Is crying a patter? Not to me.
Crying is like something wounded trying
to tell you where it is hidden. Or Crying
is the wah wah wah, you know, the real
wailing interspersed sometimes with words
like Oh no or No no no or just wah wah.
There are no words in the rain. There’s
wind, of course, sometimes, and thunder,
but what is that saying? Boom? Boom crash?
So which crying and which rain sound alike,
I want to know. Oh, there’s water in both;
Everybody knows that—water, water, but
it’s not even the same water, and as long
as I have lived and the hours I’ve cried,
I’ve never heard a tear hit the floor.
And I was listening! I’ve seen tear marks
on a letter, but I didn’t, and I swear this is true,
hear them hit.

affirmation :: assata shakur

i believe in living.
i believe in the spectrum
of Beta days and Gamma people.
i believe in sunshine.
In windmills and waterfalls,
tricycles and rocking chairs.
And i believe that seeds grow into sprouts.
And sprouts grow into trees.
i believe in the magic of the hands.
And in the wisdom of the eyes.
i believe in rain and tears.
And in the blood of infinity.

i believe in life.
And i have seen the death parade
march through the torso of the earth,
sculpting mud bodies in its path.
i have seen the destruction of the daylight,
and seen bloodthirsty maggots
prayed to and saluted.

i have seen the kind become the blind
and the blind become the bind
in one easy lesson.
i have walked on cut glass.
i have eaten crow and blunder bread
and breathed the stench of indifference.

i have been locked by the lawless.
Handcuffed by the haters.
Gagged by the greedy.
And, if i know any thing at all,
it’s that a wall is just a wall
and nothing more at all.
It can be broken down.

i believe in living.
i believe in birth.
i believe in the sweat of love
and in the fire of truth.

And i believe that a lost ship,
steered by tired, seasick sailors,
can still be guided home
to port.
(from Assata: An Autobiography)

peripheries :: ruth stone

This circle holding the afternoon sky is a lake
For summer business measured in stacked pairs
Of peeling oars whose dinghies all ship water.
Beside it on the trampled grass a carrousel shakes
And turns on an Old World instrument
The plink and plank and tinkle of a tune
Of plunging horses in fresh habiliment.
We catch the reins of enamel Pegasus
And lift the child until she is astride
A purple beast, where, wrapping infant arms
About his neck of wood, she whirls in space
And gallops off upon the turning wheel.
The horse climbs steadily the silver pole
Where cherubs hang, then slides toward spinning earth;
She sees the moving heaven of winged babes;
Rising to meet them, rising, she returns
To where our faces, staring in at hers,
Fixed, while her orbit whirls and sunlight burns,
Recede to artifact as her vision blurs.

what everybody knows now :: jacqueline woodson

Even though the laws have changed
my grandmother still takes us
to the back of the bus when we go downtown
in the rain. It’s easier, my grandmother says,
than having white folks look at me like I’m dirt.

But we aren’t dirt. We are people
paying the same fare as other people.
When I say this to my grandmother,
she nods, says, Easier to stay where you belong.

I look around and see the ones
who walk straight to the back. See
the ones who take a seat up front, daring
anyone to make them move. And know
this is who I want to be. Not scared
like that. Brave
like that.

Still, my grandmother takes my hand downtown
pulls me right past the restaurants that have to let us sit
wherever we want now. No need in making trouble,
she says. You all go back to New York City but
I have to live here.

We walk straight past Woolworth’s
without even looking in the windows
because the one time my grandmother went inside
they made her wait and wait. Acted like
I wasn’t even there
. It’s hard not to see the moment—
my grandmother in her Sunday clothes, a hat
with a flower pinned to it
neatly on her head, her patent-leather purse,
perfectly clasped
between her gloved hands—waiting quietly
long past her turn.

prayer for the mutilated world :: sam sax

what will be left after the last fidget
spinner’s spun its last spin

after the billboards accrue their thick
layer of grit masking advertisements
for teeth paste & tanqueray gin

after the highways are overtaken
by invasive forests

after the ministers give up their gods
& the rabbis their congregations
for drink

after new men rise to lead us sheep
toward our shearing, to make bed
sheets from our hair

after the high towers have no airplanes
to warn away & instead blink purely
toward heaven like children
with one red eye

after phone lines do nothing
but cut the sky into sheet music
& our phones are just expensive
bricks of metal & glass

after our cloud of photographs collapses
& all memories retreat back
into their privatized skulls

after the water taps gasp out their final
what then?

when even the local militias run
out of ammunitions

when the blast radii have been
chalked & the missiles do all they were
built to

when us jews have given up our state
for that much older country of walking
& then that even older religion of dirt

when all have succumbed to illness
inside the church of our gutted pharmacies

when the seas eat their cities

when the ground splits like a dress

when the trash continent in the mid-atlantic
at last opens its mouth to spit

what will be left after we’ve left

i dare not consider it

instead dance with me a moment
late in this last extinction

that you are reading this
must be enough

sonnets to madness and other misfortunes, iii :: francisco x. alarcón

translated by Francisco Aragón

your eyes show me how to see again
like mirrors of water, understanding all,
there’s no mystery they can’t solve—
a single glance is more than enough

your eyes see, listen, touch, speak.
are beacons on the horizon
shedding light on shades of life
beyond the reach of words

so I start to read your body,
pausing at every mole, as if
they were commas or periods

how I love to scribble on your chest,
use the muscles on your back as lines—
you and I are both page and pen

the weeping sea beast :: naomi replansky

Tentacled for food,
You range your underwater neighborhood.

To look, to like, to eat, to break your fast!
Before you move an inch an hour is past,

Your prey is past, a swarm of scales, an eye,
A round fish eye, a rude unblinking eye.

You close on nothing; slowly you untwine
Your many arms and trail them through the brine.

Now sailors at the surface hear you cry,
And from those heights they cannot fathom why.

For there are agile creatures all around
Who dart like flames through this rich hunting ground

And others who lie still and gaping wide
And make no move; but armies come inside.