Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Like A Rolling Stone

Dylan's lyrics live on and on. Wish we poets could write with his clarity!

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you
You used to laugh about
Everybody that was hangin' out
Now you don't talk so loud
Now you don't seem so proud
About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be without a home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
And now you find out you're gonna have to get used to it
You said you'd never compromise
With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And ask him do you want to make a deal?

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you
You never understood that it ain't no good
You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
Ain't it hard when you discover that
He really wasn't where it's at
After he took from you everything he could steal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They're drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made
Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things
But you'd better lift your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe
You used to be so amused
At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

Monday, September 26, 2005


Mama says headstones quiet the spirit
give it place in a fickle world.

I don’t believe her so she drags
me to the cemetery and sobs
for my soul over her papa’s grave.

She tends to the sick and teaches
Sunday school until the doctor
finds a lump. Mama turns her face
from him in tears. "Why me Lord?"

I bury her close to her parents
near mimosa, shading marble
embossed with her likeness.

Years later I visit Emerson’s tomb
granite larger than a kitchen table.
Even this transcendentalist
stakes a claim to a piece of earth.

Chella Courington, from _Southern Girl Gone Wrong_, Foothills Publishing

Saturday, September 17, 2005

CD Wright

born and raised in arkansas and now teaching at brown university, cd wright's poetry rings with clarity and honesty.


Some nights I sleep with my dress on. My teeth
are small and even. I don't get headaches.
Since 1971 or before, I have hunted a bench
where I could eat my pimento cheese in peace.
If this were Tennessee and across that river, Arkansas,
I'd meet you in West Memphis tonight. We could
have a big time. Danger, shoulder soft.
Do not lie or lean on me. I'm still trying to find a job
for which a simple machine isn't better suited.
I've seen people die of money. Look at Admiral Benbow. I wish
like certain fishes, we came equipped with light organs.
Which reminds me of a little known fact:
if we were going the speed of light, this dome
would be shrinking while we were gaining weight.
Isn't the road crooked and steep.
In this humidity, I make repairs by night. I'm not one
among millions who saw Monroe's face
in the moon. I go blank looking at that face.
If I could afford it I'd live in hotels. I won awards
in spelling and the Australian crawl. Long long ago.
Grandmother married a man named Ivan. The men called him
Eve. Stranger, to tell the truth, in dog years I am up there

Linked at The American Academy of Poets

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Annie finds a dead hawk, drops it in her backpack
knows the spirit is near since the body’s still warm

raises her arms like a winged warrior
ready to migrate with the untethered

and takes off to her house where
she preserves the bird’s remains

as carefully as any shaman.
Washes him bone by bone

chants how the spirit hovers seven days
till the body is set for the next journey

douses the quills in alcohol
stores his down in a cedar box.

Chella Courington _Southern Girl Gone Wrong_, Foothills Publishing, 2004.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Remembering 9/11

in honor of the lives saved and lost, of those who gave of themselves tirelessly, of the heartache and courage we endure,
here's a poem by deborah garrison that first appeared in _the new yorker_, 22 oct., 2001:

I Saw You Walking

I saw you walking through Newark Penn Station
in your shoes of white ash. At the corner
of my nervous glance your dazed passage
first forced me away, tracing the crescent
berth you'd give a drunk, a lurcher, nuzzling
all corners with ill will and his stench, but
not this one, not today; one shirt arm's sheared
clean from the shoulder, the whole bare limb
wet with muscle and shining dimly pink,
the other full-sheathed in cotton, Brooks Bros.
type, the cuff yet buttoned at the wrist, a
parody of careful dress, preparedness --
so you had not rolled up your sleeves yet this
morning when your suit jacket (here are
the pants, dark gray, with subtle stripe, as worn
by men like you on ordinary days)
and briefcase (you've none, reverse commuter
come from the pit with nothing to carry
but your life) were torn from you, as your life
was not. Your face itself seemed to be walking,
leading your body north, though the age
of the face, blank and ashen, passing forth
and away from me, was unclear, the sandy
crown of hair powdered white like your feet, but
underneath not yet gray -- forty-seven?
forty-eight? The age of someone's father --
and I trembled for your luck, for your broad,
dusted back, half shirted, walking away;
I should have dropped to my knees to thank God
you were alive, o my God, in whom I don't believe.

--Deborah Garrison.  The New Yorker, 22 October 2001.  Reprinted in 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11,edited by Ulrich Baer. New York University Press. 2002.

Friday, September 09, 2005

love nola like one of my own

having grown up in the south and later taught in montgomery, al, for almost 15 years, i spent a lot of time in new orleans. i remember my first plane trip was from new orleans to birmingham, after taking the train to tulane for the weekend. when my dad turned eighty, my bro and i asked how he wanted to celebrate: take a train to new orleans and do some fine eating. every spring, i travelled there for the tennessee williams festival and stayed in apartments across from le petit theatre near jackson square. i ventured there for the jazz festival, seeing baez and osburne and the indigo girls in one concert. and i travelled there many other times for the joy of being surrounded by sounds and music and landscape and architecture and people i love. in honor of that beloved city, here's a langston huges poem:

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

From _The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes_, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Linked at The Academy of American Poets.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

honoring gulf coast evacuees: a poem by lucille clifton

the mississippi river empties into the gulf

and the gulf enters the sea and so forth,
none of them emptying anything,
all of them carrying yesterday
forever on their white tipped backs,
all of them dragging forward tomorrow.
it is the great circulation
of the earth's body, like the blood
of the gods, this river in which the past
is always flowing. every water
is the same water coming round.
everyday someone is standing on the edge
of this river, staring into time,
whispering mistakenly:
only here. only now.

lucille clifton
linked from Modern American Poetry:

Friday, September 02, 2005

overwhelming sadness in new orleans

living on the west coast and seeing at a distance what has happened to our beloved new orleans is heartbreaking! our deserted brothers and sisters need our financial and physical help now. once lives are saved and people rescued, then we can look to the source of the problem.

in honor of those in louisiana, alabama and mississippi and other deserted peoples:

Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes

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,

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!

From _The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes_, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Linked from The Academy of American Poets: