Saturday, March 29, 2008

I See He Sees by Chella Courington

An upward draft
catches Mama’s hem
at forty-first & twelfth
raising it in waves
around her knees & over her thighs
a pink-striped dress
dances like the awning
at Lida’s Cantina
when a man at the corner
clutching a boy’s hand
sees Mama naked
under her flying skirt
& I see he sees
wondering why
she doesn’t hold it down
& he sees me see him
before the light turns green

First Published in _Permafrost_ 28 (Summer 2006) under title of "Second Memory."

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ode to Joy by Chris Abani

John James,14,
refused to serve his conscience up
to indict an innocent man.
Handcuffed to chair, they tacked his penis
to the table
with a six inch nail
and left him there

to drip
to death
3 days later.

Risking death, an act insignificant
in the face of this child’s courage,
we sang:

Oje wai wai,
Moje oje wai, wai.

they went
on a
killing rampage.


even canisters of tear-gas,
fired close up or
directly into mouths, will
take the back
your head off
and many men
died singing,
that night.

Notes caught,
as blows bloodied mouths,
clotting into silence.

From _Kalakuta Republic_. London:SAQI, 2000.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Toi Derricotte

The Weakness
by Toi Derricotte

That time my grandmother dragged me

through the perfume aisles at Saks, she held me up

by my arm, hissing, "Stand up,"

through clenched teeth, her eyes

bright as a dog's

cornered in the light.

She said it over and over,

as if she were Jesus,

and I were dead. She had been

solid as a tree,

a fur around her neck, a

light-skinned matron whose car was parked, who walked

on swirling

marble and passed through

brass openings--in 1945.

There was not even a black

elevator operator at Saks.

The saleswoman had brought velvet

leggings to lace me in, and cooed,

as if in service of all grandmothers.

My grandmother had smiled, but not

hungrily, not like my mother

who hated them, but wanted to please,

and they had smiled back, as if

they were wearing wooden collars.

When my legs gave out, my grandmother

dragged me up and held me like God

holds saints by the

roots of the hair. I begged her

to believe I couldn't help it. Stumbling,

her face white

with sweat, she pushed me through the crowd, rushing

away from those eyes

that saw through

her clothes, under

her skin, all the way down

to the transparent

genes confessing.

From Captivity by Toi Derricotte, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Copyright © 1989 Toi Derricotte. From the online Academy of American Poets.