“I can’t breathe!”
Eric Garner’s last words,
gasped as Officer Pantaleo’s hands
squeezed his windpipe shut.
“I can’t breathe,” Garner pleaded
as he died, begging—
every cell in his body
screaming for oxygen.
“No reasonable cause,”
said the D.A.,
when the grand jury choked on logic
refusing to indict even though
the medical examiner ruled
Garner’s death a homicide.
“I can’t breathe!”
“This fight ain’t over, it just begun,”
said Esaw Garner. In her voice
I hear every cell in her body
screaming, begging, pleading for justice.
New Albany, Indiana
I have been eating poetry
Wildly gorging on it,
like it was chocolate, and you know—
I cannot keep candy in the house.
I’d be fat as a tick, as Mama used to say.
Poetry is calorie-free, sweeter than syrup
but sometimes so bitter it stings going down.
I sat alone in a softly-lit hushed restaurant last
Saturday night, reading poetry, poetry, poetry
and savoring vegetarian chili, roast carrots and
a cold brown ale.
There is no happiness like mine:
so much poetry—no room, even, for dessert.
(An ode to Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mark Strand, who died this week.)
I saw a picture of
Michael Brown’s mother
as she heard the verdict.
I felt her mother’s pain
radiate into my heart,
into my safe flat-screened life
a roaring scream—
and with the pain,
my own weak shame:
in my white-bubble youth
I was taught justice would be served—
to everyone, it says so right here.
No. Justice fled, unarmed
was shot dead
in an alley
on a street
in the dark
in the night—
Justice was too threatening,
I think that was it?
Justice was gunned down
in a hail of close-range verdicts
excusing the inexcusable:
racism denied is still racism.
Sky above Ault Park, Cincinnati
There’s a river in my
a river of fathomless blue
ice-crusted snowdrift clouds
over bare-armed trees
and bare-armed people.
My teeth crunch an apple
my feet crunch leaves as
Monday’s snow melts into
tiny sidewalk rivelets.
A boy zigzags the lawn
hunting acorns he trades
for tired smiles from his mother.
Love flows like a river, unstopping.
Why wait for inspiration to appear,
surging onto your page like a whitecap
gliding over the sand
salty, foaming with words
Why wait, when outside the wind sings
naked trees wave their long arms,
even their sturdy trunks sway, drunken
Why wait, when the clouds above
skate across the cold sky
like children sliding on ice
Why wait, when the house seems to have weighed anchor,
rocking with every gust, creaking like an old boat
setting off on a choppy uncharted sea
So pleased to have my poem, Pennsylvania, published at Turk’s Head Review.
I feel like a river
so full I might overflow my banks
for years, so dry, now I am water, falling—
falling like the ginkgo leaves,
that lie scattered like footprints on the sidewalk,
so rain-slicker yellow, they are wet, oh
I had such a fever, once
I was empty as an old Halloween pumpkin,
scraped, drying, dry inside,
dying I was dying, I was lying
on my back, floating on the current
so hot the water sizzled when it touched my skin
I floated so long
hypnotized by love and the sky and
the fever’s fire
Once I was a wound, bleeding
Now I am welling up vivid as blood—
maybe I could be that red rose, blooming,
trembling in November’s
Ovid, Indiana, another view
the start of a poem:
driving home from Indiana
sunset blazing an orange goodbye
contrails crisscrossing the deepening sky
speeding through billows of dust
from the seed corn being processed
by harvesters crawling the darkening fields
Pendleton, Eden, Maxwell, tiny towns
brick houses, bonfires blazing in backyards,
November leaves burning, summer burning
up ahead, a great pyramid of golden kernels,
oh, how they glow, under sodium vapor lamps
such a harvest, this year, such a farewell
I read today that
four hundred forty beats per second
equals the note called “A”
I thought of you, of resonance,
of tiny ear bones trembling with words
of the resounding delight of being heard
How the word ‘vibrant’
rings like a bell of poured molten
cast like a spell, pure magic
syllables sometimes sing like plucked strings
music of minds in tune
My poor feet cannot stop
bewitched, like in a fairytale, cursed:
they cannot stop, so I walk and walk and walk
as if my head is no longer in charge
as if my heart might burst from
beating and beating and beating
This golden hour: cresting the hill
breathing molten light and
air electric between twin storms
air so clear it crackles in my lungs
Was I sleeping too long?
Where am I?
A wolf’s dogging my footsteps,
I hear him, throaty and relentless
breathing and breathing and breathing
maybe I’ve wandered into another realm?
Even my shadow, once so faithful, has turned away
nothing is the same anymore.