ARROZ POETICA by Aracelis Girmay (from "Teeth," 2007)

I got news yesterday
from a friend of mine
that all people against the war should
send a bag of rice to George Bush,
& on the bag we should write,
“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.”

But to be perfectly clear,
my enemies are not hungry.
They are not standing in lines
for food, or stretching rations,
or waiting at the airports
to claim the pieces
of the bodies of their dead.
My enemies ride jets to parties.
They are not tied up in pens
in Guantanamo Bay. They are not
young children throwing rocks. My enemies eat
meats & vegetables at tables
in white houses where candles blaze, cast
shadows of crosses, & flowers.
They wear ball gowns & suits & rings
to talk of war in neat & folded languages
that will not stain their formal dinner clothes
or tousle their hair. They use words like “casualties”
to speak of murder. They are not stripped down to skin
& made to stand barefoot in the cold or hot.
They do not lose their children to this war.
They do not lose their houses & their streets. They do not
come home to find their lamps broken.
They do not ever come home to find their families murdered
or disappeared or guns put at their faces.
Their children are not made to walk
a field of mines, exploding.

This is no wedding.
This is no feast.
I will not send George Bush rice, worked for rice
from my own kitchen
where it sits in a glass jar & I am transfixed
by the thousands of beautiful pieces
like a watcher at some homemade & dry
aquarium of grains, while the radio calls out
the local names of 2,000
US soldiers counted dead since March.
&, we all know it, there will always be more than
what’s been counted. They will not say the names
of an Iraqi family trying to pass a checkpoint
in an old white van. A teenager caught out on some road
after curfew. The radio will go on, shouting
the names &, I promise you,
they will not call your name, Hassna
Ali Sabah, age 30, killed by a missile in Al-Bassra, or you,
Ibrahim Al-Yussuf, or the sons of Sa’id Shahish
on a farm outside of Baghdad, or Ibrahim, age 12,
as if your blood were any less red, as if the skins
that melted were any less skin, & the bones
that broke were any less bone,
as if your eradication were any less absolute, any less
eradication from this earth where you were
not a president or a military soldier.
& you will not ever walk home
again, or smell your mother’s hair again,
or shake the date palm tree
or smell the sea
or hear the people singing at your wedding
or become old
or dream or breathe, or even pray or whistle,
& your tongue will be all gone or useless
& it will not ever say again or ask a question,
you, who were birthed once, & given milk,
& given names that mean: she is born at night,
happy, favorite daughter,
morning, heart, father of
a multitude.

Your name, I will have noticed
on a list collected by an Iraqi census of the dead,
because your name is the name of my own brother,
because your name is the Tigrinya word for “tomorrow,”
because all my life I have wanted a farm,
because my students are 12, because I remember
when my sisters were 12. & I will not
have ever seen your eyes, & you will not
have ever seen my eyes
or the eyes of the ones who dropped the missiles,
or the eyes of the ones who ordered the missiles,
& the missiles have no eyes. You had no chance,
the way they fell on avenues & farms
& clocks & schoolchildren. There was no place for you
& so you burned. A bag of rice will not bring you back.
A poem cannot bring you. & although it is my promise here
to try to open every one of my windows, I cannot
imagine the intimacy with which
a life leaves its body, even then,
in detonation, when the skull is burst,
& the body’s country of indivisible organs
flames into the everything. & even in
that quick departure as the life rushes on,
headlong or backwards, there must, must
be some singing as the hand waves “be well”
to its other hand, goodbye;
& the ear belongs to the field now.
& we cannot separate the roof from the heart
from the trees that were there, standing.
& so it is, when I say “night,”
it is your name I am calling,
when I say “field,”
your thousand, thousand names,
your million names.


It is difficult to construct a wholesomeness model when we are surrounded with synonyms for filth

"We do not have to romanticize our past in order to be aware of how it seeds our present. We do not have to suffer the waste of an amnesia that robs us of the lessons of the past rather than permit us to read them with pride as well as deep understanding."

"What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities."

"And when I speak of change, I do not mean a simple switch of positions or a temporary lessening of tensions, nor the ability to smile or feel good. I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration in those assumptions underling our lives."

-Audre Lorde


A Poem for Record Players

The scene changes

Five hours later and
I come into a room
where a clock ticks.
I find a pillow to
muffle the sounds I make.
I am engaged in taking away
from God his sound.
The pigeons somewhere
above me, the cough
a man makes down the hall,
the flap of wings
below me, the squeak
of sparrows in the alley.
The scratches I itch
on my scalp, the landing
of birds under the bay
window out my window.
All dull details
I can only describe to you,
but which are here and
I hear and shall never
give up again, shall carry
with me over the streets
of this seacoast city,
forever; oh clack your
metal wings, god, you are
mine now in the morning.
I have you by the ears
in the exhaust pipes of
a thousand cars gunning
their motors turning over
all over town.

—John Wieners

A Poem for Vipers

I sit in Lees. At 11:40 PM with
Jimmy the pusher. He teaches me
Ju Ju. Hot on the table before us
shrimp foo yong, rice and mushroom
chow yuke. Up the street under the wheels
of a strange car is his stash--The ritual.
We make it. And have made it.
For months now together after midnight.
Soon I know the fuzz will
interrupt, will arrest Jimmy and
I shall be placed on probation. The poem
does not lie to us. We lie under
its law, alive in the glamour of this hour
able to enter into the sacred places
of his dark people, who carry secrets
glassed in their eyes and hide words
under the coats of their tongue.

-John Wieners


Frank Lima and Soft Language

Poem from Amor

There are no bones in poverty and
pain. You advise me to write poems of
insanity, poems of a face eternally hidden

by laughter. Spain's greatest architect
slept with you a quarter
of a century ago. Now I am your youngest poet, and

fill your bed with ink. In the other world, in
other words, I threw away my shoes looking
for you on the throat of a

flower. The eyes of the brolacchan lack
the great gentleness of paradise. And I live in the vague
terror you will call and offer me a summer song and coffee.

-Frank Lima, "Inventory: New and Selected Poems" (Hard Press, 1997)


No Ticket. No Laundry. (stolen poems).

poem's suicide

You buy a gun to write a poem
and you know you are getting
way out of the line,
no matter how peculiar
your idea of a metaphor is.
Readers will think
you're really trying to kill them,
otherwise you're gonna shoot yourself.
Did you ever think about shooting a poem?
Or the contrary,
to give a Smith and Wesson to a poem?
A harmful group of words pointing
directly between your eyes
as you try to get the deepest meaning of death.

-Homero Pumarol

The Nature of Culpability Changes with Technology and Technique