Cuppa, Selina Nwulu #poem #poetryday #blacklivesmatter

Thinking about a poem with a migraine on the right side of your head. The one thing I noticed reading the poem the first time: I had trouble understanding what was going on, too much buzz. The second read and I skipped the sentences in italics. Didn’t do that on purpose. Both the buzz and the skipping are what this poem is about: people chatting with friends about their life, a crush, ignoring news in the background about lives drowned and lost.

Actually it probably is not the news, because the sentences read more as scattered thoughts. Maybe there is a third person listening. They go from sinking boats, long borders, back to ships, drowned people, memories, sinking people and sinking memories and then to the horrible image of bubbles, last breaths. A friend of mine drowned herself in the February ice. And how do help those people fleeing from religious armies?

I drank through a grande Earl Gray cup, going over this poem at home. I love the female gaze (if Selina identifies as a woman- not sure). A man’s face as a work of art and then he is quickly dismissed for a Friday Night outing. That was funny. We don’t know how to talk about art. And films spend so much time on men.

Do you know anyone with a face you could keep looking at, not someone necessarily that you have a crush on? In painting class the longest pose we did was 6 hours I think. Sculptures for sure. My nephew. People in youtube videos. Friends drinking coffee? The little boy face down on the beach.

And we spend such a short time thinking about drowning desperate people, refugees, that the kettle has boiled. I don’t have to finish the sentence. She didn’t finish her thoughts and we’re off to planning the weekend. And so am I, migraine still there.
Cuppa
by British poet Selina #Nwulu, April 30, 2016
.
.
Put the kettle on.

I’m not being funny but he’s well fit

no, you don’t understand

they’re all sinking in the Mediterranean sea

I’m actually speaking objectively here

our borders have become dense and long

it’s more an observation really

his face is near symmetrical

and their ships have burst into splints

it’s hypnotising

the sea is bloated with people’s limbs

it’s post attraction really

I’m appreciating him as a work of art

their memories did not make it either

well, of course I wouldn’t say no!

they’re all sinking in the Mediterranean sea

but that’s not the point

anyway, we still going out Friday?

watch how the bubbles float and pop.

Kettle’s boiled.

.
.
http://www.selinanwulu.com/poetry/

I want a dyke for president, Zoe Leonard #ImWithHer #HillaryClinton #VPDebate

I want a dyke for president.

I want a person with AIDS for president and I want a fag for vice president and I want someone with no health insurance and I want someone who grew up in a place where the earth is so saturated with toxic waste that they didn’t have a choice about getting leukemia.

I want a president that had an abortion at sixteen and I want a candidate who isn’t the lesser of two evils and I want a president who lost their last lover to aids, who still sees that in their eyes every time they lay down to rest, who held their lover in their arms and knew they were dying.

I want a president who has stood on line at the clinic, at the dmv, at the welfare office and has been unemployed and layed off and sexually harrassed and gay-bashed and deported.

I want someone who has spent the night in the tombs and had a cross burned on their lawn and survived rape.

I want someone who has been in love and been hurt, who respects sex, who has made mistakes and learned from them.

I want a black woman for president.

I want someone with bad teeth and an attitude, someone who has eaten that nasty hospital food, someone who crossdresses and has done drugs and been in therapy.

I want someone who has committed civil disobedience.

And I want to know why this isn’t possible.

I want to know why we started learning somewhere down the line that a president is always a clown: always a john and never a hooker.

Always a boss and never a worker, always a liar, always a thief and never caught.

— Zoe Leonard, 1992

Watch Mykki Blanco perform Zoe Leonard’s 1992 poem ‘I Want A Dyke For President’: http://dazd.co/2dptAgW

Our pond, Daniel Pettiward #WorldAnimalDay #poem #funny

From: A Choice of Comic and Curious Verse (Penguin)

The first verse is the loveliest “superfine gloss”, “pink lilies and things”, “wings of its duck”. You can see a pond with high mossy banks. You want to come closer but you know you shouldn’t try. It must be morning when the light is spun so thin that the gloss is barely visible. And I have to smile at the “lilies and things” where we are taught to expect beautiful words, more of a what we could see in the pond if were we there and instead Daniel finishes with a child’s sense of importance “and things”.

But who likes the soupy surface of scum? Children like gross things, maybe that is it.

Water-waved reeds… I read it as water-weaved at first and thought that was a fresh image bringing the mesmerizing warmth of a woman in a cozy room to shaded cool waters. Start of a dark fairy tale.
Water waving weeds. Weeds in water slowly moved by the ducks and the wind.

Our Pond

I am fond
Of our pond,
Of the superfine gloss
On its moss,
Its pink lilies and things
And the wings
. Of its duck.

I am keen
On the green
Soupy surface of some
Of its scum,
Its water-waved weeds,
Its three reeds
. And its muck.

Yesterday,
As I lay
And admired its thick skin,
I fell in;
I went walloping down
Till I stuck.

I am fond of our pond,
But I like it much more
From the shore.
It was quite out of place
On my face,
. Where it stuck.

Daniel Pettiward

E.J. Scovell, Evening Garden #poem #fear #nature #mondaymotivation

“Our salient into wild creation” the room a small fortification that presses into the garden. I have enjoyed evening walks in the dusk in large gardens and woods and felt scared when you all of a sudden can’t see leaves anymore, hardly the path, only dark grey tops of trees against nothing. The loveliness of dusk. And then a different space. Where you can feel how wild the trees are. And the soft padded coyotes. And somewhere hangry bears. A life most of us know little of.

The Evening Garden

Not dark nor light but clear,
But lucid with no source of light,
But breathing with no flow of air
The garden journeys into night.

Late gangling flowers lean—
Anemones, tobacco flowers—
Over the gravel, over the brown
And silken leaves that mulch the grass.

More than I did, I now
Leave in the lighted room undrawn
The curtains. More than it used to do
The garden presses on the pane,

Or seems it does, in this
One hour when all is seeming, when
It wars with shadowy lights in the glass,
And losing, is most potent then—

Only in this one hour,
Tidal, returns—day’s utmost edge—
Pressing with eyes of question or power
Gold wild-cat eyes on the window-ledge.

Walled plot of fruit trees, flowers,
What strength it wields, how hard it bears!
Why should it not bear hard? It has
Behind it all the universe.

The lighted room is small.
Now we exist: and now we fashion
A garden and a girdling wall,
Our salient into wild creation.

 

For more reading on this fab poet go here at Mezzo Cammin, Women Poet’s Time line!

 

Childhood…if you’re Black, Nikki Giovanni #poem #BlackLivesMatter

Nikki-Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

childhood remembrances are always a drag
if you’re Black
you always remember things like living in Woodlawn  
with no inside toilet
and if you become famous or something
they never talk about how happy you were to have
your mother
all to yourself and
how good the water felt when you got your bath
from one of those
big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in
and somehow when you talk about home
it never gets across how much you
understood their feelings
as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale
and even though you remember
your biographers never understand
your father’s pain as he sells his stock
and another dream goes
And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that
concerns you
and though they fought a lot
it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference
but only that everybody is together and you
and your sister have happy birthdays and very good
Christmases
and I really hope no white person ever has cause
to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they’ll
probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that
all the while I was quite happy

Black History Month. From Arnold Rampersad, the Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry.

Matsuo Bashô: Frog Haiku #FridayFeeling #poem

Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

Old pond — frog jumped in — sound of water.

The quiet we wait for at the end of today. Where a packed lunch and a bottle of tea makes a prairie… Where can we find quiet, serenity, frogs when you live in the city? What does this poem do for city dwellers? Has it become only a dream, a vision of a trip to other countries? How many of us have seen frogs, walked around ponds?

Public gardens, inside conservatories, walking through a ravine, Saturday and Sunday early morning, inside near empty shuls, churches, mosques. Maybe in coffee shops before the neighbourhood wakes up, libraries in the study sections where tiny birds wait under the table or on top of stacks, near the water… But the fear of quiet and of boredom and of having nothing else to do…almost stops us from wanting to be where a frog jumps into an old pond. A lot of us have stopped doing nothing or have stopped hiking, gardening, walking to places.

It must have meant something different for Basho. A large part of his day must have been silent, quiet, long. Frogs are cute little animals for him… what would be bring out similar feelings in us, when everything is fast, loud, devoid of animals except on videos we share?

Matsuo Bashô: Frog Haiku

The original Japanese:

Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

Old pond — frog jumped in — sound of water.

Translated by Lafcadio Hearn

A lonely pond in age-old stillness sleeps . . .
Apart, unstirred by sound or motion . . . till
Suddenly into it a lithe frog leaps.

Translated by Curtis Hidden Page

The old pond;
A frog jumps in —
The sound of the water.

Translated by R.H. Blyth

old pond
frog leaping
splash

Translated by Cid Corman

Old dark sleepy pool
quick unexpected frog
goes plop! Watersplash.

Translated by Peter Beilenson

Listen! a frog
Jumping into the stillness
Of an ancient pond!

Translated by Dorothy Britton

At the ancient pond
a frog plunges into
the sound of water

Translated by Sam Hamill

dark old pond
:
a frog plunks in

Translated by Dick Bakken

pond
frog
plop!

Translated by James Kirkup

Commentary by Robert Aitken

The old pond;
a frog jumps in —
the sound of the water.

Furu ike ya Old pond!
kawazu tobikomu frog jumps in
mizu no oto water’s sound

The commentary is from Robert Aitken’s A Zen Wave: Bashô’s Haiku and Zen (revised ed., Shoemaker & Hoard, 2003). The book includes essays on 26 of Bashô’s haikus, of which this is the first.

THE FORM

Ya is a cutting word that separates and yet joins the expressions before and after. It is punctuation that marks a transition — a particle of anticipation.

Though there is a pause in meaning at the end of the first segment, the next two segments have no pause between them. In the original, the words of the second and third parts build steadily to the final word oto. This has penetrating impact — “the frog jumps in water’s sound.” Haiku poets commonly play with their base of three parts, running the meaning past the end of one segment into the next, playing with their form, as all artists do variations on the form they are working with. Actually, the name “haiku” means “play verse.”

COMMENT

This is probably the most famous poem in Japan, and after three hundred and more years of repetition, it has, understandably, become a little stale for Japanese people. Thus as English readers, we have something of an edge in any effort to see it freshly. The first line is simply “The old pond.” This sets the scene — a large, perhaps overgrown lily pond in a public garden somewhere. We may imagine that the edges are mossy, and probably a little broken down. With the frog as our clue, we guess that it is twilight in late spring.

This setting of time and place needs to be established, but there is more. “Old” is a cue word of another sort. For a poet such as Bashô, an evening beside a mossy pond evoked the ancient. Bashô presents his own mind as this timeless, endless pond, serene and potent — a condition familiar to mature Zen students.

In one of his first talks in Hawai’i, Yamada Kôun Rôshi said: “When your consciousness has become ripe in true zazen — pure like clear water, like a serene mountain lake, not moved by any wind — then anything may serve as a medium for realization.”

D.T. Suzuki used to say that the condition of the Buddha’s mind while he was sitting under the Bodhi tree was that of sagara mudra samadhi (ocean-seal absorption). In this instance, mudra is translated as “seal” as in “notary seal.” We seal our zazen with our zazen mudra, left hand over the right, thumbs touching. Our minds are sealed with the serenity and depth of the great ocean in true zazen.

There is more, I think. Persistent inquiry casts that profound serenity. Tradition tells us that the Buddha was preoccupied with questions about suffering. The story of Zen is the story of men and women who were open to agonizing doubts about ultimate purpose and meaning. The entire teaching of Zen is framed by questions.

Profound inquiry placed the Buddha under the Bodhi tree, and his exacting focus brought him to the serene inner setting where the simple incident of noticing the morning star could suddenly disclose the ultimate Way. As Yamada Rôshi has said, any stimulus would do — a sudden breeze with the dawn, the first twittering of birds, the appearance of the sun itself. It just happened to be a star in the Buddha’s case.

In Bashô’s haiku, a frog appears. To Japanese of sensitivity, frogs are dear little creatures, and Westerners may at least appreciate this animal’s energy and immediacy. Plop!

“Plop” is onomatopoeic, as is oto in this instance. Onomatopoeia is the presentation of an action by its sound, or at least that is its definition in literary criticism. The poet may prefer to say that he became intimate with that sound. Thus the parody by Gibon Sengai is very instructive:

The old pond!
Bashô jumps in,
The sound of the water!

Hsiang-yen Chih-hsien became profoundly attuned to a sound while cleaning the grave of the Imperial Tutor, Nan-yang Hui-chung. His broom caught a little stone that sailed through the air and hit a stalk of bamboo. Tock! He had been working on the kôan “My original face before my parents were born,” and with that sound his body and mind fell away completely. There was only that tock. Of course, Hsiang-yen was ready for this experience. He was deep in the samadhi of sweeping leaves and twigs from the grave of an old master, just as Bashô is lost in the samadhi of an old pond, and just as the Buddha was deep in the samadhi of the great ocean.

Samadhi means “absorption,” but fundamentally it is unity with the whole universe. When you devote yourself to what you are doing, moment by moment — to your kôan when on your cushion in zazen, to your work, study, conversation, or whatever in daily life — that is samadhi. Do not suppose that samadhi is exclusively Zen Buddhist. Everything and everybody are in samadhi, even bugs, even people in mental hospitals.

Absorption is not the final step in the way of the Buddha. Hsiang-yen changed with that tock. When he heard that tiny sound, he began a new life. He found himself at last, and could then greet his master confidently and lay a career of teaching whose effect is still felt today. After this experience, he wrote:

One stroke has made me forget all my previous knowledge.
No artificial discipline is at all needed;
In every movement I uphold the ancient way
And never fall into the rut of mere quietism;
Wherever I walk no traces are left,
And my senses are not fettered by rules of conduct;
Everywhere those who have attained to the truth
All declare this to be of highest order.

The Buddha changed with noticing the morning star — “Now when I view all beings everywhere,” he said, “I see that each of them possesses the wisdom and virtue of the Buddha . . .” — and after a week or so he rose from beneath the tree and began his lifetime of pilgrimage and teaching. Similarly, Bashô changed with that plop. The some 650 haiku that he wrote during his remaining eight years point precisely within his narrow medium to metaphors of nature and culture as personal experience. A before-and-after comparison may be illustrative of this change. For example, let us examine his much-admired “Crow on a Withered Branch.”

On a withered branch
a crow is perched:
an autumn evening.

Kare eda ni Withered branch on
karasu no tomari keri crow’s perched
aki no kure autumn’s evening

The Japanese language uses postpositions rather than prepositions, so phrases like the first segment of this haiku read literally “Withered branch on” and become “On [a] withered branch.” Unlike English, Japanese allows use of the past participle (or its equivalent) as a kind of noun, so in this haiku we have the “perchedness” of the crow, an effect that is emphasized by the postposition keri, which implies completion.

Bashô wrote this haiku six years before he composed “The Old Pond,” and some scholars assign to it the milestone position that is more commonly given the later poem. I think, however, that on looking into the heart of “Crow on a Withered Branch” we can see a certain immaturity. For one thing, the message that the crow on a withered branch evokes an autumn evening is spelled out discursively, a contrived kind of device that I don’t find in Bashô’s later verse. There is no turn of experience, and the metaphor is flat and uninteresting. More fundamentally, this haiku is a presentation of quietism, the trap Hsiang-yen and all other great teachers of Zen warn us to avoid. Sagara mudra samadhi is not adequate; remaining indefinitely under the Bodhi tree will not do; to muse without emerging is to be unfulfilled.

Ch’ang-sha Ching-ts’en made reference to this incompleteness in his criticism of a brother monk who was lost in a quiet, silent place:

You who sit on the top of a hundred-foot pole,
Although you have entered the Way, it is not yet genuine.
Take a step from the top of the pole
And worlds of the ten directions will be your entire body.
The student of Zen who is stuck in the vast, serene condition of
nondiscrimination must take another step to become mature.

Bashô’s haiku about the crow would be an expression of the “first principle,” emptiness all by itself — separated from the world of sights and sounds, coming and going. This is the ageless pond without the frog. It was another six years before Bashô took that one step from the top of the pole into the dynamic world of reality, where frogs play freely in the pond and thoughts play freely in the mind.

The old pond has no walls;
a frog just jumps in;
do you say there is an echo?

Thirty translations of a haiku by Matsuo Bashô (1686). Many more versions can be found in Hiroaki Sato’s One Hundred Frogs (Weatherhill, 1995), which includes over 100 translations plus a number of adaptations and parodies.

The commentary is from Robert Aitken’s A Zen Wave: Bashô’s Haiku and Zen (revised ed., Shoemaker & Hoard, 2003). The book includes essays on 26 of Bashô’s haikus, of which this is the first.

Little Man, Komunyakaa #poem #child #BlackLivesMatter

Family. Community. I like this poem because they are all together and it looks like they are often together. The great-great grandmother loves the child so much, her physical hurts go unnoticed for awhile. He distracts her so much that the pain of loss, the faces of those she lost are not taking over her whole sky.

Coffee is sharp. And milk has a lot of sugar in it. It takes the edge off of coffee like sugar cubes do. You can’t forget the pain if it runs deep, but distraction is a healthy way of forgetting it for a while.

The child is enchanting all the women. And I guess the father would like to do the same. His way may have been the trumpet. Does he not play trumpet any more? He would feel that he could not hold the women’s attention if that was all he had. If his grandmother wakes up every night, he might be the one sent out to look for the burglar. Maybe he is tired and he wishes he could be the distraction for her, take her attention and his wife’s attention. I guess some fathers are jealous of their children. Or maybe he is just tired and his trumpet is on his lap.

LITTLE MAN AROUND THE HOUSE
Yusef Komunyakaa

Mama Elsie’s ninety now.
She calls you whippersnapper.
When you two laugh, her rheumatism
Slips out the window like the burglar
She hears nightly. Three husbands
& an only son dead, she says
I’ll always be a daddy’s girl.
Sometimes I can’t get Papa’s face
Outta my head. But this boy, my great-
Great-grandson, he’s sugar in my coffee. 

You look up from your toy
Telescope, with Satchmo’s eyes,
As if I’d put a horn to your lips.
You love maps of buried treasure,
Praying Mantis, & Public Enemy…
Blessed. For a moment I am jealous.
You sit like the king of trumpet
Between my grandmama & wife,
Youngblood, a Cheshire cat
Hoodooing two birds at once.