Some guy in the miserable convoy
raised up in the back of our open truck
and threw a can of C rations at a child
who called into the rumble for food.
He didn’t toss the can, he wound up and hung it
on the child’s forehead and she was stunned
backwards into the dust of our trucks.
Across the sudden angle of the road’s curving
I could still see her when she rose,
waving one hand across her swollen, bleeding head,
wildly swinging her other hand
at the children who mobbed her,
who tried to take her food.
I grit my teeth to myself to remember that girl
smiling as she fought off her brothers and sisters.
as if she thought it were a joke
and the guy with me laughed
and fingered the edge of another can
like it was the seam of a baseball
until his rage ripped
again into the faces of children
who called to us for food.
weeping even though there is no place
for your tears to come from;
crying out even though you have no lips to shape the words;
struggling even though you have no skin
on your fingers to grasp anything with—
Your limbs twitch, oozing blood and greasy sweat and lymph;
your eyes, puffed to slits, glitter whitely;
only the elastic bands of your panties hold in
your swollen bellies;
you are wholly beyond shame even though your private parts
who could think
that a little while ago
you all were pretty schoolgirls?
Emerging from the flames flickering gloomily
in burned-out Hiroshima
no longer yourselves,
you rushed out, crawled out one after the other,
struggled along to this grassy spot,
in agony laid your heads, bald but for a few wisps of hair.
on the ground.
Why must you suffer like this?
Why must you suffer like this?
For what reason?
For what reason?
how desperate your condition,
how far you have been transformed from the human.
You are simply thinking,
of those who until this morning
were your fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters
(would any of them know you now?)
and of the homes in which you slept, woke, ate
(in that instant the blossoms in the hedge were torn off;
now even their ashes are not to be found)
as you lie there among friends who one after the other
of when you were girls,
I wrap my bones around my head
Speak through the holes
It sounds like math
is rounding the curves
or a mouth is light years
ahead of words.
The night isn’t dark; the world is dark.
Stay with me a little longer.
Maybe the dead know, their eyes widening at last,
Seeing the high beams of a million galaxies flick on
At twilight. Hearing the engines flare, the horns
Not letting up, the frenzy of being. I want to be
One notch below bedlam, like a radio without a dial.
Wide open, so everything floods in at once.
And sealed tight, so nothing escapes. Not even time,
Which should curl in on itself and loop around like smoke.
So that I might be sitting now beside my father
As he raises a lit match to the bowl of his pipe
For the first time in the winter of 1959.
Remember/ When you speak of our failings/ The dark time too/ Which you have escaped.
literature meme • 2/9 poems • belsazar (belshazzar) by heinrich heineHis face is flushed, his cheeks aglow,
The wine it makes his courage grow.
He boasts and blasphemes against the Lord,
To the roaring cheers of his servile horde.
And the King he seizes with hand of sin
A sacred vessel filled to the brim.
And he drains it hastily, drains it dry,
And with foaming mouth they hear him cry:
'Jehovah, your power is past and gone —
I am the King of Babylon.’
Before the sun could rise again,
Belshazzar by his men was slain.
alive and shall be: cities may overflow (am
was) assassinating whole grassblades, five
ideas can swallow a man;three words im
-prison a woman for all her now: but we’ve
such freedom such intense digestion so
much greenness only dying makes us grow.
literature meme | 5/5 poets | Langston Hughes
In Hughes’s own words, his poetry is about “workers, roustabouts, and singers, and job hunters on Lenox Avenue in New York, or Seventh Street in Washington or South State in Chicago—people up today and down tomorrow, working this week and fired the next, beaten and baffled, but determined not to be wholly beaten, buying furniture on the installment plan, filling the house with roomers to help pay the rent, hoping to get a new suit for Easter—and pawning that suit before the Fourth of July.”
Although Hughes had trouble with both black and white critics, he was the first black American to earn his living solely from his writing and public lectures. Part of the reason he was able to do this was the phenomenal acceptance and love he received from average black people. A reviewer for Black World noted in 1970: “Those whose prerogative it is to determine the rank of writers have never rated him highly, but if the weight of public response is any gauge then Langston Hughes stands at the apex of literary relevance among Black people. The poet occupies such a position in the memory of his people precisely because he recognized that ‘we possess within ourselves a great reservoir of physical and spiritual strength,’ and because he used his artistry to reflect this back to the people. He used his poetry and prose to illustrate that ‘there is no lack within the Negro people of beauty, strength and power,’ and he chose to do so on their own level, on their own terms.” (via the poetry foundation)
All the difficult hours and minutes
are like salted plums in a jar.
Wrinkled, turn steeply into themselves,
they mutter something the color of sharkfins to the glass.
Just so, calamity turns toward calmness.
First the jar holds the umeboshi, then the rice does.
literature meme | 8/8 poetry and verse | My Life by Lyn Hejinian
From here each day seems like a little boat and all the days are swept and tilted back and forth across an immense and distant bay of blue, gray, green. We were like plump birds along the shore, caught by the mortal breaks. Dimension, longevity, color, and pleasure.
You were a dialect I was once so fluent in.
You were the first word that I ever wanted to write.
A hundred years from now, someone will find us.
You, sitting like a stone on my chest;
my bones broken in half to make way for the weight
of all that you’ve left behind.