Posts Tagged ‘poetry’
A rabbi, priest, and belly dancer walk into a bar.
Everyone turns their way, recognizing a joke
when they’re in one. The belly dancer, for all the swivel
in her hips, is modest, and asks the rabbi and priest
to go to another bar, but the rabbi and priest agree
that whatever bar they enter, they’ll face the expectation
of a punch line. By the time they order beers,
people have gathered as they would around a burning house.
The priest wants to explain to the crowd that he
and the rabbi take belly-dancing lessons for their health.
The rabbi only knows one joke, a knock-knock joke
about a bris that isn’t funny: snip who? snip you.
The belly dancer’s also a black belt. This skill
combines with her agoraphobia in a sudden burst
of wounding. Someone calls the cops. An Irish cop,
a crooked cop, and a blind cop walk into a bar.
The blind cop says to the crooked cop, ”I’m into the theory
but not the practice of roosters.” Everyone laughs
except the woman in back, who writes on her napkin,
“Why do people and animals in jokes always enter bars
in threes?” Just then, a hurricane, tornado, mud slide,
and stapler walk into a bar. She strikes a line
through her question and estimates how many nights
she’s spent in this bar or bars just like it.
The stick figure she draws on the napkin
has hung itself with an extension chord from a cloud.
“She has a beautiful smile,” the waitress says.
When the woman looks up from gracing the stick figure
with a skirt, she sees the waitress has a halo
and says, “You have a halo.” “Yes,” the waitress says,
“I have a halo.” “I would like a halo,” the woman says.
“I know you would,” the waitress says, pursing her lips
the way angels do when too tired to shrug.
How to Like It
These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let’s go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let’s tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let’s pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let’s dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn’t been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let’s go down to the diner and sniff
people’s legs. Let’s stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man’s mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let’s go to sleep. Let’s lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he’ll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he’ll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let’s just go back inside.
Let’s not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing? The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let’s go make a sandwich.
Let’s make the tallest sandwich anyone’s ever seen.
And that’s what they do and that’s where the man’s
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept—
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.
I’m helping to teach a course this semester for pre-service secondary writing teachers. On the first day of class, we all wrote “I come from” poems. This is an activity that comes from Linda Christensen’s fantastic book Teaching for Joy and Justice. Here’s the poem I wrote.
Where I Come From
I come from the thumb of the mitten
knuckled under by desperation, the ‘out of a job yet?
keep buying foreign’ sticker slapped to the slanted back of a ford.
I come from the shame of sweet lilac, of watching the scoop
of a girl’s calf, the scoop of a shirt, the scoop and lift of faces turning away.
I come from normal, from keep it down, from the deep yellow shame of pack it away.
I packed it away. I got a job. I bought American until I wanted something
in my life to last and that’s when things got really fun.
I come from learning to unpack boxes and theories and complications,
from learning to feel a woman’s glance and return it. I come from a place
that binds and packs and calls it freedom, calls it normal, calls it turn it up.
I have a little Sunday morning gift for you: Two videos of the spoken-word poet Rives doing his thing.
for janet mcwilliams
I could never finish
they were awesome
though now they’re all gone
The trick is that you’re willing to help them.
The rule is to sound like you’re doing them a favor.
The rule is to create a commission system.
The trick is to get their number.
The trick is to make it personal:
No one in the world suffers like you.
The trick is that you’re providing a service.
The rule is to keep the conversation going.
The rule is their parents were foolish,
their children are greedy or insane.
The rule is to make them feel they’ve come too late.
The trick is that you’re willing to make exceptions.
The rule is to assume their parents abused them.
The trick is to sound like the one teacher they loved.
And when they say “too much,”
give them a plan.
And when they say “anger” or “rage” or “love,”
say “give me an example.”
The rule is everyone is a gypsy now.
Everyone is searching for his tribe.
The rule is you don’t care if they ever find it.
The trick is that they feel they can.
Is it possible that spring could be
once more approaching? We forget each time
what a mindless business it is, porous like sleep,
adrift on the horizon, refusing to take sides, “mugwump
of the final hour,” lest an agenda—horrors!—be imputed to it,
and the whole point of its being spring collapse
like a hole dug in sand. It’s breathy, though,
you have to say that for it.
And should further seasons coagulate
into years, like spilled, dried paint, why,
who’s to say we weren’t provident? We indeed
looked out for others as though they mattered, and they,
catching the spirit, came home with us, spent the night
in an alcove from which their breathing could be heard clearly.
But it’s not over yet. Terrible incidents happen
daily. That’s how we get around obstacles.
Lifted from Poetry Daily.