It is all about speed and flexibility, about speed
and flexibility and teamwork and accuracy. We move
like neurons charging in your head, man,
choreography from the ground up,
meanwhile smelling the hot asphalt and exhaust,
the chainlink fence around the playground spinning
past the corner of our eye, with the traffic and storefronts,
what the ball feels like in our hands, hard, pebbled, orange
and black, what the dribble feels like,
the sound and pound, the sort of lope we adopt
getting on and off the court, the way somebody looks
when he starts to play, his face and his sneakers, it’s all part of it.
When we swivel it is a whiplash, when we pass it is a cannonball,
when we leap, we hang in the air like Nijinsky taking a nap,
when the ball goes in we slap each others’ shoulders and butts
then turn like a flock of barn swallows, you know our ancestors
were farmers, they had barns, they watched the birds
flying around in formation at sunset,
or a school of fish, you know the way fish dart
in unison, the way the tempo changes and they just bat off,
you can’t begin to guess how they do it. You could say
we slosh like waves in a bathtub, back and forth,
and when we dunk one it feels good, but
the way we play it, there are no pauses in this game.
From No Heaven (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Alicia Ostriker. Used with the permission of the poet.
EyeAmBic performs “Wonder Woman” at Winthrop University.
For as long as I can remember
My mother has been the strongest
woman I've ever known
A queen whose face is made of stone
Jigsaw puzzles in her teeth piecing the truth together
Her eyes are bridges
that connect the past with the future
She's what I like to call a straight shooter
Will tell you exactly how she feels
doesn't care how you think about it
wears her heart on her collarbone like a diamond necklace
Holds pyramids in her palms
So you can feel the royalty in her embrace
When she hands you a fist full of compassion.
My mama has a monument for a heart
Hieroglyphics in her tongue
decipher the elegance in her speech
She is a small, strong and proud woman
A woman who will put on high heels
just to walk to the grocery store
Will put on full makeup
And get her face beat to the Gods
Just to go to the gas station
Because she believes that Queens
should never leave the house looking like peasants
And she’s a superstitious woman
who thinks that aspirin and vinegar can heal anything
Im talking about arthritis gout, scoliosis, the flu…
You name it she thinks these things can kill it
And that's why I love her so much
Because she makes ordinary things seem remarkable
Like how she can take 50 cent box of noodles
Add some milk, egg and cheddar
Make the most delicious pan of macaroni and cheese
You’ve ever tasted in your life
So good it made Jesus smack his own mama
Rumor has it that
That she once put BigFoot in a headlock
smacked Godzilla in the face and told him
his breath stank
Killed Moby Dick
Rolled him in flour threw him in a pan
and called it a fish fry
Y’all my mama is a gangsta!
I'm convinced she's thrown a couple bodies in the river
Cause when I was younger
she would perform drive by butt whoopings
on me with a switch, extension cord, hanger
Anything if I ever got out of line
And when she was done
she would let me cry
but reminded that “she ain't raise no punk”
Showed me that being a man had nothing to do
with the size of your genitalia
but everything to do with the enormity of your character
My mama has the confidence of Cleopatra
The grace of Harriet Tubman
and the style of Michelle Obama
She is a war machine
With missiles shooting from her tongue
That have stopped grown men in their tracks
and brought them down to her knees
Living proof that the most dangerous weapon
in America is the voice of a black woman
And it shows that black lives do in matter
because she had birthed them and raised them
And fought for them
More than she has fought for herself
Because my mama is also a survivor
and just this past year she fought
her biggest battles yet
with a giant named Breast cancer
and a titan called heart disease
And although one of those things took her breast
it could never be strong enough to steal her heart
Not vigilant enough to
cut off her air supply
Because she is air
A floating force too big to escape
yet too small to hold onto
A constant reminder that yes God sent a son to save us
But he created a woman to raise us
Copyright © 2018 Angelo Geter. Used with permission of the poet.
One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.
Copyright © 2014 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.
The Stoli bottle's frost melts to brilliance where I press my fingers. Evidence. Proof I'm here, drunk in your lamplit kitchen, breathing up your rented air, no intention of leaving. Our lust squats blunt as a brick on the table between us. We're low on vocabulary. We're vodkaquiet. Vodkadeliquescent. Vodka doesn't like theatrics: it walks into your midnight bedroom already naked, slips in beside you, takes your shoulders in its icy hands and shoves. Is that a burglar at the window? No, he lives with me, actually. Well, let him in for Christ's sake, let's actually get this over with.
From Centuries by Joel Brouwer. Copyright © 2003 by Joel Brouwer. Reprinted by permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.
Boy-mischief and boy-carelessness and noise
Extenuated all, allowed, excused and smoothed away,
Each duty missed, each damaging wild act,
By this meek statement of unquestioned fact–
Boys will be boys!
Calm motherhood in place of boisterous youth;
No warfare now; to manage and arrange,
To nurture with wise care, is woman’s way,
In peace and fruitful industry her sway,
In love and truth.
This poem is in the public domain.