i always thought sound was meant to indicate a kinda genuine, authentic, absolute individuation, which struck me as A: undesirable—& B: damn near impossible. whereas sound was reality in the midst of this intense engagement with all the sound you ever heard. sound shaped within a climate inciting performance as black matter .or. anti matter, as in against. sound a central body of “sonic” whereas you struggle to make a difference, so to speak, within that sound—& that difference isn’t necessarily about you as an individual but more simply trying to augment & differentiate the sound around you getting closer & closer to a never-ending where you are the proletariat in somebody else’s melodrama as both spectacle and spectator—as the drama unfolds—hold—hold on.
Copyright © 2021 by Randall Horton. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 12, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
At the end of every holocaust film I’ve seen and there
are not that many
they show real life survivors and the lines are
and some of us like me/stare into these films
down long tunnels of history
wondering how it could have ever happened at all
that a leader and his minions could be so toxic, poisonous
you’d turn against your neighbors
and you could be so oblivious, brainwashed, scared
desperate to be superior or to survive
you’d do anything-or almost.
They say never again
but it is again
as I look at the deportations
I’m reminded of Idi Amin when he cast out foreigners
and Forest Whitaker in the film The Last King of Scotland/when he played him.
And to see it is again
at rallies, at protests, they show the coat hangers and crude instruments
women were forced to use in back alley abortions
We say never again but taking away women’s choice
and Planned Parenthood it is again.
Today started out in an argument with a so called fan
who didn’t understand why I mentioned race so much in my new book
and that white man is not the first/a black woman
I wanted to scream HELLO haven’t you seen the news?
Didn’t you see what happened to Stephon Clark?
unarmed and shot in the back six times by police
And no one even cares what happens to women/
Black lesbians or lesbians of color
There’s no public outcry.
A student once wrote to me in an academic paper
that a parent forced her to stop playing sports
because they said sports made her more of a dyke
It murdered my student inside because she was an athlete
Yeah so the white guy I argued with about my book
said he was just giving me some good advice
from his experience as an empath
I said I don’t need your advice
I have reasons for talking about race and gender in the interpersonal
He said he was just trying to help me.
I’ll offer this non-sequitur
Winnie Mandela died a few weeks ago
She had great impact on me
I read she was nobility
But then of course the difference between her and say
how Princess Diana was treated
Everyone accepted and loved Diana’s silent/passive status
She was allowed to be gorgeous
No one ever associated her with that dirty colonial stain
There are moments in that recent Winnie Mandela doc that stand out to me
where she buried her face in her hands and screamed out
as I have so many times, “I’ve been betrayed”/the other moment
was when she said she was the only ANC member
brought to TRC and made to testify
Also that Nelson Mandela forgave a nation
but he could never forgive her.
I think what was done to Winnie
is also done to other Black women and working artists
Black women fighting to give language/resistance
but it only matters when a celebrity says or does it.
At Cape Coast Castle in Ghana after you’ve passed
the door of no return
there is a plaque donated to the Castle by Black tribal elders/it reads:
May we never sell ourselves into slavery again...
But it is Again.
1. Because man’s place is the armory.
2. Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.
3. Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up to them.
4. Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms and drums.
5. Because men are too emotional to vote. Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to appeal to force renders them particularly unfit for the task of government.
This poem is in the public domain.
I use a trick to teach students
how to avoid passive voice.
Circle the verbs.
Imagine inserting “by zombies”
after each one.
Have the words been claimed
by the flesh-hungry undead?
If so, passive voice.
I wonder if these
sixth graders will recollect,
on summer vacation,
as they stretch their legs
on the way home
from Yellowstone or Yosemite
and the byway’s historical marker
beckons them to the
site of an Indian village—
Where trouble was brewing.
Where, after further hostilities, the army was directed to enter.
Where the village was razed after the skirmish occurred.
Where most were women and children.
Riveted bramble of passive verbs
etched in wood—
breaking up from the dry ground
to pinch the meat
of their young red tongues.
From Tributaries (University of Arizona Press, 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Laura Da’. Used with the permission of the author.
1. It bejins in Berlin A Historical Case Study In Disappearance + Cultural Theft: Exhibit YZ: Brinj back to me Nefertiti Her Bust Take her From behind the vitrine For I know where to find her missinj eye Then put a woman in charje of all antiquities. She-law: just because somethinj is beautiful doesnt mean it was meant to be consumed; just because there are tourists doesnt make it an attraction. 2. everywhere anytxme atm her vxolatxon: guaranteed. sxlence bought or your settlement money back. objectxfactxon xn the mxrror xs closer than xt appears. please mxnd the wage gap. cautxon: not chxld resxstant to open hold down and turn away squee geez use daxly, mornxng, and nxght supported by an aroma of certified organxc heavens: for every gxrl who grows xnto a woman who knows the best threat’s: one she never has to make she sublxmates your sublxmxnal even your affectxon has been xnfected 3. this poem cant go on without hex i mean hex heeee x hex hex and hex hex hej heq hez hex she was stolen bought sold lost put undex buxied alive at bixth she was dxagged in blue bxa duxing a xevolution with vixginity tests she waits then she doesnt she sh sh sh shh she left you she the best thing that happened to you then she lilililililiiii she intifada she moves with two kinds of gxace she ups the ante aging by candid defiant elegance she foxgets but nevex foxgives She-language complex she complex she so complex she complex got complex complex 4. she spends her time anxious because she knows she is better than you rang to say she died from being tired of your everything she knows she is fiyne; gorgeous but she hates it when she infuriates and when she jigs and is kind she minds her own business except when she is new and nervous though she is origin previous and impervious she wont stay quiet she is razor sharp and super tired she undarks, vets, wanes, and xeroxes; yaks and zzzzs the day she dreams 5. Me tooa B Me toob Me tooc R Me tood Me tooe I Me toof N Me toog G Me tooh them Me tooi B Me tooj A Me took C Me tool K Mem too Men too Me tooo Meep too Meq too Mer too Me too Me too Meu too Mev too Mew too Mex too Mey too Mez too Me ((too)) Me ((((((((((((too))))))))))))
Copyright © 2018 by Marwa Helal. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 30, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.
(“My wife is against suffrage, and that settles me.”—Vice-President Marshall.)
My wife dislikes the income tax,
And so I cannot pay it;
She thinks that golf all interest lacks,
So now I never play it;
She is opposed to tolls repeal
(Though why I cannot say),
But woman’s duty is to feel,
And man’s is to obey.
I’m in a hard position for a perfect gentleman,
I want to please the ladies, but I don’t see how I can,
My present wife’s a suffragist, and counts on my support,
But my mother is an anti, of a rather biting sort;
One grandmother is on the fence, the other much opposed,
And my sister lives in Oregon, she thinks the question’s closed;
Each one is counting on my vote to represent her view.
Now what should you think proper for a gentleman to do?
This poem is in the public domain.
(“I am opposed to woman suffrage, but I am not opposed to woman.”—Anti-suffrage speech of Mr. Webb of North Carolina.)
O women, have you heard the news
Of charity and grace?
Look, look how joy and gratitude
Are beaming in my face!
For Mr. Webb is not opposed
To woman in her place!
O Mr. Webb, how kind you are
To let us live at all,
To let us light the kitchen range
And tidy up the hall;
To tolerate the female sex
In spite of Adam’s fall.
O girls, suppose that Mr. Webb
Should alter his decree!
Suppose he were opposed to us—
Opposed to you and me.
What would be left for us to do—
Except to cease to be?
This poem is in the public domain.
After reading a letter from his mother, Harry T. Burn cast the deciding vote to ratify the 19th amendment of the U.S. Constitution
My parents are from countries
where mangoes grow wild and bold
and eagles cry the sky in arcs and dips.
America loved this bird too and made
it clutch olives and arrows. Some think
if an eaglet falls, the mother will swoop
down to catch it. It won’t. The eagle must fly
on its own accord by first testing the air-slide
over each pinfeather. Even in a letter of wind,
a mother holds so much power. After the pipping
of the egg, after the branching—an eagle is on
its own. Must make the choice on its own
no matter what its been taught. Some forget
that pound for pound, eagle feathers are stronger
than an airplane wing. And even one letter, one
vote can make the difference for every bright thing.