Monthly Archives: February 2018

Monday’s Verse 2/20/2018

Dear readers,

I had a great day at the record store last weekend and came home, wallet not too much lighter, with a short stack of music ranging from 1796 right up to 2016. Later, on Sunday, I found myself listening to three of the more recent albums in a row (1978, 2008, 2016), and all of a sudden realized, wait, all these artists are also known as poets! And not only that , poets who’ve been read on Monday’s Verse: Bob Dylan, the Silver Jews (band leader David Berman has published several books of poetry; see MV 5/4/2015), and Jamila Woods. You may remember that Ms. Woods’ "Ghazal for White Hen Pantry" was one of my favorite poems of 2015. It was published in Poetry Magazine in December of that year; I think I discovered it a few months later. At some point, in 2017, I heard the DJ on a local station say that the track I’d just caught the last 20 seconds of was from an album by Jamila Woods, and I thought, that Jamila Woods? Indeed.

So when I saw it on brand-new vinyl (blinding white vinyl, no less), I had to give it a listen. I’ve only heard it once, but so far so good. Her writing chops show, and there are some great references, both lyrically and musically, to 80’s pop music. More importantly, it drove me back to her Poetry Foundation page, where I recalled that she runs poetry workshops for youth in Chicago and works in that city’s nonprofit sector. And found today’s poem. I love poems about music anyway–we’ve read so many of them over the years, and 2 weeks ago we had another–so this one seemed perfect given the writer and my circular route, via turntable, back to her poems. I didn’t even look up who Herb Kent is, I think I’ll let one of our Chicago readers (not to be confused with the Chicago Reader) reply all and enlighten us. Have a great week, -ed.


Your voice crawls across the dashboard of Grandma’s Dodge Dynasty on the way home from Lilydale First Baptist. You sing a cocktail of static and bass. Sound like you dressed to the nines: cowboy hat, fur coat & alligator boots. Sound like you lotion every tooth. You a walking discography, South Side griot, keeper of crackle & dust in the grooves. You fell in love with a handmade box of wires at 16 and been behind the booth ever since. From wbezto V103, you be the Coolest Gent, King of the Dusties. Your voice wafts down from the ceiling at the Hair Lab. You supply the beat for Kym to tap her comb to. Her brown fingers paint my scalp with white grease to the tunes of Al & Barry & Luther. Your voice: an inside-out yawn, the sizzle of hot iron on fresh perm, the song inside the blackest seashell washed up on a sidewalk in Bronzeville. You soundtrack the church picnic, trunk party, Cynthia’s 50th birthday bash, the car ride to school, choir, Checkers. Your voice stretch across our eardrums like Daddy asleep on the couch. Sound like Grandma’s sweet potato pie, sound like the cigarettes she hide in her purse for rough days. You showed us what our mommas’ mommas must’ve moved to. When the West Side rioted the day MLK died, you were audio salve to the burning city, people. Your voice a soft sermon soothing the masses, speaking coolly to flames, spinning black records across the airwaves, spreading the gospel of soul in a time of fire. Joycetta says she bruised her thumbs snappin’ to Marvin’s “Got to Give It Up” and I believe her.


Monday’s Verse 2/14/2018

Good morning, acolytes of Erato! As has been our tradition, MV gives you Diane Wakoski’s (1937) "Blue Monday" on this Valentine’s Day. Bathe yourself in her aural stream. Love hurts, man! -ed.


Blue and the heaps of beads poured into her breasts
and clacking together in her elbows;
blue of the silk
that covers lily-town at night;
blue of her teeth
that bite cold toast
and shatter on the streets;
blue of the dyed flower petals with gold stamens
hanging like tongues
over the fence of her dress
at the opera/opals clasped under her lips
and the moon breaking over her head a
gush of blood-red lizards.

Blue Monday. Monday at 3:00 and
Monday at 5. Monday at 7:30 and
Monday at 10:00. Monday passed under the rippling
California fountain. Monday alone
a shark in the cold blue waters.

You are dead: wound round like a paisley shawl.
I cannot shake you out of the sheets. Your name
is still wedged in every corner of the sofa.

Monday is the first of the week,
and I think of you all week.
I beg Monday not to come
so that I will not think of you
all week.

You paint my body blue. On the balcony
in the soft muddy night, you paint me
with bat wings and the crystal
the crystal
the crystal
the crystal in your arm cuts away
the night, folds back ebony whale skin
and my face, the blue of new rifles,
and my neck, the blue of Egypt,
and my breasts, the blue of sand,
and my arms, bass-blue,
and my stomach, arsenic;

there is electricity dripping from me like cream;
there is love dripping from me I cannot use–like acacia or
jacaranda–fallen blue and gold flowers, crushed into the street.

Love passed me in a business suit
and fedora.
His glass cane, hollow and filled with
sharks and whales. . .
He wore black
patent leather shoes
and had a mustache. His hair was so black
it was almost blue.

"Love," I said.
"I beg your pardon," he said.
"Mr. Love," I said.
"I beg your pardon," he said.

So I saw there was no use bothering him on the street.

Love passed me on the street in a blue
business suit. He was a banker
I could tell.

So blue trains rush by in my sleep.
Blue herons fly overhead.
Blue paints cracks in my
arteries and sends titanium
floating into my bones.
Blue liquid pours down
my poisoned throat and blue veins
rip open my breast. Blue daggers tip
and are juggled on my palms.
Blue death lives in my fingernails.

If I could sing one last song
with water bubbling through my lips
I would sing with my throat torn open,
the blue jugular spouting that black shadow pulse,
and on my lips
I would balance volcanic rock
emptied out of my veins. At last
my children strained out
of my body. At last my blood
solidified and tumbling into the ocean.
It is blue.
It is blue.
It is blue.


Monday’s Verse 2/5/2018

Dear friends,

well, that hiatus wasn’t intended, but I guess in retrospect it was necessary, and that’s why it happened. I flew out to Phoenix on MLK weekend and just lost all sense of space and time. As happens in Phoenix. My interactions with poetry have been limited over the past weeks, outside of good music on my car radio. And there was also a brief moment at some point in the last 3 weeks when I had to recite "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" to myself just to settle the ol’ nerves, knowhattamean?

I do follow the Poetry Foundation and Poetry News on Twitter, so every once in a while a new poem just flits across my screen, and if the title or photo grabs me, I take a swipe at it. Like the title of this one.

Cornelius Eady ("Say uncle, or die!") co-founded the Cave Canem poetry workshops in 1996. The group promotes work by emerging African American poets, many of whom have passed through the University of Pittsburgh — and many of whom we’ve read in Monday’s Verse. He uses the rich traditions of African American music in his poetry, and the title of this one caught me because I assume it’s about Nina Simone, one of my favorite singers. The mention of keyboards and the gigs she turned her back on tells me so. I’ll assume most readers have listened to her a time or two; if you haven’t today’s a great day to start! Have a great week, -ed.


Your body, hard vowels

In a soft dress, is still.

What you can’t know

is that after you died

All the black poets

In New York City

Took a deep breath,

And breathed you out;

Dark corners of small clubs,

The silence you left twitching

On the floors of the gigs

You turned your back on,

The balled-up fists of notes

Flung, angry from a keyboard.

You won’t be able to hear us

Try to etch what rose

Off your eyes, from your throat.

Out you bleed, not as sweet, or sweaty,

Through our dark fingertips.

We drum rest

We drum thank you

We drum stay.