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Monday’s Verse 6/24/2018

A poem by Antwon Rose, Jr..

I AM NOT WHAT YOU THINK!

I am confused and afraid
I wonder what path I will take
I hear that there’s only two ways out
I see mothers bury their sons
I want my mom to never feel that pain
I am confused and afraid

I pretend all is fine
I feel like I’m suffocating
I touch nothing so I believe all is fine
I worry that it isn’t though
I cry no more
I am confused and afraid

I understand people believe I’m just a statistic
I say to them I’m different
I dream of life getting easier
I try my best to make my dream true
I hope that it does
I am confused and afraid

-5/16/2016

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Monday’s Verse 6/11/2018

Dear readers,

I regret last week’s absence; only made the more embarrassing that I was hanging out with MVers all weekend, we even talked a little poetry… but all that Kubb they insisted on playing just made me too weary to use my arms on Monday.

Matthew Zapruder (b. 1967) was one of the poets on line during the 1A conversation on modern American poetry a few weeks ago. We already looked at Tracy K. Smith and Kevin Young, his co-guests. Zapruder teaches in the Bay Area and has published several volumes of verse. He said something interesting about rhyme (which was also a point of some contention in the radio hour) in his work, "

rhyme is what I would call ‘conceptual,’ that is, not made of sounds, but of ideas that accomplish what the sounds do in formal poetry: to connect elements that one wouldn’t have expected, and to make the reader or listener, even if just for a moment, feel the complexity and disorder of life

"

I came across this poem a couple weeks ago and have been wanting to run it. I know that graduations have been going on for more than a month, probably. Nonetheless this is timely; should resonate with some of you going through it, or remembering it, or observing it anew. Have a good week, -ed.

GRADUATION DAY

Drawn by ceremonial obligation

up from sleep I woke and stepped

into the borrowed black robes

all ghost bureaucrats trained

to redirect dreaming pretend

we do not like to wear. I drove

my black car to the stadium

to sit on stage and be watched

watching young expectant spirits

one by one with dread certainty

pass before me, clouded

in their names. Then listened

to no one in their speeches say

you’re welcome for allowing

us not to tell you it’s already

too late to learn anything

or defend whatever accidental

instrument in us causes

all these useless thoughts.

Like if you walked for hours

through the vast black avenues

of those server farms all of us

with our endless attention built,

you could almost feel the same

peaceful disinterest as when

your parents talking and smoking

raised their heads for a moment

to smile and tell you go back

upstairs and read the book

you love about myths that explain

weather and death. Now it is

almost June and they are finally

the children they always were.

So more precise than anyone

has ever had to be, go forget

everything we told you

so you can fix what we kept

destroying by calling the future.

-2017

Monday’s Verse 5/29/2018

Dear readers,

in a rush, but many thanks to NY Times columnist Charles Blow for referring to this poem in yesterday’s column. I don’t know when Langston Hughes (1902-1967) wrote this poem, because the copyright date I’m seeing is from a collected poems published in 1994. Have a great week! -ed.

I, TOO

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.

Tomorrow,

I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”

Then.

Besides,

They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Monday’s Verse 5/21/2018

Dear readers,

In honor of Asian Pacific American heritage month, a poem from younger poet No’u Revilla, a PhD candidate in English at the University of Hawaii. This was printed in the summer 2016 issue of Poetry magazine, and I hope the diacritical marks and accents all come through in my cut-and-paste job. You’ll find the untranslated words/concepts from a native tongue–often bringing out family connections–common to ethnic American poetry of the 20th and 21st century. I took a quick look at the word "kino," which sort of branches across tons of meanings including a self, a person, a body, the ability to fly, to take form or embody, and also part of the terms for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person in grammar. All potentially relevant to the meaning(s) here! It sounds like the speaker is engaged in reading a tattoo. Anyone else who has a grasp on a word or 2 of the Hawaiian is welcome to jump in. -ed.

kino

your black inscriptions cite a kino lau,

whose feathered wingspan, nighttime eyes & pun-

ishing beak comprise mo‘okū‘auhau.

w/my oiled hands, I greet her, w/hun-

gering for mo‘opuna. “mai,” she says,

reciting from your thigh. “mai, mai e ‘ai.”

I have traveled from Maui a lizard, mes-

merized by dreams of ‘ōhi‘a & ai-

kāne, lizard filled w/smoke. arrived, I eat

transforming in the forest of your grand-

mother’s memory: from lizard: woman

dreaming: licking tattoo: permission land:

skin. traveling the night of your kino

to sleep your thighs, ho‘āo, ho‘āo, and wake.

Monday’s Verse 5/14/2018

Dear readers,

well, if it’s more Billy Collins you want, it’s more Billy Collins you shall receive. Yes it’s that easy; folks respond and make requests, and we play ’em. It’s like late-night college radio.

As I said to him personally, it’s been a long time since I read something as smart as Brian’s parts-of-speech analysis of "Introduction to Poetry." I especially liked how, imho, he avoided the torture-trap of the students in Collin’s poem, and instead responded to how the poem made him feel, even though he recognized his tendency toward its vices: " …he’s captured my instinct when I read a poem to figure out what it means." That’s good poetry, and good reading.

But I have to take issue with his claim that he’s only read 2 Billy Collins poems. Not if he’s been paying attention to his inbox! We’ve read at least 8 over the years here at MV, and I remember "Heyday," "The Future," and "Snow Day," in particular, getting heavy responses. "The Lanyard," too, and how fitting that Brian pointed us to that one on the week before mother’s day. I sent a printed version of it to my mom in a card a few years ago for mother’s day — she said she read it straight through 5 times in a row, and cried every time. So there’s one thing I have in common with my mom.

Here’s another one that will get the waterworks pumping*. It’s a relatively recent MV selection, from about 3 years ago. Some readers may recognize it as a secular gospel selection from their wedding… Enjoy, and please add your responses "to all!" -ed.

*For other BC poems, don’t hesitate to do a word search in our archives, the Monday’s Verse blog, which is also linked in our weekly Twitter posts, @MondaysVerse.

THIS MUCH I DO REMEMBER

It was after dinner.
You were talking to me across the table
about something or other,
a greyhound you had seen that day
or a song you liked,
and I was looking past you
over your bare shoulder
at the three oranges lying
on the kitchen counter
next to the small electric bean grinder,
which was also orange,
and the orange and white cruets for vinegar and oil.
All of which converged
into a random still life,
so fastened together by the hasp of color,
and so fixed behind the animated
foreground of your
talking and smiling,
gesturing and pouring wine,
and the camber of you shoulders
that I could feel it being painted within me,
brushed on the wall of my skull,
while the tone of your voice
lifted and fell in its flight,
and the three oranges
remained fixed on the counter
the way that stars are said
to be fixed in the universe.
Then all of the moments of the past
began to line up behind that moment
and all of the moments to come
assembled in front of it in a long row,
giving me reason to believe
that this was a moment I had rescued
from millions that rush out of sight
into a darkness behind the eyes.
Even after I have forgotten what year it is,
my middle name,
and the meaning of money,
I will still carry in my pocket
the small coin of that moment,
minted in the kingdom
that we pace through every day.

-1998

Monday’s Verse 5/7/2018

This one goes out to all my co-workers who competed in the Broad Street Run yesterday in Philadelphia. 30K+ runners, a straight, downhill course, and perfect weather conditions for a 10-mile jaunt!

Grace Cavalieri somehow hosts an NPR show called The Poet and the Poem, which I have never heard of! When I first started working in this field my co-worker Liz told me that pizza-making with her dad on Friday nights was a tradition. Only they didn’t call it pizza. They called it tomato pie. -ed.

TOMATO PIES, 25 CENTS

Tomato pies are what we called them, those days,

before Pizza came in,

at my Grandmother’s restaurant,

in Trenton New Jersey.

My grandfather is rolling meatballs

in the back. He studied to be a priest in Sicily but

saved his sister Maggie from marrying a bad guy

by coming to America.

Uncle Joey is rolling dough and spooning sauce.

Uncle Joey, is always scrubbed clean,

sobered up, in a white starched shirt, after

cops delivered him home just hours before.

The waitresses are helping

themselves to handfuls of cash out of the drawer,

playing the numbers with Moon Mullin

and Shad, sent in from Broad Street. 1942,

tomato pies with cheese, 25 cents.

With anchovies, large, 50 cents.

A whole dinner is 60 cents (before 6 pm).

How the soldiers, bussed in from Fort Dix,

would stand outside all the way down Warren Street,

waiting for this new taste treat,

young guys in uniform,

lined up and laughing, learning Italian,

before being shipped out to fight the last great war.

-2010

Monday’s Verse 4/30/2018

Readers,

full disclosure: It’s like 6 minutes into Tuesday. Also, I missed last week. I was on the road a fair amount last week, but hey, I got to hear an entire NPR hour on poetry featuring Tracy K. Smith, Kevin Young, and Matthew Zapruder. Smith and Young both have new collections out, and both have fairly public roles engaging with contemporary poetry: Smith as poet laureate, Young as the poetry editor of the New Yorker. Their conversation on "1A" on Wednesday was great. Smith was also featured a couple weeks ago in a fairly in-depth story in the New York Times Magazine, which I’m linking to in lieu of one of her poems.

Both she and Kevin Young were pretty adamant in their response to some sort of cliched questions and comments that callers and the host put forward, that poetry might be off-putting because it’s too precious, obscure, impossible to "get," etc. The response that Billy Collins gave in "Introduction to Poetry" is sort of the approach that Young and Smith took: that poetry is sometimes lousily taught, and therefore readers approach it with fear and resentment, but there;s no need to give in to this learned defensiveness. Smith said that the poem will tell you what it’s trying to say — if you listen.

In the article linked above, which I’ll let you read for yourself, Smith says, “I think there are lots of places where we have something very clear, compelling and welcome to say to one another.” The meditative state of mind a poem induces, she believes, can be a “rehumanizing force,” an antidote to the din of daily life, in which our phones continuously buzz with news alerts perfectly algorithmed to reinforce our biases.

I hope you will take a look and respond if anything in the piece grabs you. Have a good week, -ed.