“Russia is big and so is China”

This poem is funny and odd. It reads like sentence fragments stuck together. It can be frustrating to try and grasp meaning from. For a bit you might think the poet is trying to bridge ideas and create balance or has been collecting statements from overheard conversations. Is this what an expanded conversation in tweeting is like? In the end it truly makes as much sense as some of our politicians, so the beginning (and the rest of it) is quite apt and contemporary.

“Russia is big and so is China”                                                           Steve Fellner

overheard statement from President Bush at summit with Chinese President Hu Jintao

Monopoly is fun and so is strip poker.

The weather is nice and so is this iced tea.

Porcupine quills are sharp and so is that pair of scissors.  Be careful, ok?

The baby across the aisle from you is loud and so is some rap music.

The GED was hard and so was bungee jumping.

Pink is a color and so is salmon.  Salmon is also a fish.

Bruce Willis is still hot and so is Kurt Cobain, though he’s dead.

Stoplights are annoying and so are brussel sprouts.

Vitamin C is good for you and so is exercise.

I could stand to lose ten pounds and so could you.

I am lazy and you don’t have anywhere else to be.

North Korea is fidgety and so is my little sister.  No Ritalin for her.

I am horny and so are most of my dumb friends.

Seven is more than three and so is eight.

The news is strange and so is my hairdresser.

Model airplanes are frustrating and so are summits.

Poisoned Halloween candy is creepy and so is Anthrax.

Used dental floss is icky and so are missiles.

Nuclear weapons are large and so is my penis.

Metaphors are always obvious and so is common sense.

Wisdom is cheap and so is bus fare.

Solar energy is easy and so is my ex-boyfriend Nick.

Armageddon is a bummer and so is Picasso.

Responsibility

This isn’t a poem that leaps gladly from the lips, rather it stumbles on the tongue. It helps to know the poet is a teacher and activist. From accounts that I’ve read, her activism took first priority in her life. With all of that in mind, I hope you’ll find the poem of value.

It helps to know poets have long been feared by governments striving to overcome those who pursue freedom of voice. Poets have been executed and jailed for such. When you get to the end of the poem don’t miss the words about Cassandra. She was a prophet whose words were discounted yet her prophecies came to pass.

Responsibility                                                                                    Grace Paley

It is the responsibility of society to let the poet be a poet

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the poet to stand on street corners

giving out poems and beautifully written leaflets

also leaflets you can hardly bear to look at

because of the screaming rhetoric

It is the responsibility of the poet to be lazy

to hang out and prophesy

It is the responsibility of the poet not to pay war taxes

It is the responsibility of the poet to go in and out of ivory

towers and two-room apartments on Avenue C

and buckwheat fields and army camps

It is the responsibility of the male poet to be a woman

It is the responsibility of the female poet to be a woman

It is the poet’s responsibility to speak truth to power as the

Quakers say

It is the poet’s responsibility to learn the truth from the

powerless

It is the responsibility of the poet to say many times: there is no

freedom without justice and this means economic

justice and love justice

It is the responsibility of the poet to sing this in all the original

and traditional tunes of singing and telling poems

It is the responsibility of the poet to listen to gossip and pass it

on in the way storytellers decant the story of life

There is no freedom without fear and bravery there is no

freedom unless

earth and air and water continue and children

also continue

It is the responsibility of the poet to be a woman to keep an eye on

this world and cry out like Cassandra, but be

listened to this time.

 

Tits

This poem doesn’t go where you think it’s going. Delightful images.

TITS                                                                                                   Carol Gordon

 

After a run or ballgame,

the last whistle, scores

boxed in columns,

the women enter the locker room

At the Y. Unzip, unhook.

The lines on their skin

relate imprinted stories.

A British square of buckle, button regiment,

recurve of wire.

After a shower the women

circle the hot tub

like a sanctuary after a dry trek.

Sister, memory, forgive

the giraffe her superior view,

the lioness’ ferocious kindness,

the elephant,

her perfect hips.

Every thigh, each argument

of elbow eased with water,

the women step from the pool

setting free the soft birds

of their breasts.

Plump gulls, sparrow,

owls of a wise eye.

Puffins, auklets, pipers, dippers,

robins, turnstones, tits.

To Whoever Set My Truck on Fire

This is a great poem for discussion, but you may not like how it progresses. I used it in class during election week when many of us were distraught and did not know how we would continue to dialogue with half of our country. The opening lines are beautiful. And, who hasn’t started off on a good note trying to sort something disturbing out only to dissemble into something less than our best selves?

To Whoever Set My Truck On Fire                                                             Steve Scafidi

But let us be friends awhile and understand our differences

are small and that they float like dust in sunny rooms

and let us settle into the good work of being strangers

simply who have something to say in the middle of the night

for you have said something that interests me—something of flames,

footsteps and the hard heavy charge of an engine gunning away

into the June cool of four in the morning here in West Virginia

where last night I woke to the sound of a door slamming,

five or six fading footsteps, and through the window saw

my impossible truck bright orange like a maverick sun and

ran—I did—panicked in my underwear bobbling the dumb

extinguisher too complex it seemed for putting out fires

and so grabbed a skillet and jumped about like one

needing to piss while the faucet like honey issued its slow

sweet water and you I noticed then were watching

from your idling car far enough away I could not make

your plate number but you could see me—half naked

figuring out the puzzle of a fire thirty seconds from

a dream never to be remembered while the local chaos

of a growing fire crackled through the books and boots

burning in my truck, you bastard, you watched as I sprayed

finally the flames with a gardenhose under the moon

and yes I cut what was surely a ridiculous figure there

and worsened it later that morning after the bored police

drove home lazily and I stalked the road in front of my house

with an ax in my hand and walked into the road after

every car to memorize the plates of who might have done this:

LB 7329, NT 7663, and you may have passed by—

I don’t know—you may have passed by as I committed

the innocent numbers of neighbors to memory and maybe

you were miles away and I, like the woodsman of fairy tales,

threatened all with my bright ax shining with the evil

joy of vengeance and mad hunger to bring harm—heavy

harm—to the coward who did this and if I find you,

my friend, I promise you I will lay the sharp blade deep

into your body until the humid grabbing hands of what must be

death have mercy and take you away from the constant

murderous swinging my mind makes my words make

swinging down on your body and may your children

weep a thousand tears at your small and bewildered grave.

Ten Reasons Your Prayer Diet Won’t Work

I don’t know a woman who is happy with her weight. That said, there’s no reason why you can’t have fun coming up with a new life plan.

Ten Reasons Your Prayer Diet Won’t Work                                 Nancy Pagh

1.

Praying to god that you will be thin

instead of eating

only burns eleven calories

at average fervency.

2.

Jesus had large love handles.

I know in the pictures he’s skinny

and White

with slightly Italian-esque features,

but he understood the value

of keeping on a few extra pounds

to tide him over in the desert.

If you are a child of god

this runs in your family.

3.

All food miracles create more:

more loaves, more fishes, more wine, more manna…

When you ask god to do something about fat

expect multiplication.

4.

The only time you used to talk to god

was giving thanks before high-caloric meals.

Your fat cells remember this

and begin to swell

even at the mention of his name.

5.

God has stock in Doritos.

6.

Eventually you will tell yourself

that god created you this way

and who are you to disagree?

7.

Contrary to popular belief,

eating is not a mortal sin per se-

and god believes in free will.

8.

Bread & wine. Communion would suggest

god endorses Mediterranean Diet

instead.

9.

Blasphemy, to waste German chocolate cake.

10.

God is characterized by excess;

your only proof that god exists

is that the natural world is more than it has to be.

 

Perhaps the closest you’ve come

to acting in her perfect image

was building your sacred hips.

Ego

I chose this poem for the science theme as it would not be my most natural way of viewing the world. This is good for it gives my students the opportunity to explore more ideas that might inspire them. And, we all remember what it feels like wanting to be the favorite student of a teacher. (See poem.) As far as writing in response to the poem, I found myself able to use recent tidbits of scientific news and relate them to my life and things that have been on my mind about who I am. It was fun and more relevant than I thought in expressing a new weaving of thoughts.

Ego                                                                                             Denise Duhamel

 

I just didn’t get it—

even with the teacher holding an orange (the earth) in one hand

and a lemon (the moon) in the other,

her favorite student (the sun) standing behind her with a flashlight.

I just couldn’t grasp it—

this whole citrus universe, these bumpy planets revolving so slowly

no one could even see themselves moving.

I used to think if I could only concentrate hard enough

I could be the one person to feel what no one else could,

sense a small tug from the ground, a sky shift, the earth changing gears.

Even though I was only one mini-speck on a speck,

even though I was merely a pinprick in one goosebump on the orange,

I was sure then I was the most specially perceptive, perceptively sensitive.

I was sure then my mother was the only mother to snap,

“The world doesn’t revolve around you!”

The earth was fragile and mostly water,

just the way the orange was mostly water if you peeled it

just the way I was mostly water if you peeled me.

Looking back on that third grade science demonstration,

I can understand why some people gave up on fame or religion or cures—

especially people who have an understanding

of the excruciating crawl of the world,

who have a well-developed sense of spatial reasoning

and the tininess that it is to be one of us.

But not me—even now I wouldn’t mind being god, the force

who spins the planets the way I spin a globe, a basketball, a yo-yo.

I wouldn’t mind being that teacher who chooses the fruit,

or that favorite kid who gives the moon its glow.

 

 

Hate Hotel

This poem is fun unless you hate it! Some people find it disturbing, others funny. I like any poem that is great for discussion and this one is. Make sure you share it. I relate to the emotions in the poem and enjoyed the images. The militaristic view is masculine and very relevant to our current world. I love the last stanza, it awoke my heart.

Hate Hotel                                                                              Tony Hoagland

Sometimes I like to think about the people I hate.

I take my room at the Hate Hotel, and I sit and flip

through the heavy pages of the photographs,

the rogue’s gallery of the faces I loathe.

My lamp of resentment sputters twice, then comes on strong,

filling the room with its red light.

That’s how hate works—it thrills you and kills you

with its deep heat. Sometimes I like to sit and soak

in the Jacuzzi of my hate, hatching my plots

like a general running his hands over a military map—

and my bombers have been sent out

over the dwellings of my foes,

and are releasing their cargo of ill will

on the targets below, the hate bombs falling in silence

into the lives of the hate-

recipients. From the high window of my office

in the Government of Hate,

where I stay up late, working hard,

where I make no bargains, entertain no

scenarios of reconciliation,

I watch the hot flowers flare up all across

the city, the state, the continent—

I sip my soft drink of hate on the rocks

and let the punishment go on unstopped,

—again and again I let hate

get pregnant and give birth

to hate which gets pregnant

and gives birth again—

and only after I feel that hate

has trampled the land, burned it down

to some kingdom come of cautery and ash.

Only after it has waxed and waned and waxed all night

only then can I let hate

creep back in the door. Curl up at my feet

and sleep. Little pussycat hate. Home sweet hate.

The Seven of Pentacles

If you are a tarot card user you are likely familiar with the pentacles suit and perhaps the gardener who is represented in the image on most decks. Choosing the most positive reading, the card is about the harvest after a lot of work tending the plantings. In the poem, Marge Piercy makes the gardener feminine which is not traditional. But it is a new world, after all! Take your time with the poem, gardening is a great metaphor for the layers of living we must work through.

The Seven Of Pentacles                                            Marge Piercy

 

Under a sky the color of pea soup

she is looking at her work growing away there

actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans

as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.

If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,

if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,

if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,

if the praying mantis comes and the ladybugs and the bees,

then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.

 

Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.

You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.

More than half the tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.

Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.

Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.

Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.

Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.

 

Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.

Live a life you can endure: Make love that is loving.

Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,

a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us

interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.

 

Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:

reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.

This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,

for every gardener knows that after the digging, after

the planting,

after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.

Mother Lets Off a Little Steam

This poem is a wild ride well worth a car trip. The life that is embedded in the story through the images and dialogue is wonderful. The mother and daughters are very familiar as well as the conflicts inherit to family and writing dilemmas. Enjoy!

Mother Lets Off a Little Steam                                              J. Allyn Rosser

I don’t know how I’m expected to get anything done

with these two constantly at odds, cranky sisters

in the backseat on a long ride to the wrong place.

Muse wants the Tunnel of Love on a roller coaster,

and to be spirited there on something more elegant

than a carpet. She’d better marry rich, is all I can say.

Truth wants a deserted rest area with a flat rock to sit on.

I’m not kidding. This is what she’d like the most.

A view of flat rock from a seat of flat rock.

There’s a scuffle. “Do I have to stop this car or what?”

But I’m going seventy, we’re late, it’s rush hour,

there’s no berm to stop on and they both know it.

Muse pops up in the rearview, rhinestone ruby shades

bouncing painful darts of light into the corner of my eye.

“I have to go again,” she hiccups. It’s a ruse.

She wants, as always, a new gewgaw, a rainbow slurpee,

or one of those impossible-to-lick seriously huge lollipops.

Her candy breath reaches and nearly sickens me.

Whereas Truth is so stolid, so smugly abstemious,

it makes you want to shake her hard, knock the wiser-than-

you-know gaze askew, disturb the pristine implacability

of those conspicuously ringless hands folded in her lap.

Placid as a cow in the shade on a hot day.

Oh I love them, you know, but on days like this—

Sit down,” Truth says, levelly. “Try and make me!”

In terms of strength you wouldn’t want to put your money

on Muse. Truth has always been a good eater,

fond of climbing outdoors. Built like a moose.

Her sister craves exotic sauces and chocolate,

and some weird combinations of tart and savory,

but try getting her to eat one pea. One grain of plain rice.

She’s slight in form but tricky, reckless, unpredictable,

and in certain situations this defeats Truth,

who simply has to be right about everything.

So in spite of her years and her methodical,

relentless scrutiny, she often misses the point.

Meanwhile her sister will just up and blurt something

that at first makes no sense, but then it turns out

to be astonishingly right, the more you think about it.

That’s what really ticks off Truth, when we say

“the more you think about it.” Her eyes narrow

and her face just sort of shuts down. You pity her then.

She likes her facts neatly stacked on the table.

Muse shrugs a lot, changes sides like a fish,

isn’t fazed by paradox. I think she thrives on it.

“Sit,” Truth says again, “DOWN.” “Why should I,

you’re jealous because I’m taller than you.”

“You are not,” “Am too.” “Are not.” “My head

almost touches when I stand but you have to stoop,

so I’m taller.” “No way,” “My eyes are higher. See?”

There is a muffled thump. “Don’t make me stop this car,”

I say stupidly, but else can I do? Muse snickers,

Truth snorts softly. I can’t help it, I keep going,

“I’m never taking the two of you with me anywhere

ever again!” “Okay,” says Truth. “Fine with me,”

Muse sings out. Now they’re in league I can’t win.

They know perfectly well that without Muse there is no vehicle

without Truth no road.

The Secret life of Barbie and Mr. Potato Head

It’s hard to believe Barbie and Mr. Potato Head would get it on, but it’s not impossible!

The Secret life of Barbie and Mr. Potato Head                  Nin Andrews

 

It began the year Jane received her first Barbie, and Dick was given

Mr. Potato Head for Christmas. Jane loved Barbie. She especially loved

undressing Barbie. So did Mr. Potato Head. Soon Barbie and Mr. Potato

Head were slipping off alone to dark corners. The first time it happened

Jane’s mother was fixing a salad for supper: cottage cheese nestled on

a crisp bed of lettuce with canned pears on top. Barbie was nervously

popping her heard off and on. Jane, her mother called, would you please set

the table? That’s when Jane told her mother that Barbie was engaged to

marry Mr. Potato Head.

 

Of course even Jane knew Mr. Potato head was the perfect match

for Barbie. She was afraid her Barbie might be jealous of all the other

Barbies in her neighborhood who had acquired handsome Kens for

their husbands. But she soon realized her mother was right. Her mother

always said looks aren’t everything. Besides, Mr. Potato Head could make

Barbie laugh. And he could do a lot more things with his detachable nose

and pipe and ears when her mother wasn’t looking. He, unlike Ken, was

the kind of man who could change himself for a woman like Barbie.

No problem, Mr. Potato Head would say whenever Barbie requested yet

another body part.