June 27, 2017

Meghann Plunkett

IN WHICH I NAME MY ABUSER PUBLICLY

and they appear from the under-eaves.      A litter of women
herding toward the full-stop      of his name.    Tall,

pretty,      they are      stained with his sweat too.
I say his name and pull strands of other women’s hair

from my mouth.      All of us dusked and      outstretched,
lapping at our wounds. One of them yanking his tooth

from her thigh,      another flinching      at blue-birds, trying
to remember what isn’t      dangerous.              Look

at the batch of us he devoured    two by two.    How he found
us like a bomber’s screen scanning the land

for human heat–              reaching down for us under the heel
of his boot.              One, with the scent of him still

stinking off of her,      sobs out a full      cask of wine.   
Look at what he made              brick      by      brick,

a parade of fraying,  a brothel on our breath,  dresses tailored 
to fit an unnamed grief.      We know what it means

to jewel out our doubt in a thick,      silent shucking.      What
happened?      What      happened?      That sulfur residue

of match-light. Here we are. The girl with a spine like a church
staircase,      the girl who snapped like a guitar string.

And the last one he sought out to look just like me.      Beaten
into the same speech impediment,      wearing my face

like a bathrobe.      I say his name and here we are. Here we are.

Poets Respond
June 27, 2017

[download audio]

__________

Meghann Plunkett: “This poem is in response to a bill in North Carolina that is currently under scrutiny. The bill removes a loophole from a 1979 North Carolina Supreme Court ruling that meant a person who originally gave consent at the start could not revoke their consent during the act. If the act became violent, for instance, and the victim said ‘stop,’ the predator was under no legal obligation to do so. This poem deals with how common abuse is, especially for women. How often violations are not realized until after the fact, and how often there is a long line of victims when an abuser is not held accountable, or has the ability to deflect accusations. This is why we often see a bevy of women coming forward together.” (website)

June 25, 2017

Olga Dermott-Bond

GRENFELL

We are throwing our children
out of windows.

Knotted bedsheets are falling
short
and we are
wrapped in choking blankets
high in this tower—

before this moment
muffled important men
ticked each blind box
sat on their cold hands
covered their ears
kept their distance
reclined in chairs the colour
of expensive coffee
climbed inside airy committees
insulated themselves in
someone else’s bureaucracy
flimsy as the lids on their drinks
that they abandoned
after the meetings
on budget cuts

leaving us groping
in the darkness of these thin-
lipped walls
and now the stairs are
crumbling coals
and we are faltering
on the edge
of these burning cliffs
that we wanted to call home.

We are throwing our children
out of windows

feeling for the last time
those hot desperate hands
that first cradled our little fingers
as their own
starry universe.

We are pulling them
from our sobbing
necks and reaching as far out
from the molten frames
as we can
our arms stretched taut and flat as a fledging’s neck
trembling with our most precious selves
who are falling
so suddenly
as we are letting them go
into the darkness
ripping our histories
in two.

We are fighting every instinct
and crying to strangers to

catch them
catch them
catch them

We are praying
that someone
will one day love them
as we are loving them.

We are throwing our children
out of windows.

Before this moment
muffled important men—

but perhaps now
it will be harder to
ignore the messages
written tomorrow morning
in the curled ashes
at their feet.

Poets Respond
June 25, 2017

[download audio]

__________

Olga Dermott-Bond: “My reaction to the Grenfell Tower tragedy was one of horror, disbelief, shock, grief. My immediate response was to write about it, through angry tears. Writing can be an act of empathy, and this was my way of connecting with this terrible event; reaching out to the victims; asking the question: why? Last night, I went to a lecture by Michael Rosen about ‘Why Writing Matters.’ He talked about ‘impossible writing.’ I live over one hundred miles away from Grenfell Tower and, of course, it is impossible for me to ever fully understand or carry the grief of the victims and their families. However, to me poetry is a way to try and express—to inhabit—the impossible sadness and insanity of this tragedy, to show those people who lost their lives or their loved ones that they are not alone.” (twitter)

June 18, 2017

Joan Colby

LORDY

The word ejects my father from the grave.

Enthusiastic: Lordy, followed by a volley
Of inspiration like migrating blackbirds.

Or weary. Oh Lordy, with a sigh like fog settling
In a valley at nightfall.

Hardly anyone says Lordy now. The deep-south boy
He was still barefoot in a business suit and tie.

I’d give a lot to hear him say Lordy,
Once again. Even in exasperation

At my naivete. Young and full of idealistic
Fervor to join the Cuban rebels.

Oh Lordy, how he shook his head.
How I deliberately goaded that

Loaded interjection. According to Merriam-
Webster it expresses surprise or strength of

Feeling. I liked to stab through his aloofness
To the heart of what he’d find appalling.

That’s how you measure if someone cares,
When you can jerk the leash of comfort

To release that word: Lordy.
Comey said Lordy, I hope …

And I hope too that, someday, someone will read
A poem of mine and stop cold and say Lordy.

Poets Respond
June 18, 2017

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Joan Colby: “The poem was inspired by James Comey’s statement during his testimony ‘Lordy, I hope there are tapes,’ which reminded me of my dad’s favorite utterance and brought him back to life for me.” (website)

June 15, 2017

Alejandro Escudé

REPUBLICAN IN RED

Can you write about guns? The sun-glint off of them
I suppose—Aristotle’s stern belief in material things,
the fact that they’re an object with expeditious words
running alongside of the barrel. I recall making guns
when I was a kid with wood from my father’s workshop.
They were machine gun type shapes, and walkie talkies
attached to them by a string. I spent hours decorating them;
finished, they appeared as colorful as the Mayan pyramids
were said to have been. They’re just splinters in the mind
of philosophers now. I played baseball back then too.
I wore a baseball undershirt beneath my starch-white uniform
which didn’t have Republican written in red. It said Phillies
or Mets instead. I couldn’t hit that ball if I tried. It may
as well have been a bullet, whizzing, as those bullets
whizzed by congressmen playing baseball in Alexandria.
I didn’t know that, did you? That bullets actually whiz,
that they strike the dirt (baseball-playing dirt, the kind
that smells like summer and innocence) near the dugout
and create a puff, that you can see and feel the puffs of dirt
if you’re seeking cover in a dugout, as if the world had
ceased playing baseball and the day had turned to night
and you were alone with your philosophy, your party,
and your body, which is nothing but bone and blood.

Poets Respond
June 15, 2017

[download audio]

__________

Alejandro Escudé: “The shooting of Republican congressmen in Alexandria is a tragedy for our country. Lawmakers have to realize how important it is to safeguard the morale of American citizens. It’s not just about achieving a given political party’s ends. It’s also about maintaining the emotional safety of the public and ensuring that longstanding American traditions, values, and truths are upheld and remain sacred. Some will argue that the gunman did not have these ideas in mind when he committed this heinous crime, but I contend that people who are on a psychological precipice are more susceptible to the general mood of the society in which they live. They usurp this corrosive energy and have no healthy barrier to prevent them from carrying out such atrocities. We are not as separated as we perceive ourselves to be.” (webpage)

June 11, 2017

Carter Smith

AFTER THE PARIS ACCORD

I’m just trying to say these two trees
and the birds in them, some egrets
and a kind of stork I’m seeing
for the very first time, and a
spoonbill or two, and otters
somewhere in the water, I’m thinking
how can I subtract my thinking,
maybe just a memory for now, the shutters
of houses here and there, I slept
in some, or stood and felt
the water’s pull, I asked
something, my asking
was out of place, I know that
was the meaning, attaching
some little pleasure to
some little phrase, making
it last, and at the time
we said it’s all here, we
came this far, we waved, wasn’t
it something

Poets Respond
June 11, 2017

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__________

Carter Smith: “This poem responds to the well-reported U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.”