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Mary Oliver, 1935 - 2019

Wild Geese

“Wild Geese” from Dream Work, copyright © 1986 by Mary Oliver. Used by permission of Grove/Atlantic, Inc. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited.

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June Jordan, 1936 - 2002

These poems
they are things that I do
in the dark
reaching for you
whoever you are
and
are you ready?

These words
they are stones in the water
running away

These skeletal lines
they are desperate arms for my longing and love.

I am a stranger
learning to worship the strangers
around me

whoever you are
whoever I may become.

Copyright © 2017 by the June M. Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.

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Rainer Maria Rilke, 1875 - 1926
Fills now my cup, and past thought is
my fulness thereof. I harden as a stone
sets hard at its heart.
Hard that I am, I know this alone:
that thou didst grow—
— — — — — and grow,
to outgrow,
as too great pain,
my heart’s reach utterly.
Now liest thou my womb athwart,
now can I not to thee again
give birth.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 6, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

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Federico García Lorca, 1898 - 1936

translated by Sarah Arvio

To find a kiss of yours
what would I give
A kiss that strayed from your lips
dead to love

My lips taste
the dirt of shadows     

To gaze at your dark eyes
what would I give
Dawns of rainbow garnet  
fanning open before God— 

The stars blinded them
one morning in May

And to kiss your pure thighs
what would I give
Raw rose crystal  
sediment of the sun


*

[Por encontrar un beso tuyo]


Por encontrar un beso tuyo,
¿qué daría yo?
¡Un beso errante de tu boca
muerta para el amor!

(Tierra de sombra
come mi boca.)

Por contemplar tus ojos negros,
¿qué daría yo?
¡Auroras  de carbunclos irisados
abiertas frente a Dios!

(Las estrellas los cegaron
una mañana de mayo.)

Y por besar tus muslos castos,
¿qué daría yo?

(Cristal de rosa primitiva,
sedimento de sol.)

Translation copyright © 2017 by Sarah Arvio. Original text copyright © The Estate of Federico García Lorca. From Poet in Spain (Knopf, 2017). Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 25, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

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Pat Parker

I.

my lover is a woman
& when i hold her
feel her warmth
     i feel good
     feel safe

then—i never think of
my family’s voices
never hear my sisters say
bulldaggers, queers, funny
     come see us, but don’t
     bring your friends
          it’s ok with us,
          but don’t tell mama
          it’d break her heart
never feel my father
turn in his grave
never hear my mother cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

II.

my lover’s hair is blonde
& when it rubs across my face
it feels soft
     feels like a thousand fingers
     touch my skin & hold me
          and i feel good

then—i never think of the little boy
who spat & called me nigger
never think of the policemen
who kicked my body & said crawl
never think of Black bodies
hanging in trees or filled
with bullet holes
never hear my sisters say
white folks hair stinks
don’t trust any of them
never feel my father
turn in his grave
never hear my mother talk
of her backache after scrubbing floors
never hear her cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

III. 

my lover's eyes are blue
& when she looks at me
i float in a warm lake
     feel my muscles go weak with want
          feel good
          feel safe

then—i never think of the blue
eyes that have glared at me
moved three stools away from me
in a bar
never hear my sisters rage
of syphilitic Black men as
guinea pigs
     rage of sterilized children
          watch them just stop in an
          intersection to scare the old
          white bitch

never feel my father turn
in his grave
never remember my mother
teaching me the yes sirs & ma'ams
to keep me alive
never hear my mother cry
Lord, what kind of child is this?

 

IV.

& when we go to a gay bar
& my people shun me because i crossed
the line
& her people look to see what's
wrong with her
     what defect
     drove her to me

& when we walk the streets
of this city
     forget and touch
     or hold hands
          & the people
          stare, glare, frown, & taunt
               at those queers

i remember
     every word taught me
     every word said to me
     every deed done to me
          & then i hate
i look at my lover
& for an instant
     doubt

then—i hold her hand tighter
     & i can hear my mother cry.
     Lord, what kind of child is this?

"My Lover Is a Woman" by Pat Parker © Anastasia Dunham-Parker-Brady, used with permission.

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Jayne Cortez, 1934 - 2012
I crisscrossed with Monk
Wailed with Bud
Counted every star with Stitt
Sang "Don't Blame Me" with Sarah
Wore a flower like Billie
Screamed in the range of Dinah
& scatted "How High the Moon" with Ella Fitzgerald
as she blew roof off the Shrine Auditorium
                    Jazz at the Philharmonic
					
I cut my hair into a permanent tam
Made my feet rebellious metronomes 
Embedded record needles in paint on paper
Talked bopology talk
Laughed in high-pitched saxophone phrases
Became keeper of every Bird riff
every Lester lick
as Hawk melodicized my ear of infatuated tongues
& Blakey drummed militant messages in
soul of my applauding teeth 
& Ray hit bass notes to the last love seat in my bones
I moved in triple time with Max
Grooved high with Diz
Perdidoed with Pettiford
Flew home with Hamp
Shuffled in Dexter's Deck
Squatty-rooed with Peterson
Dreamed a "52nd Street Theme" with Fats
& scatted "Lady Be Good" with Ella Fitzgerald
as she blew roof off the Shrine Auditorium
                    Jazz at the Philharmonic

From Jazz Fan Looks Back by Jayne Cortez. Copyright © 2002 by Jayne Cortez. Reprinted by permission of Hanging Loose Press. All rights reserved.

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Ada Limón, 1976

Out here, there’s a bowing even the trees are doing.
                 Winter’s icy hand at the back of all of us.
Black bark, slick yellow leaves, a kind of stillness that feels
so mute it’s almost in another year.

I am a hearth of spiders these days: a nest of trying.

We point out the stars that make Orion as we take out
       the trash, the rolling containers a song of suburban thunder.

It’s almost romantic as we adjust the waxy blue
       recycling bin until you say, Man, we should really learn
some new constellations.

And it’s true. We keep forgetting about Antlia, Centaurus,
       Draco, Lacerta, Hydra, Lyra, Lynx.

But mostly we’re forgetting we’re dead stars too, my mouth is full
       of dust and I wish to reclaim the rising—

to lean in the spotlight of streetlight with you, toward
       what’s larger within us, toward how we were born.

Look, we are not unspectacular things.
       We’ve come this far, survived this much. What

would happen if we decided to survive more? To love harder?

What if we stood up with our synapses and flesh and said, No.
     No, to the rising tides.

Stood for the many mute mouths of the sea, of the land?

What would happen if we used our bodies to bargain

for the safety of others, for earth,
                 if we declared a clean night, if we stopped being terrified,

if we launched our demands into the sky, made ourselves so big
people could point to us with the arrows they make in their minds,

rolling their trash bins out, after all of this is over?

From The Carrying (Milkweed Editions, 2018) by Ada Limón. Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón. Used with the permission of Milkweed Editions. milkweed.org.