Thursday, August 30, 2018

Rosa Parks by Nikki Giovanni


Rosa Parks

This is for the Pullman Porters who organized when people said
they couldn’t. And carried the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago
Defender to the Black Americans in the South so they would
know they were not alone. This is for the Pullman Porters who
helped Thurgood Marshall go south and come back north to fight
the fight that resulted in Brown v. Board of Education because
even though Kansas is west and even though Topeka is the birth-
place of Gwendolyn Brooks, who wrote the powerful “The
Chicago Defender Sends a Man to Little Rock,” it was the
Pullman Porters who whispered to the traveling men both
the Blues Men and the “Race” Men so that they both would
know what was going on. This is for the Pullman Porters who
smiled as if they were happy and laughed like they were tickled
when some folks were around and who silently rejoiced in 1954
when the Supreme Court announced its 9—0 decision that “sepa-
rate is inherently unequal.” This is for the Pullman Porters who
smiled and welcomed a fourteen-year-old boy onto their train in
1955. They noticed his slight limp that he tried to disguise with a
doo-wop walk; they noticed his stutter and probably understood
why his mother wanted him out of Chicago during the summer
when school was out. Fourteen-year-old Black boys with limps
and stutters are apt to try to prove themselves in dangerous ways
when mothers aren’t around to look after them. So this is for the
Pullman Porters who looked over that fourteen-year-old while
the train rolled the reverse of the Blues Highway from Chicago to
St. Louis to Memphis to Mississippi. This is for the men who kept
him safe; and if Emmett Till had been able to stay on a train all
summer he would have maybe grown a bit of a paunch, certainly
lost his hair, probably have worn bifocals and bounced his grand-
children on his knee telling them about his summer riding the
rails. But he had to get off the train. And ended up in Money,
Mississippi. And was horribly, brutally, inexcusably, and unac-
ceptably murdered. This is for the Pullman Porters who, when the
sheriff was trying to get the body secretly buried, got Emmett’s
body on the northbound train, got his body home to Chicago,
where his mother said: I want the world to see what they did
to my boy. And this is for all the mothers who cried. And this is
for all the people who said Never Again. And this is about Rosa
Parks whose feet were not so tired, it had been, after all, an ordi-
nary day, until the bus driver gave her the opportunity to make
history. This is about Mrs. Rosa Parks from Tuskegee, Alabama,
who was also the field secretary of the NAACP. This is about the
moment Rosa Parks shouldered her cross, put her worldly goods
aside, was willing to sacrifice her life, so that that young man in
Money, Mississippi, who had been so well protected by the
Pullman Porters, would not have died in vain. When Mrs. Parks
said “NO” a passionate movement was begun. No longer would
there be a reliance on the law; there was a higher law. When Mrs.
Parks brought that light of hers to expose the evil of the system,
the sun came and rested on her shoulders bringing the heat and
the light of truth. Others would follow Mrs. Parks. Four young
men in Greensboro, North Carolina, would also say No. Great
voices would be raised singing the praises of God and exhorting
us “to forgive those who trespass against us.” But it was the
Pullman Porters who safely got Emmett to his granduncle and it
was Mrs. Rosa Parks who could not stand that death. And in not
being able to stand it. She sat back down.

 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Boy at the Paterson Falls by Toi Derricotte

Boy at the Paterson Falls
 
I am thinking of that boy who bragged about the day he threw
     a dog over and watched it struggle to stay upright all
     the way down.
I am thinking of that rotting carcass on the rocks,
and the child with such power he could call to a helpless
     thing as if he were its friend, capture it, and think of
     the cruelest punishment.
It must have answered some need, some silent screaming in
     a closet, a motherless call when night came crashing;
it must have satisfied, for he seemed joyful, proud, as if he
     had once made a great creation out of murder.
That body on the rocks, its sharp angles, slowly took the shape of
     what was underneath, bones pounded, until it lay at the bottom
     like a scraggly rug.
Nothing remains but memory—and the suffering of those who
     would walk into the soft hands of a killer for a crumb of bread. 

 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Journey Into the Interior by Theodore Roethke


Journey Into the Interior

In the long journey out of the self,
There are many detours, washed-out interrupted raw places
Where the shale slides dangerously
And the back wheels hang almost over the edge
At the sudden veering, the moment of turning.
Better to hug close, wary of rubble and falling stones.
The arroyo cracking the road, the wind-bitten buttes, the canyons,
Creeks swollen in midsummer from the flash-flood roaring into the narrow valley.
Reeds beaten flat by wind and rain,
Grey from the long winter, burnt at the base in late summer.
-- Or the path narrowing,
Winding upward toward the stream with its sharp stones,
The upland of alder and birchtrees,
Through the swamp alive with quicksand,
The way blocked at last by a fallen fir-tree,
The thickets darkening,
The ravines ugly. 

 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth by Aimee Nezhukumatathil


Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth
 
Too many needles spoil the cloth.
Too many parrots spoil the talk.
Too many chapped lips spoil the gloss.
Too many teasel burs spoil the paw.
Too many bubbles spoil the froth.
Too many doorbells spoil the knock.
Too many seeds spoil the floss.
Too many feathers spoil the claw.
Too many lightbulbs spoil the moth.
Too many holes spoil the sock.
Too many sunbeams spoil the moss.
Too many kisses spoil the jaw.
Too many wolves spoil the flock.
Too many necks spoil the block. 

 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Moose by Elizabeth Bishop


The Moose

From narrow provinces   
of fish and bread and tea,   
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea   
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,

where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam   
depends on if it meets   
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;

where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets   
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats’   
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;

on red, gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,   
past clapboard farmhouses   
and neat, clapboard churches,   
bleached, ridged as clamshells,   
past twin silver birches,

through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,   
pink glancing off of metal,   
brushing the dented flank   
of blue, beat-up enamel;

down hollows, up rises,   
and waits, patient, while   
a lone traveller gives   
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.

Goodbye to the elms,   
to the farm, to the dog.   
The bus starts. The light   
grows richer; the fog,   
shifting, salty, thin,
comes closing in.

Its cold, round crystals   
form and slide and settle   
in the white hens’ feathers,   
in gray glazed cabbages,   
on the cabbage roses
and lupins like apostles;

the sweet peas cling
to their wet white string   
on the whitewashed fences;   
bumblebees creep
inside the foxgloves,
and evening commences.

One stop at Bass River.   
Then the Economies—
Lower, Middle, Upper;   
Five Islands, Five Houses,
where a woman shakes a tablecloth   
out after supper.

A pale flickering. Gone.   
The Tantramar marshes   
and the smell of salt hay.   
An iron bridge trembles   
and a loose plank rattles   
but doesn’t give way.

On the left, a red light   
swims through the dark:   
a ship’s port lantern.   
Two rubber boots show,   
illuminated, solemn.   
A dog gives one bark.

A woman climbs in
with two market bags,   
brisk, freckled, elderly.   
“A grand night. Yes, sir,   
all the way to Boston.”   
She regards us amicably.

Moonlight as we enter
the New Brunswick woods,   
hairy, scratchy, splintery;   
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb’s wool   
on bushes in a pasture.

The passengers lie back.   
Snores. Some long sighs.   
A dreamy divagation   
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
slow hallucination....

In the creakings and noises,   
an old conversation
—not concerning us,
but recognizable, somewhere,   
back in the bus:
Grandparents’ voices

uninterruptedly
talking, in Eternity:
names being mentioned,   
things cleared up finally;   
what he said, what she said,   
who got pensioned;

deaths, deaths and sicknesses;   
the year he remarried;
the year (something) happened.   
She died in childbirth.
That was the son lost
when the schooner foundered.

He took to drink. Yes.
She went to the bad.
When Amos began to pray   
even in the store and
finally the family had
to put him away.

“Yes ...” that peculiar   
affirmative. “Yes ...”
A sharp, indrawn breath,   
half groan, half acceptance,   
that means “Life’s like that.   
We know it (also death).”

Talking the way they talked   
in the old featherbed,   
peacefully, on and on,
dim lamplight in the hall,   
down in the kitchen, the dog   
tucked in her shawl.

Now, it’s all right now   
even to fall asleep
just as on all those nights.   
—Suddenly the bus driver   
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.

A moose has come out of
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,   
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus’s hot hood.

Towering, antlerless,   
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man’s voice assures us   
“Perfectly harmless....”

Some of the passengers   
exclaim in whispers,   
childishly, softly,
“Sure are big creatures.”   
“It’s awful plain.”   
“Look! It’s a she!”

Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,   
grand, otherworldly.   
Why, why do we feel   
(we all feel) this sweet   
sensation of joy?

“Curious creatures,”
says our quiet driver,   
rolling his r’s.
“Look at that, would you.”   
Then he shifts gears.
For a moment longer,

by craning backward,   
the moose can be seen
on the moonlit macadam;   
then there’s a dim
smell of moose, an acrid   
smell of gasoline.