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Angry Poetry Week Continues: Powers of Recuperation by Adrienne Rich

Today’s poem was written by the iconic feminist poet and essayist Adrienne Rich, who passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Rich’s literary works inspired countless feminist authors and activists over several decades. Rich was revered for her social commentary as well as her deeply moving personal reflections.

She lived and wrote openly as a lesbian for most of her adult life, beginning in an era when homosexuality was condemned by more than just knee jerk christian conservatives. As an author and activist she fought bravely for not only the rights of women, but for all who are disadvantaged in our society.

Her list of works and awards span over 7 decades, and she is one of the most anthologized authors of the 20th century. Although her writing style may have not been the in your face, bludgeon you with a hammer type poetry that’s been featured this week, her message was always loud and clear, and succinctly relevant. I would be remiss if I didn’t honor her today by sharing with you one of her poems.

Sleep well dearest Adrienne; You are cherished by many, and you are already missed.

Without further adieu, I share with you:

Powers of Recuperation
by Adrienne Rich
 
i.
 
A woman of the citizen party—what’s that—
is writing history backward
 
her body
              the chair she sits in
to be abandoned
             repossessed
 
The old, crusading, raping, civil, great, phony, holy, world,
               second world, third world,
               cold, dirty, lost, on drugs,
 
infectious, maiming, class
war lives on
 
A done matter she might have thought
ever undone though
       plucked
 
from before her birthyear
and that hyphen coming after
 
she’s old, old, the incendiary
woman
 
endless beginner
 
whose warped wraps you shall find in graves and behind glass
        plundered
 
ii
 
Streets empty now
           citizen rises
         shrugging off
her figured shirt pulls on her dark generic garment
    sheds
identity inklings
  watch, rings, ear studs
now to pocket her flashlight
         her tiny magnet
shut down heater
            finger a sleeping cat
lock inner, outer door
     insert
key in crevice
      listen once twice
to the breath of the neighborhood
take temperature of the signs
     a bird
scuffling
               a frost settling
 
… you left that meeting around two a.m. I thought
someone should walk with you
 
Didn’t think then I needed that
 
years ravel out and now
 
who’d be protecting whom
 
 
I left the key in the old place
in case
 
iii
 
Spooky those streets of minds
shuttered against shatter
 
articulate those walls
pronouncing rage and need
 
fuck the cops
      come jesus
blow me again
 
Citizen walking catwise
close to the walls
 
heat of her lungs leaving
its trace upon the air
 
fingers her tiny magnet
which for the purpose of drawing
 
particles together will have to do
when as they say the chips are down
 
iv
 
Citizen
at riverbank
          seven bridges
Ministers-in-exile with their aides
limb to limb dreaming underneath
 
conspiring by definition
 
Bridges
      trajectories arched
in shelter   rendezvous
two banks to every river  
     two directions
to every bridge
twenty-eight chances
every built thing has its unmeant purpose
iv
Every built thing with its unmeant
meaning    
    unmet purpose
every unbuilt thing
child squatting    civil
engineer   devising
by kerosene flare   in mud
possible tunnels
carves in cornmeal mush   
    irrigation
canals by index finger
all new learning looks at first
like chaos
the tiny magnet throbs
in citizen’s pocket

vi
Bends under the arc walks bent listening for chords and codes
bat-radar-pitched or twanging
off rubber bands and wires tin can telephony
to scribble testimony by fingernail and echo
her documentary alphabet still evolving
Walks up on the bridge   
    wind-whipped      roof and trajectory
shuddering under her catpaw tread
one of seven
built things holds her suspended
between desolation
and the massive figure on unrest’s verge
1pondering the unbuilt city
cheek on hand and glowing eyes and
skirted knees apart
2007

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Angry Poetry Week: Trajectory of the ‘Civilized’ – Michelle Beltano Curtis

Our next poem for angry poetry week comes from Michelle Beltano Curtis, who writes the blog Carving Out a Voice. Michelle writes about a number of issues, including themes about feminism, the environment, otherness, sexuality, aging and illness, in a very distinctive unmitigated voice. Her work has appeared in Ginger Piglet, Voice It!, Lambda Literary Review, and more.

This particular poem from Michelle rails against humanity’s systematic destruction of our planet in the name of Man’s one true god, capitalism. It contains disturbing imagery, and is a very haunting, angry condemnation of the nearly irreversible damage we have managed to wreak upon our planet in a very short time. 

Without further adieu, I give you:  

Trajectory of the ‘Civilized’
Michelle Beltano Curtis
 In honor of Allen Ginsberg
 
                        I
 
The inventor’s hands are speeding cars
following roadmaps of the damned,
metal and glass and gleaming light
of power plants and toy factories
expelling great gasps of endless vapors
hexavalent chromium, strontium chromate,
toxins in our air tongues can only trip on,
turn lakes and rivers neon green, vapid blue,
unthinking orbs mark the journey
skies a burnished haze of baby shit at dawn,
and aren’t the evening skies of dusk delightful
in rainbow shades of obliteration?
An unnatural world in endless trails of duplication
we buy for bottom dollar with the click of a mouse.
Instant gratification for our ultimate destruction.
 Hidden at last in heated ash of an angry Sun
we forgot to fear, respect, worship,
trailing incense, canted whispers,
aberrant kisses for Moloch as the forgotten
ends of some unjustified means bring us closer to the end—
 
to pyramids of rotting flesh, burnt offerings
for Madagascan cockroaches
in endless ecstasies—putrid meat
in razor jaws, and we’re on top where
always they insisted we should be,
skin excoriated by excruciating heat,
querulous children with castigated raisin eyes.
Blank sockets occupied once by pale marbles of
millennia ago— before we discovered the interstellar cacophony,
invented macros for love and invention, bought-sold-bartered
love, friends, sex, emotion, through airwaves
once meant for the simple act of sustaining life, breath.
 
                        II
 
Pale marbles in a vertical reality of grasslands and hippopotami
with angular jaws echoing like caverns
their trembling of equine energies,
organic angels without harpsichords
or unrequited love or beards and skirts
or adam’s imperfection; that fucking rib.
No vindicated harpes of eve
or revelations of marriage beds or boys in backseats
no sin on their minds none existed.
Just thumping flesh and pulsing tides
of tangled ecstasy and moaning limbs,
fucking and crying; enraptured motion and ethereal air
amid fat raindrops or crystalline stalactites
of winter’s clean, crunchy breath.
 
Death was life, cyclical journey of cleansing,
fertilizing the roots of new creation
within the ruins and the world cracked open
in splendiferous greens and vibrant hues of red, ochre, azure,
earth’s children huddled in the bosom of her
protective ranges; no us, them,
only all—in the occupation of survival
in the same rhythm of the world, freed
in the youth of the world to flourish to harvest to die
again and again.
 
                        III
Moloch, they worship you and they will sacrifice us all, and in our blind
passivity we deserve your sweltering damnation.
In the end, only that which birthed us will survive to mend
herself among cooling surf and settling rock to create anew
her own treasures of tree and pheasant and monarch.
And in a million years the scientists and archeologists who begin to discover
remnants of a world torn asunder will someday shake their heads at our
foolhardiness while they marvel at our cleverness
all the while fear brings a palsy to their people upon the revelation –
of greed among their own.

 

America the Pacified (via Carving Out a Voice)

As most of you may know, I tend to write a little on the angry side 😉 I also love to read other works that lean to anger and outrage as well. My partner Michelle tends to write angry in her poetry (which I love by the way), and she does it better than anyone I know.

Without further adieu, I share with you America the Pacified.

By Michelle Beltano Curtis

Made dumb by reality television
numb by nightly news,
interpreting everything in a lens
of red, white and blue.
A contest of who killed who,
focusing only on minutiae,
views askance, never mind truth;
what’s not reported when focusing
on the robber down the street
or the prize awarded some pale boy
for doing what he already should?

Sheep for the slaughter
enthralled by credit cards.
Buy another cardigan to trash
long before the bill is gone.
America on credit, from the white house
to the white houses with their lying
little picket fences in assembly line
neighborhoods, SUV parked
beside a carcinogenic lawn
while the world chokes to death
on fossil fuels.

‘Cuz in America, we say fuck Mother Nature,
the only world we have to survive upon,
hoping for science fiction miracles.
We’ve lost the delineation
between fantasy and fact.
It’s all sponsored by Koch Industries
and the controlling one percent.

And while we’re at it fuck the future
of our children and exploit your mother, too.
Money is more enticing. Buying
more important than surviving.
And if that’s not enough,
chug down a brew, pick up a gram
of your favorite rescue compliments
of the Mexican mob we spend billions
of dollars on but can’t seem to dislodge.
It keeps us numb, the ninety-nine
percent left struggling along.

It’s only a needle. People do it
every day, because we’re
Americans, home of the privileged few,
the remainder broken and decayed.
But nobody cares, so long as they
don’t take the X-boxes, cell phones;
all our favorite drugs, away.

© 2011. All rights reserved. Reprint with permission of the author only.

via Carving Out a Voice

Questions From a Worker Who Reads

While studying for my historical theory class during my lunch hour today, I came across this treasure from Bertold Brecht (1898-1956). Brecht was a Marxist poet, playwright, and theatre director, who often used poetry and the theatre to express his political ideology. This poem, written in 1935, is a wonderful example of not only Marxist history, but of People’s history as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Without further adieu, I share with you:

Questions From a Worker Who Reads.

Who built Thebes of the 7 gates ?
In the books you will read the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock ?

And Babylon, many times demolished,
Who raised it up so many times ?

In what houses of gold glittering Lima did its builders live ?
Where, the evening that the Great Wall of China was finished, did the masons go?

Great Rome is full of triumphal arches.
Who erected them ?

Over whom did the Caesars triumph ?
Had Byzantium, much praised in song, only palaces for its inhabitants ?

Even in fabled Atlantis, the night that the ocean engulfed it,
The drowning still cried out for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone ?

Caesar defeated the Gauls.
Did he not even have a cook with him ?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada went down.
Was he the only one to weep ?

Frederick the 2nd won the 7 Years War.
Who else won it ?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors ?

Every 10 years a great man.
Who paid the bill ?

So many reports.

So many questions.

What Kind Of Hotel Did You Book Us Into?

I’m a little hungover and unmotivated today, so I thought I would share this poem I wrote. It’s the follow up to ” A First Time For Everything.” The poem is about my experience from last September, when I was committed to the Psychiatric ward at a local hospital after having a mixed episode.

What kind of hotel did you book us into?

My chair rolls through doors as I float between the real and the surreal.

Cries of pain reverberate off the walls and through my head.

Is this new procedure for the Day’s Inn?

I’m ushered into a cold white room,

Stripped of clothes, possessions, and dignity.

I don’t care, I need a nap.

I doze on my little metal bed,

I hear voices in the hallway,

None of them are my mother’s, are they real?

Machines beep in the distance while I sleep, where the hell am I?

She’s somewhere close by, I need to comfort her.

“I’m alright baby, I just need some rest.”

She takes my hand.

She’s brave and scared at the same time, how does that happen?

Off I go to get my head examined, “hey my bed rolls too!”

They stick my head in a doughnut, they find nothing.

I’m not surprised.

They reserve me a room, away I go again in my rolling chair,

Adorned in my plain threads of madness.

Did the airline lose my luggage again?

The elevator stops at my floor,

The bellhop wheels me through doors, why do they lock behind me?

I make my grand entrance into the hotel lobby,

The other patrons aren’t happy to be there, why?

Suddenly I’m scared.

And angry too, what’s that about?

Soothing tones come from my partner,

Are you checking in too? I hope we get a king sized bed!

I’m in my room, not many amenities, where’s the TV?

The bellhop leaves, the maid takes my pulse and temperature.

Why does everyone keep asking me if I want to hurt myself?

I don’t like it here

I tell the manager I want to check out.

She insists that I’m booked for at least 4 days.

I feel panic and anger, panger.

They tell my lover it’s time to go

Since when does a hotel have visiting hours?

I walk her through the lobby of despair to the first locking door

I cling to her, bury myself inside her embrace.

Can I hide in your purse?

She exits through the vault door, I hope she’s ok.

I rush past the other patrons, they scare me.

I close my door, hide in my bed and cry.

Worst hotel ever, it’s only getting one star.

A Review Of Obama’s Speech In Haiku

Barack Obama: An American Portrait

Image by tsevis via Flickr

I know Haiku is not supposed to be metaphorical, but I’m breaking the rules. Here’s my summary of Obama’s address yesterday:

Tiger talks tough
Baboons spew rhetoric
Herd wanders dazed

A First Time For Everything

I’m having a bit of blogger’s block, so I thought I would pull this out of the archives. As a lot of you may already know, I have Bi-Polar Disorder. I found this out in September of 2010, although I have probably suffered from it for most of my life. While driving to work one day last September, during a particularly bad morning for me, I had what the doctors told me was a mixed episode. During this mixed episode, I was both manic and depressed, a very dangerous combination for anyone who experiences it. As a result, I spent 4 days in a hospital psychiatric ward under suicide watch. A few months ago I decided to write about it, but I have only shared what I wrote with my partner. Now I have decided to share it with the rest of you. Without further adieu, I give you “A First Time For Everything.”

A First Time for Everything

“Baby? Where are you?”

My wailing serves as a reply

“Baby I’m getting in the car now, stay on the phone ok?”

“Ok” I whisper in between sobs.

“Please tell me where you are.”

The fear is evident in her voice.

“I’m at the rest area off the highway.”

The pain is evident in mine.

“Which rest area sweetie?”

“The one by work, how did I get back here?”

“I know which one, are you ok?”

“I don’t know how I got here, I see lots of trucks.”

My shrieking escalates, I feel reality ebbing away.

“Who’s going to pick up our son at day care?”

“Honey he’s 16, he’s in high school.”

“Oh”

“I’m at the rest area, where are you?”

“I see lots of trucks.”

She pulls up; I cling to her for dear life.

“We’re going to the hospital, ok?”

“Will you call Ernie and tell him?”

“Baby, Ernie hasn’t been your boss for four years.” “Arnold is your boss now.”

“Oh.”  The car is moving now.

My mom talks to me as the car rolls along.

“Did you call my mom?”

“Your mom has been dead for 30 years sweetie.”

“Oh.” The sobs return.

We pull into the E.R. parking lot, I hear music.

“Honey, are we at a carnival?” “I hear music.”

“No baby, we’re at the hospital.”

“What the fuck are we doing here?”

“Your having an episode baby, we need to get you some help.”

“Oh.” I sink back into delusion.

The triage nurse asks “do you feel like hurting yourself?”

“Every day” My chin sinks back into my chest.

“Do you have a plan?”

My eyes sparkle, my head rises. “I have a lovely spot picked out on the highway.” “ I’m going to drive into it.”

My gaze focuses on my feet again.

“Sounds like a plan to me.” “We need to admit him for a few days.”

“To the psyche ward?” “That’s a first.”