“No Complaints” — Nikki Giovanni

“No Complaints”


Nikki Giovanni

(For Gwendolyn Brooks, 1917—2001)

maybe there is something about the seventh of June: Gwen,
Prince and me . . . or maybe people just have to be born at some
time . . . and there are only three hundred sixty-five days or three
sixty-six every four years or so . . . meaning that some things
happen at the same time in the same rising sign . . . and the same
houses in Gemini . . . but some of us might also consider the
possibility of reincarnating revolving restructuring that spirit . . .
reshaping that spirit . . . releasing that spirit . . . tucking the use-
less inside and when the useless pushes out again we restructure
again and poetry and song and praisesong go on  . . . because it is
the right thing to do

we always will cry when a great heart . . . a good soul . . . one of
the premier poets of her age restructures . . . reincarnates  . . .
revolves into a resolve that we now carry in our hearts . . . as all
great women and men are alive . . . not by biology but remem-
brance . . . and that’s all right . . . as the old folk say . . . because as
long as they stay on the lips . . . they nestle in our hearts and those
souls which are planted . . . continue growing . . . until generations
not knowing their touch . . . their voice . . . or even the fact
that some Chicago poets are terrible cooks . . . but always fun
to eat with . . . will tell tales of having met someone who knew
someone who once watched a basketball game . . . in which some
Chicago poet cheered for Seattle at the request of some Virginia
poet who wanted more games . . . while Mr. Blakely was amazed
that a Chicago poet was even watching a game . . . and didn’t
we miss him as he slipped away watching baseball . . . and what
a way to go . . . though we then did sort of know . . . that once
gone . . . he would call the woman he loved

and so we come to no more phone calls at six a.m. to chat …
and no more Benihana when we are all in New York . . . and no
more gossiping and questioning and trying to make sense of a
senseless world . . . no more face-to-face . . . only the poetry which
is a great monument from this Topeka daughter to the world . . .
and yet . . . there can be no complaints in this passing . . . no
sorrow songs . . . no if onlys . . . it is all here: the work the love:
the woman: who gave and gave and gave . . . no complaints of too
long or too hard . . . no injustice of accident or misunderstanding
of disease . . . just one great woman moving to the next phase . . .
and us on the ground . . . giving Alleluias

“Black Box” — Randall Mann

“Black Box”


Randall Mann

I was someone’s
honor’s student once,
a sticker, a star.
I aced Home Ec and Geometry;
I learned to stab a fork,
steer my mother’s car.
Old enough to work,
I refreshed the salad bar
at Steak & Ale,
scarcity a line
I couldn’t fail.
The summers between university,
interned at AT&T,
in the minority
outreach they called Inroads.
My boss, Vicki, had two
roommates, whom she
called, simply, The Gays,
crashing on her floor.
That was before
I was gay, I won’t try to say
with a straight face.
Like anyone really cares,
I care. What I’m trying to say:
all this prepared
me for these squat blinking
office accessories.
The dry drinking
after the accidental reply-all.
By now there’s a lot to lose.
Little by little, I have become
so careful, no talk
of politics, or orientation:
I let them say, he’s “a homosexual,”
without an arch correction.
At a fondue buffet
in Zurich, our dumb-
founded senior group
director—when I let slip,
damn it, my trip
with a twenty-year-old—inquired,
They’re always over seventeen,
right? I told her of course,
god yes, and, seething, smiled,
which I’m famous for.
I didn’t want to scare
her. But I tell you,
I’m keeping score.
E-mail is no more
than a suicide
I’d like to please recall.
Note my suicide.
I’m paid to multitask,
scramble the life
out of fun:
Monday I will ask—
every dash a loaded gun,
every comma, a knife—
you to bury the black-box file.

“Proverbs” — Grace Paley

“Upon Arrival” — Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

“Upon Arrival”
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

You will need to state the reason for your visit.
Don’t say because I want to walk down old roads
and caress stone walls the color of my skin.
You will need to state the reason for your visit.
Don’t say because the olives are ready for harvest
and I will coax the fruit from the trees,
press it into liquid gold.
You will need to state the reason for your visit.
Don’t say because my parents’ house
still sits empty on a bluff overlooking the sea,
the green shutters my grandfather had just painted
remain sealed shut
and the army listed the property’s owners
as absentees.
You will need to state the reason for your visit.
Don’t say because I am carrying prayers in my suitcase
for a people who wait,
and I’ll unfold them
embroidered linens of verse
and spread them out across the land.

“Once There Came a Man” — Stephen Crane

“Once There Came a Man”
Stephen Crane

Once there came a man
Who said:
“Range me all men of the world in rows.”
And instantly
There was a terrific clamor among the people
Against being ranged in rows.
There was a loud quarrel, world-wide.
It endured for ages;
And blood was shed
By those who would not stand in rows,
And by those who pined to stand in rows.
Eventually, the man went to death, weeping.
And those who stayed in the bloody scuffle
Knew not the great simplicity.

“Rite of Passage” — Sharon Olds

“Rite of Passage”
Sharon Olds

As the guests arrive at our son’s party
they gather in the living room—
short men, men in first grade
with smooth jaws and chins.
Hands in pockets, they stand around
jostling, jockeying for place, small fights
breaking out and calming. One says to another
How old are you? —Six. —I’m seven. —So?
They eye each other, seeing themselves
tiny in the other’s pupils. They clear their
throats a lot, a room of small bankers,
they fold their arms and frown. I could beat you
up, a seven says to a six,
the midnight cake, round and heavy as a
turret behind them on the table. My son,
freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks,
chest narrow as the balsa keel of a
model boat, long hands
cool and thin as the day they guided him
out of me, speaks up as a host
for the sake of the group.
We could easily kill a two-year-old,
he says in his clear voice. The other
men agree, they clear their throats
like Generals, they relax and get down to
playing war, celebrating my son’s life.

“little report of the day” — Jack Collum

“little report of the day”


Jack Collum

9:13 p.m., Lucky Bock in hand,
I inscribe: walked the lovely
33 blocks to school today, streets clear and
thick melting snow all around.
taught my 4 hours of poetry; the afternoon
class was hard; kid named Schweikert
kept on fucking up. took typed-up
poems of yesterday to Platt and put up
poster there of Anne and Reed’s reading Sat.
ate nearly 2 peanutbutter sandwiches with
raw carrots. typed. read kids’ poems.
at 4 I started home, got a ride
with Jim Bay. press release to daily paper.
stopped in Baird’s for 2 beers,
looked at paper. home, kissed Mara, Sierra.
in the mail: Out There, from Chicago, and a letter
stating the city of Grand Island had decided not
to prosecute re my arrest
Friday for intoxication. wonder why. Nick
the landlord didn’t show (he was supposed to
have us sign lease on the new duplex) (this place
gonna be torn down). ate
a very delicious supper, ham-and-cheese
rarebit with cold broccoli and cold oregano’d
tomato, cooked by Mara. paperwork, played a
game of solitaire, harried by Sierra’s
new red car. dropped over then
to the Korner Bar, put up a poster under the phone sign, said hi
to a few folks and got halloo’d by this guy I’d
spoken to 2 months before, who’d said his high
school son adored me, but it might be thought improper
that I hang around, shoot pool in Korner Bar.
a beefy mid-30’s man, he bought me a beer, apologized and
told me of his luck: he’d won a thousand one-hundred eighty
dollars today betting on one horse at Fonner Park.
we talked of poetry, family, work — he mentioned Kilmer,
Stevenson, Nash and others, quoted verbatim
his own published poem on fire-fighting (he is the G.I.
fire-chief). his boyhood favorites, whom he reads all of
even now: Edgar Rice Burroughts and Jules Verne. his son,
though epileptic, does the high jump at the high school; he was
disturbed that it wasn’t the broad jump, in which he
himself still holds a record, set in 1959.
the taxes have jumped up like crazy on their nice
spread just inside the city limits. I got up and
slapped him on the back and left, stopping first to ask
Clark, standing end of the bar, what he knew
of me on Friday night at the Kyriss. I’d blanked out
completely (woke up in jail, ate
blue oatmeal). he said I’d just got drunk, he thought Rod
had taken me home. he said, at one point,
just waking up, I’d grabbed the edge of the table and
tilted it till the glasses all came sliding
down and almost off, then tilted it back till they
slid back to where they were, and never spilled a drop.
he said I’d bought some beers for him and Pat but
before they could get to them drank
them up myself. okay, Clark, you’re a good guy with your
black curly hair and toothless grin, and your wild life. I was just
wondering. check with Rod when have a chance. —
and off, through mud and occasionally-lighted puddles,
home, where Mara’s napping still and there are (were)
5 Lucky Bocks in the white (today!) icebox. 9:50.
           (no. 2)
after finishing that
(immediately after, during, in
fact) the
strange thing is there’s so much left out.
last night finished reading
The Vicar of Wakefield. the bluejays and cardinals that called
on the way to school. my beard
suddenly seems soft (that thought
off some day-dreaming about talking to
poetry students). reread
(for the last “making” time) “the 14,” the magazine; it is
all set. the poems
there, here now, seemed so abstract,
compared with what I’m used to,
but that in a way intensely and properly shaking
feeling and talk, tonight. the
(Mara gets up, starts drinking Pepsi)
and all that. (yellow sweater).

“Seascape” — Elizabeth Bishop



Elizabeth Bishop

This celestial seascape, with white herons got up as angels,
flying high as they want and as far as they want sidewise
in tiers and tiers of immaculate reflections;
the whole region, from the highest heron
down to the weightless mangrove island
with bright green leaves edged neatly with bird-droppings
like illumination in silver,
and down to the suggestively Gothic arches of the mangrove roots
and the beautiful pea-green back-pasture
where occasionally a fish jumps, like a wildflower
in an ornamental spray of spray;
this cartoon by Raphael for a tapestry for a Pope:
it does look like heaven.
But a skeletal lighthouse standing there
in black and white clerical dress,
who lives on his nerves, thinks he knows better.
He thinks that hell rages below his iron feet,
that that is why the shallow water is so warm,
and he knows that heaven is not like this.
Heaven is not like flying or swimming,
but has something to do with blackness and a strong glare
and when it gets dark he will remember something
strongly worded to say on the subject.

Annual reply (Emily Dickinson)

“The Egg Boiler” — Gwendolyn Brooks

“The Egg Boiler”


Gwendolyn Brooks

Being you, you cut your poetry from wood.
The boiling of an egg is heavy art.
You come upon it as an artist should,
With rich-eyed passion, and with straining heart.
We fools, we cut our poems out of air.
Night color, wind soprano, and such stuff.
And sometimes weightlessness is much to bear.
You mock it, though, you name it Not Enough.
The egg, spooned gently to the avid pan,
And left the strick three minute, or the four,
Is your Enough and art for any man.
We fools give courteous ear—-then cut some more,
Shaping a gorgeous Nothingness from cloud.
You watch us, eat your egg, and laugh aloud.

“Tell it to the forest fire, tell it to the moon” (Dream Song 44) | John Berryman

“The Blackstone Rangers” — Gwendolyn Brooks

“The Blackstone Rangers”
Gwendolyn Brooks

There they are.
Thirty at the corner.
Black, raw, ready.
Sores in the city
that do not want to heal.
Jeff. Gene. Geronimo. And Bop.
They cancel, cure and curry.
Hardly the dupes of the downtown thing
the cold bonbon,
the rhinestone thing. And hardly
in a hurry.
Hardly Belafonte, King,
Black Jesus, Stokely, Malcolm X or Rap.
Bungled trophies.
Their country is a Nation on no map.
Jeff, Gene, Geronimo and Bop
in the passionate noon,
in bewitching night
are the detailed men, the copious men.
They curry, cure,
they cancel, cancelled images whose Concerts
are not divine, vivacious; the different tins
are intense last entries; pagan argument;
translations of the night.
The Blackstone bitter bureaus
(bureaucracy is footloose) edit, fuse
unfashionable damnations and descent;
and exulting, monstrous hand on monstrous hand,
construct, strangely, a monstrous pearl or grace.
A Rangerette
Gang Girls are sweet exotics.
Mary Ann
uses the nutrients of her orient,
but sometimes sighs for Cities of blue and jewel
beyond her Ranger rim of Cottage Grove.
(Bowery Boys, Disciples, Whip-Birds will
dissolve no margins, stop no savory sanctities.)
Mary is
a rose in a whiskey glass.
Februaries shudder and are gone. Aprils
fret frankly, lilac hurries on.
Summer is a hard irregular ridge.
October looks away.
And that’s the Year!
                     Save for her bugle-love.
Save for the bleat of not-obese devotion.
Save for Somebody Terribly Dying, under
the philanthropy of robins. Save for her Ranger
an amount of rainbow in a string-drawn bag.
“Where did you get the diamond?” Do not ask:
but swallow, straight, the spirals of his flask
and assist him at your zipper; pet his lips
and help him clutch you.
Love’s another departure.
Will there be any arrivals, confirmations?
Will there be gleaning?
Mary, the Shakedancer’s child
from the rooming-flat, pants carefully, peers at
her laboring lover ….
                     Mary! Mary Ann!
Settle for sandwiches! settle for stocking caps!
for sudden blood, aborted carnival,
the props and niceties of non-loneliness—
the rhymes of Leaning.

“Nomad Exquisite” — Wallace Stevens

“Nomad Exquisite”


Wallace Stevens

As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth
The big-finned palm
And green vine angering for life,
As the immense dew of Florida
Brings forth hymn and hymn
From the beholder,
Beholding all these green sides
And gold sides of green sides,
And blessed mornings,
Meet for the eye of the young alligator,
And lightning colors
So, in me, come flinging
Forms, flames, and the flakes of flames.

“To an Intra-Mural Rat” — Marianne Moore

“my dreams, my works, must wait till after hell” — Gwendolyn Brooks

“my dreams, my works, must wait till after hell”
Gwendolyn Brooks

I hold my honey and I store my bread
In little jars and cabinets of my will.
I label clearly, and each latch and lid
I bid, Be firm till I return from hell.
I am very hungry. I am incomplete.
And none can tell when I may dine again.
No man can give me any word but Wait,
The puny light. I keep eyes pointed in;
Hoping that, when the devil days of my hurt
Drag out to their last dregs and I resume
On such legs as are left me, in such heart
As I can manage, remember to go home,
My taste will not have turned insensitive
To honey and bread old purity could love.

RIP Lawrence Ferlinghetti

RIP Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1919-2021

Little loving (Langston Hughes)