“Hip-Hop Ghazal” // Patricia Smith

“Hip-Hop Ghazal” // Patricia Smith

Gotta love us brown girls, munching on fat, swinging blue hips,
decked out in shells and splashes, Lawdie, bringing them woo hips.
As the jukebox teases, watch my sistas throat the heartbreak,
inhaling bassline, cracking backbone and singing thru hips.
Like something boneless, we glide silent, seeping ‘tween floorboards,
wrapping around the hims, and ooh wee, clinging like glue hips.
Engines grinding, rotating, smokin’, gotta pull back some.
Natural minds are lost at the mere sight of ringing true hips.
Gotta love us girls, just struttin’ down Manhattan streets
killing the menfolk with a dose of that stinging view. Hips.
Crying ’bout getting old—Patricia, you need to get up off
what God gave you. Say a prayer and start slinging. Cue hips.

“The Poem You’ve Been Waiting For” // Tarfia Faizullah

I saw then the white-eyed man
leaning in to see if I was ready
yet to go where he has been waiting
to take me. I saw then the gnawing
sounds my faith has been making
and I saw too that the shape it sings
in is the color of cast-iron mountains
I drove so long to find I forgot I had
been looking for them, for the you
I once knew and the you that was born
waiting for me to find you. I have been
twisting and turning across these lifetimes
where forgetting me is what you do
so you don’t have to look at yourself. I saw
that I would drown in a creek carved out
of a field our incarnations forged the first path
through to those mountains. I invited you to stroll
with me there again for the first time, to pause
and sprawl in the grass while I read to you
the poem you hadn’t known you’d been waiting
to hear. I read until you finally slept
and all your jagged syntaxes softened into rest.
You’re always driving so far from me towards
the me I worry, without you, is eternity. I lay there,
awake, keeping watch while you snored.
I waited, as I always seem to, for you
to wake up and come back to me.

XVII // Pablo Neruda

trans. by Mark Eisner
I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

“April, Quakes in Kathmandu” // Anuja Ghimire

“April, Quakes in Kathmandu” // Anuja Ghimire

You announced you were coming with the roar of a supersonic motorbike revving. You had us at your first knock. The billows of dust clung to the windows, which had unlocked themselves. Still, the curtains danced, and the glass cracked. I remembered what I held. We were arrested without the cuffs. You clanked the plates together; we tumbled. Flowerpots on the balconies jumped to their deaths on the street. As the doors swung, the hinges clattered, and the floor crept away from our feet, we swung with the walls that shook. Our bones wouldn’t turn into shields just because we wished. Even the children’s fates were sealed with slabs of concrete. Cement would stay hardened where it would hit. Beaded saris and creased hats tangled under the fallen beams. We couldn’t move that which broke us. You took what you didn’t need. What we leave behind remained. What you left untouched was odd. The couches were velveteen and pristine, but the guesthouses were slanted. The chandeliers still hung from the ceiling, but one story disappeared from the building. That one suede shoe slid from the slit with its unstained heel. The house smashed like a toppled vanilla cake, and the golden bangles on her supple wrist and jeweled fingers sparkled in the afternoon sun but no longer clawed their way out of the wall. The undoing came in jolts. I held my two little girls with rosy cheeks, trembling hearts, and throbbing temples. We huddled under the April sky. I kept remembering them with my cramped wrists near my ribcage. We stampeded in flocks. We moved with everything that rocked. I didn’t know if all the ones I loved were still whole. The wires were jammed; the poles were bent. The blood in our throbbing veins was already spent. You were everywhere, even in the words that had broken the air. You had punctured the ecosphere. Even the crows stopped their flights. The dogs suspended their howls. The roosters broke their songs and paused the clocks. The word came in crashing bursts. Not too far, the hills shed their amorphous rocks. The highways fractured with open jaws. When the roofs kissed the ground folding in, so many of us were late just around the block. We heard you plucked and crushed the domes, steeples, statues, temples, and stupa where we housed gods. Like a stale cracker, you broke Dharahara tower. The warrant was centuries old. You were in every brick we cemented, every log we carved, and every metal we engraved. You were in every fall that we had planted blueprint after blueprint. We heard, with each aftershock, each loss we lost count of. We rattled; we swayed. We rattled; we prayed. The path to escape the ground was nowhere to be found. We embraced the earth you were cracking because her doors were still open. I kept remembering the life I held in my palms near my ribcage. I remembered why I held.

When the Revolution Comes // The Last Poets

“When the Revolution Comes”

The Last Poets (1970)


When the revolution comes
When the revolution comes
When the revolution comes some of us will probably
catch it on TV, with chicken hanging from our mouths.
You’ll know its revolution cause there won’t be no
When the revolution comes

When the revolution comes
Preacher pimps are gonna split the scene with the
communion wine stuck in their back pockets
Faggots won’t be so funny then and all the junkies will
quit their noddin and wake up When the revolution comes

When the revolution comes
Transit cops will be crushed by the trains after losing
their guns and blood will run through the streets of
Harlem drowning anything without substance
When the revolution comes

When the revolution comes
When the revolution comes
Our pearly white teeth froth the mouths that speak of
revolution without reverence
The cost of revolution is 360 degrees understand the
cycle that never ends
Understand the beginning to be the end and nothing is
in between but space and time that I make or you make
to relate or not to relate to the world outside my mind
your mind. Speak not of revolution until you are
willing to eat rats to survive

When the revolution comes
When the revolution comes
When the revolution comes; guns and rifles will be
taking the place of poems and essays. Black cultural
centers will forts supplying the revolutionaries with
food and arms when the revolution comes

When the revolution comes
White death will froth the walls of museums and
churches breaking the lies that enslaved our mothers
when the revolution comes

When the revolution comes
Jesus Christ is gonna be standing on the corner of
Lennox Ave and 125th St trying to catch the first gypsy
cab out of Harlem, when the revolution comes

When the revolution comes
Jew merchants will give away motza balls and gifilka
fish to anyone they see with afros. Frank Shieffin will
give away the Apollo to the first person he sees
wearing a blue dashiki, when the revolution comes

When the revolution comes afros gone be trying to
straighten their heads and straightened heads gone be
tryin to wear afros

When the revolution comes
When the revolution comes
When the revolution comes
But until then you know and I know niggers will party
and bullshit and party and bullshit and party and
bullshit and party and bullshit and party…

Some might even die before the revolution comes

Robert Hayden // “Those Winter Sundays”

Joy Harjo // “Eagle Poem”

To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
Inside us.
We pray that it will be done
In beauty.
In beauty.

from Sun Ra “Space is the Place”

“Summer” // Joe Bolton


How could we think that it would never end?
While each day was a little eternity,
We must have known the leaves were getting ready
To turn and fall-then loneliness again,
The chill, exquisite longings of autumn.
You woke to find it had become September;
I woke a little later to find you gone.
And suddenly what I would remember
Was wholly formed, irrecoverable:
The hundred-degree heat and the trouble
We had trying to keep cool in our shorts
Till the sun went down-me on the back porch,
Sipping Scotch and listening to Sinatra;
You in the bedroom, reading the Kama Sutra.


Joe Bolton (from The Last Nostalgia)

“A Poem Some People Will Have to Understand” // Amiri Baraka

Dull unwashed windows of eyes

and buildings of industry. What
industry do I practice? A slick
colored boy, 12 miles from his
home. I practice no industry.
I am no longer a credit
to my race. I read a little,
scratch against silence slow spring
I thought, before, some years ago
that I’d come to the end of my life.
Watercolor ego. Without the preciseness
a violent man could propose.
But the wheel, and the wheels,
won’t let us alone. All the fantasy
and justice, and dry charcoal winters
All the pitifully intelligent citizens
I’ve forced myself to love.

We have awaited the coming of a natural
phenomenon. Mystics and romantics, knowledgeable
of the land.

But none has come.
but none has come.

Will the machinegunners please step forward?