1.
During the quarantine, we were all in the living room,
the four of us, playing a game,
an unremarkable afternoon in April,
National Poetry Month,
and a small bird flew in through the dog’s foot-wide opening
in the sliding glass door to the backyard,
and the dog, Berkeley,
sprang up and barked and ran to the dining room
where the bird was fluttering against the glass and falling—
I could hear it, it was painful—
and before we could protest enough he had killed the small
gray-feathered bird with a swift, vicious bite.

i.

interest me, in me, lost woman amongst the garden cubes.
the fire that, finally, really burned, in real time — our home
in maine drowned under the saint george river.                       yes I

tore the body

that we wanted

plucked the weeds we wetted
(the bare chests)

when the bears crawled, at night, to our bed (burned),
we made it out alive because we were not yet sleeping.

it was alright because you — gosh — held my hand

She says, Mama, I feel two beats on each side of me, so I think I have two hearts. I answer, When I was a little girl I read about the earth and the way it spins. Then at night when I lay in bed beside the big window in my room, and the crickets and cicadas sung to me through the dark while the scent of honeysuckle crawled past the window’s sash, I’d have moments where I felt myself spun too, whirling very fast, as if I’d returned to that playground ride where the older kids kept running the carousel faster and faster, and eventually I whipped into the air, a little flag of blonde hair and corduroy snapping to and fro, my scream lost in the wind. I thought I was going to die. I’d recall that chaos, that lost control, later when I’d been tucked into my sheet and my hair smoothed and my mother sang goodnight. When she left the room I became the axis on which the world spun, whirling with it and growing dizzy from insect song and the scent of flowers opening in the humid dark. It is amazing what the mind draws forth. I tell her, I like your two hearts. I imagine they are birds, though I will tell you about your blood and the way it carries a word, repeated, through the pathways of your body. I want you to believe me. And yet, I want for you those summer nights, too, when you lie awake and imagine all the ways you don’t.

The sky has never forgiven you
for your blackness

when you fly
inside the backdrop of night
I am the only one who sees you

you claw your way
into my dreams
but I cannot
find you in the morning

Man in Mouth

By TNB Poetry

Poem

Art by Mark Shuttleworth, Words by Luigi Coppola
Video-poem can be viewed here


He craves the salivated slabs
that sparkle crisp and clean
then shudders as they close and clench:
a prison pure, pristine.

He yearns for molten mounds of flesh,
a writhing, licking thing;
his mass sinks into palette, pores –
a thrashing, lashing sting.

The year Mother arrived on Ellis Island, the heavyweight fighter,
Jack Johnson, began serving a one-year sentence in Leavenworth
for violating the Mann Act, but everybody knew

Jack was doing time for loving a whole lot of white women
and each and every one of them every which-way.
Mother, fresh from hibiscus and the Caribbean Sea,

knew nothing of it; didn’t know that some who thought
if you’re light, well alright, would look at her and wonder
is she a white girl…?

The tuner bird now nests,
now thrums,
in its cage of bone.
Plays harp of cat gut strings
by the red light
that dictates my resonant streams.
Sisyphean translator
at the first breath’s strum.
That sought to home
that homed to seek
from its first beat—
under the weight of words
and through that escape room of language
that forever unhomes.

Delitas(n., Spanish) crimes.

Escuela Superior Mecánica de la Armada,
Buenos Aires, August 8, 2018.


i.

Hard to resist the word’s resemblance
to “delights,” but knowing it can’t be,
I look it up after reading it over
and over on plaques stationed here
and there in this naval base turned
detention center. Bare except for the faces
stenciled across walls, blurbs about
terror, death flights, bodies
washing up in the Rio de la Plata.

trying to fit my feelings
into these words
is like I’m stuffing
twenty-eight green balloons
into a picture frame
first I would hold one down
and release
with a flick of my pen
its pop and hiss

✥✥✥

Mueller Report: long wait, no orgasm.

Barr says Biden probe unlikely.  Liar.

Supreme Court takes case.  Uh oh.

Tell me again how Bernie won.

Florida man sees opening.  Dick stuck.

Faye’s inner battle: which Cheez-Its.  Buffalo.

My face in your mirror: handsome.

I am your lover.  I think.

Deuteragonist means second.  Is that me?

Poem bursts out of rock: pleasure.

Vur-awn-ick-ugh.

The sounds felt clunky on my tongue but still I said them.

After all,
that’s how my mother said it to the new teacher
on the way to
my new classroom
in my new school
in my new neighborhood
in this new world.

At home,
it sounded different.

This was written in response to the people of Hong Kong’s demand for universal suffrage and other democratic reforms.  Protests have been ongoing in the island territory for a while now; things abated with COVID-19, but have roared back.

The Hong Kong people are protesting the Mainland Chinese government’s shameless attempt to ram unconstitutional national security laws through its rubber-stamp legislature, bypassing the territory’s own legislature and Basic Law (the island’s mini-constitution). The  Chinese government has dropped all pretense that Hong Kong is a quasi-independent territory, and its tactics are increasingly alarming and inhumane.  The government has turned Hong Kong’s common law legal system, widely regarded as one of Asia’s finest, into a mockery, jailing dissidents and retaliating against those engaging in civil disobedience.

Further, and laughably, the Mainland Chinese government has asserted that Hong Kong’s colonial-era policing laws are insufficient to quell the protests.  This, of course, is ridiculous as British Hong Kong was in fact used as a testing ground for the Crown’s most brutal riot-policing tactics.  Suppression is as heavy-handed and relentless as it was decades ago.  Only the master has changed.

This poem is fundamentally in response to the Chinese government’s callous disregard for the people of Hong Kong.  The nature and character of the territory’s democratic system, with rights hard-earned in the post-colonial era, will be irreparably damaged by the government’s actions.  The poem is a fictional account of a protestor and their establishment/government partner; it can be read as a queer poem because some of the most-visible leaders of the protests are queer people.  This is all the more controversial in the conservative territory where many people do not even come out to their friends and loved ones.


Fire alarm, 3 a.m.
Feet shuffling
Soldiers marching
Ball and chain
Innocent eyes
Central Park Five
Hey, he said, voice thick with sleep
Don’t go out, Blue Shirt warned
He obeyed, he hid
Firefighters and police came and went
Ruse to flush him out

He loved the night sky over Loraine, accent
on both syllables—low rain—loved the taste
of the name in his mouth, the sound of his town-
folk talking. He loved lying flat on his back
that summer, dusk pulsing with crickets, dreaming
the Great Hunter. He knew the story, the bright
stars, Betelgeuse his favorite—shoulder of the giant
he dreamed roping, star of a rodeo that glittered
like Rex Allen’s spangled shirt under banked lights,
his unleashed smile. The boy carried that brightness

In solidarity with Black Lives Matter, TNB Poetry has created this space for BIPOC voices to shine. We will be publishing work by Black poets daily.  Black Lives Matter.


Is it a sin I get drunk with home?
That I fall in love so much?
I take dearly shots from the ardor
brewed in the states. I pledge to
serve my nation and bring glory home.

When I was born, no one reminded me
that I’m a helpless bastard; no one
reminded me of the day my stay starts
to due. Not for once has it crossed
my mind to think I’m too convenient
to stay, that I’m but a black-headed
threat to the place I call my home.

the Thursday morning storm in bed
with you while the cat sleeps perched
on his scratching-tree the room’s hot
the fan whirs and we’re draped in my
favorite childhood blanket seventies
pattern orange and brown lines like
heart monitor displays the green-
painted walls and faux-Japanese
writing on the wallpaper border
half-open drawers with clothes
hanging out gum and drool
a makeshift sheet we call the
blinds hanging behind us
gray clouds behind that
the roar of the garbage
truck workers handle
our last week in rain